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Recently Jim, my father in law, was promoted to heaven. He was 92 years old, he lived a long, productive life, and he was ready to enter the new phase of his life with the Savior he loved.
Earlier in his life, Jim had been an active man. He had served in the military in two wars. He had served in various capacities in his church and in his community. He was a world traveler and a creative handy man. And he was a devoted husband to Mary Jo, his wife of 62 years. Mary Jo died suddenly four years ago. Faced with his own increasing physical limitations and the loss of his long time love, Jim needed help.
Father and Son — A Gift to Each Other!
My husband, Jay, Jim’s only child, picked up the slack in doing the things Jim needed done for him. While the “chores” were important, nothing could match the one gift only Jay could give Jim. Jay became Jim’s companion on his trips back in time.
Jay was the only one who had actually been there or had heard the stories so many times he could repeat them. Both Jim and Jay had photographic memories. Both often described being in a place by replaying the actual setting in detail. So now, as Jim sat on the porch on a lazy afternoon and spun his yarns, Jay would often remind him of the details.
“Yeah, Dad, that place was across the street from Joe’s place. Remember how they had that tree in the front yard.” And Jim would pick up and describe some more of the scenery. I sat in amazement, as I listened to them describe the places they were visiting in their minds.
Even more amazing was the unraveling of emotions attached to some memories. Neither man was given to showing emotions. Yet, as they returned now to some places where the journey had been hard, they freely shared their softer sides. The younger man, having nothing left to prove to his father — the older man, having more lessons left to teach his son.
Jim admitted being worried about some things that had happened to him in life. He described his feelings, but also testified of how God had provided for him.
The two men, sensing time was precious, freely shared affection. Jim would often pat Jay on the back or on the knee and say, “I’m so proud of you. I’m so thankful for you.”
Jay would often tell his Dad how much he had learned from him and how happy he was to be his son. Jay shared things in his life and asked Jim for his advice. That too was a gift to both men. The son was now eager to know how his father would handle things. The father found he was not just a recipient, but he was still able to give.
Additionally, both men were blessed with being able to see well for long distances. Like Moses in the Bible, Jim’s eyes never became dim. He and Jay could compare notes on the color of a bird’s wings, way off in the distance.
While the goal had once been learning and knowing who they were individually, now father and son seemed to comfortably blend back into a common stream.
Winning The War!
When people discovered Jim had served in the military, they often asked him to tell them about the war. He always said the same thing, “I won it!” He would then grin and say, “I had a little help.” Jim repeated that on the last day we saw him. Perhaps he had a sense of what we did not. He was about to enter another battle and he would have a lot of help.
Jim was in great shape when we visited with him on a Sunday. It was a beautiful, sunny Mother’s Day. We sat outside and enjoyed the birds singing and reminiscing about the past. Jim seemed a little sad when we mentioned it was Mother’s Day. He took a few moments to reminisce about Mary Jo and how much he missed her. As he and Jay talked, I took several pictures, having no idea it would be the last precious moments captured.
Did We Hear God Right?
Jay and I left on vacation the next day. Jim became ill while we were gone. Jay and I prayed together about whether to return home immediately or continue on our journey. At each stop, there were amazing signs from the Lord that we were to keep praying and continue on.
In the midst of our prayers for direction, we went into a store. Hanging on the end of a rack, facing the aisle, was a red shirt. It had an important message.
KEEP CALM AND PRAY ON!
GOD IS IN CONTROL!
In tiny letters under the bold logo, it referenced
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
present your requests to God.
There was no other shirt like it. It seemed to have been placed there at that specific place to give us Light for that specific moment.
God dropped His Word into my spirit.
He said, “It’s not all about your presence. It’s about Mine! Time and place are not obstacles. You are connected in Me.”
We completed another leg of our trip before we felt God was calling us home. We then cancelled the rest of the trip.
However, Jim died before we got home. We were in shock and overcome with guilt that we had not returned home quickly enough. Even in spite of those amazing Words from God on our journey, we wondered if we had misread the cues.
Tell Me Again, Please!
Weeks later, when I dissolved into a puddle of tears in front of a hospice staff member, she gently took me aside and said, “Do you believe in God?” I assured her I did. She said, “Did you pray about your decisions on your trip?” I assured her again we did.
She then said, “Has it occurred to you that God answered your prayers and you were right where you were supposed to be? Maybe it was not His Will for you to be here. Some things in life are just between you and God. When you prayed, what did God tell you to do? Mr. Jones had God with him right here. You didn’t have to bring Him. He was here with him and He was there with you. It’s where He is that counts.”
What a beautiful confirmation of the Words God had earlier whispered into my spirit! Because I was doubting His earlier Word, God said it again. It wasn’t all about our presence. It was about God and His Presence!
Listening To The Right Voice
As much as I understood that God’s Presence decidedly topped our presence, I continued to wrestle with the question of why we were not there for the “final” goodbye. Satan continued to do what he does. He accuses. He blames. He tries very hard to steal any Joy of The Lord.
