This needle-point prayer was a birthday gift from my mom and dad to my grandfather (mom’s dad). The inscription on the back reads: “To Dad on your 82nd birthday, April 1, 1985. From the Fraleys, Shirley Beth, Sonny, Wes, Mike & Jared. Happy fishing!”
The prayer reads: “I pray that I may live to fish until my dying day. And when it comes to my last cast, I then most humbly pray, When in the Lord’s great landing net and peacefully asleep, That in His mercy I be judged BIG ENOUGH TO KEEP!”
My PamPaw (Olen Thompson) loved to fish. He had retired from rice farming, by the time I got to know him and had worked a deal with his four children: he would give each of them 40 acres of land if they would buy him a fishing cabin on Copano Bay. This is where he taught me how to fish.
PamPaw would come by our house to pick me up, and we would start on the three-hour journey to a completely different world. On the way we would stop for BBQ and a loaf of bread. While PamPaw kept driving, I would make him a fold-over sandwich. I wasn’t much help with the boat (I was pretty young when we started doing this), but I could hold the line while he launched the boat and I could keep us going straight while he used a cane pole to find the reef we wanted to fish. The first year or two, he had to bait my line and cast for me, but I was always anxious to do it myself. We never did talk very much out in the boat, but when we did, it was exciting because the conversation always started with one of us saying, “Get the net!”
Our Scripture lesson for today is from Mark’s gospel, and it tells the story of the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. After John the Baptist is arrested Jesus picks up John’s proclamation, “This is the time! God’s kingdom is now here! Turn back to God and believe this good news!”
Then, as Jesus was walking along the northern shore of Lake Galilee, he called to two fishermen, Simon and Andrew: “Come with me and I will teach you how to fish on dry land.” As the three of them walked on, Jesus called to two more fishermen, James and John: “Come with me.” And they came.
With four fishing disciples, and the many stories of Jesus on and around Lake Galilee, there are many reasons to connect the Good News of Jesus Christ to fishing. From my own experience, I can say that there is something sacred about being on the water: the beauty, the quiet, the waiting. I got to see many lovely sunrises over Copano Bay, rain showers moving over the land and the water, and even a water spout or two. Those quiet hours of fishing had a profound affect on this young boy, and learning to wait was an important life lesson.
The last line of the prayer reminds me of a story I heard about my PamPaw fishing: he got pulled over by the game warden who then found that a few of the fish he had caught and kept were not quite big enough.
The game warden said, “Now, Mr. Thompson, you know that these fish aren’t big enough to keep.”
“Well,” PamPaw replied, “they were big enough to take my shrimp!”
This prayer has it right: in God’s mercy, by the grace of God only, will we be deemed “big enough to keep.” Thanks be to God!