As though the sky was about to fall

image1
A middle-ager tells what it’s like to have that last heart attack and then be surprised with the gift of more life

“I responded to the Albuquerque challenge as though the sky was about to fall. A sense of urgency dictated my schedule.”

The above excerpt is a great example of why the book Who’s Calling My Name? riveted my attention and prompted both this article and its title. My subtitle options are “Minister, Pace Thyself” and “Worker, Pace Thyself.” This article is about those in vocational ministry (and those who support them, those who are led by them), but it applies equally to folks not in any of those categories.

During my second read through of Buchanan’s 154-page account of a pastoral ministry cut short due to heart disease, the summary message “pace yourself” rose to the top and helps to explain why the following information is both universal and timeless.

But, first, why have I become so enthralled with a somewhat obscure 1977 nonfiction title by Broadman Press (which imprint was for decades perhaps the most recognizable publishing name within Southern Baptist circles – now known as B&H Publishing Group)? The primary reason: the author, Jerreal B. Buchanan, was a family friend, a ministry colleague of my father. Mr. Buchanan was a favorite with us three children. He preached revival services at our church and visited in our home.

Until I read Who’s Calling My Name? a few weeks ago, I was not aware of all the places he served. I only remembered the Buchanans living in Durham, North Carolina. That is where we visited in their home on at least one occasion. My memories are of a brick, one-level suburban home with a large front yard boasting an ample supply of tall pine trees (and of their fallen needles). I remember window drapes in a cantaloupe shade of orange.

My knowledge of Mr. Buchanan’s health issues, as well as of his diverse ministry, was very limited until I read his book. I suppose in my late teens and early adulthood (his book came out when I was 17), I just wasn’t particularly interested. Now, I am very thankful to have reconnected with this volume that stayed on my parents’ book shelf so many years.

My father was a pastor his entire career. I am not in the pastoral ministry, but I did receive a seminary education before serving within the Southern Baptist denomination under various hats, both full-time and part-time, from 1985 to 2019. However, it is my present role as a church member that I want most to bring under the well-aimed scrutiny of Mr. Buchanan’s memoir. Specifically, I want to be very sure I am not behaving as a Mr. Sullen Saint, a Mr. Pythagoras, or a Miss Perfect English. I never want to belong to a church that would earn the reputation of “being rough on pastors.” Do you? That phrase haunts me! Rough on pastors? God forbid.

Perhaps boosted by my recent fourteen-plus years serving in a support capacity on staff at two different churches, I want to step up my “staff appreciation” because of having read this book. That phrase encompasses a little more than it might seem to do at first glance. Pans of homemade cinnamon rolls delivered to the church office are on my “do soon” list, yes, but stepped-up support of my church staff also calls me to undertake frequent, regular intercession for them and for their families. In larger churches, especially if we have not belonged to them our entire lives, we may not even have met all of the staff and certainly not all of their spouses and children. That is why I made a “cheat sheet” a few weeks ago so I can pray for more of these individuals by name. And, if there are some volunteer tasks here and there that align with my schedule of free time, I intend to find out what those are and how to make a meaningful contribution that way.

That takes care of possible responses that are others-directed. The flip side is to look inward. Like Jerreal B. Buchanan, I have the “Type A” personality. Like him, I’ve often judged that there were not enough hours in one day for all that deserved to be done right away. Unlike Mr. Buchanan, I have never suffered high cholesterol or heart attack. However, a misguided sense of “sky about to fall” urgency landed me in the emergency room with an anxiety attack after I’d worked too many hours in a row over the New Year 2019 holiday as the culmination of a July-start marathon effort to get my two novels “perfect” and to market as soon as possible or without dying before meeting goal.

I definitely get the “sense of urgency” part of this man’s story. That angle may or may not speak to you. But this quote from page 12 should apply to all of us: “Because I am a minister, I must write from a minister’s point of view. However, I have written this book in the hope that it will be of value to a larger community. I hope each reader can make a helpful application to his own life and vocation and will discipline himself accordingly.”

This minister was a great man highly esteemed by my family. He had a farmer’s roots, an impressive build, an engaging personality, a deeply-caring heart, an unwavering Christian commitment, a willingness to serve where called, and a listening spirit which sought and heard God’s voice.

