Category Archive: Heaven

Funerals, Families and Friends

We left San Jose early Wednesday morning. Following a layover in Phoenix, we were supposed to stop in Denver without a plane change and go on to Wichita. Plans changed, and both we and the flight crew changed planes in Denver. Don and I walked from Gate 63 to Gate 25 … a decent hike. But we beat the flight crew.

Arriving in Wichita, we picked up our rental car and drove to my brother Arnold’s home, where we had a bittersweet reunion – sweet because we were together; bitter because we were here for Arn’s wife, Carol’s, memorial service.

I wrote about Carol two weeks ago. When Arn asked what she wanted for her service, she said, “Treat me with respect.” And he did that in spades. The service Saturday was a meaningful celebration of her life. After Arn and Carol traveled to and became involved with friends in Guatemala and then Honduras, Carol traveled there on her own several times to learn the language. She wanted to be able to communicate with the people who had become precious to them, and she and Arnold helped in significant ways over the years, and especially after recent years’ devastating hurricanes. After Carol’s death, dear Honduran friends sent a recording of the family singing “The Lord is my Shepherd” in Spanish. That was one of several very beautiful and meaningful songs of faith and trust at my sister-in-law’s memorial.

Arn and Carol’s daughter, Nicholee, brought some fabric home from Honduras years ago, from which Carol sewed herself a dress. After her mother’s death, Nicholee found the dress in Carol’s closet. It didn’t fit her in either size or style, so Nicholee pulled the whole dress apart, remade it and wore it at the service in honor of her mother.

Jerram and Arn at family dinner following Carol’s service

Their son, Jerram, engaged the audience and spoke of Carol’s impact on his life and on many others. He spoke of her life of service, her pragmatism, and her curiosity and creativity. Both children articulated lessons their mother taught them through her life.

The pastor give a message of hope and resurrection.

We spent time together with family and new and old friends who have served them faithfully–their housecleaner/ friend, who prepared special vegan meals for Nicholee. Tammy, who cut Carol and Arnold’s hair in their home for the past few years. The retired attorney who, with his wife, met Arn and Carol at a concert in Wichita and built a solid friendship over the past twenty or so years. Jenny, Arnold’s former student who was hired into his position at Sterling College after Arnold’s retirement. Gordon and Diane, Judy and her daughter Heidi, and Lila, who have been close friends for many years. Their pastor, Melissa.

Arnold’s siblings Melvyn, Bob, Don and I were present, as were Carol’s sister Judy and her husband Jim, their son James and his Jenny. Arnold’s two children and a spouse; five grandchildren and two boyfriends.

Arnold is greatly loved by his grands

A sense of warmth and love cocooned us throughout the entire weekend as we shared memories, laughter, and loss.

I’m reminded once again of the importance of family, and of presence. We need each other – for prayer, for love, for support and encouragement. I hate to think of my brother being widowed, but he will survive with the love of God, family, and friends who can step in for those of us who live further away.

My hope is in Jesus Christ, who promised that, for those who trust Him, He is preparing a home beyond this life. A home of rest, peace, productivity, worship, joy unspeakable. No more pain. No sorrow. No grief.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4, NIV

So we say goodbye to our dear Carol for now, and look forward to reunion later.

4 am Lights and an Object in the Road


4 am Friday. I got up to use the restroom and crawled back into our cozy bed.

person standing beside car
Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

“Thwack.” I didn’t know where the soft sound came from. Was it inside? Then another soft “thwack,” and another. I realized the sound was coming from outside, so I walked to the window and looked through the blinds. Oh no! An ambulance at the home of our neighbor who has a brain tumor. Doors opening and closing. Going outside, I asked her husband what had happened. Evidently she suffered some sort of seizure.

Thankfully, our friend is home from the hospital today, worn out, but no new news from an MRI.

Later that day I received a text that the husband of one of my best friends had been in a serious bicycle accident and was airlifted to a local trauma center. Medically sedated, he became agitated during the night until doctors inserted a chest tube to help his bruised lung recover. Don’s and my prayers and tears were flowing – for both injured friends, for both families.

flying red and white helicopter
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

How do we respond when such sad news enters our lives? I can’t imagine what it would be like not to be able to talk to my loving Father, Abba (“Daddy”) about these dear friends’ suffering. So often I want to DO something – whether it’s sitting beside a person, listening to them, flying to another state to support them. And each of these can be important and helpful.

