Saturday, April 04, 2020

Stupid Picture Chonicles #74

I take this personally...

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Stupid Picture Chronicles #73

I know all things are relative but... life is different in the U.P.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Who Gave Me The Right....?

What if I am wrong? It happens more frequently than I would like to admit. Usually there is nothing more at stake than the price of a sale item, a wrong turn on the way to my destination, or some other harmless event.

But every now and then...

Today found me at a hospital where I had gone to visit a friend.  He is nearly a decade younger than I am. He has experienced fewer Christmas Eve's, quiet evenings with his wife, and has probably made less mistakes than I must admit to. My friend is very, very, sick. The doctor told him this morning that he has reached the end of his days. There are no treatments to make him well. He will not drive a car, take a stroll, or go to a movie, again. The only remaining question is how long he will last and what will it be like when he dies.

We talked for a long while. We prayed together. We took the necessary measures to put him at peace with his spiritual condition. He believed he is an "official Christ-follower." But I suppose when you get down to the nitty gritty everybody wants to make certain. And so we made certain. As I was preparing to leave he asked me a question. He said that he does not want any drastic, life saving measures. It is his desire to accept what God has brought to him. Lingering is not something he wants to do. I understand that. I think I would feel the same way. He asked me if it would offend God if he told his doctors not to take those drastic steps. I assured him that his Father understands.  He will not be angry. This decision will not affect their relationship. We prayed again and I took my leave.

As I sat in the parking lot a few minutes later I took my time, sitting in the sunshine and reflecting on the last hour. At that point it occurred to me … what if I am wrong?  Who gives me the right to speak for God? My friend is banking everything on what I tell him … how I lead him … the "truth" that I declare to him. How do I know if God minds him rejecting extreme, life extending, measures? I cannot think of a place in the Bible where it says it is okay to stop fighting and run to Jesus. I am pretty certain it is not in there.  Actually, I am completely certain it is not in there.  I've read the entire book multiple times and this issue is not addressed. So. I believe what I told him is correct but I cannot prove it. What gives me the right to speak for God?

I wish I could give you an answer that puts a nice ribbon and bow on top of this conversational package. I do not have one. I am still working through this problem. Nothing in "preacher school" told me what to say at a moment like that one. I have not encountered it in a seminar or heard it addressed in a sermon. What gives me the right?  What if I am wrong? The question seems simple enough.  What if it is not?

 Here is what I've got. God told me to love and pastor His church. He made me responsible for the spiritual well-being of more people than anyone could possibly know intimately. Some I am very close to.  Some I am still getting to know. And in this particular moment I have become acutely aware that I had better walk rrrreeeaaaallllyyy close to Jesus. I had better listen very carefully for "the still, small, voice of His Spirit." I had better spend great amounts of time in stillness before Him learning what He sounds like. How else will I know what He is saying to me when a crises-moment like this one occurs? It is a scary thought. And it is even scarier to think that people look at me and think I am an expert on God. Seriously … can anybody be an expert on God?

I am not wrong in what I told my friend. I know where to go with questions like this. I go straight to The Throne. I do not really believe I might be wrong. That is not the point of this little essay. The point is that there is too much at stake for ANY of us to wander off and fall out of intimate contact with God. So listen close … don't you do it. If you have removed yourself from faithfully presenting yourself before God and seeking His Face … shame on you. Listen to this pastor who is human and mortal and fallible and all of the things that you are.  RUN TO HIM.  He will not be mad. He will welcome you.

I believe He told me to tell you that.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Stupid Picture Chronicles #71

You don’t have to tell me twice...

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Stupid Picture Chronicles #70

Because the right button can fix anything ...

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Stupid Picture Chronicles #69

Uhhhhh…. what?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Taxiing to the gate

Contrary to what you may have heard there is such a thing as a dumb question. I deal with them all of the time.

“Does God love me?” Dumb question. Because the answer is right in front of you. “I have loved you with an everlasting love...”  Jeremiah 31:3 I mean, take the book off the shelf and read it for crying out loud!