I cannot here hope to paint the picture a reader of Who’s Calling My Name? will get firsthand. So, if some of the following items pique your interest (whether you work in a church-related vocation or not), then I invite you to get a copy of Who’s Calling My Name? and glean from it, directly, all that Mr. Buchanan’s endeavors, mistakes, challenges, difficult parishioners, joys and achievements have to teach. His poignant, detailed, historic accounts of “pioneer” Baptist work in Chicago and in New York will tug at you. His honest portraits of “tension-building” church member types may convict you. Mr. Buchanan was a saint among saints in my book. His story deserves the opportunity to influence more and more people.

  • too-busy parent
  • vocational shock
  • “I need to make every moment count for God.”
  • the success disease
  • baptism of fire
  • imperfect serving the imperfect
  • “I found more work to do than I ever dreamed would be required of me.”
  • “I did not take all my vacation time.”
  • measuring accomplishment by numbers
  • indispensable complex
  • spreading my ministry too thin
  • “I took on too much.”
  • longing for leisure
  • a tendency to make mountains of mole hills
  • “While I tried to please one person, another was angered.”
  • “I gave people the impression I was in a hurry.”
  • “Thoughts have an immediate effect on some part of the body.”
  • remaining for a purpose
  • “being useful without working oneself to death”
  • “More important than having things to live with is to have a purpose to live for.”
  • “I cannot solve every problem every day.”
  • “One cannot accept every opportunity.”

“My blueprint for life and the ministerial mold I occupied for twenty-five years were not one and the same. My blueprint for life is the life of Christ. To live by his principles, to serve even if I do not have a church, to commune daily with the heavenly Father, are the prescriptions of my blueprint. After I rediscovered this set of drawings for my life, I returned to living one day at a time.” (p.128)

One final quote (p.130):
“God solves most of our problems while we sleep. Those few he leaves for us to solve frequently respond to our efforts after they have been soaked overnight, or for a week, or for a month. The reason unsolved problems used to rob me of so much sleep is that I did not want to let them soak. If I left one for the next day, I wanted it to yield the first thing in the morning. Problems don’t always yield the very next day. If they don’t, I walk around them and try to enjoy the rest of the day.”

 

 

God is in the acronym business. Who knew?

87CE15A6-3D92-49B6-AB91-902C81A15001.jpeg
Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

Have you ever noticed that the first letters of “ask, seek, knock” spell “ask”?
Ask
Seek
Knock

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV

During the course of church activities this past weekend, it occurred to me that with even very little initiative/effort/desire on our part in terms of seeking God’s plan for right now, for studying the Bible to gain fresh insight and assurance – I guess that is part of what is meant by faith the size of a tiny mustard seed – God’s answers/works/rewards (unseen and/or tangible), by comparison, happen in such great measure!

It is as if He is saying to us, urging us, reminding us: “I don’t expect you to get all the way to the Throne right now without step-by-step guidance, nor to reach the entrance of the ‘holy of holies,’ nor even to meet me halfway. I just want to know that you are at all interested!”

He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine – be that something big or something little (Ephesians 3:20). Don’t we tend to think that this verse speaks primarily of our “asking big” – asking the most we can possibly imagine – and then seeing answers HUGE as a result of God’s ability to provide? But it also reminds us that “all we ask” may be as minuscule as a momentary prayer thought or as moderate as an indefinable, persistent (though possibly erratic) kind of inner yearning that we cannot even describe or express!

Minuscule, moderate, or monumental: whatever the “size” of our spiritual lack and longing, we have the Best waiting, eager, and able to answer it. All we need do is to respond to His invitation: Ask. Seek. Knock.

This is the season of Lent, leading up to Holy Week and Easter observances. Even if it weren’t, is there a more prime opportunity than right now to evaluate how seriously/eagerly we are seeking Him as the Answer to our dissatisfactions and whether we are honestly desiring to be given our present “marching orders” as His servant?

Spring cleaning: sorrow disposal day

IMG_9532

It’s that time of year. Have you noticed? Our cities recognize that homeowners wish to do spring cleaning, so “household hazardous waste day” safe recycling events have begun to pop up on civic calendars. The next one for my area is April 13, 2019.

Paint cans and VHS tapes aren’t the only kinds of waste that may be hazardous if not disposed of properly.

I once ran across an old song that advised, “Go bury thy sorrow; the world hath its share.” If I stop reading right there, I disagree with the hymn’s author. It isn’t burying we need to do to our cares, questions, and worries. It’s excavating them and pushing our loaded wheelbarrow straight to the Throne.

