Tag Archives: eternity

We Said “Good-bye For Now”

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My aunt’s health had been steadily failing over the last several years, but she made it four days past her 84th birthday before graduating to heaven.  She was my mother’s older sister by ten years.  Her husband passed away thirty years ago.  They had seven children and loads of grand, great and great-great grandchildren.  Her life was full and despite facing many tremendous obstacles, she persevered.  Due to an eye disease, she began going blind over forty years ago.  She lived independently in her own home up to the very end.

If her life was consolidated into the title of a book, I’d have to entitle it Tenacity, for she never gave up!  Her faith in God was the source of the great hope she clung to.  Psalm 23 was her favorite passage of the Bible.  It’s mine too.

As the family gathered at the funeral home for the private viewing, a slideshow of old pictures was running.  There were many special ones, particularly those that included my mother many years ago.  You see, my mother has been gone for 21 years now and I miss her bright smile and enveloping hugs.  It seems like a lifetime ago since I heard her joyful laughter.  Oh, what a reunion we will have one day …

As my aunt lie in the teal coffin with gold seashell adornment, I was struck by the fact that she looked nothing like herself.  But we know that the flesh we wear on this earth is temporary anyway.  For now, she has entered into her rest.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?  The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”  ~ I Corinthians 15

The small Methodist church was packed with friends and family to say good-bye one last time this side of glory.  She would’ve been so glad to see such a nice gathering and so many beautiful floral arrangements.  Some had a ribbon across with the word – “Mother” or “Grandmother”, one was a floral arrangement of an open Bible with “Psalm 23” on a ribbon.  Clearly, she meant a great deal to many.

The minister shared a number of Scriptures and words of comfort, a great solace to all of us, in a quiet cadence.  We sang two hymns.  One, I must admit, I’d never heard of before – “Lord, Build Me a Cabin in Glory” and “I’ll Fly Away”.  I held it together through most of the funeral service, but when the organist played “Amazing Grace” at the end as we were leaving, I thought I would come undone.

My sister and I rode with one of our cousins to the cemetery for the interment.  The minister’s remarks and prayer again were very peaceful and I so appreciated the Scriptures he read.  There’s nothing like the calm of the Word of God.  Friends extended their condolences to the immediate family and, slowly, most of the crowd dissipated.  My sister and I walked around to see if we spotted the floral arrangement our family sent when I really thought I’d lose it then!  The trappings and overlay of the casket, etc. were spread over top of part of my mother’s grave, but the part that struck me was the large stake that was holding up the green funeral canopy.  The large stake was directly over top of my mother’s grave and it just seemed disrespectful and a very upsetting visual.  Their graves are side by side in a family plot.  There was not much that could’ve been done to ease the situation, perhaps.  I’m sure not a lot of thought went into the placement of the stake, but it was incredibly difficult for me to see.

Another cousin handed my sister and I a red rose from the casket spray as a keepsake, which was very nice.  The casket spray was huge with red and white roses and greenery, just lovely.  My aunt lived on an island most of her life, thus the seashell embellishment on the teal casket.  Very fitting and beautiful.

Throughout the day, my sister and I had the opportunity to speak with a number of cousins and catch up a little with them.  Some we hadn’t seen for many years.  I always appreciate when some of our older cousins share old stories of our mother.  It’s nice that they not only have such fond memories of her, but care enough to share them with us as well.  Since my mother was the baby of her family, her nieces and nephews were somewhat close in age to her.

There’s nothing like family.  Cherish those around you, for life travels at the speed of light the older one gets, it seems.  We can mistakenly think things will always remain the same, and then we blink, and realize how much has changed.

Reach out to distant family members.  Hug those kids.  Tell everyone you love them.  That God loves them.  That’s the stuff life is made up of.

There’s enough negativity and junk this world offers up.  We can focus on that or we can set our sights on the things that truly matter.  Like the bumper sticker says, “The most important things in life aren’t things at all.”  True enough.  It’s all about people, people who God has placed in our lives as family or friends.  We tend to take so much for granted when nothing is guaranteed.

Hug a little tighter.  Laugh louder.  Dance in the street.  Call an old friend.

Life is all about the little things.  For, in the end, they’re really the BIG things.

