A Note from Jessie – Covenant Newsletter, December 2020

If you have ever had the pleasure of crossing paths with Nashville native and longtime First Pres member, Mr. Frank Blair, III (who is affectionately known to many as simply, “Big Frank”), then you will know that he very often answers in the same manner when asked how he is doing:

“Every day is a good day!” he will say with a smile.

And the thing is, he really means it.

On a clear and chilly morning last month, I met Big Frank at Radnor Lake for a brisk hike. As the autumn sun lit the water’s surface ablaze, we walked and talked around the lake’s wooded perimeter, pausing more than once to admire a pair of deer that sauntered alongside us. While our conversation floated from topic to topic, I was not surprised to notice that the undercurrent of his stories swirled around an anchor of gratitude…

He was grateful for his well-being after a health scare earlier this year.

Grateful for the birds’ songs (each note a delight, as he easily identified different species with the skilled ear only a devoted bird-watcher can claim).

Grateful for the friends he had seen that week (everyone who has met Big Frank considers him a friend, after all, knowing that his door is always open and that there it is a pervasively welcoming, “come as you are” nature about his family’s warm home).

Grateful that he married the love of his life, Florence, so early in life; grateful that God gave them that “head start” as young newlyweds, realizing now that they needed all the time they could get together here on Earth (as his beloved Flo returned to her Maker far too soon).

Grateful that his son, daughter, their spouses, and all of his grandchildren are in such close contact with him (as he went on to recount all the sporting events he had attended for his local grandchildren that weekend, and the phone conversations he had enjoyed the day before with his daughter and grandchildren who live 600 miles away in Virginia).

Grateful even that the teenaged boy that he and Flo selflessly took in as an unofficially adopted son so many years ago had stayed in Nashville to create a family of his own– a family that Big Frank also now claims as his own (in turn, my sweet husband, the adopted teenaged boy all grown up, and the rest of my crew consider Big Frank to be a bonus dad and a major win of an additional grandfather. Talk about grateful!).

Every day is a good day.

The sentiment registers in my ears as a truth that I too often ignore. Beneath the tangle of details and stresses, there is goodness abounding every day. And yet, I always marvel at Big Frank’s inspiring ability to find the good and give thanks, regardless of the circumstances. For when reading between the lines of his gratitude, there is plenty of loss to be found. So when he declares that every day is good, it is not necessarily because there is an absence of hardship. No, every day is good because he chooses to see it, to identify it, to hold it up as an undeserved gift which he intends to enjoy. Other charming catch phrases he is known to say with a similar twinkle in his eye (like “You play the hand you’re dealt,” and “It’s all good, honey!”) follow this same vein of surrendering his own will to God’s will, feeling grateful all the while.

As we walked that morning, I began thinking about what kind of catch phrases I use, realizing how revealing our repeated words can be about the thoughts that cycle through our minds, exposing our true hearts. Later that day, I shared this musing with my children:

“You know how Big Frank always says, ‘every day is a good day’ when we ask him how he is doing? It’s kind of like his ‘catch phrase.’ Well, what do you think my catch phrase would be?”

Crickets. No response.

“Think about it– what does mama say all the time?”

Two pairs of eyes continued to blink blankly back at me.

“I mean,” I continued undeterred, “what do I say a lot? What are words you always hear me say?”

After a prolonged moment of recollection, Poppy tilted her head and said, “I guess you say ‘of course’ a lot?”

Hmm… not exactly the telling and poignant moment I was hoping to create! After pressing them further, we finally got to the language of love and kindness I try to pour into them, but the whole exercise really got me thinking about just how powerful the repeated words we push out into the universe can be.

What would your family or friends or colleagues say that your catch phrase is? It is rather telling to investigate! What words or messages do your nearest and dearest associate with you?

In this season of Advent, I cannot help but notice that God seems to have a catch phrase, too. The commanding phrase that surfaces time again throughout the Christmas story is one of loving assuagement:

“Fear not.”

“Fear not, Zacharias” (Luke 1:13).

“Fear not, Mary” (Luke 1:30).

“Fear not” to the shepherds who were “sore afraid” (Luke 2:10).

Again and again, the language of consolation repeats. The angels of the Lord continually offer consolation in the face of human anxiety. God does not want us to be afraid, even though He knows that fear is one of the most instinctual human responses in this world. Humans are full to brimming with fear, with our anxieties spilling over at the slightest disturbance. We may be afraid of the unknown, afraid of pain, afraid of losing our loved ones or losing control. Fear abounds, as well.

And those of us who are parents know that one of the sweetest gifts of parenthood is helping to calm our children’s fears. The act of soothing our little one’s woes is a glowingly contagious moment of love, a beautiful, tangible manifestation of our devotion. How much more then does God long to heal our worried souls through his repeated words of assurance?

In these uncertain times, I find both aforementioned catch phrases extremely helpful. Life is hard. There is plenty to feel nervous and unsettled about at every turn. But yes, there is goodness in each day that God offers for the taking. And no, He does not want us to be afraid as we trust in Him and His loving peace.

Fear not, He says again and again.

Fear not.

And He means it.

Comments

  1. Mary Carlisle Gambill says

    Love this message. Can I be added to this email blast?

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