Only the Father has all of the facts – as well as knowledge of the future! Everyone else we consult, have lunch with, exchanging messages with, read, listen to on Sundays or watch on television (be that Hannity, Oprah, or Joyce Meyer) is going to give us partial and temporary solace at best.

God is the Physician who knows what’s going on medically inside our bodies that neither we nor doctors may be able to ascertain. He is the Counselor who knows what details of our story it’s best to tell when and to whom. And He is the Prince of Peace who reassures us, “I have overcome the world.”

So, this spring let’s dispose of the things it’s hazardous to keep around. Let us bring those wheelbarrow loads, see the Father take them forever out of sight, and then stay at the Throne instead of turning right around and leaving. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.” Isaiah 26:3

I’ll close with some lyrics that haven’t shown up in any hymnal yet:
I’m going to pray. I’m going to the Throne.
That’s where I’ll be, if someone needs to find me.
People are inviting me lots of other places,
Barking ads, talking trash,
But there is only one Help I seek,
One private path I want to be on, just me going straight to just Him.
One Voice I need to hear saying “yes” to this and “not right now” to that and “I still love you even if you didn’t hear me right the first time.”


The writer of Go Bury Thy Sorrow soon continues, “Go tell it to Jesus; He knoweth thy grief.” The author’s overall message in that piece is somewhat the same as mine here, though we could talk another day about her final line, “let others be blessed; Go give them the sunshine, tell Jesus the rest.” What’s your opinion? Do we bless others if we have a single-sided, outward message of “sunshine”? Hmm. I can see arguing both “yes” and “no” to that.

Where’d you get that?

IMG_9477
https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-gray-cardigan-giving-white-gift-box-1261373/

Let’s pretend it’s Christmas morning.
Or your birthday, or your anniversary, or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
Or International “l LOVE COFFEE” Day!

You tear the wrapping off a little box and discover a $25 card to Starbucks. Delighted, you exclaim, “Yayyyy! I’ve been gifted with some coffee treats.” And you load the value of the new card onto your app, the remembered taste of a salted caramel latté already on your lips.

That’s one way to use the word gifted: as something that has come your way due to the action of another.

“I’ve been bestowed (with)…”

Bestowed, approved, accepted, allowed (as in allowed some privileges or some “points” toward a desired total)… all of these “-ed” words suggest a status or a state of present circumstance that comes from a source outside of you. You cannot write your own letter of acceptance into a prestigious institution of learning. (Er…let’s put it this way: you’re not supposed to.) That decision is made by other people.

Now, apply the same parameters to the words “gifted” and “talented.”

Maybe we should rethink our vocabulary here. The next time our friend’s son or nephew swings the bat and the baseball goes over the fence, say, “What talent he has been given!”

The next time that amazing soloist graces the audience with notes that make everyone wish they had ability equal to hers, say, “She certainly has been gifted.” (Instead of “She certainly is gifted.”)

Make sense?

Gifted and talented aren’t states of attribute that just happen to reside in us. They are cases of bestowment. Talents and abilities aren’t something we ought to be bragging about or “congratulating” others on – as if any of us has put them in ourselves or deserves credit for developing them and using them.

Just as we did not create our skin, our blood vessels, or our internal organs, we did not create our abilities. The Creator did that. And what we possess that blesses the world around us are possessions He gave to us.

We’ve been gifted.
We’ve been talented.
“You’ve been given such (a) great skin/hair/voice”
NOT
“You have such (a) beautiful…”
Often, it takes a new way of speaking to usher in a better way of thinking.

Sure, we have it. But the point is, how and where did we get it?

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

Bonus reminder! When encouraging/complimenting/admiring people’s gifts and abilities, let’s go further than talking about what they’ve been given. Let’s say a prayer for them. Ask God to guide them as they exercise their gifts; to lead them away from letting any endeavor become an idol; to alert them to those times when following passions for Him could lead to the neglect of more important priorities such as investing in their own family members.

Blog, schmog

me blogging casually at home
The master bath in our home purchased a year ago is small…but I discovered while casually drafting today’s “blog” post that the vanity is wide enough to be sat upon!

During a recent lunch conversation, one of the most attentive followers of this devotional series asked me, “Do you blog?”

Well, I thought, you of all people should know that I do. The question definitely got my attention!