 

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My Neighbor, Joe

Joe is an interesting kind of fella.  He’s in his early 70’s and is a retired federal government employee.  Very smart, but kind of quirky too.  Sadly, Joe’s wife passed away last July and since then, we’ve taken him under our wings of care.  Before her passing, we’d only spoken briefly in our coming and going.  A few days after she passed, he came over to give us a copy of his house keys should anything happen and he began to cry.  There’s nothing quite like watching an almost 7′ man overcome with grief, weep so openly.  We almost cried with him.  It was the beginning of a friendship that grief forged.

They had no children in their nearly fifty years of marriage and only a handful of extended family members.  It’s the saddest thing in the world, I think.  His house is his possession of pride and joy.  They led a very secluded life, not allowing anyone into their bubble.  Now that she’s gone, I can only imagine how lost he must feel.  She was very domineering.  I’m not sure he had a thought to call his own.

We’ve been praying that he will accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.  If you asked him what religion he is, he’d answer Jewish; but he does not practice that faith necessarily.  It’s just the faith he was raised with.  We have all shared Jesus and the plan of salvation with him.

… This leads me up to the other day –

My 16 year old daughter was on the way back home from visiting another neighbor across the street when Joe happened to be outside checking his mail.  He walked over to our driveway where she was and they exchanged greetings.  Then he asked her what book she was holding in her arms.  Well, our other neighbor (such a nice Christian family!) let her borrow a thick Bible Commentary.  (We have about 3 or 4 so I’m not sure why, but it was a nice gesture.)  Joe was curious about this big book and he’s lonely, so he struck up a conversation about it.

I happened to be looking out the living room window and saw the two of them talking for quite a while.  My first thought was, ‘Oh, I hope she doesn’t lay it on too strong witnessing.’  (Because I knew my little evangelist would be sharing Jesus!  We all have such a burden for him.)

My second thought was almost correcting my first thought, ‘Jesus loves him so!’.  Jesus loves Joe so much that He’s extending yet another opportunity to come to know Him in a personal way and spend eternity (whenever that should begin for him) with Him!  Oh, he loves Joe so.

Let me first say how proud I am of my little evangelist.  She really was led by the Holy Spirit because she said how she knew Joe was most familiar with the Old Testament since he is Jewish and that’s what she primarily shared with him.  I thought that was a very smart strategy.  We both prayed that the seed she sowed will take root and bring forth a spiritual harvest.  She just finished up a course on “Bible Doctrines” that was especially helpful in what she shared with him.  Yay, homeschooling!  🙂

Last night, Joe called to check in.  We’ve established a weekly “check in” phone call if we don’t speak in person.  It’s to let us know he’s okay and he appreciates our concern.  Joe was telling my husband how intelligent our daughter is and how much he appreciated speaking with her.  He viewed it as an intellectual discussion, I’m sure, but my prayer is that God will reveal His love to Joe in a real way.  And that Joe will call on Jesus as His Savior.

From every indication, Joe has not experienced much love in his life, outside of his marriage.  He has been touched beyond words by any measure of care or concern that many might overlook.  It is the saddest thing to me to live a life devoid of love.  Perhaps I’ve been more blessed than I ever knew.  For, despite the many trials and tribulations I’ve endured, I’ve also lived a life full of love over my 40+ years.

Would you join me in praying for Joe today?  And all the Joe’s of the world?  Jesus loves them so.

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In Everything Give Thanks

Do you feel as though some pieces of the puzzle of life are out of place?  Like you need more?  Have the storms of life been battering at your vessel?

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” ~ I Thessalonians 5:18

Sounds simpler than applying it actually is.  Even through the storms of life, we can choose to focus on God and thank Him for the many blessings in our lives despite circumstances being less than perfect.  It’s a matter of perspective.

Do we keep our eyes on the things beyond our reach or do we focus on the infinite ways God has already blessed us?  On the possibilities of faith?

I am convinced not every blessing is tangible.  It cannot be held in your hand or touched or felt, but it’s there.  For instance, I know God has protected me countless times from car accidents in our busy area.  Many close calls, but, thankfully, we have been shielded.  Just yesterday, I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic and the black sedan behind me didn’t allow sufficient time to brake.  I looked in my rear view mirror in time to see he had slammed on his brakes so much that his brakes were smoking!  I was just thankful that he didn’t hit me because he was coming at a fairly fast speed!  God’s hand was surely with me and I thank Him for His protection every day!!

