Yesterday, Friday 14 January 2022 marked the end of this Journey and this Journal. I intended to write this late yesterday afternoon–but I was exhausted. At 1:11 a.m. CST, Dad breathed his last breath on earth and breathed his first breath in eternity. Wednesday had been a fairly good day compared to the day before. Thursday wasn’t so good. Around 11:30 p.m. his breathing was distressed–and we called Hospice. The nurse arrived and confirmed our suspicions–his prayer of going home was about to be answered. And at 1:11 a.m., his prayer and mine were answered. As he was taking those final breaths I realized it was my sister Jacque’s birthday. Jacque died in August, and I told him, “It’s OK, go ahead, we will be OK, and tell Jacque Happy Birthday in person.” Just moments later he stopped breathing and a few more moments later, his physical heart stopped beating. But that new Heart Jesus gave him so many years ago never missed a beat!
Today we sit down with the Funeral Director to make those final arrangements. This will be easy because Dad took care of the major decisions a long time ago. Monday night we will greet friends and share compassion and so many memories at the Funeral Home which, by the way, he worked at for many years after his retirement. Tuesday afternoon we will gather in the sanctuary that he literally helped to build and together celebrate one of the most powerful men who ever lived. He never made the national news, but the power of his influence still rings out in our family and in this community.
My brother from another set of parents who were always our neighbor said something that gave me perspective. Joel White told me, “Can you imagine how many people who are in heaven because of him, met him and greeted him there?” And Joel’s thought gave me a moment of great joy–and I know it did for Dad. And in this, my final entry for this particular Journal is: The End Of One Journey Marks The Beginning Of The Next Journey!
For Dad, his journey of missing his wife, two daughters, family, and friends is over. And the face he longed to see most of all–Jesus–is right there before him. And now he’s on a new journey of life with The Father! Our Journey is now about the final steps–working through our grief while celebrating his marvelous life. This Journey includes preparing for Dad’s Celebration Service, grieving together, and all the other things that go with settling Dad’s affairs, and final wishes. And I am confident that because God was with all of us in THIS Journey, He will faithfully be with us in this NEXT Journey–and in all the Journeys yet to be made. We will make it because of the faithful presence of The Holy Spirit–and the legacy that Dad gave us as his parting gift.
We’ve been gone on a Sabbatical, and I promised my readers that I would resume writing every day when we got home. We left Lake Millsite, Florida on Tuesday, going home by a “different” route. Soooo, in the immortal words made famous by Jack Nicholson:
Not in quaint and beautiful Mt. Vernon, Alabama. Right now I’m in Center Star, Alabama–in the home Dad had built about 59 years ago. Monday night, my son Matthew called and said they had to take Dad to the emergency room. His oxygen concentration was low. Turns out he was having a severe spell with his A-Fib and had caused his heart to have what is called RVR. (Click here to find out about RVR)
So Tuesday morning we packed up and headed to be with him in the hospital. The good news is they were able to restore normal heart rhythm. No more A-Fib or RVR. The bad news is that he has been diagnosed stenosis of the aortic valve in his heart. That’s when the flaps of the aortic valve become thick and stiff, or they fuse together. These problems cause the valve opening to become narrow. The narrowed valve reduces or blocks blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. The normal size of an adult aortic valve is around 3.0 to 4.0 cm2. His is now 1 cm2.
Normally, the treatment is to replace the diseased valve, going through the femoral artery. However at 95 years old, he is not a candidate for the procedure. Bad news, right? Well. . .the Good News he is ready to go Home; you know, the Eternal Home where there’s no such thing as A-Fib, RVR, arthritis or any of these aches and pains we experience on this orb known as Earth. He has 2 daughters already there and his wife of 73 years. Best of all, he knows Jesus is there.
Our conversations in the hospital revolved around the best care for him now. We talked about Hospice, and agreed it was time. In case you didn’t know, Hospice isn’t just for when death is imminent. It’s also for cases where death is medically determined to be inevitable because there are no longer viable medical treatment options. So today, Thursday, the twenty-eighth day of October in the year 2021 of our Lord, he and we met all of those who will be involved in his care until the inevitable happens.
Great people! We met his social worker, hospice aide, RN, and his chaplain. I enjoyed meeting all of them, as did Dad! But it was something that his chaplain said that is provoking these thoughts tonight. Garry, that’s his name, said, and listen very carefully: Only God Can Unscramble Eggs. Isn’t this rich!!!
When you make scrambled eggs, the shells are broken–and you can’t put the shells back together–I mean, someone might could try like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But it ain’t gonna be able to hold anything, much less those innards of the egg. Then the egg whites and the egg yellows are all mixed together–the whites are indistinguishable from the yellows–dear Lord, you can’t separate them back into just the egg whites and egg yellows again. It is impossible, I say, impossible!!!
We just can’t do it! But that is just a small thing for God to do. In fact, He is the only one who can unscramble eggs. And this is why The Holy Spirit used Garry’s words to say something important to me–something I needed to hear.
