This Friday I will lead a memorial service at the elderly house for a favorite resident who died August 8 in her sleep. She was 89 and had inoperable colon cancer. For the two years I’ve known her she’s had Alzheimer’s and it worsened to the point she couldn’t remember where she was or what she’d eaten, etc.
Thankfully she always instantly knew me. She knew I was a Christian and, thankfully, I knew she was one too even though it wasn’t almost never a topic of conversation. She was a life smoker who could cuss like a sailor but had such a tremendously endearing childlike way about her. Her career jobs ranged from being a cross-country semi driver and truckstop-diner short-order cook to a polished desk clerk at the Whitehall, a landmark European-style boutique hotel located in the heart of the Gold Coast. One of the things she taught me is you can always be cheerful and fun to be around no matter how you’re suffering physically and emotionally.
Last Friday night I called my mom simply to say hello and she informed me my sister, who was diagnosed with major depression over 25 years ago, was back in the hospital for uncontrollable emotional despair. For the last two decades she’s been in the same situation at least once a year, but now the “bouts” are happening with much more frequency. She had just been in for a week in early June. To complicate everything that much more she has a brain injury from a fall two years ago that is causing her to lose her memory.
Only a few weeks ago my sister drove to Chicago on a whim to surprise me at work. She was last in the city in 1992! I happened to be away at the time of her arrival, assisting a resident with a doctor’s appointment, and she was somehow able to engage and entertain almost everybody I work with—from the residents to the cook to the property manager and maintenance man! It was unreal, but not really considering my sister’s track record. For one thing, she’s always had this uncanny ability to relate to elders.
A great story from our childhood is when we were temporarily living in Miami Beach after returning to the U.S. from a three-and-a-half year missionary stint in Costa Rica and Ecuador (1969-73). We lived on the edge of the Amazon Jungle where there was obviously no television, magazines, etc.
My mom was lying on the beach as I played in the sand and my sister casually came up to us and told us she had just spent the last hour walking the beach with a man who told her he was a Jewish New Yorker who had a hit comedy show on TV about a family. His name was Norman.
Little did we know at the time she had befriended Norman Lear, the man behind the country’s No. 1 sitcom—“All in the Family” and one the greatest TV geniuses of all time!
The great Chicago radio preacher of the ’40s and ’50s, J.C. O’Hair, who has the distinction of being pastor of the former North Shore Church (at Wilson and Sheridan) which is today Shorewood Bible Church (Rolling Meadows, Ill.), once noted, “If you will fall in with God’s present plan, submit to His will and turn the government of your life over to the Son of God, you will share His glory ages after He has consigned Satan to the lake of fire. Then and only then will He let you into all of the secrets that you need to know, and answer all the whys that He thinks you ought to know.”
O’Hair’s long-time associate, internationally renowned Bible scholar C.R. Stam (1908-2003), once wrote, “What then, is our greatest drawback in Christian service? Obviously it is our lack of appreciation of the infinite love of Christ.
“Why do we not serve our blessed Lord as Paul did? Because we do not share his sense of being loved by Christ. Mark well, we are not referring to our love for Christ, but to His love for us.
“Have you ever noticed that Paul says little or nothing about his love for Christ, while he is constantly talking about Christ's love for him?. . .
“How can we overcome our natural indifference to His love? How can we cast off this evil drag on our Christian experience?
“Ah, the apostle explains this at length in Ephesians 3:14-21. . . First, he says, Christ must dwell in our hearts by faith that we might be ‘rooted and grounded in love.’ We must draw our strength from His love as a tree, through its roots, draws its strength from the ground. All we do must be founded on His love to us, not a desire to gain His favor, or fear that we might displease Him.
“Thus alone will we be able to ‘comprehend,’ or appreciate, the breadth, length, depth, and height of God's great message of grace.
“And as we measure the dimensions of this glorious plan we find ourselves launching out into the depths of the love of Christ.”
Jordan recently talked about our treasure in Christ that’s ours to pursue as we pursue knowing Him.
He reasoned, “Isn’t it wonderful to know that every day you can know Him better, more fully, more richly? You never come to the end of knowing Him.
“What caused Paul to lose his religion and his trust in himself, making him decide to drop it all, was the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord.
“The secret of life, joy and contentment is simply finding your all in all in Him. Letting Him be the treasure that He really is. Being willing to give up everything to gain Christ.
“There’s a great (anecdote) about Salvation Army founder William Booth. In his last days, one of his captains came to him and said, ‘General Booth, what’s been your secret in serving Christ?’ Remember, Booth had rocked all of England with the gospel. And the old warrior said, ‘Well, I guess I’d say that Christ had all of me.’
“That’s what Paul’s saying: ‘I found someone I’d rather have than anything else.’
“You can reduce spiritual maturity down to one thing and that is the appetite you have for the person, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Spiritual maturity really is just like the song Bev Shea used to sing:
I’d Rather Have Jesus –
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.
Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out of the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.