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.
“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.
"Music, too, tends to pluck at the chords of emotion. Tears are healing. I do not want to cry when I am not alone, but by myself I don't try to hold the tears back. In a sense this solitary weeping is a form of prayer." - Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle
I understand exactly what she means. I try not to cry in public, but it’s difficult at church sometimes. Oh, that music. The hymns he loved get me every time; at home it might be other music. Especially, but not limited to, The Avett Brothers. Occasionally it’s a scene in a movie. Or a beautiful evening sky. Or dates on the calendar.
Sometimes I’ll come across something that probably only I would understand. Like a book he read where some of the sentences were underlined. He would use an index card and make the lines perfectly straight. I’ve even found a card a time or two, with the edge faintly marked with ink where he had used it.
He was by no means OCD, but he did have these little endearing habits. Like buying the same socks and underwear at JC Penney. Or washing his work shirts every Tuesday. As often as my schedule allowed I’d do it for him. And he always thanked me. Now, this was YEARS into our marriage, not when I had four kids running underfoot and would have loved him to wash some shirts for ME. But, we all tend to mellow and learn so much as we age. As we should. And he thanked me!
"And he sits there staring at something we cannot see." - Madeleine L'Engle,Two-Part Invention, speaking of her husband in his last days at home.
I felt like Chuck did that – stared at something we did not see. Or sat with his eyes closed, just too fatigued to keep them open.
I think of the angel guard around Elisha and like to imagine just such a group around Chuck, giving comfort that we didn’t know about. I imagine him closing his eyes to me, Kat, and Leah and then opening them to a band of angels and Christ, himself. I am still so full of questions about death that I know will not be answered until I myself die.
All I know is this – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…” – Hebrews 11:1
“As the years have moved on, our explosions have become far less frequent as we have learned to live with each other, accepting each other’s edges and corners.”-Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle
I love that phrase “edges and corners”. We all have them. At times I have been like a dodecagon (yes, I looked it up), all full of edges and corners plus prickles like a porcupine. But, as time wore on, I was more like the glass I ordered a few weeks ago. I bought a piece of glass to put on top of my great-grandmother’s sewing machine so I could use it for a table. They beveled the glass so the edges would be smooth and polished. I think Chuck and I both became more rounded and mellow over the years. We argued less and gave more than took from each other.
It is rare and wonderful when family members are best friends. – A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser
Chuck and I were best friends. I count my brothers as pretty good friends, too.
The picture above popped up in my memory feed today on Facebook. Already feeling out of sorts, this added fuel to my sad fire. But it also was fuel for my poem today.The prompt was “thought” . So, I thought, as if I wasn’t already thinking, about how long and how short seven years are.
Thoughts on Seven Years
seven years ago we moved to a new state
it was not our choice
but that’s okay
and though there is such a thing called the seven years war
that’s not what we fought
in fact, many of those seven years were good ones
years of plenty like in Joseph’s dream
and Joseph's life
but years of plenty
soon became lean years, rawboned and grievous
though we enjoyed hiking through the beauty of fall colors
and a few snow-angel winter snows
and spring on the back porch
there was much loss
the demise of three parents while we were away
longing to be with them
even though we often languished
in the city where we tried so hard
we were together
we finally migrated back home
but one month later
for your eternal home
and I try not to wither away