Yesterday, I heard that my Aunt June died. She had been on Hospice and this was not unexpected. However, death has a weight of finality. When someone you love dies, one gets the feeling that the world should stop – take a solemn moment – remember one who has walked this earth and touched our lives. How can all of you people just go to work on Monday and not pay your respects to June Easter?
I’d like to honor my Aunt with a brief reflection. Words cannot capture the fullness of her life. She gave birth to five children and ‘mothered’ many more.
The Easter home was my second home growing up. Aunt June blessed my palate with a unique array of food. She set the gold standard for cinnamon rolls. That is too ordinary of a name for the pastry she produced. She put the ‘sticky’ in sticky buns. Most of the butter and brown sugar in town on a Saturday night ended up in the bottom of the pan for the gooey part of her cinnamon rolls. They were meticulously produced in an all-day affair of mixing, rising, kneading, rising, kneading, rolling, spreading butter and cinnamon, and baking. In addition to this, her farm upbringing trained her to cook ‘large’. Lots of big meals: meat, potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and bread. AND dessert – sour cream pie, cherry pie with lattice top crusts, and Rice Krispy treats. Somewhere she came across a quick dinner favorite of grated spam and grated cheese mixed with catsup, spread thick on a half a hamburger bun, and grilled under the broiler – lethal, but delightful to young taste buds.
While the kitchen was memorable, it did not define the extent of her accomplishments. She was the one teaching us how to raise a garden with a lush and abundant variety of vegetables. She was the crew boss for the cousins who were willing to brave the hop yards and arch hops in the spring. She was the little league taxi bringing Kenny, Adrian, Mel and me to practice in Moxee City and games all over the Yakima Valley. She was a tailgater before it was sanctioned sport. Those luxurious lawn chairs and a cooler full of food marked nearly every YMCA game for years with the Moxee Beavers.
She was the soprano in the Assink family quartet that sang at the First Reformed Church. She was one of the pillars of the TWO WEEK Vacation Bible School every summer at church. She was the pew mom with Life Savers for all the children whose parents sang in the choir. She served selflessly in the kitchen for Ice Cream Socials, Baked Potato feeds, Soup Suppers at the Bazaar, and countless receptions for families gathered in the church fellowship hall.
One of her sons died as an infant. While I never recall it showing outwardly, I can’t imagine one with such a heart for children that didn’t carry a private grief.
While these memories makes obvious why I think the world should stop and pay their respects to a great woman, this is not her best. The best fruit of her life is that all her children walk with Jesus.
I don’t think Aunt June topped 5’, but there is no doubt that she stood tall in our lives!
Yesterday, we talked about the significance in our life of being chosen by God. I used the baseball draft as an illustration of how teams choose players for what the team can take from them. Then I came across this story that defies that idea. If you enjoy inspirational stories (you don’t even need to be a baseball fan), this is a great one in the making. Cory Hahn is battling a life threatening injury that ended his on the field baseball career. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks have opened up a new opportunity for him in the field of baseball.
I’d love to hear your perspective on this story.
The gym I go to, recently replaced all the TVs with new flat screens. They are really nice.
The one problem is that most of the old TVs at least worked. More than one can say for the exercise equipment. One of the more prevalent signs at the gym is “Temporarily out of order. Thank you for your patience.”
I suppose, one might take it as a wonderful coincidence. You could go to the gym, have no available working machines, but great TVs. All the fun – no sweat!!
This scenario reminds me that I need to assess what really needs to be changed in my life. Why would I worry about upgrading my entertainment equipment if I was short on food? Would I be shopping for a better cell phone if I didn’t have money for clothes?
What about spiritually? God quietly and gently calls us. He is not demanding nor does he shout. I make choices with my time, my activities, and my mind. If my life goes on its current trajectory, am I going to be pleased with where it ends? More importantly, will God be pleased? Am I focused on the things that need attention, or am I working on peripheral things?
Maybe I need to find a gym with broken TV’s and working treadmills. That means all the sweat and no fun. But it would give me the time to think about what I really need to change.
What is the most significant change God wants you to make in your life today?
“Pastor Phil, I’ve never seen you work so hard.” These were the words from a young girl while our church was recently engaged in a service project. I don’t know whether it was the glistening mud that results from the combination of sweat and dirt, the impressive strength with which I was operating the Weed Wrench, or the sheer fatigue revealed in my face, but for some reason, this day I was perceived to be working hard.
I know there is a lot of humor about a pastor’s work week – “You only work one day a week.” Or “You only work one hour a week!” This little girl’s comment got me to thinking about hard work.
