“Love Lives On”. That is the marker on my Grandfather’s grave. If he were alive, my Daddy John would have been 100 years old – today. On the last day of his life as he lay unconscious in the hospital bed, I scolded him. Yes, I did. It wasn’t harsh, but in exasperation I told that man, the most precious person that I ever had the pleasure to know, that he had ruined it for us. By “us” I meant the women in his family. He had “ruined” it by setting the bar so high…by providing such an amazing example of unconditional love and family sacrifice that there seemed to be no way that other men would ever be able to live up to our expectation. Ever. My Daddy John, I know, is so glad that was wrong.
Once upon an October day not so long ago, my Grandfather told me from the grave that I had been wrong. And that things were all going to be fine. Trust. Be patient. He was watching over me and watching out for me and he had a Good Friend that knew all about me too. I heard Daddy John tell me through leaves falling around me … like the enormous snow flakes that had covered all of the ground within seconds and had made my tears turn to laughter…the Springtime snow that had fallen on St. Patrick’s Day. On the day that he died. Heavy, swirling, bright… other-worldly…
October is his month… I think of him often…all the time really. Especially this time of year. He is never far.
My Daddy John danced with me and laughed with me and he let me braid his hair in corn rows. Imagine a quiet, white-headed East Tennessee farmer patiently sitting while his little granddaughter made 100 tiny braids all over his head. My Grandmomma would sometimes set out her recorder… you remember? …. cassette tapes?…Inserted into the top … play, fast forward, rewind, pause, stop… buttons on the top… Sounds were captured when “play” and “record” were pressed simultaneously. One cassette, that may or may not still be in existence, garbles background noise around my distorted three or four-year old voice. “He’s got the whole wuld in his hands, He’s got the whole wide wuld in His hands….”and then an original song composed and performed also by me, “Daddy John is a sweet little head…Daddy John is a Sweet little head…” I couldn’t think up any other words to the song… so after repeating that truth over and over, I just laugh and say, “I can’t thing that thong!” (I had trouble with my “r”s and my “s”s :))
Five days ago, I read my pastor’s daily devotion and I responded to him in a quick reply, “Love this. It has sparked an idea for a blog post… If I can get a chance to write one today! (: I hope you don’t mind. I know you don’t, so thanks.”
And his response: “Yaaaaaaay! Go for it. I can’t wait!”
A lot has happened in the past five days. I did not write. The story did not get told…But that is because the story was not ready to be told. Now I think it is.
Until today I did not remember WHY I wanted to write…it had something to do with a word puzzle presented in my Pastor’s “Day of Praise” daily devotion from 5 days ago… it had something to do with my mom (Daddy John’s daughter)… and when I went to a stranger’s funeral two days ago, I cried a lot. And I smiled a lot. And I said, “Yes. Now I think I know what I need to say. Thank you!”
First the word play… how to, step by step… changing one letter at a time… create different words along the way. In my Pastor’s post he explains it like this: “Here’s the puzzle. What’s the way for the word “rear” to become the word “Lord”? Here’s the way. You start with “rear”. Then change “rear” to “read”. Then change “read” to “lead”. Then change “lead” to “load”. Then change “load” to “lord.” Those are the steps along the way for making “rear” to become “Lord.”
So…why does this have ANYTHING to do with ANYTHING? BECAUSE my Pastor’s writing 5 days ago reminded me of my mother BECAUSE I have heard my mother say many times that she just cannot believe that a God of Love and Forgiveness would not allow all good people on earth to go to heaven when they die. My understanding of her belief is that a God of Love and Forgiveness will invite and include people of all religions into Heaven. God would not prevent good people from entering! We are all about inclusion, right?
But the Bible and the Bible verse at the top of my Pastor’s devotion…yes, five days ago, states clearly: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” – John 14:6
Honestly, having the mother that I have… (If I am wrong about my take on her beliefs she will tell me I am sure, and then I will recant!) I am pretty sure though that I am just presenting a viewpoint of many sensitive souls. God IS about Love and Forgiveness…so how can this verse…these words said by JESUS HIMSELF be true? What does he mean that he is the way…and that no one comes to God except through him? Our human minds might create an image of God as a King on His throne and Jesus is the guard at the castle door peeping out of the tiny face level door like the munchkin in the Wizard of Oz. We might picture God as the President and CEO of an exclusive Christian Club … a sign posted in BOLD letters before you enter the drive, “CHRISTIANS ONLY – ALL OTHERS KEEP OUT!!!”
These images do not follow what we know to be the character of God.
We are all created in His image.
“So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27.
We are all called to be the children of God.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1 John 3:1
WHOA Nelly! Eureka! Huh? Say WHAT??????
It is a word puzzle, my good people. It is a simple changing of one thing bit by bit to make something else. It is learning to walk. It is learning to talk. It is learning to understand that 1/2 is the same as 50% is the same as .500
Adam and Eve, before their really poor choice to go their own way, might be the only humans that were able to know God the way that we can know God. Abraham, Sarah; Isaac, Rebekah; and Jacob and Joseph and Noah and Moses and Daniel and David and ALL of those who loved God and who wanted to obey Him and wanted to follow and be obedient to the Law did not know God like we can know God.
