"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Friday, July 12, 2013

Find Us Faithful

How we got from here to there I don't know.  One minute we were discussing the Boy Scout house that is long gone, giving way to weeds and overgrowth years ago, and the next thing I knew we had "the book" out.  No, not the Bible.  The Harper genealogy.  Surely the hump in the conversation was when I asked how we were related to Wayne.  I had thought all these years it was just by marriage ... not by blood.  But come to find out, my great-grandmother was related to her husband's first wife whose child by her first husband was Wayne's grandmother.  I think.  But like I said, one thing led to another until I finally pulled out the family book that my mom wrote for us a decade ago.

I agree, it's not always "safe" to go digging into family past.  One never knows what one might find.  And boy, did she ever find!  Let's just say we are rarely surprised anymore when something "new" shows up.  It is what it is and there's usually not a thing we can do about it.  But it has made for some lively conversations.

Yes, it is interesting to flip through the pages of family histories and discover something of the lives of those gone before.  For example, I just learned that I had a great-great uncle who was the mayor of Homestead, FL.  His life was cut short in 1937, however, when he and his 19 year old daughter Katherine were killed in an accident involving an ambulance on their way home from the horse races in Miami.  (They had left early to "beat the traffic.")

Something else I didn't know.  My great-uncle, R.E. Harper, was among the very first trustees of the Perry School System.  He also spent his last days in Milledgeville at the mental hospital.  Surely there was no direct correlation between the two.

And then there was that "little incident' of "Who Shot the Sheriff of Jones County."  No one can say for sure, but the three Harper boys did go a-missin' after that.  And such is how we ended up in "these parts."

I imagine every family has a story or two they can tell if they're brave enough to look.

But what overwhelms me the most each time I fan the pages of our family history are the obituaries.  And one in particular: that of my great-grandfather, Bright Harper.
"Papa" Harper
I remember reading the article years ago and it striking the same chord then as it does now.

August 14, 1913, 100 years ago, the Houston Home Journal obituary read: "After being in declining health more than two years, Mr. Bright Harper, one of the most highly esteemed citizens of Houston County, died at his home near Providence Church last Sunday. ... Upright and true in all walks of life, Mr. Harper held the absolute confidence of all who knew him. ... There never lived a more steadfast friend, a more excellent neighbor, and his home life was kind and true to his high ideals of morality and Christian duty. ... A truly good man...."

Four months later on Dec. 18 of the same year, another article appeared -- this one written by "A Former Pastor."  In it, I read, "As a citizen this good man ranked as the best, as a neighbor he was all that could be desired.  He was very tender and loving as husband and father, and his children rise up and call him blessed.  ... For years he was a member of the Methodist Church, having his membership at Providence church ... and the hands of many a pastor were made stronger from the faithfulness of this good man.  His home was the place of rest for many a weary preacher, as he made them the objects of his hospitality. ... He was true to God, sympathetic in the afflictions that came to others, liberal in all things pertaining to the church of God, one of its most faithful members and to his family a loving father and husband.  He was a follower of Jesus in whom was no guile.  May the mantle of the father descend upon the sons."

"May the mantle of the father descend upon the sons."  Even as I read and type those words again, fresh tears run down my cheeks and I want to fall to my knees in enormous gratitude to a God who has been so faithful to these generations.  At once I want to shout to those in the grave a loud "THANK YOU!!!!, all the while my heart bursting open toward the heavens knowing it is God who has done this thing for us.

Before me each morning as I sit in my "sacred space" is a picture of our family: my husband and me, our children and their spouses and our grandson.  

No doubt, it is very often the central focus of my prayer time.  And this is what I am learning:  to pray that the mantle of the father descend upon the sons (and daughters).  Don't just take it for granted.

Many months ago, I jotted "Psalm 112" on a piece of paper, tore it off, and placed it in the corner of the frame.

It became my prayer.  It begins:
Praise the Lord!
Happy are those who fear the Lord, who greatly delight in His commandments.
Their descendants will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
they are gracious, merciful, and righteous...

This week as I flipped through the pages of the Harper genealogy, I came to the front of the book where my mother had penned a personal message to me.  My breath caught when I saw it.

Though certainly not perfect, I cannot be more thankful for the generations that have gone before me ... of both my parents, their parents and the ones before them.

A number of years ago, Steve Green wrote and sang a song that still rings within me today as I flip the pages of personal history.  A portion reads,

We're pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road
And those who've gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

So what if you don't have that kind of heritage: "the heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives"?  Beloved, you start it right now ... with your very own life of faithfulness.

Yes, may those who come behind us find US faithful.  And may the mantle of the father -- and the mother -- descend upon the children.  Let it be, Lord!

Just an ordinary moment...

1 comment:

Rebekah A. said...

Sweet words as I have looked at my ancestors recently. It is what it is, but the Lord IS always faithful before, throughout and forever. A favorite Steve Green song, too!