When All is Said and Done

tombstone.jpg

It's been almost fifteen years

since I first heard the song by that title.  Darin Peterson, one of Scott's teachers at Immanuel High School, recorded the song by Geoff Moore on a collection of songs he compiled to comfort us in our loss.  The song speaks to what really matters in life; what will be remembered ~ when all is said and done.

About five years ago I participated in a two-year program on leadership being offered at my church.  The final assignment was to write a Personal Mandate ~ a capstone for our twenty-four months of training. In writing my Personal Mandate, I had to ask  some serious questions. How will I choose to live? Why will I live the life I am living?  What will be my legacy ~ how will I be remembered?

Quite honestly, I moaned and complained about this project.  It totally stretched me to break down my life into a statement of purpose, articulate my core beliefs and create the strategies to achieve a desired legacy.  I remember that for me, the best way to accomplish the task, was to start at the end and work backwards.  So I began with the question in that Geoff Moore song ~ what will be said about my time here on earth, when all is said and done?

I have to admit, in the end, I loved writing my Personal Mandate.  I find it to be a solid rock on which I balance in my life, and determine how to invest my time and energies in those things that conform to my God-given purpose for living.

That brings me to this week.  Through the wonders of technology, I was able to be present for the funeral of Todd MacDonnell, a former pastor from our church.  Although his memorial service was held in the small community of Pierz, Minnesota, I was able to participate in the service from our local church sanctuary via a Skype connection.

Todd was just 48 years old.  Eleven short weeks ago he went to the eye doctor for a sudden change in his vision.  As glasses did not help, and other symptoms surfaced, Todd was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  There he was diagnosed with Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. No known cause. No known treatment. No known cure.  Todd's health declined dramatically, and he went to be with the Lord in less than 3 months.

At his memorial service, speaker after speaker stood to read some of the thousands of notes and letters which were sent to Todd during his brief battle with CJD.  Again and again, each writer spoke of how Todd had been instrumental in helping them become who they are today.  Each commented on the consistent and faithful way Todd lived out his faith ~ never wavering, even with his impending death.

As I listened to the tributes ~ Todd's legacy ~ I remembered the words of that song once again ~

When the music fades into the past,
When the days of life are through,
What will be remembered of where I've come?
When all is said and done?

Will they say I loved my family?
That I was a faithful friend?
That I lived to tell of God's own son?
When all is said and done.

Of how I long to see the hour,
When I would hear that trumpet sound.
So I could rise and see my Savior's face,
And see him smile,
And say 'Well done.'

You can forget my name
And the songs I've sung,
Every rhyme and every tune.
But remember the truth of Jesus' love,
When all is said and done
When all is said and done.

And so this morning, I am thanking my friend, Todd MacDonnell, that in life and in death, he continues to urge us on to greater things, for eternity's sake. With my Personal Mandate in front of me, I am once again focusing on the importance of leaving a godly legacy ~ when all is said and done.

It is never too late to redeem the future and leave a legacy that will continue to speak, when you have nothing left to say.

NOTE: For information on how to write a Personal Mandate, please leave a comment with your contact information, and I will share the process with you.

Resurrecting My Resolutions


Yes, I know that 2010 is less than thirty days old.

Yes, I know I just made my New Year resolutions.

But if you are like me, New Year resolutions made on January 1st are often D.O.A. before the end of the month. I like to think that I am not a flake. I do not consider myself unmotivated. But what I know about myself is this ~ I am a creature of habit and old habits are hard to transform.

Oh, I breathe life into my resolutions for a few days ~ sometimes for two or three weeks. More often than not though, I finally remember them about mid-month. Quite honestly, at that point, I tend to just declare them pulseless and non-breathing. As I go through the ritual of mentally burying yet another set of New Year resolutions, I am struck with both guilt and grief. I heap loads of guilt upon myself for failing ~ once again ~ and allowing my good intentions to fall lifeless along the roadside of the routine of life. I mourn the fact that it was not my old habits that died, but my good intentions that are once again found too weak to survive.

