Celebrating the Life of Ruth Floyd

R21Family and friends, we have gathered here to praise God and to witness to our faith as we celebrate the life and new life of my mom, your grandmother, sister, mother and sister in law, aunt, and friend, Ruth Marie Prewitt Floyd.  Mom was born April 3, 1932, in Aquilla, near Hillsboro, Texas.  She was the daughter of Leslie (Spec) Prewitt and Gladys King Prewitt.  She was the younger of two children and lived her early childhood years in that now remote, but once bustling farm community in Hill County. 

1932 brought unimaginable challenges to the minds of any 21st century person.  Those depression years spurred an urban migration that included her family.  Her father would have to find work to support his wife, Gladys and Billy and Ruth Marie.  He was employed by one of the Roosevelt’s stimulus programs, working on a road crew at ten cents an hour.  That move to Dallas would change the course of my mom’s and Billy’s life, which the rest of us would benefit from three generations later.  R3

The Prewitts moved to what was then called North Dallas, settling on the east side of yet to be built Central Expressway, off Henderson Ave, on Pershing Street, behind Old Monk for the younger ones here today.  Mom would attend the nearby schools such as Milan, Bonham Travis and Crockett.  These were the schools she pointed out when we went near Baylor Hospital or to our pediatrician, Dr. Hawkins.  I was never sure which she attended and when, she was proud to graduate as North Dallas High Bulldog because she and Billy stayed connected to its alumni association.  

080835These schools prepared the girl born near cotton fields well.  She would enroll in Baylor University and attain a degree in Education.  She enjoyed the normal freedoms every young adult comes to know during these years.  She worked in the Dining Hall at Memorial Dorm, where dinner was served each night by servers on fine dishware.  She told stories of slipping out of the dorm in pants, which women were forbidden to wear, by rolling them up and wearing a long coat.  Despite her innocent college antics and busy scholastic schedule, she rarely missed being in church at Seventh and James Baptist Church and was involved in the Baptist Student Union.081107

At Baylor, she would meet the son of a Baptist minister that would spark her interest, Walter Floyd, who also was studying to be an educator.  He managed to fan that spark into a flame.  They began a courtship that would not necessarily follow a straight road to that altar, because my dad, the Baptist minister’s son, wasn’t always behaving himself as she expected.  As graduation approached, she gave the relationship room; taking a housekeeping position at Glorieta Baptist Assembly.  Somewhere along the way, our dad decided he missed her and pursued her; driving to New Mexico, where he made things right for a wedding day that was celebrated on June 19, 1954. 

R10Mom and Dad bought their first home in Garland off Centerville Road.  It was in Garland, in a 900 square foot cottage, they began their lives together; making friends on the lawn, where they gathered each night to escape the summer heat.   My mom told me of the new neighbor’s gossip after moving into their new house.  Both of them were home all day and on the lawn at night, causing tongues to wag; speculating why these newly married persons were not going to work. 

Finally the school year started, and they taught in Garland schools and worked to complete their Masters degree in Education at SMU.  They became active young adults at First Baptist Garland, where mom and dad met some life-long friends.  She would establish some equally deep relationships with those she taught 2nd grade with at Caldwell Elementary. 081321

After nearly five years, I would be born into their un-air-condition bliss.  Soon after I was born, my dad was employed by Mesquite ISD and mom would stay home to take care of their first born.  My dad would eventually rise to become one of the youngest principal in Texas at one of the largest schools in Texas.  It was so large and construction was delayed that he opened some classrooms in nearby tract homes for sale.  In fact, classes would be held in the home on La Prada our parents would buy after the school was fully opened.  This would be the residence of our earliest memories and the place mom brought home Anne after being born in 1963.

081217We were blessed to live in the boom town of Mesquite in all of its newness and to be in a new church busting out at the seams-Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church.  My mom had opportunity to become devout leader of this faith community.  My dad would be promoted to assistant superintendent in his early 30’s and they would buy a new two story home up the street on Ivy Drive.  The stage of our childhood life was set-a neighborhood full of young Catholic families sprinkled with a few Baptists and Methodists for good measure.  I remember counting at one time and Anne and I had 137 playmates up and down that very long block.081543

Our ideal world was shattered when our dad died at age 36. Mom had to find a way and the where withal to go forward as young widow.  Those of you, who know this story, can affirm she did both well.  She would return back to classroom, first at Shands and then at Florence Elementary; sometimes teaching in the classroom right across the hall from Anne and I.  These were good years, despite their obvious hardships.  The days were made easier by all the family and friends who filled voids left behind by our loss.  Some of you are here today. We cannot be count or measure your acts of grace; all we can offer is another simple word of thanks for giving of yourselves and portions of your life so we might have a fuller life.

