The clock just struck midnight – more correctly, all four of our clocks that chime just struck midnight. I just walked in from spending the evening with Arlene Johnson and my friend Roger, who entered St. Vincent hospice this afternoon. He didn’t know me……..
And although I should be tired, I am not yet ready for bed. For in the morning, our oldest daughter Kristin is having surgery. I called her this evening – you know, one of those father and daughter conversations, and during our talk I felt compelled to pray for her – so I did, while we were on the phone together. It just felt so right, but it occurs to me that I never, other than bedtime prayers, ever heard either my father or my mother pray for me. Janet and I have the three boys for tonight, and then again tomorrow, until Wednesday. All three – Connor, Carter and Cooper, were busy with homework, watching movies on TV and doing all the things modern kids do. That is, until dinner.
And although I really don’t know how they act at home when Janet and I aren’t there, we have pretty strict regulations on how we do things when the boys are here. Everyone washes for dinner, observes the rules of good etiquette and everyone is to stay at the table until excused. And, of course, we say grace. And when I say we, I mean all of us – one by one, say grace. Tonight, Cooper was up first. The youngest, he prayed for a good meal and that his mom would feel better after her surgery. Carter would have preferred to pass, but I think peer pressure got to him, and so he prayed a similar prayer to his younger brother; and finally Connor, the oldest, really prayed quite a nice prayer about God and healing and food for nourishment. I finished up with a prayer that encompassed all that the kids had mentioned plus a little divine guidance for the surgeons and nurses in the morning who will be attending to our daughter.
But suddenly, flashes of my own childhood flooded back. For a moment, I couldn’t figure out why, and then it came to me. Two generations ago, I was the little kid saying grace at my grandfather’s table each Sunday evening. And I even had a special chair – a high chair. Now I don’t mean a “high chair” as in something with a tray that a baby sits in. Rather, a chair that is taller, a little higher, than a regular chair, for kids who are too large for “high chairs” but not tall enough to sit at the table without a little help. And I remember when my grandfather got it for me. I loved that chair – and I sat in it every meal we had at my grandparent’s home, and there were quite a few of them, until I got too big for it. When my grandparents died, it passed to my mother, and when she died more than 10 years ago, you guessed it – I got my old chair. And all of Kristin’s three boys have used it as they have grown out of traditional “high chairs”. So, as grace was being said tonight, there was Cooper, sitting my my old chair.
And I looked at it in a way I never looked at it before. How vividly I remember our dinnertime conversations and how my brother Doug and I would take turns saying grace before the meal. I always sat to my grandfather’s left, and I wonder if he ever looked at that chair the way I looked at it tonight. And I wonder if Cooper will ever see his grandchild sitting there. Because with all the things going on in my life this past several weeks, I can certainly affirm that time marches on. How strange to have been the child, and tonight, I was the grandfather. And this isn’t the first time the kids have used the chair – it just never hit me so profoundly as it did tonight. And I wonder if my grandparents would have been proud of the way I turned out.
Anyway, I can’t help but think of Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I’ve used that verse many times, but never so appropriately as tonight. So my encouragement this evening is to let you know that you have special gifts that God expects you to use to raise the next generations. Just as someone cared for you before you were able to fend for yourself, time continues; and others now need your assistance to show them the right way to do things. And my prayer is that God will give you the patience to do the job in a spectacular way. Because, as I look around, many kids just don’t have the right examples in their lives today. Now I know that sounds judgmental, and I don’t mean it that way, but more and more people expect instant gratification and that is not in the best interest of our children and grandchildren. So I pray that God will grant you divine wisdom as you endeavor to set a good example for the generations to follow. Because fifty years from now, you never know who may be sitting in your old chair, and what they could learn from you! Grace and peace…….