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Daily Encouragement - May 5

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  No!  In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For am I persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:35, 37-39, RSV)

Six years can change a lot.

Or, to be more exact, six years and 4 months, which is how long our youngest grandson, Wallace Warren, has inhabited this earth.  Exactly, to the day, this very day...a fact we established yesterday afternoon, when I “interviewed“ him by FaceTime  preparatory to writing this.  One look at his newborn photos reveals what enormous changes have taken place in him, in his 6.333 years.  I was there the night he was born, thanks to the gracious invitation of his mother.  In fact, I was no farther away from him when he emerged into the world than I am right now from the porch railing.  Over the years,  I’ve attended quite a number of births in surgery suites, usually when difficulties or even tragedies were anticipated, but never before (or since) have I been present at a home birth attended by midwives.  I was so overawed by the up close and personal experience of seeing a brand new human being enter the world that I‘m not sure I ever expressed my thanks to his Mom for inviting me to be there. Thank you, Jennifer.  I’ll never forget hearing his first cry; I can still remember how it felt to hold him for the first time. On the night he was born,  I could have held him in my two hands.  Now he comes up to the midpoint of my chest - or at least he did, the last time I saw him, on his sixth birthday...which was the subject of some discussion in yesterday’s interview.   “But that was a year ago!” he exclaimed.  We had to persuade him that it had actually been only 4 months.  If you’re six, four months can seem like a year, especially in the time of Coronavirus.

Trying to keep the process simple, I told him I had just a few questions.  Number 1:  What have you liked best about the quarantine (which his Mother translated to “Staying at a Home”)?  His answer was immediate:  not going to school.  Because, he continued, we don’t have to do as much work here as we have to do there.  And Mommy lets us take breaks.  And the bathrooms here are nicer (there was some detail given there which I will spare you).   Answering the next question proved to be a bit more circuitous.  What have you liked least about staying at home?  Though he didn’t use the precise words, his answer turned out to be essentially the same;  what he has liked least about quarantine was also not going to school. Or, as he put it, “I’m not sure about the question, but I can tell you what is driving me totally crazy - my brothers.  They won’t stop running around. And they talk while I’m trying to do my work.  So I am being distracted!” he concluded, with some degree of anguish and offense.  I had to work to keep my facial expression neutral, because Wallace is not exactly immobile or non-vocal himself.  Then I asked my third and last question: Do you know what Gaga misses most during the shutdown? “Preaching..or teaching?” he replied. That’s a good guess, I said, but it’s not what I was thinking.  What Gaga misses most about all this is not being able to spend time with you and give you a hug.  A little smile turned up his lips.  Have I told you lately that I love you, I inquired.  “About 6 thousand, 55 million times” he answered.  Not in this call, I reminded him;  I haven’t told you that yet today.  “But you will,” he declared, “because you do.  A lot.”   His Mother reminded him that it’s a good thing to tell people you love them on a regular basis, to be sure they know.  “Okay,” he said, and then went silent for a moment.  “I love you, too,” he said, as if doling out a long anticipated allowance...and then, silently and swiftly, he escaped from the interview.  So many people tell him they love him that he’s come to take it for granted, his Mom explained; sort of like, why wouldn’t you love me?  Indeed.  Why wouldn’t I?  And I  am but one of many doting grandparents who shower love on these 3 not-so-little-anymore boys.

The good news:  like his brothers, Wallace knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is loved, greatly loved, and by a number of people.  There can be no greater gift for a child than to be assured of such love.   Learning not to take that love for granted Is a lesson he will learn later. Most of us learn that lesson later; many of us learn it painfully, when the love or the lover is no longer with us.  To be honest, some of us still take love for granted, even (or perhaps especially) the love of God.  We’ve been told that Jesus loves us so many times that our response is, more or less, “oh, yeah...right.”  But what if God didn’t love us? What if God hated us?  Or (worse yet) what if God felt for us only indifference?  It doesn’t bear contemplating.  Thankfully, the Scriptures go to great lengths to make it plain that God’s enduring attitude towards us is one of love, a love so deep and wide that we can not fathom it.  But we can know it!  If ever there was a love not to taken for granted, a love to be acknowledged and celebrated day by day, it is the love of God...and, as Paul reminds us in the eighth chapter of Romans, absolutely nothing can separate us from that great love. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,

Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free;

Rolling like a mighty ocean

In its fullness, over me.

Underneath me, all around me,

Is the current of thy love;

Leading onward, leading homeward,

To the glorious rest above.

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,

Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free;

Rolling like a mighty ocean

In its fullness, over me.

(The Celebration Hymnal, # 352)

Lord Jesus Christ, yours is the love that will not let us go.  Yours is the love that never runs out and never gives up on us.  Your is the love that surrounds us and abides in us.  May yours be the love that flows out from us.  It is in your name that we pray.  Amen.

Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood 

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