Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Go against the crowd

Planning was underway for a large conference when it was brought to the board to use almost half of its budget for a keynote speaker.

The other keynote was less than one-fifth of that price, but one person on the board was for spending the extra thousands of dollars on this one man.

After a few minutes, a vote was taken, and it was almost unanimous ayes.

Until one person said nay. Asked why, the man said it was just too much money for one speaker.

Then another piped up, "I think so too."

And another.

And another.

Until the measure was voted down.

People are so afraid to go against the majority that they won't even speak their minds about an issue of thousands of dollars.

Or life and death.

My Bible reading this morning is the worst in the book --- Jesus' crucifixion. It isn't exactly how I want to start my day. But I found it interesting the part about the crowd that asked for Barabbas. I didn't really realize that it said that the chief priests had swayed the crowd. They didn't want Jesus to be released, so they talked people into asking for a hardened criminal instead.

And people went for it!

Can you imagine? People loved Jesus and knew all the wonderful things he did, and many, many knew that he was the son of God. But they still asked for a criminal, because their leaders had persuaded them.

It often seems like it is just a problem in today's culture that people have no background and are afraid of going against the crowd, but it is obviously just human nature, because that issue is thousands of years old.

Stand up for what's right. Stand up for truth. Stand up and be brave.

That's all for today.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Blessed assurance

I spent this weekend with my Grandma, who has been fighting colon cancer for more than a year. After getting put on hospice and given weeks to live, she took a turn and it was only going to be days.

I got to her house and bedded down on the living room floor with my mom, next to Grandma's hospital bed. It was like deja vu. Her face was sunken, her bony nose sticking out, her breath ragged. It was just like Grandpa had been only two years earlier when I had stayed the night on the floor, waiting for him to die.

Mom and I talked, her admitting some of the difficulties she had been through the last few days. Grandma told me and everyone else what a good job my mom was doing caring for her, but she wouldn't admit something emotional like that to my mom, and that is hard information to get secondhand.

But Mom still did what God and her heart told her, and she got up every two hours to give her mom the medicine that kept her out of pain. Between Grandma and my restless dog, we didn't get much sleep.

By 4 a.m. Grandma had become really unresponsive. With my uncle we decided to stop morphine dosage until it appeared she needed some. And then we sat down to wait.

Grandma's breathing had noticeably slowed, to 10 breaths per minute we counted, and we weren't sure how much longer she would last. So the family was called and siblings arrived.

And we waited. We sat by Grandma's side and waited. We counted breaths and waited. We held her hand and waited. We gave her medicine and waited. We flipped the cool washcloth on her head and waited.

I prayed not knowing what to pray for. I prayed God would take Grandma so she wouldn't be in pain, but here she was so there has to be some reason he wasn't done in this situation yet. And I looked around at the brokenness around us. In one little room there was so much brokenness --- broken marriages, addiction, broken relationships between parents and children, poverty, fear --- brokenness.

And I prayed that somehow God could come in and do work there.

Grandma held on.

We waited. We sat by Grandma's side and waited. We counted breaths and waited. We held her hand and waited. We gave her medicine and waited. We flipped the cool washcloth on her head and waited.

I went back to my parents' house to get a good night's sleep before the long drive home. We thought maybe peace and quiet would help Grandma relax enough to pass, because she was such an independent stubborn woman that she would have wanted to be alone when it happened.

My Grandma was far from perfect. She lived a rough life, and to be honest she was a coarse woman. We had talked to Grandma about God, about how Jesus came to Earth to die on the cross to take our sin on himself, how he rose again to beat death, how if we accept him as our Savior we are forgiven of our sins and get to spend eternity in heaven after death.

Grandma understood and said at the end she knew where she was going and had peace about death. But you never really know what is going on in someone's heart.

And then it happened.

I woke up at 3:15 when my mom called.

"Grandma went to be with Jesus."

Breath out.


"No, she really went to be with Jesus. She was struggling to breath and your dad and I started reading Scripture to her. We could tell she was scared and fighting it. We told her to call out to Jesus. She opened her eyes and moved her mouth and that's when she passed."

"Oh my gosh."

"I have no doubt. My mom is in heaven. This body that was laying like a corpse opened her eyes and called out to Jesus. She was scared because she had such a bad father and then she met Jesus!"

"Oh my gosh." Tears streaming. "I knew there was a reason God was having her hang on."

That was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. God gave everyone exactly what they needed. He gave my Grandma someone there to help her find him at the very end and he gave my mom blessed assurance of where her mom is.

What is even more beautiful is God overlooks our doubts. When we accept him, that's it. We're his. Grandma was scared to die. She was fighting it for days. She was unsure. Yet, Jesus called to her and opened his arms, and she got to run into them. No reservations. No punishment. Just acceptance.

And now she is alive. She is truly alive. And she is alive forever. She had eternal life with a perfect body in a place beyond all imagination.

Someone from my broken family. Someone from a harsh past. Someone full of problems. Instead of death being painful and ending in torment in hell, where we all deserve to go, Jesus took her plea for forgiveness on earth and wrote her name down. So when it came time, he didn't see any sin. He just saw his child. And he welcomed her home.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and holy ghost.

Amen Lord. Thank you. Praise you.

I'll see my Grandma again someday. What blessed assurance.