I am having so many flashbacks right now. I went to River Road, Baptist today to hear and see Dr. Scott Spencer preach and it’s the first time I’ve been back to a “formal” “high church” worship since landing back in Richmond. I could feel myself getting anxious and wondering if I walked in the church correctly, sat in the right pew, and stood when I was supposed to stand. Here I thought I was good with worship in church again, free to be myself as I felt throughout the past few months at First Baptist, Richmond; but the whelps of anxiety were starting to surface again. Then I saw two people that brought a sense of healing to the posttraumatic pain I was feeling.
First, I saw my friend Sheryl who seemed pleasantly surprised to see me as she processed in behind the choir. We work together at the hospital and I met Sheryl when I was shadowing her as a chaplain resident a year ago. Seeing how God was working through her is one of the reasons I applied for the residency. I don’t know whether to thank her or blame her for how I am feeling right now. Anyway, she also serves at this church as Interim Minister of Christian Education. I could hear and see God leading as she spoke, led worship, and prayed. Her benediction was beautiful, no doubt in my mind guided by God’s grace. There was a phrase I heard her say at one point in the service that resonated with me enough to type it into my phone. (That’s what happens when you don’t bring anything to take notes.) Sheryl said, “Feel God’s hand on your work.”
She called out; “Feel God’s hand on your work,” as the dedication of the VBS workers took place during worship. Those were her words to the volunteers as they prepare their hearts, minds, and patience for an exciting week ahead. I know that the ones who are led to volunteer this week, will no doubt feel God’s hands in many ways.
I thought about the work I am doing right now, being that presence of God in the midst of anguish, grief, pain and suffering. As I told a friend last night, I am humbled by the moments and spaces where I am placed by God and given words that do not come from my human heart and mind. I do feel God’s hands upon the work that I have been called to do. A hand is gently placed on my head to bless the work, the words and the support I bring. Hands are resting gently on my shoulders to help ease the pain and grief I feel and carry with those I minister to. A gentle touch can go a long way. Thank you Sheryl for that reminder.
Then I saw the person that led me to that sanctuary today, Dr. Scott Spencer. In the only way I know how, the experience I share about him is, “I love that man.” He will be extremely uncomfortable and humbled as he reads the rest of this entry, but Dr. Spencer is a living spirit of life for me. Whether it was his Shakespearean laced humor in his New Testament lectures or energy laced cough drops during Friday afternoon Greek, that man has been spirit, light and truth in so many ways and today was no exception.
But what is different about this soul, than with other professors you might come across? Dr. Spencer is a man of grace, humility and comfort, all of which gave him the gift of delicate balance between his scholarly lectures and books, to this ultimate grace of pastoral care. He provided that balance for me in many conversations and boosts of encouragement in light of some challenging times I faced during and after seminary. I am not talking just about my battles with the Greek language, although I am pretty sure he gave unlimited grace with that battle, but I am talking about life and ministry, in which he walked right beside me and provided that journey with his humility, biblical wisdom, maturity, light, grace, humor and faith.
It was this man I asked to bring the sermon and the laying on of hands at my ordination seven years ago (June 2005). God’s hands were laying upon Dr. Spencer’s work as he shared his gift of preaching and as he laid hands upon my calling and on me. Even when he closed today’s sermon with a soft “Amen,” I could sense God’s spirit in this man and feel God’s hands upon his work. That grace took me back to his words at my ordination and the reminder of those who laid their hands upon me that day and with those who
walk with me today. On June 25, 2005, Dr. Spencer said to me, “Linda, the strong hand of the Lord will be with you, to guide you, to protect you, to sustain you as you carry out God’s will…and so will we.” I needed that reminder more than you could imagine on this day, seven years later.
Oh how I know the words I write today will make Dr. Spencer grimace in the shadow of his humility. I know that uncomfortable feeling well, however I need to lay my hands upon you Dr. Spencer and say thank you for the gifts you have given me for the past 9 years (even when I surprised you in Boston! Remember that? Oh dear.) And the gift you gave today – the memory of God’s original call to serve that brings me to where I am now.
It seems like a century ago, yet just yesterday when you laid your words and hands upon my call. Thank you Dr. Spencer and I pray that the strong hand of the Lord be with you as you continue to carry out God’s will and may you be blessed in the many ways you have blessed the lives of all those you’ve laid your hands of grace upon, including me. Amen.