Sadly, this year’s resolutions are no different. Knowing my habit of making and breaking resolutions, I made just a couple. I kept them for a few days. But alas, as the number of days of the month increased, so did the number of fatalities on my list of resolutions.

Then, this past weekend, I remembered the words of a wise friend ~ words spoken in a sermon over 30 years ago. Ben West was the pastor of the small church we attended in northern California. Near the end of January, sometime in the late 1970's, Ben delivered a homily about keeping our resolutions. The focus of his sermon was not so much about making resolutions but rather on breaking them. That’s right! He wanted to address those of us who seemed to not be able to keep the resolutions alive for more than a few days or a couple of weeks.

It was one of those sermons where I felt he was going to preach directly to me. You know, when you feel like the pastor must be looking in the windows of your soul! I prepared myself for another dose of guilt.

Ben’s words that morning were not accusatory. His message was not filled with ‘should of’ and ‘ought to’. Rather, his words were gentle, encouraging and full of hope. Here is what I remember from that Sunday morning over 30 years ago.
We make New Year resolutions and we break New Year resolutions.

We can focus on our success at keeping them, or look at our failure of breaking them. Rather than focusing on what was not done, focus on what was accomplished because you made the resolution.

Maybe today you are able to say:
  • I exercised 5 days in January ~ when your habit is to not exercise at all!
  • I read my Bible for 3 days ~ when your Bible usually collects dust during the week.
Realize that you have accomplished something because you made a New Year resolution. Take heart and keep going from there.
Ben’s words were life-support to my dying resolutions back then, and are again life-giving in 2010.

Thank you, Ben, that today I choose to resurrect my resolutions and keep going from here.

Thank you that I can redeem this new year as I again breathe life into my desire to change old habits; as I lay aside the guilt and grief of failure; as I keep on being transformed into something new.

He Still Speaks

During the weeks following

Scott's death

, I struggled to make sense of the countless emotions which had taken residence within me. I read books on grief and hope, on suffering and grace as I attempted to bring some meaning to this tremendous loss I had experienced.

One book I read was by a bereaved mother who also lost her teenage son in an accident. I sadly do not recall much about her story but the title of her book remains vivid in my mind.

Roses in December

has become somewhat metaphorical of a precious part of my grief journey that I discovered while reading in the Book of Hebrews.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is known as the

Hall of Faith

~ where tremendous examples of faithful living in difficult times are shared from the Old Testament. There in Hebrews 11:4, right along with the heroes of our faith, are listed the names of Cain and Abel. I often wondered how a chapter which focuses on faithful living would list the names of a) Cain, a brother who murdered his sibling and did not live faithfully, and b) Abel, who died as a young man. As I dwelt on this verse, I began to understand some of the mystery of redeeming the loss of my own son.

There is was ~ just a half of verse, actually, that has become a source of joy and hope to me. Hebrews 11:4b states ~

And through his faith, though he died,

he still speaks.

Just like unexpected blossoms in the winter and beauty among ashes, God brings value to our loss as we hear others speak of how Scott’s life, although cut short by death, touched their lives. I received just such a bouquet yesterday!

A classmate of Scott's ~

Immanuel High School

Class of 1998 ~ found me on Facebook. She is married and lives with her husband and their three beautiful daughters in southern California. In her message to request my FB friendship, she wrote:

I became a trauma nurse because I couldn't help Scott the day he was injured . . . I save lives every day in his honor, maybe to make myself feel better for not knowing what to do that day, or maybe because that's the way it was designed to be. I have always wanted to find you and tell you that Scott is saving lives . . . through people that are still here like me. You may not know all of us anymore, but we are out here doing the work! Recently, I was given the opportunity to teach others how to become nurses at a college level. This should yield crops of life-savers, and I am so excited that thousands of lives will be saved because of my experience with your son.

Stories like this make the words of the Hebrews passage

live again

for me. Her words are truly like roses in December, giving off the sweet fragrance of life, eternal life. We cannot change the fact that we carry this burden of grief. But God is continually gracious to give us a glimpse of His bigger picture ~ one with eternal value ~ that allows us to understand how those who are gone, through faith, still speak of His faithfulness.