As I continued to ask God where we had gone wrong in hearing Him, He very patiently brought people to me over and over again, who delivered the same message. “It’s not all about your presence. It’s about God’s Presence.”
OK, I reasoned, so it wasn’t all about our presence. But “all” would seem to imply that we somehow had a role in being present. I asked God about that not so little word, “all.”
When I pray, it is a conversation with God. I often imagine myself as His cheeky, “why child.” And I see Him as the ever patient Father, Who is willing to address any issue I bring to Him. He does not always give instant answers. Sometimes He is silent. Many times He asks me questions in return. Often times He guides me to wisdom He has already planted within me.
Do I hear an audible Voice? Not yet! But God could speak that way. However, most times it is conversation in my spirit … in my thoughts.
A Chat With God
Today when I asked God again about what He meant when He said, “It’s not all about your presence.”
He said, “I’m glad you finally asked. Tell me this. Where are your hands right now?”
That seemed just silly to me. He knew the answer to that. But I knew it was important to answer God’s questions, especially if I wanted Him to answer mine. I told him.
“Are they are in the same exact place? How about your toes in relation to your fingers? Are they in the same place?”
I admitted they were not exactly in the same place.
“But,” I hastened to add, “They are sort of in the same place, because they are connected in my one body.”
I felt pleased because I had figured out God’s Riddle (although I failed to see what it had to do with anything).
God smiled. “Very good. Now … can you tell Me what My Word says, as recorded in John 14:20?”
I had to grab my Bible on that one.
Jesus said, “On that day,
you will realize that I AM in My Father,
and you are in Me,
and I AM in you!”
“Great!” God said. “What does that mean?”
“Well, it means You, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and all of us are together.”
He nodded. “Good. So am I broken into parts so that you get a part, and everyone else gets a part wherever they happen to be?”
“No, of course not. We are all connected in You because You’re everywhere.”
“You mean, sort of like your fingers and toes or your two hands?”
“OK, now we’re getting somewhere. What does Romans 12:5 say?”
I grabbed my Bible again.
‘In the same way,
even though we are many individuals,
Christ makes us one body
and individuals who are connected to each other!’”
“So if I AM in you, and you are in Me, and I AM in Jim, Jay, your daughter, your brother, your sister in law, your niece, your nephew, your friends, the doctors and nurses who cared for Jim and many others, who knew about him, are connected, what would that mean?”
“You are in all of us and we are connected! But wait, that seems too simple.”
“Yeah, it is. I can wire your house to have the best electrical system anywhere, but if you don’t flip the switches, you won’t have light. How do you think you flip the switch spiritually, so you are all connected?”
I kept staring at my fingers and then my toes. What could He mean? I had been doing so good in this question and answer game. I couldn’t freeze now.
“I’ll help you. The answer is PRAYER! Pray means POWER RELEASED AMONG YOU!
My Child, you have been defining My Presence much too narrowly. My Presence fills the earth and I connect every Prayer and weave it together in My Truth. I send it where I desire and it accomplishes what I desire.
I heard all your prayers for Jim. I heard all the prayers of those who prayed for him. You brought them to me as a Gift to Jim who you loved. You knew I was the Only One Who could deliver your love beyond what you think the limits are to your time and space. You trusted Me. And I did that which you asked.
Jim was surrounded by an army of earthly helpers and He was surrounded by an army of Heavenly Helpers. He had that photographic memory right up to the doors of eternity. He saw Jay and he saw you, because you had walked with him before. He knew you were there.
And as fantastic as his earthly eye sight was, as he rose to My Heavens, I gave him extra heavenly eyesight and he could see much farther than just the room he was in. He saw you and all those he loved!
We fought that last earthly battle together and then we went Home together!”
Points to Ponder
Being there for someone is not just being there at the death bed. Being there comes in all the days before the final hours of one’s life.
No one but God knows when the “last day” will come for you or anyone else. Whatever there is to do in love, do it now. There may not be another opportunity.
No matter how many times someone tells you a story you have already heard, listen again. God is offering you an opportunity to walk with the one telling his story. When you walk there again with them, the places will be familiar and you will be able to help guide them.
Listen every moment to discern where God wants you to be and be there. If it is at the bedside of one who is departing earth, be there fully, honorably and with love. If it is to be apart physically, know that God is The Great Connector and He can bring you together in heart, mind, and spirit, even when physically apart.
Savor the Truth that God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit are all in each other and all are in us and those who open their hearts to Them.
Know God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit are not limited by time and space. They are not blocked by the boundaries of one body. They are not separated into many different parts that never touch. Prayer opens the doors and we are connected in Them, no matter how much physical distance exists between us.
When you pray and God gives you direction, don’t doubt Him. Hold fast to the Words He gave you, even if circumstances don’t play out the way you thought they would. Trust God! He has The Plan!