Pre-race prayer at the Nascar Nationwide series race in Nashville TN July 23, 2011
We buried my grandmother on Saturday and my dad asked me to conduct the graveside service. It was a great honor and blessing to do this for my family and my grandmother. Far from a pastor, I admittedly borrowed from my friend David Helbig’s previous memorials and a 1920’s era book titled “The Pastor’s Ideal Funeral Book”. I wanted the service to be formal but personal. Everyone seemed to be happy, so I trust my grandmother would have been as well.
Here is the text of what I presented. The spacing was how I printed it to remind me to go slow and take my time out of respect for my Memaw.
Graveside Service – Ellen Reynolds
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.”
The righteous live forever and the care of them is the most high God’s. With his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he shield them.
We are here to celebrate the life of Ellen Metta King Reynolds, born Feb 26, 1919 in Castle Oklahoma, departed from us January 26, 2009 at age 89.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, fount of all life; thou art our refuge and strength; thou art our help in trouble. Enable us to put our trust in thee, that we may obtain comfort and find grace to help us in this and every time of need through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Readings from Scripture
1 Thess. 4:13-18
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
When death comes to our loved ones, there are a few things we want to know. We want to know that God cares, that we are not alone in our grief. But even more importantly, perhaps, we want to be reminded that for every ‘exit’ there is an ‘entrance’. We want to know that there is a future for us and our loved ones who we seemingly have lost.
THE PROMISES OF SCRIPTURE BECOME LIVING REALITIES IN TIMES LIKE THESE.
Jesus said in John 14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
Our faith in those promises, along with the presence of God in our hearts, sustains us.
One of the most beautiful promises found in the Bible is in Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces.” Our exit from this world is an entrance into the next and there is great comfort in the promises of God.
One of the great hymns say,
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come,
Twas grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
That’s God’s promise to us as well. For those who love Jesus, every exit is but an entrance. God is faithful to His promises. He has promised us that in our times of need He will never forsake us. This is cloudy for us now. But for Ellen, the sun is shining brightly and someday it will shine again for us.
Today, while we memorialize her, while we remember her life, while we both laugh and cry at the memories and the loss that we’ve faced this week; Ellen is, as we speak, receiving her full reward. Out of our presence, yet in the fullness of the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are so many vivid things I remember about my Memaw going all the way back to when I was just a little boy. A few things stand out for me that I would like to share.
We could and maybe should write a book with all the funny things she has said over the years. Quick as could be, you didn’t cross her with your words cause she wasn’t scared to remind you in the mostly lady-like of ways just how smart she actually was. Ironically, the word Wit has a german origination just like Memaw.
She gave people the benefit of the doubt and almost never spoke poorly of people. Neither the lowest or the highest of society had anything on her, but she spoke generously of both. She said to me in the last few years of her life “I want to focus on the positive, what’s ahead of me and not what is behind me.” She taught that to my Dad as well.
Her heart seemed always motivated with the purest and most noble of intentions. She served us unceasingly and constantly with no burden or sense of duty, but a joy and blessing.
I don’t know if it was the German in her or what, but when she made up her mind to do something she did it. Whether it was raise a son alone for a few years during WWII, quit smoking, annihilate every last germ in her kitchen, or live fully and gracefully until the very last hours, well she just did it.
Her Family Focus.
It was always about her family, both those who were coming up and those who were already gone. Family meant the world to her.
I found a poem that reminded me of her that I would like you to hear:
The Watcher by Margaret Widdemer
She always leaned to watch for us, Anxious if we were late, In winter by the window, In summer by the gate.
And though we mocked her tenderly, Who had such foolish care, The long way home would seem more safe Because she waited there.
Her thoughts were all so full of us, She never could forget! And so I think that where she is She must be watching yet.
Waiting till we come home to her, Anxious if we are late, Watching from Heaven’s window, Leaning on Heaven’s gate.
And today, FAMILY is the legacy she leaves behind. Yes, that’s us. You and I. Children, Grandchildren, & Great Grandchildren. All of us were loved deeply by Ellen.
Allow your mind to go back today. Go back to a time when she blessed you. Go back to a time when she made you laugh. Remember a time when she made you feel like you could do it. Remember your favorite thing about this magnificent woman. Following our time together here there will be a meal at ____________________ wherein I hope we can all share a few memories of Ellen that we’ll never forget.
The last thing that stands out for me about this beautiful woman was:
Her Quiet Faith.
Five or six years ago I asked Memaw if she believed in Jesus. Without skipping a beat she said, “well how do you think I’ve been able to be patient with your Papaw all these years?”.
