Over the years, I have had occasion to go under light anesthesia a few times when my wife, who is a physician, would be standing nearby. I usually requested of her to report to me afterward if I said anything untold while I was under the effect of the drugs. I never wanted to have anything I say while not in control of my faculties to dishonor Christ, embarrass my family or disparage anyone; particularly the doctor who was probably holding a very sharp scalpel! Thus far the reports have been favorable. There is always a possibility, I believe, when our inhibitions are lowered and our natural defenses are removed, we may speak that what may or may not reflect our true self by our words. Perhaps it is more likely that under the influence of drugs, our subconscious finds the freedom to wag our tongues. In any event, I am thankful that God has put a muzzle across my mouth thus far!
I have been told that I can, under the effect of serious pain killers, tell a pretty funny story or two! During one such episode. I recounted to my visiting cop friends that we were going to do a raid on the local middle school. Inasmuch as I was retired at the time of this particular story, it made even less sense. My visitors did get a good laugh out of it, so the medicine was not wasted!
Very recently, I had the honor of visiting a dear friend of mine who soon will be in the presence of his Lord. He has been around for a few years. In fact, if his promotion to heaven would be delayed by a bit longer, he would have soon reached his centennial celebration of life! God has other plans for him though, it seems, and soon he will be reunited with his wife of more than sixty years. What a tri-partite meeting that will be!
The reason I mention my friend is that, when I visited him, he had been in such pain that Hospice had upped his pain medication and he was not inhibited in what he decided to share with us. One might well imagine that being near death, having been in agonizing pain for some time and being unable to do even the most basic things for himself, that he would have more than a few things to complain about. Not my friend.
Upon seeing my wife and I enter his small apartment, my friend reached out his hand to take hold of mine. He began to repeat slowly, while looking at Karin and I, “beautiful people.” Now, anyone who knows us, beautiful is an adjective that can describe Karin; but that is not a descriptor that is usually used when describing my mug! I know, though, that my friend was alluding to something much deeper than our physical appearance. To him, our coming to see him, to show that we care for him and love him reaffirms in his mind that we are lovely and he wanted us to know how much he appreciated us. Even in his heavily sedated mind-set; his thoughts were of others and not of himself. That isn’t surprising because that is the way he always has been.
I am thankful for being permitted to know him and his wife for a good number of years and my friend has always been so very interested in others. He is so very thankful for the kindness shown to him by others and I know that is appropriate. However, I also know that all of the love and kindness poured out on him in these days is the result of a lifetime he has invested in others.
Someone once made the observation that you can always tell among those attending a funeral who truly loved the person for whom the service is performed. They are the only ones not looking at their watch! When my friend’s time finally comes, no one in that sanctuary will be checking the time.
He is to be first of all I love and it is through my love for Him and His love for me that I can love others.
ALL I NEED… really?
Every once in a while, something that I did not expect comes along and hits me like a brick right upside the head. That is what happened this morning while in services at the Chapel. We were having a wonderful time singing in worship and we performed one of the past ‘golden oldies’ of the faith. The refrain of the song came around, All I Need is You”
A great song, a great refrain – is it possible that I really meant that? My brother was lying in the hospital hanging on to life with tubes and a respirator. I looked across the row in front of me and saw a son-in-law of mine and daughter and another son-in-law, a daughter-in-law; and next to me was my wife and another daughter and son-in-law. In the nursery of the church were five of my grandchildren and two others were in their own classes. One daughter was away at work and a son was in police training… Did I really believe that I could be Job? I could have someone walk up to me sometime this week and tell me that everyone I love was gone in some horrific accident and take it?
Much of what I KNOW will help but how much will it help? For example:
I know that everyone of them will be waiting for me in heaven if such a tragedy should happen. I know they would be better off than me!
But, what if…
suddenly everything closest to me on this earth is ripped from me – the people who love me and help me, care for me and stay with me through the tough times are gone and I have nothing left but God… would I blame Him or turn to Him? I hope that I would fall totally on Him, completely dependent on Him for every day to continue.
Would I, could I possibly turn and say, All I need is God?
