Everyone’s Life Should be Celebrated
Dr. John Holland
I stood at the bedside of the dearest man on earth to me, my dad. I looked into his face which was so emaciated that I hardly recognized him. In four months, he had gone down from two hundred and twenty pounds to one hundred and fifty. From being the strongest man I knew, to being bedfast and near death.
I was twenty-two years old when the call came that my dad was critically ill with colorectal cancer. I flew home to that little town in the southwest part of Texas where I grew up. It was this little Texas town where I had attended school and participated in athletics. It was five years before that I had left for college to prepare for my pastoral responsibilities.
It was a terrible shock to walk into the room and see what the malignancy had done to dad’s body. Dad was a large, strong man who had always been my model of manhood. Now he was so weak and thin that I could hardly breathe as I looked upon the face I loved so dearly. My voice came out thin and raspy as I tried to speak encouraging words to my father.
I was to sit by that bed and hold his hand until it turned cold, and the fingernails grew black. I would be there until he breathed his last breath and I would hear him say, “The angels are coming for me, and I am ready.”
The day of my dad’s funeral our little West Texas city closed the businesses. We used the largest assembly in town and yet the overflow crowd of people sat and stood through the service.
Outlined in my memory are the men and women I had known all my life.
They filed by in their western clothes. Wearing cowboy boots and holding western hats in their hands. Many wore bolo ties, and their suits were western cut. I gazed upon their weathered faces and hands calloused through hard work. Then a huge lump rose in my throat and an ache in my chest as I realized how much my dad loved these people.
Dad would stand and visit with them on the streets of our town. They were ranchers that dad had helped care for their stock. Men and women who attended our church. They were all there. They all came to say goodbye to this giant of a man, standing and looking on his emaciated face for the last time.
In that sacred moment while the mourners passed by, I realized how much I loved them.
I was so grateful to have them there. I realized that I was drawing strength from them and their love for my dad. I do not remember the sermon or the music. I do remember that I had a spiritual experience which changed my view of people. That experience would shape my ministry model from then on.
In that time of closeness to them, my spirit opened to a diminution of the Holy Spirit. I had a rising feeling from within that came into my conscious mind. It was this thought, "Everyone’s life should be celebrated."
I know that is not a new or profound truth. In that moment, I knew the Holy Spirit was saying that I was one who should always do that. As I began to pastor the first church, I tried to celebrate people and their worth. Of course, I was not always successful, but from time to time I was, and the results were powerful.
People get slammed, shamed, hammered, and pushed every day. There is precious few in this world who affirms them. Few who gives them a pat on the back or offers a kind understanding word. Over time I got better at affirming people. I incorporated more of the celebration into my sermons and funeral messages.
I had heard something from the spirit realm, and it had great power in the physical material world. Many became Christian because of it, and many came to our church through those efforts.
I had found out that the spiritual realm controls the physical material world. Spirituality is the ability to receive from the realm of the spirit and then releasing it into the physical material universe.
Continuing next Monday, October 18th . . .