Today I have to admit, I write with mixed emotions, mixed because while I feel honored I feel an incredible amount of grief and sadness. Truth is, at times being a pastor brings about an incredible sense of emotion. At times I don't know why God has put me in the place he has. I don't feel worthy, I don't feel that special, but it is obvious that God sees potential in me. I know that if he sees potential in me, there is so much potential he sees in each of us if we will only be willing to serve and love in the way he wants us to.
Today started off incredibly busy. Between getting ready for a photo shoot with a photographer for an article running in a local newspaper I was also preparing for my taxes, which to my understanding as of this morning has to be completed and mailed out by tomorrow night to our mortgage company where we are trying to keep our house in Oklahoma. While getting my Turbo Tax program at Wal-Mart I realized how badly my car needs brakes, sometime today I have to schedule getting that done. I often wish I didn't had this phobia of working on cars. If I could have only kept my hand steady shining the flashlight when I was a kid I wouldn't have the hesitancy for auto mechanics I now do. That is a long story so I'll save it for another time. All of this was going on when I get a phone call around 10:00 this morning that a former member of our church is not expected to make it through the day. I plan to visit this afternoon when my wife gets home. I have to wait on her with the car being the way it is. I go about my work, and then around 12:30 I get the phone call that Gwen just passed away.
Bob's mother Gwen was originally from Western Kansas. I first got to know her as I took the 4 ½ hour drive with Bob to get some things done with his son in Hays Kansas. Bob is a guy who has come up rough in life. He don't fit in most churches and he and his wife have had a tough go at getting to know Christ, but thankfully they have succeeded on that journey. I was honored to be a part of that and see these two grow. Of course when they were living together I had to challenge them about not looking like they are in sin. Then when making that comment to them I realized I had to open up my home in order for Karen to have a place to stay. I realized many people live together to save expenses, especially the poor, but that didn't change the need for two new Christians to not subject themselves in an area where it appeared they were living in sin, even though they planned on getting married. Karen took me up on the offer and she lived with me until they were married some months later. All a part of walking the talk on my part, loving the unlovable and being as much like Jesus as one possibly can. I never regretted that, and through that experience, I added to the proof that I indeed loved them.
Bob and Karen have kept on their journey of walking with Jesus, despite the difficulty of having a son dealing and doing drugs, and over the last months taking care of Gwen, Bob's mom. That don't mean the journey is easy though, in fact I know how rough and tough the journey can be. This is especially true when one hasn't grown up in church, has a background of drugs, gangs, and living a rough life. While Bob and Karen has those marks on their life, their spirit continues to grow and show the love of Christ to those around them.
I had plans for the weekend but those plans just changed. I am doing the funeral for Gwen. I want to make sure there is a celebration of her going home to be with God. I know that is where she is, I know how much she appreciated me doing the things for Bob and Karen I did over the last several years. I also know things have been hard for them, but not as hard as if they had to take their journey on their own.
Today, I ponder, I ponder over what it must be like for one to go through incredibly emotional experiences and times without hope, and without someone being there side by side when going through tough times. I know many of those people exist; I know they exist because they contact me on an almost daily basis. At some point, one, has to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and be willing to offer a loving hand. Then there are times the one going through the difficulty must be willing to receive that hand, that gift of love.
Bob and Karen were willing to ask for a helping hand. They were willing to accept the love a perfect stranger was willing to give. I was willing to get to know Bob, Karen, and Gwen. The sacrifices were worth it; they were worth it because for some crazy reason, I can share in the heartache and celebrate in the homecoming of someone special to the three of us.
As I struggle with mixed emotions today, I realize there are others who may be in the same boat as Bob, Karen, Gwen or even myself. What will you do? Are you willing to take the chance and take the hand of a stranger, willing to offer your love? Or are you willing to offer a hand of love that will require some sacrifice on your part to someone needing love? There are hurting, dying people out there who need the touch of God's hand. Sometimes the only way they will experience that is when they touch the hand of one who serves the master.
I challenge you, be a receiver, be a giver, be a follower, be a servant of the one who made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank God that Jesus was willing to show his love for each of us not by reaching out with one hand, but by stretching both hands across the cross. May God forgive us when we are too selfish to do that for each other.
The Power of a Hug
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