Right now we are walking through the Valley of the Shadow of death. Dad is still alive, and kicking–and in his own words–“just not very high.” But negotiating the rest of the journey through this Valley, well. . .we need a little help. You may remember back in August we made this journey when my sister died.
And the help we are receiving right now and the help that will be with us as we journey from one end of this Valley all the way to the other end–comes from the only One who can unscramble an egg. With that kind of skill–I reckon we will make it just fine.
This is the first of I don’t know how many blogs on Things In The Bible–NOT! Isn’t it amazing how many things people believe are in the Bible–but it’s just not there. Maybe amazing isn’t the word–sad is a more apt description. Some of my fellow members of The Order Of The Backwards Collar (a.k.a. preachers) have done a whole series of sermons on this issue. I promise you that these thoughts are my thoughts–not someone else’s. With this said, please put your trays in the upright position, turn off all electronic devices (except the one you are reading this on), and fasten your seatbelts. We are about to take off!
The Lord never puts more on you than you can handle!
Oy vey! This one is absolute bupkes (Yiddish word for “goat droppings” or “horse droppings”, and in the South we say “bull s&%#”)! Show me in The Bible where it says such a heinous and horrid thing! This is wrong on so many levels, where do I begin? What besotted person would even contemplate such a thought?
Well, what does the Bible actually say? I hear some referring to 1 Corinthians 10:13–“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Now, this I do believe. God will not allow a temptation to be more than I can handle and will be with me in it to show me the way out. That’s temptations, not life.
Listen! There’s a difference between temptations and life as it happens on this spherical orb called earth. NEWS FLASH! God doesn’t cause everything to happen that happens on this spherical orb called earth! Sorry Calvinists! NOT SORRY! Here’s another NEWS FLASH! We live in smack dab in the middle of a fallen creation. And right now, I’m still struggling with something that is too hard for me to handle. I’m having trouble focusing on the tasks in front of me. I’m grieving. I’m grieving for my Dad. I’m grieving for my family. One more NEWS FLASH! It’s more than I can handle! And God didn’t put this on me. Life did; more exactly–death is the cause. And God doesn’t cause death! And I pity the fool who believes God is the cause of any death.
I just wrote “one more NEWS FLASH”–but that’s not so. I have yet another–let’s call this one a GOOD NEWS FLASH! I’m not alone! I have the Body Of Christ surrounding me with prayer, compassion, and presence–literally being the presence of Jesus to me in this season of life when it is too much for me to handle. And just what does the Bible say exactly, when life is too much to handle? Does it say that I just need more faith? Oh, heck NO! A million times NO!
I choose to listen to the one who experienced life’s crushing experiences–Jesus! As a matter of fact, here’s what Jesus and The Bible says: “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) He overcame the world AFTER He fell beneath the weight of that cross when he was being led to His place of execution!
God doesn’t put grief, pain, disappointment, hurt, nor anything else that crushes our hearts. But He is with us in the crucible–and He will guide us out of it. Just ask Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God hasn’t given me more than I can handle. But life has–so I cling to the one who conquered both life and death!
Oh–and if you have a favorite pet peeve on something that people say is in The Bible, but it’s not, share it in the comments section! See ya’ tomorrow!
What’s an apple pie without apples? Or a banana pudding without bananas? Or a meatloaf without meat? The answer? One could say, “It’s not the same.” This is true–but let’s dig a little deeper. The correct answer is: “They are not!” Without apples, it’s not an apple pie! Without bananas, it’s not banana pudding. Without meat, it’s not meatloaf. What’s my point this morning, other than making you crave these and other foods?
Love without the corresponding actions is an apple pie without apples. BUT…when we love in ways that touch another human heart with kindness, care, and concern–it puts the apples back into the pie; the bananas back into the banana pudding; and puts the meat back into meatloaf. John had something to say about this: “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. “ (1 John 3:18 The Message)
This week I have been reminded in powerful ways the value of love when others (as The Message puts it:) Practice Real Love! This morning we are packing our bags to go back to my childhood home as we prepare for my sister’s visitation and funeral–and to help share the burden of my Dad–who shared my burdens when I was hurting.
And I am once again overwhelmed with the love of others. Your prayers, comments, messages and phone calls–are powerful means of God’s grace in my life in a season when I am needing them most. There are a few who haven’t reached out to me that I thought would–and it only adds to my pain. But to you who are reaching out, who are practicing real love–are helping ease that pain and hurt as well. And until that day we are all in The Eternal Kingdom–you will never know how much YOU are helping me in this season.
PS: I will be taking a couple of days off from blogging. And in the immortal words of General Douglas McArthur, “I shall return!” And it’s because of those who practice real love.
Many things have them. Passports. Driver’s Licenses. Credit Cards. Debit Cards. Security Clearances. And so does life–the ones around you as well as your own. I’m talking about Expiration Dates. This morning it is not only reasonable–but paramount–that I speak to you about this issue.
