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In Memoriam -- Uncle "Chas" (posted January 12, 2013)
My 55 year old brother-in-law, known to many in our family as "Uncle Chas", entered fully into his new and everlasting life with Jesus, on Christmas Eve last month.
We were all saddened and shocked by this sudden, great personal loss for us, and at the same time, his was a life well-lived as he followed Christ. His funeral felt more like a wedding in many ways, and there were many precious moments as we gathered together as family to celebrate his life.
I was grateful to have the opportunity to share from my heart at Chas' funeral, and deem the content worth sharing here as well, since his life's impact is quite inspiring.
Joy and Exuberance
Chas was always so full of life, seeming to me at times to bound through life like a golden retriever puppy (mind you, a LARGE teenage puppy, that doesn't realize it's nearly full-size, as it leaps joyfully into your arms and nearly bowls you over ;). Some might call him boisterous, or at the very least quite expressive of his opinion. I would call him full of joy, exuberance and enthusiasm.
He always had a good word, even when things were tough. I will sorely miss his encouragement and kind uplifting words when we’d gather as a family.
Challenges in recent years had seemed to teach him much humility and perseverance. He loved his wife dearly, treasured and supported her, and he loved his wonderful family … his mother, brother, brothers and sisters in law, seven of his own children, and MANY nieces and nephews.
His faith was so deep and real. When asked to “jump” by the Lord, he was the type of person who would not ask “why, I don’t understand what you’re doing”, but rather “how far and how high?” Chas seemed to fully grasp that sometimes we are on a “need to know” basis, and at those times we simply need to trust and follow our loving Master.
When I first learned from my sister that he had actually passed away, my response was a cry to “Abba” Father, “no, no, no”…
Have you ever had one of those dreams in which someone you love dearly dies, and you are so distraught, only to wake up, relieved that it was only a dream? I SO MUCH wished this whole thing had been a dream…
That night, Christmas Eve, after being awakened from sleep, I had some things going around in my head that I found comforting, so I grabbed a pen and paper, and scribbled in the dark, lest I forget the inspiration of the moment. Here’s a little of what I found on that paper in the morning, and my thoughts since then.
I considered that perhaps we have those “loss” dreams at times to remind us of how brief our time is here, and not to waste a minute. Jesus never wastes a minute, or a sorrow.
He uses them (if we are willing) to work within us a bit of the heart of the Man of Sorrows. It is that very Heart of His that says “NO, NO, NO” in response to OUR death, the very potential “loss” that caused the Living God to come to this planet to rescue us in the first place. Truly it is the message of Christmas, the message of Emmanuel, “God with us”. Interesting that Chas should go “home” smack dab in the middle of the time when we celebrate Jesus’ arrival into our world.
Who understands the mind of God, and why He does things in the way He does? Certainly not I. Why some people die in their youth, and others live for many, many years … Why some of those who die early, love him dearly, and some who live on and on rarely give Him a passing thought. I am comforted by the scripture in 2 Peter 3 verse 8 9, that says: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
He is not bound by time, His plan is bigger than mine, and His ways are higher, so I don’t actually need to understand further.
Your Will Be Done
Let me tell you a little related personal story. A week before Christmas, I emailed a few friends to ask for prayer because I was going on a job interview for a job that had come up, and although I didn’t particularly “want” the position, I was keeping an open door for the Lord to direct me there if HE wanted me in that job, praying for wisdom and direction. One of my friends reacted pretty emphatically with her own “no, no, no” type of response, stating how much she and the others in my life to whom I minister so often need me.
My response to her was that I needed to be open to the will of the Lord, as opposed to just doing what I wanted. It was in much the same way that Jesus, when facing His own death, went out with His closest disciples and prayed. At first He asked if there would be any other way that His Father could accomplish this without Him drinking this "cup". "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matt 26: 39b)
Later, He prayed again, and this time, His prayer matured into "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (Matt 26: 42b) Eventually, He did drink that “cup”, on our behalf, to give us the opportunity to NOT have to drink it ourselves.
