Those Last Tenths of a Mile Before Heaven Began

 

before Heaven

It’s the route that we take when we remember those lives before Heaven.

The roads on this route are full of curves and hills. Each homeowner/store owner remembers those days in 1998 and 2011. We do, too.

A few weeks ago when Dave traveled out of town for a meeting, he mapped out the route we’d take this Saturday for the annual Jerrel Good/Paul Slabach Memorial Bike Ride.  (You can read more about the people in this event here.) He stopped at each place we’ll visit and scouted the surrounding area for safety issues for the two dozen bikers who will be on this ride. He’d taken his weed eater and trimmed around the edges of the bank where the cross we’d place a few years ago could hardly be seen for the weeds and brambles.

Dave took the time to cross the road to visit with the store owner – who recognized him and marked his calendar for the event this year – June 17, 2017.

before Heaven

Because he traveled the route alone, Dave had a lot of time to think.  If you know Dave, you’ll know he’s a thinker, and you’ll understand how this route caused him to think. I wasn’t with him, but I am as sure as I can be that he also cried.

On Sunday when he continued his messages on the Lord’s Prayer and shared from Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven,  he shared. That poignant sharing came from the depths of his heart.

We see life on this earth from our human perspective. As parents, we want to offer the best for our kids. We want their happiness, their health, and their success, and strive to help them achieve those goals.  Then, when “bad things happen to good people,” we don’t get it because we’re looking from our perspective as parents and not from the perspective that our Heavenly Father sees. The Eternal View.

“I watched the odometer as I neared the crash sites.  These guys had no idea that they were nearing the place where God would call them Home in a matter of minutes. They had no idea, but God knew. Five-tenths . . .  four-tenths . . . three-tenths . . . two-tenths . . .  one tenth, and BAM!  It was over.”

As he recounted those scenes, he cried. So did we.

“But THEN I remembered that it wasn’t over. It was only the beginning!”

That is why we ride.

This Saturday when we ride, we’ll certainly be remembering. We will remember the ripping rawness, the horrendous ache, the harrowing questions, and definite uncertainty. We will remember asking Why? over and over again.

This side of Heaven, life often doesn’t make sense – and sometimes it’s so unfair. Before Heaven, we wrestle and we groan.

Then comes Heaven – where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow. Where the old things will be passed away and all things will be new.

I’ve learned that when we answer the questions of our kids – and even questions of our own – it helps solidify our faith. We find answers to our own questions when we have to contemplate the ones others are asking.

This I also know: we can look back and see that God continues to be good, even when life hurts and doesn’t make sense. We know that His will is done here on earth – as it is in Heaven. Truly, reaching Heaven is really what this life is about.

before Heaven

 

So we ride and we remember. We will not forget the ache, the sorrow, or the pain.

 

before Heaven

before Heaven

 

Yet, more importantly, we will remember the faithfulness of the God we serve.

We have traced His hand in the years since Heaven claimed our guys.

This we will remember: that our God has been faithful.

And He is always eternally good.

 

 

 

 

 

Pinterest Before Heaven

When Heaven was Silent – Guest Post

My blogging friend Kendra shared this post on her blog. She’s a mom of six – one girl and five boys. Like all moms, she’s a busy gal. Her words today resonate with me and I’m certain they will with you, too. Each one of us has had days when it seems there is no answer from a silent Heaven. Even then, God is working behind that silent response. Be sure to check out her blog. Click here to learn more about Kendra and to visit her blog.

Heaven silent

Sometimes when the sun is setting over the mountains toward the west, I simply stand and gaze . . . and wonder.  I wonder what it will be like when I finally am allowed to let go of these cords that bind me to earth – and I fly Home.  What will it be like to stand before that awesome throne and look down at the crown in my hands?  Will my spirit be able to handle the magnitude of Jehovah and the nearness of His presence?  Just to be close to Him.

Sometimes I get just a sliver of what heaven must be like . . . when my soul comes to the throne in prayer. A feeling of God’s peace and presence that breaks through my struggles and fears – and I know He is near.

