Category Archives: family

REPOST: Teach Us To Number Our Days

I like the story of a man who accidentally calls a wrong 1-800 number and gets GOD. After being apologetic about wasting God’s time with a wrong number, God says that’s OK, what we humans think is a long time is really almost nothing to him. So the man says: “Let me get this right: 1000 of our years are like nothing more than a minute to you?” And God says “yes.”

“So what money?” says the man. He continues: “Is it true that you really own the cattle on a thousand hills and that everything we could possibly ever own is really yours?” Again, God responds with a “yes.”

Feeling a bit braver, he pushes on. He says, “So a million dollars to you is like nothing more than a penny, huh?” God says “That’s right.”
The man then asks “Hey God, I got a favor to ask. Can I have a penny?”
To which God responds: “In a minute.”

 

PSALM 90:10 says: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.”

The most we can hope for, as far as our age goes, is about 70 years; maybe 80 or so if we’re exceptionally strong in health… more or less. And back in verse 4 of Psalm 90 we read “For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.”

Our full-life, in God’s reckoning of eternity, is like the morning fog: it’s gone pretty quickly without a trace. But what does 70 years give us… what value does it have?

Depends on what we put into it.

chalkboard-hours

There are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, which means we each have 8,760 hours in a year. If you multiply that number of hours in a year by a life span of, let’s go ahead and say 70, you get 613,200 hours in a 70 year lifespan.

BY THE WAY, by following the math out, a 70 year lifespan would have 36,792,000 minutes (36 MILLION…) OR 2,207,520,000 seconds (2 BILLION, 207 MILLION…)

So, since our time is our most precious commodity, we ALL could be considered to be MILLIONARES! (or even BILLIONAIRES). So how do we spend our time? Into what purposes and activities do we invest our time?

To start with, the average American person, in a 70 year lifespan, will have spent an average of 178,360 hours just sleeping. (7 hours/day x 7 days/ week x 52 wk/yr x 70 yr = 178,360 hours of sleep in your lifetime. To make it easier to process, you can take that number of sleeping hours (178,360) and divide it by the number of hours in a year (8760) and that means you sleep about 20 years of a 70 year lifespan.

That same person will have spent 104,000 hours of their life working, which turns out to be almost 16 years spent working out of 70.

That person will also spend an average of 76,440 hours of their life eating! (Assuming an hour for every meal (that’ll count your snacks) X 3 meals a day X 7 days a week X 52 weeks X 70 years = 76,440 hours of eating. That’s almost 9 years of eating!

Time spent watching television is also insightful: 3 hours of TV each day = another 9 years spent just watching T.V. !

Now, when it comes to church, there’s a bit of a problem because the AVERAGE American simply does NOT go to church! So for the average American it boils down to ZERO hours a year.

But, for OUR benefit, we’ll assume the Average American Church going Christian will have spent 6/10 of a year worshipping God.(Assuming an hour and a half each week, giving you time to get in here and get out plus the normal hour and fifteen minutes we usually set aside for the worship service.)

NOW, some reading this are going to challenge me in this. They might say: “That’s not fair, preacher! I go to church more often than that, I’m a really committed Christian!’”

Assuming that’s true, we’ll take you Sunday morning worship time PLUS EVERY Sunday School Class you’ve ever attended, PLUS EVERY Prayer Meeting scheduled, or Youth group meeting, or Women’s group, PLUS EVERY Bible Study that takes place, and we can bump your weekly Church worship time up to 5 hours in a week. What’s that give us? (5 hours per week X 52 weeks X 70 years = 18,200 hours in worship in your lifetime = about 2 years and a couple of months spent worshipping God.

Add to those numbers the results of a Survey of 6000 people polled in 1988, reported by U.S. News and World Report:

In a lifetime the average American will spend:

chalkboard years.pngSix months sitting at stoplights

Eight months opening junk mail

One year looking for misplaced objects

2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls

4 years doing housework

5 years waiting in line

Reader’s Digest takes this even further and says that the Average American will spend 6 years looking for misplaced stuff.

OH GOD… Teach us to number our days……..

As we look back over this list of time spent, we can see how our little uses of time add up to YEARS throughout the course of a lifetime, so we need to ask God to help us number our days… to make the most of our time.

Who is our God? Our God is the one to whom we give our time and attention.