In terms of that job I mentioned, I’m still not exactly sure about the Lord’s will, although I am not convinced He wants me there full time. However He eventually leads in that regard, I know it WAS His will that I GO there, because I saw something there that began to break my heart.
It’s a rehab facility for all ages. I am used to seeing rehab for the elderly, but found it fairly overwhelming to see so very many young lives with such obvious challenges, knowing each little precious life represented a world of difficulty and likely grief.
After the initial shock, upon returning home, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that each one of them is precious to Him (and whether or not I work there full time, it’s quite possible that I may become more involved with them on some level). As I thought about it, it seemed that each young person, with his or her own disability and/or disfigurement represented in the physical realm what God sees in each of US in the spiritual realm. We are like precious children, who have been through difficulties and challenges that have changed our spiritual appearance and ability…. We are spiritually "disabled" so to speak, and He desires to be near us and heal us.
A Broken Heart
I sensed at the time, what sounded like the whisper of God, that if I am indeed going to minister to people on His behalf (which is often the case), my heart was going to need to be broken.
It reminds me of Mary being told that a sword would pierce her own heart (Luke 2: 34 - 35), or Paul being told of all the things he must suffer (Acts 9: 16). I’ve often thought that I wouldn’t be able to go on if He were to show me those things in advance. Perhaps He does warn us in that way, so that when the hard times come, we are not surprised, but we know that it is all a part of having the Heart of the Man of Sorrows formed within us.
Funny that within days of hearing that my heart would need to be broken, that once again my heart WAS broken so deeply, right on Christmas Eve. Not that it’s broken for Chas, because I know where he is, and it’s a much better place. It’s broken for each of us, including myself, that we miss him, and all that he was in our lives.
See, I believe it was never meant to be this way. Death was not part of the original equation, and it entered in and everything changed… It’s again, why our hearts say “no, no, NO!”
There was a time when Jesus lost a very dear friend named Lazarus, and the Bible says that He wept. Some people say He wept out of exasperation at His followers’ unbelief. That probably was part of it; yet I wonder if it may also have been His broken hearted response, exclaiming “no, no, no” regarding what death does to us… And then He brought His friend back from the dead.
Bread of Life
On the night before Jesus died, He took bread and broke it and gave it to His disciples and said it was His body, broken for them. It’s almost as if that night when He prayed that “Your will be done” prayer, His own heart was broken. He allowed Himself (His “heart” if you will) to be “broken” so that He could feed us of Himself (and He called Himself the bread of life).
I tell you all this, mostly for his precious children, although we can all take this to heart. Each one of you is so talented, with so much to share, certainly so much of your father’s joy and exuberance to pour forth in ministry to this world. Sometimes for that to be possible our hearts need to be broken… I know mine needs to be broken, and has been broken. If yours has been broken as well, maybe knowing all this will help you see it from a larger perspective. And if our hearts ARE broken, may it be so that He can refashion them into hearts like His own, and may He use our very brokenness to offer the Bread of Life to those around us.
I think about those moments at the end of Chas’ life here on earth. Who knows what they were like for him? I could easily see a flash of a thought coming saying, “no, no, no … I can’t leave my beautiful wife and children, my mother, my family”….
How Far and How High?
Somehow, though I don’t think he said, “why, I don’t understand what You are doing?” I think he more likely said in response to Jesus’ call to “jump”: “How far and how high?” And just like a joyful golden retriever puppy, he bounded into the waiting arms of his Master, and I believe he then heard Him whisper softly and gently in his ear: “Well done, my good and faithful servant, well done!”
If this discussion has stirred up any questions for you, feel free to email me back (lisa @ shiningriver.com, leave out the spaces...), or if you'd like to know more about coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, feel free to visit the following URL: http://www.lovinggrace.org/fellowship/salvation_prayer.html
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