A Silent Malignancy

I have a friend whom I have known for about 50 years.

(Yes, it may be hard for some of you to believe that I am old enough to have known a friend for almost 50 years. It’s a fact!)

My friend is actually a little older than I am. As a young teen, she lived nearby and occasionally babysat my sister and I

(poor thing ~ not that I was a terrible kid ~ but I did have my moments)

. Then, as newlyweds, she and her husband were sponsors in my high school youth group at church.

They have remained

young at heart

 ~ staying active, enjoying traveling, appreciating art ~ and still in love after all these years. So it came as quite a shock this past spring, when her husband was diagnosed with a tumor ~ a large malignant tumor near his kidney and in close proximity to his aorta ~ that remains inoperable. As a healthy man, he experienced no discomfort, no signs that these cancerous cells were growing inside of him. If he had not gone in for a routine physical, they had no reason to suspect the presence of the tumor.

Over the past few months, he has undergone tests, scans, countless appointments with specialists and massive doses of chemotherapy. He lost his full head of hair. His body reacted to the chemo treatments and began to retain fluids. His energy level dropped to limited activity around the house. The

good news

is that the tumor did shrink. He no longer requires chemotherapy, and his energy level has improved to almost where it was before the treatments. The

bad news

is that the tumor did not shrink enough. He is scheduled to begin radiation treatments in a little while.

My friend keeps an online journal of their journey with cancer. One of her entries this week truly made me stop and think ~ how well am I?

Here is a summary of her entry . . .

It is almost hard to remember the days when he felt the effects of chemo; to recall how hard it was during those endless days and nights. He feels so normal now. We almost forget that he still has a malignant tumor in his body. There is no pain, no sign of it that he can feel or know, or be reminded that it is there. These last eight months that we have been on this journey have been experienced because the doctor told him he had a problem.  He never knew ~ and still would not know simply by how he feels ~ that he has a tumor which will kill him. This is really rather stunning when you think about it. How can there be something deadly in one’s body and have no idea it is there?

But it is still there, lurking in the dark, waiting for us to forget; to leave it alone so it can grow back and take over ~ how sinister! It reminds me of how attitudes and thoughts can take over in our spiritual lives ~ small or big, quietly yet deadly ~ growing . . . hoping to take over our minds and hearts if we are not watchful and prayerful about how we live and breathe, always asking God to show us those areas where we need His care and healing to remove them, to make our spiritual health intact, to live and grow in Him and bring glory to Him through our life.

Her words reach deep within my soul!

Sometimes I think we are quite good at masking reality. Denial, at the moment, may seem an easier path. But like any cancer ~ cells of unrighteousness and unforgiveness, of anger and disappointment, of hurt and envy ~ will fester and multiply. The Great Physician desires to heal us ~

redeem us

~ in every fiber of our being. His Spirit scans our mind, our heart and our soul, and reveals the thoughts and attitudes that seek to destroy our peace with God, our relationships, and ultimately, our very purpose for living.

I am reminded of the story in John 5 when Jesus visits Jerusalem. He passes by a pool where the blind, lame and paralyzed lay ~ each hoping for someone to come and meet their needs. Jesus approaches a man who has been an invalid for 38 years and asks him,

"Do you want to get well?"

It sure seems like a redundant question to ask someone who has been sick all of his life if he wants to get well. But Jesus knows our tendency to not deal with hard issues ~ thoughts and attitudes we choose to ignore. Jesus looks at what life

could be

if we are willing to face these silent malignancies that hold us back from the abundant life he truly desires us to live.

Jesus also knew wellness was going to cost this man. The invalid would no longer be carried everywhere; no longer have food brought to him. A well man would need to accept responsibility for his life.

Oh, to have eyes that see and ears that hear His offer of healing. I pray we take the first steps to

redeem the future

. . . acknowledge there may an area of the heart ~ a silent malignancy ~ which needs to be restored. 

