My eight grandchildren have been buying school clothes and getting ready for new adventures. Their situations are all different, with the three local children (Grant, 14, and Abby & Erin, 11) going to a Catholic school which started classes last week, the two North Carolinians (Darilyn, 11, and Jack, 6) being home-schooled, and the three in New Hampshire (Leah, 18, Jessica, 17, and JoAnne, 10) going to a public school. Leah will be starting at the local community college this winter.
When Leah turned 13, we were chatting on the phone. “I’m growing up on you,” she said. I’ve never forgotten that line and the sadness that washed over my soul. It’s so true. Much too fast for grandpa.
I wasn’t through enjoying their childhood and now they’re leaving it behind so swiftly you’d think they didn’t know how precious it was and how nothing will ever be like it was.
I still remember the day I was pushing Grant on the swing in his front yard. I said, “Grant, in two weeks, you will be three years old. And then what’s going to happen?” His folks were planning a birthday party and I knew he would be excited.
I said, “What?”
He said, “When I turn three, Daddy’s going to let me chew gum.” He was excited about that.
Each generation seems to get a little finer, grow a little taller (Grant is an inch over me, we noticed last night), and be a little smarter. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The kids call my Mom “Granny,” which has always seemed strange to me because that’s what we called her mom, who died in February of 1963. I still call her “Mom.”
She keeps asking, “Have you thanked the people on your blog for sending me all those birthday cards?” I keep meaning to. At last count, she’d received around 75. (I guarantee she still has every one of them, in a basket somewhere in the dining room.)
So, I thank you on her behalf. I’m not promising we won’t do the same thing again next year, understand. With her numbers now entering the stratosphere, each birthday becomes more rare and more precious than all the others before it.
This morning I was lying in bed pondering why mom still goes to church. She hurts all over and has trouble walking. The walker sits near the front door for use when she leaves the house. Getting ready for church takes longer and longer.
Most of the people I know would have quit going a year or two ago. If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of church, she has the best one: she’s just not able. Yet she goes.
It’s the high point of her week. All the other six days have a sameness to them and she sometimes loses track of what today is. A family member spends the night with her, my sisters are in and out, taking care of the place and meals, I call her every morning on my drive in to work, and the mail arrives. She reads the Daily Mountain Eagle from Jasper and the twice weekly Northwest Alabamian from Haleyville, checking the obituaries first as always. “More and more, I don’t know any of the people who died.” “You have outlived everyone you know,” I tell her.
Church is the stackpole of her week. It does her good in a hundred ways. Bearing in mind that this is the only church she ever belonged to, the one her parents joined before she was born, where she and Pop met on a Saturday night in 1930, and where her husband of nearly 74 years and her youngest child Charlie are buried across the road–you realize, this is home to her.
Church is the great unchanging reality in Mom’s life. Her children are in and out, her grandchildren marry and divorce and move away and have surgeries and babies, the hillside two miles south of the house is being blasted away by strip-miners (the explosions rattle the house and unnerve anyone sitting there), and the seasons come and go. But church is there.
Pastor Mickey Crane has served the New Oak Grove Free Will Baptist Church of Nauvoo, Alabama, for some 30 years. Mom thinks he’s one of her sons. Mom has only one or two contemporaries in the church. Mostly she knows the grandparents of the people leading the congregation now. She knows where the “old home place” of practically every clan in the congregation used to sit, although in most cases, vacant overgrown fields cover the spot.
Friends flock around Mom at church and tell her how pretty she is. She brushes off the compliments, but they are like manna to her. She looks around and takes in all the new faces–the church is thriving, all new buildings, everything paid for, many activities and ministries going on–and she loves it.
She remembers the yesterdays but she doesn’t live there. Every day she thinks, “This could be the day,” and gets teary-eyed, as we do we all.
I don’t know what else to do with the following, so I’ll drop it in here where I’m ruminating about grandchildren and elderly parents.
I wrote it several months ago, and in some ways, it’s an Easter meditation….
I was at home Wednesday night until Easter Sunday afternoon. Pop wasn’t there.
