Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home again

We've been away from home part of the last five weeks, an unsual planned and unplanned time of separation from our church and home.

When we arrived home after a ten hour drive from San Diego last Sunday evening--late, because of unplanned stops--we were exhausted but ecstatic about 282 California Drive, our home for the last seven years.

When I arrived at the office Monday morning for a short check-up (it was during lunch and no one else was here), I immediately squeezed behind my crowded desk and into my well-worn chair, and breathed a sigh of contentedness--glad to be back in a familiar and welcome place.

As I have worked this week, in the midst of 100 degree weather and multiple work-related challenges more than once I have said, "I am glad I am home."

Last night Beverly and I went to church for the tenth in a twelve part series called "The Truth Project". Our attendance was low--there were 35-40 of us--because it was 105 degrees outside and this series requires a determined disciplined mindset. As we listened I looked aound the cool air-conditioned building that has been our church home for the last four years and thought once again, "I am glad I am home."

Home is often the familiar and comfortable place, the place that represents family and friends, the place that is marked by regimen and predictability. It is often a place, as well, ripe with both disappointment and happiness.

I am glad to be home again!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"...from everlasting to everlasting..."

On Saturday, July 31, Henrietta Van Boven changed her address and moved form earth to glory. We saw her just moments after she completed her earthly journey and we could tell she had moved on. She was no longer there. The essence of who she was had departed her earthly tent for an "eternal house in heaven not built by human hands", II Corinthians 5:1.

For some such thinking is summarily dismissed as "pie in the sky by and by" stuff; others see such convictions as a "crutch for the weak". And the list of pre-emptive reasons for avoiding such discussions reveal the short-sightedness of those who are earthbound.

I have been a minister for forty-three years and a Hospice chaplain for eighteen months. During that time I have performed over 500 funerals and watched a significsnt number of people--some very dear to me, like my mother-in-law, Henrietta-bid earth "farewell", often with a deep settled peace because of an active faith in God's promise of eternal life to those who believe in Him. After all, we are told "God has placed eternity in the heart of man", Ecclesiastes 3:11.. Why is it that we want to live forever? It is part of our DNA, instilled in us by the Creator of the Universe, the God who is the giver and taker of life.

Henrietta lived for nearly eighty-six years. She had 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. She and her husband were fortunate after working hard on the dairy they built and operated to retire early and to literally travel the world. Howard died seven years ago and Henrietta invited all of her family--fifty-two of them--to join her on a cruise two years ago...her gift to all of us.

As we reminisced during and following her memorial service, her gift to us was much more than a cruise--it was her love, her kindness and generosity, and most of all, her faith. Her faith held her in good stead and motivated a lifetime of faithful service at her church (of which she was a founding member) and at the Artesia Christian Home where she lived the last six years of ehr life, happily greeting and serving the residents there.

The massive stroke that took her life rendered her speechless. In her last few days we read scripture to her, sang to her and prayed with her. There were moments when it seemed she heard us--her eyes would open, her face would turn towards us, and it seemed to me she would have said, could she have spoken, "Don't grieve for me. I'm headed north, to a far better place. It's the last trip I'm going to take!"

In Psalm 103::15-17, David writes,
"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field, the wind blows over it and it is gpone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him and His righteousness with their children's children--with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts."

I believe in the hope of eternal life; it is accessed through the free gift of God who sent His Son, that truth recorded in words memorized by many of us, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.", John 3:16.

"Everlasting life" sounds too good to be true. It sounds like "pie in the sky by and by". But for those who have trusted in God and placed their hope in His Son, it is the stuff that makes the final trip home worthwhile.

Henrietta is there.

I suspect when my turn comes to head north, she'll be one of those waiting to welcome me home.