Nearing the end.
Wow, what a journey. As I mentioned in my last post, this time last year was a rough patch. My Dad lay dying of cancer in his home. I was there to be with him and to offer support to my stepmom, as well as to get her support in this difficult time. My Dad and I have always been very close, and I had dreaded losing him for a lot longer than he had been ill. But through the power of the Word of God, I felt comforted and covered in peace that truly transcends any human understanding.
I’d like to share a little about my Dad. He was handsome, talented musician, then an Air Force officer and commander, then a successful mortgage broker, then in his 50s he went to seminary and became a pastor. He was a very smart man, graduating early and with honors, accumulating 3 advanced degrees in varied fields, and rising through military ranks from an enlisted musician to a full Colonel, the commanding officer of a military base in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf conflict. He was born into poverty, the youngest of 6 children who shared a bedroom and a community outhouse, but by the time he passed away he owned 4 houses, 3 cars and had a nice retirement plan, all the while faithfully honoring God with his tithes and offerings. To say that I looked up to and admired this man is an understatement. I am proud and well aware how blessed I am to be his daughter.
But that’s not the whole story. His first marriage, to my Mom, ended in a painful divorce for all involved. I would rather not go into detail about his failings, but rest assured I am well aware that he was not perfect. But I have always felt that his is a story of redemption, of the miracle of the grace of God, and the ability of the Holy Spirit to work through a repentant heart and turn ashes to beauty. My parents’ divorce was the single most traumatic event in my life, but looking back I can see God’s hand working through the tragedy of a broken marriage and many broken hearts, and I can appreciate the good that came from it, namely my Dad’s eternal salvation, and his then touching the lives of those he came into contact with in the name of Jesus, spreading the good news of His gift of eternal life. If it hadn’t been for my parents’ divorce, and my Dad’s commitment to putting God at the very center of his second marriage, I don’t know that I would be the believer I am today.
Three years before he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Dad had a heart episode that resulted in his needing a pacemaker/defibrillator. Before he was to have this surgery, he had a talk with me. He wanted to tell me a few things. First, that because his Dad and one of his brothers had both died suddenly of heart attacks at the ages of 49 and 50, he had never expected to live much longer than that. He felt that, at age 63 at that time, he had been give the gift of 13 more years than he had ever expected, and he was grateful for the gift of those years. He also wanted to make sure that I knew that he had felt blessed beyond what he could ever have imagined his life to become. Last of all, he wanted to tell me that he loved me, and that he was proud of me. This is a gift I will never forget.
So for my verse at this time last year I chose one to honor my Dad,
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
As we near the one year anniversary of Dad’s passing from this life into the next, I miss him terribly, but I am comforted beyond understanding by the knowledge that he is with Jesus, that I will see him again one day, and that we will rejoice together at the foot of the throne of God.
This year, in the Sermon on the Mount, we are at Matthew 7:7-11:
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
This has been a prevalent theme to me lately, coming up in many contexts. I find it incredible that God, the Creator of the universe, is promising us His good gifts if only we seek Him and ask. Let that sink in a second.
Does this mean that He will give us whatever we ask? Of course not. What I believe this means is that if we are truly seeking His will in our lives, seeking to walk in close relationship with Him, then the Holy Spirit will lead us to desire and ask for the kinds of gifts, the good gifts, that the Lord knows we need and which will benefit us. Gifts like wisdom, discernment, and the ability to love those around us, even when it might be difficult to do so. The ability to do what Jesus urges us to do at the end of Matthew 5, namely turn the other cheek and love our enemies.
I felt that my first year of Scripture memorization helped me through a dreadful time, watching my beloved Dad suffer and die from cancer, with not only some semblance of peace, but an even deeper faith in the promise of a perfect eternity. What a gift.
This past year has taken the practice of memorizing Bible verses to a whole new level. This study of the Sermon on the Mount has reversed things for me. Instead of choosing verses as they came to me and spoke to or inspired me, I have been working through a passage which has at times perplexed me, and has continually challenged me. Again, I feel that the result has been a deeper and stronger faith that what Jesus said was true and right. And I want to be all in. Again, an indescribable gift.
I would love to hear about your verses, past and present, and the gifts you have found in memorizing Scripture. If you are feeling lost or behind, please take heart. Any effort you put into this will produce good fruit!
The Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.