Category Archive: Heaven

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
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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
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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.

NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US

Jan died Tuesday morning. She told me awhile back that the doctors said the cancer that lay dormant for a few years had returned with a vengeance. She had six months or less to live.

We met Jan, our next-door neighbor, before we ever moved to our current home. She phoned to say the fence was broken and ask if we would split the cost of repairs. Of course we agreed.

After we moved in, we often met Jan walking Sophie, her golden Lab, while we walked Paige. After Sophie passed, Jan’s daughter gave her Harley, a handsome black Lab. Jan’s pockets always carried an abundance of Charlee Bears, which she freely shared with other dogs along her walk. First Sophie, then Harley, was “just perfect”. She loved these canine companions dearly.

close up of dog relaxing on bed
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Don and I prayed for opportunities to serve her, and to share the love of Jesus with her. One day I asked, in the context of the conversation, if Jesus was her Savior.

“Yes, He is. I talk to Him every night.”

Jan continued walking Harley ’til about two weeks ago, when she simply was too weary to continue. Harley went back to Jan’s daughter and was reunited with old buddies there.

Over these months we took baked goods, flowers, replaced light bulbs, sent cards and assured her of our prayers, so grateful to know Jesus was on this journey with Jan.

Monday morning Don and I read Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

sky sunset person silhouette
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I felt those verses were for Jan that day. We hadn’t seen her in a week, so didn’t realize how quickly she had declined. I wrote the scriptures in a card and called to see if we could bring it over.

One of her daughters answered the phone. “She’s unconscious, on morphine, but you’re welcome to come talk to her.”

Entering Jan’s room that afternoon, we saw her unconscious form. As we stood at her bedside I took her hand and said, “Jan, it’s Carol and Don.” She seemed to try to respond as her lips moved, without sound. “We brought you a card, and I’ll just read it to you.”

I read the verses aloud. Medical professionals say hearing is the last sense to go, so I wanted these scriptures to be in her heart and mind as she transitioned. “NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Unknown to me, two of her three daughters had entered the room and listened. As I told Jan “When you see Jesus calling you, just go to Him – just let go.” Her daughter murmured, “yes.”

Jan let go Tuesday morning at about 6 o’clock.

Isn’t it just like God to give us a scripture that we’ll need for something that very day? Don and I were so glad to see Jan and say goodbye, tell her we look forward to seeing her again at Jesus’ feet.

And yes, walking out our garage doors feels empty now, just knowing our Jan is no longer here. And yet we rejoice knowing she is in the presence of Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, Messiah. And because of God’s provision for our sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will see her again.

Thought: if you have a loved one in a coma, or near death, keep talking to them, asking God to allow your words to sink into their spirit.

The Judge

We sat on our couch, watching courtroom proceedings on zoom for seven hours.

It was sentencing day. The jury had already declared the defendant guilty. But both sides’ attorneys, as well as the perpetrator and the victims of his fraud were allowed to raise objections or make statements of his impact on our lives.

The Judge was consistently patient, listening to all sides. He treated each of us, including the defendant, with courtesy and respect. We were never felt rushed or like we were wasting the Court’s time. The Judge carefully expressed the rationale behind his decision to overrule or uphold each objection.

The trial has dragged on for four long years and four months. Along with quite a few others, Don and I were victims of the defendant’s fraud. We were all eager to put this behind us and move on. Some victims lost their life savings, pensions, and went into debt because they believed in the cause this man represented. Due to the stress of the fraud and trial, several probably died earlier than they would have otherwise.

We were blessed not to have fallen for “F’s” schemes longer than we did.

Even when handing down his sentence, the Judge spoke to the defendant with compassion. “You’re an intelligent man, and have done some positive things. I don’t know where it went wrong for you that made you choose to do what you did.”

BUT … the law was clear. He chose to go another way and has to pay the consequences for his crime.

We were very touched by one victim’s testimony. An articulate young man, he spoke of God’s forgiveness and desire for “F” to repent and seek forgiveness. He forgave “F,” but encouraged the Judge to give the maximum sentence in light of the loss, pain, illness, and suffering “F” put on so many.

It reminded me that one day we will each stand before the King of Kings, the fair and just Judge of all mankind. He has already provided forgiveness … but He gives us the choice of whether or not to receive it.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.”

John 3:16-17

God won’t ask how much we gave to this charity or that, or what good deeds we did. In love and grace, God has provided the way through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and offer of forgiveness and new life to each of us. Our choice is whether or not to receive it.

And our eternity will be based on that answer.

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

I John 5:11-12

My only answer to the King of Kings is “I’m here with Jesus, who died and rose again that I might have life eternal.”

Questions? I’d love to talk with you.

From Death to Life

Once again grief roars into our family.

I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call her. Then I remember. She left us Saturday. Transitioned from death to Life. My precious 98-year old mother has longed for the day when she would see Jesus face to face. She’s eagerly awaited that great reunion with my father, who preceded her by eighteen years. Saturday evening her prayer was answered.

Mom and Dad’s Wedding. Her beautiful sister Mary is the bridesmaid on the left; Dad’s brother Jake is his best man. Mom’s brother, Irvin, is the ring bearer.

