Autumn comes to those of us on the gulf coast on tentative winds. We anxiously await the first cold front of the season and by the time that first arctic air has traveled the length of our continent, it holds little sway with the warm gulf air. But – the hint of fall comes, and despite continuing 90 degree days, the sun begins its annual slide towards a different angle and the promise of respite from long summer heat begins.
The tallow tree begins to show out, whether from drought or cold or just the sheer fact it misses China and the quiet, floating oak leaves, like brown snowflakes, will fall until well after Christmas. But promise they do, the cycle of cooler days.
My Texas sky is often a cloudless blue, but its that blue of an Indian summer, and once autumn has passed, will give way to damp, gun metal gray winter ones.
Today, as I sit and ponder this Monday, the Houston sky is that gray one that in other climes could promise snow. The wind is howling down from the north and I am going to have to put on sweats, the first time in a while, as I go about my work. The clash of cold north wind and warm gulf air makes the atmosphere around me turbulent and if I was in another frame of mind, disturbing. But today, it’s sweeping my heart clear and there is lightness in my being, because of something that happened yesterday.
A young injured soldier spoke in church instead of the pastor. It was the one year anniversary of a horrible life threatening injury he suffered in Iraq. He had one story to tell and the second he started talking, my soul joined with his, because I knew what he was talking about. When you get to the lowest place, the most lost, desolate, scary, powerless place that a human can go, when you have made the decision to give up, you have two choices; you can give up to God or you can give up without hope.
No matter where you stand on religion or faith, it turns out the options are that limited.
David Patrick Moran raised his hands and looked out at the congregation, his wounds obvious, the burns leaving scars and clearly a year’s healing was only the start of recovery, he said, ‘I am not ashamed of my scars, because despite all that has happened, my heart is unscarred. Every day my father, while washing my wounds and tending to me, said ‘Remember, son, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.
Patrick went on to describe his talks with his Heavenly Father and as he spoke it was clear that his Heavenly Father was at work, washing Patrick’s soul of bitterness and earthly questions. I don’t know what you count as a miracle, but in the realm of supernatural things, this seems obvious. How many people do you know, who without this hope, this faith, have been felled by their circumstances?
Patrick and I, we are fellow sojourners. I have been down this road and I too, know of the only hope evidenced in Patrick’s words and shown in his eyes. What a miracle, when someone I don’t even know, can tell the same story I know deep down in me. We are kindred beyond this earth. What grace and comfort, for the times when my humanness creeps back in, and my faith wanes, I will think of Patrick and the others this very day, whose situations I know to be hopeless, yet harbor hope for things unseen. I will thank God that I, like Patrick was surrounded by a father and mother, who pointed me in the right direction for hope and was blessed with three sons whose souls know where their hope resides.
So today, no matter how gray life might be on the outside, my insides are showing the most beautiful start of a Happy Monday God ever made.
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
Martin Luther King, 1968
Yesterday in church, the preacher didn’t talk or give a sermon. Daniel Patrick Moran did. It was the one year anniversary marine, of the life threatening injury he suffered in Iraq.