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PRECIOUS JEWELS

Before you jump to any conclusions after seeing the title for today’s blog let me assure you—no, I did not receive any diamonds or emeralds, rubies or pearls this week. *Sigh* I’m a pretty plain girl. I don’t own a lot of gold or silver, and the only jewels I have are the diamond in my engagement ring, an opal and a blue sapphire, also in rings. I love pearls, and all my pearls are pretty—but fake.

Why then am I writing about jewels this week? I suppose what brought the topic to mind was the fact that I’ve been doing some window shopping on the internet—not buying, but just looking to see what was available if I could buy. And I wasn’t looking at diamonds or rubies or pearls. I’ve been searching for gemstones like beryl and jasper, sardonyx and chalcedony, chrysolite and jacinth.

Huh? Now why would I be interested in jewels like those? I mentioned last week that I had embarked on a new hobby of jewelry making. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to make a bracelet of the twelve precious stones that will be the foundation of the New Jerusalem that God is preparing for us someday; namely jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth, and amethyst.

I should probably back up here and tell you that I did a little research on those twelve precious stones a couple months ago as I was wrapping up my study in Revelations. I don’t know about you, but I had always been curious to know what beryl and jasper and some of those other less familiar stones looked like. We all recognize emeralds and sapphires, and even topaz and amethyst, but what is a jacinth or a sardius? As I read the description of the New Jerusalem I wondered about the foundation that God made for her, and what those twelve precious stones looked like all sandwiched together.

Here—I’ll let you read John’s description of it for yourself: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof. And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.” (Revelation 21:1, 2, 10-21)

Pretty impressive, isn’t it? Actually, it will exceed far beyond what our human minds can even conceive when we try to imagine the beauty and magnificence of that holy city. I Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
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My curiosity was up, though, when it came to those precious gemstones. What were their colors? How would they look all sandwiched together? I knew I could not begin to imagine the scope of its beauty, but at least I wanted to get some glimpse of what it might appear to be. I mean, we can try to imagine the pearly gates, and even the streets of pure gold although the Bible says the pure gold will be like transparent glass, but the foundation of all those beautifully colored jewels? Ahh—how lovely to have the world at our fingertips via the Internet! In a matter of seconds, my curiosity about the precious gemstones of the foundation was satisfied!

More or less. I did run into a couple interesting side notes and one little glitch. For instance, the chrysolite of today is what is more commonly called peridot, and is a pale green color. The chrysolite of a couple thousand years ago, and probably what John described, is a translucent gold. And jasper? That was a problem. Revelation 21:11 says, “Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;” When I had researched the precious stones, the only jasper I could find is an opaque reddish-brown color and usually spotted or striped. It is not clear at all. I began to wonder then if the jasper of the Bible is different than the jasper we have today. I could find no pictures of clear jasper, but I did a little more research and found out that jasper is a microcrystalline variety of quartz. Because it contains up to 20% foreign material, the color and appearance of the stone is rarely uniform and does not have the appearance of a crystal quartz stone, although clear crystal-like inclusions are visible in different varieties of the stone. Could it be that the jasper of Revelation was pure crystal, with no impurities to cloud it or add color? I’m not a geologist, so I could be way off base, but the description in Revelation 21 seems to support that idea.

And why is all this important to us now and how do we apply it to our lives? Well, I suppose the answer to that question is that it is not terribly important to us right now. I just got off on a tangent and spent many more hours researching it than it deserved in light of all the other far more important issues we find in the book of Revelations. The Lord gave us this description of the New Jerusalem, however, so that we believers might have something to look forward to and to show us how much He loves us and is planning only the best for us both now and when He calls us home. This journey here on earth is hard sometimes, but no matter how poor we feel sometimes, or how tired or discouraged, we have all the riches and beauty of God to look forward to in the end. The journey is will be worth it all when we reach our destination!

I remember the pastor I grew up with would often say that we ought not to be so heavenly-minded that we were no earthly good. I understand what he was saying, and yet what a joy it is to think every now and then on all the glories of Heaven and what the Lord is preparing for His children! He wants us to live with Him for all eternity! He wants to reunite us with our loved ones and to have us share in fellowship and worship with all our brothers and sisters from every tribe and nation and age of this world! What a family reunion that will be! He wants to motivate us to work to bring others with us to Heaven. And for the believer, He wants us to understand that there is no fear in death. We have glory and peace and joy to look forward to someday. Hallelujah and Amen!

