Sunday, November 16, 2014

Saint or Saint Triumphant

November 1st is All Saints Day.  Today in church we celebrated Saints Triumphant Day.  Both remind us of those who have gone home to Heaven before us.  On November 1st my focus was on my mom because her Heaven day is three days later.  Today I thought about all those who have gone before me.  Some of them have been recent like my friend Tammy who fought ovarian cancer like me and my Great-Aunt Gert who along with her husband, Ray, were instrumental in keeping me on the path to serving God by teaching in Lutheran schools.  I also remembered all my grandparents who brought up my parents in the way of the Lord so I, too, could be brought up in the way of the Lord.  And finally I remembered our little Jessica who died before she even entered the world.  It's a bittersweet day missing those whom we have loved so dearly yet rejoicing that they are in Heaven and I, too, will join them someday.

While we here on earth might not be Saints Triumphant yet, we still are Saints.  We are Saints not because of anything that we have done or anything we will do, but because of everything that Jesus has done.  

And because of that amazing grace God looks at us as Saints.  He looks at us through cross-covered glasses.  He looks at us with glasses that are stained with the blood of Jesus.  He can only look at us as Saints, even though we have failed perfection miserably, because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of our Savior.  What an amazing gift to be called a Saint of our God's!

So now that I am completing another Saints Triumphant Sunday here on earth, I wonder if it will be my last.  I wonder if the things I'm struggling through right now -- my obstruction, my medication, my illness -- are God's way of telling me that my time on earth is almost done.  And you know what?  That's bittersweet.

Why would it be bittersweet thinking that my earthly struggles might be done soon?  It's because of those I would leave behind -- my friends, my extended family, my husband, and mostly my children.  When we look at our lives when we start a family, we don't expect to leave them before we see our grandchildren. 
We don't expect to leave them before they are married.  We don't expect to leave them before they graduate high school.  And we really don't expect to leave them before they are confirmed.  And yes, we all know that we could die at any time.  But I bet most of us don't live like we could die at any time.  

It's also bittersweet because honestly, I'm not looking forward to those final hours.  If my death does come from cancer, there is no guarantee that it will be quick.  More than likely it will be painful, and who really likes to think about pain and death.  I know I don't.  God didn't create us to die. 

But the sweet part comes, and that part will last for eternity.  When we die we will be a Triumphant Saint in a place that will have no more sorrow or tears.  We will bask in the glow of our Father and our Savior.  We will see people that we have longed to see again, and we will meet people that we have only heard or read about.  All our fears will be gone and all we will know is God's perfect will.  Amazing Grace!  How sweet the sound!

In our sermon today our pastor ended with reading the last three verses of the hymn "I Walk in Danger All the Way".  I'm putting them below and I would like you to read them as a poem.  If you know the Lutheran tune, resist the temptation to sing it because you will hear these words in a completely different way. (Emphasis mine)

I walk with angels all the way;
They shield me and befriend me.
All Satan's power is held at bay
When heavenly hosts attend me.
They are my sure defense;
All fear and sorrow, hence!
Unharmed by foes, do what they may,
I walk with angels all the way.

I walk with Jesus all the way;
His guidance never fails me.
He takes my every fear away
When Satan's power assails me,
And, by his footsteps led,
My path I safely tread.
In spite of ills that threaten may,
I walk with Jesus all the way. 

My walk is heavenward all the way; 
Await, my soul, the morrow,
When you farewell can gladly say
To all your sin and sorrow.
All worldly pomp, begone!
To heaven I now press on,
For all the world I would not stay;
My walk is heavenward all the way. 

Today I am a Saint.  Soon I may be part of the Saints Triumphant.  Either way I will win because of Jesus. And I can confidently say that I Will Rise.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Journey Is Long and The Road Is Hard

Even though the journey's long
And I know the road is hard
Well, the One who's gone before me
He will help me carry on

These lyrics from Mountain Of God by Third Day popped into my head today as I was getting ready to blog.  As my family and I continue in my life with cancer, it is easily described as a long journey and a hard road.  

The past month has been more difficult than most.  A hospital stay, three small bowel obstructions, a low fiber diet and learning how to administer Total Parental Nutrition (TPN) have all played into that.  Being more tired, loosing some ability to do things I've done before and relying on services like handicapped parking and home health services are all results of the last month of struggle.  When you throw things in like this to an already long journey, it can seem like the road will never, ever end.  

I confess from time to time
I lose my way
But You are always there
To bring me back again

I have felt quite a bit lately that I have lost my way.  Long journeys with hard roads can do that to a person.  You wonder if you are going the right way.  You wonder if there was something you should have done or could have done that would have made a difference somewhere, anywhere.  Hope can be lost, darkness can settle in and there just seems no way out.
After all that I've been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God

Once again I realize that on this journey I have to go through hills and valleys.  It is what God has called me to do.  I will be the first to tell you that I don't always like it and that it is hard.  I don't do it joyfully like I should.  But with each step I am led by an amazing God who is getting me to where I need to be.  Without Him, I am nothing.

 As I travel on the road
That You have lead me down
You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me
I have need for nothing more
Oh, now that I have found
That You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me 

So we continue to go down the road that God has led us.  Right now it is hard, and someday it might get easier.  He has given us hope in this journey with a new medication.  Will this one be the one that cures me?  Only He knows the answer to that question.  But I do know that whatever happens on this long journey and hard road, He will keep this promise: