Well, the problem is... which close friends to invite, there are so many of them. So we took the easy (only?) way out. We invited a goodly portion of them for a small intimate time to thank the Lord for His mercy and grace in Dad's life... over the 74 years since he was born (and obvioiusly before he was born too) as well as the special grace over the past 6 months since his cancer was detected.
Our intimate time had 40 plus folks, with Asha and Enoch leading the worship on violin and keyboard in the JSK hall. We had after all had invited all the JSK team and our church folks to come along! But Dad and Mum graciously put up with us all, and wonderfully shared their stories of thanksgiving.
Dad looked back on his life and saw so many times when he had been spared from death, from the forces of evil - by what can only be God's divine intervention and grace. Time and time again. The winds of the spirit and the waves of this material world that thrash around us are not by chance. God's divine interventions and loving care are more than evident if we see them with the eyes of faith.
Dad had a whole list of them. He started with the miracle of his not being aborted as an out-of-wedlock child in 1941 and his adoption by Elmore and Alice Eicher. He ended with these amazing events of his cancer surgery and then his post-op care at Bethany Hospital and past 4 months of chemotherapy with all the love that has been shown to him and Mum. Dad had us spell-bound with his story of God's love to him.
We then had Stanley Nelson share from Scripture. Are we surprised when God's word speaks? Should we be? Surely not...
Stanley chose to dwell on Psalm 84. I exchanged glances with Sheba when he chose the fifth verse as his anchor for the evening: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgimage. Stanley talked about our journey in life - and contrasted the goals and desires that a person who is travelling on business will have as compared to another one who is going to a place as a tourist, and finally the completely different set of experiences a pilgrim is expected to have.
For the Israelites, there was a command that three times a year every male (at least - families were in no way excluded) was to assemble before the Lord in Jerusalem. There was obviously a lot of holy going to and from the Temple city. Pilgrimages were common and many of the psalms were sung while walking up to mount Zion.
But the bigger picture is that the true pilgrim is not looking for holy real estate. They are only happy when they meet the object of their journey - God Himself.
Dad has passed through many a path over the years of his pilgrimage. He has been joined with Mum for the last 48 years of walking together.
For Sheba and myself, we are likely to make some new steps in our own pilgrimage in the next few months. During a process of seeking God's will I read through all 150 psalms recently. One verse stood out to me very clearly in this reading...
It was Psalm 84.5... Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgimage.