Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My "estate"

I have been doing that paper work that has to be done when you are caring for a will and your “estate”…whatever that means! It means I have to collect addresses, social security numbers, and make all kinds of phone calls to retrieve information I can’t find. At any rate, I am almost done and I am exhausted. If I worked a few more hours at this I could just die and let my will take effect and my estate could be distributed—such as it is—to my wife. When she observes how small it is, she may die as well, and then the remaining tiny pieces can be divided equally among our six children.

What a process…and for what purpose? It is all predicated on the presumption we will leave something behind of worth when we die and to keep the State from absorbing it we need to write down who gets to fight over it…or not, assuming a clearly-written will identifies the appropriate beneficiaries and delineates what part of the “estate” is theirs.

Having pastored for forty plus years and having performed over five hundred funerals and memorial services, I can testify to some pretty hideous fights I have observed when the final “amen!” was read and the coffin set in the ground. The struggle for “who gets what” begins and the sequential chapters of the story often continue to unravel in living color in the months and years that follow.

And this is all about stuff…

So how does one prepare for this seemingly inevitable conflict? What can be done to stave off the battles?

1. Commit to a life of poverty; then there is nothing to fight over, or…

2. Spend what you have earned and celebrate the fruits of your labor so that the estate is enjoyed by those who worked hard to earn it, or…

3. Think about what you really want to leave behind. “Invest” in a legacy with lasting dividends.

Jesus said, “…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust to not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20,21)

Here are some simple things that represent some real treasures with a good return on your investment!

T-ime; spend time with those you love.

R-espect; treat everyone you meet with the proper respect.

E-ncouragement; look for ways to encourage those who need an uplifting word

A-ction; demonstrate what you truly believe by acting upon its principles

S-ervice; offer your life in service to others instead of waiting to be served

U-nity; seek to find ways to unite people who are alienated form each other.

R-est; be creative in rejuvenating yourself and others by learning to relax and rest.

E-njoyment; learn to be content and help others to enjoy what God has given them.

I am getting older, so I am thinking about my “estate”. What I really want to focus on is (a) where I am investing my "treasure"?, and, (b) am I leaving a legacy that reflects my heart?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

did you pray today?

Today I attended a breakfast for The Nationaal Day of prayer at a local church. There was a good attendance from various churches in the community--I guess we do all believe in prayer--and the aroma of good food and fellowship.

Following a Hospice meeting where we spent some time determining how to make more effective reports to ensure the continued funding of Medicare for Hospice care (a program favored by the current administration) we render in Amador County, I sat down at my computer to read a maelstrom of letters decrying the President's refusal to host a National Day of Prayer breakfast...with a number of other caveats added on reflecting the particular political mindset of those expressing their concerns.

At the end of sorting through all of this, I asked myself a few questions?

1. Does the President's sanctioning of a prayer breakfast enhance the value of prayer?

2. Is it significant that it takes a breakfast or a prescribed national event to get us as local churches to join together in prayer?

3. Is a "National Day of Prayer" enough? Will I be satisfied that we did this at least once this year?

4. Will it take a greater national calamity--if there is indeed one greater than what we are currently facing--to be a catalyst for more days of prayer?

5. If I chose not to go to a National prayer event like the one today, did I think to pray at home today for my country?

And what about tomorrow...and any and every day...?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

an unsung hero

I recently did a memorial service for an elderly man who had been away from our church family for several years. He had moved to a care facility as he battled dementia and other physical challenges.

My memories of Jim were that he was very interested in the "end times" and frequently asked me questions about the book of Revelation and other eschatological sections of scripture. He also had a concern about the general moral degradation that was afflicting our country.

After Jim died I met his wife to prepare for his service, Iwas astounded to find out a number of things that deepened my love and admiration for Jim.

*He was an orphan, later adopted after living in numerous foster homes.
*He was a veteran of WW II and had gfought at the Battle of the Bulge and Normandy...he was one of those guys depicted on SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, who bravely stormed the beach there under heavy enemy fire.
*He was discharged from the service due to an injury, but late re-enlisted!
*He was a taxi cab driver whose acts of kindness as a Good Samaritan were written up several times in local newspapers.
*He helped build one of our area churches.

I thought to myself, "You just never know..." When we paid homage to Jim I thought of him in a different way than I had remembered him before--an unsung hero. He never had much notoriety, and though he received several awards for distinguished military service, those exploits were unknown to most of us.

We are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices of men like Jim.

And I "sing" my thanks for him today.

Friday, May 01, 2009

coma in coloma

Afte church last sunday Bev and I, under threat of unruly weather, left for nearby Coloma (an hour's drive), an area rich in the lustre of the history of the discovery of gold. My mind was swirling with a mixture of messages from parisioners needing help or direction and a list of last minute tasks I needed to complete. When I took off with my wife and our travel trailer one hour later my heart was pounding and my mind was racing.

Finally--an hour later-- we arrived at Coloma, specifically Coloma Resort, nestled along the south fork of the American River. In a campground large enough to accommodate groups of 500 plus, there were a handful of RVs and ours, and the quiet serenity of a mostly blue sky, gentle breezes and a melodic river to serenade us.

We unpacked and survived a few challenges with the trailer, mostly the result of my novice status as an RV officiando and my general mechanical ineptness. We were finally situated about 4 p.m. and relaxed in the comfortable confines of our "home away from home".

What happens when I get away like this is that for periods of time I am comatose--literally unaffected by anything around me, and generally impervious to any possible disruptions. I "tune out", having left my computer at home, and, in this case, cannot even operate my omnipresent I-Phone--a huge relief for my wife.

So it is three glorious days of doing little productive but investing in walking and talking with Bev, reading, journaling, sitting in solitude, reflecting and praying...and sleeping.

On the eve of our departure--we will leave in the morning--I feel rejuvenated and revitalized once again. I have emerged from my "coma", and am ready to return to reality and all of its glorious sounds and challenges.

All possible because of my coma in Coloma...