“Yes,” I began. “Sort of. I mean, I know that true bloggers work very hard at starting conversations that are on trend. They link all kinds of other sites. My blog I see as more of a website. It’s rarely a two-way process when I post. I get about two comments per year.” (Actually, the true number is much higher – more than ten times that!) #LaughingAtMyself

You guess right if you think this conversation sent me running to look at my WordPress statistics. Not counting today’s post, I’ve published 51 articles since launching the site in June 2015, so 51 posts over 3.5 years. Total comments 101. That’s an average of 2 comments per post. More statistics for you numbers nerds follow as a P.S. to today’s article. But, let’s get back to the “Do you blog?” conversation:

My friend seemed to agree that my Called-Out Life activity doesn’t “feel” like a blog. He said, “My idea of a blog is a platform where people promote themselves and their books.”

Good to know.

“Precisely!” I answered. “That definitely is not how I have been spending my time.”

Called-Out Life in its infancy. For those less familiar with Called-Out Life E-devotional, it started as an email list, and I was sending a message every week. Later I reduced the frequency to “as led,” and it was one of my daughters who ultimately convinced me to put my efforts out here on a viable web page, where the frequency of posting has remained “as led.”

In further answer to the loyal follower of Called-Out Life who raised the question of whether I blog, I elaborated, “I get some of the basics of what true, dedicated bloggers do, and I’m not interested in spending my time that way right now. They pull in relevant links, they post daily or almost daily, they read and comment frequently on other bloggers’ pages, they spend a lot of time on Facebook and on Twitter, and many of them probably pay third-party services to boost their visibility.”

I am well aware that you are supposed to go to school for this. You read free articles. You attend seminars. You study:

  • How to blog effectively
  • How to reach the most people
  • The top 7 things to avoid
  • How long is too long for one post? (I skipped school that day. However, today’s post weighs in at about 1,400 words, and that’s not “too long” according to some experts.)

If I’m not blogging, what am I doing?
Interruption: I must stop right here to emphasize that I am in no way implying disrespect for “real” bloggers. On the contrary, I am highlighting how drastically I separate my meager online activity from theirs. While recognized, professional bloggers have been achieving online success in terms of both performance stats and name recognition, I have been:

  • working full time
  • keeping some semblance of an orderly home
  • knitting
  • journaling
  • offering my time to Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild as editor of their monthly newsletter
  • and, basically, trucking along in patterns consistent with the life of an introvert who happens to find more pleasure in rereading “comfort books” by bedside lamplight than in discovering trending authors on a laptop in a coffee shop

The above account of how my time is spent doesn’t cover going to church every Sunday, accompanying my husband on occasional business trips, playing with granddog #SweetTimesAndSoTherapeutic, sleeping (which is a miraculous gift if it occurs in greater than four-hour stretches without a great deal of tossing and turning), or pretending to keep up with the accounts I follow on Instagram.

The above rundown also doesn’t include a certain project that has received an astronomical investment of time and effort over the past 6 years, namely writing two novels that are about to be published as a series…which brings us right back to talking about having a blog so one can promote oneself and one’s books. Rest assured that Called-Out Life E-devotional is not going to become a book promotion and sales website in spite of the fact that several of my earliest posts in June 2015 were about the writing of the first novel, A Stranger’s Promise. For the purpose of directing interested parties to the web pages where either print-on-demand or e-book formats can be found, I am starting out using primarily my Facebook page and Instagram, as well as word-of-mouth. More later on this huge development in my writing life, assuming it all “comes off” as promised, possibly sometime in January. For now, you can visit Facebook or view a short list of “books by” on the About page here on Called-Out Life.

So… Called-Out Life is, arguably, a blog. And I appreciate every comment my articles prompt. But I also get that anyone who takes the time to skim, wade through, or even share one of my posts has a very busy life, the same as I do.

Are introverts comfortable with a web presence? Blogging is neither my career nor my driving passion. This, I believe, hinges on a certain word I used earlier in this post. It begins with the letter “i”. Did you catch it? As an introvert, I don’t eagerly count the days until the next event that requires me to stand for two hours mingling in a large ballroom or in a crowded reception hall. So it’s no surprise that I also don’t enjoy scanning the email horizon for links to the latest conversation on Twitter or on some successful blogger’s blog that is going to bombard me with long opinions, stuff I will lie awake at night unable to stop thinking about, and four-letter word choices that also will get stuck in my head.

