Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wally Parnell’s Wallet and ‘When I say, “I am a Christian” ’

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Wally Parnell’s Wallet and ‘When I say, “I am a Christian” ’
In 1988 Carol Wimmer wrote a great poem entitled “When I say I am a Christian”.  It took until 2012, this past week on Thursday afternoon when I first encountered it.

Why so long?  24 years later after she wrote this I read it.

Well the copy that I read was only discovered on Wednesday morning by Eva Parnell.  And on Thursday she was still trying to process the power of this particular copy of the poem.

The story behind the poem “When I say I am a Christian” is quite a journey for Carol Wimmer to say the least. (see the links below)

But the story behind the copy that was presented to me is even a greater story.

Pausing for moment to share the setting on Thursday…
Each Thursday afternoon I meet with a group of Seniors at Royal Gardens in Peterborough, Ontario. Our group is entitled “New Friends” and is designed to produce interaction with the residence of the seniors’ home.

The group welcomes any new resident that has arrived to the home and enjoys the interaction with the ones that have known each other for a long time.  It is a great mix or people and ideas.

The content of the discussion is led by the people that attend. Anything is acceptable and we do talk about anything.

At times it is very funny and other times it is very serious. At times it is just plain joy and other times very close to each person’s heart as they share the deep memories from the past… sharing accounts of their marriage, the family and details that many have never spoken of before.

These are treasured moments at “New Friends”.

Eva is 88 years old now. Four years ago her husband Wally passed away.  Over the many times I have met with the group Eva has told the group a number of stories about Wally.

Wally had led a Dance Band in the region and was a very popular musician.  He was a good leader and the band that they had were very well known.

As Eva told us stories of Wally and his band a number of the ladies attending “New Friends”, had many wonderful memories of the old days and the dances that they had attended – where Wally had been playing.

With that background you must remember that this is conservative Peterborough where church attendance was important.  And among the church attendees there were the very and deeply spiritual that would have little or nothing to do with the “worldly people” out there…  And then the other group that thought it perfectly okay to enjoy the “worldly things” and maybe go to church too.

In the old days of long ago when Wally was playing in the Dance Band making great music and thoroughly involved in the Dance World (i.e. “worldly”) not everyone appreciated what he did to draw people away from church. Ahem.

His wife Eva had been raised Pentecostal and later had become Salvation Army.  In both traditions of these two church styles there is a strong encouragement to avoid the “worldly things” of this life!  And a Dance on Saturday night to music of that kind was not something you took part in!!!  To do so would bring the wrath of God and the wrath of the ‘Holiness Stock’ of any church worth “it’s Christianity” – down around your head!!!!!!

Wally was the best at building the best dance band in the area.

I doubt very much that he played his instrument in church of the time!

That is the setting for what happened next.

When Wally died 4 years ago Eva was left alone.  She, like other widows, would begin looking after things on her own.

One thing Eva did was to start using Wally’s wallet. It was a good wallet and easily held the credit cards and money that she needed. It was also a very personal part of Wally that helped to keep him close to her.

On Wednesday morning Eva just happened to open the wallet and for the first time looked in the back of the wallet… to a compartment that wasn’t visible to her up to now. It was kind of a secret place where deeper treasures could be stored.

In that area she found a sheet of paper 8 ½ by 11 inches in size. When she opened it up she discovered it was a letterhead sheet from the Rotary Club of Oshawa.  And on the sheet Wally had carefully written out the poem “When I say I am a Christian”.

To see his careful hand writing again was kind of a shock to Eva. It was suddenly Wally speaking to her from long ago. Eva told me, “It is like having Wally speak to me and give me a message.”

She had made copies of the sheet and gave it to each of us in “New Friends”.  She shared what it meant to her to have just discovered it the day before. It was kind of like getting a love letter and some hidden secret.

Wally, the Dance Band Leader and Musician, had just shared his deepest secret of his spiritual life and personal belief.

At this point my words are failing me to try and say what Eva was feeling. This was a treasured moment.

So have you read the poem “When I say I am a Christian”?

If you haven’t, I am offering it here for you to read. And as you read it, think of Eva and Wally… and this special message she just received from the past.


When I say, “I am a Christian”
When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost!
That’s why I chose this way”

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble -
needing God to be my guide

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak
and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed
and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion
asking humbly to be taught

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible
but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache
which is why I seek His name

When I say, “I am a Christian”
I do not wish to judge
I have no authority
I only know I’m loved
~ Written by Carol Wimmer ~

~ Murray Lincoln ~


1 comment:

Rick said...

Awesome story Murray. I'm going to 'steal' the poem and pass it on.

[found your blog 'by accident' when checking out the "Dr. Suzanne Allen" story - I'm a doubting Thomas when I receive emails like that]

Rick @ All Nature Sings