“What does God want me to do?”  Dumb question. Again, read the book! Micah 6:8: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

Today I was having a casual conversation with the teller at my bank. They were not busy and I engaged her in a conversation about her day. She told me about her husband and her kids. She could not wait to get home and enjoy the weekend with them. I, in turn, told her about my wife, my kids, and my grandkids. And then ... here it comes ... wait for it ... she asked “Do you want more grandkids? I mean, what else is there to look forward to?”

(Insert awkward silence here.)

Wow. The mother-of-all-dumb-questions. I wish I could tell you that I gave her a wonderfully theological, Jesus filled answer about living every moment with the fresh awareness that God is choreographing the events of my to life to point to him and give him glory. But honestly, as I looked into her eyes it felt like I was staring into the dull, lifeless eyes of a moo-cow. (I do not mean that as a comment on her physical attributes! Don’t go there!) I found myself replying, “Oh I don’t know. The flight is over and I’m just taxiing to the gate.”

Honestly, as I reflect on that moment now I believe I had a perfect opportunity to share truth with her. And what did I do? I punted. I dropped the ball toward my foot and kicked it way over her head. Absolutely no good is going to come from that conversation.

Do you know what life is all about? One word. Life is about Jesus. Please understand, social justice is important. Rights of the unborn are important. For that matter, the rights of every living human being are important. The Bible makes it clear that God pays no attention to our gender or our color. And we should not either. Defending those rights and others like them are of great importance. But those rights mean absolutely nothing without Jesus. The older I get the more I am convinced of that truth. So I will say it again.  Without Jesus you have nothing. Nothing. 

Every moment of life is an adventure because it is filled with God. Every moment is a moment when he wants to use you. If you place your hand in his and walk humbly by his side you will experience more meaning and purpose than you ever dreamed possible. 

My apologies to the bank teller. Whether or not she would understand was not my decision to make. I dropped the ball. She needed to hear that this man will never “taxi to the gate.” The flight that I am on will never end. The adventure of walking with Jesus will never be over. And I have to tell you ... I’m loving the chapter He and I are writing right now. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Afraid Not To Live

When I was a teenager I had a near-death experience while with my father.  I went to work with him one day.  We were driving dad’s pick-up truck in Chicago in mid-afternoon when we were rear-ended by a semi-truck hauling gravel.  We were stopped at a stop light.  The semi was going 40mph.  The police told us that a split second before the truck hit us the driver jerked the wheel to the left, dealing us a less direct blow.  I was knocked unconscious and dad received bloody cuts to his face.  But we were alive.  We should not have been. I’ve never forgotten that day.  And I’ve never forgotten God’s protective Hand making sure we did not take the full blow of that truck.

I thought I was finished with near-death experiences.  My doctor dashed my assumptions this afternoon.

About eight weeks ago I became very dizzy.  It lasted all day every day.  I’m the kind of guy that is allergic to doctors.  I only go when I’m too sick to do otherwise or when my wife makes me.  I walked softly for two weeks, dealing with the light headedness.  I bumped into walls and tripped over my own feet.  I fell out of a closet at church, landing on the stage at the feet of a guitar player while the band practiced.  But I jumped up and pretended like I had just lost my balance. I knew the truth but felt no desire to share it.

A week later I had to go to the doctor for my bi-annual check-up.  Before I went I gave a few vials of blood for the tests she always wanted to run.  Much to my surprise my A1C came back at an elevated level.  I started eating better and cutting back on my beloved daily doses of soft drinks.  When I saw my doctor she called me a diabetic-wannabe.  She sent me home with more medication and directions to get a blood-glucose meter and check my blood.  I waited longer than I should have to accomplish that.  And when I finally obeyed her the meter told me to seek help as my blood sugar was a bit above the suggested 70-90 on whatever scale doctors use.  Okay, maybe more than a little bit.  The meter maxed out at 600 and I was above that number. The display on the screen told me to seek immediate medical attention.

