A Grateful Heart

I will always remember the day my brother and I became men. Paul was about 10 years old and I was 12. We were playing in the front yard on a typically beautiful Saturday morning at the house where we lived in Santa Barbara. My dad was working in the garage with his new radial arm saw from Sears when all of a sudden there came a heart stopping, thunderous cry of “ahhhh” and the sound of crashing boards that halted us in mid play.

Stunned, we fixed our eyes on each other. Something was wrong. I can see it so clearly now, my dad being thrown backwards several steps where we could see him for a moment before he darted back into the garage and out of our view to unplug the still spinning saw. Then, we watched our dad running from the open garage to the front door of our house while cradling his right arm to his chest.

From inside the house we heard a loud wail from our grandmother. Almost immediately she burst out of the front door with purse and keys in hand moaning something about: “his fingers – his fingers.” Dad was following right behind her with his hand wrapped in an increasingly red-drenched bathroom towel. But, instead of getting into the car, he marched over to the garage door and shut it. Then, as he walked to the car he looked at us and said: “stay out.” We didn’t argue.

No words were spoken by my brother or me. We were still frozen in place on the front lawn watching the unfolding scene, eyes wide, mouths dropped open, in surreal slow motion. At last, the car disappeared screeching around the corner. This all happened in less than 90 seconds. To us, it seemed like an hour.

Our dad lost two fingers and the use of a third that day.

My brother Paul and I, still looking at each other, took a deep breath, and let out a long sigh. Our shoulders relaxed a bit, we stood up straight, and slowly looked toward . . . the . . . garage . . . Then I said: “well, we’d better go look.”

We crept in the back door of the darkened garage, strips of light coming through the double door cracks. With eyes wide open, we were searching ever so slowly . . . for . . . “the fingers.” There was no Alfred Hitchcock music playing in the background, but there might as well have been. I’m not sure why we didn’t just turn the light on. I guess it wouldn’t have been as much of an adventure.

Then, we both spotted “it” at the same moment. Simultaneously, we “jumped a 180” and ran screaming for the door like a couple of kids running from a monster. I pushed my brother through the door and we both tumbled to the ground, shrieking, grossed out, and laughing all at the same time. We did it. We were men.

Here’s the thing. The Sunday before this, my dad had preached on the text from Romans that says: “All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” All the way to the hospital the words kept going through his mind: “all things work together for good . . . all things work together for good.” He said later that it was those words that kept him going, that kept him encouraged. It was a painful recovery process. But he didn’t let the ordeal get him down.

Thinking back years later, I’m not quite sure of all the things that “worked out for good.” But I know they did. My dad wasn’t perfect . . . none of us are. But he softened a bit I think. He loved people and he and my mom would always welcome guests into our home. Many a teenager without a decent home life sat at our table. They were welcome to just “hang out.”

On the day in 2002 when he passed into the arms of Jesus, there were over thirty of us kids and grandkids crowded into his room singing his favorite hymns. Do we all have struggles? You bet. Do we all need to mature a bit? Yep. Have things worked out for the good of those who love Him? Without a doubt.

How about you? Have you trusted God to take the stumbling blocks in your life and turn them into stepping stones? Have you kept your heart pure and free from bitterness? Have you been able to keep pressing forward in spite of the storm? If you are right smack dab in the middle of a big trial, trust Him. His Word is true. He is faithful. He will carry you in the toughest times. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.

Keep looking forward, I’m standing with you.
Love you guys,

Romans 8:28 (MSG)
That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

P.S. I suppose it’s been the season for me to reflect on some turning points in my life. I have been recalling some great moments in my childhood that made an impact on me and changed the direction of my life. Last time it was “my brother the hero.” This time it is “my dad the hero.” Next time it will be “Jesus my hero.” See you then.

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