In just a short while my Dad will awaken from a not so restful sleep. I spent the night here because my sister has been near death–and I wanted to be here when it happened. At approximately 3:30 a.m. CDT, my sister, his daughter, came to her expiration date. And now I will be the one to share this heart-breaking news.
Here’s my point this morning: We cannot avoid this expiration date–so always make sure there is no unfinished business to deal with. Mend those fences. Forgive the people in your life who you feel haven’t treated you right. Enjoy the scenery. Express gratitude. Find the joy. Stop dwelling on the wrong. Focus on the present, not the past or future. Appreciate, love, and forgive family and friends. One day–the Expiration Date–will come and you will not be able to.
And you will not be able to undo what you never got around to doing. We accuse teenagers of thinking and acting like they are immortal. It’s not just teenagers who think they have plenty of time left. Adults are the world’s worst!
Oh, one more thing. Not only is there this thing called Expiration Date, there is also a:
And this date for you life is RIGHT NOW–THIS VERY MOMENT! Make sure you get right family. Get right with your friends. Make sure you have that life-giving relationship with God made possible only through Jesus. Jacque did. And for this I am thankful. She is reunited with Mother, and is finally meeting face to face with Marilyn–the sister we never met nor knew. Give all the excuses and reasons you want for putting off making things right–but it’s all just a load of bull manure.
16 There are six things the Lord hates— no, seven things he detests: 17 . . .hands that kill the innocent,
Proverbs 6:16-17 NLT
If you have been following this thread, perhaps you are thinking, “Well, I may have disgusted God with the first two, but I’m free and clear on this one.” Oh, really?
OK, so maybe you haven’t taken a knife and eviscerated someone; or a club and bashed in someone’s skull; or a gun and dispatched them to the Almighty. This view is a frivolous and perfunctory treatment of Solomon’s words. You need to go deeper–but I warn you–it might hurt.
The Hebrew word is shâphak, it means to spill forth (blood, a libation, liquid metal; or even a solid, i.e. to mound up); also (figuratively) to expend, gush out, to pour out. Still think you’re innocent of this disgusting act? There are more ways to kill someone other than taking away their life.
If you crush another person’s dream–Disgusting! If you take away their hope–Disgusting! If you diminish their worth as a human being through criticism or condemnation–Disgusting! If you quickly point out another’s shortcomings–Disgusting! If you laugh at another person’s tragedy or pain–Disgusting! If you talk at someone like they are dumb or stupid–Disgusting!
Oh, no! One of you just thought: “But that talks about blood! Where’s the blood in what you just described?” There is more to human life than literal blood flowing through the veins and arteries. We all have hopes, dreams, plans, and goals. To take these things away from another person–well–It’s Disgusting To God!
that my words could be recorded. Oh,
that they could be inscribed on a monument, 24 carved with an
iron chisel and filled with lead, engraved forever in the rock.
25 “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon
the earth at last. 26 And
after my body has decayed,
yet in my body I will see God! 27 I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!
As we conclude our D-Day
Series, I hope that there have been some hearts that have been
tugged. Maybe a few cheeks are a little
wet. Many of you have expressed
appreciate for tackling this series because…well…because you have been invaded
by 1 or more these D-Days.
I promised you that what I would share, would come out
of my own experiences. And this has been
true, up until today. This is a D-Day Invasion I Haven’t Had—But I Know That One Day I Will.
Today we aren’t talking so much about the difficulty
of death but of the hope we can have here in this life, as we know Christ—the
hope that invades our lives. Even when
loved ones die after a long life, or those who have had their lives cut way to
short, there is this thing called Peace
that only comes through our Heavenly Father.
Even though there may be sadness of a recent death of
someone in your life, my hope is that you will leave with a song of praise in
your heart because you know where real hope and peace come from. Listen to these names, and let me ask you a
question. All of the names have
something in common. Try to figure it
Apostle Paul: Greatest missionary to have ever lived! Adolph
Hitler: Ruthless dictator and slaughterer of millions. Mother
Teresa: Sweet nun and caretaker of the world’s poor. General
George Patton: Great WW2 Leader.
Mary, The Mother Of Jesus:
Enough said. Moses: Great leader of Israel; Elvis Presley: King of Rock and
Earnhardt: The Intimidator of racing. Princess
Diana: Royalty and compassion filled her life and her calling. Ted
Williams: One the greatest baseball players ever. Todd
Beamer: Average guy on Flight 93.
Do you have it in your mind? What do all of these famous & infamous
people have in common? They have all
experienced the D-Day invasion of Death!
They have experienced it and some have mourned their death. They died because of natural causes,
accidents, war, disease, tragedy—but all died.
Death—it’s the great equalizer.
It’s not a respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter how wealthy or poor you
are, educated or uneducated, death is something that all of us will have to
face one day.
