Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Race

I was just a spectator, looking through the lens of a camera and marveling.  Men and women, young and old, all body shapes and sizes getting ready for the day of their life.  At least twelve to seventeen hours lie before them; grueling, tedious, never-ending, inspiring, unbearable, and remarkable.

They had trained for months for this one day.  What must be going through their minds as they put on their wet suits preparing to jump into the frigid water? There was no turning back now.  What if they failed?  Family members surrounded them with love and concern.  Children looked with pride at their daddy or mama. 



It was the Iron-man triathlon.  21/2 mile swim, 100 mile bike ride, 26 mile marathon.  It was unthinkable.  How was it even possible?

The sun rose golden over the water as 3,000 or more pink and green heads bobbed toward the starting point of the race.  As we leaned over the bridge to watch, we heard a loud cry, “Kayak, I need help.”  One man’s race was over before it had begun. 



For the rest of the long day, we followed the different legs of the race placing ourselves at just the right vantage point to get the best fleeting view of our two athletes.   We followed their progress based on an app, showing us where they were at any point in the race.  Then we watched and waited.  “There he is!”  Cameras up, we wave and shout encouragement as he rode by.  One group had T-shirts that said,

“Wait, wait, CHEER, wait, wait!”





As the day wore on, and the 26 mile marathon began, we could see the fatigue and determination etched on their faces.  Sometimes family members or friends would run a short distance with them giving encouragement.  Several times I saw an athlete stop, give his wife or child a kiss and with tears in his eyes, keep running.  I heard one little girl say, “Daddy, you have to finish!” 


 

Around 8:00 that night, we made our way to the finish line.  People crowded up and down the final raceway, shouting encouragement to the tired and exhausted racers.  Some could barely make it, just putting one foot in front of the other leaning toward the finish line.  Others had a burst of speed, wanting to finish strong.  Even though they were completely depleted, their faces shown with joy.  They had finished! We were so proud of them.


It was a surreal day, taking many of us, athletes as well as spectators, into a place we had never been before.  I thought about this day as we traveled back home.  How much like life this is: preparation, difficulty, pain, endurance, joy, patience, discouragement, encouragement, relief.  God is there along with all who have gone before us, cheering us on and welcoming us into eternal life.  I read this yesterday,

With the three divine Persons will be all those who have gone before us, delighted that we have at last arrived. In this life we often feel like lonely marathon runners, but then we will find ourselves emerging into a great stadium, with an immense crowd rising to applaud us. Surely then we will fall on our knees and cry, but our tears will be tears of joy, not of sadness. God will take us by the hand and present us to the gathered community in which everyone is totally on our side.” http://www.sacredspace.ie

It’s well worth the training.

2,658 started the day with 2517 finishing.







Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Heaven



This morning, as I mourn yet another friend, I think about the popular epitaph, "RIP" that people often share in consolation. Something just doesn't seem right about that when I think about heaven.  I can't see my friend "resting".  She was always busy doing something, teaching the children in her sweet, quiet way or traveling with her husband.  She loved to travel!  So, I can see her having the time of her life right now, traveling wherever she so desires to go, catching up with long ago relatives, and telling them all about the four loves of her life, her husband, two beloved sons and her new daughter-in-law.  

My friend, Jennifer at http://jenniferdukeslee.com/what-your-heart-is-really-longing-for/ wrote about Heaven this week.  

"You will put your hand to the heart of Jesus and feel it thrumming. Feel His breath on your shoulder. Find yourself a hammock. Run barefoot in snow. Spin through fields of Queen Anne’s lace. Wear a feather boa to supper. Put together a 1,000-piece puzzle with the guy who hung next to your Savior. Ride on the back of a lion. Visit your great-great-great-great grandma. Feed a giraffe. Paint your house purple. Never lock the front door. Tell Thomas how you totally “got” all his questions. Walk on water, then through sand, and no one will get mad when you put your dirty feet on the throne room floor."

That just struck a chord in me this week.  What do I want to do in Heaven?
  • Look into the eyes of Jesus and ask those questions that have been rolling around in my mind all my life.
  • Stand on the top of the highest mountain and then bask in the warm sun rays of the Caribbean. 
  • Paint a picture
  • Take a photo of the Aurora Borealis 
  • Sing the Hallelujah Chorus with the celestial choir
  • Hug my mother and daddy and grandparents 
  • Catch up with my two best college friends
  • Walk through a mountain meadow and pick the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, knowing that they will always stay that way.
  • Continue to do the Lord's work, because I know He has the most fulfilling job waiting for me in Heaven.
As Christians, we know that after our lives are complete here on earth, we will continue to live even more vibrant lives with the Lord.  Eternity is what Christianity is all about.  

