- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) - According to Gordon Smith, “nothing is more wonderful and powerful than the realization of a defining moment. Whether born of expectation or surprise, defining moments awaken us to seasons of discovery.”

For the local minister, one such defining moment came on the evening of his 30th birthday when he received a special gift from his father.

His father had just been diagnosed with throat cancer and wanted to leave for his only son a family heirloom.

With the track of a tear left on his cheek, Smith, who is now 52, said his father gave him an old shoebox tied with a string. Inside were letters written between Harry and Lila Smith. The letters were a romantic exchange between Smith’s grandparents, and the courtship that happened via these letters would ultimately result in their marriage.

“The letters were just great,” Smith said. “Interestingly enough, my grandfather, at the time he wrote those letters, was the same age I was on my birthday. I kind of got the opportunity to hear my grandfather’s voice as a 30-year-old man.”

Smith said he’s treasured the letters ever since and now, more than two decades later, he has published them along with commentary in his first book, When Harry Met Lila: Letters of Love, Lessons of Life.

The book, which Smith describes as short and sweet, features 10 of the many letters written to his grandmother between 1926 and 1929. Harry saved only one of Lila’s letters and it is also included in the book.

“I let the letters stand for themselves,” he said. “Then I sort of comment from a pastor’s perspective, but more than that, from a grandson’s perspective what I learned, what I gleaned if you will, from these letters with regards to relationships. I talk about things I try to employ with regularity concerning my own wife and family.”

Smith, who is a campus pastor at the Calvary Christian Church Mt. Carmel campus, said his self-published book touches on prayer and faith, but he also discusses overcoming obstacles, how modern relationships should reflect the same values of relationships in the era of the letters and pays tribute to his family’s heritage.

Smith said some of his favorite lessons come from his grandfather’s discussion of poverty and gratitude.

“He was very poor and he talks a lot about poverty,” Smith said. “He doesn’t necessarily name it but he struggles with it. One of the letters talks about his inability to have enough shekels to purchase some of the things he wanted to purchase or do some of the things he wanted to do, and he really wrestles with it.”

This internal conflict because of lack of money opened the door for Smith to discuss faith in troubling times, he said.

“It doesn’t defeat him, which is a great thing,” Smith said. “They’re always able to see the problem not as one that overcomes them, as much as their ability to overcome it in and through their faith and that’s one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from the letters.

Another chapter deals with gratitude.

“He’s also very thankful,” Smith said. “They were well known in their day for their hospitality, for their gratitude, for their graciousness and gracefulness. They were just good people and to me that’s inspiring. It says there’s a heritage I have of being a good person.”

He said the box of letters he received from his father came with a maxim - a life motto to remember who you are and who you belong to. Smith hopes this reflection on his heritage will encourage others to look back at their heritage and learn from it.

“I think (with this book) I honored by grandparents and celebrated the heritage of my family and I hope that in some small way that will help others consider their own families and their own heritage,” he said.

Most of all, Smith said he hopes his book will offer readers a glimpse into something sweet.

“I think, first and foremost, in a chaotic, busy and complicated world, I believe my book is a chance to be still, to exhale, to allow just a brief moment of sweetness to come into play,” he said. “I always said it’s short and it’s sweet and I hope when people take the time to read it for one moment in the day, they’ll say ‘Oh.’”

He said he wants his grandparents’ letters to give readers hope.

“I think my book gives the opportunity to consider something beautiful,” he said. “To consider that even in the midst of the struggles in life, they can’t outweigh the joy in life. I think that’s really the sole purpose. What I gleaned from the letters collectively, is, yes, life is difficult and there are many struggles, but, because of a relationship with the Lord, you can find the joy in the midst of the suffering and that’s a beautiful (realization).”

When Harry Met Lila is available for download on Kindle, Nook and iBooks or a hardcopy can be purchased on Amazon.com.

He said community support from his family, friends and church family has been incredible.

“It’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, that I had a dream and pursued it and yes, it was difficult but it was also extremely rewarding,” he said.

He has plans for at least two other books, one about being a father and his relationship with his daughters, Allyson, 26, and Haley, 21. His wife, Cathy, is an administrative minister at Calvary Christian Church.

He also considers himself an amateur poet and would like to publish some of his work.


Information from: The Winchester (Ky.) Sun, https://www.centralkynews.com/winchestersun

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