Thursday, March 1, 2012

Magical Moment 611, "Great is Your Reward"

Certain sounds and smells can bring to mind a long forgotten memory. For me, certain Bible verses can conjure up a memory, long, but not so forgotten.

If you grew up like me, in a private Christian school, attending Sunday School, Awanas, and Vacation Bible School regularly, you're an expert at quoting Scripture. I laugh in the face of Bible "Sword Drill." I can find a Scripture reference in 3 seconds or less. When other's have to think to themselves the sequential order, "Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians..." I'm already at I Thessalonians. It's like growing up bi-lingual. The skill is just there.

This morning, I read the first 3 words of a verse, and then finished it quickly by memory. Like the pledge of allegiance, it was automatic.
"Trust in the Lord...

...With all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."  Proverbs 3:5-6

When I finished, I smiled to myself slightly. That's Awanas 101. Awanas, is a children's program I attended every Wednesday night at church for...a million years. We played games, got a Bible lesson, and most importantly, memorized Scripture. There are awards, pins, even special money to spend at the Awanas store for every Scripture you memorize. Yes, I am the proud owner of the Timothy Award Trophy. I think my mother still has it in the garage.

The reason for my smile, was the image of a sweet woman, in her gray Awanas vest and long denim skirt. Her wide smile pushing out her round cheeks and remarking with enthusiasm when I completed reciting my verse, "Good job!" Her verbal praise would be followed by a hug. I imagined my small, childish frame being engulfed tightly into her arms, and then smiling sheepishly at her approval. 

Mrs. Brooks and her husband Pastor Brooks. 
Say those names to hundreds, no, thousands of children (many now adults) in the Midwest and they will know what I know. They had a heart and passion for children and for serving the Lord. This was clear to me as a child, and even more clear as an adult. Many times, I've sat down and tried to think of all the ways their lives have affected their example and ministry have touched my life in some way. It's incalculable. And when I think of the thousands of others like me who've been affected, my mind truly boggles.

For years, they were at the center of the children's ministry. They used buses to pick up children whose parents didn't attend church. Children who might otherwise have been forgotten. Who didn't think they were worth much. That was their speciality, making children feel their value. They made this shy, wiry, scraggly-haired, freckled girl feel like the most important kid around.

They moved onto a new chapter in their ministry when I was in high school. But you never lose touch with people who have affected you that much. We were a close-knit church family, and always kept up with each other. When it came time for me to get married, I couldn't think of anyone in the world I wanted to officiate the ceremony more than Pastor Brooks. His approval and love for Eddie meant as much to me as maybe my own parents' did. And when he agreed make the long drive to Lincoln, NE to marry us, I was touched beyond words. 

Mrs. Brooks didn't come to the wedding. I was surprised to learn her health wasn't what it once was. But our special day was made complete when she called me on the phone at my wedding reception to tell me she was proud of me and that she loved me. I didn't know it then, but that would be the last time I ever spoke to her. Mrs. Brooks passed away in late 2008.

Eddie and I felt it was crucial for us to fly from North Carolina to Iowa to attend her funeral, and together with my parents and sisters, we made our way to a small country church to say our final goodbyes. Pastor Brooks greeted us with all the love he is known for, and asked us to sit at the front of the church with the family, "Because that's what you are," he said. "Family."

I have a new image of Mrs. Brooks now, to go along with the old memories of her joyful spirit and deep laugh. It is an image of her in Heaven. There is a song by Ray Boltz called, "Thank You." It describes someone in Heaven. One by one, people come to this person and tell them, "Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed." Eventually, a line extends as far as the eye can see because of how many lives were affected. And this person is told by the Lord, "Great is your reward." I imagine that is what Mrs. Brooks was met with when she entered Heaven. I've done my best to tell Pastor Brooks on earth how he's touched my life. And someday, I will join the line in Heaven to tell Mrs Brooks, "Thank you for giving to the Lord. am a life that was changed."

My mother Mary, Mrs Brooks, my sister Erica, Pastor Brooks, my sister Regina, me

Pastor Brooks at our wedding

I dreamed I went to heaven
And you were there with me
We walked upon the streets of gold
Beside the crystal sea
We heard the angels singing
Then someone called your name
You turned and saw this young man
And he was smiling as he came
And he said friend you may not know me now
And then he said but wait
You used to teach my Sunday School
When I was only eight
And every week you would say a prayer
Before the class would start
And one day when you said that prayer
I asked Jesus in my heart

Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave

Then another man stood before you
And said remember the time
A missionary came to your church
And his pictures made you cry
You didn’t have much money
But you gave it anyway
Jesus took the gift you gave
And that’s why I’m here today


One by one they came
Far as the eyes could see
Each life somehow touched
By your generosity
Little things that you had done
Sacrifices made
Unnoticed on the earth
In heaven now proclaimed

And I know that up in heaven
You’re not supposed to cry
But I am almost sure
There were tears in your eyes
As Jesus took your hand
And you stood before the Lord
He said, my child look around you
For great is your reward


I am so glad you gave