Caveat verbosus (my attempt to say “posters beware”). I have had negative experiences calling in to radio shows (ancient history I wish I could forget), and I have made ill-judged online comments a time or two on local news stories – comments that served no one well. This social media stuff warrants “pulling back” now and then and keeping the whole, big picture of life and “impact” in perspective. Posting and commenting can be risky business. It gives a whole new meaning to scripture verses about taming the tongue (James 3:1-12), self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), and not causing another person to stumble (Romans 14:13-23).

~~~~~~~~

For those who like numbers: more Called-Out Life statistics
I launched Called-Out Life E-devotional on WordPress with a “welcome” post on June 26, 2015. The site has been up for 3.5 years, almost exactly 42 months. In that time, I have posted 51 articles, so about 1.2 times per month. Followers 74. Total post likes 30. Total comments 101.

Most comments on a post
8 on “The greatest victory over the worst trouble” (an Easter message dated March 26, 2016)

Runners-up for most comments
7 on “Clogging: not a plumbing problem” (when and how I stopped biting my fingernails)
7 on “How a poet says ‘sunset’”
6 on “I am that baby” (it includes a cute picture of me at age 3)

Low numbers: poor performance?
Some self-respecting bloggers might look at such low numbers and decide to cut their losses, shut their sites down and save the yearly fee they’re paying for web space. A professional appraisal of my performance as a blogger would probably include the words dismal, inconsequential, and neglected. Let’s look at these:

  • Dismal. How about gratifying instead? #GlassHalfEmptyOrHalfFull I am very thankful this site has 74 followers! If you are one of them, thank you so much for applying your confidence toward the content published here.
  • Inconsequential. No. Never underestimate the impact of a message, short or long, that even one reader finds encouraging. I like significant much better than inconsequential. I wouldn’t spend so much time writing these articles if I didn’t believe there was valuable consequence to doing so, including what the contemplative process does in me.
  • Neglected. This “blog” site is neglected only if the level of activity on it goes against my established goals. So far, it doesn’t.

Another life insight from football

Subtitle:
Can’t boo “them” & cheer “us” at the same time

IMG_0240

On September 22 I was back at Jordan-Hare Stadium where I have spent many a Saturday supporting the football team of the university where my husband and both my daughters attended and graduated. Trust me: a lot passes through my mind in that setting, and has done so since 1985, the first year I began attending Auburn games with Jeff!

This time, I noticed some booing had begun amongst the crowd. Sure enough, the team from the University of Arkansas, led by their travel-sized entourage of cheerleaders, had entered the field from the “visitor” tunnel.

About the time I opened my mouth to join in the good-natured booing that is customary at an athletic competition, great cheering broke out all around me instead. Sure enough, the Auburn team with all of its bells and whistles and back handsprings and flags and trumpets and drums and pom poms and smoke and mirrors had erupted from the home-side tunnel! So, following the crowd, I abruptly stopped saying “Boooooo” and started shouting “Wheeeeee!” “Whooooo!” and “Yayyyy!”

And that’s when it hit me: It’s impossible, in the same breath, to boo “them” and to cheer “us.” It’s that simple. What time we’ve spent running down the people with whom we disagree and whose lifestyles we consider detrimental to the human condition is time we haven’t spent cheering truth and right and Christ.

Caveat

This is not a feel-good message about love resolving all problems. Love is a guiding principle, but it does not change hard facts about the necessity of teaching truth and of standing up for one’s convictions in a manner that speaks integrity and calm and respect. If love had solved everything about sin in a sweet and happy way, Jesus would not have died on a cross. He had to balance joys and sorrows the same way we have to do, every day. To have faith, and to cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me*, is the only way I know to cope with that dichotomy.  *1 Peter 5:7

In my recently-completed second novel, someone makes the observation that people were not meant to try to bear unbearable burdens. That is God’s job. Our job is to learn, and to prayerfully apply in our dealings with everything and everyone, what Scripture teaches (about burdens, and about many other concepts and tasks).

A good passage to review on this topic is Psalm 119:1-7 because it lays groundwork for our attitude toward all Scripture and toward all issues of spiritual seriousness and growth:

1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways. 4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. 5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! 6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments. 7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

So, let’s remember that we have only one real “opponent,” the enemy who wishes us to be confused into thinking that all sorts of people are enemies, rather than people – just like us – whom Christ died to redeem. Boo evil, not evildoers. (Because we are them.) Cheer Christ and truth, not “superiority.”

