The Windowsill of Heaven
Every morning, lean thine arms awhile
Upon the windowsill of heaven,
And gaze upon thy Lord.
Then, with the vision in thy heart,
Turn strong to meet thy day.
Poem by Thomas Blake
In the early days of his ministry, Dr. Theodore F. Adams vacationed in Wisconsin where he attended an outdoor vesper service led by an Episcopal rector who recited the verse above. Dr Adams never forgot those words. He committed them to memory.
From 1936-1968 Dr. Adams served as senior pastor of Richmond’s First Baptist Church. During that time he referred to this verse countless times as one of his favourites. He even had desktop placards made and sent to every member of the church.
Many readers are aware that the beautiful stained glass windows surrounding the FBC Sanctuary were part of a renovation project initiated by Dr. Adams in the late 1940s, but they may be unaware of the message he left in one of the windows by which we remember him today.
In the commission of the windows’ refurbishment, Dr. Adams’ goal was twofold. The larger windows that surround the balcony were to portray the significant events in the life of Jesus, while those below were to demonstrate how followers could live out Jesus’ lessons in modern times. Each upper window correlates to the one below it and is interpreted there for modern understanding. Each window is also accompanied by a scripture passage – except one.
There are two windows in the church picturing Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, one in the Chapel and one in the Sanctuary. The Chapel window’s focus is on prayer, but the story in the Sanctuary’s window shows Jesus, having been strengthened by prayer, telling Peter, James, and John, “Behold, the hour is at hand—Rise, let us be going.” The light shining on Jesus comes from heaven and affirms Jesus’ declaration that, “Thy will, not mine, be done.”
The Garden of Gethsemane
Bathed in sunlight in the corollary window below kneels a lone figure, praying the very poem that begins, “Every morning, lean thine arms upon the windowsill of heaven.” These verses are not found in the Bible, but send the message that made such a marked impression on Dr. Adams’ life that he was determined it be memorialized in this window.
The Windowsill of Heaven
Could he have guessed that with each reading, those who remembered him would also see him reciting it before a congregation of First Baptist Church members, even today?
In writing about Dr. Adams, Dr. W. Randall Lolley, former pastor of FBC Greensboro, NC, says that Dr. Adams was a man, “who truly perceived the earth as the ‘windowsill of heaven.’ Every person he met, every event he enjoyed, every experience he knew worked ‘inside/out’ rather than ‘outside/in.’”
May we put into practice these words so dear to Dr. Adams.