Saturday, June 25, 2016

Live for Eternity!

     The Christian school class looked at the white board in the front of

their classroom.  Three geometric linear shapes presented 

themselves--a line segment, a ray, and a line.  After explaining each 

specific term, the teacher asked a philosophical question:  "Which of

these is like God?"  After thinking a moment, one young man raised 

his hand:  "The line--because it has no beginning and no ending."  

           "Correct," the teacher responded.  "God is eternal and, like the line, has no beginning or ending.  "Now," she asked, "which is most like man?"
     "A blonde-haired girl near the front raised her hand immediately.  "The line segment--because we are born once and then we die."
     "Good thought.  Yes, that is true--we do have a birthday and a date of death.  But I was actually thinking of the ray."
     The children looked puzzled for a moment and then the teacher explained.  
      "You see, we all have a date of birth, but according to the Bible, we will live forever somewhere.  That means we will continue to live.  For eternity."
       If any theme emerged from the most recent funeral I attended, it would be that.  From the program bulletins, to the singing, to the messages and the testimonies, each person who attended left with that salient thought--each of us will live somewhere.  Forever.  And we best live now for eternity.
      It was more like a celebration than a funeral.  As I entered the lobby to attend the visitation, I noted that our church entry way had been transformed into a miniature museum, with memorabilia from the life of one who had lived as a dear saint of God.  An array of hand-made baby quilts hung above a table, in front of an extended white lattice.  I recognized the blankets as belonging to my own nieces and nephews.  A poem about four little children sat atop a table behind four sets of preserved baby shoes, and a variety of other homespun projects adorned the area.  And then, I saw it:  a small piece of framed counted cross-stitch that announced the theme for the entire occasion:  “Live for eternity.”
             I remembered the day, about two years before, when the woman whose home-going we were celebrating had sat next to me at church.  Her eyes were glowing, impassioned by a dream she hoped to make a reality.  “I want to make something for each grandchild,” she told me, “Something that reminds them of eternity.  I’m thinking of this phrase, ‘Keep eternity stamped on the back of your eyeballs'!”
            The following fall, golden rays danced off the multi-hued maple trees in our church yard.  The woman had returned again to visit and, just after the service ended, had exclaimed to me, “I did it!  I made a cross stitch for all my grandkids.  It says, ‘Live for eternity!’”  I smiled as I witnessed the glow from her face, but neither of us knew on that day just how soon eternity would become this dear woman’s reality.
             Now, Mrs. Elaine Gilmore’s spirit had transcended earth.  The casket containing her body lay open in the front of our church auditorium.  And throughout the lobby, her own beautiful smile—first as a small child, then a budding youth, and finally a young mother and sweet grandmother, adorned pictures on multiple tag boards on easels along the wall.  The most recent photo, taken most recently before with children and grandchildren around, saw the now elderly woman in a hospital room, still smiling, though a long tube extended from her nasal area to a large machine.
       That evening, children and grandchildren alike prepared for the big day to follow.  “This is going to be one long funeral!” a grandson exclaimed, as he read an order of service nearby. 
      “It’s going to be just like Grandma wanted,” his dad told him.
      “I don’t want a funeral service,” the his grandmother had stated months before, “I want a Victory Service!  Because I’m not gonna be here.  I’m gonna be in Heaven!”  
     The funeral—or Victory—service was unlike any other I had attended.  And, as a pastor’s daughter, I’ve been to far more funerals than weddings in my lifetime.  Years ago when the Gilmores had traveled the country as a young family, the boys’ trumpet trio served as a prelude to their dad’s preaching service.  And the children always sang.  What a treat it was to hear three now-grown sons joining together in “I’ve Discovered the Way of Gladness!” 
       Next a large group of grandchildren sang and played stringed instruments.  Many other beautiful and meaningful musical selections followed.  Nearly 25 years before, Mrs. Gilmore had been diagnosed with cancer and did not know what her future held.  A video from that season of her life was shown, along with some more recent video clips, in which she spoke strongly of her faith in God and her desire for others to live faith-filled lives.     
      Mrs. Gilmore filled notebooks with special insights of her walk with God and portions of her writings were distributed at the funeral service in a beautiful booklet.  At a funeral, eternity seems to be on nearly everyone's mind, and on this occasion, believers and unbelievers alike were touched by the message delivered by the life of this one who had chosen to follow Jesus Christ with her life.  
     Understanding then, that each of us will live forever, may each  

of us live as she did--for eternity!  "For what shall it profit a man, 

if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) 

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