The latest NOW answer to a THEN prayer

Subtitle: “Eternally Grateful”

Trending unit of measure: “thousands”

July 1, 2018…   Eleven o’clock worship at Dawson Memorial…

“Bless the Lord, o my soul, o my soul, worship His Holy name
Sing like never before, o my soul; I’ll worship Your Holy name

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find” *

Another line you may have heard a few times: “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise” **

And another: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years” ***

See the pattern?

Thousands and tens of thousands are numbers that have occurred to more than one writer, speaker, or other person as a way of saying “a whole lot” or “more than I can list” or “more than we can ever comprehend.” I.e., to infinity. I.e., for eternity.

“Ten thousand million trillion to the nine hundred ninety-ninth power” represents our efforts to describe an amount of love or a quantity of something that is inexhaustible, immeasurable, and everlasting.

A recurring nightmare

So, what’s the prayer answer that happened NOW (on July 1 during 11 o’clock worship at church)? Well, before explaining that, I have to try to make clear the THEN prayer question. For me, actually, this is a recurring prayer question. Quite honestly, it’s like a recurring bad dream, and if a prayer at those times it might be understood as a prayer voiced subconsciously – a cry for help every time a certain fear grips me. This particular fear is one that creeps back into my spirit every now and then, without warning, no matter how determined I have been to “faith” it away once and for all. It is this: eternity, or, specifically, the idea of me living forever, scares me. Every time I am assailed by this fear, my thoughts go something like this:

“I’ll get tired of it. I won’t understand what’s happening. My prior experience that all things eventually come to an end will mar my enjoyment of a perfect, endless heavenly existence.” Even “What if I get into it (for, say, 10,000 years) and discover that I don’t want it to go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on?”

Then, I try to talk myself out of this fear’s deepest depths long enough to skirt it once again. I give myself routine faith answers sufficiently to mask it, and then I determine to focus on some other line of thought or I begin doing some activity that makes the fear go away temporarily. That scenario goes something like this:

“This is happening all because it’s impossible for finite people to understand infinity and eternity. My thoughts are not like God’s. I trust God. I believe His word. He created me involving no knowledge or decision of my own, and my life (first mortal, then immortal) is forever in His hands. That has to be enough ‘explanation’ for now. God, help me to trust You in this. And soooo… good. That’s that. I’m getting my knitting out now. Or watching reruns of The Partridge Family. Better, happier thoughts ahead.”

When the level of my coping plummets to its absolute lowest, the reasoning becomes this:

“Face it. You are going to live forever. There are only two places to do this: hell and heaven. You absolutely have made the only sane, informed choice by desiring to follow Christ to His original and rightful home – because the alternative is absolutely unthinkable.” As if heaven, as if being with my Savior, as if the thing we have longed for since taking our first breath as babies – perfection – were merely the less undesirable of two undesirable outcomes! Absolutely absurd. This lowest of the low, this flawed and doubt-filled view of what God has created and has yet to finish creating shows how off-course we can get when we attempt to resolve the unresolvable, to explain what is presently incomprehensible, according to human reason.

That takes care of explaining the prayer question. Now, what was the answer?

And note: the answer I received on July 1 has not convinced me that the question will never plague me again. But I certainly hope to remember this answer and to give it back to the father of lies, to that persistent author of confusion, as many times as it takes – seventy times seven, or ten thousand times.

As we sang “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” in worship, this was the final stanza:

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore*

Suddenly, unexpectedly, my eyes were opened to a clear answer I’d never considered before on this matter about living forever – and the question was not even on my mind at the time! Thank you, God, for never forgetting about my prior prayers. Very simply, the answer was this: existing eternally in God’s wonderful home isn’t going to be about how I will like it (even though I am certain to like a life that has no more tears, death, mourning, crying or pain. Revelation 21:4).

It isn’t going to be about whether I will understand it (even though I see now “through a glass darkly, but then face to face”…so, I will understand it. 1 Corinthians 13:12).

It is going to be about never in ten thousand million trillion years to the 999th power being able to say to Jesus enough times, “You died for me! How can I ever thank you for suffering what You did so I could have life abundant and eternal? Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” (times infinity)

Lyrics credits:
*Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman
**Carl Gotthelf Glaeser
***John Newton