Sam’s favorite song, My Way, echoed through the room. I could see his smiling face and friendly hand waving from his beloved pick- up truck. I thought of the many kind deeds he did in his lifetime. He knew how to do just about anything and did it in excellence. I thought of Willie saying good-by to his brother and best friend. The preacher talked about their close relationship, encouraging others to cherish their brothers as Willie and Sam did. Willie was always there for Sam, even when death knocked; He fell to his knees to help save his brother’s life. God worked a miracle that day. The nurses called Sam a Lazarus, for he came back to life and shared a few more precious days with those he loved so much. I thought of the week before Sam died. I was in such a hurry when I stopped at McDonalds for breakfast to go. Willie and Sam were sitting in a booth enjoying coffee and brotherly conversation. I hadn’t seen Sam in months; something stirred my heart to sit and talk for a spell. Sam’s smile lit the room. I asked his permission to use his name in a friendship story I was writing for this column. He grinned and said, “it’ll cost you!” That story wasn’t supposed to run until the end of October; God had other plans. It was in the paper one week before Sam went to heaven. His wife said he was so excited as they read the story together. Our tears flowed. Once again, I was reminded of the glory and grandeur of the great God we serve. It certainly wasn’t a coincidence as many might claim. I believe God works mighty and mini miracles every day to strengthen our faith and sweeten our relationship with Him. Our busyness and unbelief, attempts to analyze all things, keeps us unaware, ungrateful, even unworthy of the mighty miracle working power of Christ, our Lord. God worked that miracle in His perfect timing, knowing the plan for Sam’s entry into heaven was coming soon. He taught me yet another lesson of trusting, believing, being a doer of His Word, and being obedient when He stirs our hearts. When writing that story about friendship, Sam’s face kept popping up in my mind. I sat staring at my computer remembering Sam and Tim working side by side, night after night preparing The Learning Station for opening day. His faithful friendship and talented craftsmanship were God given gifts he gave graciously. “Write about him,” my heart said. I wrote but deleted several times without understanding why. Reading over the story, I finally followed my heart and put the part about Sam helping our family right back where it was supposed to be, why, because God wanted it there. I believe He stirs our hearts and minds; we would be wise to listen to that stirring, nudge, inkling, feeling…and follow what He puts on our hearts for us to do or not to do! Amen. The preacher’s prayer ended, the family stood to follow the casket to the cemetery, and I thought of Sam in heaven celebrating with His Father, family, and friends gone onto glory. Surely, he smiled and waved his hand high in the air as Tim rushed to greet his good friend. What a time it must be in that land in the sky with celebrations welcoming those who’ve told us goodbye. I thought of the many people in our communities who have told loved ones good by recently… some died suddenly, others suffered long and hard is there any good way to leave this world? READY! We should live each day as if it’s our last one here, hearts packed with love, faith, trust, obedience, and belief… with no unforgiveness or unbelief finding even one little spot to settle. Pure hearts believing and trusting Jesus, ready and waiting when He call’s our name…that’s our ticket to heaven my friends.
The staggering number of funerals held at Mt. Elam Church amazed me as Mrs. Doris Warren shared, at a wedding reception recently, the pain her community had endured. The wedding reception was a perfect example of brotherly love, as many friends joined together to bake goodies and give a gift of love, catering the reception with Mrs. Lenette’s leadership. What a sweet act of love. Leaving the reception, I thought about death and those who have left us recently. Mrs. Marjorie Warren’s funeral was just one of many recently preached, when the preacher had plenty of good things to share about the one gone onto glory. My brother-in -law sat listening and thinking of how she touched his life profoundly. He was in her classroom three years in a row. What a devoted teacher she was, sharing lessons that educated minds and changed hearts, teaching the power of love and doing your best in all that you do. Wyman paid tribute to a wonderful woman who made a positive difference in his life, by attending her funeral. Her lessons left a legacy. Are we touching lives and teaching lessons of love that will continue when we’re gone?
Two funerals held at Grove Park Church recently reminded me how death comes to all of us, slowly or suddenly; one day it definitely comes. Mr. Bud Starling’s family huddled in love on the pews where many families have sat, listening to their preacher’s words of comfort. Even with breaking hearts, they surely praised God for the awesome legacy left, the mighty life of love and service to His Lord and those he loved, his powerful witness as a suffering servant. I thought of this mighty church coming together as a community of believers and doers for so many people in times of need. Surely, Bud sat by a flowing stream on the banks of Heaven’s shore sharing stories about the compassion and brotherly love of his family, his church and community. At his welcoming celebration, he must have told the saints about the mighty meal held at his church to help his family. Can’t you see Jesus embracing his child and smiling down on churches and communities that operate in His sweet spirit of love and compassion. Does he smile on your church? Bud shared, with saints there, the sermon preached at his own funeral, loving and giving graciously and generously to God , to family and friends holding to hope standing strong throughout life’s sunshine and storms is worth it all when we get to heaven.
Grove Park Church filled with family and friends within weeks of Mr. Starlng’s funeral to say good by to another faithful, Christian brother. Lynda and I are good friends with much in common, a love for teaching and family, especially our husbands. We supported one another when Bob and Tim recovered from heart surgeries. We often talked about how uncertain life is, how having our men beside us was a gift from God. We loved the beach too. She and Bob made memories at the north end of Topsail Island while Tim and I were being blessed at the south end. Rev. Shook shared how Bob and Lynda stopped by his house recently on the way home from a fishing trip at Topsail. Bob told the preacher he wanted to share his bounty of fish with him. Nothing can take away memories of such precious times shared with one you love. Lynda and I both would encourage those who are too busy to enjoy the gift of each day with a loved one, a friend, doing a brotherly act of love, to stop and smell the roses before they are covering the top of a casket and you’re wondering where time went. I cried throughout Bob’s funeral, while holding the hand of my dear friend, Faye McCullen. I almost didn’t go…painful memories can keep us from doing things we need to do for ourselves and others. How glad I was that I listened to my heart, remembering how much it meant when people cared and came in our time of sorrow. I wanted to be there as painful as it was. God watches when we do acts of love and brings blessings because of our faithfulness. Bob’s funeral was beautiful, such a blessing to me. Rev. Shook’s words brought healing and hope, his message softly and tenderly reminded us of life and death. He talked about Bob’s life, how he loved doing for others, spending time with his family, and enjoying the beauty of God’s world. He shared how Bob lived his life for Christ and recently made his public profession of faith by baptism. God is busy working miracles even when we are unaware. He knew the plan for Bob’s life, that his time to come home to heaven was quickly approaching. Bob was ready to meet Jesus, never knowing death would visit so suddenly and unexpectedly.
Until our day comes to tell this world good bye, let us live our lives in service to our Lord and do it in love. Let God lead and light our paths so that we can shine brightly for Him. Psalm 73:24 says it well, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.” Today, ask God to guide, guard, and go with you as you live to magnify His name. Amen.