Going to Athens every summer to visit Grandma and Aunt Marie usually included a trip to The Varsity. So, even though I don’t have a long history with it like others do, it still was a part of my childhood and a big part of the town where I was born.
I’m so glad we were able to take the grandkids to The Varsity back in the summer of 2019 after the Bryan/Bailey reunion. They loved the food, just as we did. But, as you can see, they were mesmerized by the TV; Chuck and I let them have the best view -haha!
I’ve written some thoughts about heaven, HERE and HERE. So it was comforting to read words from Andrew MacLaren on speculations about heaven in his sermon on First Corinthians 15. It helps to know I’m not the only one with questions and wonders. But, also not the only one who knows that I don’t need to understand it all.
There lies in it the idea of repose. ‘They rest from their labours.’ Sleep restores strength, and withdraws a man at once from effort on the outer world, and from communication from it. We may carry the analogy into that unseen world. We know nothing about the relations to an external universe of the departed who sleep in Jesus. It may be that, if they sleep in Him, since He knows all, they, through Him, may know, too, something-so much as He pleases to impart to them-of what is happening here. And it may even be that, if they sleep in Him, and He wields the energies of Omnipotence, they, through Him, may have some service to do, even while they wait for their house which is from heaven. But there is no need for, nor profit in, such speculations. It is enough that the sweet emblem suggests repose, and that in that sleep there are folded around the sleepers the arms of the Christ on whose bosom they rest, as an infant does on its first and happiest home-its mother’s breast.
“Does anyone know of a church relatively close that does evening services? I’d love a Sunday night service but Saturday could work too.After Covid for the past year I’ve really loved our mornings at home on the weekend.” – posted on a neighborhood facebook page
This struck me as a very sad commentary on not just the effects of the “pandemic” but on our culture.
The person asks about a church – no denomination as it didn’t seem to matter.
The person is looking for a convenient service, something that wouldn’t interfere with Sunday mornings at home.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the opportunity to watch/semi-participate in church at home. When things starting shutting down last year, before we even knew about Chuck’s illness, we watched our church in St. Augustine from afar. When our children came to Birmingham we were able to share with them together in our living room. For a few of them it was the first sermon they’d probably heard in years. After Chuck died, there were a few Sundays I just couldn’t face people yet and I was grateful to hear His Word proclaimed via YouTube.
But, as soon as I was able I attended in person, even though it was at two new locations where I had to/am having to get to know a lot of new people. What a difference; what a blessing! Now I crave that fellowship with God and His people. I pray God does not let me slip back into habits of ease and mediocrity.
I don’t know if Chuck read all of the entries in The Valley of Vision because he didn’t mark them. But this portion from one entry near the back of the book could have been his prayer.
"Prepare me for death,
that I may not die after long affliction or suddenly,
but after short illness, with no confusion or disorder,
and a quiet discharge in peace, with adieu to brethren.
Let not my days end like lumber in a house,
but give me a silent removing from one world to the next."
If this had been his prayer, I think it was answered. His illness was short, but not sudden like a heart attack or accident. He was not confused, except maybe for the final few days. He was able to say his goodbyes, even though I felt he and I didn’t really say ours.
Madeleine L’Engle relayed a story a nurse told her of when she lost her husband. “NO CODE” was written in his chart. The nurse said she fell apart, but that looking back, she wouldn’t have had it any other way. This is what we did. Chuck agreed and we signed the DNR form, but when the time came he begged me to call 911; said he changed his mind. I, too, fell apart inside but did my best to stick to what I knew his wishes were. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
Madeleine also told of her thoughts when her own husband was dying. “Does Hugh understand that he is being touched, loved? Is there enough awareness in him for that?” I often wonder what Chuck’s thoughts were in those final hours. Our daughters were there with me and we all ministered to him, did our best to give him all the love we had. He was aware that we were there up until the last moments. I can only hope he knew we wanted him to stay, but had to let him go.
He preached and believed “our times are in His hands”. I believe this, too. It was one year ago today.
“And she said she was grateful for every moment she'd ever had with him and, even if it was all over, she wouldn’t trade places with anybody in the world.” - from Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle
Being content with life means accepting the circumstances in which God’s providence has placed me…And so this is what I need now; the courage to face an ordinary day…from Ordinary by Michael Horton
In these still-new days of widowhood, some ordinary days do take courage; some are easier. Yesterday was a good day: had fans installed and a few pictures hung by my very sweet handyman. He and his wife are expecting a baby in July and I was able to give him a copy of The Jesus Storybook Bible . I painted some chairs, wrote a letter, paid a bill and did some cleaning. I picked up the kids from their summer camps – basketball for one, cheer for the other. Later I went back over to their house for a delicious supper of grilled chicken and vegies. When I got home Ruby and I had a short walk around the block. An ordinary day. A blessed day.
