The Impact of a Life Well Lived

We can not measure the impact we have upon others. Parents teach their children to care for others above themselves by modeling that very attitude in the everyday mundane-ness of life. Teachers impact their students far beyond the curriculum by their personal carriage and deportment. So it is in the really important matters of life as well.

There have been many whose impact on my life can be measured by my own reckoning. Others have made their mark in ways I can not distinguish or remember. Some have come into my life and passed through in what seemed to be a few insignificant encounters. Others have been a presence for a much longer period.We can never know the long-term impact. So it is with my impact upon others.

The death graduation of one man has prompted this reflection. I heard of him from others and did not quite know what to do with their accounts of his faith, especially given his past. Then I met him. I still did not know what to do with him, but I could no longer discount him.

His faith was simple yet overwhelming in its simplicity. Even in his parting word to his son as he slipped out of his physical body and into eternity, I am bewildered and led. “Its been a blast!” were the whispered words of another Stephen, willing to go wherever and do whatever God’s Spirit directed, always displaying the excitement of the adventure and the trust in his Parent like a child going through Disneyland.

God knows how many were led, not just pointed toward, but led to Jesus by Bob. I have been forever changed, and he probably had no idea the impact God had on me through him. May I be the “All In” servant used by God to impact others so profoundly. May you be as well.

Photo: Bob Hughey

The “Last” Ride

A retired truck driver/rodeo cowboy spent 18 years preparing for his funeral. Sounds a bit odd, wouldn’t you say?

The story goes that after his retirement, he began riding a motorcycle, trying to recapture the excitement of the rodeo. He liked it so much that he planned, negotiated, and accomplished a funeral complete with:

  1. his embalmed body,
  2. on his ’67 Harley,
  3. in a custom, see thru plexiglass casket,
  4. placed inside a custom, concrete vault,
  5. in a three plot burial site.

Billie Standley obviously wanted to impress his friends on his “last ride” to the cemetery. I wonder if he was equally concerned with pleasing the Creator of the Universe in the last few years of his life.

How easily we are distracted by our own goals when we should be focusing on God’s wants and purposes. It looks really foolish when I see this kind of distraction driving someone else’s life. The nagging question I need to constantly answer is: What does it look like when I do that?

As an “All In” disciple I don’t have to live like a monk, never smile, and never be light-hearted. What I do have to do is be ever vigilant and listening for the Master’s voice.

photo credit: Ride via photopin (license)

…Not As Those With No Hope

Grieving is a process. It is a painful and ongoing process. We grieve over many things: job loss, missed promotions, poor performance reviews, missed opportunities, lost loves, degrading friendships, etc. The list can seem endless. What usually comes to mind is the anticipation of death or the reality itself.

The process is painful, but after a time it can morph into a dull ache. Energy is stolen and motivation is hiding away from view in some dark corner. Life goes on and needs are still met, but the darkness seems to be there… just behind that last corner.

People who have studied such things mention predictable stages of grief that we float thru, back and forth, until some resolution and healing is achieved. That all sounds about right to me based upon my personal experience.

In it all, though, there is a foundational limit in grief. Those who have no “hope” rooted in God and His love and care seem to have a much deeper darkness to swim about in while grieving. It doesn’t have to be that way.

For believers, the grave is not the last word. The resurrection of Jesus is! He overcame death, so “death’s” claim to victory is no longer valid. There is a final homecoming and reunion scheduled. Don’t miss out. Be an “All In” follower of Jesus.

And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.

And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So reassure one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The Message)

photo credit: Alone via photopin (license)

By The Way, You Have Cancer

I talk to people who describe themselves as cancer survivors. Like many others I am in a category that is a little different: Still surviving with cancer. When told I had cancer in 2004, there were many thoughts and emotions to be processed… some over and over. It is interesting how a “sniff” of your own mortality gets one’s attention.

I recently visited with a man who had that day learned that he, like me has a cancer that, barring God’s intervention, he will have until he graduates into eternity. I recognized the ongoing turmoil as we spoke of many things.

The main thought I wanted to share, one that has been central in my walk, is that we are God’s servant in all circumstances. That includes health challenges. He and I, as well as many others, are walking a health challenged path God has placed us on to accomplish His will. That will may be to change us, or to impact others. It is likely a blend of both.

I told the gentleman that I do not know everything that God has as a goal in my circumstances, but that it has granted me the honor of showing my family how a man desperately trying to be “All In” faces death. What an honor! Who else would I rather teach my sons and grandchildren this walk?

