Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gifts We Don't See

This lamp post in Fairview Village does things that most ordinary lamp posts don't do. Some people are like that.

One was Bob Morland. Today at his memorial service we heard about a few of his gifts to his family and the wider community. Most of his gifts will never be seen as something from him. But the people and the community he touched will be forever brighter and better, regardless of whether people know Bob was the cause of so much good.

Gwen Williams was like that, too. Years ago she was in my Word and Witness class at Resurrection Lutheran. Gwen had a smile that wouldn't stop and a heart that was bigger. She would be the first to tell you that she was saved by love. Love in the form of hospital people, fellow members of 12-Step groups, her Lord Jesus.

Alcohol and cigarettes had given her skin that was older than her years, but even the extra wrinkles could not diminish the joy that shone through. That joy made her a standout as one of the earliest volunteers at Operation Nightwatch. The rest of us marveled at her heart for going to downtown Portland to serve folks on the street, folks facing some of the same issues she did. Gwen loved them. "Oh, the people," she would say, her eyes growing misty. Often, she could not complete the sentence because words couldn't do them justice.

I think Resurrection Lutheran learned about Operation Nightwatch through Gwen. For years, ONW has been in Resurrection's outreach budget. I saw the ongoing life of those gifts last Tuesday. A check with a familiar logo was on Director Gary Davis' desk as we chatted in his office. "They send me a check every month," he said.

These are gifts we rarely see. And they are possible because of the other gifts we rarely see: the offerings dropped into a plate or sent by mail. It's almost as though they do their work secretly.

But not quite secretly. A few of us know about Gwen and how much started with her. Thank you, Gwen! Thank you. I know you've already received eternal rewards from our Lord Jesus and don't need a thing today. The secret's out. It was Gwen!

But our thanks are a gift that can never be overdone. And that's a secret that's better if never kept.

Thanks, Gwen. Thanks, Resurrection. Thanks, Bob. Thanks, Jesus. Amen.


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