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IT’S ALL RELATIVE

We’ll be heading for Hannibal, MO this coming Friday to attend the 2010 Ward Family Reunion. I’m excited about that! Our family reunion happens every other year, and I think I speak for most of the family – we look forward to it eagerly!

There are around 150 Wards, now, stemming from Grandpa and Grandma Ward (Harris and Gladys), and the number continues to grow every year through births and marriage and even adoption. I’ve lost track of the exact number again, but I’d say in the four generations that have followed them so far, Grandma and Grandpa have done pretty well for themselves! They are both in Heaven now, but I (the second of Generation 2) remember them both well and to this day still love and miss them. Grandpa died in 1973, and Grandma lived almost 21 years without him. My granddaughter Sara was the first of Generation 4 and she was only five months old when Grandma went home to be with the Lord. Generation 4 never knew Grandma and Grandpa, and now here we are—in a few years we will no doubt begin Generation 5. Time and their legacy march on.

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All eight of Grandma and Grandpa’s children are still alive and I so look forward to seeing my aunts and uncles at these reunions! Some of them are embarking into their eighties now. I dread the day when someone is missing from our reunion here on earth. We’ve already lost two of their spouses – my own dad and Uncle Sam. Praise God, we will have a grand reunion in Heaven, though, for most of my family knows the Lord as their Savior, and someday “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17) For now, though, I will cherish the time I get to spend with them at our reunions and treasure the memories we have of good times together.
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And then there are the cousins. I have twenty-seven first cousins among the Wards. My cousin David went home to Heaven at the young age of 44. One of the regrets of my life has been that I never really got to know David as an adult. I have wonderful, funny memories of him as a little boy and young teen, but by the time he grew up we had gone our separate ways – he in the Air Force and me with my little family out to Colorado. That time in Colorado was where God wanted us, and I am glad for the years we spent there, but I didn’t have many opportunities to keep up with my extended family being so far away. I missed many weddings and reunions and other family gatherings during that time. We had returned to Indiana when David died, though, and I suddenly realized how precious my family was to me, and I never wanted to have regrets like that again. I wanted to really know my cousins. That is when the reunions really became important to me. Our family website and message board, called the Gab, which was begun the night after David’s funeral by his brother Reid, became an invaluable tool, also, in drawing us all closer together.
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Even the younger generations look forward to our reunions! I don’t know of too many teenagers who look forward to family reunions, but our kids have always been excited to pick up right where they left off two years before and share the excitement and fun of playing jokes on each other and especially on the aunts and uncles! There have been many a TP’d car – and even a few Saran-wrapped ones! Playing tag at midnight in an old cemetery, scavenger hunts, picnics and games, variety shows we put on ourselves, lots of time in the pool – all this and more kept them coming back for more.
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Bob’s family is having a mini-reunion this afternoon out at a cousin’s house. It’s not the big three-day, organized event that the Ward’s have biannually, but I am really happy Bob is going. His family is not close at all, and Bob has not seen most of these aunts and uncles and cousins in decades, but he has fond memories from his childhood of them. I hope he has a great time. It didn’t work out for Robbie and me to go because he has to leave for it straight from church this morning, but he went armed with pictures and I am sure, knowing Bob, he’ll be bragging on his kids and grandkids!
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Marriage and family was the first of God’s institutions here on earth. The Bible tells of many different family dynamics in the stories of the Old Testament, and teaches principles for living within our families in the New Testament. We see husband/wife relationships and parent/child relationships, of course, but then there are also stories of sibling rivalries (ie. Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers, Leah and Rachel), in-law relationships (bad—Laban and Jacob; good—Naomi and Ruth), and intergenerational bonds (Lois, Eunice and Timothy.) We see uncles mentioned (Saul’s and David’s) and even cousins (Mordecai and Esther, and Mary and Elizabeth.)
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Family is extremely important to God. Not only was it the first of His institutions, but it also is what he uses to illustrate our relationship with Him and with one another. He is our Father. ”After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9) Romans 8:14-17 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” What an amazing and awesome truth!
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As believers, we are brothers and sisters in the Lord and are to treat one another as family. “Rebuke not an elder, but treat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (I Timothy 5:1, 2) The church’s relationship with Christ is likened to a bride and her groom and a marriage. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)
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I love my big earthly family and am so glad that death does not separate us forever when we know Christ as our Savior. How awesome to be part of an even larger family – the family of God! “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” (Ephesians 3:14, 15) Won’t that big family reunion in Heaven when we are all gathered at the marriage supper of the Lamb be wonderful! It thrills my heart here on earth to sing His praises at our little worship service at our family reunions. I can’t even imagine having all eternity to sing His praises with my brothers and sisters from every tribe and nation and people and era of this world when we are all together before His throne!

