"I wish that my words could be written down or chiseled into rock. I know that my Savior lives, and at the end he will stand on this earth. My flesh may be destroyed, yet from this body I will see God. Yes, I will see him for myself, and I long for that moment."
—Job 19:23-27 (CEV)
My father put his faith into action when he baffled the doctors and chose rehab for his broken shoulder, instead of hospice care for his advanced cancer.
The day before his passing, Dad walked 60 steps from his bed, down the long hallway to the nurses’ station, and back, with little assistance, exceeding his earlier record. I asked him how he felt afterward, and he said with a smile, “Well, I did it . . . I made my goal.”
I like to think that Dad was preparing for his walk into the presence of the Lord Jesus, in the early morning hours the very next day.
Dad loved people, and during his early years as a pastor in Lancaster, PA, my father struck up some interesting friendships with Amish farmers and their families, and even was invited into their homes for supper, where he broke the Bread of Life around their long, wooden tables. My father also loved getting acquainted with the many residents at Summit Glen retirement community, where his special goal was to learn the first names of each person within the span of a few months; he told me when he first moved there in March of last year.
As you may know, my father scarcely knew a stranger. He had a special way about him . . . people wanted to share their struggles with Dad—their dreams and goals . . . and their prayer requests. In fact, I doubt there’s a general manager of a restaurant or a department store on the northeast end of this city whom my dad didn’t know or befriend . . . or offer prayer for.
After my mother passed away, Dad started walking everyday in the Chapel Hills Mall. In just a short time, he became acquainted with many of the storeowners and managers there. They would smile brightly and wave-- “Hello, Herb!” they’d call . . . and many of them soon asked to be put on his address list to receive his monthly newsletter, which he loved to write. The well-thought-out articles were used for Bible studies, Sunday school lessons, small groups, and in nursing home gatherings to encourage others, especially with Dad’s well-known “Gem Studies from God’s Word.”
My dad taught my sister and me the importance of keeping a journal, which he did for the past sixty-plus years. He jokingly asked me what I was going to do with all of those dust-collectors.
Dad also taught us that prayer was the most powerful force on earth. He taught, by example, to trust God no matter how bleak the circumstance. And, early on—when my sister and I were just preschoolers, he taught us the Greek alphabet to the tune of “Onward, Christian Soldiers”—the alphabet of his beloved Greek New Testament.
My father was an enormous fan of Scripture memorization, too, and his goal for us was to recite entire chapters of the Bible from memory. I still remember our neighborhood friends waiting to walk to school with my sister and me, while Dad introduced the next few verses for that morning’s memory work. And, with a sparkle in his hazel eyes, Dad encouraged the neighbor kids to join in and learn the verses, too.
Dad dearly loved his family. He and my mother had waited a long time for their first grandbaby, and when I placed our tiny Julie in Dad’s big arms, it was love at first sight. Later, when our twins, Janie and Jonathan, joined our family . . . and six months after that, little Amy—Dad’s fourth grandbaby was born—my father was known to hold all the little ones on his lap at one time.
When it came time to dedicate our baby twins, Janie and Jonathan, to God, my dad asked the congregation, “How does a minister dedicate twins?” He paused, then with a mischievous smile he said simply, “One at a time.”
My dad had a tremendous sense of humor—the doctors and nurses all noticed it, even during his final weeks. Dad loved life and loved to laugh, especially around the table, telling stories of growing up during the Great Depression and of experiencing the dire effects of the Dust Bowl . . . of raising pigs and plowing fields. Dad also delighted in relating his twenty-one trips into mainland China, where my parents were Bible smugglers in conjunction with Asian Outreach in Hong Kong, taking “precious cargo,” as Dad called the Bibles, study guides, and other urgently-requested material into mainland China, where couriers dispersed them to pastors of the underground church, and hundreds of ministerial students, as well.
One night, before going through customs the next morning, Dad prayed about how to pack his many study guides and believed the Lord was urging him to use a completely different method than before. So, he stacked them on each side of the suitcase, leaving the middle section available for his clothing. The next day, when the customs official opened Dad’s bag, he pressed his open hands straight down into the luggage and found nothing but folded shirts. There was nothing to report that might’ve caused my parents’ arrest. I can hear my dad even now saying, “Hallelujah!” every time he gave this exciting account.
Long before it was the yuppie, cool thing to do, my father took up the hobby of organic gardening. And he could grow most anything, even in Colorado’s semi-arid climate and high altitude. There were vertical gardens galore with beans, beans, and more beans growing in our quarter-acre backyard, and enough corn to put up for the winter. There were sugar peas, cherry trees and flowers, too. My parents sold Dad’s beautiful pastel yarrow, delicate white baby’s breath, daffodils, and pink peonies to several local florists for years, including the Broadmoor Florist. Dad’s thumb was truly a green one!
But more than gardening, Dad loved to teach God’s Word. He likened the nuggets of biblical truths to squeezing the last few drops of juice from a delicious orange.
When my sister and I were little girls, Dad held summer tent meetings in Lancaster County. One year a tropical storm was headed toward the area, but Dad did not fear because he and the men of the church went around the tent’s perimeter and pounded the stakes even deeper into the rocky ground. The winds blew and the rains came, but the tent held firm. People said it was a miracle and flocked all the more to the nightly meetings. And Dad used this perfect analogy for one of his inspiring sermons—teaching by example the importance of building our lives on a firm foundation: the solid Rock of Ages.
