Sunday, June 20, 2010

God Speaks

Sermon Sunday, June 20, 2010 - Father's Day - on 1 Kings 19:1-15a.  Quite often the voice of God comes to us in unexpected ways.  Are we ready to hear God speak?  Or are we still waiting for the expected?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lessons I'm Learning on Death, Dying and Grief - Part Four - Even if no one is with you, you don't die alone.

I've been moving, so this series has taken a break, but I hope to be able to post at least once a week on this until I'm done - whatever that means.

During his last week, all of his children and grandchildren came to see him.  At one time or another we stood by his bed, held his hand and spoke with him.  I have to say that this last week was probably one of his more lucid in recent history.  He knew who we were, and with little prompting knew what was going on in our lives.  He was never alone, right up until he drew his last breath.  One of us and my mother were with him at all times.

We worry about our loved ones 'dying alone.'  It is natural for us to want them to be surrounded by those who loved them.  We want to accompany them as far as we can in the journey.  However, much like the security checkpoints at airports now days, those who do not have a ticket, can only go so far.  Ultimately, we can only accompany our loved ones so far.  But I have learned that there are those waiting for them past that point we cannot go.

My father had a large family.  He was the oldest of nine children.  Even though he was the oldest, five of his siblings predeceased him, and of course, his parents.  As we were gathered around his bed, we pretty quickly realized, we weren't the only ones in the room.  At the foot of the bed was someone, we believe to be LaFoy, my father's brother, and we are pretty sure his mother was present because he kept talking to her.  There was a child there we believe to be Patsy, my father's sister who died when she was four.  He would talk with them and with us, like we were all part of the same conversation, and after all, we are.  He would look past us intently, as if he were trying to hear something, and then his face would break into a smile and he would start laughing as if someone told the funniest joke!  I'm pretty positive that would have been my uncle.

There was someone else too. Dad would be having conversations with someone he called, "my Lord."  He would stop and listen and then shake his head or make a comment.  There was definitely a conversation going on between my father and his Lord.  At one time after an exchange, I asked my father, "are you talking to Jesus daddy?"  My father looked at me, and nodded with big eyes.  "Yes," he whispered.  "Is he telling you to come on?" I asked.  My father looked at me, incredulous that I could hear the conversation as well.  He said, "yes."  "Don't you think you should do it then?" I asked.  "Yes,' he said, "It is so bright." 

I am convinced my father could see the glory that is heaven.  I'm convinced he was having a conversation with Jesus about passing from this life to the next one.  I'm convinced that those who love my father were there as a welcoming committee of sorts to walk with him on the journey. 

We do not walk alone.  We never have.  Just like the disciples on the Emmaus road.  Blinded by their grief, they could not see that they walked with Jesus.  Even when we feel alone, if we look around someone is there walking with us, if we have eyes to see. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Let us Be One

Sermon June 13, 2010 on Ephesians 4:1-6.  This was my first Sunday at Cushing UMC. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Tribute to My Father

This is the tribute I gave at my father's funeral, June 3, 2010

My father had a long and well-lived life.  He was the oldest child of Jim Edd and Ada Norris.  He was born September 19, 1917, in Eastland, Texas.  When he was in young, his family traveled from Texas to California due to the economic conditions of the Great Depression.  He dropped out of school before the 7th grade to go to work and help support his family, including seven younger siblings.  He worked as a migrant worker and was a truck farmer, selling produce from town to town out of the back of a truck to earn money.  He used to walk all over the country, hitching rides here and there, traveling back and forth from California to Texas to visit relatives. 

On one of these journeys, he traveled through Coleman, Texas where he stopped at a five and dime store.  There he met my mother, and in February of 1949 at the age of 31, he married the girl of his dreams.  The following year they had my sister, and three years later my brother was born.  Daddy worked as a civil servant with the Department of the Air Force in Texas, but later, due to base closings, the family moved to Oklahoma, where he worked as a painter at Tinker AFB.  If his early life during the depression wasn’t hard enough, he and mom had a baby girl, me, at the age of 47 with a teenage daughter and a pre-adolescent son in the house.  God bless them.

He worked at Tinker AFB until his retirement in 1983.  I can remember this date clearly; because that was the year I graduated from high school.  I’m sure dad was looking forward to retirement for a long time.  My dad was always such a hard worker with a great work ethic, something he passed on to his children.  He was not a person that had to have fanfare to precede him through life, nor did he have high honors, awards, and accolades.  Daddy just saw the job that needed to be done, and did it.  This same attitude provided for a wife and family, and even in his last week, his concern was taking care of his family, despite his bedridden condition.

This same spirit spoke to his spiritual life as well.  He didn’t have fanfare or accolades, recognition or praise, but he surely and steadily grew in his faith.  He never preached sermons or lectured on “thou shalt this” or “thou shalt not that,” but he set an example of a life of devotion and prayer that instructed more than any lecture.   His example taught me a life of personal relationship with Jesus, and through this relationship, I was able to hear my own call to ordained ministry, and inheriting dad’s tenacity and spirit, enabled me to follow that call.

Daddy confided in me one time about something he was ashamed.  This conversation occurred after I had gone into ministry, and daddy had heard me preach.  We were talking about when he was a deacon in the Baptist church.  He told me he really admired that I could stand up in front of others and speak the way I did, and proceeded to tell me a story of an occasion on which he was supposed to give a devotion for Sunday school.  He had worked hard on this devotion, prayed over it, studied the Bible, and was all prepared and ready when the day came.  He stood up to the podium to speak, looked out at the crowd, and was gripped with such fear that all he could do was stammer a bit and sit down.  He was so ashamed he could not speak the words that had God had lain on his heart and he looked at it as a personal failing.  I could hear the anguish in his voice as he recounted this story, and I assured him that he did not fail to proclaim the gospel.  He told it with his life. 

Daddy may not have stood in front of a crowd and delivered a rousing speech, but his life spoke volumes.  I watched my daddy bow his head in prayer and read his Bible every day.  I have read words written in his scrawling script which told of his love and adoration for his Lord, every other word misspelled.  My daddy never stood up and gave an eloquent sermon, but he lived his life a well-expressed example of Christ. 

St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th century monastic father, encourages us to “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”  Daddy didn’t need the words to preach the good news of Christ, he lived it; and it lives on in us – we are his eloquent sermon.

These words written by my father were printed in the folder:

Death is a door;
A Christian will never see the grave.
You go on to heaven immediately after death,
And someone else will carry your body to the grave.
There’s no use coming to my grave, talking to me, or
Putting out flowers, because I’m not there,
I’m in heaven with Jesus.
So don’t waste your time and prepare for yourself
to be ready to meet the Lord Jesus.

By Vernon Norris

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Father's Passing

I haven't posted more of the series, "Lessons I'm Learning in Death, Dying and Grief," because, well...I've been busy studying those lessons.  But for those of you who have followed this blog, my father passed from this world to the church eternal on Sunday, May 30, 2010 at approximately 2:45 pm.  I wasn't there.  I thought that was important for me, and was a bit stressed over the fact that I wasn't there, that I had to be elsewhere and was traveling to this other location when I received the phone call. 

His funeral is today at 2 p.m., and we are getting ready to travel down there to celebrate his life.  Ninety-two years of a life well-lived.  God has already received him, we are just celebrating dad's arrival.  Blessings to you and thanks for your prayers and well wishes.  I will post on the lessons I am learning later.