A POTPOURRI OF P’S – PLUS!

(Another Week of a Little Bit of This and That)

Paring Off the Pounds – Our family reunion is exactly two months from this weekend! I have two reactions to that. The first (and predominant) one is WHOO-HOO! The Ward Family definitely looks forward to our family reunion every two years and I am one of its biggest fans. I love my big extended family and this opportunity to spend a little time with my aunts and uncles, cousins and all their kids, and my own family, as well, relaxing and having fun is always a highlight of my year. My sister Cheree and I spent a lot of years kind of heading them up and organizing the reunions, but for the first time in a long time we get to go and just SIT (more or less) thanks to my Uncle Paul and some of the others in that branch of the family tree. I say again, WHOO-HOO!

My other reaction to the thought of the reunion’s approach is – YIKES! I’ve gained about fifteen pounds in the last year (on top of all the extra weight I already had) and I really need to lose some weight. Oh, not because I don’t want anyone to see me with some extra pounds on. Goodness knows, they’ve all seen me this way before. *Sigh.* It’s just that I have plenty of nice clothes to wear and I don’t want to go out and buy any more. They still fit me, thank goodness, but if I could just lose ten or fifteen pounds they would look better on me. Let’s face it – no one wants to see my midriff bulge – er, bulging, or my middle-aged spread spreading. A little more room in my clothes might cover a multitude of sins (so to speak.)

Cheree gave me an excellent tip last week that really motivated me to get to work and gave me some hope that I might actually be able to lose some weight and keep it off – and not only that, but to do it almost painlessly! What is this wonder tip? you might ask. Actually it’s so simple I don’t know why I never did it before. Cheree has started setting herself just five pound goals with reasonable amounts of time between goals. She’s lost almost twenty pounds that way and looks great! When she told me what she was doing, something struck a chord within me.

I can do that! I immediately thought. No long-term goal that seems impossible in scope and in duration. None of the drudgery and deprivation of dieting that almost guarantees that when I give up and go back to eating “normally” any pounds I have lost will come galloping back – and then some. Keeping only that small five pound goal ahead of me and taking it slow and easy gives me a feeling of hope that I can do this! Then when I reach that little goal, I’ll set another one and gradually work toward it without all the angst that has always come with dieting.

A verse came to me as I thought about it this week. Proverbs 6:6, 9 says, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise…How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?” An ant is a tiny little creature. It can’t take huge steps or do great things. It does get up and get going, though, and in the end it accomplishes much. It is time to get to work, and even if I’m taking little tiny ant-size steps, at least I’m moving in the right direction.

There are so many areas of our lives in which we could apply this principle. The Bible also says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) We need to be wise as the ant. Get up, get going, do what we know is right. No more being sluggards!

And by the way, I’ve already lost four pounds!

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Pumpkin, the Pampered Pet – I wrote last week about Julie and David’s new little dog, Pumpkin, the Perfect Pooch. Well, Pumpkin isn’t quite so perfect these days. She fell off her pedestal shortly after David left for San Antonio and has done a few naughty things now and then. She likes to dig holes and bury her treasures. She chewed one of Hannah’s play shoes. She nipped at Hannah when they were playing. And she did the ultimate crime – she peed on the new carpet once or twice. She is still almost perfect, though, in their eyes, so when they were faced with a decision about her last week it turned out to be an emotional dilemma.

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David was supposed to leave for Iraq immediately after training in San Antonio, but somehow they managed to mess up his travel plans and he ended up having four or five days at the end of his training to just sit around and wait. He was not allowed to go home, but Julie and the kids could come to see him, if they could make the long trip.

