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Sunday grace

How many times did he tell me he was praying for me? A zillion it seems.

Every time we spoke on the phone, every time I saw him, he told me once more, “I have thousands of prayers stored up for you, little girl.”

I believed him. I knew he prayed for me. One of my first memories as a child is my dad kneeling beside my bed early in the morning. While it was still dark outside and I was tucked under the covers, my dad was dressed and ready for work. One of his last habits of the morning was to lay his hand on me and pray before leaving the house.

I found comfort in that as an adult, remembering how my dad loved me enough to consistently pray for me.

He believed he stored prayers in heaven, and Revelation 5:8 and 8:4 say the prayers of the saints are stored in golden vessels in Heaven. And so my dad prayed much. His prayer ministry was known by those in his circle of influence. He was a disciplined man in his commitment to kneel before the throne of grace and call out multiple names day after day.

dad and coffee

After his death, I had stacks of papers, listing prayer requests people had given him. He kept them in orderly piles near a chair in the basement of his home, a chair where he knelt at least twice every day while he was able.

Sweet William and I talk about my dad often, the way he loved his coffee and how he slurped it loudly showing his pleasure in it. He dispensed kindness and encouraging words regularly. He could tell a great story and it got even bigger and better when he had an audience. And if he got the joke on you, it was his delight.

He laughed with everything in him, his mouth wide open, sometimes slapping his knee from pure jubilation. He loved people, especially his family, and he would go to the ends of his earth to take care of any one of us.

He was a wonderful father. He knew how to show me the Heavenly Father’s love. The foundation he laid for me as a child helped me stand when the winds of tribulation have threatened to blow me away.

I knew my dad loved me. I knew he was there if I called him. I knew he prayed for me consistently.

My dad is with Jesus now. I miss him especially today, on Father’s Day. I would love to fix a plate of sausage gravy and biscuits for him and hear him say, as he always did, that it was the best I’d ever made. I’d like to hear the army stories he told until I had memorized them. I’d like to hear him laugh one more time. I’d like to hear him pray for me once more.

Dad in the army

I believe his prayers are still alive, kept in heavenly golden containers, and there is a large one with my name on it. Those stored prayers still come before God’s throne, intercessions on my behalf.

A good and godly father is a treasure above wealth this world can give. I am a rich woman because of it.

Sunday grace.

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Our Father

{This is my monthly book review.  Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts.}

 

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

We say the words almost on autopilot. Sometimes we speak them without thought.

We learned them as a child, memorized by rote, and quoted them weekly at Sunday school. Perhaps they have become less to us because we have used them so much.

But I hope not.

We call it the Lord’s Prayer, taught by our Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples in  the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

See the source image

When We Say Father, Unlocking the Power of the Lord’s Prayer is a sermon of its own.

“Adrian Rogers’ last written manuscript before his passing in 2005 has been edited and brought together by his son Steve, as a final joint work. When We Say Father takes the Lord’s Prayer and breaks it down to its most basic components for readers to easily learn how to pray from the ultimate source, Jesus himself.”

When We Say Father

As I read the book, I could almost hear Adrian Rogers preaching from the pulpit. It is not a cleaned-up, edited, watered-down version but purely from the heart of a man who knew His God and wanted others to know Him.

The writing is more conversational than precise and particular. I felt like I was listening to Rogers as much as I was reading his words.

Rogers takes each portion of the Lord’s Prayer and talks it through with homespun illustrations, teaching the basics so we can understand.

Chapter titles include:

  • Our Father – “The Person of the Prayer”
  • First Things First – “The Priority of the Prayer”
  • Our Daily Bread – “The Provision of the Prayer”
  • The Freedom of Forgiveness – “The Pardon of the Prayer”
  • Deliver Us From Evil – “The Protection of the Prayer”
  • Thine is the Glory – “The Praise of the Prayer”
  • Ask, Seek, Knock – “The Promise of the Prayer”

If we want to understand the depth of the meaning of Jesus’ words, then we need to dig deep, like one exploring for treasure. The Heavenly Father invites us to know Him, and that is an astounding realization.  But we have to make an effort. Learning to pray like Jesus is a way to know God, Jesus’ example becoming our own.

“When we say Father, we express His nature. . . . When we say Father, we expect His nurture. . . . And when we say Father, we ought to exalt His name.”    — Adrian Rogers

See the source image

NOTE:   I received a copy of When We Say Father, Unlocking the Power of the Lord’s Prayer by Adrian Rogers and Steve Rogers, provided by B&H Publishing, for an honest review.  The book was free.  The words are my very own.

