Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
I like to run. I always have. Where I live now I have two courses I usually run. One is at Toccoa Falls College which is a beautiful spot to just enjoy a run. The second spot is a local cemetery. I know that sounds strange but there is something just peaceful about running there.
Over the course of many miles, I have had the chance to read many of the tombstones. One family plot really got my attention. This plot is a small section containing four headstones. Mom and dad are there. Dad lived to be 62. Mom lived to be 78. One interesting thing is the two small headstones next to mom and dad. Two children are buried here. The first is a son who lived for one day. Dad was 24 when his son died. Mom was 22. The second is a daughter who also lived for only one day. Dad was 23 when he lost his daughter. Mom was 21. There is no indication the family had any other children. I just stood next to the graves wondering about what this family had endured.
It is hard for me to imagine losing a child. Losing two children when you are in your twenties? That’s hard to take. Then going the rest of your life with no children had to lead to some deep feelings for both mom and dad and some interesting private conversations.
So, as we approach Thanksgiving why even talk about this? Here is why. Many of us have family members who are still living. Yet, we get caught up in non-stop work, texts, email, and other things that rob us from spending time with our family. We get so busy with the daily grind in our lives that we forget to tell our family how important they are to us and that we really do love them.
We forget to ask our kids what is happening in their lives and what is important to them. We forget to listen. We get into a routine that keeps us from spending time with our spouse doing something that is important to them. We don’t intend to let time get away from us but it just seems to happen. I would bet that the family who lost their two children would talk privately about how they would give anything to have their kids with them throughout their lives.
Many of us do have our kids and our spouse with us every day. They are gifts. Be thankful for them and let them know it this Thanksgiving.
For those who are not married or do not have children…you have others who care about you. Mom and/or dad, brothers, sisters, friends, etc. There is someone in your life who really cares about you. Let them know how thankful you are for them too. I bet someone in your life would love a phone call this Thanksgiving.
Our recent November 6thelection had people pointing fingers in every direction. One candidate telling us why we should not vote for their opponent and the opponent telling us why we should not vote for the other candidate. The news and social media were mostly about the negatives. There was very little positive.
If we are always tuned to the latest news stories and social media, this electronic rudeness seems to be the foundation of much of what transpires in our culture. However, don’t be fooled. There is still real goodness in the world. Today’s story authored by Rose Minutaglio, is about two people who found remarkable love. Here they are below…Isabell and Preble Staver.
Isabell and Preble met in the 1940’s and were married in 1946. They were married for 71 years. Even after all this time together they would still take naps together just holding hands. It was clear they deeply loved each other and had loved each other through all their years together.
One morning Isabell died. She was 95. Preble’s daughter told him that his wife had just passed away and that “It’s OK for you to let go now”. Meaning, of course, that it is OK for Preble to pass away. His job on earth was complete. At about 8 PM on that same evening Preble passed away. Together for 71 years both husband and wife passed away on the same day. They existed for each other. Preble spent his life making certain his wife was OK and Isabell did all she could to take care of Preble through the years.
When you hear this story don’t you just wonder about your priorities? Don’t you wonder why as a culture we spend so much time on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram instead of taking time to talk with our spouse or children about something important to them? Do you wonder if the best use of our limited time on earth is to engage in rude interactions about politics? We spend our time talking about things with so little lasting value.
Preble and Isabell got it right. They knew that life was about kindness, generosity, selflessness, and love. They spent a lifetime refining these traits and caring for each other and their family.
We can all learn many lessons from the Stavers. Let’s spend less time watching funny videos on Facebook, less time staging the perfect shot on Instagram, and less time arguing with people on Twitter. Instead let’s focus on things that enrich our lives, the lives of those in our families, and the lives of those who cross our path.
I lost a friend this week. She had been sick for the past year, suffering tremendous bouts of pain throughout the process of dying. The long battle with her health had been evident. You could see the tiredness in her face. Finally, as her husband held her in his arms she died…that fast…that quickly. It was over.
