Saturday, January 10, 2015

my memories of Dan Brawley...

It is such a blessing to share my memories of Dan Brawley...

I remember in 1996, sitting behind Dan and his wife, Susan Roberts, during worship services and later watching Dan singing as a leader in the choir…he would be swaying from side-to-side and forward & backward, always with his face lifted to the Lord, moving to the beat of whatever hymn or worship chorus we were singing, praising with all his might, completely abandoned to Jesus. His joy and enthusiasm for the Lord was contagious!

In the fall of 1999, our son, Jason, was 7 years old. Suzi Lambert asked him to play the part of the “annoying little brother” in our church choir and orchestra’s Christmas Musical Drama, entitled, “Back in the 40’s.” We had lots of rehearsals to practice in the weeks leading up to the performances at the historic Polk Theatre. Dan took Jason under his wing. He told Jason all about his experiences in the Lakeland Little Theater and taught him how to “run lines” as they practiced their parts. He made Jason feel welcomed and included in a cast of all adults. He was encouraging and so supportive. Jason prayed to receive Christ during this time, on October 31st and was baptized on Christmas Eve that year. Dan always remembered to ask me how Jason was when I saw him in the years that passed.

In December 2000, I had heard Dan say that he felt called by our Lord Jesus Christ into the gospel ministry. At that time, I was the executive director of the Learning Resource Center of Polk County, and I was also the president of the executive directors’ council for the United Way of Central Florida. In December of that year, I asked Dan to be our guest speaker and share his heart with the room full of executive directors of United Way agencies. He began by sharing his own personal testimony.

Dan shared that one day in 1996, he and his wife, Susan, were in our old worship center of First Baptist Church at 301 North Florida Avenue. Our new pastor, Jay Dennis, gave an invitation. Dan said, “I thought for sure I heard him say, ‘Dan, take your wife by the hand, and come forward, give your life to Christ, it’s the right thing to do.’ Then Dan said he took Susan’s hand, and took one step of faith, believing that Jesus Christ had died for his sins, and he received Christ’s free gift of salvation. Dan laughed and said, it was only months later that he realized Pastor Jay had been saying, “Dad, take your wife by the hand…”

Dan then said he wanted to give his testimony by sharing the testimony of the Apostle Paul from Acts 22:3-16, which reads …“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished. “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ And those who were with me saw the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go on into Damascus, and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’ 11 But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me and came into Damascus.12 “A certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, and well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 15 For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

Dan closed his time with the United Way executive directors by sharing the following powerful illustration… At the University of Chicago Divinity School each year they have what is called "Baptist Day." On this day each one is to bring a lunch to be eaten outdoors in a grassy picnic area. Every Baptist Day the school would invite one of the greatest minds to lecture in the theological education center. One year they invited Dr. Paul Tillich. Dr. Tillich spoke for over two hours attempting to prove that the resurrection of Jesus was false. He quoted scholar after scholar and book after book. He concluded that since there was no such thing as the historical resurrection, the religious tradition of the church was groundless, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, he said, never rose from the dead. He then asked if there were any questions. After a few seconds, an elderly African American preacher stood up... "Docta Tillich, I got one question," he said, as all eyes turned toward him. He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it. "Docta Tillich" (crunch, munch) "My question is a simple question." (crunch, munch)..."Now, I have never read those books you’ve read...(crunch, munch) and I can't recite the Scriptures in the original Greek...(crunch, munch) He finished the apple. "All I want to know is: This apple I just ate—was it bitter or sweet?"

Dr. Tillich paused for a moment, and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion, "I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven't tasted your apple."

The elderly preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at Dr. Tillich and said calmly, "Neither have you tasted my Jesus."

When Dan concluded, all the executive directors applauded and thanked him for sharing. I still wonder today how many seeds of the gospel were planted that day.

During the years 2007 to 2010, I would accompany my mother on her frequent visits to Watson Clinic for various doctors’ appointments and tests. We would often see Dan there where he volunteered with their patient services office, helping people in any way he could. Always smiling, always cheerful, and he never failed to ask me about how Jason was doing.

We will miss you, Dan, you were truly a gift from heaven to everyone who knew you. We know you are in heaven right now, swaying side-to-side and forward & backward, always with your face lifted to our Lord Jesus Christ, moving to the beat of whatever hymn or worship chorus the angels are singing, praising Him with all your might, completely abandoned to Jesus, and in no more pain.

p.s. Dan’s first day in heaven, December 16, 2014, was Jason’s 23rd birthday

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