With a Grateful Heart
“You are Precious to Me”
On this week of Thanksgiving, when we are given the gift of an intentional pause to remember that everything that we have and are is a gift, I wanted to speak from my heart to yours through this brief word.
Some of you are aware that a few days ago, my father, Rev. Clarence “Clip” Higgins passed away at 90-1/2 years. He was a retired UCC pastor, having served two congregations here in the Heartland Conference and then having served in Conference staff roles in Illinois and Nebraska. He served on the Committee of Fifty when the Ohio Conference first came into being. When I shared with him about the new Conference name his response was, “It sounds like a good name for a new season of ministry.” He always had an ability to appreciate the past and be open to the future.
Over the past several months, as my siblings and I were going through things we came across this picture of him holding me when I was around two years old. I was struck by the image. He is clearly at a church meeting, talking with one of the elder pastors of the church, all dressed up in 1960’s suit and tie. And he is simultaneously holding me, his fathering and his pastoring all gathered in the same picture. In some ways this picture did not surprise me at all because my dad was emotionally intelligent long before we even had that language – aware of and able to name and express his emotions freely – able to say his “I love you’s” easily. What a gift.
You may have noticed that life, if we are fortunate, has a strange reversal of roles along the way in which the one once held has the privilege of holding the one who once balanced the small child on his knee. So it has been for my siblings and me in these recent days and months. Yet, even when life as we know it begins to fades there is still the power of blessing that can sometimes break through from the elder.
So it was during my last visit with my dad out in Lincoln, Nebraska. Each day there were fewer and fewer words, each word an effort of heavy lifting like some weight that resisted being raised. On the last day of my visit, the weight of words seemed especially heavy as if there was not enough breath to raise from his heart that which yearned to be named out loud. But alas, finally the words did come with a Herculean effort, “You are precious to me. I love you.”
Every ounce of energy to utter a blessing I shall never forget. I am aware that the best way to keep blessed memories alive is to share not only such stories but to pass the blessing along. So I say to you, dear friends (both you whom I have met and you whom I have yet to meet), “You are precious to me…your ministry, your lives, your loving, your shared commitment to the covenant we share in Jesus Christ, your willingness to be conduits of God’s new creation and simply your beloved identity and more than I can name…and I love you.”
You are precious to me and I thank God for you. May God’s great and gracious Holy Spirit grant you a blessing worth sharing and that you may pass along this word, “You are precious to me and I love you.”
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!