God blesses our family all the time.  He gives my husband the wisdom, knowledge and expertise to perform his job to the best of his ability.  Proverbs 13:4 says, “Those who work hard will prosper.”  God is so faithful to us.

Beyond the countless blessings God has bestowed on us, we are instructed to praise Him just for Who He is.

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before Him, singing with joy.  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us and we are His.  We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving, go into His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever and His faithfulness continues to each generation.”  ~  Psalm 100 NLT

We can never thank God enough for what He has done, but we can certainly try!  Our time on this earth is merely warm up for heaven.  For it is there we will worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in all of His majesty!

“And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, ” You are worthy, O Lord our God to receive glory and honor and power.  For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”  ~  Revelation 4:11

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse standing there.  Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.  His eyes were like flames of fire and on His head were many crowns.  A name was written on Him that no one understood except Himself.  He wore a robe dipped in blood, and His title was the Word of God.”  ~ Revelation 19:11-13

The Creator of the Universe, the Almighty God and Everlasting Father is so infinitely worthy of our praise!  He is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)  He is so deserving of our adoration.

If praising God is a challenge for you or you don’t know where to begin, may I suggest reading through the Psalms and making them your offering of praise?  Before long, you’ll personalize your offerings of thanksgiving and worship.  God is not like man, He is not interested in flowery words.  He looks at the heart, the intents and purposes of man.  Won’t you spend a few moments worshipping Him today?

“I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.”  ~ Psalm 34:1-3

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What Are You Living For?

The Christian band, Building 429, has a song called, Where I Belong, that just speaks to me.  There’s a line that says, “I’m not home yet.”  That reminder offers me great hope.

 “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” ~ I Peter 2:11

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” ~ John 14:1-3

We can easily lose sight of the truth that this world and all its trappings will one day pass away.  It is all temporary.  The things we strive for in this life…gone.  The Mercedes, the big houses, the executive positions, fame…gone.  There’s nothing wrong with any of those things.  It’s just – they won’t last.  Only what we do for Christ will last. (Matthew 24:35)

There’s an old song (by Helen H. Lemmel – 1922) that goes like this:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face

and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace

I’m living for the day that I see my Jesus face to face, when I see the One who took my place!  No, this world is not my home nor my final destination.  I’m heaven bound, for it is there I will dwell in a place with pure joy, peace and love.  It is there I will see my mother’s sweet face and enveloping embrace once more.  It is there I will see all those who have gone on before.

That’s the day I’m living for!  And all the days in between now and then, I am living for the King of Kings, striving to bring as many to heaven with me as I can.  May He use all of us for His purposes to further His kingdom!  What are you living for?

 

 

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Blessings & Curses … Choose Life

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The Old Testament is replete with stories of the children of Israel worshipping idols, living in direct opposition to God’s plan and then returning to God once again.  It is a vicious cycle.  Reading the accounts of many hundreds of years can leave one a little befuddled as to why they never seemed to learn their lesson.  Even as Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments inscribed by God, the people were building an idol.  (Exodus 31) What were they thinking?  And what in the world was Aaron, Moses’ right hand man, thinking?

Every word of the Bible is there for a reason and stands as a lesson for the ages.  The sinful plight of man remains today.  It is easy for us to observe and critique how the Israelites, God’s chosen people, failed Him and messed up at every turn.  But the truth is, is that you and I are not that different from the Israelites in that we have the propensity to sin as well.  The option is there.  And many times we take it.  There’s an old saying that goes like this:

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go; keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”

Isn’t that the truth, my friend?  Some choices we have made have cost a great price, much more than we ever dreamed.  They were seemingly harmless decisions at the time, but little did we realize their consequences.

“The pleasures of sin are but for a season, and in the end destruction comes.”

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.”  ~ Romans 6:23

The only thing that can separate you or I from God is sin.  God cannot look on sin.  It is the chasm that disconnects us from the perfect will of God.  We see in John 3:16-18 what His will is:

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”  (The Message Bible)

God’s will is that all (that’s you and me) would turn to Him and accept His love and plan for our lives.  God’s love is unending, never failing and unconditional.  There is nothing you or I can do to earn His love.  It is a gift.  It is the very essence of Who He is.

There is nothing you or I can do to make God love us any more or any less.  That’s a freeing thought, isn’t it?  There are no hopeless cases with God.  If you think you’ve messed up too badly to accept the gift of His love, think again.  You are not beyond the scope of the grace He offers.  He’s reaching out to you today, friend.