OH GOD… “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

-Psalm 90:12

(This originally started as a newsletter article years ago based on a message I had heard once at Cherry Run Camp. Then it became a blog post in January 2011. Now, it is ‘resurrected’ today here and served as the foundation for my Sunday morning sermon at Carmichaels: First United Methodist Church.)

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American Reflections

My wife and I took a cross-country trip in 2002 as part of home-schooling our two daughters (12 & 13) and partly as vacation. We also took a foster daughter (17) and my wife’s mother. This was my end of trip reflection that I thought I might use as the basis for a pastor’s letter, but never did. (Jan. 28, 2002)

My family and I just came back from three weeks traveling out west. Our purpose was to rest a bit, visit Gay’s brother in California, and to give the girls the ultimate educational field trip. We went through 16 different states and spent a day in Mexico’s Baja California region as well.

As is often the case, I found myself being educated probably more than the girls.

  • I learned that looking down from the top of the St. Louis Arch makes my knees quiver.
  • I learned that you know nothing about waiting and the need for patience until you try to drive back into the United States in this post-Sept. 11th era.
  • I learned that it is silly to take along three or four “fun” books to read in your quiet times when you have 6700 miles to go with five others all staying in the same hotel room with you every night.
  • Oh yeah, I also learned the names of parts of a car such as spindles, races, bearings, motor mounts, and axles… and I learned that every one of them can break without warning or provocation… whether I know their name or not.
  • I also learned how evil and sinful mankind can be, as we stopped in Las Vegas and were bombarded by the worst of humanity’s vileness, vulgarity, greed, drunkenness, and lust, (and this was at 6:00 in the evening!).
  • I saw the evidence of evil again in Oklahoma City at the bombing memorial and I came face to face with the evil and hatred possible even in us as Americans towards each other.

But I also, once again, learned how great God is. Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still, and know that I am God,” but places like the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, the Mojave National Preserve, the Utah buttes, the Texas plains, the Malibu beach in California, the High Plains of Kansas, the Colorado Rockies, and each day’s new and glorious sunrises and sunsets, just showed me in new ways how colorful and creative and imaginative and detailed our Creator is, and was, and will continue to be.

As we faced mile after mile, and hundreds of rest areas and almost two dozen nights in hotels and motels, I found myself seeing God at work in the “drawing together” of our family. We did homework together, we talked, we hunted for license plates from different states, we asked questions, we swam together, we got “lost” together (I still think I could have found my way out). We shopped together (OK… They shopped and I “hung out”). We toured museums, memorials, and national parks, a tea factory, the Gaither resource center, the Focus on the Family ministry center, three different car repair garages, visited old friends, sang together in a nursing home in Arkansas, visited churches in Texas and Missouri, and spent a day with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland.

We saw God’s hand leading us as we found that we were in the right spot at the right time again and again. Each of the three times we had car troubles, we found ourselves close to someone who could help us, with a place to stay nearby.

Several times we found ourselves at the right spot to be an encouragement for someone else who needed someone to pray for them and with them. We arrived in Texas on the very day that a special speaker was coming in and holding special services at our friend’s church.

Throughout Scripture, God instructs His people to take time away from their regular daily activities. Weekly Sabbath days of rest and occasional extended Jubilees and personal retreats are ideas found in God’s Word. These times help us to regain our focus and recapture the sense of what is important as we not only serve God in our workplaces, but also in our families and in the wider ministry setting of His world.

How will your family use rest, Sabbath, and vacation to regain your connection to each other and to our amazing God?

 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Another post recalling that trip can be found here: October 1, 2008.

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Accidental Evangelism

I originally shared this in another setting several years ago. The events described occurred in October 2006.

My daughter Sarah and I were in an accident this past week.

It was Tuesday night and we were on our way to pick up my 2 year old son from the babysitter. Sarah, 16, for some reason had decided to sit in the middle seat in our mini-van, and I, of course, was driving.

We came to the spot on route 322 where I needed to turn left onto Thunderbird Road. There was a lot of traffic coming from the opposite direction, so I stopped and waited for them to pass. Another car came from behind, unaware that the traffic ahead of her had come to a stop, and she rammed into the rear of our van. She apparently had been busy with a cell phone or maybe the radio, because there was no braking at all… She just drove into the back of our stopped car.

Both cars are probably totaled… although the insurance companies are still working on that end of things. As for us, we had seat belts on and, other than a bit of neck strain and some soreness, Sarah and I are fine. The ambulance trip and a couple hours at the ER confirmed that. The girl that hit us had a few more injuries, but I saw her later as she was being discharged, so I know she too is OK.

