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Everett's Last Christmas Carol

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
December 20, 2022 3:01 am

Everett's Last Christmas Carol

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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December 20, 2022 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Jim Johnson finds peculiar friends wherever he goes. This story is about one such friend, Everett Motl.

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Purchase all free clear mega packs today. This is Lee Habib and this is our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show from the arts to sports, and from business to history and everything in between, including your story, send them to our American stories.com. They're some of our favorites. James L. Johnson. He's a longtime pastor and he and his wife Linda have served together in Washington and California, among other places.

They have nine kids live in Rogers, Minnesota. Pastor Jim finds peculiar friends wherever he goes, wherever he lives, wherever he travels in one form or another. This is the story about one of those friends. Here's Jim Johnson and the story of Everett Mottle. Everett was a peculiar man in our town, smiling, awkward and heavy footed. He spoke with a backthroat lisp, but he didn't talk much, not to most people, but Everett would talk to me. I got the Lord in my life, Everett told me, not so long after he started coming to our church in a small town in northern Minnesota. He cried when he said it. Every time he said it, I think Everett cried. Jesus is in my heart, he would say.

It was 25 years ago this Christmas we sang our last Christmas carol together. I couldn't always understand his words, but I could always understand this much. Everett Mottle, the peculiar old man who mowed four lawns a day with a broken-down mower for five dollars a yard, needed community, he needed to work, and he wanted you to know that he was a Christian.

Everybody knew whoever it was. In the northwestern frozen cold Minnesota burg where we used to live with 1,527 citizens and two grocery stores, a coast to coast and a hardware hank, you couldn't help but notice the Everts of the world. He was about 60 years old back then, but looked a little older and he was, as we used to say it, a little slow, although it doesn't seem nice to say it that way now. Ever since his divorce years ago to a private but functional owner of Mary's Corner Closet, the thrift store, Everett had made his home in a low-rent senior home, a rest home as we used to call it, a six-room gray-shaped house with two gables, aging but well-kept, the Johnson rest home, said the sign on the side. Because of Everett's quirky personality and his awkward way of talking and his seemingly worsening health, he moved from one rest home to another, one town to the next until his diabetic condition forced the move to Midway nursing home in the oldest part of our town. Staying at Midway said a lot in itself. The seniors with a little better means, who needed help, they stayed in the newer municipal home by the highway. The municipal was definitely a step up. Attached to the regional hospital and a growing health clinic, the municipal was clean and new and bore the look of modern healthcare.

Everett did not live at the municipal home. He lived at the Midway. The Midway home was, well, green. It was the original hospital in our town, a rectangular building with three floors. The Midway was built in the 1920s and saved from razing because it was, as we used to say, too good to go to waste.

Painted in that verdant guacamole color, it brought smiles to first-time visitors to our town. But it served fine for Everett and about 20 other also-rans of life back then. Three meals a day and a regular turnover of nursing assistants who made about eight dollars an hour and worked hard at it. The Midway home was for people who grew up in the country and worked on homestead farms or taught in two-room schoolhouses. Those folks, like my folks, didn't feel necessarily that it was a step down to live in Midway.

It was a step up for them. And as a pastor of a local mainline church, I held services there every Sunday afternoon and would visit people like Everett. Everett at first lived just two blocks from our parsonage on Second Street so I saw him often but honestly tried to avoid him. My next door neighbor Steve was the first to befriend him. Steve couldn't help himself. Everett asked if he could mow his lawn one day and Steve was easy.

He was a new Christian with a tender heart and he could not say no. Everett pushed his lawnmower the two blocks from the restroom to our lot near the corner by the Dairy Queen on Second Street. And I have to admit, yes, I did think it looked odd to see a hunched and aging man mowing the lawn of a young burly maintenance man but Steve was undeterred. Steve said, everybody needs to have a purpose. What's life without a job? Well, I couldn't disagree with that so I paid Everett five dollars to mow my lawn too.

