As the Monday Morning Prayer girls gathered on April 4, 2011, we did not know that the craftsman who built the cathedral within my home had passed into glory. Jay Sutherland was no common contractor, but a skilled craftsman with an eye for detail and a spirit of prophecy. You’ve probably heard the story of the traveler who came upon a construction site during the Middle Ages.
He passed three workers and asked what they were doing. The first snarled, “Can’t you see? I’m laying bricks. It’s not pleasant work, but it pays the bills.” The second drew the traveler’s attention to the fine smooth stone and the straight wall he had laid, puffing up at his own fine craftsmanship. The third, looking heavenward, whispered, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God.” Forward the story a half dozen or more centuries and that third craftsman is Jay Sutherland.
Three years ago, we hired Jay to remodel our kitchen and living area. We had lived in our “new” home for over twenty years, raising kids, cats and one very active golden retriever with attitude. The polish was gone; it was time to dig in and revive our space. We asked Jay about the possibility of removing a wall that divided the two areas and raising the floor of the living area to match that of the kitchen. The configuration had always made it difficult to entertain. People would either stand shoulder to shoulder in the kitchen or cramped like lemmings in the living room. We needed to throw open the space. Jay said it could be done. On leap year day, 2008, Clark, Annemarie and I ripped up the carpeting in the living room. The next day the wall of division came down; we were on our way.
Day after day, Jay’s diesel truck roared up our hill and into the driveway so he and his sidekick, Robbie, could work their magic on home. As the great room with the bright new kitchen emerged all on one level, we were thrilled. Jay’s workmanship was brilliant just as his sense of humor was disarming. He dealt with crooked walls, wavy floors, and removed a pantry that hid plumbing, electrical, central vacuum, and the intercom system. He found places to hide everything in the new open plan. He guided us in the selection of granite and Travertine. His tile work showed like a blue-ribbon quilt at the fair. He perfectly cut and installed crown molding to finish the cherry cabinets. He raised his eyebrows, but went along with my selection of vivid yellow-green walls, ceilings and skylight wells. When I asked him if he thought my paint color was over the top, he responded, “I wouldn’t tell any other customer that, but, yes, Marlee, it’s over the top!” The skylight wells could have served as “camo” for Kermit the frog. Robbie toned down the ceiling and threw a coat of white on the sky light wells. The results are stunning!
And then one day, Jay stood right in the middle of the newly opened space next to the immense granite-topped island and made a statement I will never forget. “This is your home church, Marlee.” I agreed it could be, but little did I know it would be.
Before the job was completed, I felt compelled to draw a group of women together on Monday mornings to pursue the heart of the Father in prayer. Jay’s wife Debby came. For nearly three years now, the initial five and now many more have met to share in a community of faith that is holistic in design. Purposeful in intention, it is about lifting women from an out of balance subservient role, drawing them from caves of “camo” into the destiny for which God designed each to rule and reign.
So this past Monday, the original group plus three newer members came together. I did not expect Debby that day because she had another commitment in the morning. About 1 PM I called Debby to set up an appointment with her and another member. That’s when she told me, “Jay passed away this morning.”
As I study my magnificent kitchen and living area all on one level so open and inviting, I once again hear Jay confidently saying, “This is your home church, Marlee.”
Beneath our lofty ceiling, Jay built a cathedral for the glory of God. He created a place for women to find healing, hope, and community. We’ve seen miracles over the nearly three years since we started meeting. We’ve had each other’s backs. We’ve cried with one another and laughed with one another. The ripple effect from this group has literally gone around the world!
Jay, you never considered yourself a prophet, but you were! You were both a prophet and the kindest husband for Debby, the love of your life. Jay, know that the cathedral you built will continue to serve as a place of refuge to love and support your precious Debby and many more who come through our front door with a heart that is broken. You built yourself a legacy right inside our house. You planted a seed of an idea and that sapling is flourishing. The crown of that tree is spreading its branches around the globe as its roots go deeply into the soil of women’s hearts. Meanwhile, your crown is getting bigger, brighter, and bolder! There’s something more brilliant than your shiny dome radiating from the top of your head! And it’s getting to be quite blinding!