All of that is merely background.

Because when I saw her, when she was being discharged, she came to my ER room (I was last to be discharged), she again apologized and then she thanked me!

I was blown away! She simply thanked me for “being so nice.”

It’s moments like that that remind me that God really is still working on me. Family and friends can tell you that there were times in the past when my anger would have flared up and I would have expressed that anger… in not necessarily kind ways. But it didn’t even enter my mind this time… I knew that Sarah and I were pretty OK… but this girl (and her car) had taken the brunt of the damage. I literally was scared that there was something wrong with her… and afraid she might go into shock (or worse) at any moment.

Other than a praise for safety during the “giving thanks” part of our prayer time, I didn’t really bring my experience into the sermon today. Instead, we focused on the Scripture text from Acts 16 where Paul and Silas have a bad day. They had been harassed by a slave girl with a demon for days on end, until Paul finally turned around and cast the demon out of the girl… which upset the slave owners who had been making money off of her ‘talents.’ Paul & Silas were hauled in front of the magistrates, were stripped, were beaten with rods, and were thrown into the inner prison, bound and in stocks. To me, that would really be a bad day!

Frankly, I imagine I would be somewhere between loudly protesting and whining, moping, and crying. But according to Acts 16:25, Paul & Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God…”

WOW!

The thing that caught my attention even more was the next phrase: “… and the other prisoners were listening to them.” And a few verses later, after a Divine intervention occurs, the jailer himself notices the godly behavior of these men of God… and asks them how he might have what he notices in them. He says “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And we read in verse 31, their answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”

Paul & Silas, in the midst of a bad day, were godly. They prayed and they worshipped God… even in the midst of the ‘stuff’ of life that was going on around them. And everyone around them was noticing!!!

My pastor, right before I entered ministry, was Rev. David Bunnell, and I once heard him use an analogy of a teacup. He said that each of us are like a teacup… possibly ornate or ordinary, delicate or rugged, fancy or plain, small or large… but it doesn’t really matter what kind of teacup we are… it matters what our cup is filled with.

He then said that you can never really tell what’s in each other’s teacups… until your cup is bumped. When something happens that upsets you or messes up your day… then it’s like your cup gets bumped… and whatever is inside spills out a bit.

Many of us, when our cup’s bumped, have rage, bitterness, or sarcasm spill out. I’ve been guilty of this myself at times. But Jesus Christ offers us the chance to be ‘refilled’ by His Holy Spirit continually. You know this is reality when your cup gets bumped and people around you can see what you’ve filled your cup with.

This week my cup got bumped… and some of the love and grace of Jesus spilled out… But unfortunately that isn’t always the case. If it were a bigger bump, and more spilling occurred, I’m afraid the sludge and YUK that’s in the bottom of my cup might have spilled over too.

That’s why we need to make sure we’re allowing Jesus Christ to continue to fill us. It’s not enough to ‘be filled’ when we get saved and then we walk through life and the dust and dirt and debris of life settle into our cups. That’s why we need to be in a constant refilling, like a cup that’s attached to a garden hose… even if dirt falls into the cup… it’s swept away by the constant infilling from the hose…

That’s what I want. Not to be filled with Living Water or the Filling of the Holy Spirit like it was some one-time event in the past at which I can wistfully look back and remember. NO! I want to filled and refilled and renewed all the time… so the sludge of life doesn’t have a chance to settle in… and even the stuff that was already there is eventually washed away.

Guess I’ll know even better how that’s going the next time my cup gets bumped. How about you? It’s absolutely vital that we get this right, because as my week showed and Paul & Silas learned… the world around us will notice!

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Learning to be a Better Parent… from my Kids?

I was the speaker for the Spring Banquet for one of the other Protestant churches in DuBois in 2006. Here are my notes:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

My kids have been teaching me how to be a parent. I thought I knew, but bit by bit and day by day I encounter situations that I just have to learn some new parenting skill… whereas before I had any kids I was pretty sure I knew how children ought to be raised… Now I just hope that we all live through it. And we look for the memorable moments along the way. And I’m not alone in this either, am I?

