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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: A talk about a brother (part 2)

Good week to all. Welcome to the “front porch.”

An open letter to three girls – and one more.

Dear Lauren, Brit, and Andrea,

We share these thoughts to you three girls as you are absorbing the blow of your dad and my friend’s leaving us. And we write this, of course, for your mom Sandy, too, who has the most difficult job of all – and for all of Ryan’s friends and loved ones who are sharing these things with us now.

It has been a great blessing to draw closer to all of you and ‘mom’ during this time. Somehow, our all coming together helps to lessen the blow just a bit, which is one of the Lord’s many blessings.

I have thought a while about what it is that I want to share with you and all of your dad’s friends in this second part of our tribute to him. I have reminders of several things that we almost have to mention.

There is that classic story – you’ve heard it over and over, I’m sure – when all of us were sitting at Luby’s in Houston back around 1980. One of the waitresses walked by, and I suddenly noticed my tea glass was empty. (Ah, you know where this is going.) I turned around quickly trying to catch her before she got away, and said, “Oh, are you the tea woman?” There must not have been a second’s hesitation before your dad quipped, “No, Stevie Wonder, she’s the salt and pepper shaker.” You might have had to be there – but I doubt your mom and dad and I have ever laughed any more than we laughed that night. The ‘tea woman’ became famous in a flash, and the love of some good friends grew. 

That moment, I guess, puts into a microcosm your dad’s easy-going, joyful spirit. Even though we did not get to see each other often, when we all got together it was as if time had stood still. Time stands still that way with some friendships, as you know. 

I have loved looking back over some of the texts your dad would send, usually right out of the blue: On my birthday in 2019 – August 4 – he remembered to write and tell me happy birthday. He ended the message with “Love you like a brother.” That’s special.

And one Sunday, out of the blue – knowing I was traveling much in my work – he wrote, “Good morning, wherever you are, wherever you’re headed…!” I know he wrote such things to many others, as well.

Then there is the last message he ever wrote me, just a couple of weeks ago. I had just sent him a version of ‘How Great Thou Art’ to listen to as he sat in the hospital, and he answered in his spry way, “Thank you, Stevie Wonder.”

Then he went on to tell me how he just got in trouble for singing with the nurse. He said, “I was told later I don’t need to be trying to sing right now,” adding, “Oh well.”

I love the “Oh well” at the end. I still smile at that.

He may not have sung much after that, but he’s singing now, I am very sure.

And this is what I want to say to you above everything else. I want to remind you of something that may help you on some of those more difficult days. There is a glorious scene in heaven to which we can look forward, a scene when all the redeemed gather around the majestic throne of God. Revelation relates this scene, as if in living color, in the fifth chapter.

In the powerful scene, the saved of the ages are singing a new song, a song of praise to the Lamb that was slain. In tones of victory, and praise, they sing “You are worthy, O Lord.” That singing is so powerful that the angels cannot seem to hold back. They cannot sing “I’m redeemed by love divine,” as the saints are singing, so they must wait until that refrain is finished.

Then ten thousand of the angels join the great chorus, singing praise to the Lamb around that great throne – but not only ten thousand, but ten thousand times ten thousand. All of heaven and all of earth have gathered to give praise and glorify the King of kings and the Lord of lords. They lift their voices to the One who is worthy of all praise. Their souls sing triumphantly to the Lily of the valley, and to the lovely Rose of Sharon.

It is a scene like no other in all the world.

Here, my young friends, is something else I want you to know today:

In the middle of that great host of singers will be your dad. Of that, I am most sure. We have that promise, in Christ. He’ll be singing, just as before, and he won’t be restrained by bad lungs or a well-meaning nurse saying, “You might not ought to be doing that.”

And I am sure, too, that he will have a place reserved for the great loves of his life, you very special four ladies – three loyal daughters and a very faithful wife. There, you can all sing together that grand new song in perfect harmony.

Perhaps the Lord will allow a verse of “How Great Thou Art” there, too. I hope so.

I told you once that years ago I would sit in front of him at church and try to follow his flawless tenor. I look forward to doing that again – to standing near my friend on that day – and standing with you all, and with my children and grandchildren, and the amazin’ blonde, and so many other friends and loved ones who walked together with us here. Ah, what a day that will be.

I’ll have to end this tribute now, and I suppose it will be fitting to sign off with your dad’s humorous term of endearment from that final text: 

With love, from your dad’s friend, “Stevie Wonder.”


Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email or call or text 972-824-5197.

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