Of course Julie and the kids wanted to go – but what about the dog? Suddenly, after only a couple weeks with the newest member of their family they were going to have to leave her. She couldn’t stay with them on the Air Force base, and they had no friends in Alabama who could take her. The thought of putting her in a kennel after having just rescued her from an animal shelter was upsetting to all of them, and who knew how upsetting it would be to Pumpkin? Julie had to choose between David and the dog, and of course we all know who won that one! Whew! She started looking for a kennel.

There was one called Noah’s Ark nearby. It was run by Christians, so Julie called and made a reservation. The next day she and the kids went over to check it out. It was awful. Wire cages on cold cement floors. The dogs were only taken out twice a day for fifteen minutes. The people were cold. Julie left in tears, and the kids were upset saying, “Mommy, we just can’t leave her there!” They all feared Pumpkin would think she had been abandoned again.

Julie started looking for someplace else. There was another kennel in a neighboring town that sounded hopeful. It was a pet “resort” and the difference between the two places was night and day. It was clean and bright and each dog got its own little room with windows looking inside and out, some down at doggie level. Each room had a different mural painted on the walls – one of Paris, and others of Venice, London, or Rome and so on. (Of course the murals were for the owners’ benefit, not the dogs’, but still it was a fun idea.) Each room had a TV (so the dogs would feel that human connection) and a little cot. They were taken out to the play yard four times a day, and often played with by the large staff in between times, as well. They were bathed and pampered throughout their stay. The place was very nice, to say the least, and everyone was friendly. They could see with their own eyes that these were not just empty promises as they watched the staff interact with the dogs that were there, and saw that the animals seemed to be happy and well-adjusted. Of, course, this all came at a price. The first place was $17 a day, and the “resort” was $37.50 a day! Ouch! It was a lot, but Julie just couldn’t leave Pumpkin at Noah’s Ark. She made a new reservation at the doggy spa.

The morning came for their trip to San Antonio. They planned to drop the dog off at the kennel with some of her favorite toys and blanket. On the way over Joshua said, “I sure hope Pumpkin’s room looks out on the play yard instead of the parking lot!” Julie laughed and asked, “Oh, so now she needs a room with a view?” Sure enough – Pumpkin got the “Isle of Capri” room, with a window that overlooked the play yard. Pumpkin went off happily to her luxury suite and Julie and the kids drove off happily toward Texas.

Later Julie was telling me that the TLF (Temporary Living Facility) they got on base in San Antonio was a cracker box, without even a table where they could sit down as a family to eat or play games. “In other words,” I laughed, “you all are staying at Motel 6 while the dog stays at the Marriott?” The good thing was that the TLF ended up only costing them $2.50 a night, which made up for the exorbitant rate they are paying for the dog’s spa.

Is there something wrong with this picture? We have laughed over it all week, and honestly, I would have done the same thing. Hopefully Pumpkin will suffer no harm to her psyche and will come home to them a happy, secure little pup.

The difference in their accommodations made me think of the difference between our earthly home and the one we will have in Heaven someday. We invest a lot of time and money on our earthly homes, but no matter how comfortable or pretty or even grand we make our homes down here, they cannot begin to compare to the home Christ is preparing for us in Heaven. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2, 3)

The word “mansion” is better translated “apartment.” I remember the first time I heard that, back when I was a teenager, I thought, “Ew, I’m disappointed! I‘d rather have a mansion than an apartment.” Since then, though, I have realized how much better that “apartment” in the Father’s house will be than a mere mansion! We will be with the Lord, in His own home, rather than living here and there in this corner or that of Heaven. After our separation from Him, He wants us right there with Him, never to be separated again for all eternity. And after reading the descriptions of Heaven we find in Revelation, I can guarantee you that even an apartment in the Father’s home will be far grander than any mansion or castle we could have enjoyed here on earth!

I don’t know that we will be pampered in Heaven. It appears in Scripture that we will spend our time worshipping Him, ruling with Him and doing some sort of work for Him. Whatever He has in store for us, though, will be wonderful! Who needs pampering in Heaven anyway? Everything is perfect there, so we won’t need stress or pain relievers! Ahhh – I’ll be a happy pup!

