Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Party Like It's [18]99!"

Because it's my birthday and - my beloved Miss Manners notwithstanding - I figured I should be allowed to do what I wanted, I decided that what I really wanted was to have lunch with my Oldies.

And so that's what happened. 

Every Tuesday morning for many years Dad and Mum would go to the Robertson Manor and have a time of hymn singing, prayer and a devotional / short message from Dad. I was privileged to start tagging along while Mum was still with us.

I vividly remember the day we were called to the hospital, to Mum's bedside. It was on a Tuesday at about 9:45. I promised Dad, who was of course already in Calgary, that I would pop by the Manor and let the people know why he wouldn't be there that morning. I quickly ran to IGA and picked up some doughnuts. And then I went to meet the people and tell them the awful news of Mum's being in the hospital.

These dear old people, who barely knew me at that point, rose creakily to their feet and surrounded me. They wrapped their arms around me and placed their hands on my head and prayed - for Mum, for Dad, for the family. For me.

And from that moment on, from that sacred moment with the prayers of these saints ascending to the heavens like the sweet smell of incense, I knew that God was in control.

And so He was.

They were all at Mum's funeral, sitting together like old soldiers still on guard. And every Tuesday morning since, they have enveloped Dad and me with love and prayer and support and concern. They wept with us and agonized with us in the early days. They laugh with us and cry with us now.

One of them, Wilma, said just today, "I miss your Mom. I am so glad I got to know her before she died."

This morning, even our beloved Martha made the enormous effort it takes these days to be there. She sat across the table from me and smiled.

They sang Happy Birthday to me before we sang anything else. Then Dad asked me to play the other song, A Happy Birthday to You. I mused aloud that that seemed rather like asking the reigning monarch to sing God Save the Queen. "Just play it!" they laughed, and then they all sang to me.

Dad's text was Mark 11:24: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it shall be yours." (ESV). I looked the verse up when I got back to the TH and some early manuscripts read, "... believe that you are receiving it and it shall be yours."

Dad talked about how God delights to bless us, from large serious matters in our lives to what might seem trivial even to us. The King James Version (Happy 400th birthday for yesterday!) puts it like this: "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."

What things. We trust Him with our hearts and souls and lives. We are also to trust Him with our material needs and desires.

Dad told us of a time when he was speaking for several days in the state of Andhra Pradesh in the heat of summer. He spoke for ten days in one place, eating hot, spicy food at every meal. From there he went to a second town in Andhra, and when he arrived it was time to eat.

The very fleeting thought crossed his mind as he sat down to eat yet another spicy meal off the wonderful banana leaf plate: "I wish I could have something sweet to eat ..." He immediately banished the thought from his mind as silly, however, and enjoyed his meal.

At the end of the dinner, one of the men put his hand into his pocket and, bringing out four candies, handed them to Dad. "These are for you, brother," he said. Dad protested a bit but the man insisted, so Dad took them. And he remembered his momentary desire and knew that this was God saying I heard you.

That night when they took Dad to his guest room - a tiny room with enough space for a single bed and a small table - on the table was a bowl filled with Indian sweets! And every day that Dad preached at that place, the bowl was filled.

God cares for even the littlest things that concern us. How important it is for us to believe Him!

After the devotional we had lunch: tomato bisque followed by turkey and bacon with spinach and Havarti cheese quiches, and then the part I was waiting for - Dad's orange chiffon cake, which I had specially commissioned for the event! And we washed it all down with apple cider.

It was a wonderful birthday luncheon - the average age was in the mid-80s, I guess, and I was the young 'un in the room!

After everything was cleaned up (I didn't wash a single dish - they wouldn't hear of it on my birthday!), I went back home to do some Carswell work. But the thought crossed my mind, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get half-way through on the bunk bed project by today?"  I asked God rather diffidently if He would please make it happen. We were at 11 bunk beds this morning and I wanted to be at 12.5 bunks by the end of the day ...

I read the prayer (the "birthday prayer", as I like to call it) from my tiny volume Great Souls at Prayer, the book itself a gift from one of my oldest friends. Here are the words of the prayer for May 3:

O Lord our God, who hast bidden the light to shine out of darkness, who hast again wakened us to praise Thy goodness and ask for Thy grace: accept now, in Thy endless mercy, the sacrifice of our worship and thanksgiving, and grant unto us all such requests as may be wholesome for us. Make us to be children of the light and of the day, and heirs of Thy everlasting inheritance. Remember, O Lord, according to the multitude of Thy mercies, Thy whole Church ; all who join with us in prayer ; all our brethren by land or sea, or wherever they may be in Thy vast kingdom, who stand in need of Thy grace and succour. Pour out upon them the riches of Thy mercy, so that we, redeemed in soul and body, and steadfast in faith, may ever praise Thy wonderful and holy name—Amen.

(I have emphasized the parts that seemed to jump out at me.) This prayer, along with Dad's message, gave me a sudden boldness: I asked God for not 12 1/2 bunk beds but for a full 13 beds by the end of the day. I believe that He wants to get these kids off the floor. After all, He loves them more than any of us ever could. So I asked God to look after this request.

Then, of course, I started to worry: who was going to step up? "Stop it!" I could almost hear God say. "You asked Me for the two bunk beds. Now leave it with Me."

A lady at the Manor had handed me an envelope, and in it was half a bunk bed. Someone else gave me a card for my birthday, which I opened that afternoon, and in it was a full bunk bed.

Twelve and a half bunk beds, and now it was 5:00 p.m.! I began to gnaw my nails. Should I have stuck with my original thought? "Stop it ...!" I thought I heard a voice say reprovingly.

And just before I headed out for dinner with the members of my family who live in Trois Lumps, an envelope was given to me containing half a bunk bed, which made ...

THIRTEEN BUNK BEDS! All I could do was chuckle amid the sudden rush of tears to my eyes.

Dad had said this morning, "If it's big enough to be of concern to you, it's big enough to be of concern to God." Even half a bunk bed.

And he also said, "For God to hear prayer is for God to answer." It may not be the answer we want or expect - Mum was taken from us exactly two weeks after that morning when the Oldies prayed for her and for our family - but it was the right answer, for Mum, for us, for God's purposes.

What a wonderful birthday - one of my best yet!

My dear Brenda, who is always
there for me without
my even having to ask

Dad and Martha anchoring
the head of the table

Going around the table ...

Bill and the ladies
(that's Betty to his right!)

Continuing around the table ...

... and ending up with Sandi,
who gave me such a
beautiful card!

Wes and Leona, the
sweethearts who celebrated
their sixtieth anniversary
last year

Martha and me: between us
we bring 151 years
to the table!


  1. What a wonderful post, and such lovely pictures -- your friend Martha is looking well for someone 123 years old! I'm glad yours was such a happy birthday: how many prayers were answered with that!

  2. Happy to hear that you had a wonderful Birthday! Sorry I'm late with that one:(.

  3. All I can say is 'wow' and I'm so glad you had such a wonderful birthday. You are amazing! :)


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