The lines weren't always straight. He cut into my tree roots. He started mowing too early in the day and his ancient Toro lawnmower coughed up clouds of blue smoke but Linda and I hired him five dollars just to be nice, once a week at least. Whenever it came to mow my grass, he would often crank up the Toro at seven o'clock in the morning, waking up our three little girls. Everett, I'd say, after I had him stop the mower, you can't really start until eight o'clock, okay?

Sorry, he would say, I didn't know. Sometimes my neighbor Steve grew frustrated because Everett would mow over his new dogwood bushes. Everett, you gotta watch where you're mowing, Steve would say.

Everett would shrug and Steve would hire him the next week. As a new Christian and a kind but burly maintenance man, Steve had a heart for the zeros of this world and I was working on that too. Yes, Everett smoked too much and yes, he was odd and yes, Everett's reputation preceded him but Everett was family, to us he was anyway. A child of God and a man who needed five dollars and we agreed to help. And you're listening to James L. Johnson, a long time pastor, telling the story of this, well, peculiar friend and we all have peculiar friends, maybe you're peculiar, I think I'm pretty peculiar myself and you're listening to the story of Everett Model. When we come back, more of Jim Johnson's story and of course Everett's story here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country. Stories from our big cities and small towns but we truly can't do this show without you. Our stories are free to listen to but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories.com and click the donate button. Give a little give a lot.

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Say what to watch into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue here on our American stories listening to a listener's story. Let's continue with Jim and Everett's unlikely friendship. God sent Everett to our church, I think.

Ever since I was a child, God gave me a heart for the nobodies of the world. I knew it from my boyhood in Bloomington, Minnesota. Jay, a neighbor kid with a Kool-Aid mustache and a Hiney haircut, moved across the street because the Lord wanted to teach me something. My neighborhood on Stevens Avenue had 16 houses all in the lower middle class blue collar range and the kids became my friends and teachers. They were bullies and brains, athletes and poets, musicians and scrappers and gossips and jocks. And the 20 children of the block on Stevens Avenue had the world in a nutshell so Stevens Avenue became my training ground for character.

Everyone counts. God made them all. Jesus loved them and I was supposed to love him too. Granted, you had to love and stay pretty far away from some people at the same time, but you can learn to do that.

It's judgment and discretion and elbow room all at the same time. But if you're a true Christian, you better learn to be nice. Which brings me back to Everett Mottle. The old man came to our small town church for two basic reasons. One, we preached the Bible every Sunday and Everett believed the Bible.

And two, you could wear flannel and boots and big bell buckles in our services if you wanted to and nobody cared. We were the down to earth crowd. Not so many bankers or lawyers or dentists in our church. We drew the regular folks. We captured the market on regular at Calvary Church. The plain everyday people who invested their lives in road construction and milk plants, small grain farms and auto repair. Even so, people still look twice whenever it waddled into our church. He spent his career doing small jobs and farm hand work.

The lower rung of the agricultural ladder in the Midwest. But he came to our church every Sunday and so he was our family. With 110 people watching him it was entertainment and theology all at the same time. Everett hobbled up to the third pew on the left every Wednesday night and every Sunday morning. Sitting by the inside aisle usually by himself.

The rumors of course drifted in like a cloud as always. Everett was strange. Mary had to divorce him because well we didn't want to say.

He was forced to leave a previous care center because he can't get along with people. He was stubborn. He was weird. He was poor.

He was Everett. I suppose some of the rumors were true but I chose to believe about 10% of them and I still do to this day with people. Take it with a grain of salt as my mother used to say. In a world filled with sin and sinners and flannel and jeans and rest homes and small towns and big cities and good children and the naughty and the nice who don't always live like they should.

Well I suppose you have to give people a second chance. I guess there are a lot of things to overlook and one of which to be forgiven. The angel said to Joseph in Matthew 1 20 and 21 that quote what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit and Mary will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. I guess Jesus died for people like Everett too. God had used a man named Bob in a neighboring town to lead Everett to Jesus Christ one year.

