"... Now, you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me."
When I began this "Series on Friendship" in May, I did not expect it to go for seven months, but then God's ways frequently exceed my understanding. There are a multitude of ways to tell about God's offering of friendship to us, of how we are to be friends to others in His name. I do not suggest that these last months have exhausted the topic; however, I sense the series coming to an end. This last story is personal, a story of how God orchestrates all things, even the smallest detail, revealing what is necessary as He continually gathers each of us into His Love. A time of unfolding.
In November, 1989, my parents come to visit us in Ohio; my father never leaves. During this time, he suffers a seizure that reveals a more grave health issue. My father is diagnosed with lung cancer that has spread to the brain and other areas throughout his body. His prognosis gives him six months to live. Because of the medical care we could provide and the assistance that he would need, he agrees to stay in Ohio. At first, he seems fine. A series of palliative radiation treatments to his brain did cause some hair loss, but even at Christmas he remains strong. A time to breathe.
One day he tells me about a song that he wants to have at his funeral. I make a mental note and assure him I will do this. As expected, his health declines over the next few months. Weakness and some confusion lead to decreased activity and responsiveness. On May 10, 1990, we celebrate his 70th birthday, which I believe is more for us than him. May 20, 1990, daddy dies. At his service, the song I prearranged with the funeral home plays. The next couple of months pass quietly, with remembrances and reflections of time together. Despite the difficulties, this season has been full of laughter and honesty, joy and truth, tears and hugs. A time to cherish.
In August of that year, I take my daughter to Mississippi for a few weeks to visit family and friends. For some reason I need to go back to my heart's home. On Sunday morning I rest in my home church, this church whose familiar walls witnessed so many spiritual moments for me. We stand to sing the benediction, softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me. Tears rush forward, my heart is beating so fast. Come home, come home; you who are weary come home. Thoughts are pounding inside my head. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home! THIS is the song my daddy had asked me to have played at his funeral. How could I have made such a mistake! I realize that the song played at his funeral was the wrong song! A time of regret.
"What a Friend We Have in Jesus" had never been a favorite of mine and was not the song my father requested; yet, that was the song played. I confess my disappointment in forgetting the one thing he asked. For a number of years, every time I would hear what A Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins a griefs to bear I immediately felt remorse. Ironically, its humdrum tune gradually captures my attention; its words emphasize our privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. With each line ending in prayer or some common word that rhymes with prayer, its simplicity begins to teach me about what peace we often forfeit and what needless pain we bear when we neglect prayer. Weaving trials and temptations with refuge and solace stands the Weaver, Precious Savior. Throughout the hymn a theme evolves. Jesus knows our every weakness; in His arms He'll take and shield you if we will simply take it to the Lord in prayer. The greatest promise lies within the rhetorical asking can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus is our most faithful Friend. A time of growing.
In the fall of 2005, I am sitting at a women's conference at Trinity on the Hill UMC in Augusta, GA, listening to Amy Breitmann, talk about The Lydia Project, of which she is Co-Founder. Then I hear what a Friend we have in Jesus. As the song continues, the presence of the Holy Spirit seems to cover me and overwhelms my heart. In this moment my soul hears holy whispers this song was not a mistake; this song was for you! All those years ago, God had chosen this simple song ~ for me. Knowing all my needs, He kept reminding me to bring all my troubles, all my disappointments, all my weaknesses to Him. Jesus kept proclaiming His friendship, weaving simple words and rhyme into teachings about prayer and promises. Jesus is a Friend of mine! A time of healing.
Blessed Savior, Thy mercies how tender, how firm til the end; our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. Faithful Friend, hear my prayers of praise and petitions of pain. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. ~ dho
God orchestrates all things, even the smallest detail, revealing what is necessary as He continually gathers each of us into His Love. Donna Oswalt
Jesus kept proclaiming His friendship, weaving simple words and rhyme into teachings about prayer and promises. Jesus is a Friend of mine! A time of healing. Donna Oswalt