God’s promise

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June 4

Tuesday, June 4th, 2024

Have you ever met someone whom you then know for years and don’t realize the impact you both have on each other? That is what happened to me back around 2006. One of the women in the church I pastor had a grandmother in a local nursing home. One day I went to visit her and in the process met her daughter. Her name was Carole.

Today, I have the privilege of conducting Carole’s funeral. Over the years my friendship with Carole deepened. I was there when her mother passed. I was there when her husband suffered from Parkinson’s and dementia and then passed. She attended another church in another town but that didn’t matter. After her husband of 50+ years passed, she began attending the church I pastor with her daughter and son-in-law. She was more traditional (hymns, suits and ties, etc) but she came anyway, until her health wouldn’t allow her. But I went to visit her in her home and would laugh and chat with her, and pray with her before I left. The past year or so had been one of excruciating pain and virtually being home bound, but she still had joy. (She made sure, even in the Hospice House bed, that we knew that before she became non-communicative).

Last Friday morning Carole met Jesus. I am convinced He met her with open arms. I suspect standing beside Him was her husband and her mother as part of the welcoming committee. Sure, there is speculation in what may actually happen, but it doesn’t matter. We can dream and speculate. But there is one truth that remains: Jesus has prepared a place for her-a mansion some call it-but I wouldn’t care if it was a shack. It’s a home in heaven.

My life is richer because of Carole. I have been told her life was richer because of me. I guess being asked to do her funeral is proof of that. 🙂  My last words to her when I left the Hospice House on Thursday (the day before her death) were “I love you Carole. I’ll see you later.”

I will.

March 18

Monday, March 18th, 2024

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head that just won’t go away? That has been me the past week to two weeks.

First, a little backstory. For over 30 years I have had a friendship that started out with riding bikes together at least once a week. Over the 30+ years countless miles have gone under our bicycle tires and plenty of meals have been eaten. Not even distance could put a damper on our friendship. His prostate cancer changed all that.

Another man was one of the leaders in the church. When I was threatened and encouraged with termination he stood in front of me. When the church was embezzled, he stood strong. But diabetes and a downturn physically hit him hard. So did some lies that caused a rift between us. But being bed-bound gave me the opportunity to visit him almost weekly, take communion, and repair the tear in our relationship.

My cyclist friend has been told he has 3-6 months to live. That was over a month ago. His cancer is everywhere, in spite of every effort with chemo and experimental stuff. When Jo and I got back from AZ on the 27th I went to visit my former leader on Thursday at the rehab center. He died that Saturday. The following week I went to visit my cycling friend and that visit hit me hard. There are also some other daily issues that are weighing on me.

The song that has been my go-to, the one that has not left my mind, my bulwark, the one that has pointed me to the ONE has been Morning by Morning by Pat Barrett. You can listen to it here. With lyrics like “Morning by morning great is your faithfulness to me,” I am reminded I’m not in this alone.  Psalm 62:6-7 says, “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor comes from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 63 follows it up with the following: “Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (verse 7-8).

I’m not alone. Neither are you. You can put a nail through that promise.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

July 11

Tuesday, July 11th, 2023

I believe one of the fears many of us have, especially as we get older, is the fear of being alone. In my over 50+ years as a pastor, I have noticed this to not only be true, but as we age the fear is heightened. I have done tons of funerals where very few people have attended-visitation or the funeral itself-because the older that person got the less they had friends. Many of them had passed away. They may have lived alone. They may have found themselves in a nursing home where, sadly, many are put and forgotten.

They aren’t really alone though. When dad left mom after 25 years of marriage, she may have felt alone, but she wasn’t. She did have family. But she had ONE who wouldn’t let her be alone. When a spouse passes away after 60 years of marriage, the mate left behind often feels alone.  But they aren’t.They have ONE who wouldn’t let them be alone.

Case in point: the Apostle Paul. In Acts 23:11 we find that he was going to spend some time in Rome. Not of his own accord though. We  know from history that he spent at least two years under house arrest awaiting his “day in court.” I wonder if the words said to him: “Take courage” were said because he was somewhat melancholy. Some translations say “Be of good cheer.” The ESV says, “Take courage” (a correct and better translation). The NLT (New Living Translation) says, “Fear not.” And how many times do we read “Fear not” in the Scripture? We also read the poignant statement “I will never leave your or forsake you” multiple times.

That is a promise we can rely on. When Paul heard those words he was facing going to Rome. What a daunting prospect! Jerusalem was like the minor leagues in baseball compared to Rome, the big league club. That’s where the big boys played. But Paul also knew that to be in Rome where God was taking him-AND WOULD BE-was far better than the safety and familiarity of Jerusalem.  It is sort of like “I’d rather be in the pits with God than on a mountain top without Him.”

You are never alone. No matter how you feel or what you think, He will be there with you and for you and will be just what you need.