|St Peter's & St Paul's in Newton/Cowper's Olney (Mr Pipes')|
Ten years ago on Father's Day, I felt like my soul was about to give way. That Sunday afternoon in 2006 I stood looking out at 800 people who scratched their Father's Day barbecue plans to gather instead for my father's funeral. I was supposed to be up there speaking on behalf of my family. It was the hardest thing I had done in my life.
Every fiber of my being was trembling. I was afraid. I felt sure that my soul would give way, and I would break down and blubber like a baby in front of everybody (judging from the last three years of the trial of his failing health from AML Leukemia, it was the likeliest thing on the cards).
But God gave me a calmness that came only from him, a "peace that passes all understanding." There's no other explanation. I did not feel calm. I did not feel at peace. But God gave these to me then and in the weeks to follow. How did he do it? Romans 8:28 was one of the means by which the Comforter gave me peace. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose."
My father had made me memorize this verse (and many others), fortifying me with Scripture, getting me ready for this (and other trials he knew would come). This text, on which one can hazard all, was the grist out of which I managed in those gulping weeks to set down the second New Reformation Hymn:
(NRH 02) Our God In All Things Works for Good (Long Meter, LM, 126.96.36.199.)
Our God in all things works for good;
His sovereign, gracious will has stood
And will through endless ages stand,
Sustained and ordered by his hand.
In goodness God stretched out the sky,
The sun and moon and stars that cry,
"Almighty God has made all things!"—
Creation groans yet shouts and sings.
From heaven’s bounty God gives food
To saint and rebel, bad and good;
Our God in all things meets men’s needs
And just and unjust kindly feeds.
When clouds descend and troubles rise,
Despair and darkness, tears and sighs,
Yet God is good in grief and loss,
And bears his own who bear their cross.
Redemption, purchased and applied
To favored ones for whom Christ died;
His lambs he grants repentance free
And eyes of faith his cross to see.
All praise to God who works for good!
Whose loving kindness firm has stood
And will through endless ages stand,
Unerring, ordered by his hand.
Douglas Bond (Copyright May 15, 2006)
Watch for the forthcoming New Reformation Hymns/Parish Psalms album with Greg Wilbur, Nathan Clark George, Steve Green, and an amazing collection of gifted musicians from Franklin, Tennessee. More at www.newreformationhymns.webs.com.
Here's bonus excerpt from a relevant moment in THE ACCIDENTAL VOYAGE--Mr Pipes bk 4:
“There it goes,” said Annie, dreamily as she watched through the ratlines of the schooner the orange ball of the sun touch the horizon and steadily flatten out as it sank in the west. “It seems to go down so fast. Is it moving that fast during the day, too? Of course I know it is.”“Going, going, gone,” said Drew, as the last of the sun disappeared below the horizon. “Wait! I’ll bet I can see it again.”
With that, jumping up and grabbing the rope rungs of the ratlines, Drew took several cautious steps upward. “There it is again!” he called down excitedly. Then, looking down, he caught his breath. With clenched teeth he fumbled for the lower rungs with his feet, finally heaving a sigh of relief when he felt the solid bulwark and then the deck under him.
Mr. Pipes looked at Drew in the dim light but said nothing.
“I wish these moments would last forever,” said Annie, leaning against the main mast; she smoothed the silk of her skirts and pulled her knees up under her chin.
Mr. Pipes clasped his hands around his knee and looked tenderly at the children. He understood something of Annie’s longing. The adventures enjoyed with these children over the last years were one of the great pleasures of his long life, and seeing them brought to a living faith in God and singing praises to him was the crowning pleasure of all. But he and his late wife had so wanted children of their very own. He loved Annie and Drew as if they were his own—which they were not. In any case, sooner than he cared to admit, moments like this enjoyed with these dear ones would come to an end--forever. With bushy eyebrows lowered, he sat pensive for several moments.
And then he slapped his knee, shook himself, looked heavenward and broke out laughing.
“What are you laughing at, Mr. Pipes?” asked Annie.
“Myself,” he said. “Humph. Old fool that I am sometimes. It is precisely this that will last forever, my dears.” He laughed again.
Drew turned toward the horizon where the sun had disappeared; puzzled, he looked back at Mr. Pipes.
“No, no, that sunset is gone,” said Mr. Pipes, waving his hand as if giving it permission to go. “But every true pleasure we enjoy in this life—and that includes all the adventures we have shared, my dears—I say, every sunset, every good meal, Drew (temperately consumed, I might add), is only a foretaste of the eternal pleasures to be enjoyed by God’s children forever in his glorious presence. And with the wonder we feel when we witness the heavens declaring the glory of God—as they just have in that sunset—if we will think rightly about what we see and experience in this life, we are to turn all such wonder, all such pleasure, to the glory God.”
“So heaven will be something,” said Annie, looking up at the first stars twinkling faintly in the east, “something like a sunset that doesn’t end, but just gets prettier and prettier.”
“Hey, will you look at that!” said Drew.
He pointed at the afterglow of brilliant color from the fading light. The wisps of cloud fanning out along the horizon glowed like fire and the clear sky shone in deepening shades of violet.
“Oh, isn’t it lovely,” said Annie.
“Most lovely, indeed,” said Mr. Pipes, smiling at the beauty all around them. “Oh, but heaven will be glorious beyond expression. And one of the ways we now may taste of heavenly things is when we give to God the glory, the praise and the honor that are due him. Therefore, we are closest to heaven in this life when we are offering God prayers and praises suitable to his majesty.”
“Well, maybe we should sing a hymn right now,” suggested Annie.
“I cannot think of a better idea,” said Mr. Pipes, opening his hymnal and holding it toward the light from a lamp on the pier. “Oh, how I miss my little Binns,” he said, referring to his organ back in the parish church at Olney. “We shall do our best without it.”