Last Friday evening, I had the privilege of enjoying an unforgettable time with a few of my favorite people in the entire world. This dear group included my daughter, Joy, who was recovering from serious back surgery; Joy’s kind and loving engineer of a husband, Chris; and my youngest daughter, Joni, who has just returned home from spending the better part of a year in India following her graduation from college.
We had devoured a delicious dinner that was reminiscent of how I used to cook for my children when they all lived at home. We all laughed when Joni stated, “Mom … I feel like I am in 5th grade again!”
What a sweet moment, indeed!
Joy had been in pain all day due to the residual effects of the surgery and you can understand that the desire of all of our hearts was to simply minister to Joy. All she wanted this particular evening was for all of us to be in the same room that she was in, to sit beside her and to keep a lively conversation going although she was unable to participate.
Rather than turn on the TV after the memorable meal, Joy announced that Chris, the handsome and thoughtful husband, was going to read out loud to us.
What?! Who is this man and he is too good to be true?!
Joy and Chris had recently been to a used book fair and had purchased a book that had impacted both of them as children.
“The Book of Virtues” compiled by William J. Bennett was a staple in the homes of many Christian families in the 1990’s. Joy and Chris were overjoyed to know that they shared this bit of childhood literature although one had been raised in the deep south of North Carolina and the other in far-flung Idaho!
We were able to get Joy settled on the small bed in their extra bedroom surrounded by pillows and by lots and lots of love. Chris, the doting groom, of course had to sit beside his recovering young wife. Joni and I sat beside each other on a small but cozy couch in the peaceful and dimly lit room.
As Chris began to turn the pages of this well-read book, we each began to make requests of the pieces of literature that we remembered in this beloved book.
I started out by requesting a poem or two by Edgar Guest who was a prolific writer in the early part of the 20th century. Most of Mr. Guest’s poems focused on family, home and the delight of the simple things in life; he was known as “the poet of the people”.
Here are the words of Edgar Guest that brought us so much comfort that quiet Friday evening:
It Couldn’t Be Done
By Edgar Guest
Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
What a powerful poem … what a magnificent reminder!
After the simple wisdom of Mr. Guest, we then moved on to the striking and thoughtful beauty of Emily Dickinson.
If I can Stop One Heart From Breaking
By Emily Dickinson
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain ;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
And finally, I asked for a poem that my father had memorized when he was a young man during the years of the Depression. While Chris read this classic poem to us, I thought of my father. My sweet dad, who now lives in heaven, often quoted this particular piece of poetry to us as we sat around the kitchen table at night. I can still hear the timbre of his voice and the message of his heart as he would repeat the words that have stood the test of time.
By Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
So … let me ask you a question today, my friend. How are you spending your Friday evenings? Are you enjoying the company of the people who you know the best and love you the most?
Are you basking in the shared delight of companionship, of family and of lifetime memories?
Are you relishing the words and the classic messages of those who have gone before us?
Are you comforting those in pain?
I hope that this week, when Thursday turns to Friday, that you will make an unforgettable plan that focuses on family, dear friends, powerful words and sweet fellowship. There is nothing like it!
Thanks for listening to my heart this week. It is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given. And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!