Ellen had a quiet, but sure faith that was explored not through theological education or even busy church involvement, but through a reliance on God for peace and steadfast security.
May we ask God to help us grow closer to Him and that the reality of his presence would bring us peace and an impact to those around us?
The Closing Prayer
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God of His mercy to take back to Himself the soul of our Ellen, we therefore commit her remains to the care of a loving God; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As we come to the conclusion of our service, we commit her to her burial place, waiting for the day when Christ returns for us when we can spend eternity together. Grace and peace be unto you. At this time, for those of you who are comfortable, you are welcome to pay your respects to family members and to Ellen as well.
[Update] We named her Abby Katherine Reynolds on Sunday… a mere 50 hours after her birth. We thought that was good! Thanks to all who participated in the naming of this baby!
Third daughter born healthy at 8:06 EST this morning. Breathing great and is pleasant.
Here are the stats
Weight: 7 lbs. 14.5 ounces
Height: 20.5 Inches
General description: Copy of first two, but bigger
Ashley is doing great and is in good spirits in recovery. Big challenge is mashing up (putting together) a name she loves.
Check out these pics
I had the distinct privilege of hanging out with one of my Florida buddies for his birthday last night. He celebrated his birthday in the morning as he does every year with a no-hands front-flip.
Kevin Conklin is unique both in that he looks 40 instead of 50, and that he is in better shape than most people I know under 30. A former college wrestler in a light weight class, Kevin is still ferocious and determined.
Kevin has been kind enough to work with me on discovering some of the warped views I have on who God is and how he relates to me. Our friendship is just beginning, but I trust the guy because he lived in his car at the beach for a few weeks to reconnect with God.
So last night at his birthday party, he had been asked to write down some of the wisdom he has gained in all those years. Here are a few tidbits that hit home for me I asked permission from him to share:
- Pray, don’t talk about prayer or study about it – pray!
- Be sure to learn a new hobby every couple years – it’s fun and stimulating and keeps you humble but good at a lot of things.
- [Jesus] is truly faithful and loves you more deeply than anyone. There are no shortcuts to this relationship. Tend to it, nurture it and keep it creative.
- Guard your heart! He is the source of your strength and peace.
- Love deeply again and again no matter how much it hurts when it doesn’t work out, being lonely and regretful is no way to live.
- Trials are your friends, for they truly forge your character. You have what it takes and you should embrace these trials as gifts, not hassles or as some form of punishment. They make you stronger, more real, teach you the best lessons…
- Attitude and effort are two things you have control over, the rest you really don’t.
- Make memories, you must be spontaneous and intentional … otherwise you will become a spectator, regretful and for sure boring.
- Live today, don’t hold tightly to yesterday and don’t bank on tomorrow, we have this moment, right now. What will you do with it?
- Create a life counsel for yourself. People who love you most, know you best, want the best for you and are willing to speak the truth in love to you.
- Believe the best in people first and then let their life determine the rest.
In the decision to move to Florida to work for Christ Fellowship, I had to deal with some feelings of unworthiness that I had not faced in a long time. When God tees up a sweet shot for you, it is sometimes tough to think you are the right person to take the swing. In my case, I felt unworthy because of my falleness. I am very familiar these days with my weakness because it rears its head daily in my life in the little things. You know, parenting, finances, relationships, and work. So in the midst of working out if the move to Florida was right for us, I just felt this overwhelming fear that God could not possibly use me for a work as significant as what seems to await me in West Palm Beach.
During the week I was thinking these things, Christ Fellowships #2 guy delivered a message (view the video) which put me at ease. The first ten minutes are especially worthy of your time, as he walks through the great men of Hebrews and recounts their fallen sides. It’s a brilliant reminder that just because we are fallen doesn’t mean the Lord has forgotten us. Jesus still has a plan for each of us that takes into account our screw-ups and disabilities. We still need to pray every morning for God to have His way with us, but we can have a confidence that Jesus does not forget us when he is ready to do a work. Just because we are fallen does not mean we are forgotten.
Word is starting to get out a bit that I have resigned my position with Stonebriar Community Church this week and accepted a position with the 30th largest church in the US. We wanted to let all of you know this as early in the process as possible, but also had some details to work out before I could make things official. I have been away from consistent blogging for awhile so that I could get this life decision made.
Where is this?
Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, Florida offered me a CIO type role that was just too awesome to not consider. After a rapid, yet extensive interview process, Ashley and I came to the same conclusion as Christ Fellowship that God had created an amazing fit between what they need in a technology leader and what God has made me to do. I will initially manage a department of 6-8 folks doing everything from programming to helpdesk to data warehousing. The team is pretty junior, but very talented none the less. Really a good group to be able to mentor.
