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Two funerals and a blessing

Earlier in the year, I attended a couple of funerals a few months apart. Both of the people who had died were Christians who had lived a long time and served Christ well --- make that quite well. Both had been touched by disease and poor health in their later years and were ready to go home so there wasn’t much to be sad about. (I’m not trying to be glib; this is how the families and loved ones honestly felt about the situation). Neither was there the need to speak in excessive terms of their lives for the way they had lived spoke for itself. Instead, the people were talked about in real terms publicly and in the countless other conversations that took place.

I went away from both of these funerals remarkably uplifted. It wasn’t because I knew the people were with our Father. I don’t wish to diminish that aspect, but I was well aware of it before I went. What was especially encouraging was the way the lives of the two had touched so many others. There were countless words and stories from people I knew and didn’t know that all said the same thing --- the person who died wasn’t perfect but their faith was genuine, their love was true, and they made a difference. It wasn’t It’s a Wonderful Life, it was real life! And story after story, person after person, recounted the small things done with great love.

Someone told of how the departed had stepped across the street to welcome a new neighbor. This small kindness eventually led to them becoming a follower of Christ. The person recounting this spoke of how the neighbor had mentioned many times their gratitude for the simple gesture and their appreciation for it leading to greater things. Another told of how he had been welcomed and nurtured in the early years of his faith. This took place over thirty years ago but it was obvious that it had impacted their life significantly. And on the stories went.

Looking back now, it’s not that I didn’t know how much a life lived for Christ could positively affect others. It was just something I needed to be reminded of. Why? I think it’s because we don’t tend to get that kind of reinforcement in the normal course of our daily lives, do we? In fact, it tends to feel just the opposite at times --- that we’re spinning our wheels and having little effect on the lives of anyone. The funerals reminded me that while that was the way things appeared, it wasn’t the way things actually were.

This is such an important truth to remember! How many times do we slow down or quit because we’ve decided that we’re not making a difference? We come apart at the "seems." Discouragement sets in like concrete and down we go. But the truth is, God is always using what we’re doing --- even though at that moment (and many others), we might be clueless as to how.

Another truth I walked away with was that neither of these people was being remembered for anything of headline significance. They had done nothing that would be considered worthy of news coverage. But that was okay because they weren’t the kind of people who would be comfortable with attention being called to their deeds. They didn’t wear tee shirts pointing to their involvement in this cause or that. You weren’t going to see their name on placards at the local store saying they were donors to some charitable effort or see them on television helping to serve food to the homeless one day a year. No, their lives had been characterized by a consistent consideration of others and the simple, quiet, everyday actions that went with it. They did the things that receive no attention but make all the difference.

The last truth I walked away with was that I was a better person for having attended these funerals and having known these two people. I was better because of the relationship I had with them, but I was also better because of all the things they were beyond our relationship --- the things they stood for, the way they treated others, the courage they showed in the face of their difficulties, and countless other things. I was blessed and challenged by the Christ I saw in them.

Who are we blessing?
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