The next weeks were a blur.  The doctor gave me the option of being admitted into the hospital or taking insulin injections at home.  I chose the latter.  But things moved slowly.  For the next three weeks my numbers were tested three times each day and rarely dipped below 400.  I felt like I was stuck in tar.  My brain functioned but only in first gear.  I remember sitting in my favorite chair and talking to God … telling Him that I felt like I was melting into it … becoming one with it.  That was just one of the moments that should have been revelatory to me.  Perhaps I am a bit denser than most.  I entertained thoughts that I was just lazy and tried to force myself to take a walk.  Not a walk down the street.  A walk across the room.  It was usually a “no go.” My eyes became so blurry that my glasses did no good.  My muscles would cramp and I could not seem to get enough water.  One day I drank three 16.9 ounce bottles of water without stopping … and I was still thirsty.  It was crazy.  And I still did not really “get it.”

My blood glucose numbers have been in the low 100’s for four days now.  It’s been a battle to get them there.  Today I went and saw my doctor again.  She is a wonderful woman that I have become friends with over the past few years.  I gave her a bible last year and wrote inside the cover about how grateful I was for her friendship and how I wanted her to know my best friend … Jesus.  I asked her to read it. The verdict is still out on that.  But today she asked the usual questions and gave me new directions to get me through this battle that will evidently last the rest of my life.  I laughed and told her some friends were afraid I was dying. That is when she told me I was.

How can you be dying and not know it?

How clueless am I?

My doctor did not laugh.  I can (and do) laugh about it.  I know that God orchestrated all of these events, including the timing of my blood tests.  I never would have gone to the doctor with the symptoms I had.  I would have just lived with them, assuming they would pass.  I was tired.  The stress level had been a bit high.  I was planning a trip to the mountains in July and I knew that would bring the rest I needed. But go the doctor? Not going to happen.  And now my doctor told me that decision would have been my last decision.

I know that God sat with me in that chair when I talked with Him and told Him that I was just fine and I needed to get back to work.  I know His gentle Hand pushed me to the rear-edge of life at just the right moment because He knew He would have to choose the timing for this disease or I would make it the death of me.  I know that He is teaching me of His faithfulness.  I know that He is less concerned with making me happy than He is with making me like Jesus.  I am walking through this with a new found sense of peace and rest.  I haven’t a worry in the world.  I feel the amazement of realizing that I am in my Father’s Hand and, as Jesus said, nothing can pluck me out of it.

I have not written on my blog in months.  I burned out on writing.  But I have not burned out on Jesus.  And He told me I needed to tell you about all of this.  Not to warn you about the dangers of diabetes.  No, I need to tell you this so you will know that He loves you just as much as He loves me.  And He will hold you in His Hand to, if you will let Him.  I hope you will.

I am not afraid to die.  But I am afraid not to live.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Stupid Picture Chronicles #68

What can I say?  I guess some guys just need more information...

Monday, November 06, 2017

My Weekend In 3 Emails (or how to be a jerk without really trying)

Topic:  Seriously?

Dear Ice Machine People,

I just purchased two dollars worth of ice from your machine on Old Collinsville Road in Fairview Heights (O’Fallon?) Illinois. That’s all I needed. Sadly, after reading every word on your machine, I used a twenty-dollar bill. I received my ice in fine fashion and was quite pleased. I pushed the button for change and received... tokens. Tokens? Really? I don’t need eighteen dollars in tokens. I don’t WANT eighteen dollars in tokens. I want eighteen dollars. Cash. American money. I’m a little bit perturbed at the moment. I buy very little ice. Today I’m having a block party and I needed extra. I have one block party per year. At my current rate of ice consumption I will be eighty years old when I use my last token. I don’t have eighteen more block parties in me. 

Bottom line. There is a Casey’s a block from you I’ve always used when I do need ice. I thought I’d try you out. New business and all. But you managed to chase me right back to Casey’s. And I’ve made a sign I’m posting at my block party warning everyone about your machine. And I’ve asked them to pass the word. I’m giving them all one of your crummy tokens to remind them.  

You know, giving tokens as change is fine IF you say so on your machine. I can absorb an eighteen dollar hit. What if I was a single mom stretching every dollar? That reminds me, I need to mention this tomorrow at the church I Pastor. And at the food pantry we host. 

