“A Red Letter Day”

I got a birthday present for all y’all today. Yes, today is my birthday. Yes, it’s the most awesome birthday on the calendar. September 21st is shared with amazing people like Bill Murray, HG Wells, and Leonard Cohen. It’s also the International Day of Peace, often the Fall Equinox, and the basis of the bitchin’ song by Earth, Wind, and Fire. September 21 is shared with me by FOUR incredible women I know….Nancy, Carrie, Pam and Becky. (We’re birthday quints!!)

But, before I get to the birthday present, two questions:
Do you believe that you were loved by those around you, long before you could ever know or conceive of it?
Do you believe that God loves you the same way?

Both of these statements are true. And yet, because of the many horrible things that happen to us in life, we sometimes forget their truth.

A week ago, I was talking with the children at The Woods preschool (Treehouse Adventures) about this very thing…that both God, and many other people, loved them long before they ever could have known it or believed it. Even those of us with lousy parents…we had doctors and nurses. We had teachers, and coaches and, sometimes even by the grace of God, ministers…who loved us for who we are, and accepted us for who we are.

I pulled out a picture of me and the Divine Miss M when she was first born. I showed it to them. They were a bit freaked out that, for some reason, I have no hair any more. Actually, that one freakish-fact sort of pulled the whole conversation out of its lane. Oh well.

It’s still true.

You were loved, deeply holy and wholly, by people you know and by saints and angels you will never know.

That kind of love approximates, in smalls ways, the beautiful grace, love and peace that God has for you too.

When I held Maria, that little loaf of bread in my arms, for the very first time, I felt a wave of compassion and love come over me like I’d never felt before. It was like entire big new rooms opened up in my heart that I never knew were there. That’s how God feels about YOU.

And, trust me, that’s how others felt about you when you were born. The problem is, you were a little loaf of bread, and so you couldn’t know it at the time.

So, now to the birthday present for you all that proves the point…

It’s some “found audio.” Well, it’s been around for a long time. Since September 21, 1962 to be exact. It’s a recording of my grandfather, Frank (Frankie) Folkerth, on the day I was born. Back before FaceTime, one of the things my parents and grandparents used to do to stay in touch was to mail reel-to-reel tapes to each other. They’d crank up the machines and go through their daily routines, making tapes for each other. Some years back, my Father digitized them all, and when I inherited his computer I found the audio files there.

These tapes are audio gold, and this one is audio platinum. I play it for you as “Exhibit A” of my thesis: That you were loved before you could ever known it or believe it. On this tape, you get to hear a man go from some ordinary day, to being a grandfather for the very first time. You get to hear his laughter, tears, and overflowing joy.

I invite you to listen to the whole thing.

A cast of characters, in case your wondering. “Pat and Dick” are my Mom and Dad. “Mrs. Mays” is my Grandmother on my Mom’s side. “Mommy” is Frankie’s wife, my Grandmother Folkerth. And “Alice Jo” is my Aunt Alice…my Dad’s sister.

The rest you can probably figure out.

Just give it a listen…like some “This American Life” episode where they give a kid a recorder….

It’s so fun to hear my grandfather’s joy.

Somebody had that joy when *you* were born too. Promise.

Enjoy.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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