Monday, March 25, 2024

For Jim.

For years, Jim Hackney's Sunday morning Facebook posts encouraged us to grab a cup of coffee and have a chat. It's not Sunday, but the coffee and memories are flowing, and these thoughts need somewhere to go. Nobody can compose a Facebook chat like Jim Hackney, but bear with me because I'm going to share anyway.

Brett and I were on our way home from Austin when we got the news that Jim had passed away. As we drove through the darkness, side by side, we talked about how much Jim—our minister, pastor, and friend—has meant to us. We will celebrate our 30th anniversary this summer, and we fully acknowledge that Jim Hackney is a big reason why. When our marriage was in trouble many years ago, we reached out to Jim in our desperation. A couple of times he met us in his office late into the evening, hearing us, being there for us, advising us in those days of crisis. Of all the inspiring words he shared, the most powerful were about his bride, Sue, and the depth of their love for each other. He helped us see the beauty of a lifelong commitment, and he led us to the help we needed to fight for our marriage. Take our experience and extrapolate it to 50-plus years of Jim’s ministry, and that yields countless families that benefited from his counsel.

This morning, sitting in my living room, I recalled another morning 11 years ago when Jim sat on our couch to plan his eulogy for my mom’s funeral. He had known my mom in her later years, but he patiently listened as in my numb state I recounted stories about her younger days. He beautifully shared Mom’s testimony at her service a few days later. Jim had been with us through her many hospitalizations, and he was with us in those precious days when our grief was new and our world suddenly so very empty. And he did the same for many others! As a minister and a hospital chaplain, he prayed over thousands of people in hospital rooms and funeral homes, “rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn.”  

And now, as I sit at my computer, I’m recalling all the weekends I spent alone with Jim—or his words, anyway! From 2006 until 2013, most of my weekends began with an email from Jim. He would send me his sermon notes and slide outline, and I’d crank out a Powerpoint to accompany his Sunday message. I loved helping him with those slides, and he showered me with gratitude. But the best part was getting to be the first to “hear” his lessons. Jim was a gifted communicator, able to make his sermons “meaty” and yet easy to comprehend. He challenged us with truths that could make us uncomfortable, but those messages were always wrapped in love—his God-given, from-the-heart, sincere compassion for us.

For years, Jim's automated phone calls reminded us, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!"

In our recollections last night, Brett and I kept coming back to Jim’s sincerity. Considering how many people he dealt with, it would’ve been easy, even understandable, for him to slip into platitudes or a “Reverend Lovejoy” type of script. But Jim truly saw us, took the time to really know us. He would thoughtfully consider our questions and respectfully respond with honesty. Jim was forthcoming about his own uncertainty, and with full transparency, he shared his faith journey’s twists and turns. After nearly 45 years at Heritage, he could have rested in the prestige he had earned, content with his tenure. Instead, he led by example, continuing to challenge himself. In his last sermon at Heritage, he admonished us, “We have to be so careful that we don’t feel like once we become a Christian, we have arrived. I mean, it’s too easy to become satisfied or complacent.” Jim never stopped studying, never stopped contemplating, never stopped serving others in his quest to be more like Christ. 

And he never stopped reminding us that this world is not our home. As recently as his Dec. 3 Facebook post, he wrote, "Enjoy life! It passes much too quickly! Do not be fearful! What waits beyond the veil of death is so much better!"

But it's not just his recent teachings that have emphasized life beyond this earthly one. In my sorrow this morning, I opened up the old "Sermon Slides" folder on my Mac, looking for the oldest sermon saved there. I found a couple from 2009 (older ones apparently lost when my previous laptop crashed). I randomly opened one file, and its topic floored me: "Trading This Life for What's Behind Door #1." 

The whole sermon is powerful, but here are a few slides that jumped out at me today:

And this slide that applies to Jim, as well!

In so many ways, we are all richer because Jim Hackney was our minister, our pastor, our friend. May the God of all comfort be with Sue and all the family, and may we all keep Jim's leadership, teaching, and example in our hearts.


Here are a couple of special memories from Jim's last sermon as senior minister (Dec. 29, 2013).

  • Slides from that sermon 

4,317 at Heritage as of December 2013—and more in the 10 years since!

Jim mentioned all the changes he'd seen, including Bible translations, dress code, and technology.

IYKYK :)  

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