Will you receive God’s love today?  If you’ve already made Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life, will you choose life and blessing in every area of your life today?

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19

Read Deuteronomy 28 to see all the benefits of obeying God and choosing life:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deuteronomy+28&version=NLT

Blessings and curses … Choose Life.  Choose wisely, my friend, because eternity is hanging in the balance.  Life on this earth is so temporary.  The Bible describes our lives as a mere vapor – here today, gone tomorrow.  Or as a flower in the field which fades quickly.  It’s true.  We think we’re somehow these invincible creatures, but the truth is, our time in this fleshly condition is indeed fading.  We fight it with endless anti-aging treatments, exercise, nutrition (all of which can be good); but the fact remains, this mortal body will die at the appointed time.  It is our souls that will live forever.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” ~ Romans 10:9-10  NLT

It is the single most important decision you will ever make in your entire life.  Choose wisely.  Choose life.  Choose the God who took your place so that you may live eternally with Him.  He loves you so, my friend.

Prayer:  “Dear God, please forgive me of all my sins.  I’m turning my back on them today.  Make me new.  I receive Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior this day.  Help me to live for you, I pray.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

It’s that simple.  Get in the Word of God.  Read and study it.  The Gospel of John is an excellent place to begin:

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+1&version=NLT

It’s also important to get in a Bible believing church that preaches the salvation message loud and clear, and one that can disciple and help you to grow in your walk with the Lord.  Many blessings, my friend!  And, if you’ve just prayed that prayer, welcome to the family of God!

And, if you’ve prayed that prayer before and you’re walking with the Lord, I challenge you to choose life every day so that you will reap all the blessings God has for you! (Deut. 28)

Lastly, if you’re not sure about anything you’ve read here and this is all completely new to you, I challenge you to give God a try.  Talk to him like you would a friend sitting next to you.  Ask Him to make Himself real to you.  I know He will.  He loves you so.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  Yes, Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.” ~ Anna Bartlett Warner, 1860

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Three Things My Mother’s Death Taught Me

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On an October Monday morning twenty years ago, my mother slipped into heaven’s gates after fighting a valiant battle with breast cancer.  She was the strongest woman I’ve ever known and in our twenty-three years together, she taught me countless lessons that would last a lifetime.

There was little warning of her imminent death.  She was diagnosed with cancer in February, endured chemotherapy and radiation, and died in October.  It was all so sudden, but these lessons remain:

  1. Life is short.

We tend to think that our fleshly existence will last forever, especially when we’re young.  As we age a bit, the reality becomes far more clear.  The years fly faster and faster.  But, I was struck with this realization early on in my life when the rock of our family passed on.  I learned not to take any aspect of reality for granted because this life is temporary.  Eternity is far longer.

2.   Embrace every day.

I’ve learned to enjoy the simple things in life, for they are really the important things.  Love your family, hug them, tell them of your love and devotion.  We do not know the length of our days.  Live them to the full!  Dare to reach for your life’s goals.  There’s nothing worse than not trying.  Risk it.  Life is worth it!

3.  Legacy.

Outside of any accomplishment my life may produce, my greatest legacy is my three children.  It is through them, future generations will be born, and, so, it is in them, my greatest investment remains.  I will speak words of affirmation.  I will hug and let there be no doubt,ever, they each have captured my heart from the very beginning.  I will be interested in their lives and vocations.  Most of all, I will pray for them daily.  I will pray that they love Jesus with their whole hearts and walk with Him every day.  I will pray that God blesses them (and their future spouses) and guides them always.

    I would never have chosen to walk the path of living many more years without my mother than with her.  She was the most loving and giving example of Christ’s love.  Rather than focus on questions that yield no answers this side of heaven, I choose to dwell on her godly character, lessons I’ve drawn from her example and the hope that I have in my heart of spending eternity with her in heaven. That is the great hope of every believer, that we will spend forever with Jesus and other believers.  Yes, the ache of loss still burns in my heart.  How I miss my mother’s embrace, her bright smile and her laughter!  She loved to laugh.  She had the true joy of the Lord in her heart and wasn’t afraid to share it with those around her.   

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“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

~ I John 1:9

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”                                                                                              ~ John 3:16-17  MSG

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