On Sunday November 6 I sat in Living Faith Anglican Church in Tempe, Arizona, celebrating All Saints Day. The first Sunday in November many churches take time to celebrate and remember the saints of the church, past and present. I liked doing that. It reminded me where I came from and of those who poured their lives into me when I was growing up in northwestern Kansas.
It was humbling to sit looking at the cross and thinking of the millions of forgotten ancestors who preceded me and the numberless stories of their lives. For all the faithful believers I know and the countless unnamed saints with whom I will one day walk on streets of gold, I quietly gave thanks.
Pondering the untold mysteries of human life that I do not understand, I thought of the Apostle Paul’s words that nothing in life nor death, nothing to come, nor things past, can separate us from God’s endless love.
The following Tuesday I drove 150 miles north from Phoenix to Flagstaff to speak to a group of pastors about the connection between emotional and spiritual health. Starting at 1,200 feet above sea level in southeast Phoenix, I drove out of the valley, ascending to 7,000 feet just south of Flagstaff. As the road climbs along I-17, signs say “2,000 feet,” “3,000 feet,” and finally a few miles from Flagstaff, “7,000 feet.”
At 6am when I left Phoenix, the temperature gauge on my Honda said 62 degrees. At 8:30am it was 42 degrees when I parked in the church parking lot in Flagstaff.
At 6:15am, still a hundred miles from Flagstaff, I pulled off for coffee at the Anthem, AZ, exit. The Circle K crawled with construction workers. When I slid a maple frosted long john in a white paper bag, a construction worker said, “Great choice. Good for your health.”
“Absolutely,” I said. “Don’t tell my wife.”
After 3 workers in front of me paid for their coffee, I was face to face with a young clerk who looked half asleep. With sleeves tattooed on both arms, a young man in his late 20s said, “$4.39.”
“You been working all night?” I asked.
“Nope. I had to take my take my daughter to daycare before 6am,” he said. “I’m still waking up.”
“Whew, that sounds hard.”
“It’s really hard, man.”
“I can only imagine.”
“Well, I’m doing it,” he said, smiling. “I have a job.”
“That’s a good-looking smile you have. Hang in there, buddy. You can do it.”
“Thank you sir. I don’t have a choice. Be safe.”
Edging my car back onto I-17, I started praying one of my favorite prayers – the blessing the Lord gave to Moses, telling him to pray it over the Israelites.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Starting with the young clerk and the construction workers swarming inside the Circle K, I prayed that blessing over all of them. Moving onto my family, I prayed it over each of them.
For the next hour as I drove north, I prayed the same blessing over every person I could think of – my family, my friends, my church, the many pastors I counsel and mentor, my neighbors, and the baggers at the store where I buy my groceries. Then I thought of lots of people I grew to love in Champaign-Urbana, where I lived for 43 years until moving in July 2021 to Phoenix. One by one I prayed the Moses blessing over them, too.
Near Flagstaff, I concluded my prayers with this prayer:
“Lord, for everyone I have seen or prayed for this morning I ask you, please:
Grant them the serenity to accept the things they cannot change;
courage to change the things they can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Let them live one day at a time;
enjoy one moment at a time;
accept hardship as the pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as they would have it;
trusting that you will make all things new if they surrender to your will;
that they may be reasonably happy in this life;
and eternally happy with you forever in the next life.”