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Preaching on Prophecy – Speaking of heaven and eternity — I have been enjoying an extra-special blessing this week. I happened to catch a program called Turning Point on WMBI (Moody Bible Institute’s radio station) on my way home from church last Sunday night. It is with Dr. David Jeremiah, a well-know pastor. I enjoy hearing his preaching whenever I get a chance. On this particular night he was preaching the second of a three-part message called “A Glimpse into Heaven,” taken from Revelation 4. This message was a part of a larger series called “Escape the Coming Night”, a study on the entire book of Revelation. The twenty-five minutes or so I heard that night on the radio whetted my appetite to hear the entire message, so Monday morning I decided to check on the internet to see if I could find the other two parts.

Sure enough – I found it in a couple different places. The radio program is archived at www.oneplace.com/ministries/Turning_Point just as it is heard on the radio, with the announcer and everything, and divided into the half-hour segments. I found the entire message, though, without interruption at Dr. David Jeremiah’s own website, www.davidjeremiah.org/radio. And to my delight, the entire series of forty-three messages was there as well!

All week long I have spent every morning listening to three or four messages at a time, trying to catch up to where they are now in the series (it started on March 4th, I think.) What a blessing it has been! The messages have been so good that as I finish each one, I can’t bear to stop listening. I’ll think, “I need to stop here and get to work,” but then I say to myself, “Oh just one more!”

It is interesting and exciting to hear what God has planned for this earth and our future in Heaven, but even beyond that, it is awe-inspiring! Revelation is a hard book to understand sometimes, but if you study it carefully, you will see that oftentimes the Bible itself tells you how to interpret the symbols used, either right there in the passage itself, or elsewhere in Scripture. For instance, the first chapter of Revelation is giving us a description of Jesus as He is now in Heaven. Verses 12, 13, 16 say, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” Then a few verses down it tells us exactly what the candlesticks and stars are: “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20)

The biggest blessing to me so far in this study has not been the intrigue of seeing the future, but of seeing Jesus as He really is right now in Heaven, and how He will be when He returns to this earth again someday soon. We have a picture in our minds of how we imagine Jesus was when he walked in Palestine 2000 years ago. What we see is Revelation, though is far different than our usual perception of Him.

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It has been a great study so far, and I am eagerly looking forward to hearing the rest of the messages. I just wanted to pass this information on to you, in case you would be interested in receiving this blessing, too. If you are, go to the Turning Point website at www.davidjeremiah.org/radio and click on the interactive map to Revelation. All forty-three messages are there. Enjoy!

LIFE – EXPECTANCY!

Yesterday was Robbie’s 34th birthday! He enjoyed going to Grandma’s house and having aunts, uncles, cousins and especially Grandma make over him. We had also celebrated his birthday big-time last week when we were at Julie’s house in Alabama with his nephew Benjamin whose birthday is the day before Robbie’s. Benjamin, who turned 12, is really into Bionicles so he wanted a Bionicle Birthday. (In case you don’t know what Bionicles are, they are robot-type creatures by Legos.) That was perfect for Robbie. We jokingly call him our Bionic Man since he is fuel-injected (he is tube fed through a g-tube) and battery-operated (he has a battery pack implanted near his collar bone for his Vagus Nerve Stimulator.) There is a special bond between Robbie and Benjamin. Benjamin has always had such a love for Robbie and playing with him and paying him extra-special attention. I made a birthday poster for them that said “Bionicle Buddies” but it could have said “Best Buddies.”

Thirty-four – going on two. Robbie is so sweet and precious to us, but we can see the last few years have taken a toll on him. He is much weaker physically than he used to be, unable to stand at all now or even sit in his wheelchair for longer than thirty or forty minutes at a time. The seizures have probably done a little more damage mentally, as well, over the years. He definitely is not the same person he was nine years ago, although if anything, he is more loving and sweeter than ever.

It was nine years ago today that they called a code blue on him in the hospital. We did not know if he was going to pull through. In fact, the doctors did not give us much hope at the time and even asked if we wanted a “do not resuscitate” order on him. Of course, we said no, but thus began the long hard journey of holding our breath and holding onto hope. The first two years after that fateful day were an emotional roller-coaster for me as we sat by his bed and struggled to keep him alive. We were in and out of the hospital and faced one crisis after another, but eventually he began to stabilize and we could breathe a little easier. The last few years have been fairly uneventful with him – praise the Lord!

