Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Good Good-bye

When I started this blog a few months ago, our friend Harry responded with a note to my inbox. He wrote that he had missed reading my articles—we used to live in the same city, and he often saw my local pieces—and he said he had already put a shortcut on his computer to this page.

That note gave me great encouragement, not just because it reassured me that I’m not writing just for myself, but because I have great affection for Harry and his wife Brenda. My husband and I met his family through the Upward basketball program at our church. Harry and his family became church members, and our families became friends—true friends. Instead of backing away when we had troubles, Harry and Brenda moved in closer.

Harry, a lawyer, once gave my husband a brilliant piece of advice, the kind I still marvel at for its simplicity as well as deep wisdom. His timely words and insight resolved a situation before it escalated into a problem. The solution had eluded us, but not Harry.

About 18 months ago, Harry’s experienced some severe health problems following a surgery. He came very close to dying then.

One day last month my husband told me about an email message he received from Harry. It moved both of us. Harry wrote in a 6 a.m. emal that he had awakened at 4 a.m. with my husband on his mind and used the time to pray for him.

Harry had a way with words. They made me smile as I read them: “Please tell Kima hello for me,” he wrote. “It never ceases to amaze me how badly she and Brenda got the short ends of the respective sticks and pretend not to notice."

He updated us on his family with loving pride. And he gave a powerful testimony of his faith in Christ a few concise sentences: “I'm still in and out of the hospital with the lung issues,” he noted, “but every day I'm on this side of the grass is a blessing. Besides, it's like I turned to the back of the book and checked the answers. I know the way the story turns out, and I come out way ahead in any of the scenarios.”

In less than a week, we received another email message. Although he wasn't much older than me, the lung issues had defeated Harry. The note that had moved us just five days prior now held even greater meaning. It was Harry’s good-bye. And it documented that Harry had used his remaining time on earth to love his family, to pray for people, to encourage them and to express deep, resolute faith in God.

Harry didn't just have a way with words, he had a way. He lived well, and he died well. We miss Harry. We’re sorry he’s not here, walking on the earth with us. But we look forward to seeing him again on the “other side of the grass.”

So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good~1 Peter 4:19 NIV

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rest Assured

I learned a long time ago that the secret to answered prayers is two-fold: 1. Ask God. 2. Believe that He answers. There’s a lot of faith bound up in prayer. It takes faith to ask, and it takes more faith to trust that He’s answered.

Once, when she was young, my daughter Jordan didn’t show up in the Sunday worship service on schedule. She was about 10 at the time, old enough to move from Bible study to worship without a parental escort but still young enough that I was concerned when she was late.

The service started, but my mind was elsewhere. I couldn’t concentrate on anything being said or sung. Should I go look for her? “God,” I prayed, “would you let me know where Jordan is because otherwise this time with you will be a waste.”

Immediately I felt calm spread over me like a blanket. I remembered that I had told her that I might need to serve in the preschool. I knew she had gone there to check and stayed in that safe place once she was there—and that’s exactly what happened.

Recently on a Saturday night I got concerned about the whereabouts of my 20-year-old son. Although it wasn’t yet very late, it was bitterly cold, and the roads had turned icy. On such occasions I liked to remind him to drive carefully and watch for black ice. Except he wasn't answering his phone, even after I called him repeatedly. I could tell that his phone was on, not dead or turned off, but he wasn’t picking up. I started getting anxious. What if he was in a ditch somewhere?

I remembered my prayer for Jordan, years earlier, and asked God to provide that blanket of calm if Luke was safe. To my chagrin, it didn’t come. Instead, it occurred to me to go to his room and look around. Then was not a normal practice for me, but maybe I would find a clue to his plans for the evening.

I opened the door to his room ... and there lay my son, in bed, sound asleep, not answering his phone because he is such a heavy sleeper. He had not gone out that evening as I thought but come home from work and gone straight to bed.

Once again, God answered my prayer, not in the way I expected—no blanket of calm this evening—but better. He took me directly to my son’s side so that I could rest in peace.

I call on you, o God, for you will answer me~Psalm 17:5 NIV