081559Anne and I would observe our mother’s resourcefulness even before we knew what that word meant.  She was presented with the opportunity to leave the classroom and join Mary Floyd as a home bound teacher.  There she demonstrated her vast knowledge, teaching all levels and subjects to those unable to attend school.  The irony of her doing everything she could to help her students succeed, which were usually teenage expectant moms facing great odds, never struck me until my adult years.  Mom had brilliant math skills and she worked several nights a week; running the remedial math program for Eastfield College.  She also privately tutored students; including some challenging students, her own children and grandchildren.081726

The need to keep the household afloat never lessened her contribution to her church.  She would make sure we were not just there on Sunday, but every Sunday and Wednesday night and we went on every trip and to every camp.  Mom translated her personal experience of loss by teaching a  large class of middle age single persons, who often gathered at our house to the wee hours of the morning; sharing their lives. 

Like all teacher’s we would see her sitting up on Saturday night pouring over books and scripture to bring a meaningful and thought provoking lesson.  Mom also led the way in serving on key committees at the church such as Personnel, Finance and Pastor/Search committees. She pioneered lay women’s place in what for years had been dominated by male leaders.

082828An image that has occupied my mind in this week has been mom sitting in a chair at our house.  In that chair, she would be holding a bible and the latest book she would eventually insist we read.  Sometimes in that chair, she would be holding a yellow legal pad; balancing the family budget.  Sometimes in that chair, she would sit up talking to Anne and me until late in the night about our lives and other matters that ranged from current events to political and theological hot buttons.  Sometimes in the chair, she laughed and cried facing the challenges of normal to all family life.

Anne and I owe mom more gratitude that can be repaid for her disciplined planning.  We’re both able to attend and graduate from Baylor University, all because of the diligence of a mother who placed great value on a great education just under our relationship with Christ.  R22

Anne and I going off to college began the next phase of my mom’s life.  I recall her announcing she was going to travel before becoming too old.  Many of her travel buddies are here today, who spanned the globe to Europe, Middle East, North Africa and every single city in North America. 

While she traveled, Mom continue to work in Mesquite as a community based teacher (fancy name for homebound) after buying a home in Frisco.  She thought she should get closer to one of her children.  She chose Anne; thinking she couldn’t count on the whereabouts of her itinerant United Methodist preacher son.  She would rise early every morning to commute from her new home; driving sometimes an hour to Mesquite to teach homebound students along with those confined in drug programs, juvenile centers, and adults who wanted to obtain a high school diploma. 

083130Grandkids began to come into her life and she wore her new namesake well, Grandma.  You will hear later from some of them, but it suffices to say, she offered grace to all, but her grandkids received a double dose, which they are now old enough to more fully appreciate.  Mom would include them in her travels, commemorate every occasion, attend events of every kind, including Allie’s recent playoff soccer match, wearing her letter jacket in winter condition, tutoring them when needed, encouraging them in whatever way in their education.  2012-12-21 11.46.43

Most recently, she liked to play with them; hosting sometimes eight to ten 16-28 year-olds at her Senior Assisted Living Apartment.  They would play games till late into the night, innocently disturbing the tranquil peace of the complex. On Friday night before her surgery, they gathered until almost midnight, as grandma reveled them with her quick wit and competitive spirit. 

Ruth and scottieHer most important role as grandma was to remind them along the way what was most important, their faith in the living God.  These grandkids, were with her when she breathed her last, singing a very poor rendition of her favorite hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, but there was a beauty in their voices despite being limited by their grief.  This lady was confident her grandchildren will grow to multiply her spirit in all they do in their adult life.

