Romans 12:5 “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”
The news came on Facebook: Muriel Cook had passed.
Funny how we receive news nowadays. An electronic message blurted out that one of my life mentors had passed. A week ago, Muriel Cook, an 88 year-old the missionary, author, speaker, Bible study leader, mentor, and counselor met The One who would say to her, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Was she really 88-years old? She seemed so contemporary, so in style, so relevant. But those who pay attention realize truth is always relevant. It never goes out of style.
She often said, “This is not life. This is the race.”
What a perspective. The daughter of missionary parents to China, Muriel spent her life for others. She had a heart for women. Working with husband Norm on a remote mission compound in Taiwan, in the San Francisco suburb of Cupertino, California, or the misty city of Portland, Oregon, she had a focus unlike most. Always on her mind was the thought, “How can I serve You Lord?” And always, her humility put me to shame.
From that mindset God birthed in her an amazing ministry to women. Whether speaking at conferences, or counseling women one-on-one, her gentle spirit would uncover biblical truths as she applied them practically to help others overcome life’s troubles. For years she met with college women in Portland and found her counseling was so in need that many days she would come home exhausted and drained. She told me once that she would hear so much trouble and sadness (yes, Christians have can have severe troubles) that she’d come home and lay down on her living room rug to emotionally drain out all the burdens she’d heard that day. “I released all that I’d heard to Him. It’s the only way I can do this ministry,” she told me.
And her ministry didn’t stop with college students. Up to the end, her ear was smashed to a phone as she would patiently listen to women of all ages, on the other end of the line unpack their problems. With four children and moving a lot I was one of those who dialed her number. I hung up, always full of hope.
Her inability to clone herself as a counselor led her to create a workshop teaching other women how to become lay counselors. As her influence grew, she collaborated with her daughter, Shelly Cook Volkhardt, an author in her own right, to write Kitchen Table Counseling. The book teaches lay people how to take people to Jesus without taking on their burdens. As an outgrowth of her teaching women how to counsel others, the book has been translated into several languages.
But more than giving sound scriptural advice, she embodied the scripture that says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” I was fortunate to have her cheerleading me when at age fifty I thought I might want to become a writer. In those days I didn’t trust many to read my first pen scratches but I trusted Muriel and sent her a couple of essays. Unacquainted with any other authors but her, I wanted to see if becoming an author was a mere pipe dream. Her thumbs up response helped me gird up my loins and venture out. And knowing Muriel, I’m sure I was one of many as she reinforced my vision and encouraged to try my wings, while serving God.
I am sad that I couldn’t have had one more visit with Norm and Muriel in their cozy house in Portland, surrounded by their Asian treasures. We don’t always have enough time or money to do all we want in life. But my hope is that I will live next-door to her in heaven where she will brew Oolong tea in a Chinese teapot and we’ll marvel at God’s goodness.
Norm, her husband, used to quote that old cigar commercial, “You can’t put down a Muriel. He’d say it with a twinkle in his eyes, knowing how much she was loved and what a gift she was to the Body of Christ.