My Mom died today and at the moment she did die she received a new glorified body and is in heaven talking with my Dad. All I can do is use my sanctified imagination concerning what Mom’s day was like, what her conversation with Dad was like, what her first words to Jesus were, because we have very little information in the Bible concerning the details of after death. It is the unknown that makes us nervous about death, our own and that of our loved ones. It is probably the area of our life where we need the greatest level of faith. If God is real, if heaven is real, and we believe it with all of our heart, we should all be able to say with Paul, “to depart,and be with Christ is very much better“.
2 Corinthians 5:1-8 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
“Prefer to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord”
How many can say that is true of them , if not, why not.
Over my 71 years of living there have been a lot of hard and difficult days and experiences, as in any person’s life, but I have to work to remember them, they have just sort of faded away in my memory. But I know and have talked to a lot of people that remember all the bad things, the hard trials like they were yesterday because they think about them repeatedly, over and over again. The difference between me and those who remember clearly the negative, the sad, the hurtful, and the pain is I spend my time thinking and reviewing the good and positive experiences, and ignoring the bad. Three times in the book of Philippians Paul says, “rejoice always”, and it isn’t hard to figure out what that means in the Greek, it means rejoice always. Also in the book of Philippians Paul says, “set your mind on what is pure, and good, and honorable, and lovely, that means review regularly the good things in life and forget the bad. When any person thinks mostly about the good things that happened to them in the past and chooses not to think about the bad they will feel incredibly blessed by God. Today, all day, I mentally worked at remembering as many good, positive things and experiences about my life as I could, especially the things that revolved around my Mom. Tonight I am feeling so blessed that I am thinking that God has spoiled me. It is so sad to hear people question God’s love for them, even His existence because of the trials in their life. It is all about “mind set”, what we consciously choose to think about over and over. Proverbs says, “what a person thinks about is who they become”. Today was Thanksgiving Day, a good day, I think I will make every day Thanksgiving Day.
About noon today Patty texted me with a picture of Mom sleeping, and under the picture she wrote, “taken this morning”. I took it to mean that the Lord had taken Mom, that she had died. I was outside working on my car when I got the text so I went in the house and sat down in my chair and started humming, ” I’ll Fly Away”, then I started praying, thanking the Lord for my Mom, and then I started crying like a baby. After a bit I called Patty, and when I started to talk to her I got all choked up and she said, “What’s wrong?” And I am thinking, ” What do you mean, what’s wrong”, and I said, “Didn’t Mom just die?” And Patty said, “no, she is sleeping and very comfortable”. I said, “You texted me that Mom was taken this morning”, and she said, “The picture of her sleeping was taken this morning”. Oh great, I have to go through that all over again! I guess you can call that a practice grieving.
Way back over 40 years ago when JBC first started as a church I sang in a Male quartet. Because we were so small we were pretty hard up for special music😀! We only sang in public one time and the song we sang was “I’ll Fly Away”. I memorized it really good, and I have not forgotten the words and I sing it periodically when I am by myself. Today I have been singing it constantly as I think about Mom about ready to head off to heaven.One of my favorite passages in the Bible about heaven is John 14:1-3. It is such a beautiful promise to us.John 14:1-3 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
One time on a bicycle trip we came upon a place where two rivers ran together into one. Two things made it very memorable, the first was the rivers came from totally opposite directions and literally smashed into each other which created quite a big boil, and the second thing was one of the rivers was really muddy and the other was crystal clear. About a mile from the confluence of the two, the river was calm, a blue-green color, and very beautiful. That is a great picture of my emotions right now. One river of emotion is extreme sadness over Mom leaving, and the other is great joy and peace that she is going to heaven and will be over all the grind of life.
I am not facing death right now in my own life so it is relatively easy to say “I have no fear of dying”. My faith is strong and I truly believe that the moment I die I am in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 2:14-16 says, “that through His own death He (Jesus) might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”
Those verses sound like I ought to be free of the fear of dying as a result of my faith and spiritual growth.
Philippians 1:21-23 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
“To depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better” WOW, that is strong faith.
Paul says the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5:8,
“we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
I prefer to be absent from this old, tired, creaky, ugly body and be at home with the Lord. That sounds so right, and courageous, and full of faith. I like to think I am there now. Paul said the only reason he didn’t want to die right yet was because he wanted to bear some more fruit, he wanted to save some more people and teach them to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. I want that as well, to bear more fruit, to accomplish some more that matters for all eternity.
At the end of his life Paul said, “I have finished the race”. Jesus said the same word as He hung on the cross, ” It is finished”. It would be nice to know at the end of my life that I accomplished all that God gave me to do, I finished.
Patty and I drove up to see my Mom today, she is only days away from dying, maybe only hours. I came back home and Patty stayed up there to help and as I was driving home alone I reminisced again about Mom’s life. I came to the conclusion in my thinking that Mom finished the race, she did all the work that God gave her to do, and she did it well. When she is absent from her body she will be present with the Lord.