Chuck Swindoll tells a story of when his son Curtis was 6 and his daughter Charissa was 4 when he found himself in one of those memorable moments. He says that he suggested before supper that Curtis serve his little sister before he served himself. Chuck says:

Naturally, [Curtis]wondered why, since the platter of chicken sat directly in front of him… and he was hungry as a lion. I explained it is polite for fellas to serve girls before they serve themselves. The rule sounded weird, but he was willing… as long as she didn’t take too long.

… After prayer, he picked up the huge platter, held it for his sister, and asked which piece of chicken she wanted.

She relished all this attention. Being quite young, however, she had no idea which piece to take. So, very seriously, she replied, “I’d like the foot.”

He glanced in my direction, frowned as the hunger pains shot through his stomach, then looked at her and said, “Uh… Charissa, Mother doesn’t cook the foot!”

To which she replied, “Where is it?”

With increased anxiety he answered ( a bit louder), “I don’t know! The foot is somewhere else, not on this platter. Look, choose a piece. Hurry up!”

She studied the platter and said, “OK, just give me the hand.”

By now their mother and father were biting their lips to refrain from laughing out loud. We would have intervened, but decided to let them work it out alone. That’s part of the training process.

“A chicken doesn’t have a hand, it has a wing, Charissa.”

“I hate the wing, Curtis… Oh, go ahead and give me the head.”

By then I was headed toward the bathroom. I couldn’t hold my laughter any longer. Curtis was beside himself. His sister was totally frustrated, not being able to get the piece she wanted.

Realizing his irritation with her and the absence of a foot or a hand or head, she finally said in an exasperated tone, “Oh, all right! I’ll take the belly button!”

That did it. He reached in, grabbed a piece, and said, “That’s the best I can do!” He gave her the breast, which was about as close to the belly button as he could get.”

We laugh… and Chuck Swindoll laughed. But it illustrates a really important point. Kids will try their best to face new situations, but they’ll still only understand as much as they’ve been able to see and hear. Little Charissa didn’t know much about anatomy… of a chicken, at least. But she knew a little bit about her own anatomy. There were feet, hands, head, and belly button.

She started with what knowledge she already had…

That’s part of what I think Jesus had in mind when he was talking to the disciples in Mark chapter 10, verses 13-16

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

The children that day started with the knowledge that Mommy or Daddy brought them to the nice preacher… and they learned that he was nice… Gently, and kindly, he held them and blessed them.

Can you imagine as the years went by and those parents talked to that child about that day?

When I’m in the middle of a frustrating parent/child lesson, sometimes it’s hard for me to hear Jesus’ words that I’m to learn from these kids… and if I want to even enter the kingdom of Heaven I have to do it like the little children. So what can my kids, and your kids, teach us about approaching God, approaching Christ, and entering into the kingdom of God?

I think they have two ways.

First, they listen and observe and watch and hear…

Our little children are always watching and listening aren’t they?

They are learning by watching and listening to us… their parents… their mentors… their Sunday School teachers…

A child cannot learn to do something new unless they have first heard what is expected… they need an example. They watch for what we do so that they can make sense out of what is being asked of them in the new situation.

My daughter Michele is in the process of getting ready for her learner’s permit for driving. But she had to start with watching her mother and I drive first… And a decision on her part that she, too, wanted to learn this new skill. She had to learn the basics and the rules from the driver’s manual before she even had the right to TRY to get the permission to learn to actually drive the car.

And that brings us to the second way that children learn. First they witness what ought to be, by watching, listening, reading, and questioning… and then they learn by doing.

I learned a whole lot more about driving the day my mother let me drive the family vehicle the one mile from our house to the high school… I had watched my grandparents and parents drive our standard shift cars for years… I knew one foot went on the pedal on the far left and one foot went on the pedal to the far right.

Except the truck I was driving that morning was an automatic… and there I was with one foot pushing on the brake and one foot pushing on the gas… Almost thirty years later and my mother still talks of the fear and panic I brought into her life that day. She never rode with me again until years and years later.

In the process of doing, I learned something new about driving…

I saw this again the other night at Gabbie’s birthday party over at Playtime Pizza. Gay was at IUP for classes and I was the parent on duty. Gabbie had invited Josh to the party so off the two of us went.

I watched him as he played… Alone at first, but trying everything. He played a little bit with some of the other smaller children in the toddler play section… but he saw the bigger kids playing on the jungle gym (or whatever that thing was called). He watched… he listened… he started to try and follow their example.  He tried to actually do what those other kids were doing… climbing the rope ramps and burrowing through the sea of little balls, crossing the webbed bridges and getting around the obstacles. He wasn’t as fast… but he was determined. He watched and listened and got a picture in his mind of what he ought to do… but then he did it!

