Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Velma Church

I am a twin so I have a natural affinity for twins. Velma, and her twin sister, Thelma, are two special ladies in their mid-eighties. They attend Grace Fellowship Church when they can and my hsitory with them goes back over thirty years.

When I moved to Pine Grove in 1976 Velma, and her husband, Henry, had been pastoring the church I cam to lead as they retired. The house our family moved in to, was owned ny Thelma. I recently participated in Henry and Velma's 60th wedding anniversary and just a year ago Henry went to be with the Lord and I had the honor of participating in his memoiral service.

I recently had visited with Velma in church and more recently at the funeral for a mutual friend. She and Thelma were inseparable and they would always greet me with contagious smiles and the spirit of gentleness that was characteristic of them both.

On Sunday morning I was greeted with the mews that Velma had died in her sleep and gone to be with the Lord. it was a busyt Sunday--our Dedication--but my thoughts immediately turned to sadness, even though just for a moment. I called Thelma and she shared with me some of the details of Velma's death but then our conversation turned to the affirmation of her certain reunion with Jesus in heaven.

People like Velma are irreplacable. Velma's smile was unforgettable. Although Iw ill miss her funeral due to a family wedding in nashville, my thoughts will be of Velma and the indelible imprint she made upon my life. Welcome home to your reward in heaven, Velma, faithful servant of God.

I know she's smiling!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


It hardly seems possible that after thirty months of construction, and six months in our new facilities...we are finally having a dedication service (the one planned for October, 2006).

Sunday, April 22nd at 10:00 a.m. we will gather for a special worship service and at 3:00 p.m. the community will join us in a service of dedication. Why bother?

It is important for me that we affirm to our congregation that this dedication is not about a building; it is about the ministry we envisioned that prompted our construction.

It ie equally significant that we have an opportunity to say to our community, "This building is for you. Come, and bring your families and worship Christ with us. Come and meet Christ here!"

It truly is NOT about the building, and, yes, you can meet Christ anywhere.

But He will be here, too.

So will we, seeking to do the ministry to which He has called here...and there.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Home at last!

Eighteen months ago Valerie was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Since then she has battled ferociously the ravages of cancer and a short-circuited life that threatened to take her prematurely from her husband, three small boys and extended family.

She died this evening at 9:30 p.m.

This morning I read her blog, updated almost daily by a family member or friend--most often her father--chronicling her journey. As I read today I sensed it might be the day God called her home and so I chose to read from her father's recent comments in my sermon today.He referred to II Corinthians 4:18, "...so we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal." I spoke from John 20:19-31 and Thomas' battle with doubt but his confession of faith upon confronting the risen Christ, "My Lord and my God!"

I have personally grieved Valerie's difficult journey. She is my wife's daughter-in-law's sister, and she lived with her for a period of time twelve years ago. I met her several times--just short vignettes--but observed someone beautiful and vibrant with life. I have two daughters of my own and I have experienced deep empathy with Valerie's father as he openly shared his emotions on the blog site that posted information about Valerie's journey.

He wrote tonight about the certainty that she was at home with the Lord.

Home at last! What a glorious comfort!

Please pray for this family this week. They will be grieving the loss of a daughter, a mother, and a wife, and for many others, a special friend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I pastored in Pine Grove, a nearby town, nearly thirty years ago. A member of my congregation was Des Cranfill, a man then already in his early seventies. He was a saint--all believers are referred to as such--but he was the genuine article. His favorite song was a Dallas Holm song entitled "Rise Again" that was written about that time. A friend of mine and his wife sang it with me the first Easter Sunday it was out, and it was moving for all of us--especially Des.

Des was 102 years old to the day when he went to be with the Lord on Monday. He had been in a convalescent care facility and had steadily failed since he broke his hip several months ago. I was with him on Sunday evening and, though he was in a coma-like state, I whispered to him the words "Yes, I'll Rise again..." I am not sure he heard them but in just a few hours he was literally whisked away into the presence of God.

A couple of days before he died--the last day he was conscous--I walked into his room where members of his family had gathered. Because he was almost deaf I shouted into his ears, "How are you doing, Des?" he recognized my voice, lifted up his head from the pillow and said for all to hear, "I love you, pastor", and then begin to sing the words, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty..."

Those were his last words to me--the last words he spoke that were understood. What a way to remember my friend, Des!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Resurrection Hope

In the great resurrection chapter of the Bible in I Corintians 15 Paul reminds us that if we have hope only in this world we are miserable, or, to be pitied.

Valerie, our daughter-in-law's sister, is causing us to evaluate our resurrection hope as we approach Easter. Eighteen months ago she was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer and she has been gallantly fighting its assault with her husband and three small children looking on. Her father and mother and extended family have chronicled her journey on a web site and the entries have echoed her family's faith in God.

Just last week Valerie was brought home from the hospital and placed under hospice crisis care. This mornng's blog says she is somewhat stronger today and the crisis team has left, though her condition remains critical. Earier blogs revealed that the children were in counseling, preparing them for what seems to be inevitable.

Death is inevitable for all of us. There is a darkness and a sadness about death that is inescapable. Grief is unavoidable when we contemplate the loss of a loved one's life.

But resurrection hope casts a light of anticipation and ultimate joy for the believer. A church family told me Sunday their 102 year old father was failing and I reflected on my visit with him earlier last week and his smile when we talked of heaven. For Valerie, only thirty-eight years old, her life seems short-circuited and relinquishment of it to God's divine purpose must be a much more challenging option.

As Easter approaches for Valerie, for my friend, Des, and for me, my prayer is that resurrection hope will lift us to the realization that God has made us for more than this world, and that what awaits us on the other side of death, is an eternity of joy in His presence.