My daughter Sharon, who’s studying for the ministry at Yale Divinity School (one proud father I am!), told me this week about a great sermon she’d heard by an old Baptist preacher.
“He spoke about the quiet people,” Sharon wrote. “The folks who sit at church and don’t make a big fuss over themselves, the folks who aren’t trying to get recognition for how good or Christian they are. These are the people, the preacher said, that you know you can count on to pray for you. These are people, he said, who have a magnetic power to them because they have allowed the indwelling of the Spirit to catch fire and grow in them. And they haven’t just taken that Spirit and hidden it inside themselves, they have let that light shine on others. These people, he said, let the Spirit of God grow and grow inside themselves until it’s just too beautiful, too amazing to behold, and then they drop their robe of flesh, and go home to heaven.”
“The preacher said his grandmother was one of these people. And her favorite hymn was an old gospel song called ‘Sending Up My Timber.’ It goes like this.
There’s a dream that I dreamed
Of my Heavenly home,
And I know that I’m going there one day.
It maybe morning, night or noon,
I don’t know just how soon,
That’s why I’m sending up my timber every day.
“The preacher said that he would always watch his grandmother do small but wonderful things, like feeding chicken and dumplings to the town drunk, or comforting the 16-year old pregnant girl when the rest of the church had turned their backs on her. And he asked her why she did that, and she said, ‘Baby, I’m just sending up timber.’”
* * *
Our lives—here and hereafter—are built one timber at a time. You think you’re just getting through the day, ticking off the mundane tasks, showing up, punching the clock—the important, soul-building work is surely happening later. Then you get to the end and find out that the house is already built, and you can hardly believe the scene. That little, obscure act of charity is a central beam supporting the whole roof, and that thoughtless act of selfishness is a warped and broken stripling sagging beneath the weight of the floor. One simple prayer in the middle of a dark night became this massive lintel over the front door, and one act of mercy in an airport has become the sunlit sill of a great bay window.
Do today what Wordsworth called those “little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love.” You and I are just sending up our timber.
P.S. If you’d like to hear a rousing Gospel rendition of “Sending Up My Timber” click here.