But then he saw some of the bigger kids sliding down this huge tunnel. He followed them over to the top and looked… and ran away… then he climbed around some and went and looked again… and then ran away again. He finally got to the top alone and just looked. And at that point I got down on my hands and knees at the bottom so that he could see me and said Come on down, Buddy!

He smiled when he saw me, he laughed and down he came!

And he loved it! For 20 more minutes, he climbed and crossed, and crawled, so that he could slide down… to the point where I had to make him stop and get a drink because he was so hot and winded and sweat was rolling down his head.

Josh learned by watching… and then by doing…

That’s why we have toy refrigerators and toy stoves, toy building blocks and toy hammers and saws, toy cars and toy trucks, and even toy babies and toy children… So that our children can watch us and learn how to use those things and then, with their toy versions, they can learn by doing.

That’s how I think we’re to learn when it comes to the kingdom of God as well… we come like children, little children in fact, and we watch & listen, to the word that was written and the Word that was born and lived with us… and then, after seeing his example and hearing his call, we learn to be his disciples by doing… trying out the things we saw him do in the gospels and he told us in his word… Sometimes hesitatingly and sometimes not doing such a great job… but we learn to be his disciples as members of His kingdom just like little kids learn anything: we watch & listen… then we try to do on our own.

I think that’s part of what James is talking about when he says that we are to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

Yes, we’re learning to follow Christ more completely, but it’s not enough to just read and study and listen and attend… there comes a point where we have to get around to the trying and doing… or else we are guilty of just being hearers only…

It would be like Josh at the top of that slide and watching how other kids do it and yet, him choosing not to ever try to slide down.

What an experience he would have missed… what fun he would have lost… and never even known what he was missing.

Folks, some of us in the church of Jesus Christ have watched our pastors and Sunday school leaders, our youth group directors and our small group mentors for years. We’ve read the Bible, we’ve heard the sermons and the lessons, and we’ve watched men and women of faith show us how to be a man or woman of integrity… being a follower of Jesus Christ.

And yet the church, especially in the United States, is still full of people who sit back and just watch and listen… but never try to put into practice what they’ve seen and heard. The American church is full of hearers… but not full of doers. Our churches are full of childish people… who cry when they don’t get their own way… but they’re not childlike… willing to be hearers and doers approaching God with an open, childlike, teachable spirit.

I don’t attend your church, I only know a few of the people who attend your church, I’ve only known your pastor for a couple of years and then only seen and talked to him a couple times a month…

But I know that God Almighty has tried to use the men and women of faith around you, including your pastor, to show you and teach you what God Himself wants in your lives…

I don’t know what He’s asking you for… I don’t know what He’s asking you to do… But I know that with so many rich examples and teaching and preaching, the Holy Spirit has been trying to get you to do something…

Now, will we just be hearers? Or like little children, will we be the hearer who then, with as mush gusto as they can muster, step into the trying and doing part of learning?

If we can trust that Jesus really knew what he was talking about, then our answer to that question determines our place in the kingdom of God.

What’s God trying to teach you? Have you seen His people give you the examples to follow? Are you listening to how His Word relates to Your own personal life situation? Or does Harold just preach to someone else?

And if you HAVE heard what God wants to teach you, are you stepping into it? Are you learning by doing?

How do you learn to worship? By starting to worship…

How do you learn to pray? By starting to pray…

For many of us, it’s how do we serve in the role of the mentor… giving our children and the new Christians in our life an example of what a Christian is like… Sometimes when I realize my kids are watching me, it scares me to death.

I’ve had the lessons and the teaching, the preaching and men and women of God showing me how to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ… Now, as I step out and try to do that which I’ve seen and heard, and do what I’ve been shown, now I learn even more…

How about you?

Little children learn by hearing and doing… and Jesus says we come into the kingdom of God that same way.

Are we doers? Or just hearers only?

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Peek-A-Boo!

10807874_970886759595242_690679972_n“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord.    —Jeremiah 29:13-14 (NLT)

   Our granddaughter has been in a foster home this past year. Neither our daughter nor her husband are able to provide the home she needs, so she’s been a foster child. As grandparents we have repeatedly tried to make ourselves available to care for her, but whenever you try to work with the legal system it usually takes a while to make progress. Early last month, at the conclusion of a three-hour court hearing, the judge decided that the most appropriate placement for our granddaughter would be with us. So all of the sudden my wife and I are parenting a toddler.