Bob the truck driver formerly the town bully had become a believer in Christ and had become a pretty good role model too in our neighboring town and as such truck driver Bob knew what it was like to be alienated and estranged. So Bob brought him to his church in McIntosh and taught Everett that Jesus was God's son. That Christ died on a cross to pay the price for our sin. That Jesus had risen from the dead and wanted to enter into our lives and forgive our sin and create us anew. Our small town church in Faustin preached pretty much the same message of salvation.

I'm thinking of that verse for to you is born a savior who is Christ the Lord. Everett liked that and he wanted to be a part of our church so I made friends with him because I was a pastor and because I had a heart for the zeros of this world because I was a zero probably too. We're supposed to take care of people like Everett aren't we?

But it went further for me than just being Lutheran clergy. Everett to me represented the least of these people as Jesus said. Like the poor man Lazarus in Luke 17. Everett was only asking for crumbs off the table.

Who are we to say no for aren't we all as poor as Lazarus and Everett himself? The congregation embraced him. After a few months we mostly came to love him almost all of us I should say. He came every Sunday rain or shine snow or sleet and he stayed after for snack time and ate enormous amounts of food at our monthly potluck dinners and never brought a dish of course. Pretty sure he wouldn't have tried his dishes anyway but we came to accept and love Everett just the same.

Like most of us Everett had his good traits and his bad traits. He always sat on the right side second row next to the aisle. One day a visitor came early and not knowing sat down with his wife and took Everett's spot. My lawn mowing friend walked down the aisle looked up to see his pew taken and he didn't know what to do. I mean while all 100 of us were watching piano playing in the background two minutes before the service started and with the church mostly packed Everett hesitated he looked he turned he stopped he deliberated before quickly walking back to the folding chair section in the rear.

But before he came forward all the way from the back we all watched him. What was Everett going to do with those two people sitting in his usual seat? He tapped the unsuspecting men on the shoulder he bent down and asked the visitor if he could have his hymnal. We could hear Everett ask it semi intelligibly can I have that hymn book? With an unknowing shrug the men reached over grabbed the hymn book handed it to Everett and that was that.

Everett took the book and walked back to the folding chairs in the rear fully content. Tell you what no one ever said an Everett spot next time. When you're a little awkward you need a little time and you need a good friend and my maintenance chief friend Steve was just the guy. Steve was kind enough to ask him to help him serve as an usher with him. For Everett that was a huge job and a great compliment carrying brass plates with money offerings checks a few coins that was a new horizon for Everett.

