Month: July 2019

“I haven’t done enough”

Gideons clipart 2

I didn’t know them well, except by reputation. His wife was a tallish, thin, somewhat frail-looking woman with gray hair and the usual degree of wrinkles for her age. He, too, was taller than average, but not so much as he once had been. All the time I went to church with them, he was noticeably stoop-shouldered. If my memory serves me correctly, either they were from North Carolina or they had grown children and grandchildren who lived there.

He got cancer, which ultimately took him. One of our mutual friends present during the final hours reported that some of the dying man’s last words were these: “I haven’t done enough.”

On the surface of it, this reads like an account of a servant who may have lacked confidence that he had rightly interpreted and fulfilled his Master’s instructions. Or, of more concern, like an account of a Christian who was relying on “enough” good works to satisfy a Master who had pen and ledger in hand and a measuring eye, rather than relying on the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus. However, I believe the following is a more likely explanation.

Joe Heilig served as chairman of the deacons. He participated faithfully in the Gideons International ministry to place copies of the Bible in as many hands as possible. He was a friend and a mentor to many. My impression of Joe and of his wife Nancy is that they were some of the most faithful, active, serving believers a congregation – and the kingdom of God – is ever blessed to have, and that they always did what they did for the sake of Christ in a quiet manner with kind, humble, hospitable spirits. They had loving hearts, smiling faces, and helping hands.

Mr. Heilig having uttered on his deathbed “I haven’t done enough” draws a picture, for me, not of regret or of uncertainty, but of an unquenchable thirst.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalm 42:1-2 NIV

The Psalmist has created a vivid image of those who, like Mr. Heilig, find that every experience of Christian service, every next stretch of the faith road, leaves them yearning for more of the same – and not just for more, but for better. Deeper. Fuller. Clearer. Closer. All of the concepts that characterize the gravitation of our spirits “upward” toward the final, permanent home where our Lord awaits with a yearning that I believe scripture repeatedly suggests is even greater than ours for Him.*

If there was regret in Mr. Heilig’s heart over how much or how little he had done as a Christian during the earthly years granted him, I suspect it was because his daily service brought him a deeply meaningful joy that he grasped for continually – not because it seemed a burdensome, overwhelming task.

Christ is The Example. Joe Heilig was an example.

*John 10:27-29
1 John 4:19
1 John 4:9
Romans 8:38-39

The post that bumped another one – and why

IMG_4429I’d just made my way to the kitchen after a sluggish exit from the bed. Guess what day it was. You got it: Monday. I heated water for some oatmeal, being mentally awake enough at least to remember that, as of Sunday night, I was planning to counteract having eaten homemade cinnamon rolls for the last three breakfasts straight.

“Hey, (Granddog)!” My voice reflected a busy weekend and really didn’t carry the exclamation mark that, deep in my heart, I knew that sweet pup deserved from me no matter how tired I was.

I emptied my daughter’s early coffee grounds so I could brew my “half caf” in the same pot (she was already out the door to her job as a dental assistant). Then, because my eyes fell on them in the same cabinet where we keep the coffee, I sorted the last of some fancy, salted mixed nuts left over from a bridal shower, tossing the bits and pieces of everything except the pecans into my bowl of oatmeal to salten up the unknown amount of brown sugar already shaken unceremoniously thereinto, meanwhile assessing what dishes were still in the sink because they wouldn’t fit into the dishwasher on Sunday night. [And, if you please, let’s not even go down the rabbit path of “Is oatmeal with brown sugar and mixed, salted nut pieces really any better for me than a homemade cinnamon roll?”]

It definitely was a groggy-headed, bleary-eyed start to a new week. Fast-forward now to an additional “hashtag Monday morning” element in all of this: I eventually dashed out the door later than I’ve ever left for a 9:00 report time to my part-time job, still managing to arrive on time but immediately learning I wasn’t scheduled to be there until 11! With a laugh that carried only the merest degree of embarrassment, I came back home to play with my granddog and to finish writing this article. But, back to the main story:

“Hey, (Granddog)! Sweet boy.” [random additional, unintelligible early-morning, dog-appropriate word/noises] “Grandma’s just doing what grandmas…” Strike grandmas – not universal enough. “Just doing what older women…” Strike older women – too uninteresting a term at the moment. “Grandma’s just doing what mature women do.”