No matter how common death is, when you lose a loved
one, especially a child, I am not sure that there is any way to ever fully prepare
for that. I am not going to attempt to
do that today. I think when death comes
to those who had a lot of life in front of them; it’s just a hard and difficult
thing. Death of a loved one can’t be
shrugged off. But Death is not the enemy
of the survivor’s soul.
We can get through this D-Day invasion of death. More importantly today, as we talk about the
death of someone close and our own destiny with death, we can be prepared. It doesn’t matter what age a person is, one
day you will experience the D-Day invasion of death and you can prepare and
understand how to survive in this thing called death.
I want to talk about how we can survive but also, more
importantly for each individual that you would understand that one day you are
going to die. Are you prepared for
death? It may be that some of you here
today, you’re sitting right here and you have no assurance of a future hope
after this life is over.
If some were to be honest with themselves, they would say,
“I do not understand eternity. I do not understand where I will spend
eternity when I die.”
I think all of us in our hearts understand that there
is an eternity. For many of us here, if
your life was really dealt a death blow of a loved one, it would really cripple
us. We wouldn’t know where our hope would
How can you and I survive the agony of losing a loved
one? How can we know we will survive our
own death? It Almost Sounds Like An Oxymoron—Surviving Death. But after death, there is eternity to be
I want you to turn to John 14, read it, listen to
it. I’m going to build on what Job had
to say about death.
1. Believe In God’s Way!
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled…”
John 14:1a (NLT)
That word, Troubled—it means “to agitate”. It means to take away our calm and
peace. Think about an agitator in a
washing machine. It stirs everything
up—sometimes twisting and tying clothes in a knot. That’s what the thought of death does to us
when we are confronted with our mortality—without that relationship with God.
The best way to deal with death of a loved or to
understand our own mortality is to trust in God—to believe in God’s way. Somewhere in your life you will have to
recognize that God is the Almighty Creator and He is ultimately in control of
our lives and the whole world. None of you
are here on this day for this message by accident.
He Also Has An Ultimate Purpose For Our Lives. Do you know
what that purpose is? Boil it all
down—you are the loving creation of our great God. To believe in God’s way is to understand that
He loves you unconditionally and He wants to have a relationship with you. This one little simple truth brings hope
because it means we have a loving God who desires a relationship even with
us! When things are going so well, we
see this world and think, “This is it!
Nothing could get better.”
But God says, “Believe
In My Way. This Is Only A Glimpse Of
Paradise. Are You Enjoying This
Life? I Have Set Aside, For Those Who
Believe In Me As Their God, A Place Called Paradise!” Paradise is the place promised the thief on
the cross, and it means “garden”—it’s the same word to describe the place where
Adam & Eve were before the fall—that beautiful place of relationship with
Father, Son and Spirit.
God’s way for you and for me is to know true peace and
hope through a personal relationship with God.
To be in a loving relationship with him made possible by the death of
his son, Jesus Christ! That day, the
Creator died for His creation. Second,
2. Trust Your Life To Jesus!
“Trust in God, and trust also in Me. 2 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?”
God loves us so much that He came to earth as
Emmanuel, God with us. God came and
walked among us so that He could die for us.
Isn’t that amazing? Our creator
God came to die for us. Listen to this—In John 14:6 when Jesus
says about himself:
“I Am The Way, The Truth, And
The Life. No One Can Come To The Father Except Through Me.”
To be able to reach the Father, we have to acknowledge
our sin, acknowledge our inability to get rid of it and stop being controlled
by sin. The ONLY way this happens is by
giving our life to Jesus—trusting our life to Jesus. We can give up on God—but God never gives up
When We Say YES To Jesus, God Gives
Us Eternal Life, Not Because We’re Good, But Because GOD IS GOOD! We can work
through our grief when we lose someone close, because if they said YES to
Jesus, we will see them again! And if
they haven’t? We have Jesus living
inside us through the Spirit to help us through our grief.
3. Rest In God’s Presence In You, The Holy Spirit!
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as My representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”
John 14:26 (NLT)
All through the New Testament, the Bible uses
different words for the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes He is called The
Counselor Who Guides Us With The Wisdom Of Eternity. He’s the person who helps us understand. He is also the Great Comforter that Gives Peace And Hope. He holds us close to His heart to protect us
from the pain and despair from this broken world we live in.
Let me ask you another question. It has to be a question that you take to
heart. When Death Comes To Invade Your Life, Will You Know Peace Or Will
You Know Mayhem? Where does
your hope come from? Does it come from
your bank account, your job, your family, your country? Those things will all be gone when you’re
gone. What about eternal hope? What about eternal peace? Where does it come from?
Throughout this series, I have shared with you how to
survive some D-Day invasions — disillusionment, defeat, divorce and
depression. All of what we said this
whole series hinges on Your Personal Relationship With God.
Let me be very clear, for anyone who has never given their
life to God, why not right now, simply Put Your Hand In His Hands.
That’s all, but it makes a world of difference in your
life now, and an eternity of difference in your life after death.
