Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An Unplanned Moment of Grace

[ I will be giving an update later on (hopefully this week!) about our time in Maine, including the Thanksgiving Day outreach, thoughts on being thankful in the midst of life's difficult circumstances, and the family memorial service for Lukey. But my heart is in another place today so I want to write about something else. BTW, thank you for your prayers yesterday! We made it back safe and sound and EVERY prayer request I listed was answered! Thank you Jesus! ]

I like to plan, but sometimes plans don't work out. Yesterday, I had a plan for our flight from Bangor (ME) to Philadelphia, but, well, you guessed it... my plan didn't work out. My plan? Thanks for asking! Sleep. I wanted to take a catnap but was rudely interrupted soon after take-off. Okay, let me temper that a bit... since it was a nudge from the Spirit that kept me from snoozing, some might say that 'rudely' would be a dangerous description of what happened.

Truth be told, I was very thankful for the way that 90 minute flight unfolded.

Our plane was a regional jet, so it wasn't huge by any means, which is sort of a big deal when you are 6'3" and change. We boarded and were making our way back to our seating assignments... row 11, seats A, C, and D. Summer crawled up into the window seat on one side of the aisle and Nicol settled in beside her. My seat was direclty across from Nicol, on the other side of the aisle. I scoped out my spot and was a little bummed to see that someone was already sitting in the seat next to mine. I was hoping to be able to stretch out a bit and, you know, stick with my plan... a/k/a, get some sleep. Besides, you gotta cut me some slack here... don't forget the 6'3" and change part. Anyway, after cramming our coats into the overhead compartment, I was about to sit down when I noticed that the row behind Nicol and Summer was completely open. Believe me, the choice was a no brainer. I plopped down and stretched across those seats faster than you can blink... and faster than anyone else who may have had thoughts of claiming them.

My plan was coming together nicely.

(As I write this I'm getting the feeling that someone may be thinking that (a) the flight attendant made him return to his assigned seat, or (b) the Spirit convicted him to go and talk to the lady sitting next to his assigned seat about Jesus... or something along those lines. Nope. Neither one of those things happened. But the Spirit did whisper...)

We made it thru the standard pre-flight rigamarole and off we went. I think Summer was asleep before the front tire left the ground. Nicol was already enjoying one of her favorite magazines. And I pressed the button on the arm rest, closed my eyes, pushed back to the recline position and... my plan was suddenly interrupted.

Get your Bible out of your backpack. Really? Oh come on, I'll read on the next leg, from Philly to Charlotte. Really, I will. I'm tired. Get your Bible out. Seriously? Get your Bible out and read 1 Timothy. Okay, okay. So I grabbed my Bible, opened it up and started reading. La la la. I've read this before. Yep, I remember that. Okay, I'm going to get thru this, but I'M ALSO GOING TO GET MY NAP. What a marvelously grateful attitude, huh?

But something happened. I began to notice a theme in what I was reading, phrases like some have made shipwreck of their faith, some will depart from the faith, having abandoned their former faith, some have already strayed after Satan, some have wandered away from the faith, some have swerved from the faith, and turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.***

Shipwreck. Depart. Abandoned. Strayed. Wandered. Swerved. Turn away. Wander off.

Strong words.

Frightening words.

Real words.

Critical reminders.

And then I began to think about Paul's words at the end of his second letter to Timothy... I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:6b-7)

The time of my departure has come.

Paul was at the end and, somehow, he knew that. What a remarkable realization this must have been for him, as he put ink to parchment while sitting in a dingy, cold prison cell. The beauty in these words is best seen thru the lens of another oft' quoted and well-known passage that he penned a couple years earlier... it is my eager expectation and hope that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Philippians 1:19-24)

Paul was about to experience that far better part of eternal living. The Light that once flashed around him that day on the road to Damascus was soon to embrace him with the warmth of fulfilled love and grace and mercy.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race...

Paul had lived well. He had walked worthy. He did his part. His conscience was clear. And I think it safe to say that he had no regrets. His mind wasn't preoccupied with his investment portfolio and bank accounts, domestic and global economic uncertainties, rogue regimes and terroristic ideologues, physical and mental health, waste line and receding hairline, life insurance beneficiaries and college funds, housing markets and transportation needs, career accomplishments and epithets. His greatest desire? Depart and be with Jesus.

I have kept the faith.

It's impossible to miss, for all the Hymenaeuses and Alexanders whom Paul had observed tragically stray and wander from their faith, and for all the warnings Paul gives us about them, his great accomplishment in life and his great legacy to us was trusting his heavenly Father, standing firmly in the grace and kindness of Jesus, and walking step in step with the Spirit.

It's also impossible to miss, with all that this world throws at us, the daunting challenges and inherent dangers of life before the time of our own departure from this earth, the time when we will finally go to be with Jesus.

