My seven-year old grand nephew stepped into the house.
“He is risen,” I said to his parents. With a brilliant smile, young Cole responded. “He is risen indeed!”
Oh, how I delighted in hearing this child echo those precious words. The Cross is empty, and Jesus is alive! In conquering death, He gave us hope, for now and eternity.
Bill and Gloria Gaither penned these familiar words.
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know who holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”
I’m reading a wonderful novel in which a 29-year old mother of three, engaged to a kind, loving man after having been in an abusive marriage, dies without warning. Here’s how the author, ___, describes her death.
“She turned away, and in the space of a breath, her spirit defied the bounds of the room’s four walls, the roof of the house, then the limits of earth and the boundaries of the heavens themselves.
“She became aware of a holy presence, surrounding her, embracing her. And a beloved voice that spoke a name she did not know, yet somehow recognized as her own.
“She moved closer, into the arms of the One who beckoned. And in that moment she knew.
“She was home.”
A NEST OF SPARROWS, Deborah Raney
Raney reminds us that death is not just a leaving, an end, but a going toward.
I cherish my life, filled with love, family, friends, the beauty of nature, our home and dog, memories, laughter, worship, joy, challenges, opportunities to learn and grow and give. And yet, “I can only imagine” what that sense of wholeness, of being “home” will be like when I pass from this earth to eternity and see Jesus face to face. And I won’t want to leave the ultimate joy and pleasure of being in God’s presence.
So we’ve sold our former home, and emptied it of the hundreds of tools my dear husband had organized in one of the garage bays. We’ve cleared out my mother’s apartment and she’s settling into the Assisted Living Center well, albeit adjusting to the changes, in her new digs.
We’ve donated hutches, armoires, clothing, and more, that we hope will help someone else along their journey.
We’ve worked together with family to accomplish all this, working around schedules and other priorities to get the jobs done.
We’ve prayed for strength and grace, rested when we could, and have received grace each day to go at it again. I was reminded this week of when my late husband was in the hospital. I was exhausted at the end of every long and intense day. Yet the next morning I would be ready to do it again, with joy.
God’s mercies truly are new every morning; He is faithful! (Zephaniah 3:17)
I couldn’t have done all this without a lot of help, especially from my wonderful Don, who had his own priorities to deal with in emptying out the old garage. He’s loaded, lifted, loved Mom, worked with his son and my brother and his son-in-law, and has been more gracious than I through it all. My sister-in-law and I spent several afternoons packing together; and our nephew and grandnephew both worked with us. When I’ve been discouraged, feeling like there was no end in sight, Don has listened and encouraged me that this season would end.
And we’ve experienced small graces along the way, which have again shown God’s faithful character and attention to our needs. I think of the friend of my mother’s who said she would take everything we wanted to give her … and did, including about 12 full boxes of cooking utensils and other items can no longer use or store, planters, tables, and potting soil. Don and I were amazed at how much Patty and her friend got into their pickup, and relieved to have these items picked up, many of which were going to Patty’s church to help others.
And Mom’s sweet neighbor Connie who, despite her own need for a cane, got down and cleared out some of Mom’s kitchen cupboards, making a pile for Goodwill in the process.
Or Mom’s Bernina sewing machine, which I posted online Thursday evening and sold Friday morning, our last day at Mom’s apartment before turning in the key. How perfect that in God’s timing someone saw it and wanted it right away!
As the week progressed Don and I began to see an end to the pressure, the time crunch, which allowed us to begin to relax. Sometimes rest doesn’t come when we feel the need is greatest; but when it does come it is so very sweet and renewing.
“For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” (Psalm 127:2, NASB)
As I’ve pondered my own stress due to multiple demands on my mental, physical and emotional energies, I’ve thought of the persecuted Church around the world. When missionary Tom Randall was falsely imprisoned in the Philippines, sick and weak in body, he led Bible studies and a number of men committed their lives to Jesus Christ within the walls of that prison. And when his jailers came to tell him he was being released, Tom asked if they would allow him to stay in prison one more night and day so he could teach the men one more time before leaving. That’s God’s grace in spades!
Many are dealing with the ongoing daily stress of threat, imprisonment, torture, loss. Their needs go so far beyond mine. I pray that in their circumstances they too will experience little graces that express God’s faithfulness to them, His promise never to leave nor forsake them. His promise that there is hope beyond this life that is sweeter than anything we could hope for here. His presence that sustains and comforts and yes, gives strength that is supernatural despite horrific circumstances.
Won’t you join me in praying for these persecuted saints?