Sunday grace

 

Dear Father and God of all, thank you for the men in my life who showed me Your love, who were strong and protective, who loved purely and acted faithfully.

Dear Father of all creation, give grace to the fathers you have put on the earth and in our lives. Give them tender hearts and strong faith. Help them see their need for You and not live as if they can do it all by themselves.

Dear Father of humanity, give endurance to the fathers who walk hard roads, who fight battles for their families, who bow low in prayer and intercede for loved ones.

Dear Father of light, shine your saving light into the hearts of fathers. May they know salvation through Jesus Christ and bear His fruit in their lives.

Dear Father of mercy, show the fathers how to live compassionately, how to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Help them to hold their tongues and tempers and let love be the language of their lives.

Dear Father and fount of all blessings, let your grace fall lavishly on the fathers. Their task is great and they need you.

Sunday grace.

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To the fathers

To the fathers who make a life-long commitment to the mother of their children and don’t walk away when it gets hard,

To the fathers who rock crying babies at night so mommas can get a little sleep,

To the fathers who change diapers, change their work schedule, and change their ways for their children,

To the fathers who run along side kids on bikes without training wheels, who shout encouragement, and then keep on encouraging with each new challenge.

To the fathers who help with math and science in the evenings and who teach life by their actions more than their words,

To the fathers who show their boys how to treat women with respect by doing the same for their wives,

To the fathers who show their daughters how precious and beautiful they are and that they are worth waiting for,

To the fathers who protect and fight for and provide for their families,

To the fathers who pray for their children, take them to church, and read the Bible in front of them,

To the fathers who are faithful to their children’s mother and treat her like a lady,

To the fathers who offer grace when their kids mess up,

To the fathers who are not ashamed to cry or think it is unmanly to be vulnerable,

To the fathers who make mistakes, fall down, ask for forgiveness, and pray to be more like Jesus every day,

To the fathers who love and care for other men’s children like their own,

To the fathers who become grandfathers, stooped and aging, yet still stand tall in spirit,

To the fathers on Father’s Day and every day.

We need you to be strong. We need you to be faithful. We need you to be men.

We need you to show us our Heavenly Father.

three men

gramps and ethan~ story tellin'

gramps and travis

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Revised and re-posted from June 2015

 

 

So this is life?

009The call came early, before the first pot of coffee was emptied.  “Your dad is on the way to the emergency room.”

I ask a few questions, assume auto pilot to get myself dressed and to the hospital.  It will be the first time Dad has ever been in the hospital.  Ever.  It must be bad for him to submit to an ambulance, to poking and prodding, to needles and hospital beds.

Blood is drawn from small veins.  Tape attaches to paper-thin skin.  IV needles invade his body in too many places.  He looks uncomfortable yet submissive and compliant.  He cries out in pain, grimaces. And is there a gentle procedure in a hospital?

News travels.  Channels of information run quickly to family and friends.  Facebook posts prayer requests.  Responses simply say “praying.”  And praying is always more than just a simple response.

People come to sit with my step-mother and me, to share our angst, to whisper silent prayers.  To tell their stories of my father.  Stories that reveal a compassionate heart, a tender concern, a promise made to pray and a promise kept.  And lives are changed by the power of the almighty God my father serves.

Tests reveal infection.  Pneumonia.  Internal problems.  The heart beats regularly, not strong but true and faithful.

Dad is frail and thin, a mere wisp of the man he was when I was a child.

He was a builder by trade and craft, a carpenter, like Jesus, with strong muscular chest and arms.  I felt safe with him.  He was always busy building.  Houses, churches, businesses, play houses for his little girl, dog houses for her pets.

When he was in the prime of his life, the Lord called him to build people.  He exchanged his nail apron for a towel and wash basin, the garb of a servant.  He visited, counseled, encouraged, taught, and built up the kingdom.  His materials were the eternal kind, not the wood and stubble used to build the kingdoms of this world.

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He lies still, breathing regularly but not full and deep.  He has few teeth now and his mouth hangs slightly open.  His hairs are white and fine, barely covering his scalp. His face is sunken, showing the outline of the skull, fine wrinkles on skin that covers but just barely.

I stand in the doorway gazing at the ravages of sickness, the strong hold of a sin-cursed world on these earthly bodies to the very end, even those who are sanctuaries to the very presence of the Almighty.

And I ask myself, so this is life?  Is this how a life ends?