She became a part of First Baptist Richardson after moving to Frisco.  She loved to tell me of Brian Harbor’s sermons and cannot tell you how many times she has spoken of the excellent preaching of her “new preacher” (a term I am much too familiar).  Her connections here have deepened as she has been a member of two Sunday School classes, and often shared with me something she had taken from Dr. Morgan’s teachings.  I know members of her class and this church will miss her, like we.  094044

Seven to eight years ago, mom heard the doctors say she had oral cancer and it would be need to be removed.  We never could have imagined then, the road we would about to embark.  She fought this awful disease; undergoing five or six major surgeries and two rounds of heavy chemotherapy and radiation.  She did so, with great courage and an unwavering spirit that could only come from resources within-her faith in living God, her hope in life forever, and her love for God, family, neighbor and friend.  The cancer would create liabilities that would finally cause her to completely retire after 50 plus years of service to Mesquite ISD. 

083751This disease never diminished her spirit and will to live life fully.  In fact, a few moments after hearing the cancer was back early in April, she told me to call Floyd Elementary, so to arrange a visit to the rebuilt school named after her husband and our father.  We might be able to say she knew her days were numbered. On a day that was orchestrated so well by the principal, Dr. Km Broadway and her staff, she smiled large, hugged hard and celebrated gleefully all that was important to her in this life. 

We celebrated her 80th birthday with many of you here today on these sacred grounds.  None of us wanted to think we would be back in this church a year later to celebrate her life abundant and eternal.  We now know with hindsight that grand day was a harbinger of this coming day, when we would have another party, but this time it would include our father, family members, friends, and all who have gone before us to the other side glory.  IMG_2480

On behalf of the family, I thank you for your presence today, last night, and in all the days of her life.  I want to thank Don for singing today.  When you sing “It is Well”, you will have completed a circle of singing of the assurance of our faith, declaring this same message in song at both our fathers and mothers memorials.  Candy, your abiding presence throughout all these days and leading us today means more than we can say.  We are grateful for every word of support, each card and flower received, each memorial given, and every kind act offered.  These are expressions of your love and are immense help in negotiating these days of grief.  We invite you to our house after the service for a reception; joining us in continuing this celebration.  The address and directions are located in the foyer.

The FamilySo we come together in grief, acknowledging our human loss; because in telling her story, we are declaring God is a faithful.  We place hope in our never changing God to grant us grace, so in whatever pain we feel on this day, we can find comfort.  In whatever sorrow our tomorrows might bring we can face it with trust.  When it comes our time to face our own small or large deaths, we can claim the power of resurrection through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Our hearts will endure and lives will thrive after this day because “the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever, his mercies never cease; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness O God!

Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 8:20 am  Comments (4)  

On the Other Side of the Cross: Offering Christ, Acts 1:1-11

Ascension SundayAscension Sunday is as important as Resurrection Sunday.  If Jesus had risen and not ascended, he would still be bodily showing up here and there.  Jesus ascends into heaven, so he could descend again and be among us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  When the Spirit came at Pentecost ten days later, Christ returned in a profoundly spiritual way-no longer localized in a single body; globalized in his new body, the church, you and I. 

What’s often lost is the in between times of Ascension Day to Pentecost to Christ Return Day.  The question that should occupy us, isn’t how will we live in heaven, but how do we live in the between times of Ascension – Pentecost -The Age to Come.  This question places us in the big picture of the work of God, taking place in these in between times until the end times when all will be right.  His resurrection signaled the beginning of the end of this broken world.  From that moment, God has been accelerating the end game; renewing and restoring creation to what God intended. holy spirit

It’s easier to see what God intends from the other side of the in-between time.  The disciples ask after before ascension, “Lord, is this the time when you’ll restore the kingdom to Israel?”  Jesus responds saying as translated by Russell: “Knowing the ‘when’ in you mind is nothing like ‘what’ the Holy Spirit does in our heart.” They felt powerless and they thought having some head knowledge about a future date would empower them. 

Jesus offered Spirit generated, life changing resurrection power that raised him from the dead, and can change the heart of any person who follows him, so they might change the world.  It’s the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms us from the inside out; assuring us we’re not alone in this world and enabling us to do God’s work in the world.  While we know these things, the disciples were in a steep learning curve.  

Jesus told them why they would receive power, “You will receive power and you will be my witnesses.”  Jesus had already given an example of what it means to witness when he overturned the tables of moneychangers in the temple.  The texts says, “The day before, late in the evening, Jesus entered the temple and looked around“.  Then he came back the next day to address the injustices he witnessed in the precincts of prayer.  He took action, but he first looked deeply and saw what was going on. 

