Monday, July 18, 2005

A golden blessing

The pictures cycled through on the eager young man with a dashing smile, a stylish young woman with glasses, three children (a girl, and then two boys), and a series of ever changing settings and outfits. The PowerPoint slide presentation showcased fifty years of memories for my "adopted parents," Neil and Mary Lou, as together family and friends celebrated their golden anniversary in Hutchinson, Kansas on Saturday.

Neil and Mary Lou have always been teachers - Neil as a string-instrument teacher and orchestra director for elementary and junior highs in and around Hutchinson, and Mary Lou as a elementary teacher. For years, Neil has also taught Suzuki violin, and together they ran the Montessori school in Hutch. So the crowd contained a number of students - some with kids of their own, now - and even parents of students who were grateful to have been a part of this family's "great adventure."

I came into Kansas City last Thursday night, about 11 PM. My Friday morning started by meeting up with the men's Bible study I'd been a part of for years (yes, at 6:30 AM on my "vacation day"), and then led into a deep and powerful discussion with my buddy Eric, an all-too-brief visit with my pastor, and lunch with Eric and Sandy. Then, way before I could even imagine it was time, my dear friends Nathan and Laura picked me up to drive me down to their "ancestral homestead" in Hutchinson.

Friday night, they celebrated Nathan and Neil's birthday. A year ago, in the depths of my worst financial straits, Nathan made the extraordinary gesture of asking his family to take what they'd have spent on birthday presents, and put it together to send to me to help me make it through the summer. Their gifts made it possible for me to stay in Chicago last summer and fall - which set in place another whole set of gifts and blessings. So it was a double blessing to be able to share their birthday celebration, and their anniversary celebration today.

But the real blessing was Saturday afternoon - to see brothers and sisters, students and parents of students, and musicians of every caliber joining us in the fellowship hall of Emmanuel Lutheran Church to celebrate the lives of this couple and their families. I got to see a tiny slice of the reward of lives of servanthood, lives of love and compassion and grace - and it looked very much like a slice of Heaven on Earth.

As the "let's eat" and the "let's showcase our musical talent" portions of the program ended, the family opened the microphone up for reflections from friends and family. So I had the blessed opportunity to share how, for my first solo Thanksgiving a dozen years ago, Neil and Mary Lou welcomed me into their home, their family, and their lives. I don't remember all that I said - but I do remember saying that this couple has never seen a stranger at their table or in their home, and that I've always seen God's fingerprints at the end of their fingers.

It's still true.

God of wonder, and power, and strength, and endurance, thank you for the gift of your love, channeled through these two servants. I am a life that was changed through their actions, their attitude, and their love for each other. I thank you for a season in their past, Lord - and trust that, together, we will remain part of a greater fellowship of believers that only You can create!


Rick said...

Just about the time I want to trash certain aspects of the church I am reminded of those who served God through the broken institution and as a result I have changed.

I thank God for the guy who was a little charismatic and willing to share the good news with me on several occasions. I thank God for that guy, for without him I'd be lost. My life was changed as the result of some folks who loved God enough to love me and share God's love with me. I thank God for the evangelical pastor who gave me shot at teaching some of the fundamentalists in his church in a small group for four years for without that expereince I would not have accepted my calling. GOd uses folks all the time and I thank God there are folks who are willing to speak forth and live love to those like me who without them would be dead.

Great post!

Poor Mad Peter said...

I'd say one of the blessings these folks brought forth is you, Steve-man.

Keith Brenton said...

"God sets the lonely in families ...." (Psalm 68:6)

And what a blessing, too!