July 20 is a date etched in my memory. In July 1984, I had just started attending a new church, Northland, which met in a the English Estates elementary school cafeteria. My first Sunday there, I recognized a guy named Larry, who used to be in my Basic programming class at UCF. Shortly thereafter, Larry, wanting to help a newcomer like me get “plugged in”, invited me to a singles potluck dinner at Dee Cather’s house. I went, I met Larry’s roommate Thad, and noticed how sweet he was.
Larry also invited me to Thad’s 25th birthday party a few weeks later, which is where Thad really noticed me. He says it was my bubbly personality and joyful spirit. The rest is history. A few weeks after that, he and his sister Sue baked me a birthday cake for my 21st and brought it to my apartment, but I was out to dinner with friends, so they came back the next day. (Persistent fellow, isn’t he?)
On October 11 of that year, Thad took me to St. Luke’s Cathedral in downtown Orlando for the Bach’s Lunch program (please catch that pun) which is a concert in the sanctuary followed by soup and sandwiches (box lunch, get it?) in the parish hall. So romantic, and it wasn’t the last time we would go down a church aisle together either.
In early November, he took me for a stroll around Leu Gardens and gave me a ceramic bell set he had picked out on a trip to Venezuela that he had just taken with this dad. He made some comment about the fact that if he ever really started dating anyone, he would have marriage as the goal. Hmmm. Our wedding came a year later, 10 kids ago. There are more stories I could tell, but I’ll save them for another day.
I saw Larry today and thanked him profusely. I’m glad he cared enough to want to welcome me into the church and introduce me to others. I’m glad also that Dee Cather (now Mrs. Jeff Vida) opened her home for a potluck. Did she know that a couple would meet there and later marry? I guess that doesn’t matter. The point is that hospitality is so important. We never know how our small welcomings will impact eternity. We never even know when we are “entertaining angels unawares.”
This morning in church, Jesse Phillips preached about being servants to one another, citing the verse in James that “faith without works is dead.” I think hospitality is a wonderful way to show servanthood. And I’m not surprised that Thad leaned over during the break in our service (even before Jesse’s sermon) and said, “How about if we have Tim and Heather over for lunch after church?” (Heather had e-mailed me a few days ago asking for help in keeping their food budget under control.) And I’m not surprised that Thad left right after the service to go home and heat up the food for lunch and get everything ready to serve. That’s just Thad. He pitches in wherever he is needed. He notices what is needed without being asked. Dishes, laundry, diapers, scrubbing the floor, whatever it takes. That’s a good character quality for a father of 10, don’t you think?
Thad and I gathered the kids in the living room this evening for a little Bible time so we could talk about how we could apply the sermon. (We don’t do this nearly as often as we should. I’m glad we did tonight anyway.) Some of the younger children wanted to recite their memory verses, too. Melody, not wanting to be left out, had a “memory verse” of sorts: “Jesus made the alphabet!” OK… Well, God did give us the gift of language, and the alphabet is a vital part of that, isn’t it? We also sang some songs — “Jesus Loves the Little Children” with gusto for Melody, plus “My God is So Big” (with hand motions) and “Only a Boy Named David” (at the end of which they all fall down like Goliath and I pick out who looks most dead — which is hard when a fit of giggles takes over). Then Naomi wanted “Amazing Grace” and we finally ended out with “When We All Get to Heaven.” Julia remembers how we used to sing that one so jubilantly nearly every morning when she was young, and I would let the kids bang on the Tupperware like drums. Jesus served on earth by his perfect life and his sacrificial death. And he serves us still, preparing a glorious eternal home for us. Here’s the song…