The Chambered Nautilus
"Deep calls to deep..." Psalm 42:7
...uncurling and growing into the wonderful grace of God.
Monday, October 20, 2014
friend, Terri, challenged me. She has challenged me before, but I have failed
to rise to those challenges. This suggestion, however, has not gotten lost in the
endless stacks and shuffles of paper and books that line every horizontal
surface in my house. No. This one stayed.
me a message.
Do it. Do it. She said. And she sent me the link
explaining what she wanted me to do.
DeRusha asked us to blog about our faith
heroines. To recount the women in our lives who helped to solidify our
faith, who added to the water in our faith bucket and who unknowingly caused us
to reach deeper and want to know our Almighty God.
would put Terri near the very top of my faith heroine list. I considered just reposting
my tribute to her, but I know she would fuss at me and encourage me to do
something different. Out of respect for her and our decades of friendship I
will be true to her suggestion. But she needs to understand it was a hard
choice to not include her (I guess I just have. If you want to know about her
read Quarter of a Century).
Two Heroines of Faith
I should have known. God lays
groundwork long before it is needed.
He builds foundations long before you need to stand on them.
This assignment is to share about my heroines of faith. Immediately two
particular women come to mind. As I look back into my childhood and college
years I realize I should have understood what God was doing, but I was too
young both times. The first time I was chronologically too young. I am not sure
I have actual memories of the events or if I simply hold onto others’ stories.
The second time I was chronologically old enough, but spiritually I was still
very much of a newborn.
Mamaw Mandy. That’s what I called her. My maternal
great-grandmother. My earliest positive memories revolve around her.She was old before I was born, so by the time
I have recollections of her she seemed quite ancient to me.
was a frail and tiny woman. Her long gray wisp of a braid wound in small knot
at the back of her head. Her fingers were completely crippled by rheumatoid
arthritis; they opened only wide enough for her to clasp them around the handles
of her metal walker. My only personal memories of her come as snippets:her bedroom where she spent almost all of her
time, the couch where she would allow me to stand behind her and brush out her
long hair. I was a boisterous and talkative child (surprise anyone?), but she
indulged me. I cringe because I know with hindsight I didn’t treat her with the
respect she deserved. Even now it bothers me. But she loved me anyway.
What was the
evidence of that love?
I know about
these prayers not because I heard them, but because of my grandmother and
mother’s accounts. Over the years they shared recollections of Mamaw’s prayers too
many times to count.
always follow the same telling: as a child I played outside in my grandmother’s
front yard. Mamaw Mandy’s windows and front door opened onto a porch overlooking
a wide, tree-lined front yard. I played alone. I was an only child, and the
trees were my playmates.
childhood recesses Mamaw Mandy would hear me playing outside and rise from her
bed, pull her walker to her, wrap her gnarled fingers around the handles and
then shuffle to the front door. She stood—a
bent sentinel—watching and craning her head to follow me in my imaginative play.
In the physical realm this woman seemed weak and far too frail to cause any
ripples in the cosmos, but I know now she did. She rippled her
great-granddaughter’s world because while she stood at that front door she
prayed for me.
I don’t know
what she asked. I don’t know what she pleaded over me. I don’t know any of the
words. The words were not preserved for me in my awareness.Mamaw Mandy’s prayers, however, were and are
not limited or bound by time or space. Whatever she prayed as she stood guard
at that door hovers over me today. Those
prayers still rise before the throne room of the Almighty. They continue to add
to the volume and rise of golden-bowl incense before the Father.
I believe her
prayers assisted the course and path of my life.
before I understood prayer or prayer warriors my great-grandmother prayed for
me. She warred for me. I believe those prayers are now a part of my spiritual armor—those words she spoke on my
behalf before the Father are now links in the chain mail I don and wear in my
Perhaps her prayers
were merely sentences sent up to heaven. Maybe, they were a few words spoken a
couple of times. Whispers. Neither affects the outcome. Truly I am writing these
words now partly because of her
year of college I enrolled in a required class titled Music Appreciation. It
was a strange and peculiar music I was asked to appreciate. My Bluegrass DNA had
never experienced this wordless and complicated genre. During that semester I
realized the crazy strains of music that accompanied Tom chasing Jerry or Bugs
Bunny rubbing Elmer Fudd’s head were actually great scores composed by Mozart
and Beethoven and others. But as the semester lengthened I realized I was not
enrolled in this class simply to learn to appreciate the geniuses of the
classical music world.
course not. The Lord almost always has a double-fold purpose for all things.
