When I was little someone told me that heaven was the best thing you could imagine but even better. Well, as a little girl the best thing I could imagine was popcorn trees. Keep in mind, this was before microwaves and the most technologically advanced way of making popcorn was the, often faulty yet always magical, jiffy pop. For me that finish line I was running toward meant I'd be eternally blessed with the presence of my Lord and unlimited popcorn.
I also remember being at Mount Hermon's Ponderosa Lodge when it was new and fresh. A man there was also talking about when Jesus came back we'd meet Him in the air and Jesus would be on a white horse. I pictured a majestic Pegasus swooping down to meet me as my own heavenly horse brought me up to ride at the side of my Lord as we headed into battle against the enemy of man's soul.
The faith of a child is precious yet fragile at times. They are hit so hard when tragedy strikes because they're still under the impression that life is fair and people are always good. Sometimes we fail to take the time to embrace their little hearts (yes teens have little hearts too) and help them along to a better understanding of the unfortunate evils of the world and, most importantly, the amazing limitless grace of Christ. Sometimes we show them that grace by simply holding their little limp "faith" in our hands and saying nothing. At those moments I find they have so much to teach me, though I'm often too busy talking and trying to "solve" the dilemma to be aware of what I could be learning. They just take the Lord at His word. Can you imagine? If you became a Christian as a child you may have fleeting memories of that innocent faith. If the Bible said it, it was true. If Jesus said "when two or more are gathered in My Name..." then of course it would be done according to His word. They are fragile little beings, but sometimes their faith is vastly stronger than the adults who are supposed to be teaching them.
A friend from our California Church family ended his life this past Tuesday. It was shocking!!!! Because he was mentally ill he was given an Orthodox funeral. Now, in the Orthodox Church Easter didn't end Easter Sunday. We continue to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord up through the celebration of Pentecost singing "Christ is Risen from the dead trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb bestowing life". Because this young man's life ended during this season of celebration he received a "Paschal" funeral. The choir sang, nearly FOUR THOUSAND times, "Christ is risen from the dead..." Each person was reminded over and over again of Christ's sacrifice, even...maybe especially... for those hurt so badly by this fallen world, not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well (there was no mental illness in the garden). Each time the declaration of our risen Lord is sung I am reminded of His great mercy and grace. I am reminded of His tender heart toward His little lost and hurting sheep. My dear friend's granddaughter came over to her and said "Don't you cry for [him] grandma, he's in heaven with all the cats and dogs and people." Even when this precious little 4 year old saw him in the coffin (yes, death is a part of life) she remarked "That's not even him! He's not even there anymore". While the grown-ups were busy asking the "why"s this little girl was confident in her Lord and His mercy toward us. May we all have ears to hear!
I may not have faith the size of a mustard seed, let alone a popcorn kernel, but I do know the race is worth running and God's mercy is real. And my Lord may not be riding a Pegasus when I go to meet Him in the air, but He will be and was and is the conqueror of the enemy truly trampling down death but His death and upon those in the tomb, in bondage, in slavery to sin, graciously bestowing life. May we be renewed by the power of His blood. Amen!