Note: Granddog has lived here long enough to realize – as the rest of the family realizes – that rambling out loud is a daily part of what this grandma does!

Yes, coffee. Yes, dishes. Yes, starting a new day tired. But that totally is not where I was going with “explaining” myself to the dog just then. “They try to support people in prayer, they try to be less selfish than they were yesterday, they try to love their Lord, and they try to produce something to leave behind.” I got choked up voicing some of those unrehearsed thoughts. It had been a busy weekend, during which I had pondered at length over some very weighty theological matters. (Read on.)

So, after spending a number of hours Sunday afternoon and evening working on a blog post that not only had been brewing and stewing for the several days prior, but also brought in some timely subject matter voiced from the pulpit that very morning, I set that tempestuous post-in-progress on a back burner and devoted myself to writing this one instead.

This one was inspired in a flash; the other one has been laboriously brooded and languished over in terms of vocabulary, scope, and “Should I even say these things about which I feel so strongly?”. This one is less volatile, less lengthy, and less preachy. It has passed through my hands quickly. The other post is maybe going to stay forever where it now is – in my journal.

Most of this post’s recommendations could be somewhat easy to put into action without stirring up any disagreement.

Whether the “mature woman” – or man – be age 58.5 like me, or age 72 or 16 or 31, this list of priorities may be a useful centering tool until a more useful one comes along:

  • Support people in prayerand don’t omit yourself!
  • Be less selfish than you were yesterday
  • Love the Lord with a love that produces obedience of Psalm 119:1-7 seriousness*
  • Produce something to leave behind

*Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the Lord.
2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
3 they do no wrong
but follow his ways.
4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
6 Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.

The inextricable freedom

 

our flag 001 Napa filter

Happy birthday to my country! Long may our “stars and stripes” wave and withstand every foe without and within.

I thank God for this homeland which so many have sacrificed to establish, to build, and to defend. I join those who hurt when some of our nation’s citizens refuse to love the USA and choose not to support her (whether that be through voting, through paying taxes, or through their words). I am proud of her symbols: the flag, the eagle insignia, the coinage reading “In God We Trust.”

At Sunday morning worship on June 30, Minister to Adults Jim Gifford at Dawson said in his opening prayer, “Our souls are free to praise God.” Perish the thought, but, supposing the more obvious freedoms and rights to be forcibly taken from us – freedom to speak openly, to assemble openly, to worship openly, to choose paths of education, association, and employment – the inextricable freedom of our souls to praise God would remain.

A similar reminder is that, while we cannot always choose or control our circumstances, we can choose our attitude. I smile upon remembering how the staff at Camp Mundo Vista in North Carolina’s Uwharrie Mountains gave a specific version of this advice to campers who developed (or arrived with!) such dire homesickness that they begged to have their parents pick them up. In other words, they wanted to bail on their paid, planned Monday through Friday of living in a cabin with strangers.

The counselors (of which I was one) and the directors naturally desired that every girl should have a wonderful camp experience, so to have one leave before camp adjourned was the last thing they wanted, not to mention basically a professional failure. Their goal was to help such an attendee succeed in overcoming her homesickness so she would be able to reflect later, with satisfaction, that she had been able to “push through” to a better place mentally and emotionally. To that end, the beginning point of homesickness counsel was always, “You have two choices.” The camper may have expected that the two choices about to be offered were to stay at camp or to go home; but, no. “You can stay and be unhappy, or you can stay and decide to be glad you’re here.”

Max Lucado’s You’ll Get Through This advises, in the context of temporary trial or testing, “Rather than ask God to change your circumstances, ask Him to use your circumstances to change you.” (Maybe we could have used the author as Camp Pastor to the Homesick that summer of 1981!)

Today I honor my country and my God. And I thank my God for the privilege of living in a place where the above memories were made possible – because of our freedoms.