Some of the hardest jobs rarely involve sweat or even physical exertion. They are tasks that drain your soul. Hard work is a teacher trying to build up a student who has been told she will never amount to anything. Hard work is a patient climbing into a treatment chair for another round of chemotherapy. Hard work is sitting by the bedside of a loved one waiting for their final breath. Hard work is listening to a friend unload a burden they have been carrying inside for years. Hard work is restoring a marriage that has experienced the toxic waste of infidelity. Hard work is starting over because your life mate has walked out on you. Hard work is meeting for years with a therapist to overcome deep emotional scars of abuse. Hard work is praying daily for a child who is struggling in their life journey.
When Paul, the Apostle, wrote, “Do not grow weary in well doing,” I imagine he was talking about the soul draining tasks that are rarely be visible. These tasks weigh on our mind and soul so deeply that even our sleep is impacted. This is why he wrote just before this, “Bear one another’s burdens.” We need help for the hard seasons of life.
What other ‘hard jobs’ can you think of? What hard work are you facing? What hard task do you need someone’s support to make it through? Who do you know that needs a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on?
The number came on the screen as the actors completed their testimonials. All the appropriate hype, “Normally you would pay…, but order now and you can save…” “But wait! Call now and we will double your order at no extra cost.” Finally, “Call in the next 10 minutes, and we’ll send you the first 30 days for FREE” (you just pay for shipping and handling).
I was struck by how the whole segment seeks to create a need, offer this incredible solution, make it available at an irresistible price, and end with a deep sense of urgency to ORDER NOW. “If you call in the next 10 minutes…” What would happen if I called in the 11th minute? How often is this commercial running and how many 10 minute windows are there at the call center?
In contrast to this well-crafted and carefully designed plea stands the simple invitation of Jesus to “Follow me.” The need is felt inside our hearts, but we have learned to quiet the sense of urgency to respond. We are so busy responding to skin care, kitchen gadgets, and status improving offers, that the voice of eternity is muted.
However, when all the hype and hustle is gone, the deepest longing in our souls remains. The good news is that so does the invitation. Jesus doesn’t manipulate us into a decision, he simply invites. The decision is more important than any other offer we will ever receive, and we control the response.
Look at your calendar for today or this week. Is it populated by things that are urgent or important? You have an invitation waiting that is worth raising to priority status.
I was at a gathering recently where another pastor commented with a chuckle, “I guess our regional meetings are always crabby.”
This may explain why many of us don’t like meetings, but I would like to challenge the assumption that if this is the norm, we just need to accept it.
Most regional meetings are attended by leaders – pastors, elders, and organizational representatives. If the purpose of the Christian church is to help followers of Jesus to become more like him, how can ‘crabby’ even be tolerated? In fact, we should make a commitment to raise the character bar for such meetings. They should be challenging, informative, transparent, and inspiring – with no room for crabby! We can have serious discussions, even debates, but crabby is not acceptable. The church today has many significant issues in front of it. None of them will be satisfactorily reconciled by crabs.
Our goal should be to leave the meeting with more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While that may sound idealistic, if we are not committed to this, why are we in this to begin with? The measure of a meeting is not merely on what is decided, but also the spirit in which it was conducted. Leadership is not just getting your way; it is modeling for others how to live. If we want the world to be a better more loving place, let’s look in the mirror before we look out the window. If you agree, please feel free to copy today’s picture and take it with you to your next meeting. Just remember, the most important person to heed the warning is the one carrying the sign!
This weekend, my mom got remarried. Two families joined late in life by two octogenarians who were in love.
The seven children frequently commented during the festivities, “We’ve never seen our mom (or dad) act this way before.” We know they are over 80, but they sure seem to be acting like they are 18! They seem to make up excuses to do things together. They can’t wait to call us and share what they were up to. They exchange loving glances. They snuggle. They walk each other to the car before going home at night. They text, sent emails, and leave love notes. What can we say? They are in love!
As I speculated about how come I was seeing someone I had never seen before, a thought struck me. I had never known my mom before she had a child. By the time I had any awareness of who she was or how she behaved, she had a job, a family, a home, and a mortgage. She and Vern have both walked for over 50 years with their first spouse and known the fullness of “in sickness and in health.”
But now, the only thing she has is Vern. Not that any of us feel neglected or left out, it is just that they have found each other in a season of life where they can be fully invested in a relationship. That is what they live for.
For all these years, we have looked to them for advice on budgeting, vocation, cooking, and cleaning and rarely thought of them as advisors about a romantic relationship. As we have been lamenting the transition where children begin to provide care for their parents, we had to add worry about them getting into an ‘inappropriate’ relationship to our list of jobs. But they flipped the table and have shown us what love really looks like. They have made each other the singular focus of life and have dedicated themselves to serving one another. They are demonstrating for us unconditional love and deep commitment. If you see them walking hand in hand, will you join me in saying, “What a cute couple!”?