I’ve been reminded again of a few things I had forgotten since the last toddler in our home.

  • ¨ Toddlers eat everything, yet never gain much weight. (They graze: a tiny bit now & more later…)
  • ¨ Even though toddlers graze, they do it consistently, so they have enormous amounts of energy. (I eat larger amounts all at once and have gained more weight and have less energy. Hmmm….)
  • ¨ Toddlers learn more by watching what we do, than by being lectured on what to do. (Turns out most of us learn better that way… so why are most of our Sunday school classes lectures?)
  • ¨ Toddlers keep going until they need a nap. (I’m on board with this one!)
  • ¨ Toddlers want to keep going even after they really do need to sleep. (How many of us put off sleep until one more show is off, or one more chapter is read, or one more post is written?)
  • ¨ Toddlers are grumpy when they need food or sleep (or a change). (Maybe that’s the problem some of us old grumpy people have too??)
  • ¨ Toddlers love to play pretend… with dolls, cars, houses, and remotes. (Our toys and games are bigger and more expensive, but we still love to play and pretend… Even if it’s that we pretend we’re more important than everybody else!)
  • ¨ Toddlers think they’re the only ones that need attention. (Some things never seem to change…)

I could probably learn a few things from our granddaughter (if I had enough energy!). But one thing I DO know, is I have reconnected with an old game, “Peek-a-Boo.” She loves playing it, and I LOVE seeing her smile and hearing her laugh. There’s no danger in me not knowing where she went… and she has no fear of not knowing where I am. But we play. We pretend to not see each other. And so we look. And PEEK-A-BOO, there we are!

So many of us do the same thing with God. We pretend He can’t see us, and we try to do our own thing and play like we don’t know where He is. But just like that Scripture from Jeremiah says, as soon as we look for Him, He makes sure that we WILL find Him!

As Fall turns into Winter, and Thanksgiving gives way to Advent and then to Christmas, let’s remember the lesson of the Toddler’s Peek-a-boo game. Even when we feel far from God, and can’t figure out which way to go next, as soon as we begin to seek God, we WILL find Him. He’ll make sure of it!

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“Beyond the Sunset” with Grandma

Today, June 27, 2012, was the funeral for my grandmother, Ethel Pauline (Haynes) Mix. The pastor at our home church, The Rev. Rebecca Edwards, officiated the service while I preached the eulogy. These were my basic notes. These are speaking notes, so grammar wasn’t my concern. And as always, I can spell pretty well, but am a lousy typist, so be gracious!

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Some of my favorite memories about Grandma Mix are how she shared her emotions:

  • If Grandpa had been away too long, or was frogging around in the barn or the basement for what she thought was too long, she had a summons: “YOOOO-HOOOO!”
  • If she was interested in what you were saying, she simply said “oh?”    or  “well…”
  • If she was ever so slightly disgusted, it was “hhhwwwWELLllll!” OR the show stopper itself: “Well, good NIGHT!”
  • If she was REALLY fired up and ready to just bust loose, you could sometimes catch her counting… “1-2-3-4-5-.” She believed counting to 10 would always help you get your anger under control.  BUT Sometimes, there weren’t enough numbers. And she was still ticked. Those were the times when I can still remember Grandpa Mix saying, “NOW ETHEL… you know the one thing you’re never supposed to do when you’re angry is don’t you??” She would curtly say “WHAT?!” and with a smile on his face, he would simply reply, “Laugh!” and she would lose it and start laughing… and say “Well good night!”
In Psalm 116:15, we read:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”  

In Revelation 14:13, we read:

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” ”             

Ethel Pauline Haynes Mix

July 7, 1918 to June 24, 2012

When we want to honor someone who has lived their life and then died, we highlight the year they were born (and for Grandma that would be 1918) and then put a dash followed by the date they died (2012 in our example). Seeing those dates, 1918-2012, are supposed to help us understand how long and blessed a life the deceased was able to live.
There is a great poem that talks about how that dash in between those two dates is such a poor summary of an entire life, and it challenges us all to live our lives in such a way that our ‘dash’ has great meaning. But this morning, it’s those two dates that really capture my attention.
Ninety-three years! Almost a century!