I am going to play another word game I just made up using the same words that my Pastor used. All of us people who God created in His image are far from perfect…often we believe that we do not need anyone and that we can do all things in our own power. That makes us a “rear”. (And “arear” means to go backward!)
But God in His mercy, sees how pathetic we are and how we have no idea of what we are doing. So He provided us with ways to know Him better. He gave His people laws…to know specifically what to do and what not to do to one another… and how to remain in a relationship with God. A “Rear” could “Read” and follow the laws and commandments. Follow the rules -that is what people needed to do! That is what people thought that they needed to do. God was teaching them that it is impossible.
We couldn’t. And the ones that did seem to do everything “by the law” did not do it with the right attitude. They did not thank God for their ability to be strong or feel sympathy for others who were weak. They were not servants or teachers…they were self-serving and finger-pointers. God’s intention to show His people what to do and what not to do to one another and how to remain in a relationship with Him failed because the LAW became the focus and people believed themselves to be superior to others or fine without God… or thought themselves to be failures or too ashamed to seek God. The One who made the law so that people could know Him was forgotten.
But God still did not stop trying to reach his children. He sent prophets to speak of how things should be and to tell people who would listen how things would be. These are the ones who “lead” the ones who came before…the ones sent to prepare a path. We were told all about Jesus long before His birth.
He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” John 1:23
God’s children who wanted to know Him, who had read the Law and the words of the prophets…those who were earnestly seeking to know God had a “load” laid upon them. They had the honor and responsibility to recognize the EXPECTED and HOPED for savior. They had to know enough about God to know what the Son of God would look like. Would he be a king on a throne? Hiding inside the walls of an exclusive club where he only socialized with the best and brightest? What does God look like? What does God act like? How does God want for us to be? We can not know unless we look at His Son. We cannot know the true character of God because we see through a human lens. We look to those that we can relate to. We can understand flesh and blood.
We could not know the character of God on our own.
We could not know through “thou shalt and thou shalt nots”.
We could not know exactly what to expect although it was foretold. The prophets gave us signs to look for…but we had to hear and read…and we had to keep our eyes and ears and heart open.
We are not better. We are not exclusive. We are not without fault or sin. But we know the way to truth and to life. We know the way to God because we have seen God. And the only way that anyone can see God is if they look at Jesus.
Roy Edward Holmes, a member of my church that I never knew, died 6 days ago. He was 85 years and two days old. He was another October baby. I went to his funeral two days ago, and I smiled through tears for the entire service. This is why:
Two of Mr. Holmes favorite verses were words of the prophets which I love too: Jeremiah 29:11 and Isaiah 41:10
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The Gospel reading was John 14:1-6 ““Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
And then my friend Randy sang this song that I love:
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I’d rather be His than have riches untold. I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land. I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hands.
Than to be the king of a vast domain. And be held in sins dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than worldly applause. I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause. I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide things. Yes, I’d rather be true to His holy name.
Than to be the king of a vast domain. And be held in sins dread sway. I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”
Roy Edward Holmes’ obituary says among other things, he “was a good man and lived a good life.” Many successes and hardships of his life were made known during the service and included in the obituary including: being captured and held as a prisoner of war. He escaped with serious injuries that took a year of hospitalization and recuperation. Mr.Holmes’ honors are many and distinguished. His obituary continues, “Roy loved life and loved his family. His families’ grief at his passing is tempered by the quality and quantity of his life, the many wonderful memories he made for them, the lessons that he gave by word and deed and by the certainty that he is alive with Christ for eternity.”
My Grandfather was a teacher in this same way.
But it was not because of their own goodness that “Love Lives On” for those of us that they have left behind. Love is alive because these men knew what love was… because they knew their Savior. Personally. They knew about him because they could understand him… because he was accessible. He is still accessible to us today. Jesus tells us everything we need to know. We know the Father because we know the Son.
Mr. Holmes’ final hymn at his funeral service included the following verse:
” When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”
Jesus is the Way. We are all children of God, called to read the Word and to hear the Truth. We are all given a commission to lead others along the path following the Light. We are warned that we must bear the load and responsibility that comes with knowing God and our purpose which is to proclaim the Good News. We must understand our God-given gifts and use our gifts to reach people. We are not made to sit comfortably in our houses or in our offices or in our churches. We are made to go out. “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'” Mark 16:15
and Jesus said:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17
All things done; all things written; all things said; all things of and by God have been shown to us and fulfilled for us through the life and the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit guiding our steps and our words and our actions…with Jesus as our example and savior… God longs to bring us all to Him to be members of His family together like we are meant to be. He wants us to know Him. But how?
~Have you seen Jesus my Lord? He’s here in plain view. Take a look, open your eyes. He’ll show love to you.~
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
Praise God. Love lives on because God first loved us and then God kept on loving us and then He loved us so much that he sent His Son…so that maybe, finally we would stop being a rear and know the Lord.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16
It is a step by step process. Babies start with milk. And milk will keep you alive. To be alive is not the same thing as to Live. Be the Love that will Live on. Show someone the face of Jesus.