The passing of John Sr. brought sorrow as I considered the impact this man had on my life. And I was not alone. Everyone knew John’s love for his family and friends, the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of believers united by our faith. It wasn’t until I started to describe three key scenes in my past where his care was palpable to me that I started to grieve the passing of this faithful servant of the Lord. Surely the heavenly hosts are celebrating your coming home sir . . .
My connection to John Sr. was initially tainted by the critical viewpoint of my former spouse. I suppose it’s easy to criticize someone else for faults that the two of you may share? Years later this appeared to be the case. So when I ran into John Sr. just 3 weeks after my former spouse left me, I was not prepared for this gentleman’s reaction to the news. He asked how Craig was doing and I was speechless for a moment: did he not know what had happened? I guess not. I had to tell him. John Sr’s face fell as I shared the devastation that was just beginning to unfold in my life; John Sr. looked at me as if someone had punched him in the gut right there in the store! He could barely speak, mumbled a few condolences, and shuffled away obviously affected by my story. In the moment I was stunned as well. Why was he walking away when I had just shared my heart with my elder brother in Christ? Much later I supposed it was a type of grief reaction. Not long afterwards, I experienced the most important message from our encounter that day: my brother in Christ loved me as his sister in Christ, like a father I did not have at the time. He was hurting for me, hurting for the fall from grace of our brother in Christ. I also learned that day just how profoundly adultery affects many others in the body of Christ in addition to the spouse.
John Sr. didn’t live anymore in the town of that grocery store where I had encountered him. I would not see him again until a few months later when visiting with his daughter who had become a good friend of mine. Deb and I had traveled from the Chicago suburbs where we lived to her parents’ home in the Wisconsin countryside. A neighbor and fellow member of our church (where we had all met) came along for what was to be a fun time of fellowship, food, and relaxation. Their youngest son played classical guitar to everyone’s delight and John Sr. told amazing stories of missionaries they knew, places they had been, and so on. We were one big family for the weekend! That is, until nighttime came.
The Y family always had a menagerie of sofas with hide-a-beds, cots, and blankets to accommodate everyone. Me and my neighbor, Ardie, made our beds in the living room while the family tucked themselves to sleep in their respective bedrooms throughout the modest home. But I could not sleep. Instead of feeling full from the lively fellowship and activities of the visit, I was filled with grief and sorrow from the tremendous losses in progress in my life back home. I lain in the dark with tears streaming down my face like a crack in a retaining wall holding back an avalanche of tears. Finally I could not hold it in anymore. Everyone was asleep in the dark starry night whilst I was coming unglued! I gathered myself as best as I could and walked out into the cool blackness that received me outside. The tears and whimpers gushed easily then uncontrollably. “Would they ever stop?” I wondered.
Before long I could hear some wrestling of the folks inside the house. A light went on in one of the bedrooms, illuminating the front porch where I was holding myself up against a wall. Arlene and John Sr. were up! Despite my best efforts to weep quietly, they had heard me and came to comfort me. John Sr. muttered again with the same type of sorrow I had seen in the grocery store. Arlene wrapped her warm, motherly arms around me and brought me inside to sit on a handmade bench with her for as long as I needed. He got me a blanket. She stayed with me until the tears flowed no more. Eventually I spoke a little while she simply listened. What a gift she gave me that night! No one said much about it all the next morning. Somehow they just all understood the pain I was going through. They did the best thing that they could do to help me through that traumatic time in my life: they just loved on me like one of their own.
John Sr. and Arlene were the best at loving on people, a model we know comes from the love who is embodied in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That love is as pure as it is convicting with the truth of His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. The two of them shared scripture often and how the Lord had led them through their lives, how He too may encourage and lead your in your days as well. I experienced this witness in an unexpected way about 3 years later. The Lord had begun the process of restoration in my life and brought me a wonderful man of God named Steve. We were engaged that September and I wanted to visit the important places and people of my life before moving to Indiana to marry him. I brought Steve to meet John Sr. and Arlene, this time without my friend Deb, their daughter. I wanted them to see my happiness and thank them for being an important part of it coming to fruition.
We had a wonderful visit. After Steve and I returned to Illinois from that long weekend, and after Steve had already gone on home to Indiana, I got a call from John Sr. He didn’t waste any time chatting about our visit and got right to the point: check yourself and the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, before you take this step in marrying Steve. I was a bit taken aback by him questioning things but heeded his advice. The next few weeks were filled with prayer, scripture reading, pastoral counselling, and looking honestly with Steve at our Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. All counsel pointed to a blessing for us so we proceeded to get married by the end of the year. The counsel of John Sr. was a necessary part of our preparation that brought clarity that would be needed when others would pass judgement on our union. We have complete confidence and peace that we made a God-honoring decision to be together forever.