And this class certainly was no exception.
professor of the class was Margaret Therkelsen.
She was an arresting and handsome woman, long-limbed and large boned. Assuredly
she was the tallest woman I had ever encountered, at least 6’0.
I was mesmerized
by her grace. Certainly I was taken by her physical grace which belied her
stature, but far more by her powerful spiritual grace. Each morning I attended
her class with anticipation, an eagerness and a hunger. She would walk in, come
to the front of the class and open her small leather New Testament and thumb
through the tissue paper pages until she found the passage she wanted. The book
was so worn that it draped over her hand, and somehow I knew that the state of
her small Bible was the result of use not abuse.
Then she taught
from that little book. Dr. Therkelsen taught with an authority that stunned me.
Never in my life had I heard a woman speak with such spiritual authority about
such deep things in Scripture.
about prayer that semester. I remember very little about the composers and the
language of music, but I do remember learning the language of prayer.
It seemed as
if she were a translator who unfolded, at least for me, the mysteries and power
I ate her
words. Surely this is the only metaphorical language I can use to accommodate how
much the Spirit used her to teach me. I remember taking notes furiously (how I
wish I had those now). I sighed each time she closed her tattered and
threadbare New Testament. I didn’t want the teaching to end. I wanted more. But
then she bowed her head to do exactly what she had been teaching. Suddenly the
teaching became flesh.
sitting in that room, though spiritually immature, I knew God was unfolding to
me my purpose and calling. Certainly then I could not articulate this truth,
but the fiber of me knew it. The Spirit in me bore witness and affirmation to
this Music Appreciation class the Father used my frail Mamaw Mandy’s prayers to
begin the unshakeable foundation in my life. Dr. Therkelsen built on that
before I understood that power in God’s kingdom has nothing to do with physical
strength or the lack of it. Mamaw Mandy was a frail and ailing elderly woman; Margaret
Therkelsen was robust and strong. The power of prayer has nothing to do with
education or the lack of it. Mamaw Mandy completed the fourth grade and Dr. Therkelsen
earned a Ph.D. in Music and a M.A. in psychology.
wielded a power not from their own strength but from the Spirit of God and his
calling on their lives.
women dispelled a traditional teaching I had absorbed as a child and teen.
Indirectly I was taught women were secondary in the kingdom of God, that we
could never stand and hold the place of friendship with God as men did.
and Dr. Therkelsen taught me God hears the prayers of women, of his daughters.
And answers them. Empowers them. Friends
women taught me where the battles are fought and won.
are two of my faith heroines.
When I read
Hebrews 11 I know that the ending of that passage is not the completion of
Faith’s Hall of Fame—no, it was only the beginning of it. For me Mamaw Mandy
and Dr. Therkelsen are added—
By faith they prayed…
And I have been forever changed.
Father, oh how
I praise you. How I thank you for what you do when we are unaware. How grateful
I am for these two women and their presence and influence in and on my life. I
thank you for placing them where and when you did. I thank you that when no one
else seemed to be watching out for a little four year girl this grandmother
stood guard. Thank you for putting watchmen on the porches and on the
thresholds of doors. Certainly, Father, you put Mamaw at the threshold of me—praying
for me. For my protection, for my safety. For my growth. For my salvation.
how I thank you for Dr. Therkelsen. Oh, that you have helped me to hold her
Spirit led teaching in my mind and spirit’s eye. Father, how you used her to
mold me, to set me free of so much spiritual bondage and confinement. How you
used her to instill in me a deep love and appreciation for your Word. Through
example you used her to show me the power and intimacy of prayer. Father, thank
you that your words bring life. And decades after they are spoken they are
still giving life. The prayers and words of these two women are still molding
and shaping my responses to you. Father, thank you. Thank you for supplying all
our needs according to your riches. Thank you that my supply included these two
women. Thank you. Praise you. Oh, that you would receive all the glory for the
works these women have accomplished. In the sweet name of Jesus’. Amen and amen.