He built this house in 1954 and through the years oversaw all the alterations and additions. I drove to the cemetery to visit his grave. That was a special moment, but the truth is he’s not there so much as he is here, at the house.
He left evidences all around if you know where to look. The rocks on the bannisters near the front porch (he brought them in from the fields)…the flower garden…the huge trees out front (he set them out over a half century ago)…the clippings taped to the wall (“safety first,” poems, adages, articles, cartoons–I counted 9 in the dining room alone; Mom long ago quit protesting)….he personalized many of those clippings with a comment in his flowing script…his “office” in the back filled with memorabilia from seven decades years of coal mining and labor unions…the two TV remotes only he could operate…the barn he built…the garage he constructed where he stored his car until he gave it up in his mid 80’s….the grape arbor he set out and pruned each year…
Most of all, the evidences that Pop has “been here” are his five children.
1) They look like him to one degree or another. Me, most of all, I think.
2) They act like him. I have a rock collection at my house too and I became the cartoonist.
3) They speak of him often.
Try to convince anyone that Carl J. McKeever never lived and the people around here would dismiss you as a nut.
People try to dismiss Jesus Christ of Nazareth as never having lived. And if He did live, He never died for our sins. And if He did die on a cross, He never rose from the dead.
The problem with all that is that, like Pop, Jesus left signs.
HISTORICAL EVIDENCE. “We have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other ancient religion.” (Lee Strobel quotes Professor of Ancient History Edwin Yamauchi of Miami University, in Strobel’s excellent book, “The Case for Christ.”)
SCRIPTURAL EVIDENCE. Fulfilled prophecies. Scriptural insights. Eyewitness accounts. The harmony of the testimonies.
LOGICAL EVIDENCE. “If it were not so, I would have told you,” Jesus said in John 14. Consider the grand claims Jesus made. C. S. Lewis pointed out to those who insist that Jesus was not the Son of God but was “a good man,” “good men” do not make such grandiose claims unless they can back them up. Jesus Christ is either a liar, or a lunatic on the level of someone who claims to be a poached egg, or He is Lord. Those are the only options open to us.
PERSONAL EVIDENCE. His disciples. God’s children. Changed lives. People who look and act like Jesus.
I went to Israel where Jesus used to be. I walked the streets of Jerusalem and prayed in Gethsemane and visited Bethany and knelt in Bethlehem. I crossed the Sea of Galilee and picked up a salty rock from the Dead Sea. I brought home a rock from the Emaus Road where the risen Lord appeared to two disciples.
It was everything I had hoped and more. But something was missing.
He’s not there so much as here.
“I am with you all the way,” He promised. “Even to the end of the world.” (Matthew 28) We have His word on it.
If He’s here, everything else about Him that He claimed is solid.
And if so, He has your number, friend. He knows you and loves you and wants more for you than you ever dreamed of.
Those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are living beneath their privilege.
I’m confident the Lord is more than a little upset with the way some of us are squandering these moments, ignoring God’s offers, and missing out on life’s opportunities. The way some of us waste away the gift of life makes me think of the whale stranded in the Canadian backwaters a few years back. They tell us it had been chasing minnows.
Nothing in your lifetime or mine is more important than knowing Jesus Christ personally and serving Him faithfully. It all begins with humbling ourselves before Him and submitting to Him.
Think deeply about this matter and consider making this prayer your own.
“Lord Jesus. I’m tired of chasing minnows. I’m tired of living for lesser things. I’m through wasting the precious gift of life. Today, to the best of my ability and by the best of my knowledge, I turn my life over to you. I ask you to forgive me for the sin of neglect, the sin of rebellion, and the sin of ignorance. My sins are too many to count. The Bible says you died to pay for my sins. I don’t understand how this could be, but I want to get in on it. Please forgive me. Thank you.”
“And Lord, come into my heart and life. Cleanse me and make me new. Create in me a clean heart and show me how to live. Give me an appetite for the good things of life and not just for its pleasures. Make me a light and a help and a blessing to the people around me, many of whom are as lost as I have been.”
“Above all, make me a strength to my family, to those I owe the most and love the dearest. And at last, take me home to Thee, in your own time. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Amen.”