It was January 20, 2003 – a few minutes before nine a.m.; the first morning of the first FaithWorks class ever; the moment I first met Terri Simons.
Her greeting was not “hello” or “good morning”, but “what time is our first break”. She was already planning her escape from the crowd of 8 that morning. Eight years ago, Terri was a woman afraid of many things. She actually left for a while. But she came back. The important thing is: she came back. And she stayed. Terri was a single mom, facing the threat of losing her job, facing the possibility of losing her nursing license, a victim of abuse, out of money, afraid to even enter a room or church auditorium. Later, after she stayed, she became FaithWorks’ greatest student and volunteer recruiter, she mentored those who attended, gave cash out of her own very shallow pocket to help with the daily expenses of FaithWorks, and she gave cash and rides and a place to stay in an emergency to other students in need. She also became one of our strongest speakers – able to speak to groups both large and small on behalf of FaithWorks.
When I first met her Terri was employed at an area retirement center and worked nights. She would leave her three young daughters with a friend for the night before she drove to work. When she got off work early the next morning, she would gather her girls and head to BOBS (Breakfast on Beech Street) for a free hot breakfast and a quiet table to go over the day’s spelling list and math homework for Olivia and Sara. Lillie, the youngest, was four at that time and she cherished her precious few moments of mentoring to her around that free breakfast meal.
“Teacher Terri” was her self-chosen FaithWorks nickname. It was a nickname that described her well. Teacher Terri taught me what a mom looked like who was totally engaged in her daughter’s lives. She taught her daughters the value of hard work: how to use their talents, intelligence and initiative to do their very best at school, sports, church and life. And above all else, she taught her girls that life is not about what you need but what you can give. Terri, Olivia, Sara and Lillie mowed the lawn at FaithWorks and tended our gardens one day each week last summer. Each month, one day’s earnings were donated to others in need. She always shared with others. But more than that, she talked to the girls about what they could share: a ride, a visit, a walk in the neighborhood to meet total strangers and ask what they needed prayer for; a meal; a drink of cold water in the name of Jesus. She taught not by words alone, but by her very life. “Teacher Terri”, my teacher, my mentor, my friend taught her daughters and me many lessons about living a great life.
Terri died September 3, 2011, just days ago. She was 46. She wrote her funeral requests 20 months ago and left her last wishes with an attorney friend. She shared her wishes and gave her blessings to her precious daughters. She was an amazing person. She was my friend. I miss her.
“You can never out exceed your potential. We just sometimes misjudge a person’s potential” Dan Clark.
James 1:2-18 read from NIV, (New International Version); the NCV (New Century Version) and The Message, a contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages. The scripture is Terri’s choice of reading today, the versions are my favorites and my gift for Olivia, Sara and Lillie..
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t tryto get out of anything prematurely. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it.
Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. But when you ask God you should believe and not doubt. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Don’t think you are going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open. Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.
The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. Believers who are poor should take pride that God has made them spiritually rich. When the down and outers get a break, cheer!
But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower, the rich will die like a wild flower in the grass Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and before you know it that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life” at the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. The flower falls off and its beauty is gone. In the same way the rich will die while they are still taking care of business.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. When people are tempted and still continue strong, they should be happy.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. After they have proved their faith, God will reward them with life forever. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” When people are tempted, they should not say, “God is tempting me” For God cannot be tempted by evil, God is impervious to evil and puts evil in no ones way – nor does he tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. This desire leads to sin, and then the sin grows and brings death. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer.
So, my very dear friends, my dear brothers and sisters, don’t get thrown off course, do not be fooled about this. Don’t be deceived. Every good and perfect gift is from above, every good action and every perfect gift is from God. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars who does not change like their shifting shadows.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, God decided to give us life through the word of truth. He brought us to life using the true word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created; so that we might be the most important of all the things he made.