Power to be my witnessesBefore we speak of the kingdom of God, we’re to witness by being present and watch.  The power of a witness is getting in the line of sight to help people see they can change the way they see the world.  We bring into view the kingdom God that declares the world is in God’s gracious hand and it isn’t coming apart, no matter what the newspaper writes.  The gracious hand of God is working everyday to bring about the redemption of all things.  When we witness, we invite people to enter into the kingdom.  Sometimes, we offer comfort to help them overcome fears, and other times our witness is uncomfortable putting people on notice by our notice. 

We’re eyewitnesses, which is redundant, there is no other kind.  We’re the eyes of Jesus, noticing the ordinary day to day things; seeing as he sees and speaking the good news he offered.  Some sights will not be easy to look upon; the more we witness the better the chance we join into the warp and woof of the work of the Holy Spirit who is working on us and our world.  MOm

Those who are noticed want to do well when someone is looking.  I wrote the message in the ICU waiting room.  It feels odd; standing over mom’s bed talking to doctors and nurses while her life is medically assisted.  I have wondered if she is able to see or hear what we’re doing or saying.  This last week, I imagined her watching our movements and hearing our conversations.  Let me tell you a little witnessing, makes a big difference.  I echo our founder John Wesley: “I learned more about Christianity from my mother than from all the theologians in England.

Witnessing by showing up isn’t enough.  People need to hear us speak of the transforming grace of God in our own lives.  Persons need to be invited to know of the indwelling new life power that is working on us and it is available to them.  No one else, including the “professionals” can do what only you can do in the places you go.  We each have unique witness to share; no two people witness in the same way, or any of us experts.  Show up and speak on this side of the cross; offering Christ to your world.

IMG_0832 Jesus ascends on the Mt. of Olives, which is a cemetery with thousands of graves dating back thousands of years.  Some believe when the end comes, God will descend on the Mt. of Olives; ushering in the resurrection of dead.  So, people are buried there, so they can be the first to join the forces of God at the resurrection. 

When Jesus ascended, the angels told the disciples he will return in the same way he departed.  Some think he will emerge from the clouds; landing on the Mount; leading an army against the forces of evil, so to set up his kingdom on earth for a thousand years. 

Think about this: Christ came meek and mild, healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, and preaching forgiveness.  Does it make sense that when he comes back he is going to be mad; changing character between the times; replacing his loving hand with an fist of wrath?  Jesus’ ascension says we will meet the same Jesus who offered grace and compassion to strangers and all he met along his way.  Good news

Until then, we’re to be witnesses to this same Jesus; living signs of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven; offering others the full benefits of living in this world that is full of the grace of God.  We are to worry less about escaping it so we can go to heaven when we die.  We’re to witness to the joy and freedom we enjoy because of the amazing grace of God.  

The call to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of earth requires our mission be holistic; saving the whole person.  We’re to urge people to follow Christ, be baptized, grow in grace, and worship God.  We’re to also work to see they have freedom to serve the Lord and others, feed their families, grow their local economies, and live without fear of abusers, dictators and thieves who rob people of the fullness of life in Christ.  Every well dug, disease cured, or child educated is a witness for Christ.  We offer Christ by doing right, righting wrongs, acting justly and correcting injustices. This is the witness we do with our mission partners.  

JusticeThe end isn’t yet, because the world isn’t yet the kingdom of God.  All isn’t all right.  We’re to live as if Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of the end, and the forces of new creation are underway in the world.  As we live between the first coming of Jesus and his second, we offer Christ to those who are hurting, lonely, scared.  This world is full of people who hunger for a real person to show them that their life has meaning, purpose, and hope, so they dream again that they can know meaning, purpose, and hope.  

The final words of the angels to the disciples who stood there looking into the heavens as Jesus ascended are instructional in offering Christ.  They say: If we really want to see where Jesus is, stop looking up, and start looking around; be present in word and deed with any and all who have need.  It may not seem like much, but with the power of the Spirit, we’d be amazed at what a difference an “I” witness can make.

I witness

Published in: on May 15, 2013 at 8:14 am  Leave a Comment