Years ago they told us that the life expectancy for people like Robbie was the mid-thirties. We have heard that repeated several times. After having almost lost him nine years ago today, and several other times since then, we consider these last nine years “bonus years.” I must admit, as each birthday has passed since he turned thirty, I am conscious of the countdown clock ticking away and wonder if we will still have him for another birthday. Now here he is at thirty-four, the beginning of his mid thirties. I know it does not matter what “they” say – God is in control and holds Robbie’s life in His hands. He has Robbie’s days numbered (and ours, as well) and only He knows that number. Job 14:5 says, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” And though I do not worry about it, I am aware that our years and months and days with our precious Robbie may be short.

I think I look at this a lot differently than I did nine years ago. At that time it was such a traumatic shock to suddenly be faced with the prospects of losing our “baby,” whom we had cared for almost like a baby for twenty-five years, that I could not face the void his loss would make in my life. Oh, I knew in heart and mind that God’s will is always loving and best, and that I could trust and accept His will for Robbie and for us, but still this mother’s heart was breaking. Now, after nine years of seeing how Robbie’s life is so limited in quality and scope and physical comfort, I think I will be able more easily to release him to Heaven and the new life he will have there when the time comes. I talk to him almost every night as I’m tucking him into bed about how wonderful it will be in Heaven when he will be able to walk and run and dance, talk and sing and eat! He always grins and gets all excited! I know my heart will still break when the time comes, but I think now, after all his little body has been through, I will be able to focus more on his gain than my loss.

Life expectancy. We probably all expect we will live well into our seventies anyway. The life expectancy for Americans right now is 78.2 years (75.6 years for men; 80.8 years for women.) Surprisingly, the United States ranks 38th in the world for life expectancy. There are no guarantees, however. Bob frequently reads the obituaries and often shares with me as he reads. I am always struck by how many people die in their thirties and forties, and even twenties. We never know what a day will bring forth, do we? We expect to do this or do that, expecting that life will go on as normal.

Perhaps we would be better off to not have an expectancy for how long we live, or even how we will live, but for what the Lord has prepared for us someday in Heaven! That is an expectancy and hope that I can count on! I Corinthians 2:9 says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Jesus made a promise in John 14:2, 3 that “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” I am excited to see what He has prepared for us! I am excited to be there with Him! And of course, I am excited for Robbie for all the wonders that he will experience there, too!

My husband often says he is looking forward with expectancy to what the Lord has in store for us next. I, too, look forward to seeing what happens in our lives here on earth. But even more, I am looking with expectancy to the new life we will have when this life is over! Our years on earth are numbered and whether they are twenty or one hundred, they are but a drop in the bucket when compared to all eternity. How wonderful that when we have Christ as our Savior we can look forward with expectancy to glorious, everlasting, eternal life!

