Monday, October 30, 2006

Altered: Father, How Wonderful You Are

I returned Friday night from a trip to California to visit my parents.  My father is ninety years old and has prostate cancer that he has been battling for fifteen years.  He sleeps more than he is awake and part of this is due to the pain medications he takes.  My mom has always laughed about my dad singing in his sleep but she told me now he only sings or hums a few bars of his favorite hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross.” One afternoon I was curled up reading a book in the living room and he was asleep in his recliner chair when he began to hum.  This was the first time I had ever heard my dad do this and I found it comforting to listen to him.  His faith in God has never wavered even in his failing health.

On Sunday morning I attended church with my mother.  Dr. Fermin Whittaker who is the Executive Director CA Southern Baptist Convention was the guest speaker.  He told us we are not a burden to God.  We are imperfect, we must confess, we must believe in Jesus as God’s son, and we will be saved and we will find peace.  He said sometimes we are so busy being Christians, for us to be a Christian.  During the sermon I became annoyed because someone behind me kept whispering and I was having a hard time concentrating on the message.  I turned around but the whispers continued.  Then I listened to what they were saying behind me.  Someone was translating the sermon from English to Spanish so the other person could hear the message.  I realized I was that Christian--too busy listening to the message and being annoyed to be a good Christian to others in the same service.  I asked God to forgive me and just let me concentrate harder to hear a message that obviously I was meant to hear.  Dr. Whittaker had a way of lacing personal stories into his message and at one point asked us all to say, “Amen.”  We did.  He said we sounded like a group of Episcopalians and asked us to say Amen again like Southern Baptists.  We did much better the second time.  I called my husband Larry after church to tell him about our Amen’s and he laughed because he was raised in the Episcopal Church.  At the end of the service they asked everyone to join hands and sing Better Together.  

I was telling my dad about an issue I have on forgiveness that I am working on; one God requires of me in order to be fully forgiven myself.  My dad listened and gave me some advice.  Then my dad smiled at me and said, “you’ll be in mine.”  My dad is dying from cancer and he is praying for me.  I can’t explain how this made me feel.  When my sister Sharron was dying she also prayed for me to return to God and church.  The power of knowing someone is praying for you is almost overwhelming and comforting at the same time.

My mom is my best friend and using her as a role model my daughter has begun calling me her best friend.  My mother is my father’s caregiver.  Anything he needs or wants, she takes care of.  She also does all the small things around the house to keep it running--fixing a leaky sprinkler head, tightening a lose pipe, and for bigger things she calls my nephew and he takes care of it or he finds one of his friends who can do it.  Her outlet is gardening since she can no longer quilt do to arthritis.  One afternoon my dad was sitting in his wheelchair and I watched my mom lovingly stroke the back of his head, running her fingers through his hair.   This is the kind of love everyone looks for and longs to find.  After almost sixty-eight years my mom and dad are still in love.  

My dad likes to tell us family stories.  He was living in California, working and saving enough money to return to Oklahoma and move us all out west to the Promised Land with warmer weather and a better life for his family.  At night my dad would stop by the side of the road and read his bible from the light of his truck headlights before going to sleep.  His road map for life came from the bible.  

The Old Rugged Cross

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff'ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best For a world of lost sinners was slain. (Chorus) So I'll cherish the rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down' I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown. Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world Has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God left his glory above, To bear it to dark Calvary. (Chorus) In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, A wondrous beauty I see; For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, To pardon and sanctify me. (Chorus) To the old rugged cross I will ever be true, Its shame and reproach gladly bear; Then he'll call me some day to my home far away, Where his glory forever I'll share.

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