But it is not always like this.  There was a week almost two months ago where it felt as if the door to the King’s throne room had been shut to me. It was a busy week – I don’t remember what exactly was going on, except that I knew I was so busy my personal Bible reading was getting shortened or skipped.  My prayer time is usually anywhere and everywhere I am when God lays something on my heart . . . and some little person isn’t yelling “Mom!”  I pray best in my kitchen, my garden, and I even have a path in my basement where the tears have flowed as I cry out to God from the bowels of my home.  Besides, it’s quiet down there and the kids don’t find me as easily!

However, this particular week there was nothing when I prayed.  I prayed, but it was feeling more and more like a one-sided conversation.  I did not feel God’s Spirit stirring my heart.  Usually when I feel this way, I know it may be that there is sin in my life and I will beg God to reveal it to me.  Yet nothing came to light.

Over the past months, I have begun to realize I need this connection with the Father that comes through pouring out my heart to Him . . . just like a thirsty, dying man needs water.  It’s not a want anymore – it is a desperate need.  Once you have tasted of the goodness of the Lord, you realize all other shallow, earthly pleasures are like sawdust to your spirit.

By the end of the week, I was desperately thirsty for my God.  Why was He so silent?  It felt like my prayers crashed into the cloud cover hanging over the valley and then slammed back to earth to shatter at my feet.  In essence, it was like all feelings of vibrant faith had left . . . leaving only a quiet hush.

It was sometime around Sunday and I think we may have even been sitting in Sunday School when this thought hit me: every single thing I believed last week when the feelings of faith were there . . . I still believed this week – even though there was nothing but silence.

My feelings did not determine the truth of the Scriptures.  His Word stood true no matter what I was feeling.  God is constant like that!

And so in that moment, my spirit whispered to God:  “I still believe everything I believed last week.”  In my heart, I knew He was the faithful one, even when my body and my emotions sometimes wimped out on me.  He would always be my rock and my hiding place.  Simply because I chose to believe.

Little did I know that it was the hush before the whirlwind, the calm before that hurricane, the quiet of the teacher before He opens His mouth to speak.  It had been simply that . . . a hush.  A waiting in the shadows before He would pour out His Spirit into our lives in a way we had not experienced before.

Monday morning dawned like most Mondays – but through circumstances I cannot reveal here, God ushered us into the lives and hearts of a couple who were going through some deep struggles.  On that very day.

Looking back, it wasn’t that Heaven had been shut or God had turned away.  He had simply been waiting, testing.  Perhaps He had been saying, “Are you really ready for the waters I am going to immerse you in for the next weeks, months, or years?  How badly do you want and desire Me – and only Me?”

I don’t pretend to know what God Almighty thinks . . . I only know I was a parched and thirsty soul.  And once He opened the floodgates of Heaven, I couldn’t get enough.  When we saw what we were dealing with in this counseling situation, I shed more tears at the throne of the King than I had in a long while.  Since snow covers my garden, I resorted to my kitchen and basement . . . it was there I struggled, I pleaded, I begged, and I wept.  For hurts.  For healing.  For redemption.  For love – His love to flow through me.

So if you find yourself wrapped in silence, your heart is pure before God, and yet your prayers lay shattered at your feet . . . it might just simply be the quiet while God waits to see how much you desire Him and only Him.

 And ye shall seek Me, and find Me,

when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:13

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Six Things I Learned From My Aunts

The aunts from whom I learned.

My mother and her sisters, minus a sister who died in 1955. In this 1992 photo, they were 75-86.

Truth be told, I learned more from my aunts than I ever realized at the time. These aunts of mine (both maternal and paternal) were a stoic bunch. For the most part, they were German-Swiss stock with an ancestry that portrayed family partings from one country to another, never to see family members again. A family rich in Christian faith and trust, they were a family who descended, in part, from survivors of an Indian massacre in 1757. Several of my paternal aunts were raised by their father and older siblings after the sudden death of their mother. My maternal aunts lost a sister to an aneurysm and later a brother (both suddenly) many years before. All of them experienced hardship and heartbreak at some point in their lives. They were strong and stoic. They were courageous and caring. They mentored and mothered. They persevered and they prayed.