You see, the Lord stopped my father, a fifteen-year-old Kansas plowboy, in his tracks, and called him to a life of ministry. My father answered that call—“Here am I, send me”—and attended Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, where he met my mother, Jane. They dated for six short weeks before graduation. A year later, my dad married his Pennsylvania Dutch sweetheart and they became ministerial partners with three church-plants in the states, thirty years on short wave radion, and world outreaches in several countries, including mainland China. My parents’ hearts truly beat for missions.
My father’s first church was located in Williamstown, KS, where his salary was sometimes paid in chickens and bags of groceries. They were young newlyweds then, but my parents trusted God for His provisions, and for each new day. Dad said my mother had a miraculous way of making food stretch—simmering turkey bones for hours to make broth and making beans a near-daily staple. Recently, I read my mother’s diaries of the years in “Bill Town,” the name dubbed by the locals—where she described their first home as “a house of prayer.” And people opened their hearts to the Lord Jesus in their little church just around the corner, where miracles of the heart took place…and broken lives were made new.
During the year my father lived with us, we learned that if you wear a red sweater or a bright pink shirt—and have a gentle spirit—the humming birds will fly right up to you, hover near and “greet” you, or at least they did when Dad sat out on our deck in the summer.
We also learned that Dad was crazy about pasta. His face lit up like a Christmas morning whenever we made spaghetti, lasagna, or anything with noodles—at his request. If he felt queasy from the side effects of his medications, he insisted that noodles were the cure!
Something else that made Dad smile was Southern Gospel music. He and his new bride, Barbara, loved to worship God to the strains of the Gaither Vocal Band, Earnie Haase and Signature Sound, and many other quartets. In fact, back in the early sixties, my dad helped launch the Couriers Quartet, while he was the pastor of Glad Tidings Assemby in Lancaster, Pa. Some of you may recall their smooth, harmonic voices and Neil Enlow’s remarkable song, “The Cross is my Statue of Liberty.”
So, my father has joyfully passed the baton of faith to his children and grandchildren . . . and to some of you. He prayed faithfully every day, pointing all of us to the Savior.
With love to my reader-friends,
"The prayer of the upright is his delight."
As a young girl, I loved to play a game called "Authors" with my younger sister, Barbara, and our mother--especially at Christmas and New Year's. I never forgot one of the inspiring quotations by an old (dead) author, Alfred Lord Tennyson: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."
With that in mind, I offer you an exciting challenge for the start of this brand new year. What if we prayed more and worried less? What if each of us offered up a thanksgiving of prayer (praise) to God, even in the midst of the worst trials and heartaches?
Will you join me in lifting our worship to the Lord daily this New Year 2014, dear friend?
Prayer doesn't have to be words; it can be an attitude of worship, as well. A mindset that signals how wide open our hearts are before our great God. (How tenderhearted we are, as well.)
Prayer is the key. Are you in?
A blessed New Year,
"We are his servants because the same God who said that light should shine out of darkness has given us light. For that reason we bring to light the knowledge about God's glory which shines from Christ's face."
—2 Corinthians 4:6 (God's Word)
Don't you wish the spirit of Christmas could be seen, felt, and heard throughout the year? I do! All this lovely cheer we spread around for a single month--giving to the poorest of the poor, lighting our candles of time and energies, giving extra offerings for our favorite charities.
What if that splendid light and goodwill shone all year long? For instance, what if we gave more and yearned for less? Rejoiced more and complained less? What if we all joined hands and hearts everyday, every month...and shared the peace of Christ to our little corner of the world? Such a very different place this planet would be.
This Christmas Season my wish for you is the Peace which passes all understanding. God's peace covers a multitude of issues, and yours may be different than mine. Even so, we all long for it, don't we? "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ~ John 14:27 (NIV)
On another very special note, if you are curious about my favorite aspect of Christmas, be sure to check out my Christmas 2013 Blog on December 6th, which includes a private peek into our home. Here's the link to the Bethany House Fiction Author Blog site: bethanyfiction.com. Read and enjoy, and spread the word to family and friends. Then leave a comment.
Thanks, as always, for being the best-ever readers any author could be so blessed to call a friend. Your prayers and thoughtful words continue to encourage me daily. May the Lord bless you abundantly with the "simple gifts" this coming year.
It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him. Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be blameless and innocent... You will shine like stars among them in the world as you hold firmly to the word of life.
—Philippians 2:13-16 God's Word Bible
Have you ever encountered a family gathering where there is non-stop quarreling and fussing? Perhaps, you were an innocent bystander, but your stomach was in knots all the same. The atmosphere intended for merriement was instead riddled with discord. Not the ideal way to enjoy such a get-together, let alone try to digest food!
With the Season of Gratitude upon us, no doubt there will be more than the typical opportunity to connect with our immediate and extended families, as well as with close friends and neighbors--around the table and, perhaps, in other venues. What if instead of demanding our own way or opinion, this year we embraced the "simple gifts" my Amish friends talk about...and practice daily? Jenny Burns, my English protagonist in my newest novel, The Secret Keeper, quickly experiences these attributes when she moves in with Katie Lapp's Amish parents as a hopeful seeker in Hickory Hollow. I'm referring to, of course, the New Testament Fruit of the Spirit, as found in Galatians, chapter five.
Sharing such characteristics as joyfulness, kindness and patience with our dear ones, making that our priority around our Thanksgiving tables will make a real difference in the mood of the entire day. Think of the potential for creating loving bonds of happiness and peace. Not to mention mercy and grace, too.
So, it's not just about finding the best-ever Thanksgiving menu online, is it?--or baking Aunt Judith's "perfect" pecan pie. The way we treat each other, and emulate God's light and love, are so essential for a happy Thanksgiving Day, and every day of the year.
Let's make a difference in our corner of the world, beginning with our very own family. Are you in?
A blessed Thanksgiving Season to you and yours!