I know that having complete faith in God doesn’t mean you do not grieve; so I believe that any grief would be natural and to be experienced as part of a healing process.
I want to believe that I will be Okay and that I will be a testimony to the truth that God really is all I need. Affirming that is not saying that God is all I love. God gave us the love that we have for one another and He helps that love grow and nourish. He is to be the first of all that I love and it is through my love for Him and His for me that I can love others. It is that same relationship that will take me through the grief to continue one day at a time. Whatever life brings, I know eternity will make it all Okay. Until then, like the father who told Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief” I pray “God, You are all I need; Help me to need only You.”
…she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go… I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide.
So often I hear grandparents, myself included, talk about how much more fun it is now with our grandkids and that if we could have, we might have opted to have our grandchildren first! Of course, the idea of grandkids first would only have served for us to have our grandchildren at a time in our lives when we were focused on a hundred other things called life, job, career, education and duties or responsibilities that crowd out all the time we should be taking to just enjoy them as it was for our own children!
Our grandchildren are with us at a time in most of our lives where we can focus on keeping the main thing the main thing. An old adage from days gone by is wherever you’re at… be there. The point of that really struck home with me a couple of times in my life. Once was during those years when I was working long hours at the job and going to school part-time. Very often one of my small children would be tugging on my arm trying to get my attention for a moment or two and if I did finally acknowledge the tug; too often I was only half-there with an ‘uh-huh’ ‘that’s nice’ when they may have just told me they set their sister’s hair on fire! The other time was when I was older and my mom was quite a bit up there in years, a widow all alone and she would call every day to talk about absolutely anything. Sometimes, it seemed like she talked about everything. One day I caught myself ‘uh-huh’ and ‘that’s nice’ to my mom as I clicked away at my computer while she may have just told me that she was going to run off and marry the mailman and join a Wallenda Brothers High Wire Act! It hit me hard that someday I would miss those phone calls and I committed myself that I was going to be stronger at ‘being there’ when I was talking with my mom. Now that she, too, is in glory I’m so glad I did.
One of the dividends that comes from having the time to spend hours with my grandchildren and to work on wherever I’m at -being there is that I get to practice what it was I loved about my maternal grandfather. Most of the times I was with him, there were usually several of my cousins in close proximity. Being deep in the heart of West Virginia, you couldn’t throw a dead cat without hitting a relative of some sort or another. But no matter how many of us curtain climbers were there vying for Papaw’s attention, whenever I was with him; it was as if I was the most important person in the whole wide world to him. Now I get to enjoy helping my own grandchildren all feel like they are the most special person who ever wore hair.
There is another great dividend and that is the total, one hundred percent acceptance and love that our grandchildren give to us. They just love us. Sure they expect that we will take care of them but especially at this very early age, they don’t know beans from apple butter as my mother would say, about what our careers were or how important or unimportant we were… they just love us and most of the time they cannot wait to be with us! I confess, though, to this day I still have no idea what that saying of my mom’s meant and frankly, why does anyone need to know the difference between beans and apple butter? Who cares? I digress.
The grandkids will come running at us as hard as they can to get a hug. Their eyes light up and they are like the former
Cleveland Indian, Carlos Baerga, chugging for home plate. I love to get down in a catcher’s stance and just absorb the full hit of that hug-run. Of course, sometimes they are running that fast because of something they just did to provoke their mother to a fit of temporary insanity and they needed the shelter and protection that only Papaw can give and they needed right now! Just the other day two of my grandchildren were over and I was preparing to leave to do some work I had to do. (Don’t faint or think I’m telling an untruth, I do actually perform functions that bear a striking resemblance to work, at times. Not real often mind you and it is a nasty habit I am trying to break!) I had hugged one of the children and rather than head for the car I went to the study to retrieve one of the multiple things I always forget whenever I am leaving to go just about anywhere. (I think the neighbors have a pool going, every time I leave as to how many times I will go back in the house for something I have forgotten or how far I will make it down the street before I have to turn around and come back for something! So far, I haven’t left a child at home alone or anything like that… yet.) What happened next though is what started me thinking about this running for hugs business.
