Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Celebrating and sorrowing: goodbye to Diane

This weekend we'll celebrate the life of Diane, a dear friend as well as a respected colleague. She fell in a hiking accident last Saturday and walked through the eternal doorway into the presence of Jesus.

We've been sharing sorrow and sympathy, grief-stricken words exchanged among her friends. How she will be missed! We won't see her here again - but the hope of eternal life with our Lord comforts us. We'll meet in heaven when our own days are through.

The way we think about milestones like death reveals much about our life with Jesus. Here's what Diane taught me:
  1. Christ is worthy of our adoration. Diane, four other women, and I had committed to a year-long journey of spiritual disciplines. Each week we'd read, think, and pray together to focus our attention on God's ways. Diane's responses demonstrated her life of worship and her longing to love God more.
  2. Christ is worthy of our attention. Diane took time to write about her disciplines of faith. Some weeks I was convicted by the depth of her devotion; she understood that God demanded all of her attention and efforts.
  3. We work while we can. Diane was a hard worker who was the liaison for people, relationships, and information. When her work was done - though she didn't know the end was near - God called her home.
  4. Everything secret becomes known. One of Diane's friends had to go through her apartment. She found Diane's Bible open on her desk. What would someone find on mine? On yours?
  5. Not one day can be shortened or added to what God gives us. Comments about Diane's death range from "tragic" to "cut short" to "awful." These describe only our side of the story. Diane lived her life to the full. She accomplished what she was born to do. She was a gift to us for a certain number of days. When those days had passed, she went Home to her reward.
  6. Great joy awaits those who live for Jesus. Since attending my first memorial service, I've had the same initial response at hearing of the death of a Christian. Envy. A holy jealousy takes my breath away. To think that someone who has believed in Jesus now gets to be near Him! What joy. What bliss. What a future!

    I was probably five years old, at the first funeral I can remember. Grandma stood, heaving with great sobs beside me.

    "Why are you crying, Grandma?" I asked her, looking up through childhood tears.

    "Oh child! Think of Mrs. S, gone to be with our Savior. How sad we are, because we still must wait to see the glory she is experiencing!" Grandma described perfectly what I was feeling. We longed to be in heaven with Jesus. Those emotions continue to be my first response to the death of a Christian. Longing. Rejoicing. Awe.

    Think of it! This is what Diane knows: the Presence. The Friendship. The Power of the cross. God's enveloping Love. Blessed freedom to be completely whole and content, encompassed by God's perfection. Wow! Doesn't that take your breath away in anticipation, too?
"Redeemed how I love to proclaim it,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Redeemed by his infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am..."

The old hymn reminds us that death is a doorway into a glorious future. We live each day here to the full so that we have no regrets when we see our Lord. We strain forward in anticipation to the day when life here ends and eternal life begins.

Diane's end was sudden, unexpected, and quick. Many of us will suffer illness and lingering goodbyes before we see what she is seeing. Before we know what she knows.

Being human means we are born and we die. Mixed with my feeling of missing this dear one, with feelings of sadness that she and I may never visit and chat here in person, I feel wonder and excitement for her ... and for all of us who believe. Some day this is our privilege and destiny, too. "How marvelous! How wonderful! And our song shall ever be, how marvelous, how wonderful is the Savior's love for me."

THIS living in the Presence is her reward. Surely not one of us would call her back from the beauty, peace, and love that surround her forever more.

How do you feel about death and dying? Have you fixed your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith?

Read more:
*Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5 NIV

*Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:22-26 NIV

*But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrata, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 ESV

*When Jesus was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed." Luke 7:6-7 ESV

*To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! Revelation 2:8-9 (NIV)

Moravian Prayer: Heavenly Comforter, plant in our hearts the willingness to care for your children as you are continually caring for us. As we navigate the difficult times of our lives, give us strength to show your love always.

As we count our blessings, let us remember that there are many among your children who have yet to realize that you walk with all of us and carry us in your arms when we can no longer carry ourselves. Help us to show the light of your promise and support today. In the name of Jesus we ask. Amen.

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