Safe . . . protected under the shelter of God’s wings.
Those were the phrases that surfaced in my mind and the feelings that settled deeply within my soul when I awoke at my parents’ home yesterday morning – a Sabbath morning. Certainly the fact that I was with them and under their watchful care had something to do with the peace that I felt. Even more so, knowing that I was under God’s watchful care and firmly attached to his will and his strength, well this was a great grace for me—to know that I know that I know that all is well with my soul and that I could firmly and forcefully approach the day with certain confidence.
And so we went, Jesus and me together, sowing kingdom seed during the three morning services at Garner UMC. This is a big week for the folks in Garner. Their annual Relay for Life event will take place on Friday night at Lake Benson Park. The community will come out in force, none more so than the community that gathers each Sunday at Garner UMC. Their hearts are passionate about Relay, about this race for life. In a small way, my preaching was to be a rallying cry of sorts—a central meeting point for the saints to begin their intentional steps of pilgrimage toward Friday night’s festivities.
By the time the noon hour rolled around, I had a strong feeling that we had done what we came to do . . . God and me. His call to me to go and preach grace and my obedience therein—a corporate venture toward kingdom multiplication. A call not to solely reflect on my cancer survivorship but, more importantly, to address the issue of my soul survivorship. In doing so, in talking about what it means to survive this life with Jesus as my compass, everyone who made it out to Garner UMC yesterday morning was able to find their place and mark their paces in the survivor’s lap of the most important relay they will ever run—a relay for everlasting life with their everlasting King.
Safe . . . protected under the shelter of God’s wings. There we stood yesterday morning, linking arms for the kingdom cause, and I am undone with the memory of it all, unable to fully reflect in a few words what it meant to me. What it meant to my family—daughter, sons, husband, and father on the front pew, mother in the choir loft. What it meant to the congregants. I just know that it meant something special for all of us, and on this Monday morning, I am exceedingly grateful for yet another undeserved blessing from my Father’s heart and for the privilege of joining him on the front lines of grace.
I leave you with a few words my father wrote to me last evening; forgive me if they seem self-indulgent. Perhaps I’m not writing them for you. Perhaps more so, for my children and for their children for a season yet to come so that they, too, can hold this memory as part of their spiritual heritage and remember a day when Faith Elaine took to the pulpit and rallied the troops in the name of soul-survivorship and exclusively for the name and renown of Jesus Christ her Lord.
It isn’t very often that a preacher gets to sit at the feet of another preacher; especially when that preacher is your daughter. I sat on the front pew this morning—watching, listening, and feeling some very deep and heart-warming ‘moments’, as I heard Elaine preach. Tonight, to reflect or write on what I experienced would be fruitless—some things are too deep, too precious, and too sacred. Silence is often the best response to the ‘deepest of things’. One of these days I might be able to, but not tonight. So, let me offer a prayer instead—a prayer that I keep nearby and use it often. While the author is unknown, it comes out of the 17th Century, entitled, A Nun’s Prayer.
“Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing old and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
“Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
“Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint—some of them are so hard to live with—but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”
Goodnight, Elaine, sleep well, and when the morning greets you with the rising sun, you will hear music, the kind of music we all heard this morning. Keep singing that Song!