The other granddaughter had thought I had left without hugging her but when she learned I was in my study she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go. Unprepared as I was, with my back to the on-coming assault, she landed hard and grabbed me around both knees (including the new one the doctors just so lovingly and expensively installed.) It was a hug that about made my kneecaps pop off. Glad they didn’t that one cost me about $6,000! You can’t just go down to the Jiffy-Lube and have ‘em pop it back on. And Amazon, no matter what they say, does not have an app for that.
Here’s what I got to chewing on about this whole running for hugs business. I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide. Can you imagine how it would make our Heavenly Father feel if we felt like that toward Him and we would not be able to wait until the very next time we could be, like my grandkids say, ‘At Papaw’s house!’ only at our Heavenly Father’s house? Sometimes we can’t spare five minutes during the day just to stop by and say ‘Hello’ to our God. His Word tells us that He inclines His ear toward us eager to hear what is on our hearts. He knows, certainly, but He wants to hear it from us. Sometimes, our grandkids who are old enough to be in school, will receive an accolade of some type and their Mom will tell us about it. But, I still love hearing it directly from them, too. It is even more special when they are eager to share it with me. I think God is like that with us. Yes, He knows every word before we speak it, but He still wants to hear it from us and He loves when we are anxious to share it with Him.
Do you remember the story of the prodigal son in scripture? After he has gone away and unwisely spent all of his money. He is sheepishly returning home, hoping maybe his father will accept him as a servant. But the father has been watching every day hoping he would see his son come home and finally on that amazing day when he looks for the thousandth time that he had looked out that door, he sees his son coming in the distance.
This time the son isn’t running to his father; no he has a lot to be ashamed about – but just as he turns that last corner, BAM! His father – who ran all the way from the house – slams into him like William Refrigerator Perry of the Chicago Bear’s fame hitting an on-coming Quarterback with a loose ball in his arms!
Maybe, on that first day when we enter heaven, we’ll be excited to finally see our God face to face and we may take off on a dead run for Him and maybe, just maybe, our Heavenly Father will be running full-tilt anxious to hold us! That will be an amazing day – running for a hug.
We can live each day, joyously, victoriously, in grateful appreciation of the heavenly home that has already got our name on the mailbox!
Recently we treated the topic of having only about ten minutes left in your life and knowing that it was soon to be over. The topic was spurred on by the recent crash of a Lufthansa flight into the side of the Alps, apparently on purpose. Those on the flight would have known for about ten minutes that they were about to crash. Today we want to take that a step further and consider finding our place in heaven. As we mentioned in the previous offering there is no biblical support for St. Peter standing at the pearly gates of heaven deciding who should or should not enter. The GOOD news is that for those who have accepted Christ as Savior, they are already in heaven! You ask how that could possibly be since every morning you wake up and you are still living and working on the mortal plain. If we read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, the Lord has already given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and predestined us to adoption. What Paul is helping the Ephesians to understand is that if they had accepted Christ’s forgiveness for their sins, then they were already citizens of the heavenly kingdom. Perhaps an analogy will help us to understand it a little bit better. God had already created a way for us to be adopted us as His children.
Imagine, if you will, that you are a child whose father was in the US Air Force stationed in Germany. When you were born you were born on the U.S. Air base but within the country of Germany. Because you are the child of a U.S. airman you are automatically a citizen of the United States even though you have never set foot in the U.S. Someday you will travel with your parents back to the U.S. and when you arrive you will have credentials that show you are a U.S. citizen even though you have never been in the U.S. and you are immediately admitted. You were, positionally, a U.S. citizen though you had never been in the U.S. That is what Paul meant when he said that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Just as the child of an American has all the freedoms and rights of every other citizen positionally without ever having been in the country or, for the believer who is positionally a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, never yet having been in the heavenly places.
