He built the church with his bare hands…stone by stone.

September 11, 2010 Evolutionary

My Mother's house as a girl in Tulsa.

What an amazing, emotional, fulfilling, happy day. Tulsa is where the rest of my family grew up and where we would visit when I was little. I remember only certain things but mostly the houses and surrounding neighborhoods where my grandparents lived is what I remember most. My father was my mother’s paper boy and their parents’ houses were not that far from each other, a much quieter town in the 1930s and 40s I’m sure.

My Father's house as a young boy in Tulsa.

My mother’s father, my Grandfather Milo Fishback, is the figure I remember most for a variety of reasons.  After his death and during my years of drinking, I usually felt his presence near my bed but realized when I got sober and no longer felt him for some time that his purpose for sticking around on the unseen side was to keep me safe. And, he did many times.

Not only was he my protector during my alcoholism until 1989, he returned after a long absence when Many Paths Bookstore opened “seen” in the corner of my office.  Also during the time of the bookstore, my Grandmother Mary Fishback appeared during an angel reading with Tina Daly to pass on a message for my mother (her daughter) – “Not to worry so much.  Everything will turn out fine.”  It seemed the same message came through again today while visiting their gravesite.

My Grandfather built their church home with the other members - University United Methodist Church.

What I absorbed into my being about him when I was a boy was his gentleness and how he scooped me onto his lap to hold me while I cried after seeing my Grandmother (his wife) for the first time in her casket after she died. He just nurtured and rocked me and loved me. His love has been one of my teachers these many years.

I knew that he had built the University United Methodist Church in Tulsa but had not paid attention at such a young age. When I went there today, I was immediately overwhelmed by the stone work, one at a time piled up. There was a plaque on the side of the building dedicated to the members who spent 9 years building the church in their free time “to the Glory of God.”  Tears immediately came.  When will we remember that all we do is to the Glory of God?

The tears started here.

Already awe-struck by the outside, I didn’t hold back the flood of tears when the custodian opened the sanctuary for me. It was stunning, cocoon-like, meaningful, warm, heavenly and so much more that I don’t have the words.   The color and peace and love of this place welcomed me into it as the sanctuary it was intended to be.  The love of so many instruments for God, including through my grandfather’s hands, was imbedded into the stones, the wood, the glass, the altar, the very essence of all.  Their love was the essence of God here; my grandfather’s love for God obvious.

After allowing my cheeks to dry, I simply sat and soaked in as much of the church that my soul could stand.  I eventually went into meditation, a sublime and joyous experience.  It felt as if I was radiating the love of my Grandfather, of all those who built that church in sacred purpose, of God…certainly of God.  Really, my own flesh dissolved and I became one with the love held by that church, its builders, my Grandfather.  As the feelings of Oneness deepened and grew hotter, I began to understand myself better as the builder and why my Grandfather Fishback was destined to become such an influential example in my life. 

My Grandfather Milo far right...cutting stone in his spare time.

I was led by a delightful woman, a great granddaughter of one of the builders, into the church’s archives room where they have dozens of pictures from start to finish, from

The stained glass in UUMC is perfectly stunning. The tears flowed generously as soon as I walked in.

 actually quarrying and cutting the stone to lifting each one into place. The first photo I looked at had “Milo” in the list identifying those in the photo, and there was my Grandaddy working hard with the stones.  He was thin but strong with ripped abs, his wavy dark hair mostly covered by a kind of bell captain’s hat and he was wearing his usual round glasses.  He was in many other pictures and continued to be in the

Amazing Milo.

registry with my Grandmother all the way until they died.  He was still listed as an Administrative Board Member in the 50th anniversary celebration program.  I’m inspired by his accomplishment and, most likely, his humble and quiet commitment to build their church home for 9 years.  He must’ve loved God very much.

I’m leaving Tulsa both full and hopeful, inspired and proud.  I couldn’t have imagined that such a legacy exists in our family.  I know that all of us, including my Grandparents Jacobs, were brought together in divine purpose for the highest good of our souls.  Today, the love that my Grandaddy Fishback selflessly expressed throughout his life is my light, and I shall be forever grateful for him and for our family – then and now.

Tomorrow, I head into Fort Worth, Texas, my hometown for the first 9 years of my life.  I often laugh because they were the happiest years of my life until I got sober at 27.  What a day!  What a journey!

Stone, mortar and glass...amazing gifts.

More UUMC Church..they heaved the 1800 lb. stones up by rope for the tower.

Grandparents Fishback - Thank You and I love You

Grandparents Jacobs - Thank You and I love You

The duck pond where I used to play in Tulsa.


Entry Filed under: Church, Consciousness, Happiness, Love, Methodist, Sanctuary, Spirituality, Travel, Tulsa

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sue&hellip  | 

    Mark – this church is amazing! It is not just your family history that you feel in this place. I am awe-struck just seeing the photos of this warm, inviting, natural and incredible sacred space. It feels good just to look at it. Funny how it is not brightly colorful (except the stained glass) but yet it feels warm and alive. Yes, clearly this work runs in the family!

  • 2. Gena&hellip  | 

    Dear Mark –
    How amazing that your grandfather literally built a church – and that that inspiration has struck in you as well. What a beautiful experience for you. Blessings

  • 3. David&hellip  | 

    How long ago were at University Methodist? Yes it is a beautiful church. I’ve attended all my life. I didn’t know your grandfather, but I knew he was one of the founders. I did know Joe and Ariel Fishback–I think Joe would be your uncle. The church will be celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2013. We’d love to have you come back and visit.

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