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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

"Dear Dad"

By Cal Chowning
June 16, 2013

A long-delayed letter recounts an amazing "coincidence"

EDITOR'S NOTE: When I was at Bethany Bible College (later known as Bethany University of the Assemblies of God), I sang bass for a traveling quartet known as the Harvesters. Our baritone, Cal Chowning, was from Oregon. He and his wife, Irene (known to us as Charlotte then), lived in one of the small houses occupied by married students.

One day in January 1970, Cal’s sister-in-law, Lynn, came to their little house with a message. They had no phone, so Cal’s mother had called Lynn and asked her to locate Cal and ask him to call back as soon as possible. Cal did, and learned that his father, Noble, was missing. He and a friend had been out in a small Cessna as part of a search-and-rescue mission looking for a downed airplane in the snows of the Trinity Mountains of northern California. They had not returned.

Several days later, the plane was found upside down in a canyon. Both men had lost their lives trying to save others.

I marveled at Cal who, in the midst of his grief, leaned heavily on God, continued to study, and even to minister with the quartet. I was to learn that his mother was displaying that same kind of courage.

The amazing occurrence at the Audrey Meier Sing that Cal recounts below, took place just weeks later. I stood alongside him as he shared the story from the platform.                                            

— Ken Horn

Dear Dad,

First, happy Father’s Day! Second, wish I could be with you. And third — wish you were back on earth. You know, I just realized I’ve never, ever written you a single letter in all my days. I suppose I could have these last 40-plus years, but accidents that take a dad away sure can dull the senses. Sorry, I just wasn’t thinking.

Well, here I am, and my heart is full. And that’s your legacy. I’m way proud of you, because as a young high school kid you heard and answered a strange call to follow after God in a different way than you’d grown up knowing. You got into the good stuff — Tozer and pursuing God, Chambers and not knowing where in the world this God might take you.* You found the Refiner’s fire hot, as the Silversmith sat siphoning off the dross of your life.

I want to thank you for what was found in your jacket pocket at home not long after they found you on the mountainside. It was just a note, not to anyone, on a small scrap of paper: “He gives us to will and to do of His good pleasure ... ” [see Philippians 2:13]. Ain’t it the truth, Dad?

That handwritten note was as good as a letter from you, giving a glimpse into a special eye- and heart-opening moment of yours. For you, that understanding probably helped lift the load of life’s struggles right off your back, opening the door to such joy and thanksgiving. It’s God who does all the good stuff, isn’t it? It’s He who changes our desires to line up with His. There’s no God like our God, Dad.

And there’s something you probably already know, but just in case you might have gotten distracted with such beauty up yonder, I’d like to mention it.

You remember you sent me off to Bible school, or, rather, I think I said something about wanting to go there after not doing so hot in a couple of other schools my first two years in college? Well, of all things, I got to singing in a southern gospel quartet in churches all around. Come February, about a month after your accident, we got an invitation to sing at an Audrey Meier concert.

And Dad, I got the chills. Not the sick kind, the goose bump kind, because I knew I was going to be doing the first singing solo I’d ever done in my life, in the song “Broken Vessel.” And here you were, gone, but not even having to travel hundreds of miles from home to come see it — but (I’d like to think), getting dibs on the best seat in the house and hearing it all from such a heavenly perspective.

Well, I didn’t like to talk about myself — still don’t — but something about the convergence of my first solo and the agony I felt about the way you died just made me tell the people that even though a dad could be taken so suddenly in a plane crash, and you could be so torn up about it, it was OK. For me, it was a very certain beginning of realizing that being a simple clay pot that God was only too happy to smash and put back together the right way, was not just OK, but highly desirable. It is a method of  “ ... His good pleasure.”

And something else. You’ve heard the expression about someone being so flabbergasted that their mouth was open so wide their chin was dragging the floor? After the song was done, Miss Meier was close to this as she began to speak to the audience.

Just a week or so earlier, she shared, she was at another church 600 miles away. There a woman sang “So Soon It Is Over” — after telling about her husband who had been killed a few weeks earlier in a plane crash in the Trinity Mountains of northern California. And here, tonight, weeks later and unbeknownst to anyone, was the son of that woman telling the same story about the same man — the husband, the father. Dad, I did not know Mom had done that. And she did not know I was singing this night.

Because you sought a God who only promised to do you good even though it might feel so bad, and because you accepted God’s ways of doing things using methods not of your choice, you found that He will give, to the surrendered ones,  “ ... to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

And that is your legacy.

CAL CHOWNING is retired after 25 years at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a departmental computer programmer. He attends Emmanuel Worship Center in College Park, Ga., where he serves as secretary-treasurer. He and Irene have three daughters and eight grandchildren.

*A.W. Tozer and Oswald Chambers were ministers and authors of significant spiritual writings.


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