Paul writes that we were preordained to adoption as sons. Let us use the same example only with an adoption. The U.S. airman and his wife are living in Germany. Both are U.S. citizens. They have an opportunity to adopt an infant who is of German descent. He is, in fact, a German citizen. Once they adopt the little German infant the boy becomes a citizen of the United States positionally because he has never been in the U.S. and was not born there. In this scenario we will make it so that as he gets older, to have his American citizenship he must renounce his German citizenship. He may still have not been inside the United States physically, in fact he may still live in Germany; but his position is one of a full U.S. citizen; adopted as a son of a citizen and given full rights as a citizen. No one will dare deny him access because he is already a citizen. Imagine if when he got to the entry point and they learned that he was the son of the president! The welcome home mat would certainly be rolled out!
When we accept our position as a child of God we will walk up to those gates as a Child of the King; a royal heir to all that is God’s! Talk about a red carpet arrival! The Bible tells us that the angels marvel at us because of what God has done for us. They have been with God since He created them, yet they can never experience being the recipient of the full love we have received and can never be adopted as God’s children. As a Christ-follower, we are children of the King with full citizenship in heaven, instilled with all the rights and responsibilities that are part of our citizenship in heaven.
That is the meaning of Paul’s words in Ephesians chapter 1. I trust it will provide you with comfort knowing that you, if you have accepted Christ as Savior, have already attained your position in heaven. Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you and if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself. What a spiritual blessing in the heavens we have already received that our place has been secured, Paul writes, that it is sealed by the Holy Spirit. For those who argue then that we can somehow lose our place there is to believe that we, as failed human beings, Jesus said He understood that we were dust, could take something away from God who has sealed us with the Holy Spirit! Those who live in such a way that one would say they would be in danger of losing their salvation should examine themselves to see if they ever had salvation to begin with. Like the seed that fell on shallow ground and never took root; many need to return to the cross and seek that original forgiveness and then their lives will be eternally changed. The outcome of their human life will be radically different. Praise God for that!
We have covered a great deal of theology in one lesson but perhaps a reminder for us all. We can live each day joyously, victoriously and in grateful appreciation of the heavenly home that has already got our name on the mailbox!
I learned something the other day on way to school. Someone once wrote a book titled to the effect of Everything I Ever Needed to Know I learned in Kindergarten. After this event, I would change the title just a little. Here is my title: Everything I Ever Needed to Know, I was Taught by a Kindergartener. In this case, she was still a preschooler! I am grateful that sometimes God chooses to humble me by the acts and words of children. In this particular case, I was taking my granddaughter to her preschool and while riding along she saw my journal lying on the console between the front seats. She began flipping through the pages that chronicled my thoughts over the last decade, nothing truly profound I am sure and in no particular design to the writing, just thoughts. My idea, when I began it was to try to leave behind some small insight into how I see my world. Until explaining its presence to my granddaughter I am not sure that anyone else in the world even knew it existed. It is just something to help hang on to the precious times… and that is where the lesson began.
As she asked questions about the small leather bound book, I noticed she was intently reading it (upside down). A few moments later, I glanced back to notice she had put pen to blank page and had started to write. I immediately told her to stop. She looked back at me perplexed. It was a book, after all, made to be written in. She was writing on a blank page. I began to explain that this was a book that I write in on things that are important to me. That is when the lightning hit! What could possibly be more important to me in the years ahead than a reminder of one morning, just me and my granddaughter; a 4 (almost 5) year old teacher of old men? And too, when my children and grandchildren peruse what I have written some day after I have left this earthly realm, how many smiles will those half dozen or so lines, so intently written on that page (still upside down), bring to their readers? I corrected myself and told her she could use one page to chronicle her thoughts as we rode along in the car.
True to her form, she did just that; only stopping momentarily to ask me how she would know where to find the book once I was in heaven. I assured her that she would find it but, not satisfied with that answer, she pressed further. Finally, I told her it would be in my desk. It wasn’t until I was very specific about what drawer it would be in, that known, she was content. She had no difficulty with the idea that I would be in heaven and she would go on with life. She said as she finished her page, “Papaw, when you’re in heaven and you finished your story, my Mommy and Daddy and me will keep writing in here to tell the rest of the story.” (Paul Harvey would be proud of her, I know I am!)