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.






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One True Fragrance (in Marriage)


Roses. I do like roses and their fragrance.

‘Especially on our anniversary, my birthday, on Mother’s day, or any other time in-between. Especially other special times, like the births of our babies – I like roses.

I used to tell folks that when I wanted a dozen roses, all I had to do was have another baby.

While it’s true that roses were waiting for me six times over when I got back to my hospital room from Labor and Delivery, it’s also true that I don’t get roses for every birthday, every anniversary, or every Mother’s day. Just sometimes, and sometimes in-between.

After all these years, he continues to splurge. He keeps saying that he doesn’t know how much longer we’ll have each other and he wants to have no regrets, so I’ve quit fussing about the cost.


You know what makes the roses so special? 

The fact that, on any other day when there are no roses, my man is in my corner. Any other day when I’m unkempt and the house is a mess, he helps pick up the pieces and puts me back together again.

Any other day when there is no wafting fragrance in the house, he becomes the fragrance by serving me, again.

The man’s rather imperfect, and no one knows it better than I.  But then, so is his wife. Imagine that. He can verify that, but he won’t broadcast that because, he says, we are one. To speak negatively of me is speaking negatively about himself because we are on the same team. Even so, in a world of strife where so many marriages have dissolved or  are falling apart, we are blessed.

Like so many other marriages, ours could simply be a statistic.

It’s not that we’re so smart or so special. It’s that God – and the way He tells us to do marriage – is.

When you go to God for help, when you really seek for wisdom, when you truly apply what you know to do even when you don’t feel like it,  you  will find that marriage can be done well.

There have been days when I’ve stormed the gates of Heaven, asking God to show me how to understand and love this man. Every time I have asked, He has given me answers.  ‘Not that I always liked the answers or felt like following the directions, mind you. But every time I’ve asked for wisdom, He has given what I needed. ‘Trouble is that sometimes we just don’t bother to ask or we just don’t really don’t want to know.

Our marriage bed is not an array of roses minus thorns.

It’s a fragrance that comes when the petals are crushed as  becomes us.

It’s a fragrance that comes when making love is not so much about “everything is perfect and we’ve got it all together” as it is about “even though we are frustrated with each other, we are still committed to each other; so tonight making love to you is a great way to emphasize that commitment.”

I always thought I’d want a summer wedding, but that didn’t happen. Does that matter now? Not at all. That’s how it is with marriage. The things on the “must have” list, many times, are no longer important and really weren’t that important in the first place. What really matters is commitment.

I figure some folks are tired of hearing me say that, but it’s true. If more people truly believed it, there would be fewer marriages floundering by the wayside.

In a small town in western Maryland over thirty-two years ago, in the church where my parents were married many years before, we tied the knot. Amid freshly-fallen snow, family, and friends, we celebrated. With flowers, music, family – and with God – we were wed.

Life happened, and now our kids are grown and mostly on their own. Life happened, and it is still happening. As life happens, we still celebrate. I still enjoy roses and their perfume. Most especially, I enjoy the fragrance of commitment.

Most especially, we continue to celebrate the greatest fragrance of all: the true faithfulness of God.

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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 (ask me how I know!) 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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