He was once a sturdy man, strong and capable, working long hours and toiling hard.  It seems he has always taken care of others.  He marched off to war to help defend his country.  He stayed at the task until it was done no matter the cost to himself.    Now he can barely lift his hand.  Unable to speak clearly, unable to chew food, unable to hear the conversation, unable to hold a glass of water to his parched lips.

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I’ve seen this happen before.  I’ve watched this same struggle as other loved ones came to stand at Jordan’s stormy banks, casting a wishful eye to the other side.

So this is life?

The days of sitting in the hospital give me time, time to think and remember.  Time to hear how my Dad’s life and prayers and teaching the Word and loving people are living on.  His life, the one lived for his Lord, is not lying in a hospital bed languishing between white sheets.  It was cast upon the waters of service, and it has not returned void.

The breath of life may be slipping away in the body that holds my dad’s spirit and soul.  But the life he lived in Christ lives on in me.  In others.

I hear it from their own lips, the fruit of his labors bearing fruit in their own lives.  Prison ministry.  Wisdom to raise a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  Deliverance from an addiction to pornography.  Marriages salvaged.  Demons cast out.  Broken hearts mended.  Encouragement to keep pressing on.  Proclaiming the Lord’s return and people get ready!

Jesus said, “. . . whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.”  Dad wore himself out in his servant’s role.

And I see that THIS IS LIFE!  This is how to live.

It is not in gaining the world but in giving oneself away.  This is life!  Proclaiming to any who will listen the goodness of God and the salvation He provided.  This is life!  To visit the widows and care for the orphans and the lonely and the unlovable.  This is life!  The way it was meant to be lived and used up and wasted away for the sake of the Gospel.

This is a man who spent himself on others.  Even now in mere whispers, he  prays for those visiting him in his shadowy hospital room.

In the stillness of the evening, I hear him say it softly.  “Praise You God.  Praise You God.”  The Father knows this man’s voice.  He has heard it countless times as he  daily knelt by his chair to pray, as he prayer-walked every night for how many years (?) as long as he was able.  His voice has called out my name in prayer countless times, and I see that I have been left an amazing heritage.

A life lived this way has no fear of what is left of it or how it will end or what lies beyond when he breathes his last.  His times are in His Father’s hand.

So this is life and the way it should be lived?  Yes, it is!  Of this I am sure.

In honor of fathers

It took me a while to understand and to appreciate the fact that men are not like women.  If I had known it when I first married Sweet William, I think it would have made both of our lives easier.

But I love it that they are different.

As I think of Father’s Day and the men in my life, I am thankful.  So many have left their mark on me, have changed my life for the better, have shown me the face of God.

There are the pastor and choir director who encouraged this shy young musician to use her gifts in spite of her fear.  There is the uncle who gave me money to help buy my first car and sent me on a trip to New York City free of charge.  There  are the ministers who preach the Word that cut like a sword and healed the wound and helped me grow.  There are the deacons who take their role seriously, who visit the sick and shepherd the flock.  There are the teachers who challenge me to think deeply, to question what I believe, and help me confirm what “thus saith the Lord” really means. 

Men are focused.  I love it that they can stay on one task and not veer off until it is complete, unlike me whose brain scatters from one thing to another to another until I wonder how anything gets accomplished.

Men are protective.  I remember when my very young grandson, Ethan, was pretending to be in a battle.  He looked at me standing there at the kitchen sink and said, “Don’t worry.  I’ll save you.”  His DNA is infused with a warrior spirit to fight for and take care of those he loves.

Men are courageous.  It isn’t that they are unafraid.  It is that they are willing to go check on that noise in the dark or to tread foreign soil for freedom’s sake.

Men are tender.  I’ve seen them cry over a sad movie, trying to hide their sniffles.  The tough exterior is just a covering for a soft heart where gentleness resides.

Men are strong.  They exert their strength to lift heavy loads, to trudge off to work every day, to go the extra mile, to be there for their friends and families.

I come from a long line of good men.

My grandfather Charles Lockard was a minister of the gospel who paved the way for me disregarding the persecution.  Yet he was one of the gentlest souls I ever knew. 

My dad, John Rayhill, is a man who knows how to take care of the women in his life.  He prides himself that he never let my mother take out the garbage.  That was his job.  He was always busy with something but he was never too busy to stop for me or one of the neighbor kids who needed a bike tire pumped up or something repaired.

