Glimmers of Light and Looking Towards Eternity

The twists and turns of our paths are a mystery.  We come around bends never knowing what we will find there.  Sometimes we find good freshly paved road and have a smooth journey during that stretch.  Other times we suddenly find ourselves on bumpy uphill roads filled with pot holes and decaying black top that can slow us down and trip us up and sometimes break us down completely.

A couple who know this truth all to well are Gerard and Jeannie Long.  In an eight year period they lost two of their three children – one to suicide and the other through a tragic accident.  Today I was blessed to attend a seminar presented by them at the C.S. Lewis Institute of North East Ohio and got to spend some time with them journeying through their Valley of Baca with them.

Some of my take aways from Gerard and Jeannie in today’s sessions were:

  • even in the darkest of places in the lowest valleys there are glimmers of light
  • God is there with us, and wants us to call out to him to help us get through what ever darkness we may enter into.
  • He will give us the grace we need to get out of bed everyday and carry on.
  • There is purpose in the pain and suffering we endure here on earth.  Even when we can’t see it, God is working to use all things for good.
  • God is okay with our questions about the why of a bad situation or event and he wants us to wrestle with him.  He wants to have a deep and intimate relationship with us.
  • we are just sojourners here in this life.
  • look towards eternity and live our life here in preparation for the next one.

To hear more about their incredible ministry or to listen to Gerard and Jeannie tell you their story, you can visit their ministry page, Awakening to God.  It is my prayer that they continue to feel the comfort and love of God surrounding them.

For myself, today has forced me to confront my own thoughts and fears.  I wonder if I could find the same strength that the Long’s have found through God if I were ever to find myself in a truly dark place.  I also wonder how these new thoughts about eternity that I soaked in today will help ease my fears of death and what comes next.

Eternity has always been a subject that leaves me feeling queasy and full of dread.  So it isn’t something I focus on.  EVER.    Which seems rather backward in retrospect considering my desire to be an obedient child of God.  So how do I reconcile being a kingdom worker and light bearer with the concept of being prepared for my heavenly role?  With every fiber of my being I want to share the good news with others and help to sow the seeds of love and grace!  I just never stopped to reflect or meditate on how God will have me use the gifts he has given me in heaven.

And there is comfort in that thought.   I don’t need to fear eternity because I serve a God who is good and gracious.  His grace will prepare us for and see us through anything in this life and the next.  All he asks from us is that we take part in his kingdom work here on earth.  Whether we are helping to shepherd his flocks or sowing or reaping the seeds of his harvest, all the work is done for his glory.  Scripture says his yoke is easy so who wouldn’t want to be employed by the King of Heaven and Earth?

In light of living with eternity as our goal, while I am here I can love hard with all my might and trust in God above.  He will always be right here beside me.  In joy and in sadness or suffering, my God is an awesome God.

This year of my fellows journey has just barely begun and already I can feel His love nudging me to step out of my comfort zone.  He is bringing me wonderful people whose words, spoken and/or written,  are pushing my boundaries and helping me to let go and grow in his strength.  It is all part of the twists, turns, and bends in my journey.  I am braced in his love for an adventurous year of learning and growth sitting at his feet like Mary and letting Martha take a rest.

Loving God, let me live each day showering those around me with love.  Let me strive for peace, both in myself and for those around me.  Let me treasure the gift of your precious Word and soak in the messages and wisdom contained in it.  Father God, raise me up to be the person you are calling me to be.  Let me always be full of thanksgiving and praise for you, Lord God, who is deserving of all of my worship and adoration.  Fill my heart with your love and let it flow through me into a dark and hurting world.  In Jesus loving name I pray. Amen

Gerard Long offered us many pieces of scripture today as he shared his heart with us.  There was one, however, that he kept coming back too.  It feels fitting to also end this piece with that same wonderful verse:

He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men:  yet they can not fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

Successful Living and Legacies

Have you ever pondered on what it looks like to have a successful life?  When we are younger we probably picture it with lots of career milestones and the accumulation of lots of expensive stuff.  As we get older, some of us start to realize that what truly matters doesn’t come with a price tag.  Memories filled with family, friendship, laughter, love — these are all things that truly matter and are all part of being successful in life.

This past week I have been reminded again just how precious the memories we make become part of the legacy that successful people leave behind them when they depart this life for the next.  Today we said our final good byes to the wonderful, caring man who filled the lives of those around him with humor and love.  I was blessed to call this man Grandpa.

Facebook has been filled with awesome, beautiful memories of Grandpa shared by my many cousins, aunts and uncles, and others.  Pictures posted like wildfire and captured the life of a man whose face radiated with joy as he was surrounded by his family.  As our family came together to celebrate his life and remember him, the stories flowed like milk and honey.  He touched so many of us and helped make us into the people we are today.

We remembered all of the times that he told us to, “leave a quarter,” if we wanted to use the bathroom  (I don’t think he was serious, but if so, I guess I ran up quite the bill over the years!).  We remembered his unique sayings and commented on how we could hear him speaking those sayings in our minds.  Tales of Easter Bunny stew and Easter Bunny traps were mentioned by more than one person, and many other stories that showed his love of life and his sense of humor.

For myself, there are two quick stories that stand out in my mind when I think back over my time with Grandpa.  The first goes way back in the day, to a long time ago when I got my very first job in high school at Taco Bell.  Forever more, when ever I saw Grandpa he would always ask me, “So are you still working for that Mexican phone company?”

The second memory that vividly  comes to life in my memory left quite an impression and is the reason why to this day I have never had the desire to get a tattoo.  Grandpa had a tattoo of an anchor on his arm that he got during his time in the Navy.  There is quite a story to go with the tattoo.  The part that made such a lasting impression on me though, was his saying that he was so tired of looking at the tattoo because what seemed okay back then wasn’t anything he cared to immortalize on his arm today.  You can’t erase a tattoo.   Please don’t take this to mean I am against tattoos.  I just haven’t had the urge to get anything tattooed because I figured he was probably right.  I would hate to be stuck with something permanently that I will be tired of seeing in twenty or thirty years.

His funeral was a private affair, only his family in attendance.  His very large, very close family.  In a day and age when the traditional family is falling to the wayside, and families live more in strife than in unity, Grandpa Jerry’s family filled the entire funeral home.  The bonds of love between his children show just how close this family is.  The jokes shared among the grandchildren a testament to a close-knit family.  This is a family that lives life together, not just a couple of times a year on the holidays, but year round.

The legacy of Grandpa Jerry and Grandma Lucille (who was known as Teedy by her family and went ahead of him to Heaven) is the wonderful family they created and the example they have been to all of us.  They have shown us how to love, how to laugh, and how to treat others.

To quote my Aunt Judy, his passing has left a large void in many hearts.  We will never meet him again in this life, but look forward to seeing him and Grandma again in eternity.

Thank you Grandpa for showing us what a life well done looks like. We will miss you.  Thank you for always making me smile.