Longing for the perfect world with aliens like me

 

I’m not a sentimental person when it comes visiting the graves of those who have gone on before me. I miss them; I long for conversations; I look forward to seeing them again someday on another plane of existence prepared by God. But I’m not a cemetery visitor- at least not in that sense.

I don’t go out to visit friends’ or relatives’ gravesites regularly, or place flowers or flags on at certain times of the year. I know many do.  I know that it gives them comfort to go out to the cemetery, pull a few weeds, leave a memento, put fresh flowers in a vase, clear away the dead leaves that accumulate around the stone and have a chat with their departed loved one.

I do believe the story of a community is told, in part, by the words on those stones. Some have long lovely poems inscribed; some simply have names and dates of birth and death separated by that inevitable “dash.”

I do go to cemeteries to see if I can piece together a part of the story of that community. To some that seems morbid, but I’m always looking to see if I can find another thread of the story that is woven into our lives.

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Here, I read on a stone that this sweet babe was lovingly placed here at the age of two months and I wonder if the mother carried the burden of sorrow the rest of her life without other children to cheer her. Then I see, three more small stones next to the first and know on that slightly larger stone next to them that she succumbed shortly after the last little headstone.  I see the father’s stone next to hers with many years between the first and last dates. There, on the other side of his stone, another woman’s name with his last name added and beside her stone, two more small ones. Heavy burdens indeed.

I read another that has the name, rank and regiment on it that has “loving husband and father” etched below the dates. I do the math. He was 29. He gave all to defend his home and country in a long gone war that men fought a century ago.

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Over in the corner of another cemetery stands a large black granite monument. Some person of rank or authority. I read the name. I read the dates. I do the math.  This one lived a long life.  A solitary life from the looks of it, there are no other names or dates on the monument. There are no other large stones nearby. I do find two small solitary stones standing upright many feet away. The surname is the same and dates correlate with people who could have been his parents. I wonder about this one and a tale begins to weave in my head about what kind of life was lived by this one.

Cemeteries are storytellers. They are places of sadness when death occurs. They stand as sentinels of the inevitable. They are ossuaries, repositories of bones and holders of history.

We humans place a lot of significance on bodies and bones. We care for them in places that look like what we imagine Elysian Fields might look. Or we stack bone upon bone to stand in silent testimony to reveal the atrocities we do to each other. Some lovingly scatter ashes of bones out upon the spot in the world that has meaning to them. Some visit the resting place of a famous person who once inspired and leave a solitary flower or scrap of paper with words they wrote as a result of the dead one’s life. Some have built great churches upon the bones of those who have come before.

I suppose there is a lesson somewhere in this little discourse in that I’m not a visitor to a particular stone in a particular cemetery at a regular time and date.  I prefer to think that these stones are testimonies to lives lived. Well or ill, long or short.  They are reminders to me- that I do not belong here. That I, too, will leave this corporeal existence and move on to where I really belong:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. Hebrews 11:1-3

Between these two sets of verses there is what is called the ‘roll call of the faithful’; a list of patriarchs and matriarchs and their faith in scripture. What is most telling and is more important to me is what occurs here- before and after the dashes of their lives.

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-16

And, Peter gives a description of what our dash should be like:

Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  1Peter 2:10-12

I am an alien and stranger here. I hope to live the rest of my days here remembering that I am and that I am looking for a country of my own.

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All His. Wild obedience played out in {my}life.

 Putting the pieces together slowly.

Last weekend I spent time with some amazing women of God at a conference called “Declare”. These women write, like me of their experiences and their faith. They survive, like me, all of the turmoil the days bring with family and friends and the world around them. The theme for the weekend was “Wild Obedience”.

We spoke of what we heard in our hearts when we listened to God. We sang of His Blessings, His Love, His Provision.  We prayed for His Guidance, His Mercy, His Protection.  We talked, we listened, we learned.

Then we saw what “Wild Obedience” looks like in the life of others through the words they gave out. Saying yes to going where they’ve never been before. Saying yes to a big idea God placed on their hearts. Saying yes when God says I want you here and oh, btw, it’s dangerous and I want you to bring your family. And, even saying yes when He says “I want you right where you are and to speak the words I give you.”  

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Now I am home, the dishes left from the weekend have been washed, the groceries have been bought, the doctor visits accomplished and the mail has been read.

In the mail, was a bulletin from a former church in another town.  An article written in it by one of the pastors on staff contained an incredible little nugget- He started off talking about a girl who shared what she brought along on a church camping trip.  It was, in the scheme of things, insignificant. Yet, so timely. You see, here in Texas in the summer, it hardly ever rains. There may not be a cloud in the sky for weeks or months around here. 

There they were, at camp, prepared for anything but rain. 

It rained. 

Four days straight.

 When they packed up supplies at the church to take to camp, she had thrown a full garbage bag along with other supplies in the back of the truck thinking it was part of what should be taken along. She discovered after they unpacked at camp she had picked up a bag full of old tarps from the storage room. She brought them out when the rain started and passed them around and they proceeded to make ponchos out of the tarps. Camp was a success instead of a miserable failure. 

He continued on, connecting her with the story of the loaves and fishes lunch of a little boy one day on the shore of Gallilee.

  Like the girl at camp, who gave what she brought, the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus to feed the thousands gave what he had. This little man didn’t hold on to it for himself. He didn’t hide it or run away with it or try to eat it all up quick. He handed it to Jesus to do what He would with it.  His little lunch in his own hands was insignificant in the eyes of those around him. Yet, in Jesus’ hands…. 

As I read that article I was immediately taken back to the weekend.

“Wild Obedience” demonstrated right there on the page!

This what it is.

Offering back to Him the very things He has given us for Him to do with as He wills.

Our words. 

Our blogs. 

Our families. 

Our lives.

Oh, what He can do with those little broken words and fractured sentences, those dishpan hands, those carpooled-out brains, those feet with broken toes and blistered heels, those graying hairs and finely chiseled wrinkles, those lonely hearts and tired souls when we give them all to Him! 

I’m in. Are you?

 May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him…1 Kings 8:58a

linking up with other voices from Declare: HERE

 

Five Minute Friday: Begin

This is the final Friday that Lisa-Jo Baker will host FMF- it will continue, but it will begin a new phase on another site. Fitting then that today’s prompt is “Begin”.

I sit waiting here, looking out the window, waiting.
For something.
To Begin.
Begin is such a big word packed into five letters, there is such meaning and anticipation there. The implication of something big, important, life changing. If you aren’t looking forward to begin anew when something ends and leaves you by the side of the road, I would urge you to reconsider. Everything starts somewhere and even creation started with “In the beginning…” 
I’m almost 62, you would think that I would not be thinking of beginnings but endings. My life has been a long succession of beginnings and endings. When you have been married 42 years, have three married children and nine grandchildren, the beginnings begin to stack up. When I look back though, on a long line of folks who have left this life to begin their place in eternity with God, it seems like a lot of endings.
I am looking forward to that Begin that starts the moment I take my last breath here on this side and to that first breath in His Presence. Of course, I have reservations- I want to be here as long as possible to see the grands have their own big Beginnings. I am content to begin there whenever He calls. Until then I will celebrate all the beginnings here and the beginnings there, too.
 
 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19