Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Hebrews 12: 1 (NIV)

Something the other day caused her to come to mind. It doesn’t take much.

She loved the cooler weather which fall brought—if for no other reason than to have a fire built and burning in the fireplace. At her home in Florida it was a regular and much appreciated moment for her, to listen to the crackling logs warming the fall air while preparing for the winter months, even though not with the frequency of those which burned in the northern parts of our Nation.

And on those occasional visits to our home in North Central Florida—before she lifted off to Heaven—Lynda’s Mom loved to sit in front of a blazing fire in our family room, even in the summer months when I would turn the air conditioner colder to simulate an environment warranting the blaze.

That was the way it was on her last visit with us. A year later, Lynda and I had moved in with her to care for her during her last weeks of life with us.

As I sat there next to her bedside, a song from a CD was playing softly in the background. Lynda was catching up on some much needed rest she had missed the night before. In that moment, I realized I was sitting beside one of God’s great saints. A saint who had held me, Lynda, her entire family, and everyone she met, in her heart, her entire life, and would soon be part of that great cloud of witnesses cheering me and the rest of us on, as she had done all of her life. The words of the song interrupted my thoughts…

Not too far from here…somebody’s down to their last dime,

Somebody’s running out of time…

Not too far from here…somebody’s got nowhere else to go,

Somebody needs a little hope…somebody’s troubled and confused…

Not too far from here

It may be a stranger’s face…but I’m praying for your grace,

To move in me …and help me Lord…

Not to turn away from pain…and to help me not to rest,

While those around me weep.

Give me your strength and compassion,

When somebody finds the road of life too steep…

Help me speak your love to every needful ear…because…

Someone’s waiting…not too far from here.”

She gave feet and hands to those words, every day of her life, encouraging others and inspiring the rest of us by her example to do the same; to touch the lives of others. That’s what happened when she and our daughter-in-law got to know each other.

It was a love-at-first-sight thing, as almost immediately upon meeting, Mother and our future daughter-in-law Amy developed a special bond. Everything we and our son, Nathan, had told his beloved Grandma and Amy about each other was affirmed at that first meeting. And during Mom’s last visit with us at our home, after the day-long-fire in the fireplace had gone cold, she was feeling a bit lonely, reminiscing and reflecting, and having trouble getting to sleep.

Amy was visiting us at the time, and as the evening wore on we noticed Amy was nowhere to be found, until we quietly opened the door to Mother’s bedroom. There, snuggled under the covers with this dear saint of ninety-three years was another younger saint—our precious daughter-in-law—softly rubbing Mom’s head and gently whispering sweet words of reassurance to her until Mom gently slipped off to sleep.

Not too far from here…somebody’s troubled and confused…”

From one saint to another and back again, as Lynda and I stood in the doorway quietly, weeping and watching those two special saints.

The scripture reminds us that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on as we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” And even in our most difficult moments, we can all recall those saints in our lives who have encouraged us and by their example set a path for us to follow, and in some cases—as in Mom’s—have already gone on to become a part of that great cloud of cheering witnesses.

Saints who cheered and encouraged us through the deserts and dry valleys and over the snow-capped mountains of our lives. Saints who cheered and carried us through illnesses, broken dreams, lost relationships and failures, at those times when the wind always seemed to be blowing in our faces and our legs were so wobbly we weren’t sure we could take another step. And saints who helped us fall asleep at night when everything around us seemed confused and troubling.

I don’t know what you’re going through in life right now, but I care. I know that there are saints in your life who care and who are cheering you on, and by their example have set a path for you to run the race with perseverance—one step at a time.

And as you run, remember also, that there are those all around you who need a saint in their lives. Someone to carry them through the valleys you’ve been through. Someone to touch them at their deepest point of pain, which they probably think will never heal. Someone to shine the light of God’s love on their lives—are not too far from here.

That must be why Mom loved those fires so much, she must have seen the light of God’s love in the beauty of those crackling flames, a love she also felt in the hands, words and heart of her beloved daughter-in-law.

That’s all the encouragement we will ever need for today, tomorrow and all the way to eternity.

In His Name—Scott

Copyright 2012. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.