It was perhaps the first time anyone had ever asked him to serve and Steve in flannel and jeans and cowboy boots would stand next to Everett in his lime green leisure suit which I'm sure he bought at Mary's Corner Closet the thrift store. While I prayed for the offering the three of us standing there front and center and everyone else watching and with Everett his health beginning to fail his hands clasped in front of him would lean and list and stagger and catch his footing just about to fall. You know I'm telling you a few of the caring women none of the observant children of the church and all but two of the men closed their eyes during those prayers everybody was watching they were sure Everett was going to fall don't let this happen give him a brace but Steve would hang on steady as can be provide stability and Everett never did fall down up there but there was a new level of alertness during my brief opening offering prayers but Everett would smile he'd say I'm an usher now he would tell me we were watching him crow. The other amusing part of being in a church service with Everett was prayer request time. Our small town church uses a family-friendly prayer request method just after the Apostles Creed and before the special music we ask if there are any special prayer requests as we say it and people raise their hands and offer their requests. Pray for my aunt Kathy's having a baby pray for Norval's knee surgery they would say pray for travel mercies we would use that phrase but Everett was personal and long real long. And you're listening to James Johnson a longtime pastor and by the way we do these stories from churches from synagogues from mosques we do them because so many Americans in this country take their faith and spiritual walk seriously and we don't back away from those things and we don't proselytize here as you well know but to avoid these stories to not tell them would be a lie and that's why we bring them to you when we come back more with this remarkable friendship here on our American stories. Hey guys want to know how to be the best gift giver this holiday season spring for something unexpected like beauty from Estee Lauder surprise her with a fresh floral fragrance like Estee Lauder's best-selling beautiful magnolia a romantic scent with hints of warm woods and luminous musk or wrap them in luxurious feel-good skincare Estee Lauder's advanced night repair serum is a one-and-done favorite that offers seven skincare treatments in one bottle that's right seven benefits including line reduction firmness even tone strengthening hydration antioxidants and instant radiance Estee Lauder has something for every beauty lover on your list plus free gift wrapping and free shipping experience the holiday collection today when the world gets in the way of your music try the new Bose quiet comfort earbuds to next-gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears they use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love Bose quiet comfort earbuds to sound shape to you to learn more visit Bose.com the holidays are headed to your place with a special collection that's packing the cheer all on Xfinity Flex host a movie marathon with winter favorites like Love Actually and Home Alone unwind with big laughs from hits like The Office and Elf or snuggle up with something new like Holiday in Santa Fe or Holiday Harmony and keep festive tunes on repeat with North Pole Radio hosted by Santa from I Heart Radio whether you want to watch something fresh or familiar you can feel the holiday spirit with Xfinity Flex say what to watch into your Xfinity Voice remote. And we continue here on Our American Stories James L. Johnson telling the story of his friendship with Everett Mottle let's return to the story Everett raised his hand for prayer request time every single time yes it's Everett do you have a prayer request we knew it was coming and yep Everett would start talking and start praying and start asking and start crying and on and on he would go his requests were always personal and mostly non-intelligible they were primarily unending and like some of my sermons Everett's requests marched on and on pray for Bob and Bill and my brother Clarence who needs to know the Lord he would say or we were pretty sure he said and for Pastor Tom and Don Fritz and stifled cries for all the people who didn't know pray for Steve and Barb and Pastor Jim and Linda and the children and the people and after about three minutes you had to cut in and interrupt and I would say thank you Everett anybody else I'll never forget though Everett's final Christmas wish it was the day that I sang my last Christmas carol with him 25 years ago this December on that Sunday night in case you didn't know in northern Minnesota the snow comes almost every early November right after the hunting season starts and it rarely melts before March so every Christmas is white our church had this annual tradition of Christmas caroling two weeks before Christmas a man in a neighboring town owned a large sleigh and cared for a team of four Belgian horses beautiful animals and every year we would ask him to cart our church around town on the sleigh with those horses and Sunday nights in December were slow nights in our town and the church group on a sleigh could jingle and jangle through the city with the pleasure of the entire town we could take the back roads to family homes and senior residences and park in the front yard we also we figured could pull our sleigh one street off Main Street and park it right in front of the Midway home that's where Everett was living at the end let's go sing for Everett I said everybody wanted to see what would happen so we took the sleigh up to the Midway home and parked it and marched in our boots and coats our glasses frosting over and we came to see Everett there he had a had a rough run of life there that last month he'd been unable to attend church services for most of the fall not able to leave the nursing home since the end of the summer except for visits to the doctor and he had fallen and broken his right wrist after a dizzy spell one day in November and was fitted for a cast when I came into the Midway that time he he showed me his cast and he would joke and say so much for my boxing career Pastor Jim ah you'll box again Everett I'd smile and say so when the 30 or so people from our church filed into the lime green nursing home that night to sing Christmas carols