"Girls, let me tell you something," my mom said at dinner at my sister Sylvia’s house. It was March 2006. I was on a quick trip to Kentucky to visit my mom, who was 89, and all four of us sisters had gathered–-Sheila and Sylvia, who live in the area, and Sandy, who drove down from Michigan. Mom looked at each of us in turn. "I need to start cleaning out some of the books that were your daddy’s. I don’t want to get sick or have something happen to me, and then I don’t have the energy to do it. So while you’re all together, I want you to look at the book cabinet in his study and take whatever books you want–both those he wrote and others he collected."My father, J.T. Seamands, died at 87 in August of 2004. He was a preacher, an evangelist, a missionary to India with Mom for 20 years. A seminary professor of missions. An author of 13 books, translated in I don’t know how many languages. A speaker of numerous languages himself–three Indian dialects, German, Spanish–all of which he preached in. A world traveler many times over. A singer, trombonist, and tennis player (he played until he was 80).
Upon returning to Mom’s house after dinner, I headed for the bookshelf. The first book I spotted was Daddy’s Bible. Red leather bound, gold-edged pages. The Revised Standard Version. I pulled it from the shelf.
You can see a lot about a person from looking through his Bible. I started flipping through pages, noting what he had underlined. Daddy had various papers stuck inside. The first, a three-page outline of his sermon about the creation and Abraham and redemption:
1. Genesis 1 and 2. God created the universe and human kind. He said "it is good." All that God does is good.
2. Genesis 3. Adam and Eve sinned, and sin entered the world. God’s plan of redemption begins immediately. See Gen. 3:15. Two chapters are given to the fall of humankind; the rest of Scripture is the record of God’s redemptive acts in history . . .
I flipped further, into the Psalms, and pulled out a half-sheet of yellow notebook paper, faded and worn thin. Upon it, green ink in a difficult-to-read script:
Dear Darling J.T., this is goodbye. I am going up to live with Jesus. Be a good boy. Your little Sylvia is so sweet. Always stick to the Old Book and meet me. Love from Grandma.
A note written by Mom underneath: Grandma Shields wrote this after a severe heart attack just two weeks before she passed away–Nov. 14, 1943.
In 1943 World War II was raging. Mom had come home from India in June 1942 with her first baby, Sylvia, because of the danger overseas. Daddy had decided to stay and finish some missions work, thinking he could get on a boat for the U.S. before long. He and Mom would never have dreamed that the war would separate them for two and a half years, until December of 1944. During that time, Mom and baby Sylvia lived with Daddy’s Grandma Shields.
In Isaiah I found more sermon notes. One outline covered the front and back of a bank deposit slip, written in red ink, small cursive letters. Another outline was typed on half a sheet of paper–The Hands of Jesus. John 20:24-29:
1. Saving hands: Matthew 14:29-31. Then Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me." Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
2. Cleansing hands: Matthew 3:11-12. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering the wheat into his barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
3. Protecting hands: John 10:28. My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
4. Healing hands: Mark 1:40-42. A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, "If you are willing you can make me clean." Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said, "Be clean." Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
5. Wounded hands: John 20:27. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. See my hands!
6. Knocking hands: Revelation 3:20. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
In the back of the Bible Daddy wrote many other sermon outlines–just the quick note and sometimes the text. He used alliteration and rhythm frequently as a way to make his sermons easy to remember. Just a few of them:
Verbalize, vocalize, visualize, vitalize=holiness. Ephesians 5:18-20.
I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Without the Way there is no going.
Without the Truth there is no knowing.
Without the Life there is no growing.
Christ, who art the Way, lead us.
Christ, who art the Truth, teach us.
Christ who art the Life, continue to live in us.
No reservation, reversal, regrets=consecration, surrender. The Eternal Word for the Entire World.
Loss of faith is usually not a blow-out, but a slow leak.
That day I found a forever treasure. My father's Bible.
(Story first run on F&F in March 2006.)