Are you struggling with fresh grief? Are you at war with old grief, grief that
just won’t go away? Jesus understands
this and has something for you. It is
what Jesus said and did for the Disciples after The Resurrection. In John
20:21-22 Jesus says: “Again he said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending
you.’ Then he breathed on them and said,
‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.”
Death, Make Sure You Are In A Relationship with God—not with what you know
Until You Die To Start Living.
we know how Life Conquers Death, and we know how To Start Living Now at the
sacramental table we call Holy Communion.
Here we see and taste that His Death defeats Death in Us Now—and when
that moment comes—His Resurrection defeats our death.
It took going to the funeral of a friend which lead to a dear friend reminding me to write, and the phone call of a close friend telling us she was dying, to kick me in the butt to get back to writing. So here I am, more resolved to not set His gift aside; rather to use it even more.
Since it’s been a while since I’ve written, allow me to explain the purpose of these, call them insights. I’m reading the Book of Acts every morning. As I read, I’m looking and listening to The Spirit for those things I’ve overlooked over the years. Today I want to share something else I’ve missed all these years. It’s Acts 2:32-33
“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.”
I call this Elevator Truth. Think about an elevator. I find here a microcosm of life, and a spiritual truth. What do you see and hear? Of course, Elevator Music! Music that rarely if ever moves the heart and stirs the soul. My hypothesis is that they use that kind of music so that you will quickly get off so the elevator can go to its next assignment.
Face it, sometimes life is as boring as Elevator Music. But that’s not the truth I want to share. It’s those 2 buttons outside the elevator door: Up or Down. Unless, of course, you are on the bottom floor (or the top floor). Elevators will take you up–elevate you–or they will de-elevate you–take you down.
In life, you have the choice to elevate your life or de-elevate your life. The News of the Kingdom of God is countercultural and revolutionary. Our world thinks that to elevate your life you need to push the up button (thus, my elevator analogy). But here in Peter’s sermon, elevation comes through the example of Jesus.
Before His Resurrection, Jesus pushed the down button, twice! First, when He left Heaven to enter Mary’s womb. And then as He died on the Cross and was placed in that tomb. Because Jesus was willing to push that down button, and because He did it out of love for the Father and love for us, The Father then elevated Him. And what an elevation it is! The world changed then, and it continues to change now, all because God elevated Jesus.
And remember WHEN that elevation occurred–after Jesus died! If you want your life elevated–lifted above the muck and mire of this culture–then you need to do what Jesus did: DIE!
Die to guilt
Die to fear
Die to sin
Die to self promotions
Die to your agendas
Die to self-importance
Die to who others say you are
Die to ________________ (you fill in the blank)
In order to be elevated, then you need to surrender–anything and everything–in your life. The good, the bad, the ugly–ALL OF IT! In an age of self-promotion this is radical and revolutionary–but it works. It worked for Jesus. It will work for you.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him! And the next time you stand outside an elevator and see those 2 buttons, remember which button Jesus pushed, TWICE!
Welcome to Jeopardy, Randy. “Thanks, Alex, I’ll take Chaos and Stress for $1,000.” And the answer is: “This picture is what it feels like.”
Yes, Randy: “What is the feeling you have when the moving truck will be here in 2 days?” Correct!
Well, today started like usual. Packing some more, taking some more to the curb, headed to the office, and the Funeral. Debbie and I had visited Wynette in the hospital the day before she conquered death. Watching her struggle to breathe reminded that about a month ago I watched my own Mother struggle to breathe. God was faithful, not that I doubted Him, especially in a time such as this, and He gave me words to share with her Family and Friends that both honored her memory, her life and The Good News. A trifecta, if you would. The graveside portion was about an hour and a half away.
Then I returned to the church for one last team meeting before we leave. It was the Finance Team. Within my first year here, I was confronted with the fact that the accounting system was, well, what’s a word that I could use in a Christian blog? Chaotic to the Nth degree. Nothing illegal mind you, just poor accounting practices. Nothing balanced and I promised the Finance Team that before I left, everything would be in order and balanced. Thanks to my Office Manager, Samantha, she brought in a friend who loves accounting, loves numbers, loves problem solving (though I think this episode may have broken her from wanting to solve problems). Jennifer committed and donated her time and skills for the past 6 months. She managed to balance 2017, and set up a new system so they could say goodbye and good riddance to a system called Shelby and a new and easier to understand system (ACS) is up and running CORRECTLY. I kept my promise. I didn’t promise I would solve the problem, but would get the problem corrected! Thank you Samantha and Jennifer. After the meeting, I said goodbye to Samantha, who is more than a staff member, and she informed me I was like a big brother to her. These words coming from an only child–priceless. Samantha, you are like the younger sister I never had! I wish I could get rid of my older sister and have Dad adopt you.
