Sunday, April 10, 2011

All These Paul!

"Dad, Grandpa, Rabbai, Paul" are the signatures he assigns at the end of his weekly reports from his current teaching post in Pingliang, China. With commas in between they are meant to personalize his reflections for each of those to whom he is sending them over time. But it occurs to me that all of them, strung together without commas, might be just as appropriate to us as individuals. Dad Grandpa Rabbai Paul Swanson captures who he is better than any of those first names might in itself.

Teacher Counselor Mentor Friend and Lover of Youth might also be added to get an even fuller picture of the man. See how this retired widower hugs a child from a local orphanage nearby the school where he has taught for some time and is even now teaching. A true professor, equally at home in exploring and explaining C. S Lewis and laying all that sophistication aside for the sake of an orphaned child. Needs are everywhere around us, both to be taught and to be loved. Soon the child will need the professor, but for now she needs a Dad or Grandpa, someone just to embrace and hold her, someone to throw her lonely arms around--someone, anyone who will take the time to pick her up, whose name she does not know and will not likely remember.

That is exactly the one who holds the little orphan girl above! His name? Dad Grandpa Rabbai Paul Teacher Counselor Mentor Friend and Lover of Youth Swanson--to which if truth be told should also be added Cook Baker of Delicious Breads and Host at Tables Spread with Swedish Pancakes. What a man, what a friend, what a servant, what a witness!

Bless you All These Paul, and keep you in pursuit of God's claim on your life and his call to teach, share, and model his grace with people everywhere. Unassuming as you are, you may not recognize yourself in all the above, but take it from me: God does, and so do we!