On a late afternoon in the Spring of this year a tall football bodied man walked two tired, and somewhat reluctant travelers for the moment, a woman and a man, across the beautiful grounds of a small mountaintop retreat, across a street, and over to stand near a structure representing hope, love, and salvation, a lighted cross that can be seen for miles. The big man pointed to the city below and said: “Welcome Home.” The woman almost cried she was so happy. It was indeed, home.
That was Dr. Jan Davis’s first formal introduction to Fayetteville. She and husband Deames had come to learn about their new church, Central United Methodist, and something of the joy and challenges that lay ahead. The man who introduced them to this beginning, Carl Palmer, a man Dr. Davis admires for his big heart and his passion and vision to help people become well and whole. His official job description on Central’s website says he is Rev. Carl D. Palmer, Associate Pastor, who “helps fulfill the vision of the church by overseeing Outreach Ministries, including Men’s, Women’s, and Prayer Ministries…he has served Central since July, 2012.” The description doesn’t and couldn’t say nearly enough.
When asked what he wants the congregation to remember about him he says:
[My] passion for Christ and for people, in that order. My life’s purpose for 20 years has been to recruit, equip, and deploy the next generation of Christian leaders, and God has placed me in very unique places (and with some very unique people) to do just that. I am very blessed to be able to fulfill God’s purpose in whatever setting He places me.
His words are only the beginning of who Carl Palmer is. Without doubt he is a man of great humor. I thought of many ways to title this personal sketch. But I just kept coming back to one word: “Carl.” C.A.R.L., possibly an acronym for someone who is a Comical, Accepting, Renaissance man, Lovingly compassionate–and with all of that a man of wide-ranging intellect that surprises you at unexpected moments.
[This is an aside. I almost titled this blog “A toy Yoda for a Toyota.” That came from Carl not me. He has a bobble head Yoda on the dash of his Toyota, and that ought to tell you more about his sense of humor than I ever could. Still the title is too little for all that needs to be said. Thus the four letter word: C.A.R.L.]
Let’s get this out of the way first. Carl Palmer is an Ohio State Buckeye fan. He even wears Ohio State Buckeye socks. (Thank you Steve). He recently posted on Facebook a long list of “rules” having to do with what we onlookers can and cannot do during Ohio State’s football season. They are totally obnoxious and I decided against repeating them here. But I will give you an example by quoting Rule 7: “If you try to be cute or funny and dress my DOG in your team’s colors on Saturday I will spray paint your face red and I will not warn you to close your eyes before I do it.” Let’s move on.
Here are some bullet points without the bullets:
Carl’s life call is Celebrate Recovery.
He was born in Columbus, Ohio into a blended family on December 21, 1970.
Carl literally grew up in the shadow of Ohio State. His grandfather lived about 6 blocks away where Carl could listen to the cheering and the noise of the crowd during the games. Thus his lifelong obsession.
Although Carl grew up on a farm he does not consider himself a farmer. He did occasionally take his dad’s tractor out for a spin, and one time it got stuck.
He has the gift of music: singing, playing the guitar, bass, trombone, and drums. At Ohio State he played in the pep band.
He sings songs he makes up.
He does voices, like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade, or Kermit, or Bullwinkle.
When a former pastor of ours turned 50 Carl borrowed from a Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins, and sang a song for John called “Rogaine.”
He loves science fiction movies no one ever heard of (and thankfully never will).
He screams like a girl. (A staff member–ok, it’s Theresa–scared the life out of him jumping out of a closet behind him. He screamed. He fired her, Steve Pulliam rehired her and gave her a raise.) But Carl did discover there was nothing wrong with his heart.
Carl is an Eagle Scout.
He has a life long love of drama and as a child played Michael (with the footed pajamas) from Peter Pan. He was in every school play from the first grade through college.
In seminary he was in a traveling drama troupe. For six weeks of Christmas break the troupe would go all over the Southeast and do a morality play, or a little satire.
One time Carl played the lead character in “Marty,” a play that also was made into movie and starred Ernest Borgnine in the lead role–for which he won an Oscar.
Carl wrote and directed a couple of plays. A favorite role he played was Daddy Warbucks in “Annie.”
Because of his drama background Carl loves to dress up the family for Halloween.
He was too little to play college football but did end up being a kicker in high school—he became the football player that got made into a kicker because the shoes literally “fit him.”
Carl was a talented academic who wanted to become a doctor. An organic chemistry course did him in. His mother surprised him by saying maybe God had other plans for him. He changed his major to communications (and later went to Asbury Seminary).
Before Asbury Carl experienced the call to Christ at a weeklong revival at a Pentacostal Church he attended with a friend. It was an experience he had never had before. They attended church two times a day. The music was drums, electric guitars, and an organ. The message that moved him was the story of the Prodigal Son and the dutiful older brother. Carl was the dutiful older brother. He heard the Lord say to him “Carl, what about you? There are some things that need to be got right with you.” Carl obeyed.
There wasn’t a Wesley Foundation at Ohio State so he became active in Campus Crusade for Christ.
He has a heart for missions and went to Albania while in college. While there he would often hand out fresh bread to the hungry kids on the street and became know as the “Buke man” (bread man).
He was named after a great pastor named Carl Wiley.
Carl “stalked” a girl named Denni at Asbury Seminary and finally got to know her playing pool. She gave up and married him. And that’s how he ended up coming to Arkansas. (Well there was a connection with Tony Holifield, too, and Rob Holified was one of his friends).
Carl can write music but Denni does the lyrics.
Carl’s heart goes out to people and he wants to help those going through grief.
He gets up at 4:30 a.m., does his devotion, and then goes to the gym.
He was once a personal trainer to athletes at school.
He is a good cook. His mom taught him about cooking and he likes to grill. He loves to make peanut butter pie and banana bread. He is a spicy foods man.
He is number 6 of 7 kids.
Carl and Denni have 2 biological kids and have adopted 3 of Carl’s nieces and nephews. That in itself is enough of a story to fill a book. I hope he writes it someday.
Kim Witte says that God has given him a great vision for caring ministries and he is focused and hardworking. Her favorite thing about him is how much energy he invests in people and how much he rejoices in their growth. He is a faithful servant of the Lord.
Glenn Miller says Carl coming with Celebrate Recovery was an answer to a year long prayer.
Jan Davis told me the story about Carl welcoming her and Deames to Fayetteville. She also says he renamed the attendance pads the “Connection Pads.” By using them he says, we are connecting with each other, connecting with our church, connecting with our God.
Steve Pulliam told me a bunch of stuff in this blog and Denni Palmer told me the rest. Carl probably thinks he told me all of this. But he did tell me this although he doesn’t know it. Carl Palmer is a grateful believer in Christ, pastor, teacher, husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and the Northwest Arkansas state representative for Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12 step program. To understand him even more read his two-part blog on Central’s blog pages. It’s called “The Great Awakening.”
Carl D. Palmer, it is an honor and pleasure to know you.
Central United Methodist Church