Thanks so much for standing with me in prayer over the last several days. The Lord was so good to me, and to my family. Every single aspect of the trip just seemed custom-designed by God and I am so grateful to Him, and to you for your partnership in prayer. (The picture to the left is of my deceased brother Ralph and his wife Judy. You can left-click on the picture to get a larger view; just click the "back" button on your browser to escape that mode.)
First, I normally write my sermons on Friday, but last Tuesday I woke up with my sermon just flooding into my mind. And so I went downstairs and began to write and got on such a roll that I called my fellow-pastor and asked if we could shift our staff meeting to Wednesday. He was fine with that, so I continued working. Around noon I took my lunch break and it wasn't too long before I received the call from my sister that our brother had died. Given the craziness of my schedule the rest of the week, it was such a God-send that so much of my sermon was already written on Tuesday.
Second, within an hour or so of receiving the news, I knew that I had to go to see my family so I began fishing for a good, cheap deal. By the grace of God, I was able to get a plane ticket and rental car for a total cost of $380. Any change I made to the date of this trip doubled or tripled the cost, and it seems to me that Jesus simply gave this to me as a gift and I am so thankful to him for that.
Third, my brother Bob, sister Micky and I got to spend a good deal of time together on Thursday and we talked about several things that were fruitful and important. We talked about the death of our dad in 1979, the death of our mom in 1994, and several other family related things, and without going into details, let me just say that it was so good and I'm thankful to God for it.
Fourth, by 3:00 or so on Friday the rest of our family gathered at our eldest sister's home, with the exception of one of our sisters. Her ex-husband committed suicide about a year ago, and then her son, Jimmy, did the same just a few months ago. She was very close to our brother who died and she just couldn't handle coming to be with us. I understand and honor her decision, but I missed her very much.
However, it was so good to see everyone else and for all of us to grieve together. (To the right is a picture of 4 of the remaining 5 siblings--Bob (back), me, Micky, Rick). Besides the sister I just mentioned, I'm probably most concerned for my brother's wife, Judy. Ralph and Judy have been together since they were 15 years old--they're 51 now. Understandably, Judy doesn't know how to live without him and she really needs our prayers. There are others around her right now who can help her move on, but I suspect the next couple of years will be the hardest of Judy's life.
Finally, when it was time to go, I was ready to go. In other words, I feel like the Lord provided just the right amount of time for me to be there and I'm so thankful to him for that.
So, thanks for standing with me in prayer. I have a lot more processing and grieving to do, but as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, we do not grieve as other who have no hope.