Some days are better than others. Then, some days are so special that they defy description. Some days you will remember forever. Some days are just the answer to prayer. Perhaps that is the best description of all.
Mary Lou and I are blessed to have two children. We are equally blessed to have six nieces and nephews. Fifteen years ago, the first of the next generation was born. Our grandson, Henry, is the oldest of the second cousins, followed by Laura, Will, Rachel, Audrey, and Andrew. Following a short pause there was another baby boom with Anniston, Mason, and Payne joining the family. Next month, yet another second cousin will arrive, the only one of all of them to have the last name of Ponder.
This past Sunday was one of those incredibly special days that you will remember forever. I went to a concert that afternoon with the combined choirs of Auburn University, Auburn United Methodist Church, and Enterprise State Community College. There was a community orchestra along with the majestic organ and piano.
I arrived 30 minutes early only to see the sanctuary already half full. I walked down the aisle looking for a seat before arriving at the fourth row. I was fortunate to find a place in the middle aisle, just behind the three rows of collegiate singers.
Little did I know that those three rows would move to the stage after the first song, leaving me with the single best seat in the house. Front row center. Just one of the many blessings of that day for me.
The central part of the program was an extraordinary program known as “The Cry of Jeremiah”. Commissioned by the American Guild of Organists, it was a program I wanted to attend since I was an organist for 35 years.
It told the story of Jeremiah, who was called by God to deliver a prophecy about the coming destruction because Israel had forsaken God. He felt inadequate but followed God’s direction. This lead to his own persecution and his feeling that God had deserted him. From his depths of despair, he found his own redemption, his own calling.
The final act of “The Cry of Jeremiah” was “Hallelujah”. It brought tears to my eyes, not just because of its biblical message, or its beautiful message in song. It reminded me of God’s faithfulness to those in need. It reminded me that prayers are indeed answered.
This same Sunday was also the day that my great-nephew, Payne Fields, woke up for the first time in his own home. After 97 days in the NICU unit, Payne came home as one of the many miracles that happen to premature babies, thanks to prayer and the incredible work of medical personnel specializing in that field.
If you want to find an angel on Earth, just find your way to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Though I have not held Payne in my own arms, I have followed his journey. My heart has been with his parents, Jay and Addison, who have been steadfast and loving during a most trying time. Their journey has been a challenge most parents never experience, but their love for their tiny son never wavered. Their faith never faltered.
My children are the oldest of their generation and my grandchildren are the oldest of the next. Perhaps that is why I feel so blessed as four of the latest grandchildren of my siblings are all arriving on this earth within six months of each other.
I do not have to feed them, change their diapers, or bath them. I don’t have to pay for their college education or even attend every soccer, baseball, football, or basketball game. I simply plan to love them, which I do unconditionally, thankful to be able to witness the extraordinary joy experienced by each of these young families.
As I listened to the final act, “Hallelujah” of “The Cry of Jeremiah”, I thought of Payne’s journey home. I thought of the despair that Jay and Addison felt along these many trying days. I felt through those powerful words and songs the joy that was felt by everyone that had prayed for Payne.
Most of all, I felt that the words of “Hallelujah” were meant, at least in my heart and on that day, for my beautiful niece, Addison, and her husband, Jay. I am sure they are aware of the miracle they just brought home.
They may not be aware of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of family, friends, and even strangers who are joining them in the beauty of the moment.
Jeremiah was once so lost that he cried out in despair. Through his faith he was eventually able to shout out “Hallelujah”.
Welcome home, Payne. “Hallelujah”.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org