So, what have I learned today? I’m so glad you asked:
Keeping your word is important. Whether it is to a congregation, at work, with family, your neighbors, or even a stranger, keeping your word matters. In this era, words of promise are casually thrown around, such as, “Oh yes, I’ll pray for you.”, only to never mention it in your prayers to God. Well, maybe once. When I make a promise, that is the same thing as making a commitment. It’s true for you, too.
There’s always “stuff” that needs to be thrown away in our hearts. Tonight I made more trips to the curb because tomorrow is pick-up. I did not want to leave anything on the curb for my replacement. And I didn’t want to just leave it here for someone else to deal with. Cleaning out, or in a more biblical image, purifying the heart isn’t a one time thing. And it’s more than a thing to do every 4 or 5 years. Guard you heart from collecting stuff–stuff that doesn’t matter to the Kingdom of God–and matters even less to Jesus.
People matter and need to be appreciated–TOLD they are appreciated. What else can I say about this? Nothing! If you can’t understand this….you are seriously messed up.
Even in dark times–there is still Good News! Less than a month after Mother’s funeral, I would have had a good excuse to say no, or just put in a minimal effort into today. But Jesus did not give his minimal effort for me, and it was infinitely more difficult for Him to do what He did, that what I was called upon to do. The result was exactly what God promises–that good comes out of evil–for a time I forgot my own grief and God used my tears to bring hope to others. Our circumstances do not dictate whether or not it is a time for the Good News. Any time, especially dark times, is the perfect time for the truth that there is Good News. Seems like that there’s a story in the Bible about the best news ever coming from a cemetery.
Well, it’s time to take my medicines, and hopefully sleep all night. Now that would be great! But if I don’t….God has this, and He has me! Good night, John Boy.
Well, Day 2 has come to an end in this adventure of preparing for the move. Today I preached my final message at this church. It was indeed a mixture of great joy and sadness. Hugs were everywhere–tears offered and tears fought back. Over these many years of preaching, the Spirit always challenges me and inspires me to speak about the future. Since at least 1984, the passage was always John 2–Jesus turning the water into wine. This miraculous sign tells us that the best is yet to come when we keep our focus on our purpose.
This year it was the Luke 7 passage about that “sinful” woman. I couldn’t figure it out, but the Spirit finally got through my thick skull. I challenged them with this question: “What do you do with broken people?” The future of any church is hopeful and bright when we deal with broken people the way Jesus dealt with this “sinful” woman. Maybe I will post that message here some day.
At the end of the service, there were more tears–a faithful follower of Jesus and a great friend had just died after an extended illness. I grieve her loss because she was an encourager in my life. So now, we are planning a funeral probably Wednesday.
And being Father’s Day, I heard from all my children and grandchildren today. And I was thankful to be able to call Dad to say “Happy Father’s Day” to him. It was just about a month ago when I said my last “Happy Mother’s Day” to Mother. It was the last time she knew who I was–so even more gratitude from me. Oh, one more thing, one of our friends and his family took us out to eat, and shared a great time around a table.
So, what have I learned at the end of Day 2? So glad you asked me:
Life and death still happen as we make our various journeys through life. At the early service I was blessed to perform an infant baptism service. And at the close of the second service, I was confronted with grief with the death of Wynette. In the midst of changes, everyday things still happen.
I learned that God moves in different ways at different times. He wouldn’t let me preach my standard “farewell” message. Instead, He had a timely and timeless message. I have to be more careful when I start thinking that God moves the same way and does the same thing every time. God loves to surprise us.
And I learned today the value of friendships. It is our friends that are holding us up at this time. It is my Band of Brothers that has my back and will fight for me against The Enemy. And time around the table, with a meal, is a sacred and holy time that should be cherished and like it says on shampoo bottles: “Lather, Rinse, and Repeat”–especially that part about repeat. The food where we ate is noted for being excellent–but somehow it tasted even better because we shared that time with Dennis and his wonderful family.
I didn’t sleep well at all last night. I don’t know if it was the “Last Sunday” jitters or dread. But I know God has been with us throughout this day–and He will be with us again, tomorrow.
Yesterday afternoon I was at the Opening Session for our Tribe’s thing called “Annual Conference”. It was my 43rd consecutive Conference. For “outsiders”, Annual Conference is this thing that when all is said and done, more is said than done. Bishop Sharma Lewis preached for our opening Worship, and normally I would have considered it a great and powerful message. She chose the passage from Colossians 3, verse 12 and it was about putting on the new clothes of love and she presented us with a great question: What are you wearing?
Normally, I know there’s nothing normal about me in many folks eyes, but that’s their problem, I would have really been inspired by the message. I mean, what’s better than wearing the new clothes of love. Or, as The Message puts it:
Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it.
But this crisis that the United Methodist Tribe is facing, has caused me to have this deep-seated thought that Bishop Lewis was only telling half of the story–literally a half-truth. And a half-truth is at its root and core, a lie! As I was talking to God about this “disappointment” in my heart, it hit me. She, like so many in our culture today, didn’t talk about the first part of Paul’s letter. Yes, be clothed in God’s love–after all, it’s His personal label. But….
