Friday, January 27, 2017

Good Plans

Jeremiah 29:11 says, For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
We Christians love to quote that verse because of its encouragement.  

I recently heard that scripture read at a funeral….for a man who had not yet reached 69.  Jim was cross country skiing with his wife, Sue, on a Sunday afternoon outing, when a sudden heart attack took him straight into the arms of Jesus. 
Jim brought many souls to Christ, mentoring and challenging them to grow in their faith.  He was a published author with unfinished books awaiting their conclusions.  He had served as a Hospice Chaplain, pastored a number of churches and ministered (with Sue) to our local Native American community.

As I walked into the funeral that day a friend expressed her feelings when she said, “This is so hard to believe and to understand.”  I had to agree on both points.

“Plans to prosper you?”  “Plans to give you hope and a future?”

My husband and I first met Jim and Sue over twelve years ago through a seemingly unimportant encounter.  You see, God brings very special people into our lives in very mundane ways.  I had moved back to my home town per my marriage and was going to the dentist.  My hubby had been there earlier that morning and called to tell me Sue (the dental hygienist) was looking forward to meeting me.  Charlie had determined we were much alike in personality and he knew how desperately I needed Christian women friends here in our community!  My husband was right on!  Sue and I began our friendship over coffee two days later.   It wasn’t much longer before Charlie and I met Jim and began a relationship as couples.

Over the years I watched Jim and Sue deeply love people.  They faced major challenges, some of them breathtaking.  They moved away from our area for a time and eventually returned.  As I wrote earlier, they loved on the nearby Native American community and there is no doubt in my mind that lives have been touched for eternity.  One of the young women from that community spoke eloquently at Jim’s service about his amazing capacity to love and how it flowed out from his very heart.

I have fond memories of occasional meals together, times of studying God’s Word together, Super Bowl watching and Sunday morning worship.  It was a relationship that had its spaces and absences, but because Jim and Sue were so relational, it ebbed and flowed and stayed intact.

I remember being part of a small group Jim and Sue brought together to enjoy Biblical discussion.  One night, as we finished up, we were making plans for the next week.  I offered our home, even though Charlie had to be away that night.  Very casually Jim suggested I plan a little discussion for that evening.  That night I realized there were three pastors sitting in our living room; what in the world was I doing, thinking I could lead them in discussion?!  God was very present in the details of that conversation…Jim always knew God was in charge!

Jim’s funeral was incredibly sad but even more, it was incredibly uplifting.  Jim left behind an amazing legacy including a wonderful family and many who were grateful at how God had used Jim in their lives.  I came away with a renewed determination to make my life count for Jesus even more and to love people lavishly.

Jim and Sue were a strong ministry team but because Jim left this earth suddenly, there was no time of preparation for Sue.  She is now faced with huge questions about “what next?”  Her “pastor, mentor and best friend” (Sue’s description) is gone.    

Yes, God did have amazing plans for Jim.  Yes, God’s plan always is for good – Jim would certainly attest to that from where he is right now! And through all of the sadness and grief, Sue also knows God still has a plan for her life.  I am so thankful for how Jim lived his life demonstrating the gospel.  No doubt, that Sunday afternoon, Jim heard the words I long to hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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