After Midnight…

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” ― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

This blog began with encouragement from my children and friends as a way to document my journey with living on Stop Hunger Now meals and my experiences with working to end world hunger. That desire has lead me down many paths, some interesting, some profound and some you might call mundane.

However since that initial journey has ended to some extent, this blog seems to be changing into a kind of public journal for my thoughts, feelings and experiences in a much more personal level. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. It is just….well, it just is.

Tonight I have been sitting on the front porch of our new home, in our new community, among our new neighbors. I have been watching Netflix, Hulu, and viewing YouTube videos. For the past 2 weeks, I have struggled with deep-seated sadness and a feeling deep within me of pain that has threatened to manifest itself in tears, screams of frustration and other unpleasant expressions. Some of it is I miss my mother who died in 2006. And I miss my grandparents who died in 1992 and 1993. And I am hurting for my Aunt & Uncle as she battles cancer and faces a shortened life span. But it is more than that. It is a deep, painful, frustrating, ache born of a brokenness I cannot name or explain. But I am going to try and find words for it – or at least a part of it.

Those that know me know that sports are not my thing. I enjoy playing games; I enjoy attending games with others who can help me understand what I am seeing. I enjoy the excitement of the environment of a game and I REALLY enjoy the concession stands. (I need to avoid those!)

I see all the energy invested by fans. The proper clothing, the hats, jerseys, the car tags and decals, the tailgating, the expense of the tickets, the investment of energy, spirit, thought and finance. And I don’t begrudge them their fun. As for me, I love my Harley-Davidson motorcycle and I love to ride. It cost me to buy the bike, proper riding gear, fuel and other things when I ride. I often ride 5-16 hours in one day. I have invested up to 10 days riding over 4,000 miles. I understand the need to do something for pleasure and relaxation. I really do. But even doing what I love, it makes me stop and think.

We invest so much in so many things – and yet we fail to do that for things that really matter — things that can change not only our own lives, but also the lives of those around us — and not for the span of a game or a ride, but for eternity.

Today I had the honor of celebrating the life of a lady who lived 67 years. I never met her. She was only 67 years of age. She was a sister, wife, mother, and grandmother. She was as far as I can tell a very nice, loving woman. Her name is Charlene Gilmore. Her family grieves her death like every family I have ever been honored to journey with when death comes. And my heart hurts for them. And my heart hurts for many others.

In Jasper County Georgia, according to a web search, there are 13, 432 persons that call it home. And according the number frequently quoted (80%), 10,746 of those persons do not attend a house of worship or community of faith on any given Sunday. As a pastor and as a follower of Christ, that number bothers me. And not because I want the number of persons that attend the congregation I serve to be larger. (I do, but that is not exactly the point.) If there are 100 communities of faith in Jasper County, each could have 108 persons join in their church. Given that most churches are under 100 in attendance, that means each church could double those attending.

Beyond just counting the numbers, it means those of us who call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, are not doing what we profess to do. Jesus never asked anyone to join anything. He reached out and built a relationship with everyone he met. His caring about them was contagious. It drew people to him. It changed their lives. And in changing THEIR lives, it changed the world.

I wonder what would happen if everyone were to invest just part of the time, energy, effort and finances that we use for our pleasure/recreation into building relationships with the people we meet each day. What if we actually cared about them? If when we say, “How are you?” we meant it? What if we actually got to know the cashier at Ingles? Got to know their names and about their day and about their lives? What about actually engaging in conversation with those in the waiting room at the doctor or across from us at the restaurant? Would they find that meaningful? Would they desire to know why we cared? Would they come find out about this Jesus we claim to follow and model our lives after for themselves?

I am preaching a series of messages about the Law of Influence. We are about half way through the series. The sermons are drawn from a book written by King Duncan. I have shared these messages in other churches – it is good material. The law states: “One life touches another life and potentially both lives are changed. One life touches another life and potentially the world is changed.” This is the way Jesus touched those around him. And the world was changed. And the world continues to be changed – by those that follow his example.

It breaks my heart; it creates great sadness in my spirit to see what could be. We worry about who will win a championship, a game, a tournament, a contest — and we don’t consider that our friends, neighbors, clients are going to spend eternity in hell if they don’t life the life of righteousness. There are differences of opinion about what does and does not constitute a life of righteousness – but living outside the Biblical guidelines and example of Jesus matters – for eternity.

We worry about taking leisure time, vacations, cruises, bike rides – but not about sharing how our lives have been made better, the miracles of healing we have experienced or witnessed, the broken relationships that have been mended, the truly awesomeness of life if lived in relationship with Christ. We would rather talk about the game, the last great meal we had, the new toy we purchased, and the last trip we took than talk about what God has done for us.

Maybe that is the genesis of the pain I feel deep down. That I don’t feel like I have done what I could, what I should – that I have not cared enough to talk with those in my sphere of influence about their relationship or lack of relationship with God.

I was honored to have that kind of conversation with the Gilbert family over the last 2 days. I hope I was a good representative of God and that they saw HIS love expressed through me. Our conversation revealed that their family was very much like my own — that we were not too different. And I hope they will seek out a community of faith as they work through their grief and find that what I shared about God giving them comfort, strength and healing through others who follow Christ to be true.

I don’t know what it will take, but those of us who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior better start acting like it – or we will have a lot of explaining to do when we stand before the throne of Judgment. And contrary to what the world believes, and what some of the popular church leaders are teaching – there will be a time of accounting. It is plainly spelled out in scripture.

My heart hurts for so many who could find life much more joyful, rewarding, comforting, healing, abundant – if they only could hear about the love of God that manifested itself in Jesus – the Christ – our Savior.

“When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” — Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725

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2 Comments

  1. Kathy McAbee

    I feel your struggle and pain. I have no doubt that you do have a godly influence on those you come into contact. God uses you without you ever being aware, but you know this. Keeping you in my prayers.

  2. Rebekah Lewis

    Nathaniel,

    As far as you being a representative of God, I have no doubt that you were. I remember when you were there for us during the trial and how much better you made us feel. Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough! As for the rest of your blog, I couldn’t agree more. Our numbers are dwindling too and it really, really bothers me. And I really don’t know the answer to it all. I know I could do more. There are others in our little community who never stop doing , but still our numbers are going down. Perhaps we should all commit to praying at a certain time everyday for our communities. I means serious prayer time. Hhhhmmm…..great thoughts by the way.

    Miss you bunches,
    Reba

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