Grandma Mix was born at a time when

  • a 30 hp Touring Car could be bought for about $2,000.00,
  • a Steinway piano for $550.00,
  • a nice woman’s nightgown was 98¢ and
  • an evening gown went for about $37.00.
  • A daily newspaper was 2¢, 
  • a Sunday paper was 5¢ and 
  • a ticket to a Broadway show would set you back somewhere between 75¢ and $2.50.[1]
 When Grandma was born, 
  • Irving Berlin hit it big with his song “Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning.”
  • The United States was averaging about $291 million in surplus.
  • World War I, the “Great War” to end all wars, was in its last few five bloody months, ending on November 11, 1918.
  • An influenza epidemic broke out that would kill 25 million people worldwide, 500,000 in the U.S. alone.
  • Life expectancy of a girl born at this time was estimated to be about 54.6 years.

It’s that last statistic I want to draw your attention to: A girl born in 1918, it was calculated, ought to be able to live until about their 54th birthday before they died.

Grandma REALLY beat the odds! By about 4 decades!

I remember back in 1982 that Grandpa Mix worked with the rest of the family to pull off a surprise 45th wedding anniversary party because no one expected Ethel Mix would still be alive 5 years later for their 50th anniversary! This past Saturday Grandma Mix saw the 75th anniversary of their wedding day! And Grandpa has been gone 18 of those years.

Time and time again, we thought Grandma was going downhill and maybe it was time to rally the family. And every single time, until this last week, she beat the odds and, as Aunt Bonny remarked at one point, Grandma was like the Energizer Bunny!… STILL GOING!

In the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, we read, there is a time to be born, a time to live… but we also read that God has also established a time for death… a time when each of us will die. For Ethel Mix, that God-appointed time came early on Sunday morning, June 24th, 2012.

How do you gather together the essence of a life well-lived?

One day about a decade and a half ago, I was asking Grandma about some of what made her tick, what made her unique. You know, what’s your favorite color (she said PINK), her favorite animal (she said she didn’t have a favorite… but had always had a DOG), favorite music (country western or hymns), favorite author (Grace Livingston Hill), favorite vacation (she said the trips to California with John), and her favorite place (She said “wherever home is.”). I also had asked her about her favorite food and there I got a story:

 My favorite food’s always been potatoes. When I was growing up, I’d always have potatoes. Then if we had desert, I’d have desert… and then I’d have another potato to wash it all down.”

And to just make sure there was no misunderstanding, she added:  “I always liked potatoes.”

At one point, I asked if she had a favorite Scripture and she said she didn’t, although later waivered and said “maybe Psalm 23… I like the psalms.”

She didn’t claim to have a favorite song, but back in the 80’s she and grandpa were telling Aunt Nancy and I about Grandpa (John)’s grandmothers’ funeral and how they had played (or sung) “When it’s Good Night here, It’s Good Morning up there.” And then, almost as an aside, she said: “I’ve always wanted Beyond the Sunset at my funeral.”

You know… I’ve heard that song on Gaither videos, but I had to go look it up.

There are four verses to that old hymn. Each one speaks of another realization of what Heaven is like after each of us dies… and goes Beyond the Sunset.

Verse One:

“Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning, when with our Saviour heav’n is begun.
Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning; beyond the sunset when day is done.”

This first verse talks about those first few moments of a Christian “waking up” in heaven and realizing that our life here on earth was just nothing compared with the time of eternity in Heaven with Christ. Waking up and realizing that all of the work and struggle of this life is now gone… and an eternity of rest and joy awaits those who know Jesus as Lord.

The apostle John, in the Revelation that ends our Bible, saw a similar sight, a ‘new morning’ in Heaven, like this…

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. (Rev. 21:1-2, NLT)

Nothing will be the way it was here in this life. No more Hopelessness… just Hope fulfilled! Bliss! Joy! The beginnings of your life in Heaven!

In verse two of Beyond the Sunset, the description of Heaven goes on:

Beyond the sunset, no clouds will gather; no storms will threaten, no fears annoy;
O day of gladness, O day unending, beyond the sunset, eternal joy!

In John’s Revelation, we read almost the exact same sentiment:

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.   4 He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.” (Rev. 21:3-4, NLT)

I can see the attraction for Grandma in these passages… She was born before the Great depression and had a sense of what ‘normal’ was like. But shortly after her 11th birthday, everything that could go wrong did. The stockmarket crashed. People began to know what it meant to have to do without. When she and Grandpa married in 1937, they were still in the depths of the Depression.

