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Posts Tagged ‘memorial services’

This past week, my husband and I had the privilege of conducting a brief funeral service for a friend’s mother at a nearby crematorium. We had not expected to be doing this, yet, as things unfolded and the minister conducting the larger memorial service later in the day could not manage both, we knew this was what we should do.

The whole idea of offering to help began as one of those strong nudges inside me and, when I talked about it with my husband, he immediately agreed. God was in it—and we should do it. It was as simple as that really. Besides, we could see how much this little effort on our part would greatly help our friend and her family. In the end, it did seem to—and we felt very blessed.

After the memorial service later in the day, I chatted with an acquaintance present about a mutual friend who is working overseas with a Christian aid organisation. She brought me up-to-date with the latest news about our friend and mentioned how she phones her each week—and, at that point, I remembered what this friend working overseas had told me about these same phone calls.

‘The work here is so rewarding,’ she had said, ‘and I know we’re making a huge difference in the lives of the families we care for. But I wouldn’t have stayed here as long as I have, without my friend’s weekly phone calls—I wouldn’t have been able to. At times, they were the only thing that kept me going.’

When I told this lady what my friend had said, she seemed embarrassed and played down her efforts. ‘Oh, it’s nothing really—just a weekly phone call.’ And I understood what she meant. Just a simple, little act on her part, the same as my husband and I felt about our own efforts. Yet, what a huge difference her encouraging calls have made in our friend’s life—and indirectly in the lives of so many others too who may well have starved, without the food and shelter my friend helps provide in the remote area where she is based!

Sometimes, we can all too easily be talked out of doing things we know in our heart God wants us to do. Yet, when we listen to God, step out in obedience and act, we often find God uses our little efforts in more ways than we would ever have imagined. God can do so much, even with something so little, just as Jesus points out when teaching about the Kingdom of God:

Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it?  It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.”

He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like?  It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” Luke 13:18-21 NLT

Let’s keep being faithful with our tiny mustard seeds and grams of yeast. They may not cost us much but, in God’s hands, they can truly become invaluable.

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Many years ago, one of our daughters who was only very little at the time was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer was a doctor or – wait for it – a shepherd! She had heard various bible stories about shepherds and must have decided they were a kind lot who helped and cared for others. The interesting thing is that while she did not take up either of these occupations, she nevertheless clearly conveys these traits in the way she has related to others throughout her life. Next year she is heading out with a volunteer organisation to spend some time working with orphans in Rumania – still the doctor and the shepherd at heart.

I think of her almost every time I read or speak on Psalm 23. This psalm is so well-known that the temptation is to gloss over the richness of its words and to read it only at funerals or memorial services. Yet I think it gives such encouragement to us as we seek to live our lives well right now, and deep comfort whenever we find ourselves in a hard place.

Right off the bat, the psalm begins with the strong assertion that ‘The LORD is my Shepherd’. What a statement! David, its author, is declaring that Yahweh, the most high God, the ‘I AM’, the one whose name was too holy and too awesome even to be spoken aloud by the ancient Hebrews, is prepared to take on the lowly role of a shepherd and, furthermore, lead and guide him personally through his life. That blows my mind and immediately takes me back to my teenage years when I realised for the first time that the mighty God of the whole universe knew me and cared about me personally – enough to send Jesus to die for me, in fact.

As the psalm continues to unfold, we read wonderful statements about the Lord that I have found so true since then:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the present of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

The key factor in it all is that presence of the Shepherd walking closely with me, strengthening me, showing me the way forward, defending me, healing me. My task is to ensure I keep my eyes on my Shepherd, listening for his voice, trusting him when he takes me in a particular direction. In John 10:27, Jesus himself says:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

What a privilege to have Jesus, the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:14-15), intimately involved in my life journey, with all its twists and turns! In fact, he has told us this relationship will never end, that no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). So it is with a grateful heart that I agree with David as he concludes his psalm:

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Can you hear the voice of this faithful Shepherd too? Are you listening?

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