PACKING — FOR ETERNITY

Last Tuesday would have been my dad’s 80th birthday. Robbie and I started the day off right. Before I even got him up, we lay there singing and playing on the harmonica some of Grandpa’s favorite songs, as well as “Happy Birthday” which is Robbie’s least favorite song. He tolerated it, anyway, for Grandpa’s sake. I showed him Grandpa’s picture and we talked about some of the funny things Grandpa used to say to Robbie. I asked him, “Do you remember that, Robbie? Do you remember Grandpa?” Robbie didn’t answer, of course, but he grinned from ear to ear! I know he remembers his grandpa.
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Later that morning my mom, Corinne and I went out to the cemetery. We stood by my father’s grave, and oh, how we laughed! We reminisced about some of the funny things Dad would say or do, and brought out some of our favorite memories. We talked about Heaven and how Dad must be enjoying it and waiting for us to join him so that he can show us around and introduce us to the twins and others who have gone before us. It was a comforting, peaceful, happy time for we know where Dad is and that he is better and happier than he ever was here on earth.
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Heaven’s been on my mind all week. A friend of ours is living her last few days right now, and the doctors say she will be gone in less than a week. Her family has asked Bob to preach the funeral when the time comes. She knows, and is prepared. She trusted Christ as her Savior many years ago, and has faithfully served Him all these years. She is looking forward to Heaven and seeing Jesus and her husband, as well, who preceded her to eternity many years ago.
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It’s been a busy week in many ways. I started packing for my trip to Ecuador which is now 12 days, 19 hours and 37 minutes away. Just packing is a big job in itself, for I am taking much more than my own clothes and toiletries. Laurie and Fernando had a shopping list for me; others have given me things to take for the family; there are supplies for the ministry; and Christmas gifts and little surprises for the kids. Anything that is new must be removed from its packaging and have the tags cut off. I need to have all the receipts handy, though, in case they try to charge me duty so that I can prove what I paid and not be over-charged. The hand-me-down clothes for Matthew must be put in space bags and condensed so that they don’t take up so much room. I need to distribute things evenly in my suitcases as far as weight, and also so that the seven dozen of each of the goodie bag “goodies” I am taking to give out to poor Indian children as gifts don’t look like things being imported to sell.
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Packing is complicated, and as I look over the stacks of “stuff” I am taking, my mind whirls. I can’t help worrying about the weight limitations. I’m pretty sure I’ll have room for everything, but surely I’m not going to go over the 140 pounds I am allowed – am I? I ponder which things I can leave behind if I have to, and how I can eliminate even more weight. I plan to have my bags packed several days in advance so that Bob can take them somewhere and have them weighed. I don’t want any nasty surprises at the airport!
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It’s hard enough packing for two weeks in another country. I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about packing for an eternity in Heaven! the thought occurs to me one day. We came into this world with nothing; we will leave it with nothing, as well.
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I’m trying to keep my clothes to a minimum, figuring I can wash down there. But still, I need a variety of outfits – and shoes – for a variety of activities. There is only so much cutting down that a girl can do!
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No need to pack clothes for Heaven. Christ has already clothed me in His righteousness and when I get to Heaven He will furnish a white robe for me. ”After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)
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Can’t forget my prescriptions and diabetic supplies, all in their labeled bottles and meeting air transportation requirements. Oh – I need my glasses and contact lens supplies, too!
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No need for any medications or contacts in Eternity! How glorious to have a perfect body with no illness, defects — or fat! “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God… Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18, 19, 21) I Corinthians 15:51-54 also tells us, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
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I have to think about what I will eat on the journey. I will be traveling from six in the morning until ten-thirty at night. Being diabetic, I need to think ahead and plan what and when I will be able to eat and how I will take my insulin. Only one meal is furnished by the airline. I will have to either pack a lunch with me, or be prepared to buy food in the airports or on the plane.
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No need to worry about food in Heaven! Jesus is preparing a feast for us upon our arrival – the marriage supper of the Lamb. “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb…” (Revelation 19:9) And for all eternity, our every need shall be supplied. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
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Checking off everything on all my lists… Preparing everything to go into the suitcases… Arranging and re-arranging to try to get it all in, in the most efficient and organized way… Hoping and praying I can take it ALL!
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No need to pack a THING for an eternity in Heaven! There is only one thing that I need and that is my TICKET. My ticket, which I cannot hold in my hand or pack in my carry-on, but which is already bought and paid for with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28) “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold… But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (I Peter 1:18,19”
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I may not have finished packing for Ecuador yet, but I’m all packed and ready to go whenever the Lord calls me Home for eternity! My bags are packed with nothing – nothing but my faith in what Christ did on the cross for my salvation! No need to add a thing to that – no good works, no membership in the right church, no correct upbringing or heritage, no wealth, fame, popularity or earthly success.
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Jesus has already done it all and my ticket is stamped “Paid In Full.”

LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED

This has been another week of living vicariously for me—this time through my daughter Julie. It’s been quiet here at home with nothing much going on, but I’ve been on pins and needles as Julie and David came down to the wire in trying to sell their house in Shreveport, LA and find another one in Montgomery, AL. David had to report for duty on May 15th, and we had prayed and prayed for months that the Lord would help them sell their house before they arrived in Alabama, if it was His will. They left home on the morning of the 15th with it still unsold, but halfway there, with only a couple hours to go before arriving in Alabama, they received a call that they had a buyer! How we rejoiced and praised and thanked the Lord!