What will you be doing, exactly?
For some of the more technology challenged readers, I will try to boil this down for you. I will manage a team of people who keep the email working, the files storing, the computers healthy, the data safe, the website updated, the member contact information reportable, the videos playing, the telephones working, etc.
In addition to these regular Church IT duties, I will be helping the church navigate the technology waters to a place of understanding how technology can be leveraged to improve the way they do the Christian life together. Whether this is through a better website that connects people with each other, systems that help improve the discipleship of church members, or an intranet for better communication within the staff, the goal of the position will be to partner with the other executives to champion technology projects that are sponsored internally. I am a change agent for technology within a church who already loves change and technology. What could be more fun?
Are You Moving?
Well yes we are. Believe it or not, God’s call on our life in this case was so strong it is making us give up our Texas residence. Leaving our friends, family, and this great State of Texas (Long live the Republic) were about the only downsides of this ministry move. We are seriously grieving moving to the beach. Some of our friends are just laughing in our pitiful faces and saying, “There are a lot worse places to serve the Lord. It could be Africa or a Peanut Farm!” Thank you Jesus it isn’t both! And they are right, West Palm Beach is about the most affluent place you can be a church worker. Living in constant good weather and around nice things shouldn’t be such a pain. We just love what we have here. We are comfortable. We are fully supported.
Some scripture came to mind in this that haunted us a bit:
Mathew 16: 24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
Mark 1: 16As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17“Come, follow me,” Jesus said. 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
When is this happening?
My last day of work at Stonebriar is August 10th and my first day of work with Christ Fellowship is August 13th. I will work remotely for three weeks. We will move over Labor Day weekend, with my first day on site being September 3rd. “There is a lot left to do” is an understatement of understatements.
With this having happened this week, I have heaps more to say about this, but it will have to wait cause I am out of time for today. We’ll write more soon.
As you may remember from our hospital stay and the update, one of “my little-darlin’s” had an airway event week before last that threatened her life. This morning we went in for the procedure to scope her airway with the anticipation of finding something structurally wrong or possibly some other kind of odd obstruction. After a 10 minute procedure and a short 1 hour recovery, praise God my daughter is fine.
By fine, I don’t just mean gorgeous and altogether brilliant, or that she recovered well from the procedure. I mean her airway is perfectly normal. The ear, nose, and throat doc is left shaking his head and saying “it must have been one of the worst cases of croup ever”. Yet, there is no remnant of inflammation, an aspirated obstruction, or anything else that would have caused the problem. From the looks of things, there is absolutely nothing wrong and she has never had any issues. What is wild is that she never really had horrific coughing or the other symptoms of croup!
So, some will ask, was this a “healing” or a “miracle”? Did the prayers of literally hundreds of Christ-followers across multiple time zones, in at least 6 large churches, and from all our family and friends make the difference? Was it the determining factor that lead to her now “normal” condition? Most cessationists would probably say no. Bible.org does a fine job of laying out the issue, but here is a snippet:
The [non-charismatics/cessationists] generally make a distinction between sign gifts and edification gifts. Sign gifts, they say, served their purpose in the first century by attesting to the authority of the apostles and their divinely-inspired message. Once the New Testament canon was complete, miraculous gifts were no longer necessary, and they gradually disappeared from the church. Hebrews 2:3-4, for example, is used by non-charismatics to imply that signs and wonders had already ceased by the time of the second generation of Christians. Some also build a case for the cessation of sign gifts from 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.
I am sure some folks would even ride the fence and say that the gift of supernatural healing and the outcome of supernatural healing are two different things, thus the cessationist argument can hold true. It would indeed seem short-sighted to believe God accomplishes NOTHING supernatural through his people on earth these days. My own view is that if God’s character never changes, then He can not help but continue being Himself … which involves creation, healing, judgment, undeserved grace and mercy, miracles, et al.
Ok, ok, back to the question. Yes, I believe this was a healing. Having been with her when she nearly went to see Jesus, I know how serious it was. She was moments away from checking out. Then, within less than 24 hours she was nowhere near deaths inevitable door. Within 2.5 days one did not know anything had ever been wrong. And now, there is no evidence of anything that would have caused the situation. I believe the prayers of many made a difference!