Do you want to get well?

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Matthew 13:16

Surviving the Present

I know there are times it is too much for me to even think about redeeming the future; when today is just too overwhelming ~ I hope I can just survive the present. You know those kind of days.

You are or you have been the mother of small children and you do not have one.more.ounce of energy to offer. You have deadlines and responsibilities that seem to consume every brain cell. You are battered with images from your past that rob your joy. The memory of someone loved who has died opens that hole in your heart to allow all your strength to drain away. The future just looks hopeless.

I know there are times I just want to survive today. I cannot think about redeeming tomorrow.

I am thankful our Lord knew we would have days like this. Listen to his words in Matthew 6:34,

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

I am grateful for God's promises in Lamentations 3:19-24 when I encounter these times.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."

How precious, how refreshing, what a hope-filled picture, as I face one of those kind of days, to know He is the great I AM, offering His lovingkindness and compassion, renewing my hope, and filling my portion.

I know I will have days where I do not have one.more.ounce of energy to offer; where it seems every brain cell is consumed with deadlines; where the brokenness of my past robs me of the joy here and now, my strength is simply draining away, and I feel hopeless.

When those days seem to find us without the energy, joy, strength and hope we need, may we dwell on the promise of His strength for today and His bright hope for tomorrow. As we wait on Him to renew us, restore us, fall a fresh on us ~ as we survive today ~ we ARE investing in the future that He promises to redeem in His perfect time.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Finishing Well

The telephone woke me about 5:00 a.m. on February 25, 2004. It was the nurse from Bethel Home telling us that on their last hourly rounds, they found my dad had passed away in his sleep. I called my sister, Kathy, in Long Beach, and then Amy, our daughter. Amy said she wanted to go with us to spend some time with Grandpa. Tony and I picked up Amy at her home, drove through Starbucks

(so glad they open at 5:30 a.m.)

and drove to Bethel Home, in neighboring Selma.

There we sat, with my dad, Grandpa Goodie*, whose earthly tent lay motionless in the bed. It was there we prayed and thanked God for bringing Dad back to us. If you follow my blog, you will know that my dad went through a rough time

(

read about my prodigal dad

)

~ from 1993 to 2003, to be exact. The estrangement from him was painful and consumed me for almost two years. With a wonderful counselor companioning me, I was able to reconcile the loss of my dad's presence in my life

(

read about the fat cows

)

, and rest in the hope of a reunion in eternity.

Then, in 2003, my dad humbled himself and came home. Literally. He came to live with us. He met his great-grandchildren for the first time, ate pot roast and gravy like Mom used to make, and listened to Amy's husband, Jeff (whom he had never met) play hymns on the piano. He lived with us for about one year before suffering a stroke which took him at the age of 94 years old.

So on this the anniversary of his death, I remember a father who finished well. He was not perfect. He lived with regret and brokenness. But, his story is truly one of

redeeming the future

. His pride, his shame, his old age . . . all could have kept him separated from his family. It seems many individuals become set in their ways. But my dad chose to

come home

~ to renew the relationships lost with his family, confess to God and to us the hurts of the past 10 years, and finish well.

The thought I have today, February 25th, is a powerful one.

It is never too late to redeem the future.

I am told by those who keep statistics that only about 60% of individuals actually finish well. I am proud to say the my dad, William W. Goodrell, beat the odds at 94 years of age. As we met at the mortuary to take Dad's body to be cremated, I stood before the box where he laid. Tony and my dear friend Eunice were with me. I asked Tony to give me his pen. And with tears streaming down my cheeks, I wrote on the lid of that box:

Thanks for loving me.

Thanks for coming home.

Thanks for finishing well.

Tell Mom and Scott hello.

We'll see you soon.

Remember . . . It is never too late to redeem the future and finish well.

*My maiden name is Goodrell. When I was little,

I could not say it clearly, so my dad's parents became Grandpa and Grandma Goodie.

The name stuck and when our children came along, my parents inherited those loving names.