Could be an expensive eighteen dollar gain. Not cool, ice machine people. Not cool. 

Ron Woods

Topic:  Ummm

Dear Ice Machine People...

My bad. One dollar coins, huh?  I must admit I’ve seen silver dollars. I’ve seen Susan B. Anthony coins. But until this very day I had never seen a copper colored one dollar coin. My block party pointed out the error of my ways (though they did keep the “tokens” I passed out.) They are, as I type on my phone, pointing and laughing at me. Can’t say as how I blame them. Still, these things won’t fold in my wallet no matter how I try. 

I humbly apologize and will promote your Ice Machine at every opportunity. I am a bad, bad, man. Can I buy you lunch?

Ron Woods
Swansea’s Own Homer Simpson

Topic: re: Ummm...

We owe you lunch!................rarely do we have a customer, who is as honest as you have been, concerning your experience with our Ice House unit.......we are all from Southern Illinois(I live in Flora, IL.) and pride ourselves, on both saving our customers money, AND keeping the funds in the Southern Illinois market.

I'm in the Metro East market, on a weekly basis and would really like to introduce myself..................we decided to give change with $1 coins instead of $.25 ( you would of have received 72 quarters) to make it a better customer experience.

I've attached an Illinois market map, for your use, which shows all of our units.

Thanks again for your us ANYTIME with your thoughts concerning your experience with our business model!


Rick Fritschle
Hoosier Ice LLC

Monday, October 02, 2017

Let Your Words Be Few

It ought not be this way.

To awake in the morning and find that a long time saint in my church had passed away overnight was difficult but not unexpected.  Discovering that over fifty innocents were viciously executed by an evil man with high powered rifles from his lofty perch in a hotel room overlooking a crowd?  That is a cold slap in the face.  That is too difficult to handle.  It defies any hope I have of wrapping my mind around it.  Fifty-plus bodies on the hard sidewalks of a desert city. Bloodless bodies.  Voiceless bodies.  Bodies that would lay there for eternity if no one picks them up. The video's revealing the staccato cadence of automatic weapons firing on the innocents.  Automatic weapons that are not legal anywhere in our country. First the tears come and then the blood boils.  I feel my fangs growing like those of a rabid dog ready to pounce on whoever perpetrated this insanity.

The voices are already crying out.  "Why?  Why did this happen?" The Bible's answer is clear.  Because evil exists.   Because the planet is broken.  Because the results of that evil and brokenness is more evil and brokenness. 

Jesus told a story in Luke 13.  It seems that Pilate had his soldiers murder some Galileans who were worshipping. Pretty cold blooded, wouldn't you say?  Kind of like Las Vegas last night.  The question posed to Jesus was the same one we pose.  "Why did that happen?"  Jesus reply was enormously relevant for their day and ours.  "Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?  Is that why they suffered? Not at all!  And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.  And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem?  No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish too."

Jesus wanted to squash an idea quickly for all time.  Our chances of being the victim of a catastrophe is not determined by the level of our sinfulness.  He wanted it made clear that all of us ... ALL OF US ... deserve the painful and deadly results of living on the broken planet because we were the ones who broke it.  When we chose to disobey God rather than to obey Him, we set off a chain reaction of very bad things. People without God go mad.  People without God do evil things.  People without God attack other people.  And sometimes bad things just happen for what seems no reason at all.  Maybe a tower falls on you.  A tower that nobody pushed over.  As a pastor, one of the godliest people I ever buried was a young woman who repeatedly battled leukemia until it finally took her life in her early twenties.  The tower of cancer fell on her.  Who pushed it?  Who can I point a finger at and demand retribution from?  Well.   We all pushed it when we invited sin into our world and thumbed our noses at God.  Jesus wants us to know that He cares very much ... but the truth is ... we all deserve a tower to fall on us.  So before you start pointing fingers at those you believe are most responsible for the evil  perpetrated last night in a desert city in our homeland, remember the words of Jesus, "...unless you repent, you will perish too." Was the shooter insane?  You bet he was. Was he evil?  Absolutely.  If he had survived should he be held accountable?  Yes ... for every single bullet fired and every single life stolen.  But before you start throwing around the blame to those you would call his "enablers," remember this.  I broke this world when I agreed with those before me who invited sin into it.  And so did you.  Nobody deserves to have a finger pointed at them today.  Everybody deserves to have a finger pointed at them today.