All of them are gone. There are days I wish I could sit at Aunt Verda’s laden table for Sunday dinner again, or watch Aunt Della’s eyes twinkle when she heard our laughter. I wish I could visit with Aunt Annie and see her smile, or look into Aunt Myra’s true blue eyes and feel her hug. I miss Aunt Mabel’s gentle regalness and Aunt Alma’s teaching, although at the time I didn’t appreciate her knowledge of the Bible. How I’d enjoy hearing Aunt Kate share her poetry or hear Aunt Rhoda and Aunt Edna tell stories of life when they were children.

Like Emily in Our Town, it’s impossible to go back and live those days over. I wonder what I’d discover if I could go back and re-live one of those days.

You know that feeling?

Some days it seems the world would just be better if I could look into one of their eyes, or hear those voices again. Even though they could do nothing about what’s happening in my world, just being there would make a difference.

I learned that doing what one ought to do, and doing it well, was praise enough.

While my aunts expressed appreciation, they were not quick to compliment or praise for talent or ability. Appreciation for a job well done, affirmation for character traits that were important, yes. But lavish praise? No. For after all, “self-pride stinks.” Satisfaction for a job well done should be reward enough, they would say. We didn’t need lavish praise for doing what we ought to have done in the first place. When a need was evident, they stepped up to bat and found a way to help meet the need without expecting praise, because that’s what families do. I learned that there is no better reward for a job well done than the satisfaction that comes from knowing I did it right, I did it on time, and I did it well. That was praise enough.

Even though money was tight and their possessions were few, they were hospitable. There was always room for one or two or three more at their table. When they had uninvited guests in their home, one would never have guessed they weren’t expecting company. There was preparation ahead of time, especially for Sundays, so there was always more than enough to go around. Any one of us would have been welcome in their homes at any time, and we knew it. I learned that hospitality is more than doing. It is being. I learned that preparation is an important part of hosting, but hospitality comes from the heart.

My aunts were not prone to gossip. I still find it hard to believe the things that were never mentioned to others. They shared secrets in their diaries, but no place else. Anything shared in confidence stayed there. All of them grew up in the home a minister, and several of my aunts had spouses involved in church ministry. What happened behind closed doors stayed behind closed doors, and there was no finagling to obtain information from any one of them. them.  Many secrets, I am certain, they carried with them to their graves. I learned that gossip does not a friend make and that it’s nice to have folks with whom one’s secrets are safe.

I learned that stability is stronger than panic.

When there was a crisis in the community or in the family, I didn’t see my aunts cringe or become ruffled easily. They remained calm, did what had to be done, and provided stability along the way. They managed to get things done without flaunting what they were doing. I experienced that quiet care and endurance as a child and grew to appreciate it even more as I got older. I learned that stability in distress is stronger than panic.

None of my aunts were extravagant. Their homes, clothing, and pocketbooks were orderly and clean. They always knew which side of the pocketbook held the Chapstick or Rosebud Salve. They could whip out a checkbook without searching in the bottom of a purse, for it was exactly where they always kept it. I learned that tidiness includes your pocketbook.

I remember the evening during visitation after a heart attack claimed the life of an uncle. There had been no warning and no time to say goodbye. I watched them, the sisters, my aunts. There were glimmers of tears in their eyes, but no weeping or wailing. How could I possibly handle the death of a sibling with such grace? I wondered.

Underneath their tears was a calm, serene emotion. This was life. Through their grief ran a chord of trust and faith in God. Underlying their sorrow was Truth. God was faithful. He had been faithful in their past. He was faithful today. He would be there in their tomorrows. Their unconditional trust in the sovereignty of God steadied them in their grief.