But these new clothes don’t fit or look well as long as you keep wearing the “old” clothes underneath them. He starts off in Verses 1-2
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
It’s one of the few things I remember from my cemetery, excuse me, seminary days–that a text without its context is only a pretext. Bishop Lewis never mentioned verses 1 and 2. And there’s more to the context, and it’s summed up in verse 5
And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.
Our Tribe is being asked to change our church polity and order to accommodate what is now called “Progressive” theology. We are being asked to give up the traditional view of human sexuality in order to not only accommodate our culture–but here’s the BIG LIE–but because of God’s love, it’s OK to be “gay”. Progressive theology on human sexuality says that God created some people “gay”, ergo, it’s no longer a sin. Just wear love!
Yet how can anyone put on God’s love, wear these perfectly fitting clothes, IF we continue to wearing the old clothes? The truth is, the painful truth is, you can’t! In the south we would say it like this, and for you poor unfortunate souls who aren’t in the south, I will help translate this for you: Put a silk dress on a sow (NOUN: a female pig) and she’s still a sow, and she’ll get that silk dress muddy. And we cannot wear God’s New Designer Label of Love until we get rid of the old clothes of sin.
I say this not from the “high ground” of being morally superior to others, but from the “low ground” of realizing that I still have sin in me. I admit that I’m broken and am always turning back to God to help put shed off the old clothes so that I can be fitted with the right clothes. Those who insist that sexuality outside of the husband (man) and wife (woman), in other words, being “gay”, is their identity. There is no offer of personal transformation into the identity that has nothing to do with sex–but everything to do with The Creator.
Progressives offer no hope for a new identity–just put on the new clothes of love without ever taking off the old clothes of, as The Message puts it, “doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.” I am wondering now, could it be that the suicide rate is above average in the LBGTQI community, especially among teens who feel or believe they are gay, because they are not offered Hope–hope for not just a new identity–but their TRUE identity. A person’s true identity is found in their relationship with God–NOT with whom they are having sex.
And my heart breaks for the LBGTQI community because they have been told to believe that there is no way to shed their old clothes for the new designer clothes. As long as we try to wear the Divine Designer Clothes of Love OVER the old clothes doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy you will never be able to wear them as they are designed.
I’m not saying homosexuality is the worst sin. And it certainly isn’t the only thing that can be called an abomination. Proverbs 6:16-19 (NLT) describes those things this way:
17 There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, 18 a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, 19 a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.
One time I was asked, “Bro. Randy, what do you think is the worst sin? Rejecting Jesus?” I think my response shocked her. I said, “No, even that’s not the worst sin. I believe that the worst sin is the one that makes God want to vomit–and that is being lukewarm (Revelation 3:16). No other condition, no other sin that I can find in the Bible makes God want to puke. I just noticed something–3:16. One 3:16 tells us we can have eternal life (John 3:16). This other 3:16 says we make God want to puke, and thus, be eternally separated from Him.
I am smart enough, wise enough, and humble enough to know that I still have times when I try to wear God’s Designer Jeans over my filthy yard clothes. They don’t fit, they don’t look good because that’s not the way these “Designer Jeans” are “DESIGNED” to be worn. We have to put off the old in order to wear the new. So I pray, pray hard first for me to be sure I’m not trying to wear the new over the old. Second, I pray hard for the LBGTQI community to stop believing the Great Lie. And third, I pray for those who are deceiving the LBGTQI community WITH the Great Lie.
Before new life happens–before we can experience the Resurrection Life–there are things that need to, MUST die in all of us. Otherwise, we’re just an old sow wearing a silk dress. That’s not how this works!
I’m back to a time and place where I can write again. Wednesday, May 23 at 6:30 p.m. my Mother went home completely healed of her vascular dementia. Over the past few months I watched a godly woman suffer. In the last 2 weeks I watched her suffering intensify. My prayers, and the prayers of many more, were for her to be released from her suffering. On Tuesday Hospice told us it was only a matter of days. My Dad refused to leave her side at the nursing home, so that night I stayed with him. My wife Debbie came to relieve me Wednesday morning so I could go home a catch a nap. She called me just a couple of hours later saying I needed to come back.
Surrounded by family, telling her it was OK to go home, her breath left her body and her soul was embraced by the One who had embraced her for nearly 90 years. This picture was from 23 years ago at their 50th Wedding Anniversary. They renewed their wedding vows and it was my honor and great joy to preside over that ceremony. I had already been grieving for Mother and grieving more for Dad. We went to his home that evening to make ready for the funeral. I am still amazed at the great strength he has even at 92. But then, I shouldn’t be amazed because he is a man of great faith.
Earlier in that week my daughter, Leslie Faith, called. She and her family were about to leave on a family cruise. They had purchased this family vacation 2 years earlier and did not purchase the “insurance” in case something like this happened. She asked me, and Dad, her Pappaw, if we would be OK with them still going. Of course we both said “Yes” because family time was important to Mother. Leslie called me back and asked if it would be OK if she wrote a letter to be read at Mother’s funeral. Being a writer myself, I was all over that and gave her my blessings.