But healing is not in my hands. It is in the Father’s, and He tells me to come to Him with all my cares, because He loves me. (Hebrews 11:5) And He has provided medical personnel to operate, assess, diagnose, watch closely over those in their care. And I can pray.

Saturday I called a dear friend and asked her to pray with me for these two and their families. She shared a hurt she and her husband are going through for a close friend of theirs. What a privilege to be able to come to God together, in tears, to beseech His watchcare over those we love.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Matthew 18:20, NIV

I’m amazed at my girlfriend’s strength in the midst of her husband’s bike accident and injuries. “The thing is,” she said, “we know we’re going to be taken care of, one way or another.” Thankfully, it doesn’t appear this is the end for either of our friends, but, because of our trust in what Jesus did on the cross, in taking the penalty of our sin and granting us life with Him, we know that “the end” here on earth is really “the beginning.”

Jesus died the death I deserved so I could live the life of freedom He has for me.

The great scholar and “reluctant convert” to Christianity, C.S. Lewis, found love late in life with Joy Davidman. She was diagnosed with cancer shortly after their marriage. He wrote about the great blow her death was to him in his book, A GRIEF OBSERVED. While he went through a period of turmoil and questioning God, he later was able to say the following.

Sometimes the pain is to awaken us — to the realities of life and death, to awareness of our priorities (as it did for me during the illness and death of my first husband). Sometimes it’s to awaken others as they see the faith with which we respond during suffering, the grace God gives for the long haul.

What’s on your heart this week? Family, friends in need? I’d love to join you in prayer for them.

post by carolnl | | Closed

EDGE OF ETERNITY

As a writer working on her first novel, I’m fascinated by books that capture my mind, interest, and heart. EDGE OF ETERNITY, written by Randy Alcorn, is such a book.

My friend Susan MacKenzie loaned this to me. It took me awhile to get into the book. But the further I read, the more I was hooked. Alcorn writes of Nick, a man successful by the world’s standards but dealing with a family broken by his own choices. In this allegorical story Nick wakes up in another reality. All he had is gone. Now he has new choices.

In the far distance, he sees a glowing, shining light. Someone tells him that’s Charis (the Greek word for grace, the unmerited favor of God). We might call it heaven. It’s a place Nick wants to reach. There are many roads, and he tries several of them, hitting dead-ends or finding betrayal from those he called friends. He avoids the red road until he meets a group who invite him to travel with them on the red road. The old man leading the group is Shadrach. As they travel, Nick begins to see aspects of both Charis (heaven) and Erebus (hell), and to see the kind of man he has been.

Trials beset along the road as the evil one, disguised as a handsome, winsome young man named Joshua, tries to tempt Nick off the red road, promising him riches and power if he will follow Joshua.

At one point Nick thinks “I will never deny the King.” In his pride, he takes over leadership of the group, and plans to seduce one of the women traveling with them. Before that can happen, he is embroiled in a mighty battle between Marcus, his guardian angel, and the Usurper, battling for his soul. Here’s a sample of when Nick fights back against the Usurper, the Pretender.

I heard a terrible scream. Before my eyes fire consumed the Pretender and burnt off the remaining layers, mask after mask, until I saw evil unveiled, a putrid dripping mass of blood and pus. I smelled the stench of rotten flesh.

“‘I am royalty,’ he screamed hoarsely. ‘I was chief of all creation before your kind was made!'”

“The King is Lord of the cosmos,’ I cried. “You are lord of the flies!”

“At that moment I heard distant cheering, as if some crowd was rooting for me.

“‘I will drink your blood and skewer you like meat, miserable image-bearer!’ He shrieked the words, veins in his temples bulging. ‘I brought civil war to Charis itself…What mighty works have you done?’

Edge of Eternity, p. 278-279

And then one of my favorite lines:

“‘None. You are a fallen titan; I am but a reclaimed man. What you were makes what you are all the worse.‘”

If you and I are believers in Christ’s free gift of redemption, we are reclaimed men and women. Reclaimed by the King! What a glorious truth!

Want to find out what the red road is?

Want to know how the story ends (and it surprised me!)?

I highly recommend this book for expanding your view of Charis (heaven) and of the cosmic powers against which we fight until the Lord takes us home.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12, ESV

If you’ve read the book, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts about it.

Blessings, and may the God of peace go with us all this week.