I learned from my aunts that sorrow does not need to break me.

That is why my aunts could sing in times of sorrow. They had tested the promises of God and found them true, Every Single Time. As a young child, I didn’t understand that faith because I had not yet experienced it myself. I learned that a deep, settled faith comes from years of walking with God and trusting Him when life doesn’t seem fair or doesn’t make sense. 

from my aunts, I learned to be strong

Looking back, I realize the things I learned from my aunts were caught as much as they were taught. It gives me pause. It gives me grateful praise.

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How to Prove That I Love Jesus

When all is said and done, there’s a record of  how we’ve lived. For those who lived thousands of years ago, God kept a record as well. For some of them – and, I believe, especially for those of us who claim to be His children – God kept a record. He recorded what mattered. You’ll find those folks in what we call the Faith Chapter: Hebrews 11.

faith-ark

If you grew up in church and heard the Bible stories from little up, you’ll know the characters. You’ll know what they did (or didn’t do.) What strikes me most is that these folks did what God told them to do – by faith.

The record of their obedience is proof to us that they were people of genuine faith. They proved their love to Him by acting out their faith.

Jesus said that if we really, truly love Him, we will love and keep His commandments. God gave specific instructions to those heroes of faith. Not only are their names listed, but what they did is listed as well.

By faith . . .

  • Abel brought the offering required by God. [Later he was murdered because of it.]
  • Noah built an ark and spoke to warn others. [In spite of ridicule.]
  • Abraham left his familiar, comfortable home and became a stranger in a foreign land; he packed his bags when he didn’t know where he was going. [How’s that for not having a GPS?]
  • Sarai conceived and bore a son in her old age. [This one makes me tired just thinking about it.]
  • Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice because he reasoned that God could raise him from the dead.[Could I really do this?]
  • Joseph gave instructions for the burial of his bones and prophecied about the exodus from Egypt years before it happened. [After being sold into slavery.]
  • The parents of Moses (Amram and Jocabed) hid their son Moses for three months because they saw he wasn’t an ordinary child and because they were not afraid of the king’s edict. [They knew they could lose their lives in defying the king’s edict.]
  • Moses chose to be mistreated and counted his disgrace for the sake of his people to be of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. [He claimed his people.]
  • Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea. [And boy, were they stiff-necked!]
  • The walls of Jericho fell down under the leadership of Joshua. [Six days of marching without anything happening.]
  • Rahab was saved from death because she received the spies and kept them safe from harm. [A forgiven prostitute.]
  • Gedeon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel and the prophets, through faith, subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword and were made strong out of weakness. The list (and their accomplishments) goes on and on and on.

Adam and Eve with their slain son Abel

The way I see it, it wasn’t an easy road. In fact, it was more difficult than pleasant, harder rather than easier.

They obeyed, and they persevered.

That’s why they are listed in the Hall of Faith. It was their obedience. Surely, they loved God. Yet the only way to show their love was to obey.

faith-hands

It still works the same way, today.  

To love means we obey.

What are the things He is asking you – or me – to do?  Sometimes He asks us to go somewhere. Sometimes He asks us to be someone. Sometimes He asks us to forgive, or to share, or to give. Sometimes He wants to change our relationships. Sometimes He asks us to change the places we go or the places we aren’t willing to go. Sometimes He asks us to make changes in the things we wear or the things we do, or the things we say.  Sometimes He wants us to spend more time with Him. Sometimes He asks us to step outside our comfort zone.

This I  know: if we ask Him, He will tell us what He wants us to do.

The most accurate measurement of our love for Jesus is our obedience to Him. 

Jesus said to those who claimed to love Him, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He also responded to the crowds following Him, “Why do you call me LORD,but do not the things that I say?”

He is still responding in the same way to those of us who declare our love for Him.

What cities is He asking you to march around? What sacrifice is He asking you to put on the altar? What offering is He asking you to bring?

We can’t say we love Him if we’re not willing to do those things.