The true field for religion is the field of common life. – Andrew MacLaren
“You see, we can talk about grace, sing about grace, preach about grace, just so long as we do not get too close to it. Election is too close. When we give in to election, we finally give up on ourselves in the matter of salvation.The doctrine takes grace to its logical conclusion: if God saves me without my works, then He must choose me apart from them, too.” – from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace Michael Horton
The doctrine of election isn’t easy to understand. But, really, no more difficult than the Trinity. Believing in the Trinity doesn’t change the way we look at ourselves as much as election does. Election makes us face the fact that salvation is all of God, all of grace. It forces us to give up on that little thread of good works that we cling to. Good works are not a stepping stone to heaven, but rather a gift we are given that we are not to keep.
I still struggle with understanding sometimes, but I don’t doubt the truth of election. The last line in Horton’s quote above makes so much sense. He chose me and He saved me – in spite of me!
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering- Col.3:12
“The Christian’s heart is constantly sending up sighs and petitions to God, regardless of whether he happens to be eating or drinking or working. “ – Martin Luther
I know I do not pray enough. I try not to tell people I’m going to pray for them without actually doing it. “Prayers!” on facebook just isn’t enough, but neither are empty words. Guilty.
But God is patient and kind and puts up with my feeble prayers. I do believe He hears me when I don’t even realize I’m sending up those sighs and petitions. And I am grateful for those who I know are praying for me. Many prayers have lifted me up this past year.
Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, And you have strengthened the feeble knees; - Job 4:4
“It is easy to make a law; it is more difficult to make wise decisions.” – from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
The song above, “A New Law” by Derek Webb really packs a punch if you listen carefully. Derek seems to have gone off the track in recent years, but he may be finding his way back. Either way, this is a good song.
...I don't wanna know if the answers aren't easy
So just bring it down from the mountain to me...
...Don't teach me about moderation and liberty
I prefer a shot of grape juice...
Don't teach me about loving my enemies...
Sometimes it’s just easier to give up asking questions. Sometimes we have to because there are things we aren’t intended to know yet. But, asking the questions is okay, even when it’s hard.
I don’t have to avoid the wine as I was taught as a youth; i just need to use moderation. And loving my enemies? I’m ever learning better ways to do that.
“First, we have an incredibly weighty existence which requires that we respect God and our neighbor whether the latter is a Christian or not. It means that we should expect to find common ground with non-Christians as a natural part of human existence.” – Michael Horton
I find myself thinking about my neighbors a lot lately, mainly because I’m still new in the neighborhood. When I meet someone, I try to remember to write down the person’s name when I get home and something to remember them by, like a house number or a dog’s name. I’ve met 14 neighbors on my street so far. I’ve found a little common ground, such as other dog owners, someone who recently lost a family member, and one who likes strawberries. There are differences, too, such as a practicing Buddhist, the young couples, the single mom. But we can all talk about yard work, termites, and good restaurants. I just want the conversations to one day go beyond watering the yard to something more substantial. All in good time; all in God’s time.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ - Matthew 22:37-39
I think I am opposite from the definition of patriotic: having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country. I have become less and less patriotic the past 20 years or so. Memorial Day, July 4th, Veteran’s Day all hold little meaning for me. When 9-11 happened I was so on fire for our country. But within ten years the disgust I felt for the deceit of our government had grown so much that I didn’t even want to vote.
“There is no thing as a Christian nation other than the body of Christ.”- from Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
Many churches have twisted their brand of religion and patriotism so much that it is hard to tell them apart. Being a “good American” does not make me a Christian. But, being a Christian should make me a good citizen. Can I be a good citizen without being patriotic? I think so.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight; that he shall not be a mere passenger, but shall do his share in the work that each generation of us finds ready to hand; and, furthermore, that in doing his work he shall show, not only the capacity for sturdy self-help, but also self-respecting regard for the rights of others.” I think I’ve fulfilled that requisite, but there are others I struggle with.
Most lists of "Good Citizen" qualities include the following:
Obeys the law / Respects authority.
Contribute to Society and Community/ Performs Civic Duty.
Loves his/her country/ Patriotism.
Courtesy and respect for the rights of others.
Trust worthy and Honesty.
I am thankful to be an American. I treasure the land and I delight in its people. But, its government and ideals are harder to hold dear.