Monday, March 15, 2010

When grown men cry

I'm fresh off the Synergy 2010 women in ministry conference and my head is spinning. More on that later...but while I was in Florida, I visited with one of my favorite authors.

Trudy Harris, a retired hospice nurse and director, wrote a book called Glimpses of Heaven that I marketed while working for Revell/Baker Publishing Group. When the manuscript hit my desk, my father was in the process of living/dying with cancer. Several people on the pub board committee said the book provoked "allergies." I'll tell you the truth. It made me weep.

The 44 short stories--sharing the intimate experiences of those dying as God showed His love for them in unique ways--have been known to provoke tears. It has sold over 250,000 copies. Trudy has received hundreds of emails and letters in response, and she is faithful to answer each one. (Not to mention signing copies in every airport she flies through.)

Here is the bottom line: God loves us, everyone. And He will go to great lengths to seek us out and to redeem us from our sin, even when we are at death's door. This is the message of the book and the message of Trudy's life: in the few days I spent with her, her phone rang off the hook with those who needed hospice advice, prayer, visits, etc. In her "retirement," she's got a clear calling on her life, and it's beautiful to see her embracing it!

But here is the highlight of my visit with Trudy and her husband, George:

Last Tuesday night, Trudy and I attended a Catholic men's club event where she was the speaker. George is a regular attender, and let's say there were about 70 men in attendance. And exactly two women. There were ice buckets filled with beer. There was a huge bowl of cheez whiz that guys dunked their fritos into. The menu was corned beef and cabbage. There were no salads or lemonade. It was the antithesis of most of the "ladies' events" I've attended.

We were outnumbered, for sure.

But as I sat and waited for Trudy to speak about hospice and God's love for those who are in the dying process, I looked out at these churchgoing men, most of whom were over the age of 50. I was testing out something I learned at a Synergy 2010 workshop: I heard that most men present a "stoneface" in public, because they do not want to appear to be influenced. (We females are more likely, on average, to smile and nod.)

So as Trudy shared her heart-tugging stories of God's love for children who were dying, for those who would see something "beautiful," for those who experienced an angel waiting for them, I looked out at the sea of masculine faces. They became quite serious, as a group, and then some of the faces began to soften. I imagine they were thinking of their father or their mother, their child or their sister, someone they loved and lost.

And it was all I could do not to stand up and cheer. This is why: in the beginning, God created male and female, his A-team, his Blessed Alliance (Genesis 1-3). They were to work together for His Kingdom and to rule and subdue the earth in a reciprocal relationship. But so often we mess up God's plan for our male/female relationships. So often we're divided along gender lines.

Instead, last Tuesday night the Blessed Alliance was in full force, though our numbers were 2 to 70. As the men listened and their hearts were moved by Trudy's stories and ministry, I saw God's image, through male and female, reflected fully. In agreement, for a common purpose. Wow.

Afterwards, the younger club leader approached and said he had been brought to tears--quite a feat, since his wife had only seen him cry once. Ten to fifteen of the men brought a book to be signed by Trudy and offered up their own stories of loved ones who have died. With tears, one man even asked for prayers for his sick grandchild.

Yes, grown men do cry. More importantly, men and women still form the Blessed Alliance each day in marriages and board rooms, factories and ministries, relief efforts and seminary classrooms. We're better together than apart. Thanks to the Catholic men's club for illustrating this so clearly last Tuesday evening. I won't be forgetting it.

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