God help us.

I have no answers today for how to fix the evil embedded in our nation, other than the advice that Jesus gave.  And so I repent.  I repent for being one of the sin-filled people that brought us to this place.  And then I choose to live out Ecclesiastes 5:2, "...God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So let your words be few."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

What's Wrong With Me?

It's not officially summer, yet somehow I have already developed a case of the summer doldrums.  (What kind of word is that?  "Doldrums."  It sounds like a flower.  Or maybe a disease.  Or perhaps a flower that causes a disease. "I caught the doldrums and, Lordy, I thought I was gonna die!") I spent the morning in the office today and then went off to have lunch with God and a friend.  Not that God isn't my friend. I just felt like some flesh and blood might be nice.  No matter.  My friend didn't show up.  God did.

So we talked.

"Excuse me, God.  I think I have the doldrums."

"Is that a flower?"

"With all due respect, Sir, you made them.  I think you would know if it were."

That's is pretty much how it went.  Me, complaining about my current state of placid soulfulness. Him, listening without so much as an occasional "Uh-huh. Tell me more." But, as I explained to Jehovah, life is good.  Everybody is healthy except an occasional puking spell by a grandchild (I'm looking at you, Liam Kelly.) Our church is doing well except that three of my best friends are moving away thanks to an eternally restless United States Air Force.  The Cubs are hovering around .500 which is a sad surprise.  I guess it's still early and I haven't written them off yet.  So I have no real reason for the doldrums.

But there they are.

Then my phone rang.  It was a funeral home.  Somebody died and they want me to do the funeral.  I don't know them, so I don't know how they know me.  Maybe I'm becoming known locally as, "Mr. Funeral?" I don't know how I feel about that.  Anyway, I said I would do the service on Friday morning.  Then, as funeral directors are apt to do, they dropped the other shoe.

"I feel that I should tell you that this family is a bit ... "

"It's alright.  This is a safe place.  Just say it."

"Eccentric.  And ..."



"Oh.  Now that's probably something I would have liked to know before I agreed to this event, don't you think?"

"They did ask for you by name. Are you sure you don't know them?"

"I don't know them."

"One of them is married to his third cousin.  His name is David.  And his name is Curt. They like to dress alike.  And Curt likes to push people around.  I buried their mother and ... I think second cousin.  Yeah.  Second cousin."

"David's mother is Curt's second cousin?"


"David is married to Curt."

"I think you've got it."

"Do they have children?"

"Probably not."

"Anything else you think I should know?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"See you Friday."

Guys.  I can't make stuff like this up. 

That's when I noticed ... adrenaline.  Adrenaline!  My old friend!  I've missed you!  And the doldrums ... they vanished!  I just needed a good dose of eccentricity!  Have you ever noticed God seems to work best when life is its most unpredictable?  At least, that's been true in my life.  So now I am just waiting and praying for Friday.  David and Curt and the entire family will get to hear about Jesus!  And I get to live out the reason I was created in the first place.

And I'd like to thank my friend for not showing up for lunch.  It was the best lunch we never had!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hot Buttered Rob (don't ask)

(Dear Rob ... This one is for you.  It's been a couple of great years.  Thanks for all the Salmon and donuts. Now get out there and make the world safe for my grandkids...


So I have a friend who thinks I should keep blogging.  Let's call him "Rob."  Because that is his name.  I gave this space up a few months back because, well, I guess because I've been writing here for ten years and I had said everything I could think of to say. And now, since I speak a couple of times each week in a formal setting, I pretty much pour my creative energies into that endeavor.  It doesn't always leave much juice for writing words that you really are not certain anybody is going to read.  Actually, I read a few of my own entries and, well, if I am boring you as badly as I bored me, I need to stop doing that.  Pastor's ought not bore people when they speak.  Or write.  And these last efforts ... let's just say "the juice wasn't worth the squeeze." 

