Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Mules…and Seeking Counsel

By on January 20, 2015

Recently my cousin, Melissa, and I were reminiscing about the many summer days we spent on our grandfather’s farm in south Arkansas. In the late 40’s and early 50’s, GrandDad’s farm was caught in something of a time warp.

I remember the day the new tractor arrived. There it sat, out in front of the wagon shed,  looking with disdain through its headlamps at the array of aged implements that had spent many hours behind the seven mules quartered in the adjacent lot. The mules in turn blinked back with equal disdain and continued to munch on the hay. Little did they know that by summer’s end several of them would be permanently put to pasture…if they were fortunate. But that’s another story.

The previous summer, Melissa and I had hatched up a good plan for those mules. Well, at least for one of them. “Old Dave,” our favorite mule, along with his buddies, was out in the far pasture, enjoying a leisurely graze. Old Dave was a large, white mule with a gentle spirit. Since plowing and planting were behind and harvest was several weeks away, we figured Old Dave would like nothing more than to take two skinny little kids for a ride.

The problem, of course, was how to get Old Dave up to the mule barn for the impending excursion.  I think it was Melissa who brought up the wisdom of checking out our plans with some of the adults and maybe asking for their help. “No need,” I told Melissa, “I’m thoroughly experienced at such things.”

My plan was to go to the field and drive the mules up to the barn myself. And I did! Once I got behind them and started shouting and waving a stick, all seven mules began ambling up toward the lot surrounding the barn. This, of course, was exactly according to the plan, something any man worth his salt could accomplish.

For some reason, I had it in my eight-year-old mind that  the mules were intimidated by my courage and command of the situation. But lately,  after looking at some of my childhood photographs, I wonder if, after getting a gander at this skinny, bow-legged, buck-teethed and cotton headed kid, the mules became terrified,  concluding I was a fierce space-alien whose ship had crashed in the pond. They were headed to the barn for safety…and to escape the effects of radioactive isotopes emitted by the light saber in my hand.

As any cattle drover knows, handling animals requires teamwork. Melissa agreed to sit on the fence while I performed the hard work, then close the gate when the mules entered the lot. It was a simple assignment. And Melissa performed her duty with the precision expected of an experienced mule-hand, slamming shut the gate, wrapping the chain around it and dropping a pin in the loop to secure it. Mission accomplished!

But neither of us was prepared for what happened next!  We stood in amazement as the mules, broke into a trot, then began to run, racing around the barn and through an unclosed gate on the other side. The mules galloped into a field of fresh corn as if they’d been waiting for this day all their lives.  They thrashed around in the field like a stump full of termites, devouring the corn like ducks on a June bug.

Its been a long time and I have forgotten which one of us reported the incident back at the house. However,  I do remember getting run over as all the folks inside, men and women, fairly burst through the screen door on the back porch, and raced down the steps and off to the field.

And for some reason, I can still remember the look on GrandDad’s face as he sought to give me some serious counsel regarding any  future intentions I might have involving his livestock. He was right. I should have checked with him first before moving his mules around. He seemed on edge. I think all the commotion must have interrupted his afternoon nap.

 You’ve probably made some pretty solid plans for this new year.  Could I suggest it would be wise to seek counsel before you move forward? “In the abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 24:6b).

Next time, Melissa and I will check before moving anybody’s mules. Promise!

Rejoice evermore

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12

 

 

 

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  • Annette E Turner

    This would make a GREAT children’s book!