Friday, May 13, 2011

A Passing Friend

We accept and recognize lady ministers in our fellowship. There are some, I know, that would vociferously argue this point of women preachers with me. However, I readily admit that some of my favorite preachers are “women of the cloth.“

I was nurtured by one such lady as a small child in my home church--“Sister Sweet.” She was a capable interim pastor, but only filled in until a good man came along. Probably my all-time favorite was Wilma Perry, of Oklahoma, later Dr. Wilma Perry longtime Warner Pacific College professor. It still makes me laugh when I think of the carnal-spirited males stomping and snorting around the Convention Grounds when "that woman" preached at our International Convention. I remember one in particular, now long gone, whose name I’ll not mention--came from a rural church in southern Missouri

In recent days, I was touched--challenged--by a lesser-known “woman preacher,” a former acquaintance. In this case, she was a former fellow student some sixty years ago. I remember her as a vibrant young lady, a young single girl, evangelistically minded, full of zest and youthful faith.

I recently received a message from David Coolidge’s Prayer Line and it contained a this note, written to all her old friends:
"Recently I have been diagnosed with a rare disease, Amyloidosis. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are only three people in a million diagnosed with this disease in a year. It affected my tongue first, then the entire digestive system, and now it has affected the lymph system with the body filling with fluid and seeping. Thanks to everyone who has been my friend and helped me along life's most pleasant journey. I have had a happy life. I hope to see everyone in heaven."
I have Heaven in View, positively.
Thelda Quinn Shaffer/5-5-2011 (italics added).

Years has passed since I even saw Thelda; we had each gone very different tracks in church ministry, but our tracks had crossed in college and she remained a familiar name. The forthrightness and honesty of her message touched me deeply. I responded by writing her a note of appreciation for her candid frankness and the certainty of her note testimony--I like that.

Almost before I could turn around, I received another mailing from David announcing Thelda’s entrance into the eternal portals. Her note had to be one of the last things she did, for I scarcely had time to adjust my thinking before she had moved through her final Commencement.

Across my 45 years of pastoring churches, probably the funerals I conducted were what I remember most and best. I often said I would rather conduct a funeral than a wedding. Weddings were so often filled with facade and unreality, but in funerals I found who people were at their core. Often, they were highlight moments of personal intimacy.

When I remember Thelda, I have little or no recall about her years as a wife, mother, pastor and evangelist. I know we were the same age and that our years of service paralleled. What I remember is a verse I often used in funeral services, titled simply, “Friends”:

The river flowing gently by,
The rolling meadows green,
The mountains towering to the sky,
The valleys in between
Are all a part of God’s great scheme
On which our joy depends,
But greatest of them all, I deem
Our friends.

The sunshine and blue skies are fine,
I’m thankful for the flowers,
For they are truly gifts divine,
To cheer this world of ours,
But flowers droop and skies turn gray
God’s greats blessings, so I say,
Are friends.

When sorrow comes and grief is yours
And hope is lost in gloom,
‘Tis then that friendship comes to shine
Within your darkened room.
“Tis then that consolation sweet,
Your bitter woe attends,
For God hat made this world complete
With friends.

I glory in a summer’s day,
And in the morning sun,
But when my cares are put away,
And all my tasks are done,
When low the shades of evening fall
And night time fast descends,
Most thankful then am I for all
My friends.

I don’t find much satisfaction in the individualistic narcissism of our gadget-generated generation of affluent technics, but I take real pleasure in the interdependence and loving relationships through which God planned for us all of us to grow and thrive and make our world a better place for everyone. I hope my friends will remember me for the appreciation, and the candid forthrightness with which I remember the Reverend Thelda Quinn.

What would any of us be, without our friends?
From Warner’s World, this is

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