And then Rob called me on it.  I told him what I just told you and he understood.  I think he did.  He didn't like, nag me or anything.  But here is the thing.  When a guy is vain enough to expect people to come and hear him speak or go to a web site and read what he writes, it only takes a little stroking to motivate him to keep going.  That's why the people in my church refrain from shouting, "AMEN!"  They know they are just encouraging me and it will go straight to me head and suddenly we are all late for the lunch line.  At least that is what I tell myself.  The other possible reasons they don't shout are worse for my self-confidence (think: ego) and so I choose not to entertain those thoughts.

Rob and I were out to dinner last weekend with our lovely wives.  We ate until we nearly put a Brazilian Steakhouse into bankruptcy.  I do not know about him but I was nearing "meat coma status."  So we did the natural thing.  We went out for donuts.  Specifically, we went to "Strange Donuts" in Kirkwood. Strange donuts is, well, strange.  I ate a simple "General Custard."  I think Rob had a double something with pixie dust on it and maybe a dash of chili powder.  That isn't impossible at Strange Donuts.  Nothing is impossible at Strange Donuts.

And that is when I noticed a t-shirt on the wall that they sell to suckers who just cannot stop spending money.  (Hello, me!) It featured this dark skinned fellow who was coated in nacho cheese.  He looked middle-eastern.  Over his head they had printed his name.  "Cheesus."  Yup.  Get it?  Cheesus?  Jesus?  It's not that funny now.  With a gut full of Brazilian food and American custard it was hilarious.  So, naturally I bought the shirt. 

I took the shirt home.

I never took it out of the bag.

I went to bed.

I woke up at 2:30AM.

I heard the still small voice of you-know-who saying ... "Really?  Really, Ron?  You just taught my people last week on the wonder and the majesty of My Name.  And now you are going to wear a shirt that says "Cheesus" next to a very poor caricature of me?  I've made better looking camels than that guy."  (Okay, He didn't exactly say that last part about the caricature and the camels.  But I'm betting He was thinking it.  Sometimes even God picks His battles?)

I apologized.  Profoundly.  I mourned my sin.

I realized I had to destroy the shirt.

I mourned my twenty dollars.

Do you see what effect Rob has on me?  He makes me more like Jesus but (sometimes) he allows me to drag myself through the muck first. He's a smart guy.  He's some kind of Colonel in the United States Air Force, for crying out loud.  He knows big multi-syllable words like "airplane," and "runway."  He studied 3D printers once and actually convinced me he could recreate my entire family tree if he just had the right printer cartridge.  Or something like that.  I may have that wrong.  But the guy holds sway over my life.

And now my friend is moving.  He's going the way of Adam Page and Alex Babbot.  The way of Tom Goble and Matthew Beeman.  The way of Michael Harris and Brant Dixon.   The way of Jake Lukens and Dan Werner.  And soon the way of Mark Amos and Josh Hunt.  There are more.  Lot's more. I just named the ones that passed through my Friday night small group. 

Rob is confusing and frustrating me right up to his last day.  He sings about the wild blue yonder but he's leaving to go to Navy War College.  (The best I can figure, it's like seminary for people who blow stuff up.)  Go figure. 

So this one is for you, Rob!  May your vapor trails be high and your 3D printers have ample juice.  And I promise that every time I have a strange donut I'll be thinking of the way you use to blow chocolate milk out of your nose.  (And now the world knows.  What are friends for?)

10-4.  Roger Wilco.  Over and out.  But most of all ... God bless, my friend.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Raising the dead

I stood before the room full of people, knowing only a handful of them personally. They were seated on less than expensive stackable chairs. You would think funeral homes could do better. There was nothing fancy here, save the antique glass-enclosed hearse from the early 1900's on display near the lobby. That was clearly the single most magnificent item in this sad old enterprise.