But that is not the end of the story. Something very special happened as my friend departed for her heavenly home. What was it? She smiled. Remember the tiredness I told you about that was visible in her face? It was gone and was replaced by a smile. Now what would make someone smile in the moments before death? Well something sure did. None of us smiles for no reason at all. Here’s why I think my friend smiled. It’s really very simple. She saw Jesus.
I’m reminded of a song written in 1941 by Ester Rushthoi. The song is titled, When We See Christ. Here are the words from the chorus of the song:
It will be worth it all
When we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small
When we see Christ.
One glimpse of His dear face,
All sorrows will erase.
So bravely run the race
Till we see Christ.
Whatever pain you are experiencing is only temporary. Remember to bravely run your race. Whatever earthly race you are in right now be brave and courageous. Run it with your focus on Christ.
Whatever we are facing right now we can take comfort in this statement from the song. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.
This week I learned about the life of twelve-year-old Taylor Smith. On January 12th, Taylor died from complications related to pneumonia. As you might imagine, her family was devastated…a young girl full of life with no expectation of death.
However, days after Taylor’s death her parents found something that showed them just how special Taylor really was. They found a letter in a sealed envelope that Taylor wrote to herself. On the envelope Taylor wrote this: to be opened by Taylor Smith on April 13, 2023 only.
Because of Taylor’s death, her parents decided to open the letter. What they found was amazing. Taylor wrote a letter to herself to see what she had become ten years in the future. Taylor’s letter talked about a variety of things but one thing she said really stands out. Talking to herself in what she thought would be 2023, Taylor’s write this, …how’s your relationship with GOD? Have you prayed, worshipped, read the bible, or gone to serve the Lord recently? If not, get up and do so NOW! I don’t care what point in our life we’re in right now, do it!
So a twelve-year-old girl has the foresight to want to know ten years in the future how her relationship is with God. In twelve short years, Taylor had learned something about her relationship with God that many of us struggle with today. Taylor learned that she couldn’t postpone her relationship with God. It’s just too important to wait. In Taylor’s words, I don’t care what point in our life we’re in right now, do it!
Let me ask you what Taylor asked herself. How’s your relationship with God? Have you prayed, worshipped, read the bible, or gone to serve the Lord recently? Our lives get so busy that sometimes we push our relationship with God to the sideline. We think we will get around to God when the time is right. We sideline God thinking there will always be time.
Let’s take a lesson from a young girl whose priority was her relationship with a God she loved dearly. As Taylor would remind us, it doesn’t matter where you are in your life right now. Stop and make sure God is your priority. Don’t wait…do it now!
Last week Toccoa Falls College had the musical artists NewSong on campus. During their performance they sang a remarkable song titled, Arise My Love. As you listen to the lyrics of that song there is a very powerful sentence that says this, the grave no longer has a hold on you. Think about that sentence for a moment…the grave no longer has a hold on you. This one sentence carries tremendous power and truth for the followers of Christ. We no longer have the shackles of sin or the sting of death hanging over us.
Often we carry our past around with us like shackles, chained to old memories and actions that haunt us and shake our self worth. May I tell you something? As a follower of Christ, the grave no longer has a hold on you. Your past sins have been forgiven, removed and sent as far as the east is from the west. Live in confidence and enjoy a life filled with the power of Christ.
Perhaps you’re not a follower of Christ and sin still does have a hold on you today. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned. If you have never confessed your sins to God and asked for forgiveness, the Bible also makes it very clear that the end result of sin is death.
Here’s the good news. Christ has already paid the price for our sins on the cross. He died on the cross for all our sins. Christ did that so the grave would no longer have a hold on anyone. All we need to do is admit that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead. The Bible tells us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
C.S. Lewis says this about death, Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.
Lewis is right. There is no longer any sting of death if you are a follower of Christ. Death is simply the entry point for an eternity with God.
Don’t wait any longer…ask Jesus to be the leader of your life and experience a new life filled with the joy and freedom that come from living for Christ. Then you can truly say that the grave no longer has a hold on you.