Journal entry by Vicki Bunke
Like many of you, today our family spent part of this morning watching our church service on-line. On-line church is clearly not everyone’s favorite manner in which to ‘attend’ church, but for now it is the best we can do. And although I would much rather be sitting in a pew in the sanctuary rather than a chair in my family room, watching sermons on-line and through my air pods is not an unfamiliar means of worship for me. Although I love listening to music when I run or take Skye for walks, I also enjoy listening to on-line sermons. I even have some favorites. Several of which I have memorized since I have listened to them so many times.
One of them that came to mind today was a sermon delivered by Dr. Randy Mickler, a friend of Grace’s and of our family, at Mt Bethel UMC on the morning before Grace’s rotationplasty surgery in October 2014. It is called: Heroes of the Faith: The Man Who Succeded Moses.
You might assume I had church and Randy on my mind this afternoon because today is Sunday. But you would be wrong. I was thinking about Randy because I was cleaning out Daisy’s cage. Who is Daisy? Daisy is Grace’s guinea pig. Why does Daisy remind me of Randy? Let me tell you why…
As I have shared here before, during Grace’s last hospital admission that lasted 4 weeks, Randy visited Grace every day, each time bringing her a milkshake as she told him how much she enjoyed them. After one of his visits, I stepped out into the hallway to tell him goodbye.
Before he left, Randy said, “Is there anything else we can do for you? Is there anything else you need? We are here to help your family in any way possible.”
I looked at him and jokingly said, “Yes, you can go to our house and clean out Daisy’s cage.”
Without missing a beat, Randy said, “Sure, no problem. I’ll send Diane.”
Since that day, it has become an ongoing joke between myself, Randy, and Diane. I keep waiting for them to come over and clean out Daisy’s cage, and they keep providing me with an excuse why they can’t make it. Their latest excuse is – you guessed it – social distancing. They wouldn’t want to take a chance of getting Daisy sick. That is just like Randy and Diane, always thinking of other people first, even guinea pigs.
So why did this particular sermon come to mind? It is because the sermon was based on the following scripture from Joshua 1:9: This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Back in October 2014, I thought the purpose of Randy’s inspired words were so that Grace would feel safe and secure as she prepared for her partial leg amputation surgery the next morning. But now I think those words and sermon were spoken to remind me and anyone else who recalls that sermon of something very important. As Randy told everyone in his sermon that happened to be delivered during the Ebola outbreak of 2014:
“Don’t fear the things that can harm the body, only fear that which can harm the soul.”
Randy also referenced the fear that people experienced during the polio epidemic in the 1950s. Interestingly, my mother was one of those children affected by the polio virus. As a result, when she was only 4-years-old, she was quarantined in the hospital for 3 months from her family and later endured multiple surgeries and hospitalizations due to this disease. My mom and Grace used to sometimes joke around with each other about who had experienced the most surgeries and hospitalizations due to their different diseases. I can’t remember now who won those debates, maybe they both did?
The important thing to remember, however, is that just like Randy stated in October 19, 2014, viruses and pandemics and leg amputations and cancer might be able to harm the body, but they are not capable of harming the soul. Not when you have the right perspective and remember the promise that God has made to us all: I am with you always.
Tonight I plan to re-watch Randy’s October 19, 2014 sermon. And before I go to bed tonight, I will recite the prayer that he spoke at the end of that sermon.
I also want to point out that although that sermon and prayer will bring me comfort, guess what else would? Randy and Diane cleaning out Daisy’s cage. Perhaps they will finally make it over to visit with Daisy once we can all get together in person again. Until then, I will just hold tight to the closing prayer that Randy gave in his October 2014 sermon:
Father God, we give you thanks for heroes of the faith. Help us as we consider those that have truly never lost a sense of your presence, never forgotten the purpose or the promise, and have the finest perspectives. Help us to emulate their lives, not just for our own but for those who are coming up so that they won’t be afraid when challenging, difficult times come their way. May they be secure in your love and in your presence and in your promise and in your purpose. May their perspective reflect that security. In Christ’s name. Amen.
PS – If you do watch the sermon, you just might get a glimpse of another Hero of the Faith and friend to Grace, Robert McMichael.