“For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.
For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers on earth and buds in Heaven.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise!”
Folliot S. Pierpoint penned those words in 1864. Though I didn’t include every stanza, they’re the lyrics of a song that I always associate with the season of Thanksgiving. I learned them as a child and they’re still with me, as is so often the case when tunes grip our young, impressionable minds.
I’ve been thinking deeply about those “perfect gifts” endowed to us by the Lord as I’ve been preparing the “Gifted” series. But the hymn lyrics express gratitude for more than just those special abilities that we generally refer to as “spiritual gifts.” Pierpoint praises God for, among other things, the gift of human relationships.
I thank God for the friends that He has given me. With these friends I share the joys and sorrows of life. By these friends I’m held accountable. To these friends I owe a debt of gratitude for their faithful perseverance in prayer and love.
I’m particularly grateful that my West Coast friends have stayed in touch since our eastward relocation. I had feared that distance would blur the affection, but that has not been the case. To all of our CCCLH and Growth Group buddies reading the blog, Eileen and I want you to know that you’re still close to our hearts.
Precious friends hosted me for a 36-hour SoCal wedding trip last month, while others came here last weekend to meet our Kentucky church family. FBC, you were described by our California friends as “the most loving church we’ve ever visited.”
It was so much fun to show off Western Kentucky. We hiked, picked pumpkins, explored the lakes, and ate hot browns. You should have seen the faces of our friends from “the O.C.” as I drove them well beyond Paducah civilization (and even G.P.S. range) to a pumpkin patch in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t the end of the world, but you could see it from there.
Our family of friends — both old and new, there and here — felt like one family. Just as it should be. “Flowers on earth,” but a foretaste of heaven indeed.