This morning, I want to share with you what she wrote, and was read at Mother’s funeral yesterday. I am proud of Leslie Faith’s gift of writing and would like to think maybe she got this from me. By the way, we call her Leslie Faith because my Dad and Mother had another child named Marilyn Faith. She would have been the oldest, had she lived. The name “Faith” was special to Mother. Here are words that were formed by the example and teachings of my Mother to us all:
In a way this is one of the easiest letters I’ve ever written and in a way it’s one of the hardest. Finding the words to sum up the life of Helen Irene Gautney Burbank isn’t the easiest of tasks. She was a loving and devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. Her love and loyalty knew no bounds. She led what many today would consider a simplistic life, but she was fulfilled and knew a joy that eludes so many people today.
Mammaw would be the first to say she was far from perfect. She was an avid collector of things (yes that’s the nice way of saying she was somewhat of a hoarder) and she worried about everyone else so they didn’t have to. She kept things that most people wouldn’t – be it a drawing on a bulletin from one of the grandkids or some trinket present one of the kids gave her for Christmas when they were little. They may have been knickknacks or even junk to someone else, but they were treasures to her. And for reasons that pass all understanding, she could not smile in a picture, although she smiled all the time in real life.
Although Randy and Jacque might try to disagree for reasons unknown to the rest of us, she spoiled her children. The grandchildren know we were spoiled. She encouraged our imagination – who knew that old medicine bottles, wooden swords and capes made from old fabrics could create hundreds of countless hours of fun? She taught me how to play Rummy and Dominoes. She tried to teach me how to crochet – if only I had her patience. She made us clothes when we were little. She introduced me to Madame Alexander Dolls and the yearly Christmas bears. There were our Christmas stockings every year. And what did we want in them? The latest toys or money? Nope! We wanted the oldest jar of pickles she had. We wanted the homemade hot sauce. We wanted the butter beans. The chicken stew. We wanted what she and Pawpaw made and had made with love.
She was firm in her faith and she loved the Lord her God. She loved her family. Unconditionally. Without fail. She always looked for the good in people and she refused to see anything but the best in those around her. If one of us made a mistake, she was the first one to say, “Well, that’s alright! I know you’ll do better next time!” And she honestly believed that we were capable of doing better and we would do better. She never let the disappointment she might have felt in any of us overshadow her love for us. Love, loyalty and faith weren’t just words to Helen Irene. They were a way of life. The only way to live life. She didn’t let the loss of her first child define her or break her. Yes she was heartbroken about losing Marilyn, even when she talked about it all these years later. But she continued to make a life for her family. And she made sure we all knew about Marilyn – that Marilyn lived on through the rest of us. And just as I am sure about her love for her family, I am sure that she is now rejoicing to be reunited with Marilyn and Mamma Gautney and so many of her loved ones that have been waiting on her.
The selfish part of me is sad that she’s gone from this earth. The selfish part of me misses her already. I miss the meals we had together (especially her mashed potatoes) because no one could cook like her. It’s something about a homemade meal made with love that you just can’t duplicate no matter how hard you try. I miss her phone calls. I miss her laugh. I miss her calling me “Tinker Bug” or “Mammaw’s Little Angel”. I miss her. But that’s the selfish part of me. The rest of me know she’s so much better off. That she more than earned the reward that awaited on the other side of Heaven’s gate.
I have struggled with the possibility of not being there for her funeral. She was always there for me – made time for me no matter what. She never once told me she was too busy and to come back later. But then I think about what she always told me about family. About how family is there for you no matter what and that you should always take the opportunity to make memories with them. I have 37 years of great memories with my Mammaw Burbank. I pray I am making memories with my family now – memories she would be proud to share with me. I pray I am doing what she would want me to do – what she would do in my shoes. I pray that I am honoring her memory in a way that she would want. I pray that as I grow I become more like her. That I have her faith and her ability to see the good in people. That I give more second chances and forgiveness. That I create loving and happy memories with those closest to me. That I always put God and family first.
Mammaw always said that she led a blessed life, but I think she underestimated how much of a blessing she was to the rest of us. I know that I was deeply loved by Helen Irene Burbank and I know that she knew I deeply loved her. She always saw the best in me, so maybe that’s why I always saw the best in her. I may never be the “collector” she was or the cook that she was (although I do think I’ve got Jacque beaten by a country mile), I do hope and pray that I love my family like she loved hers. That I am the example to my family like she was to me. That I have her ability to forgive, to see goodness in people and to not be hardened by the trials of this world. I hope I can follow the example she set. I hope that my Pawpaw can look at me and see just a little bit of her in me. I hope as we can all look at ourselves and see just a little bit of Helen Irene and realize how better off we all are because of it.