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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A Mother’s Day Gift

As this Mother’s Day draws to a close I’m reminded of a gift I was given several years ago when my kids were young. It was a list.

Strange gift?

Yes and No.

It was a list of things to pray for your children. I was given this list in my Bible Study group as we looked forward to Mother’s Day that weekend. The list contained some deep character building, responsible adult producing and God-sensitive traits that I saw at once were what I needed to pray for my children. I was already praying for their salvation; but I must admit my prayers were simplistic and global in the way I prayed. True Confessions time: I was unorganized and to tell the truth a bit in ADHD mode in my prayers. I was easily distracted and other thoughts flitted around my head like starving butterflies.

We were asked to pray for each item on the list for a solid month. And then, we were asked to pray these, once a month, every year! What a challenge! 

To pray over one aspect of your child’s life for an extended period of time takes time. 

What mom wouldn’t wonder where that time could be had? Ahh, but what better investment?

Instead of praying all over the place, here were specific, God defining things that I should have thought of myself.  {It takes some of us longer to mature in Christ than others- no matter how long we’ve been believers!}

These twelve areas made an eternal difference in my children’s lives. My adult daughter still talks about one of the things on the list. I’ll let you in on it later!

Here is the list:

  1. Pray that your child would know Christ as savior early in life. 
  2. Pray that your child would have a hatred for sin.
  3. Pray that your child would be caught when guilty.
  4. Pray for your child’s protection from the evil one.
  5. Pray that your child would have a responsible attitude in their relationships.
  6. Pray that your child would respect those in authority over them.
  7. Pray that your child would desire the right kind of friends and for God’s protection from the wrong kind of friends. 
  8. Pray that your child would be kept from the wrong mate and be kept for the right mate. 
  9. Pray that your child, as well as the one he/she is to marry, will be kept pure.
  10. Pray that your child would totally submit to God and resist satan in ALL circumstances.
  11. Pray that your child would be single-hearted and sold out to Jesus.
  12. Pray that there would be a hedge about your child so he/she would not find wrong people or places and they will not find your child.

 

Although this is obviously not an all-inclusive list, the issues in this list are issues of the heart and mind. And eternity is at stake. In a world where it seems that everyone and everything is competing for our children’s attentions and affections we must see this is a battle for our children’s eternity. Not only for their present condition.

I also discovered that God brought so many other specific things to my heart to pray for them every day. Over the years I have seen God accomplish the shaping of their lives and He continues to shape their lives as they pray for their own children. I also discovered that I was a beneficiary of this time spent in specific prayer.

There are no magic potions, no magic cures; no quick and easy have perfect children solutions. Even the most obedient child has a misstep {or two} along the way. Whether that event is small in the bigger scheme of things or it’s a game changer and causes deep pain, praying for our children is the most important thing we can do for them.  

Ok, drum roll please –

The one she still talks about is #3. And, the truth of it, she and her brothers were each caught at one time or other. Not every time, but they did learn that very real, sometimes serious, consequences were the result and they understood how the poorly thought out and even flat wrong choices and acts were harmful to them and harmful to others around them as they matured.

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 2 Timothy 1:3

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15