Being an “All In” disciple even permeates the shadows of life. After all, it only makes sense that my trusting God with the big picture of eternity will make trusting God with something as temporary as my health, a no-brainer.

Looking In from the outside, being “All In” seems like it would be very stressful. The exact opposite is true however. As promised, it ushers in the peace that just can’t be explained.

Take the plunge. Be “All In.”

photo credit: Calafell (5) via photopin (license)

I Am Weary, But Forever Changed

There are difficult times and difficult circumstances for each of us, whether pagan or “All In” disciple. It doesn’t matter if we believe God exists and just ignore Him, or if we are marginal in our lip-service to God. Difficult times are ordained to be a part of human life as Job astutely observed: “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

There are theoretical discussions and explanations for this reality that make perfect sense and are Biblically sound. I have been involved in that type of discussion and believe that pain and difficulties are tools to sharpen us and draw us to God, but it is not always the right time to speak about that.

I sat with a family who had just lost their child, a child I had learned to love as well. When I arrived at the hospital and we had settled for a few minutes, it became obvious that it was time for me, the preacher, to say something. The mother looked at me and said: “I do not want to hear that everything happens for a reason.”

I told her that saying that right now wouldn’t help, as a matter of fact, nothing helps much but time. I shared that I had lost some grandchildren several years back and it did not help then either.

Being able to articulate the theory does not take the place of living through and growing through the event and associated pain. Analyzing the process is not the same thing as participating in the process.

“Be Still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Sometimes we just need to be still and let God do with it what He will.

photo credit: The Massacre of the Innocents via photopin (license)

It’s Just His Turn

Human health is an interesting thing. Like the old expression: “Here today…Gone tomorrow,” the illusion of physical or mental health can change dramatically in only a moment.

In the same day recently, I learned of an automobile wreck involving my nephew and his family, my daughter-in-law’s mother’s blood clot and subsequent leg amputation, and my brother’s medical event that appeared to have been either a mild stroke or a mild seizure. All of these people had plans for that day as well as those to come, which had to be modified. While all survived, they are all changed. A stark reminder that our physical lives really are a wisp of smoke in the wind (James 4:14).

It is easy to forget that God is involved and not on vacation when such events take place in our lives. We may be confused about what exactly is being accomplished for good (Romans 8:28), but the thing about being an “All In” disciple is that I trust God even with especially with things uncomfortable and inconvenient.

His “good” may require difficult times for me personally (like it did with Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr), but death takes us to the ultimate reward anyway. I am to trust Him with that just as I am to trust Him in everything else.

It is certainly a clear reminder to me that “graduation” to glory is just around the corner. I must (and will) remain “All In.” How about you?

photo credit: King George Military Hospital, 3rd floor theatre, Dr. Barrington Ward and Dr. Lillian via photopin (license)

Graduation Is Coming!

I do not know where this picture was taken, nor to whom I should give credit, but it captures the essence of graduation! In 2004 I got a “whiff” of my own mortality. Cancer was found, and removed from my “innards.” When asked about how long until I would be considered cancer free, the surgeon and oncologist, without hesitation, said, “never.”

There is something about coming face-to-face with your own mortality that puts a man on his heels. My princess was crushed, concerned about being alone (even though our sons would never allow that). Her reality was/is somewhat different from mine. Her concern was being alone, having to move, what about income (even though she is a teacher), what will it be like to care for a dying man, etc. My battle was with my body and my ego.

Twelve years later we have both transitioned/grown into a place we could not imagine then: peace. Her questions remain unanswered and mine have not changed. The impact of the cancer on my body is measurable, but has taken place so slowly as to be almost imperceptable.

The real impact has for me been spiritual, and I think it has for Cindy as well. In our thinking we have transitioned away from the plans and goals we had made for our lives. We have moved toward an understanding of Abraham’s search for a “city whose builder and maker is God.” We are in reality, only spirits, temporarily clothed in flesh for our brief passage in this world.

We become so attached to these temporary trappings that we easily forget we are only to pitch tents here, not build mansions. For God’s people, bought with the blood of Jesus, death is not the enemy, it is going home. That’s why the picture grabbed my attention and my heart.

I look forward to seeing you there if we never meet on this part of the journey. Lest there be any misunderstanding, physically I’m still doing well and have no reason to expect a change anytime soon. It will be OK if it does change though.

Until then, I’m “ALL IN.” Are you?