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Wednesday, the day before yesterday. August 28, represents a number that has great significance for me and my family.

My grandparents, Robert and Louise Swanson, took Romans 8:28, from Paul’s epistle to the Romans, as their motto and the name of their home in Sag Harbor.

Barbara Swanson Sherman, grandparents

“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord, for those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Those words are implanted in me. Once I was about to commit road rage over a parking spot and the silent dashboard clock clicked loudly. I looked down to see that it was 8:28. I took a deep breath and moved on.

At my grandchildren’s school, the day begins at 8:30 but the doors open at 8:28.

That’s a good start.

The March on Washington where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech happened on August 28, 1963. 8:28.

This verse had given me enormous comfort and assurance, a sense of security and love. My daughter says, “When I see that number I just feel like someone’s looking out for me.

Barbara Swanson Sherman, 1 osprey, pen & Ink

And we know that all things work together for good. Lovely, right?

But the Apostle Paul can’t leave it at that. He has to qualify that comforting message. “To those who love the Lord.” OK, but how do you love the Lord and by what name do you call the Lord, or God?

And then, “To those who are the called according to God’s purpose.” Who is called? How do you get the call and how do you even know if you’ve been called? It sounds like a private, invitation-only club to me. And then, what is God’s purpose and who gets to determine that?

I love Paul. He has comforted me, inspired me, challenged me, and driven me crazy.

I love his story—the notion that the very worst person can be redeemed. Then there’s the burning bush on the road to Damascus, the abrupt turn-around, the way he traveled all over the world, telling his story.

But as Aunt Harriet said, when I reminded her that Paul said women should keep silent in church, “I’ve read every word of the Bible…some of them are very hard to take.”

Paul also says,”Test all things; hold fast what is good.” OK, Paul, I’ll do that. I’ll hold fast to your beautiful exhortations, like “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” Thank you, I’ll think on those things. I’ll test all things and keep wrestling with the ones I don’t like so much.

Barbara Swanson Sherman, Pen& Ink, House with exploding chimneys, soaring Eagle,

Many writers have looked for reasons to hope in the future and 8:28 brings them to mind. There’s Dr. King’s famous quote,

“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”

And this beautiful line from Willa Cather's My Antonia,

That is happiness, to be dissolved into something complete and great.”

What are the words that bring you comfort and joy?

If you love Willa Cather as I do, I hope you saw “Willa Cather’s Ride”, by Kim Stafford in the July 8 issue of the New York Times Magazine. And the illustration by R. O. Blechman. I couldn't make a link work, but you can google it. Enjoy!

August 29, 2019

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