May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. – Psam 126:5
Today, Uncle Dee, the last of my paternal grandmother’s 8 siblings, passed on to glory. Dee’s mother and father were true pioneer stock, migrating from Oklahoma in a covered wagon to New Mexico during the dust bowl. Dee was the archetypal self-reliant southwestern cowboy. He was also something of an artist in wood, able to shape objects out of beauty from various pieces of discarded wood. As I stare at one of those works of art, a pencil holder sitting on my office desk, my thoughts turn to the story that his son Rick told that touched our whole family.
Like his father, Rick is a cowboy by any definition. Over the years he’s been an outfitter, rodeo rider, and outdoorsman. He’s had broken fingers, several cracked ribs, and fallen off more than a few horses only to bounce right back. But these injuries were just the prelude to what he was about to experience. After trying to break in a colt one day, he was bucked and flung clear into the air, only to land directly on the saddle horn, separating his pelvis from his spine. After being taken to emergency, and enduring a major surgery, his doctors said he might never walk again.
Four weeks later, Rick was still in a hospital bed, unable to stand or walk. It was then, while his wife April was down in the hospital chapel praying, that Rick had a God encounter that can only be described as an out-of-body experience. He said the Lord lifted him out of his bed and through the roof! High above, “I heard God say to me, ‘Rick, everything is going to be OK.’” As he returned to his bed, Rick lay in stunned silence. When his wife returned from the chapel, he tried to explain his experience but was reduced to tears over and over again. The next day, for the first time in four weeks, Rick tried to move. “I was not only able to put my feet down on the floor, but to actually walk.” Rick summed up his experience like this, “God is alive and well and he is here today!”
I’ll never forget Uncle Dee taking me aside after Rick shared that story again at a family reunion, saying that that he wanted to share with me a testimony of his own. I wondered what it could be. He went on to say that God had softened his heart, and with tears in his eyes, said that God had given him a deep love for people of different ethnic backgrounds that he had not had before. I smile today, as I look at the pencil holder on my desk, and the way my uncle made beautiful works of art - plates, bowels, tables - using woods of different kinds and colors. May this Christmas be a time in which you too, are moved to tears and smiles, giving thanks for the gifts of his healing grace and healing fellowship. These are gifts that the Child born in Bethlehem’s stable longs to bring to us all. Hope to see you soon…