It’s a quiet Friday here at church. I was looking for some stamps that I keep in the drawer on the right side of my desk. It’s where I keep headache meds, my wonderful travel spork that Barbara gave me, my comb, various cards to send to others and assorted things that have nothing to do with anything. It’s also where I keep a collection of notes that have come to me in my time on staff, which has somehow spanned twelve and a half years.
So I went through those notes today, because sometimes I just need the reminder of the people who have crossed my path in those years here. Some are love notes from Steve. (I am going to write about those someday…) There are thank you notes from other staff friends and these lovely yellow encouragement cards that people write to you while in worship and then come later in the mail. There are responses to prayers I have asked for and it is gratifying when they offer to lift up our faith family in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq with me. And then there are two from George including this one:
He wrote notes like this on those personal cards to so many people over the years I knew him. This one strikes me now for the date: January, 2012. He had been talking to us all about a darkness that he could feel descending since the spring before, but this was before he knew that the cancer was marching through his blood and body again. He died eleven months later, November 24, 2012. I still miss him.
And on this day, if I could, I would rewrite that note to him:
George, I am so thankful to God for you! Thank you for all the ways you serve, challenge & make us better followers of Jesus! – Julie
That’s what he did for me and so many others. He served me as pastor. So many Sundays I received the bread and communion cup from him. He challenged me as mentor and boss. How else would I ever have ended up in the Middle East and other places following the missio dei? He made me a better follower of Jesus because he showed me a better way to follow: humbly, relationally, fully engaged.
So grateful. That’s all I’ve got to add. I wrote this poem for him three weeks before he went home and it goes with my note above to him:
On the journey (Nov 1, 2012 – All Saints Day)
Remember the day you first learned to ride?
The bike with two wheels, with just you alone
Your mom or your dad held on to its side
One day they let go; you were on your own.
At first there was fear, would you fall on your head?
But after a time what you found there instead
Was freedom, excitement, the wind in your face
And faster you pedaled, such memorable days!
And then you had four wheels and started again
A parent beside you, to guide you ‘til when
The test you had passed at the state DMV
Your license attained, and now you could see
The places you’d go with that paper they gave you
The roads you would travel. The world was brand new.
That’s how I feel when setting out now
To the places God calls me, the things he will show.
The training wheels on my first mission bike
That took me to Europe – there was so much to like! –
Were steadied by your hands which held me upright
You didn’t let go until I gained sight
Of the lesson I needed to learn in that study
That we are all part of Christ’s holy body.
You continued my training in God’s mission car
By giving the front seat – such a high bar!
To one who had such a long way to travel,
Who then went to Cameroon and there did marvel
At a look into how faith is lived with no riches,
How much can be gained when our worldview, it switches
To the way God who made us does look at creation:
He loves every tongue, every tribe, every nation.
And now that you’ve set free the child you first knew
You helped her through teen years and watched as she grew
You offered your counsel and gave great advice
You even anointed her role as a wife. ☺
You’ve helped her to find her role in the world
You’ve helped her to grow to woman from girl.
You’ve prayed that she serve the God that she loves
You’ve prayed her into a servant who’d move
Into the path that brings to fruition
Her call to go out into the Lord’s mission.
Thank you for training my poor heart to see
It’s all about Jesus, and not about me.