I have often quoted Mark Twain at key times in my life who said that the un-examined life is not worth living. Indeed we can find rich value and meaning by taking a closer look at our lives within the context of God’s plans for our lives, ways He gifts each of us, orchestration of events, our limitations, and the stuff that He crafts for each of us as we live out our days on this fallen earth in which we dwell. If we are honest then our search for meaning will lead us to the Creator: the person of Jesus Christ. If we heed the call to recognize our sinful nature, receive His gift of salvation and redemption then choose to grow in knowledge and character of our Lord, then the transformation of our lives will shine for all the world to see. We will become a witness for His transforming power, His love, His grace, His mercy, His goodness. And a life seasoned by the love of Christ, never tainted by the trials we all endure, can become a life well-lived, well-loved for the glory of the Lord. This is who John Sr. was. This is the legacy that he has left for those who got to know him, were ministered to by his love and care, who witnessed his walk with the Lord every day of his life.
Well done John Sr: faithful servant of the Lord! Well done! May God be the glory for the faithful witness of my brother in Christ. May He also bless your beloved bride Arlene, until she joins you one day in the presence of our Lord. Thank you for bringing me into your spiritual family through the faith that we share. You have made a difference! JJ
Here’s a post from last week when I almost didn’t know where to put my focus at any given moment. Maybe it’s time for a brain dump, prayer, and some quiet before the mayhem?
The bout of pneumonia is largely past now with occasional coughing spells and nasal rinses to get me through the occasional flare-ups. Unfortunately this illness has exacerbated the seizure attacks when trying to go to sleep. It is definitely time for an adjustment to my specialized dental appliances however the trip to go see my Craniomandibular Specialist got cancelled due to the pneumonia. Oh well, the fact that it has been raining in Florida virtually every day for the last few weeks including a tropical storm this week makes me glad we were not camping in all that mess. Ever camp and travel in hot, muggy, wet conditions with a large dog? Yeah, it would have been a moldy, muddy mess for sure!
We are in the process of selling our Livin Lite Camplite 16 DB that has served us well for the past 4 years. We very likely will need to accommodate one or more family members during some upcoming travel so we are pursuing the financing of a more suitable travel trailer. This is a week of finalizing the sale of our “Tin Can Ranch” and the purchase of the new unit, Lord willing, requiring many tasks and 2 long days of travel: one day this past weekend to scope out the new travel trailer and another day soon to go pick it up. Travelling a total of 4 days to my medical appointments in Florida was out of the question yet 2 shorter trips over the period of a week was more doable yet very tiring. No problemmo. My beloved River Bear is a skilled “bus driver” too! The cancellation of medical and other appointments this past week (because we were supposed to be out of town!) has allowed for plenty of time for rest-n-naps! Hopefully the new owner of the 16 DB will be able to solve her delays soon as well.
Things got crazy when late Sunday night in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend we found the perfect travel trailer and price point for our situation! Within 24 hours of the posting of the listing and us finding it, we were on the road and ultimately making an offer. Do you think that the Lord cares about the special thingies of our lives? I submit to you that He does. The morning of Memorial Day that we were scrambling to take a day-long road trip to see the travel trailer, Steve sold a performance surf ski for his River Bear Racing! We delivered it to a gentleman along the shores of Lake Erie then headed south to check out the new Camplite. A week later it was in our driveway! However, the timing of this transition has found us with TWO travel trailers, much paperwork, a couple of trips to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, yada, yada, yada. We are a little nervous but trusting the Lord that things will also be resolved in time for our first camping trip in June . . .
Looks like my family member in Florida will be visiting us for most of the month of July. It’s still a month away yet many travel arrangements and accommodations are needed to both get her here and have her in our home. Steve and I still must practice extreme avoidance procedures (changing clothes and showering when coming home from being away) which is tough on an older family member who needs care. We will make as many preparations as we can before she leaves her home (in a moldy State), have initial provisions for her when she arrives, and hope for the best that her clothing can be sanitized and de-fragranced so she can travel and visit with us in July. She has many fears, concerns, demands, yet is asking to come. That is kind of weird since she has traveled with virtually no care just a few months ago and did alright. So I will be very busy taking care of many details. Thank the Lord I am less reactive to fragrance and trace amounts of mold, etc., and my activity level has increased some overall these past 2 months!
Getting out in the garden continues to be a great therapy for me in many ways. The vegetables are now in the ground including a new asparagus bed . . . until the bunnies find it of course! No worries as I am working on my rascally rabbit defense system as we speak. Overall I am still months ahead of schedule for Spring clean-up as compared to the past 6 years battling a serious illness. I am humbled and grateful. When my days in the past focused on basic household chores and a plethora of medical appointments and treatments. Was really nice yesterday to sell a piece of medical equipment that I no longer need and then drive directly to a local nursery with the cash to purchase a lavender plant! The rains today shall nurture the earth and my garden refuge wonderfully. Thank you Lord for the lovely view out our windows to encourage me on my recovery journey. You are soooooo good!
I am in awe of the overall goodness of these changes happening in our lives. Steve an I are grateful and humbled, tired and excited, stressed and energized all at the same time. So I’ll end with my happy place that provides refuge through it all. (Can you find the pup in the photo?)
Thank you Lord for your blessings and goodness, love and care. Gentle Reader: He is so good! JJ