Pilgrimage

This week was the anniversary of my father’s death 38 years ago. I recently traveled to Alabama to attend the 50year celebration of the church my father was pastoring when he died. My expectations were low. I knew that there would be people I recognized, I thought perhaps only a handful…..but I realized that it was probably a chance I wouldn’t have again to connect with this part of my past. What I found when I got there was an entire community of people that I remembered. I was embraced by spiritual mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, who had known me as my community through my childhood. Names, faces, and feelings flooded me. Several people hugged me, looked at me, and simply wept. It was a pilgrimage I will treasure forever.

The church had prepared several photo montages of the past and collected memorabilia from every decade of the church’s life, so I had the delight of seeing some photos of my father I’ve never seen and reading a piece I’d never read that he wrote for the church’s newsletter. The experience overall reminded me of how meaningful it is to remember where we come from; who raised us, who nurtured us, and who loved us.

I wanted to share some of my father’s words as a tribute to his memory and a celebration of the richness and depth of faith that is my heritage.

Words from Cooper French

“When I look at the needs of people, a superficial concept of God just won’t do. We need God at the point of that deep festering hurt, at the point of our fragility, at the walls of our breaking hearts, at the edge of our frustration, at the mouth of our anger, at the source of our sadness, and at the wellspring of our joy. We need a God who interferes with us, who “messes” around in our lives, and who loves us enough not to leave us alone”

“He has this strange habit of resurrecting himself in the most interesting places. He will continue to seek ways to invade our cold and hardened hearts. And once he gets in he will never let you go, no matter how small the hold you have given him in your life. He is going to be there and there isn’t much you can do to deny that. God is an interfering God. He is neither shocked nor embarrassed by your behavior or thoughts”

“Where are you hurting and struggling most? That is the very point God is going to slip into your life. ….Now isn’t that what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about? God is real here and now FOR YOU!”

AMEN

10 comments


  • Kristen

    June 18, 2015
  • B Cook

    Lovely! Just lovely.

    June 18, 2015
  • Jerry

    Ur words and his-/beautiful

    June 18, 2015
  • Janice McWilliams

    Beautiful piece, Janice. Know that you honor your father’s legacy every day in your commitment and skillfulness as a mom, wife, therapist, teacher, spiritual counselor, friend, and colleague.

    June 18, 2015
  • Laura

    Amen and amen. Beautiful experience, beautiful post, beautiful words from your dad. Thanks.

    June 18, 2015
  • Jacci

    So glad you got to go!

    June 18, 2015
  • Larry Thiel

    Touching story and thoughtful words from your Dad. Sounds like it was healing for the congregation too.

    June 18, 2015
  • John Thiel

    Powerful words

    June 18, 2015
  • Wonderful reflection.
    I might share at Mass for Father’s Day.
    Your Dad reminds me of the God I love!

    June 18, 2015
  • Susan Nop

    Wow, Janice. Your father’s words are so real, so present. I am in the middle of two huge ministry projects- and the encouragement this gives me brought tears to my eyes. The timing is incredible on many levels.

    Your father’s work in the Kingdom has long reaching effects – he was about something much bigger than the span of his years and the fruit of that continues. Thank you for sending it out.

    June 19, 2015

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