Faith, Hope, Love & Sunbeam 1-30-12

Jim Fransen was a good man. No, let me correct myself. Jim was a great man. Here is why I believe this to be true.

When you saw Jim, you saw sunshine. When you spoke with Jim, you felt like he cared. When you spent time with Jim, you never felt a hint of arrogance or selfishness. Quite the opposite, he was a true servant-always eager to help out when needed. Jim worked hard and played hard, yet he maintained a balanced life. He loved His Lord, his family and his many friends.

However, Jim had one glaring blind spot by the name of Patty. Like a pair of comfortable shoes, Jim and Patty walked through each day as if they just started dating. No pretense or nonsense. They were simply two people very much in love.

Unfortunately, Jim is gone. He died of a heart attack just a few days ago. He had played basketball that day, the same as he did every weekend for many years. Patty lost her best friend in an instant. The clock stopped, and time stood still. No more Jim. No more Jim and Patty…at least not in this life.

There are countless memories and photographs to scroll through for years to come. But there is one thing more. There is Hope…the kind of Hope that keeps people struggling to stay alive when all seems lost-and they do. The kind of Hope which says, “I will be with you again, my darling”. And they will.

Most are familiar with the Apostle Paul’s most poignant verses in any of his epistles…the Love song of 1 Corinthians 13. This is where Paul talks about all of the meaningless things we can do, but true living comes down to three things: faith, hope and love. He concludes by stating that the greatest of these is love. And, I agree whole heartedly. Yet, during this time of loss and disbelief, Hope is what will bring Patty and others through the darkness of lonely nights and bitter tears.

For Jim and Patty loved one another without reservation. Jim, like Patty, had a faith in the Creator who offered him a gift called salvation…and Jim took it. He believed it and he lived out the exhortation to become more and more like the God who gave him such a gift of grace.

So, Hope is what is needed most during this hour and the season to follow. Hope in the reality of the resurrection. Hope that she and Jim will be joined together again in heaven. Hope that she will not be forgotten nor forsaken. Hope, that love wins the day-and it will. A reunion is on the horizon for those whose Hope is based upon the promises of Christ; that there is more to life than what we currently experience. I am Hopeful. I Hope you are, too.

Good Grief, Charlie Brown ?

Sunday, I attended a funeral service for one of my wife’s dear cousins. Joni died tragically in a house fire on December 13th. With the exception of her family and friends, the terrible shooting tragedy at Shady Hook over-shadowed this solemn event. Understandably, as a nation grieves for the loss of so many, especially the little Autumn morning 10-20-12 030ones.

As I contemplated the hallowed memorials to the slain in Connecticut and the memorial for Joni, I was impacted by the final words from her brother, Greg, while at the grave site. Greg’s insight may not be new, but bears repeating. His simple statement applies to all who are grieving. Greg said we feel so much pain because there is so much love. He said he was very saddened because of his sister’s death, but grateful that pain exists because he knows of the great love that flows from family and friends alike, as well as from his own heart. Greg’s perspective came from the analysis of his feelings and observations. I believe his conclusion to be right on.

Whether loss occurs suddenly or over an extended period of time, if we love we will feel pain. Not by accident, it is love which sustains us during these trials. Pity those who know not love. I am forever grateful for the love of family and friends. I know I shall never stand alone. Because I believe in a loving and compassionate God, I accept His pronouncement that I am the Apple of His Eye which simply means that I am greatly loved by my Creator. Many know such a love as this.

Regardless of one’s faith walk (or lack, thereof) love is paramount if we are to exist in any sort of meaningful and rational way. Trying to make sense of devastating shooting sprees or a fifty-six year old mom and grandmother dying in a fire can be an exhausting and futile search. The bottom line is that we live in a flawed world where bad things happen to good people. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. I join a mighty chorus of hurting and loving citizens and family members in expressing my condolences, and I reiterate an oft spoken hope for peace on earth, and goodwill to all.

During this Christmas season, and beyond, may we make a point of being better lovers, not in the romantic sense, but in the intimacy of relationships where the negative effects of fear and hate, failures and disappointments, bitterness and anger, (insert nouns here) will dissipate. And, in their place, may unbridled (selfless) love abound. For as the Apostle Paul announces in one of his letters, “Love never fails”. Christ made sure of that when He gave His all for each one of us.