Mom lived independently until about a year ago when she moved into an Assisted Living Center. Over the past year her hearing has declined significantly so that conversations were often difficult, both in person and more so, on the phone. I treasured those moments when I saw her personality shine through her twinkling eyes, young again because of a shared memory, a laugh, a thought.

Mom could laugh – at herself or others – but never unkindly

Mom’s mobility also decreased significantly. Her legs were weak and she first needed a walker. Then she got an electric scooter which was wonderful in helping her get around the Manor and to meals in the dining room. More recently, Mom was usually in a wheelchair when she left her room.

A month ago Mom fell and broke her ankle. She’s been in a cast since, which limited her mobility even more.

I have so many precious memories with Mom.

She was a wonderful cook and homemaker. My brothers and I thought we were so clever when we came up with our own riddle:

Q: “What does Mom always look for and never hope to find?”

A: “Dirt!”

When I was quite little I spilled a glass of milk from my high chair. I expected a scolding. Instead, Mom picked up a towel, said “Oh well, that can be fixed,” and began wiping up the spilled milk.

I received Christ as my Savior at the tender age of eight years. But as a mid-teen I faced doubts–had I said the right words and was I really now a part of God’s family? When I finally confessed my fears to Mom, she helped me understand that God knew my heart. I didn’t need a specific word set if I acknowledged my need for forgiveness of sins and a Savior. She showed me John 6:37 where Jesus promised “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And my soul was at peace, knowing I was accepted in the beloved.

Mom modeled love for Jesus Christ and for others. She was hospitable, gracious and kind. She was gifted with a beautiful, classically trained soprano voice and taught vocal lessons for many years. Whenever I couldn’t be home on an Easter Sunday I knew Mom would be singing “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah in church.

She modeled the disciplines of a walk with God–she loved reading her Bible, doing her Bible study and praying.

When my father died eighteen years ago, Mom refused to wallow in her grief. Deep as it was, she continued to meet with their friends, to enjoy their Sunday school class and church, and to invite others for a meal or conversation. One day not long after Dad’s death, I took Mom to a shopping center–I can’t recall why. As we walked and talked I told her I wished I could take her pain.

Gracious as always, she turned to me. “Carol, you have your own pain.” Despite her grief, she could look beyond herself to see my need in the loss of my beloved Dad.

Later, when both Mom and I were widowed, we took several overnight trips together. Our conversations during those times were deep, fun, meaningful. We talked about whether she had any desire to remarry (she didn’t, although she had a valued male friend for several years). We talked about my hopes and desires for my future. We explored other geographical areas.

We enjoyed seeing movies together.

Going to lunch together.

For many years Mom, my brother Arnold and I enjoyed singing trios together, until both her voice and mine waned. For a time we sang in the same church choir and I loved how her voice next to me challenged and improved mine.

Mom with her sister Mary, their brother Irvin, and me

When I was a child our family enjoyed family nights every Friday. Mom was our resident Chinese Checkers expert and winner. When my youngest brother, Bob, was five we taught him to make the popcorn and that was his job from then on. Since we didn’t have a television ’til I was in high school, Dad bought a movie projector. He and Melvyn often went to the city library and selected 16mm films we could enjoy as a family. Mel and Arn enjoyed playing with the movies–and watching downhill ski segments reversed so skiiers flew uphill backwards gave us big laughs!

Mom still enjoyed playing games until the last week of her life. She was part of a Wednesday night Rummikub group at the Manor. She loved it when she could win one or two games, and enjoyed the mental challenge and competition.

She loved her husband, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with all her heart and prayed for us faithfully. Her deepest desire was for her family members to know, love and serve the God she taught us about from our birth.

With the corona virus outbreak it’s been very hard not to be able to visit Mom in person. Bob and Sheila, Don and I have talked to her through her room window. But no touch, no hugs. Last Monday and Tuesday Mom told me she just didn’t “feel right” and was extra fatigued. Tuesday night an ambulance took her to Kaiser. Bob and Sheila and I waited in the parking lot, unable to enter the ER. Every 20-30 minutes one of us would check at the door for updates. Finally Mom was admitted and, because her x-rays showed spots on her lungs, she was isolated for two days awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. Mom did, however, have pneumonia and a serious case of sepsis (blood infection).

When the COVID-19 tests came back negative, Mom was admitted to end-of-life care and was allowed one visitor at a time. Over the next three days Don, Bob and Sheila, Mel and I spent time loving her, holding her hand, telling her it was all right to go Home. Arnold, unable to travel from Kansas, was with her on FaceTime.

I had the privilege of spending Friday afternoon, night and Saturday morning with her. I read Psalm 23 aloud and croakily sang several hymns, often breaking down in tears. I held her hand and kissed her and told her how much I love and appreciate her and that she would soon be with Jesus and Dad.

Saturday afternoon Bob spelled me and sent me home to rest. He loved on her too; and at 6:19 that evening she took her last breath on this side of eternity.

To use my nephew’s phrase, I am heartbrokenly grateful. Grateful for my mother’s long and loving life; for having her in my life for so many years; for her freedom from pain and suffering, limitations and loneliness. Grateful for God’s promise that because Jesus lives, I will be reunited with Mom when He calls me Home. And heartbroken because I want to pick up the phone and hear Mom’s voice, to hold her and hug her one more time.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

I love you Mom. Give Dad a big hug for me, and I’ll see you both soon.