Did we move God? Nope, I don’t think so. I think this was all within his plan and purpose for all of our lives. Not much stirs the heart more than a sick infant, does it? God allows this stuff to happen for our faith and growth. It is to accomplish His Glory! In a sense, Ashley and I were asked in this crises to give up our right to our youngest daughter in the same way we had to give up a mis-carried baby who we named Samuel. Christ was quietly asking, “do you love me enough to …?”. We answered “not our will, but yours.” We are guessing most of you prayed alongside us in a similar way.
God is faithful regardless of this outcome, but it sure feels great to be perplexed over exactly how she became whole again. Will there be similar issues down the road? I dunno. I do know my daughter is now well, those I love have supported me in ways unimaginable, my faith has grown, and that my Jesus remains Holy and Just. Thank you all for walking this bumpy road with us.
Another question and answer post from my talk at NRB.
Doing online ministry well represents a significant investment in strategy, time, and resources. This means money. What would you say to a pastor or ministry leader who is reticent about creating a whole new budget item for the Web?
1. Create an Exit Strategy.
If they are a broadcast media ministry, I would suggest they create an exit strategy, because they are nearing the end of their product life-cycle. Millennials don’t care about broadcast. They like user-generated content. They don’t trust authority, but they trust reputation. Not the kind of reputation that comes from being a subject matter expert, but the kind that comes through relationships and shared experience. It isn’t to say they wont read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch your TV programs… but it is to say they listen with more skepticism and cynicism than any group before them. They won’t give to your ministry just because they consumed… they don’t figure they owe you anything since content everywhere is free.
2. Pray About What to Do and How Much to Spend.
I would recommend the ministry pray through their fears or reluctance. And hey, technology isn’t for all churches… and certainly isn’t applicable globally yet. It will be some day, however. So, pray and ask God to show your ministry how technology can become part of the strategy and vision. Exodus 35 shows us that God brought the right people with the right skills at the right time to build the temple. He will do the same with technology and your ministry.
3. Start Well Today and Grow It Over Time.
Start slowly. It isn’t all or nothing. Do something now and do it well. Then do the next thing and do it well. If you have a web page with 10 pages, that is enough. Creating content for 10 pages is about like drafting 10 good emails. You can make the time for that. So start with a base and add things consistently to improve the value. Believe it or not, a web ministry can be started on as little as $25 a month as long as someone is willing to put in as few as 10 hours a month.
4. Get Volunteers Engaged to Lower the Burden and Cost.
Lastly, get your constituents involved. If you are a church, ask for volunteers who can help with photography and writing. Or, get volunteers to keep you accountable for keeping stale content off the site by emailing you when they find out of date information. Put an especially astute volunteer in charge of researching calendaring and event registration technologies for your ministry. This lowers your work effort, let’s them use their gifting, and gets something new on your site faster. My main point here is that the site is never perfectly finished, so get your people involved in making the site happen. This DOES NOT include coding from scratch, but that is another issue for another time.
Found myself in a conversation this morning with a fellow staffer whose husband is depressed. Taking meds but still depressed. In my attempts to encourage her, it occurred to me that her husband doesn’t take his meds regularly enough because he probably thinks if he were a “true believer” then he wouldn’t struggle with feeling down or “depending on anything but Jesus”. We don’t allow ourselves the freedom of being weak, do we? Some guilt-ridden part of our mind whispers “You lack faith if you depend on anything but Jesus. You aren’t as strong a Christian if you need help. Why aren’t you counting your blessings? Surely life isn’t that bad that can’t just pray through it.”
This is a common thing Christians seem to buy into, that our lives should be happy and perfect. And, sometimes they are close, but no life will stay ideal. It isn’t the way God works. Refinement comes by way of the fire and until we are perfected in heaven we’ll always have some remnant of impurities. There is a pressure to make everything appear alright in our lives. What God seems to most enjoy is broken people with contrite hearts and authentic dependency on receiving strength from the Holy Spirit. In an IM with a friend yesterday, I referenced the pressure as:
… some churches forget that to “be like Christ” means “attempt to be…” not “project the appearance of [being]” like christ… and that is what it boils down to for me… i want to acknowledge my imperfections and by shining light on said failures, Glorify God in the mystery of His having made me Righteous when I didn’t deserve it.
Last week, someone passed this farse of a blog entry to me on how to create a relevant pastor blog. Though a great read for any Christian blogger, #10 is the most relevant to this present diatribe on the pressure to be all-good.
10) Stay upbeat! I can’t stress this enough. Christians are always supposed to be happy, and seekers will fuel off of your enthusiasm. It’s contagious you know. Even if your dog dies, stay upbeat about it. Remember, even if you are not a very inspirational person, people will think you are, just because you are so enthusiastic.
Silly, isn’t it?