On the First Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:1-3, NIV
He is Risen – Just as He promised

Don and I shared this morning in worship and praise for the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. I thought of all the resurrections that have happened since, because Jesus conquered death. Most prominent is my mother’s homegoing on April 4th last year, Easter Sunday this year. Today is the first anniversary of her Resurrection Morning!

Jesus’ cross was framed by criminals, one on either side of him. One mocked Jesus, saying “You say you’re the Son of God. Save yourself and us.” The other said, “Don’t you fear God…since you are under the same sentence?…We are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus. “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied to that criminal, dying in agony on the cross next to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NIV)

In John 10:14-18, Jesus tells his disciples that he is the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep.

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.

John 10:18a, NIV
silhouette image of person praying
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

While there’s a lot of talk about who is to blame for Jesus’ death–

  • Herod, who wanted to release him but gave in to the crowd;
  • Judas, who betrayed him;
  • the chief priests and elders, who caused the crowd to riot and demand his crucifixion;
  • the Romans, who nailed the Son of God to that blistering, rugged cross–

Jesus says he lay down his life by his choice, in obedience to his Father. And he did that because of his love for you and me. All we need do is receive that gift.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10, NIV

So how shall we live in response to God’s great love?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV

I think of that great cloud of witnesses–Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, the apostles, and also the ordinary people like me who put their trust in the Savior and are now with him in glory. And I think of those near and dear to me. My first husband, my father and mother, parents-in-law, nephew Greg, grandparents, and several dear and precious friends.

I’m sure you can add your own to this list, those for whom you grieve, yet with the hope of heaven! Below is a stunning, poignant Easter duet sung by two sisters. I hope you will take three minutes to listen to the beauty of this song. May it, and the Jesus for whom we celebrate this Resurrection Sunday, give you great hope today.

https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1C911JNU
https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1C911JNU

ALL NATIONS, TRIBES, PEOPLES, AND LANGUAGUES

legs of crop person with socks
Photo by Thiago Matos on Pexels.com

I walked into Macy’s to buy socks. Yup, socks. The ones I have either weren’t the right color or were worn out. I found what I needed, paid the bill, and walked toward the exit.

An older African American woman, walking with a cane, hit the automatic door opener button. I walked out the door beside the automatic one, not wanting to crowd her. As she pushed the button to open the outer door, the woman said “You can go through this door too. I’m just slow.”

I thanked her and walked out the door, then stopped. “Do you need any help getting to your car?”

“No, my car’s right there.” She pointed to a car in the disabled parking. “But thank you for caring. Our world is so crazy right now it’s really nice when people are kind.”

I agreed. “Our world is strange; but we can rely on God.”

“Oh yes! We can indeed.”

We crossed to the parking lot together. I smiled under my mask, nodded.

“I’m Carol.”

“Hi Carol. I’m Diane.”

We both stopped walking near her car. As Diane opened her door, she said, “Nice to talk with you, Carol. I’ll probably never see you again.”

“Yes, you will,” I responded. “We’ll see each other in heaven, if not sooner.”

“Oh yes. I don’t know why the Lord is still leaving me here. He must still have a purpose for me.” Diane proceeded to tell me that, at 85 and somewhat disabled, she still sends Bible correspondence lessons to people; and when they return one, she sends them the next. “I can’t do much, but I can do this.” And she’s been doing it for about twenty years!

I left with the warm sense of meeting another Christ-follower, someone with whom I will have an eternal relationship. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we who have accepted His free gift of forgiveness and newness of life will live again after death.

At home, I greeted Don with the joy of the Lord, which is beyond happiness, as I recounted my God-moment meeting with Diane.

This week we’ve read and heard about disturbing hostility and violence toward Asian Americans. It disturbs me deeply to see our nation becoming more and more divided politically, ethnically, socio-economically. We are called by God to love each other as He has loved us.

And God loves diversity. In the book of Revelation we’re told that He will preserve people’s diversity in heaven–what a marvelous thought!

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.

Revelation 7:9

A few years ago, Don and I stood on the banks of the Jordan River in Israel. Several of our travel group had chosen to be baptized there, where Jesus was baptized. There’s an area where the river has gated sections so each group can have its own separate baptism ceremony. To our left, I heard voices praising God in an Asian language; another gated area was filled with people singing what sounded like an African praise song. There were others as well. And I thought, this is a little picture of heaven, where we will all praise God together, various nations and people groups and languages.

I eagerly await that day! And I want to live in light of eternity right now, right here, loving whomever God brings into my sphere of influence, respecting and honoring them for just who God made them to be.