Monday, September 16, 2013

Faith, family and friends — all here for us

Psalm 112:3-5 (NIV)

Wealth and riches are in their houses,
   and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
   for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
   who conduct their affairs with justice.
I saw the caller ID on the work phone and knew it was church calling. This is not an uncommon occurrence given I work with the clerk of session, an active deacon and another person who is knee-deep in church activities. But this time the call was for me, and it was one of our pastors asking if I would be around for awhile so she could drop off something for me.

For the first time in a while, I actually was planning to be at my desk uninterrupted for several hours. I didn’t know what she wanted — I’ve got my own handful (smaller, but still) of church responsibilities — but I told her to feel free to stop by. She was there for only a fraction of the time it took her to walk over and back, but it was long enough to give me a big smile and hand me an envelope addressed to me and my wife.

Inside, unsigned, was the following message:
Even when your house is broken, it's still your home — because you made it that way.

Here's a small gift to help you in this time of trouble as you continue to count your many blessings.

Your faith, your family, your friends — all there for you! Peace.
That message alone would have been enough to set my heart soaring, but it was accompanied by a monetary contribution toward the house repair fund. It was especially welcome just a few short hours after we finished a lengthy meeting with our repair contractor and the insurance company’s claim adjuster. So far it feels like we’ll be getting the support we need, and the contractor has lived up to the “knight in shining armor” billing from the neighbor who suggested we call him. But I’m still walking on subfloor between the living room and the kitchen and cringing every time my super pregnant wife has to hoof it up the stairs just for a potty break. It doesn’t exactly feel like we’ve crossed the halfway point.

As I shared the news of our gracious, anonymous benefactor, we immediately tried to figure out the best way to express our gratitude. We decided we needed to go back through the pastor, assuming she could convey the message to the appropriate party. But in the bigger picture, I know we’ll someday have a chance to pay this blessing forward, to maybe bring a sliver of light to someone who feels they’re shrouded in darkness. Right now it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever be in a position to be financially generous, but we also hope to live a long time. The house can’t keep breaking forever. And of course money is something of a proxy here. The deeper message is one of being surrounded by people who will love, care and look out for me and my family, and that the circle is larger than I could expect or imagine.

When I dressed for church Sunday, I didn’t wear a sandwich board that said “Ask me about my sewer problems or my very pregnant wife or maybe both,” but it would have been a formality. But unlike 15 years ago at the same church when everyone wanted to ask me where I’d be going to college, yesterday I didn’t at all mind sharing the story over and again. As a child I didn’t appreciate the fact the people who spoke to me genuinely cared about my life. Yesterday I was actually happy to repeat the tale because it gave me the chance to look these friends — some of whom have known my family before I arrived — straight in the face and read the concern in their eyes, hear the caring in their voice and gain reaffirmation that around every corner was one more person whose mere presence in my life is a source of comfort and protection.

My earnest prayer is for my children to fully understand how this strong network of friends and family, those we can see several times a month and those further afield, can sustain us through any difficulty. And also for me and my family to be able to be to those people even a fraction of the blessing they have been in my life, for us to see the opportunities to show God’s love and for the courage to grasp those chances using whatever resources we might have available.

As I drove the boys home Sunday, I had running through my head the song “This Little Light” by Andrew Ripp (I used it for Charlie’s birthday slideshow), a positively upbeat on the classic gospel children’s song. In Ripp’s version, he sings of his intention to let his little light shine in order to show his love. I was shown love throughout the halls of Church Sunday. It’s come as well through phone calls and online interaction with family and friends, and again through the little white envelope today.

I will most certainly let this light shine whenever I have the chance, for it will dawn even in darkness. Good will come, and if God leads me I’ll be able to be a conduit. Thank you to everyone who cares, and to Gold be the glory. Amen.

A prayer for September 16:

Lord, thank you for everything. Even in the middle of this torn up house, there are examples of the way you have showed us with blessings. The gifts of faith, family and friends are the channels through which you deliver your peace that passes all understanding. Tonight I am able to go to sleep with contentment. Not because our house is fixed — it’s still very much broken. But because I know it still is home, and that it is a home where your love has and will continue to reign over us, to bind us together, to guide us forward each day in your name. Thank you for that love, and help me seize the opportunities to shine as an example of that love for all others to see. Amen.

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