at the Midway the seniors who could walk peered out the door and smiled and they'd look at the sleigh and saw the horses I haven't seen horses in years some of them said our cheeks were red and rosy and Everett looked comfy cozy as we came into his room we're singing carols Everett we said you want to come with we asked in that Minnesota dialect that leaves that odd preposition dangling without shame you all come with he said and in his stretched white t-shirt Everett was looking good that day unusually good he was happy and even a little bit plump in the best way it happens for a 60 year old diabetic and frail health the Midway diet was agreeing with him his skin looked good and he held his injured wrist up high I get my cast off tomorrow morning Everett smiled crowd moved down the hall to the beat of heavy sorrel snow boots he followed us in the pack and wandered down to the lounge that exists at the end of every decent northern Minnesota nursing home and the people beamed as we sang Everett was to my left peeking into the lounge and smiling we were singing the cattle are lowing the poor baby wakes but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes I love you Lord Jesus look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh I looked and sure enough Everett was singing actually quite loud in that lisping hoarse voice I stood to his right and even stopped for a phrase or two just to hear him sing another verse he was bouncing no leaning or listing not about to fall Everett looked vibrant and alive and steady as he sang with the heavy coated Calvary Church carolers that night be near me Lord Jesus I ask thee to stay close by me forever and love me I pray bless all the dear children in thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with thee there well the night was over and we left in a hurry it was after 8 30 p.m. I'm pretty sure pretty late for a nursing home and the school children would go to school the next day we were hustling to leave and I was the last one out the door as I was about to walk out the door I heard Everett yell pastor Jim I turned and looked down the hall and smiled and he held up his cast and he said holding up his right wrist I'll get it off tomorrow I smiled and I remember I said these exact words I said I hope you do Everett we'll be boxing by Tuesday I said I waved and I walked out the door and that was that we rode the sleigh back to church and went home I never saw Everett alive again the nursing home said he died in his sleep that very night they found him around five o'clock in the morning and you know I wasn't sad no Everett model the mower of lawns got his cast off the next day in heaven he was swinging his arm and standing firm no leaning no listing he was talking to the Savior like Lazarus with his wrist experiencing full motion the poor child of God woke up in glory no crying just laughing because the Lord fit him for heaven to live with him there like the hymn says as a follower of Jesus Everett in the most simple and childlike of ways had turned from his sin and gave them all to Jesus the Emmanuel born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem born to die for the losers and the winners of this world Everett repented and said I love you Lord Jesus look down from the sky and Jesus stayed by his nursing home bed until morning was nigh yeah the cast came off and no I don't suppose Everett is boxing in heaven like he wished that Christmas caroling night but when I see him one day I'm gonna hold up my fists and smile just a little and fake a left jab and a right hook just before I hug him Everett that peculiar old man mostly loved by a hundred people down here and loved by a Savior up there pursued by a Messiah born in Bethlehem crucified in Jerusalem alive in heaven today aren't you glad that Jesus was born for peculiar people like us and that was pastor Jim telling a beautiful story about his faith walk with a brother and that's Everett Everett model and you know I keep hearing and can see that singing that singing of that last carol and we all know it believers are not but special meaning for those of us who are believers and Aquinas once said when we sing we pray twice and that's so true and by the way the most substantive experience I ever had in my life with other human beings where I learned this kind of mercy and grace and kindness and patience I wasn't a Christian at the time I had a beautiful girlfriend in high school who served in nursing homes and I would go with her and just hang out and I got to meet people who were close to dying and people weren't visiting him and what I learned about people and humanity and if you get a chance over the holiday seasons anytime visit these folks sing with them just love on and that's what our show is all about folks mercy grace kindness patience love and the beautiful things that Americans do for each other this is our American stories the story of Pastor Jim and ever hey there's a better way to fly instead of being stuck in endless lines and packed onto planes try simplifying your travel with surf air save an average of two hours on every trip and avoid crowded airports with a new way to fly private with surf air you'll fly from smaller airports closer to your home there are no lines no waiting and no stress surf air.com the best alternative to commercial air travel that makes flying easy get a free quote on your next flight at surf air.com there's a better way to fly private when the world gets in the way of your music try the new Bose quiet comfort earbuds to next gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears they use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love Bose quiet comfort earbuds to sound shape to you to learn more visit Bose.com the holidays are headed to your place with a special collection that's packing the cheer all on Xfinity Flex host a movie marathon with winter favorites like Love Actually and Home Alone unwind with big laughs from hits like The Office and Elf or snuggle up with something new like Holiday in Santa Fe or Holiday Harmony and keep festive tunes on repeat with North Pole Radio hosted by Santa from I Heart Radio whether you want to watch something fresh or familiar you can feel the holiday spirit with Xfinity Flex say what to watch into your Xfinity voice remote.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-20 04:23:20 / 2022-12-20 04:35:19 / 12

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