Dear Friends through Christ:
Most of you know, I like telling stories and boy/girl have I got one to share.
Sandy’s dear mother died June 4th following a 2-1/2-year difficult battle with some rare blood disease. Patricia Barnes was a devoted Roman Catholic saint, who truly feared God and fought her hardest to keep God’s commands. It took Pat ten years to take communion from me, but even then, she had to attend her beloved church because Lutheran communion didn’t count. Always made me laugh. I loved Pat for her devotion to Christ’s Church. Each month while living with us, she mailed 10% of her income to a church that she no longer attended. In the 37 years that I knew Pat, I never, not once heard her say anything bad about another human being. Find that in the world! I wish we had 50 Pats at Peace.
During Covid, Pope Francis assured the devoted Catholics that being cremated had no bearing upon our eternal life. (I’m so glad we got that cleared up.) Fortunately, we convince Pat to go that route. Sandy has a large family, aunts, uncles, tons of cousins, so we planned a two-week trip around my brother’s wedding and Pat’s funeral, along with enough time to prepare a home for sale that had been their dwelling place for over 60 years, and if Pat had a fault, it was that she saved everything! (She might need it someday.)
Do you want to make God laugh? Then make good plans.
Sandy and I started feeling weird on Wednesday night, August 4th, one day before we were to leave. That next morning, we both tested positive for Covid. The wedding for my brother, my best friend in the whole world, was off. What a bummer! He still got married, I just didn’t get to marry him. Sandy and I didn’t get real sick. She laid around on the couch and I spent the next three days taking extremely long naps. Sunday morning, Sandy and I spent our last days of quarantine in the car with our two dogs. (I thought Braxton would probably die on the trip, he’s so old—but he made it.) Good thing I rented this luxurious Chevy Silverado.
When we finally arrived in Highland, some 23 hours later and still feeling like crap, all the stuff that should have been taken care of by my …… brother-in-law the past two months was not done. None of it. About the kindest thing I can say in this letter is that most of the people I have come to know, they all seem to have one thing in common. They all seem to have a family member that has demon or two. Sandy and I are no exception. We ended up bringing Jeff home with us. No choice. At least to Sandy.
Here’s where the story starts getting fun. The next ten days, ten days mind you, Sandy and I from early morning to early evening, were either packing up and giving away or packing up and throwing away: 62 years’ worth of stuff that had been important in Patricia’s lifetime. I carried at least 10,000 pounds of stuff up 15 steep steps, with a three-foot clearance, one slow step at a time. We loaded at least 20 truckloads of beautiful things for Good Will, and filled two, two mind you, 10 X 30-foot dumpsters of what now is simply garbage.
My dear Christian friends, I say this with love. When we leave this earth in a relatively short time, nothing material that you own will mean squat, and most of it, will mean nothing, not even to the people you love. Stuff means nothing! Hit me like a ton of bricks. So sad, especially for Sandy to go through all her parents’ early possessions and keep less than ½ of 1%?
Jesus teaches, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Instead store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The day before we left Highland, we buried Sandra’s mother. It was a meaningful service in a beautiful Catholic church, sort of enjoyable to sit back and participate. (I now have more sympathy for those hard of hearing. Couldn’t hear much of the priest’s message.) Then we traveled south to Monticello, Indiana, where Sandy’s father was born and laid Patricia ashes to rest alongside the Tippecanoe River. I presided and Sandy shared a message she had written as a Mother’s Day sermon years ago. We closed this special day with a foretaste of the feast to come at one of our favorite restaurants with 30 of Pat’s closest friends and family. The day was prefect. God is Good!
Friday, August 19th we packed up what would fit in the luxurious Silverado for our new house guest, and drove that now 27-hour drive so I could be back in time to deliver a sermon, recorded three weeks earlier, entitled, “Put on the Full Armor of God.” How ironic it that? The full armor of God is the only thing that held us up on this eventful trip.
On that drive home, I looked over at Sandy and asked, “How are you doing?” She looked over with a smile and simply said, “Good.” I replied, “Me too. I’m Good.” The two of us had just spent what may be the most difficult two weeks of our entire life, mentally, physically, emotionally, and yet we can both look each other in eye and say, “I’m Good.”
As Sandy and I continued our conversation, it was sort of like an epiphany, where I realized that we were more than just good. We had grown closer during this trip. As hard as it had been, there was still lots of joy and laughter, lots of love from family and friends and hope for her brother. All these gifts were given to us through our faith in Christ Jesus.
This short experience brought to life the very beginning of a letter Martin Luther wrote to Pope Leo in 1520, entitled “The Freedom of a Christian.” He opens the letter by saying, “Many people have considered Christian faith an easy thing and not a few have given it place among the virtues. They do this because they have not experienced it and never tasted the great strength there is in faith. It is impossible to write well about it or to understand what has been written about it, unless one has at one time or another, experienced the courage which faith gives a person when trials oppress them. But the one who has had even a faint taste of it can never write, speak, meditate, or hear enough concerning it. Faith is living “spring of water willing up to eternal life,” as Christ calls it in John 4:14.”
I have experienced that faint taste of faith and I will never quit sharing this precious Word. It is salvation to all who believe. Salvation in this life and the next. It truly is worth sharing. Faith in Jesus does not make life easier, but it darn sure makes it doable. Even the worst times can be filled with joy! God is Good!
Your tired but joyful pastor,
Pastor David Trexler