Have the time of your life, my friend.  We look forward to having all eternity with you!  I know you'll have many trips planned for us when we get there.





Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Good News, Silas, You're Right!"



My daughter told me a wonderful story the other night.  She had put her two little boys age 4 and 7 down for the night.  They had watched a G rated TV show that day where the father in the story died of a heart attack.  It must have got them thinking, like little boys are prone to do—especially those two!  Wide-awake in their bunks, they started talking about heaven.   I wish I had been a fly on the wall that night, listening in on this theological conversation because soon after, the youngest, Slaton, came out and said, “Silas says that you can do everything you want to in heaven! Is that true?”  Their mom looked at him and said, “Yes, Slaton, that’s right. It’s a really great place!”  Satisfied, Slaton padded back to bed.  When he got back in the room, his mama heard him say, “Good news, Silas! You were right!”

This week, an amazing father in our community died of cancer.  He was very special to me because we went through chemo together.  He was diagnosed about two weeks before I was.  This man and his wife shared their journey of faith with the entire community.  They really were expecting a miracle.  Yesterday was his Celebration of Life service.  On the front of the bulletin was a picture of Chris standing confidently on the beach with these words, “Today, I am not only surviving, I am thriving.” 

I don’t understand why I’m sitting here typing this and Chris is in Heaven, I admit to being honest with God and asking Him “why”?  We often don’t have a “God-perspective” when it comes to people that we love. “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us.” (I Corinthians 13:12) There will come a time when we understand.

At the service, the minister read these words: “Jesus said to his disciples, “Don't be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. You know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

The good news is that yes, Silas, you were right!  Heaven is a real place prepared for us.  Jesus said that he wouldn’t tell us this unless it is true.  There will come a time when we are all gathered together with Christ, living the eternal life that he has planned for us.  It’s all in God’s time.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Still Waters


Quietly thanking the Lord today for the Peace that He gives.






Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Priceless


There is no way to describe it, but as one of those serendipitous moments in life—a time out of the ordinary that becomes the extraordinary. 

It started several weeks ago, when Emma, Nancy, and I were sitting around the table drinking coffee or eating, two things we love to do.   When we’re together, the conversation can go all kinds of different ways.  We have been friends for over 40 years; and we never seem to run out of anything to talk about!  This day we started talking about the singing group, Il Divo. 
“Wouldn’t it be fun to go and hear them?”
“Yes, if they are ever in driving distance, we must go and see them!”
“Hmm, let’s check their website!”  IPhones come out.
“Can you believe it? It looks like they are in Nashville in two weeks?”
“I bet Billie would love to go, too!”

The excitement builds and then reality hits.  Both Billie and Nancy are caregivers with the full time responsibility for their loved ones.  There just didn't seem any way that we could take off for Nashville. Who would take care of their loved ones? Also, we knew it would be impossible at that late date to get decent tickets.  Dismissing the possibility, we changed the subject and decided to go out for lunch.

Several days later the phone rings.  It’s a conference call from Nancy, Emma, and Nancy’s son, Matt. 

“You all are NOT going to believe this!”
“Tell them, Matt!”
“I got you complimentary tickets to go and see Il Divo!”
“WHAT?”
“No way!”

Matt lives in New York.  He has a friend who is associated with Il Divo, and he got us the four tickets to the Nashville concert.  Not only that, but a couple of days later, Matt sent an email saying that there would also be four backstage passes waiting for us at the ticket counter.  We were actually going to meet Il Divo!

Nancy and Billie were able to make arrangements for their loved ones, and the trip was on!  Leaving here early on a Wednesday morning, we drove to Nashville, talking non-stop the entire way.  We were so excited.

We stayed at the Marriott Hotel, only a block or so away from the Ryman Theater, where Il Divo was going to perform that night.  We were instructed to go to the theater at 5:30 to pick up our tickets and backstage passes.  Walking up to the ticket counter, we were told that there were no tickets waiting for us at that time.  Sensing that we were feeling a little nervous, the lady behind the counter explained that the band hadn’t sent up their tickets yet.  OK, we sat outside to wait. 



 “Well,” Nancy said, “we’ll just beg standing room only tickets if these other tickets fall through!”

Yep, we hadn’t come all this way to be left standing at the door!

But, a short time later, the nice lady from the ticket counter came out to us grinning from ear to ear.  She had an envelope in her hand that contained our tickets and backstage passes.