God bless and guide you today in all your thoughts, actions, and decisions. May His name be glorified!
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NIV
What did thirteen- or fourteen-year old Mary think when the angel Gabriel appeared to tell her that she, a virgin, would conceive a child by the Holy Spirit, and that child would save his people from their sins?
Luke 1 says Mary was troubled when the angel first appeared to her. And yet, she responds in trust. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
I’ve always thought of the young Mary as submissive, humble, obedient–a sweet, lovely girl. And I expect she was all that. But what if the emotions around the angel’s message weren’t quite that straightforward for her?
What if she said yes, but still had questions?
How will I tell Joseph?
Will he break up with me?
Will he love this child?
What about all the gossips in this town? Will I be able to hold my head up when I walk down the main street?
When I felt God call me to minister in the Los Angeles ghetto, I said yes. But how was I going to respond when my mother cried, fearing I would be raped, beaten, or killed?
How is my friend responding when her daughter is preparing to go to a potentially dangerous missionfield, single? I can appreciate the mother’s concerns for her daughter’s emotional and physical wellbeing, her security, her happiness.
Or another friend who has just received a diagnosis of terminal illness and has decided not to go through treatment and its side effects, but to trust God for her remaining days.
So an initial ‘yes’ doesn’t necessarily end the story, does it. But God leads us, one ‘yes’ at a time.
Mary responded with that initial “yes,” and there were many yeses to follow.
Yes to her twelve-year old son who stayed behind, conversing with the Temple elders when his mother and Joseph left Jerusalem to return home after Passover.
Yes to watching her son ridiculed, attacked, called a fraud.
Yes to watching this son she bore mocked, beaten, nailed to a cross to die, in agony of spirit and body.
And yes to His resurrection, to seeing her son alive and changed, knowing He was Son of God, Redeemer, Messiah, Holy One.
So I expect most of us have said “yes” along the way. But what’s the next “yes” in your journey of obedience? In mine?
I listened to this yesterday and was deeply moved at the allegorical view of the Prince of Peace, my Lord Jesus Christ, who took the rags of my life and made me (is still making me) whole. I hope it touches you with a fresh vision of what He has done for you, as it did me.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)
I attended another memorial service Saturday. They’re coming closer together these days. Don N was the beloved husband (of 50 years) of a college friend with whom I’ve reconnected in the past few years.
This service was outstanding. I’ve known and admired Marilyn for fifty years. She and Don raised a beautiful family; and she has cared unceasingly for him during these past very difficult eighteen months of his battle with cancer. But I didn’t know Don much other than seeing him around campus years ago. He was always pleasant and gracious. And, from the stories we heard at his memorial, just a bit crazy and a lot of fun!
But I learned so much about Don Saturday. This gifted dentist took up art after his retirement, developing an amazing skill reflected in paintings of the nature he loved as well as a pencil self-sketch that showed incredible detail and perspective.
Don also had a beautiful singing voice, and sang with several groups, last with the Bethany Four, a men’s quartet from his church. He wanted one of the songs they pre-recorded to be a part of his service. Don soloed on “I Chose to Believe.” This was the story of his life; choosing to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, despite whatever life brought his way.
And now he is with that Lord, with the Author of Life! I took one of the complimentary CDs the family offered and listened to it at least three times en route home. I was touched each time to hear Don sing “I Chose to Believe”, knowing his faith is now reality!
This man also mentored other men in their walk with Jesus. One said Don brought him closer to Jesus and then said, tongue-in-cheek, ” …You set the bar high for me, Don … and I don’t appreciate it.”
Pastor Brian Wiebe talked about some of the hopes Don had:
Hope that the medicine and treatments would restore his health for long-term survival;
Hope that he would see his granddaughters walk the aisle on their wedding days;
Hope that he could once again enjoy a good meal; and
Hope that he could again enjoy the beauty of the mountains he loved.
Don’s cancer and suffering caused him to question whether God’s promises were true, whether He was trustworthy and could be relied upon. And Don concluded that yes, God could be trusted. While many of Don’s hopes were not realized in this life, Wiebe stated, “Don is now enjoying the greatest of all hopes, the hope of eternal life.”
I pray that when God takes me home, I too will be able to say that “I chose to believe.” That has been and is my choice–through trials, through the loss of a father and a husband and others I love. We can choose to believe in anything, whether or not that source is reliable. If the source is not reputable, our faith is worthless. But because God is faithful, I can and do choose to believe. May trust in Him be the consistent and repeated theme of my life.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21 NIV)