She once told me about a time shortly after they were married when she was feeling so lonely while Grandpa was out working. She said:

When we lived up Eleven Mile, I remember the telephones weren’t very good. So one day I wrote a letter to my mother… we were so poor at that point that it took several days to save up the 3 cents I needed for a stamp, but eventually I got three cents and walked down and bought a stamp and finally mailed the letter off to my mother. That was the hardest up we ever were…”

This woman had learned how to save that which was precious… You couldn’t take it for granted that you’d have everything you needed down the road… so you’d better save some.

As a kid, I loved going to Grandpa and grandma Haynes’ general store because they had SO MUCH of anything you could possibly want or need. But going to Grandma Mix’s was almost like being in that store. She literally stockpiled food, supplies, and necessities… just in case.

Most of us in this room that were ever in her house (and especially those of us who helped move Grandma out of her apartment or before that moving Grandpa and grandma off the farm) knew that part of Grandma… there were cans and cans of food that had been saved “just in case” (to the point where they had outlived their expiration date by years and sometimes even decades).

And most importantly, you always had enough toilet paper…

But that song’s second verse, and our second passage of Revelation 21 also promise that there will be no more tears…

Grandma knew that dimension of life here on earth as well, didn’t she?

The loss of babies, the pain of losing a son to cancer in his 20’s, caring for him and later both Grandpa and Grandma Haynes as they approached the end of their earthly lives, and then Grandpa Mix in 1994.

She knew what it meant to have troubles… she knew what it meant to have tears…

And the promise that neither of those go with you into Heaven, warmed her soul and spirit with expectation.  No more clouds, no more tears, no more fears… just gladness and joy.

Verse three of Beyond the Sunset goes like this:

Beyond the sunset, a hand will guide me to God the Father, whom I adore;
His glorious presence, His words of welcome, will be my portion on that fair shore.

The song talks about being guided and introduced face to face with God Almighty, the Father of us all… and hearing Him welcome us… In Revelation 21, John gives us a peak at that moment:

5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”   (Rev. 21:5, NLT)

Ethel Haynes Mix knew that God Almighty had given us a written record of what we could expect and what we could look forward to… and she trusted Him and His record. One of my favorite memories is still being there when Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt nancy would be sitting in the living room and Grandpa would open the Bible and just start reading.

It’s like the Bible was the letter of introduction to the Heavenly father, helping her understand what she could expect.

 The final verse of Beyond the Sunset, goes like this:

Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion with our dear loved ones who’ve gone before.
In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting-beyond the sunset for evermore!

John’s Revelation continues:

6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega — the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge! 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

The song speaks of the “glad reunion” with “dear loved ones who’ve gone before” and the joy that there will never again be a separation for those who know Christ.

The apostle called it the “finishing” of all that was before.

This woman we called “Mom” or “Gramma” or “M&M Gram” knew what she could expect… and longed for that day.

But she also longed to come to the end of all things, beyond the sunset, and find her family there with her at the end of their journey.

She knew the joy and expectation, but she also wanted to be surrounded by her loved ones.

You know, the Bible’s pretty clear on that as well… for any who REPENT of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we too, will find our place where grandpa and Grandma now are… beyond the sunset. God won’t force you to go there. As sinners none of us can get there… but of we give up our sin, then we will find that welcoming presence when our days end guiding us to God… and the glad reunion this woman before us is now experiencing.

 

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This post also appears on my Mixed Genes blog today.

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Filed under Death, family, Funeral Sermon, Grief

A New Start…

Yesterday, Josh got to start school for the first time yesterday. We have a new pre-school program in our district and we went and visited on Tuesday and then he started on Wednesday.

Of course, my son has never had to line up before… and as Gay dropped him off for school the teachers were getting the kids lined up to go to the bathroom to wash their hands… and she heard Josh declare: “I’M FEELING GWUMPEE!”

The teacher later told me that he declared he was “ANGWEE” when he couldn’t keep playing at the sand table. She wonderfully dealt with it and he was happy again in no time.

One of the problems I feel I had as I was growing up was that I never really learned how to express what I was really feeling inside (appropriately at least). I guess our goal of teaching him to identify and express emotion is working! (Now, how about tying shoes or picking up toys???!!!)

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Filed under Education, family