Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Trip Home

Today is one year since my grandmother, Meme, went home to heaven. I have been thinking about her a lot this past week. I miss her. I so badly wish that my son could know her, be rocked by her, have her read to him. I wish I could still talk to her, get her emails, listen to her stories. The overwhelming comfort though for me is the reminder of the life she has now, fully healed and experiencing the glory of God.

During Meme's last week we were encouraged to continue to talk to her because she could still hear us. I was about 12 weeks pregnant so I talked a lot about my baby with her, told her stories about what my husband and I were doing, how much I loved her…what I would talk to her about if she were talking back. My mom suggested that I read to her from one of her favorite books, Traveling Light, by Max Lucado.

It is a study on the 23rd Psalm and uses the metaphor of the excess luggage we carry that is unnecessary. Meme loved this book. We joked that she was going to suggest it to King David, the author of Psalm 23. I had not read it so I flipped through it to find a chapter that seemed appropriate. Well, I came to the last one titled "I will lead you home". It describes the final piece of baggage that we, as Christians, must release which is the burden of the grave. We carry a lot of burdens on this earth because we live in a sinful world. But we have the joy of getting to give those burdens over to God for him to carry for us. The greatest burden we have is death, the punishment for our sins. God is loving though and also offers to carry that burden for us through the gift of salvation. This is what is written about in the final chapter of the book. Mama and I cried as I read it but it was one of the best things we could have heard at that time. It was a real reminder about what Meme was about to experience. Though she fought it hard, cancer had stolen her earthly body but it could not steal her life. When she took her last breath, Meme left this earth and was greeted in heaven. As painful as it was (and still is) to lose her, how can I not celebrate that for her? In the moments after her death, my mom said to me "she put down that last piece of luggage." What a comfort it was to think of that during that painful time. I spent a lot of time after that trying to picture what Meme was getting to experience at that time. I don’t know exactly what heaven will be like, but I do know that she was experiencing beyond what we could even imagine.

Actually, reading that book was the second best thing I could have read that week. The best was something I read privately, a few mornings before she passed away. Meme left us a list of her favorite Scriptures. One morning that I couldn’t sleep, I opened my Bible and looked up each passage on the list. It was such a sweet time when I got to learn even more about her faith. I was surprised to learn that we shared a favorite verse. I read some of the Psalms she liked and wondered at what point in her life they brought particular comfort. I was also amazed at the strength of her faith when I read other Psalms because they did not waver in praise to God. But one in particular was the best gift she could have given us- John 14:1-14. The reason that one was so important was because it told us without a doubt what she believed and because of that, we could celebrate he home going to heaven.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23:6

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Heavenly Medal Ceremony

I loved watching the Olympics. The skill involved, the excitement of a race, the patriotism...I love it all. My favorite is the medal ceremony- when an athlete stands proudly on a stand, singing his or her country’s anthem as the flag is raised, experiencing the reward for years of hard work.

I was thinking about the life an Olympic athlete leads. To be the best in the world the athlete must spend hours each day perfecting their skill. Their diet, their habits, even where they live is all influenced by their sport. And they do it for a race that may last less than a minute, for the chance to stand on a podium for a few more minutes. And in four years it is likely that they will be replaced by someone who broke their record. Why do they do it? Well as someone who hates working out, I really have no clue as to why they would!

I then began to think about why most people do not pursue their goals with such dedication. Even further, shouldn’t Christians pursue their calling with even more determined commitment because their end goal was infinitely more rewarding? But then I remembered that someone else also had that thought and already taught that lesson…

I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:23-25

Okay, so Paul beat me to this bright idea. He was probably even referring to the types of races the original Olympics grew from in Greece. Anyway...

Do, I follow God with such dedication that everything I do is in response to my race? Do I run hard, all the way through the line, every time? Am I ever satisfied with anything less than gold? The answer is a sad “no”.

There is not a successful Olympic athlete who does not commit whole heartedly to their training. Sure, some have the right physique for their sport and have natural ability, but they also must work extremely hard. Well, God has given me everything I need to be “a natural” at my task and fully equipped me with everything I could need for the race. The prize is mine to run after.

And can you imagine that medal ceremony?

Final "I love my church" Post (for now)

I have been slow to write about this because every time I started, I couldn’t figure out how what exactly to write. I’ve written three or four drafts already but they never quite addressed what I wanted.

If you have read my blog in the past, you have read about the church I have been a part of and how much I love it. Well, the decision was made to close it a few weeks ago and we no longer meet together. That was a very difficult thing for me, as it was for many of my church family. We have since moved back to the sending campus and are transitioning into new roles there.

I have debated what to write about. Do I write about what I miss? I miss my church family who were so kind to us, I miss serving with a group that was such an amazing team, I miss my husband leading worship, I miss getting to play the keyboard, I miss showing up early and staying late, I miss knowing I was a part of something great…but that wasn’t really what I wanted to write about.

So do I write about what I loved about our campus? I loved the people, I loved the sense of community, I loved the atmosphere of worship, I loved watching the Body of Christ in action, I loved the leadership team my husband was a part of, I loved the challenge…but that too wasn’t what I wanted to write about.

Do I write about the feelings that have come from this? Denial, anger, confusion, sadness…no, again that is not what I wanted to write about. Plus, it would probably just get me in trouble.

So, what do I write about? I think it is what I have learned through this. Or, maybe I should say am currently learning. We went to this new campus over 2 ½ years ago knowing that God called us to go. We knew we were called there a year before that. I still have no doubt that we were obedient in going. So why would God lead us to something that would end so painfully? I’m not positive, but I do know that I am still grateful that He did. In that time I got to experience real community in a church, find real joy in service, met some amazing friends and built genuine relationships, learned so much about ministry…I will probably never know all that I learned. As much as it hurt, and still hurts, to have the door close on something we had poured our hearts into, I would not think twice about doing it again. So, the most important thing I have learned is that God is trustworthy and faithful. It makes it much easier to be obedient to the next thing He calls us to because I know that God has another incredible experience in store for us.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3