And how we laughed! It seemed to us that God has such a sense of humor! In all the months we had been praying, we’d been saying (and truly trusting in our hearts and minds that it was true!), that He would sell that house in His own time and way. And of course, I, as their mother, was going to the Lord and reminding Him, “Lord, you promised if we commit our paths unto You will give us the desires of our hearts, and I don’t know anyone, who is more committed to you than Julie and David! They deserve this, Lord! They honor and obey and serve You more then anyone I know! Puh-leeeeeease, sell their house before David has to report for duty—uh, if it is Your will, of course, Lord!” (I can’t help myself—right or wrong, I’m a mother!) Anyway, we laughed because it seemed the Lord was saying, “Do you really trust me? Let’s take it right down to the wire, my little children, and really see!” He gave us exactly what we had prayed for, but tested our patience and faith to the very end.

Once they knew the house was sold it gave them the freedom and an open door to go ahead and look for another house while they were there. They only had a few days to search and make a decision before Julie and the kids would have to return to Louisiana. I joined them on the internet in a house hunt for a suitable home to rent. (They decided to rent instead of buy since they are unsure how long they will be stationed there. It could be as long as four years, or as short as two years, and if that were the case they did not want to have to turn around and sell again in just a couple years.) They needed a place that would not only suit them now, but that would also fit a growing family of five or six children when their adoptions go through. There were not a great many homes for rent in their price range and in the areas they needed to look, but once again, at the last minute almost, they found a home that seemed just right for them.

Julie and David had made the decision that if they did not have perfect peace about any of the houses they looked at, they would just forget it until she and the kids could join David in Alabama and they would resume the search then. It would mean having to put their belongings in storage for a time and staying in temporary lodging, but they did not want to rush ahead of the Lord and choose something that might not be His best for them just because they were in a hurry and feeling pressured. The Lord had given each of them, on the same day but individually, the reminder, Be still and know that I am God. They would wait on Him to lead and direct them to the right house in His time.

They did not have a long list of criteria to fill. Basically they just needed a house that would pass the home study as far as size and a safe and healthy environment for the children. They weren’t overly concerned with the age or style of the home, or whether it had updated amenities or if it was “good for entertaining,” etc. In the end, God gave them a house that fit their needs and so much more than they were even asking for or had dreamed of! It is out in the country, newer and updated with granite countertops, commercial grade stainless appliances, brand new carpet, freshly painted throughout, two-story garage/barn, in their price range, great landlords—and with plenty of room for five or six children! Best of all, they had the perfect peace for which they had prayed. Upon speaking with the landlords, they could see how the Lord had prepared that house and sold their home in Shreveport at precisely the right times to coincide with one anther and make it all work out for their good, as Romans 8: 28 tells us.

God is so good always, but when He gives us so much more than we ask for, it is humbling and awe-inspiring. I am delighted with how the Lord has worked this out for Julie and David. How wonderful that they can now move door-to-door! It will be so much easier on the children to leave the home they love, now that they have seen and are looking forward to the new house. Julie is thrilled with the new place and eagerly anticipating making that house into a home for her family. David is happy it is move-in ready and they won’t have to do a thing but carry their things in and set them down.

I’ve thought about this over the week. We have another home we’re looking forward to, also, that is so much more than we could ever dream of! We have a place that is being prepared for us right now. When we finally get there, it will be well worth the wait and there won’t be a thing we’ll have to do to make it just right for us! We can leave our old earthly house behind, with all its problems and shortcomings, and enjoy the perfect home our Father has prepared for us. We won’t be moving any “stuff” with us, either, because He will furnish everything we’ll need. We won’t have to worry about monthly payments. The price has already been paid and all we must do is accept it by faith. When we’re moving, we don’t know, but He does, and when all things are ready He’ll take us there. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3)

I’m looking forward to my new, perfect home! It’s in the perfect neighborhood, with perfect neighbors and the best of landlords! One of my dad’s favorite hymns was “Mansion Over the Hilltop.”

I’m satisfied with just a cottage below,
A little silver and a little gold;
But in that city where the ransomed will shine,
I want a gold one that’s silver-lined.
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I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop,
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old;
And someday yonder we will never more wonder,
But walk on streets that are pure as gold.
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Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely.
I’m not discouraged, I’m heaven bound;
I’m but a pilgrim in search of a city,
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.
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I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop,
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old;
And someday yonder we will never more wonder,
But walk on streets that are pure as gold.
Dad’s already waiting for us there, with many of our other loved ones and friends. What a wonderful reunion it will be someday when Jesus calls us home!