My husband, Bill Wright, is my hero.  He was a good provider until his health took him down.  He fought for our marriage when everyone else gave up on it.  He has endured so much pain and too many surgeries with courage.  He still tries to look on the bright side, and he makes the effort to be kind to the hospital staff and learn their names, making him their favorite patient. 

My son, Travis Wright, is funny and fearless.  He has an infectious joy that draws people to him.   He has been my Son of Consolation through many tough years.  He is a faithful husband and a playful dad.  He bravely left his hometown and moved his family to Oklahoma to pursue his dream (though I have not yet gotten over it). 

I honor the men who stand for God, who take care of their families, who protect their children, who are determined to do the right thing even when it is hard. Men who go to war so I can be safe, who fight fires and keep the peace.  Men who lead with courage and care.  Men who put their lives in harm’s way for the sake of others.

Thank God for fathers who show their boys how to be good men, who treasure their daughters and teach them how a man should treat a woman.  Thank God for fathers who love their wives and stick it out when it would seem easier to walk away.  Thank God for fathers who love and care for other men’s children who have walked away.  Thank God for fathers who discipline with love instead of anger, who set a high standard of living so that their children have a role model worthy of following.  Thank God for fathers who get on their knees and pray every day, who take their children to church instead of just send them.  Thank God for fathers who go to work, for fathers who know how to play, for fathers who teach right from wrong and walk their talk.

I love those men in my life:  my precious going-on-91 Dad, my Sweet William, my son of consolation Travis.  And there is still one more, our little man, Ethan, 10 years old.  He is watching these good men, listening to their words.  He will be influnced by their lives. 

May he follow their footsteps.

 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”    –Deuteronomy 4:9

Pulling together

 

“When we all pull together, together, together,

  When we all pull together, how happy we’ll be.”

So says a childhood song I learned in Sunday School.  It proved to be true for me last weekend.

My father, John Rayhill, will be ninety years old at the end of this month, and shouldn’t a ninety year old have a party?  Of course he should.  Being an only child it was up to me to do something. 

The first part of the year, Dad was not in very good health and talked of dying and wrote his obituary.  I really wondered if he would see his ninetieth birthday.  About the middle of the year, his health made an amazing turn for the better as he began to grow stronger day by day.  Thank You, Lord!

I began to think seriously about a birthday party.  I reserved a large meeting room for a weekend in November.

Then my journey took an unexpected turn.  Actually, it was more like dropping off the cliff.  My Sweet William had surgery in the summer, and his recovery took longer than either of us expected.  The wind was knocked out of my sails.  I had a hard time concentrating on most everything and especially plans for a party.

As November drew closer, I became more and more frantic about the event.  By this time, Sweet William had yet another surgery in October, and I was in the midst of caregiving once again.   Adding to my cliff-hanging days was the fact that my son, my only son, and his family had moved to Tulsa in September.  My mind was foggy and my heart was grieving.  But, there was a party to plan.  I honestly did not know how it was going to happen.  

At least I had a room rented.

As the days closed in on me, my cousin-in-law, Linda, came to my rescue.  She offered to help with planning the menu, shopping for the food, and overseeing its preparation.  I felt part of my load lift.

Other family members and friends began to say they would help with this task or that: decorations, preparing the room, taking pictures, clean-up.  I began to realize I was not in this by myself.   

I asked a number of people to tell stories about Dad, and each one willingly agreed.  I could see a program taking form.

The day arrived for the big celebration.  Cousins, cousins-in-law, cousins’ children, (did I mention I am an only child?) and friends began showing up at the rented room.  Tables were soon covered with black and white clothes.  Simple curly ribbons became a festive decoration.  Final food preparation was taking place in the kitchen.  A display of photographs and memorabilia seemed to fall into order.  A piano was carried to the room for songs later on.  Suddenly, it was a party!

I am sure the Lord above wanted Dad to have a birthday celebration.  How else could it have come together so beautifully?  My Dad was greatly pleased with it and enjoyed greeting the crowd of over 100 people who gathered to honor him.  Dad is still talking about it.

Psalm 68:6 says “God sets the lonely in families . . . ”  While I may not be in the category of “lonely,” I am an only child.  So I think I can apply this verse to me.  God set me in an extended family who have been my substitue brothers and sisters.  They have stood beside me when I needed a steady hand, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to lift me up when I could not stand alone.  He has also put friends into my life who have been there in the good, bad, and ugly of my life.  And they decided to stay.  They are like family to me.

These people “pulled together” with me to produce a tribute to my precious father.  I could not have done it without them.

Blessings come in so many ways.  I know the best ones are the people I call my family.