Joining the others standing in line for the “meet and greet," we snaked our way into the theater.  Waiting in line overlooking
the beautiful Ryman (Grand Ole Opry) Theater balcony, we tried to figure out where we would be sitting for the concert. 

“See that column over there?” Nancy said.  “I will probably be sitting right behind that!”  Laughing, we said we just didn’t care!

After about thirty minutes, we walked through the door to the backstage.  Ordered to leave our purses and cameras on the shelf by the door, we entered a narrow hallway.  People began passing by us as they filed out, smiling and (as was the case for several ladies) swooning and fanning themselves.

Finally, we reached the room, and it was our turn to meet Il Divo.  Walking into the small room, we saw four handsome young men with huge smiles on their faces.  Shaking our hands, they asked if we were looking forward to the show.  Emma and I were rather shy, but Nancy and Billie talked to them like they were old friends and thanked them for the tickets.  Nancy explained that Justin had gotten us the tickets.

 “Just Bieber?” One of them asked.
Nancy laughed. “No, your assistant producer, Justin!”

We had our picture taken and about three minutes later filed out.  It was time for the show!

Making our way to our seats, we were delighted to discover that our seats were center stage and about six rows back.  They couldn’t have been any better! 

The concert was amazing.  The voices of these four men were rich and pure.  They rang throughout the small auditorium filling all of us with joy.  The audience responded with multiple standing ovations.  We were enthralled.  As I looked at my friends, their faces glowed with delight.  It was a night to remember.  For a short time, we were able to forget all that was going on in our lives and basked in the moment.  I thanked God for it.




Four Tickets to see Il Divo—$600 (Complimentary)
Four Backstage Passes for a Meet and Greet—$1800.00 (Complimentary)
An unforgettable evening with friends—Priceless 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Unimaginable Gift


This isn’t even my story.  I was just privileged to be a small part of it.  But, what an honor it was to be a witness to so much joy and to such a miracle! 
            It was 2:00 in the morning; the hospital room was dim, except for the contraction and heart monitors blinking off and on.  The doctor came in and said quietly, “Nicole, it’s time to push.”  Chris, the baby’s daddy, and I sat beside her on the bed.  “You can do this, Nicole!” Chris said.  As we grabbed hands, Nicole began praying and praising God. “Lord, thank you for giving me the desire of my heart.  You know, Lord, that as a child, I never even let myself imagine that you would give me a family to love—a normal life. But here I am now, giving birth to my sweet baby girl.  Lord, I’m so scared, please help me!” 
            As a school counselor for 28 years, some kids just grabbed my heart and never let go. It was 1998 when a little girl with a huge smile walked into my life and stole my heart.  She was tiny, feisty, and as smart as a whip.  Her name was Nicole, and she had cerebral palsy.  Nicole walked with a walker, but ruled the halls of our elementary school. I designed a “driver’s license” for Nicole to encourage her to slow down as she walked (or ran) through the halls. Even though she walked with a walker, God compensated for that by giving her a brilliant vocabulary and an engaging personality.  Nicole loved to talk.
            Nicole had multiple surgeries up until she was in middle school.  She was always in pain, but never really complained until the depression grabbed hold of her off and on.  She was an “old soul” at 13.   She would come to my office, or I would visit her at her home, and we would talk….and talk…and talk.  She wrote beautiful prose, songs, and poetry to express the hurt and joy within her.
            As Nicole moved into high school, we never lost touch.  She would call periodically, and we would talk.  This was a troubling time in Nicole’s life, but God had His hand on her steadying and directing even when she began to lose hope.  There were times when she just wanted the pain to go away and tried to end it all, but God protected her. 
            After high school, life began to take a different turn for Nicole.  She attended college and moved out on her own.  She started going to church, devouring the Bible and teaching His Word; falling in love with God. About this time, she reconnected with a sweet childhood friend, and they fell in love. 
                       And now, Nicole was giving birth to their baby girl.        She had a right to be scared.  The special medical team who followed her pregnancy was concerned about her safety and the ability to push this baby out.  But, God had other plans.  At 3:20 in the morning, this tiny and brave young woman pushed her little girl, red faced and squalling, into the world.  She was beautiful.  They both were.   All of a sudden the room was filled with doctors, nurses, and (I’m sure) her heavenly guardian angel cheering and witnessing a miracle!

Never in my life had I seen such love as when they placed this baby girl into Nicole’s arms.  Tears streaming down her face, she thanked the Lord for giving her a gift that she could never have (in her wildest dreams) imagined.  I could just picture Jesus standing right there beside her, filling the room with His shekinah glory and smiling His huge smile.

Now thanks be to God for His Gift, [precious] beyond telling. II Corinthians 9:15