We went and saw the movie, “Midway” tonight, and it was a very intense war movie. My Dad was on the Yorktown which sank in the battle of Midway, one of four ships he was on that were sunk in battle during the war. As I was watching the movie I got to thinking, if my Dad had been killed during the war as many men were, and he certainly was in many situations where the possibility was high, I wouldn’t have been born, and none of my kids would have been born, and grandkids, and future great grandkids. One little change in history would have resulted in huge changes down stream from that one shift in history. As I sat there thinking about it as the battle on the big screen raged with countless people dying, I thought, I am here as a self-aware person, with a soul, thoughts, dreams, I am born-again, a follower of Jesus Christ and as such I will live forever and ever with Him. Then I thought of Psalms 139:13-16,
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
It is fascinating to think about the fact that God wanted me to exist, planned for me to exist, and worked out all the details for me to be alive and part of His future. That is the ultimate in self- worth when you think about it. I often puzzle about the existence of God’s sovereignty over all, and my free will. I think that only an infinitely wise God could work that all out. But, here I am, wow, how did that happen!
Over the years of growing up on the farm I heard some really good advice and counsel from my Dad, and I would like to remember it all. Many of the best lessons and principles were in one short sentence or motto so they are easy to remember. One of my favorites is, “you don’t have to act the way you feel”, I have passed that on to my kids. One I got from my Dad after the tongue of the hay wagon fell on my foot (I lost 4 toe nails), and he said, “just because you get hurt doesn’t mean you have to yell”. Another good one from Dad, “Just rub dirt on it”, that is what he said when I got hurt, and had a cut, bruise or whatever. That is a great trio of motto’s for tough guys or wanna be tough guys. “You don’t have to act the way you feel”, “Just because you get hurt doesn’t mean you have to yell”, and “just rub dirt on it”. There isn’t a day goes by in my life that I don’t think of those and try to put them into practice. Another one from my Dad, “You always do the right thing, because it is the right thing”, you shouldn’t need any other motive or reward. One time while we were watching the news and they were showing a bunch of college students demonstrating against the Vietnam War and I asked him what he thought and he said, “There is a right way and a wrong way to change things that need changing, the right way works, the wrong way doesn’t“, and then he went on to say, “you change things by serving, not by acting stupid”. A great time management motto from him was, “If you want to get twice as much done in a day then work twice as hard as you are presently working”. One of my favorites was, “If you are a 30 horsepower motor and want to become a 40 horsepower motor work like a 40 horsepower motor and you will become one”. This one is one I heard from him a lot, “don’t just stand there, do something“! The counsel he gave me that resulted in my being a pastor was, “Give it a try for one year, sometimes you don’t know what to do until you have done it, then you know”. One time I called him when I was at an all time low pastoring and asked him if I should quit and come back to the farm and he said, “never make a decision when you are down, it almost always is wrong, wait until you are winning and then choose”, that is why I have been at JBC for 44 years. I was at a seminar a few years ago and heard this one and I thought, that reminds me of my Dad, “you don’t feel your way into right acting, you act your way into right feeling”. Another bit of advice from Dad on impulsiveness vs decisiveness, “don’t make a decision until you have to so you have time to gather information and get counsel, but when it is time pull the trigger, pull it”. One more, “never be rude to a waitress or anybody else for that matter“.
We have been going through old pictures of Mom and Dad the last couple of days anticipating Mom’s memorial service reasonably soon, and I discovered a letter written by a shipmate and good friend of my Dad’s to my Mom after my Dad died of liver cancer back in 1991. It was a little history of their time together in the war.
This is a picture of the aircraft carrier the Wasp before it sank in the Battle of Guadalcanal. This battle lasted over 6 months being fought on land by Marines and supported by numerous ships. My Dad was on this ship when it sank.
The Yorktown sank in the Battle of Midway and my Dad was on it.
The Hornet was in many battles and was the aircraft carrier that launched the “Doolittle Raid” when Tokyo was bombed for the first time in the war. It was sunk in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. My Dad was on it when it sank.
One of the stories he told; “we were sitting in a gun turret which are mounted on the side of the ship under the flight deck. We were letting our gun cool off from much rapid firing, if the gun is loaded while hot the powder will ignite before the projectile is loaded. We had loaded it successfully before we decided to let it cool. While waiting a Japanese plane came in low around the ship headed right towards us, Duke stomped on the foot firing mechanism and blew that plane into minute pieces 200 feet from us. It was funny when it was over, but I can tell you for sure that both Duke and I thought we had bought it that day. We served together on the Hornet, the Wasp, the Yorktown, the Enterprise, the Saratoga, the North Carolina, the O’Brian and others. We spent many hours together sometimes 2 and 3 days straight through in battle at our stations. Please allow me to say and you can tell your 4 sons and your daughter that they can take great pride in being the children of Delbert Duke. Needless to say, I got very emotional reading it, and had a very difficult time reading it out loud to my daughters.
This year for our bicycle trip, my brother Cliff and his wife Kathy and I, will do an unsupported ride unless someone volunteers in the time before we go. An unsupported trip is where you carry everything on the bicycle that you need for the days that you ride. I have paniers which are like saddle bags on a horse, two in the front and two in the back.The ones in the front have 15 pounds in each bag and the ones in the back have 20 pounds in each bag for a total of 70 pounds. Included in what we carry is a small tent, a sleeping bag, extra cloths, towel, food, a little propane stove, dish, glass, fork, spoon, and knife. We will buy extra food along the way as we ride. This years trip will be 2,200 miles and we will ride it in 40 days. leaving May 25th and getting back July 3rd. We will go from our house over to the coast, down the coast all the way down to near San Fransisco, then we will go East into Nevada, then up into Idaho and then back home. I use a bicycle trip routing app to plan the trip and another App to find campgrounds to stay at. These bicycle trips and my one hour every day of riding on my stationary bike is what keeps the Parkinson’s at bay in my life, so far, so good. If anybody reading this wants to go just let me know.