The people seated on the chairs were grief stricken. I had visited with the core of this family a day earlier and they had surprised me at how cold they seemed. Speaking to them was akin to addressing iron statues. My words had seemed to reverberate back at me, having little effect. Honestly, little effect seemed to be needed. The sadness in the room seemed to come more from my taking up their time than from the purpose for our gathering.

Today was different. The one hundred or so people in the room emitted groans, sobs, and semi-stifled cries. I have long believed that ministers live for the moment of crises. That is when our presence is needed and our words are, perhaps, heard. The crises was palpable today.

I stood before them knowing that all of the songs had been sung, the personal words of eulogy had been shared, the scriptures had been read, and it was now my turn. I stood for fifteen quiet seconds before saying anything.

"On days like this one, pastor's know what to do. We have our speeches that we give. Our stock words that we share. They are all as true as they are predictable. But today I am putting those words away. I am folding up my notes. I can taste your pain. I can hear your agony. Clearly you are hurting because of the loss of your husband ... Your father ... Your grandfather ... Your friend. And you deserve more than the standard speech. The man whose body rests in the casket behind me made a decision in his teenage years. He decided to trust God to be the master of his life. He decided that he would live that decision out to serve God by serving people. He was very imperfect at it. Yet your tears are a testimony that maybe he achieved more than we thought he did in the spiritual realm. He loved you. For real. And you know that. And I want to tell you what happened to him three days ago, after he took his last breath.

And then I gave my best description of what heaven is like as I understand it. I am certain that upon reaching that place myself I will learn that my attempt was woefully under-powered. But I did my best to paint a picture of what life in my Father's house would be like according to the scriptures that we have. They kept crying but every eye was focused on me. They were not only listening ... They were hearing.

Do you know just how rare that is? Pastor's are used to speaking without anyone really hearing. We know when you are zoned out in your seat, counting the minutes until lunch. We are not blind. But we speak anyway and whether or not you pay attention is between you and God. On this day ... They heard.

And then I heard. I heard a voice that was not my own. It was really a whisper. A gentle nudge. Nothing actually audible. Just an interior impression. I have heard that whisper-nudge-impression before. The Holy Spirit of God was giving me instructions.

"At the end of your words, ask them if anybody wants to know Jesus. Ask if any of them are willing to acknowledge it here and live it out, serving God by serving others."


Really. At a funeral. Attended by hard nosed sinners. Hard nosed sinners in jeans and vests and Harley Davidson T-shirts. Here. God wanted me to do it here.

Or maybe I can just invite them to church. Maybe I can give them my business card and ask them to call me if they want to talk. You know ... Don't get too preachy on them. That might scare them off. Just nudge the door open for them.

And then I could hear my own voice closing out the service. I was out of time. I had to make a decision. NOW.

"Do me a favor, guys? I want to pray for you. I know you hurt. I want to talk to God about that. Would you mind just looking at your lap and closing your eyes while I do?" Heads went down. "Guys, you've heard about heaven. And you know this body in front of us is empty because its long-time occupant deserted it in favor of a better place. And that happened because of a decision he made about Jesus. Would YOU like to make that decision today? Just like he did? If you would ... Would you mind looking up at me for just a second? Right now?"

As I scanned the room I briefly locked eyes with seven faces. I smiled. I nodded. I told them they could close their eyes and look down. And I prayed for seven souls that decided to come to Jesus at a funeral. Later we served a meal for everybody at our church. I put brand new bibles on an empty table with my business card placed at Mark 1: 1. I got their attention over the chicken-chomping that was going on. I told the crowd, "Those of you who acknowledged a desire to know Jesus will find a bible on this table. It is for you. My phone numb
er is in it. You can learn more about Jesus by starting to read at the spot where my business card acts as a bookmark. I'm here if you need me."

As I sit and reflect on that moment today I realize I kind of thought ... Or at least acted ... Like God is out of the miracle business. I could not have been more wrong. Jesus still raises the dead at funeral services. He doesn't do it so much to the body in the casket any more. Now He does it to the bodies in the chairs.

And I'll never get tired of listening to Him and going on the adventure of doing what He says to do.  Occasionally ... just occasionally ... the benefits are eternal.