Oh Lord God, help us to keep the faith. Amen.

***1 Timothy 1:19b; 1 Timothy 4:1; 1 Timothy 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:10; 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:4


Ashley Beth said...

I'm speechless, really. Very, very well put. And yet me congratulating you on your wise words written here would likely be silly since it is quite clear these are God's words being spoken through you, to you, and to all of us who so desperately need a little (or big) reminder every now and then. Thanks for taking the time to share what's been laid on your heart. Blessings...

daniella said...

As a mom to a 16 month old I often say "Not now, I just want to get some sleep" when the Holy Spirit speaks. I can't imagine how many of these kinds of lessons I've missed.

Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to listen...even when we're exausted.

Misty Rice-Baniewicz said...

I haven't checked on this blog in a while and some how I felt the "urge" to do so tonight. Words that I needed to read. After the day, year that I have had in my marriage..... I need words of wisdom and strength. I often remind myself to stay focused on my Father, to not stray or lean not onto my own understanding. Its hard sometimes.... I feel so fatigued all the time. EXHAUSTED is the word as Daniella (hey sister girl) said. She is a friend of mine, and I cherish her..... I thought it was cute to see her comment.

Anyways, my husband is 6'6" and we just did a trip to upstate NY on a 3 1/2 hour flights, I so know what you mean with that. I have some funny stories I could share with you about him and his football buddies about being stuck on long flights being that tall. I feel for you.

Anyways, looking forward to hear how your holiday went. Keep it up brother, you have come a lot further than you may realize, and yes you still have bad days.... probably A LOT of bad days, but from my view standing on the outside looking in..... you are getting stronger every day. I see it. I hear it. I read it in your post. Ill keep praying...

As Dori says in Finding Nemo "just keep swimming, just keep swimming".....

That is what I think of when I think of you, except the swimming part.... I say this instead "just keep praying, just keep praying".

God Bless....

georgia tarheel said...

Amazing! Thank you for the reminder from God's word. Thank you also for the reminder that God is talking to us all the time, even on the first leg of a long day of flying. I have learned lately that to stop and pause and listen to that voice is FAR better than whatever it was I was trying to do. I appreciate the message that God gave you for me! It is not falling on deaf ears (or blind eyes!) :)

Michelle said...

We miss so much when we don't listen to that small voice, don't we.

May God continue to bless you as you share your lives with us.

Rissa said...

Thank you for those words tonight Greg.. Thank you for being obeident to the holy spirit & doing with the spirit wanted.. Thats just the encouragement i needed.. To keep the faith..
God bless!

Julie D. said...

Greg, all I can say is WOW!! If more of us would listen to that little inner voice that's trying to tell us something. So glad that you listened and picked up your bible and shared with us! Your words are a real blessing to me!!! Continued prayer for you, Nicol and Summer!

Love in Christ, Julie Doody

sheila said...

And if our loved ones had the choice to come back, they would stay and wait for us to join them.

Shipwreck. Depart. Abandoned. Strayed. Wandered. Swerved. Turn away. Wander off. Those are indeed frightening and yet each of one could be easily, Shipwreck. Depart. Abandoned. Strayed. Wandered. Swerved. Turn away. Wander off.

Hold tight to the word of God and let him led. I am trying to read more of God's word at this time, I want to be closer to him because just as you have said, and those things scare me. Thank you for showing your obedience and a great reminder of how God shows up when we have other plans.

Ashly said...

I am so thankful that you are wise enough to listen to the Holy Spirit. Thank you for sharing the lesson in Timothy with us. I've been reading Job since our son was stillborn in September(39 weeks) but I think tonight I'll read Timothy=)

Thanks for your blog ministry, I pray for your family and Angie's family often

Kacie said...

Hi Greg - I just wanted to pass this along. I'm not sure if you have been linked to this blog before, but I have been taken on quite a ride between your blog, your sister in law's blog, and this blog:

All of you have experienced the death of a child in the last year and are trying to grapple with it before God. This woman wrote today about dealing with loss in your marriage, and it was beautifully honest.

I pray for you guys. :)

Kristy said...

Thanks for the great reminder - that our goal is to finish the race - with our eyes on the prize - our Lord and Savior - to keep the faith. And by the way, I WAS thinking that you would be nudged to go sit by some woman or man and share your faith!

Angie said...

Thank you for the inspiration this morning. Have a great Friday and our prayers will be with you this weekend for your candle light service.

momof4kr said...

Your blog is such a blessing to me! Thank you for your faithfulness...


Shantiwilliams said...

I stumbled across Nicol's website a few years ago and had even emailed with you about the possibility of her coming to India to sing. (My husband and I are working here.) But hadn't looked again until recently when I heard about all that was going on in your lives. I have been so encouraged and challenged as I read your blog and also as I watched the video made on the Smiths as well. As I carry my fourth child, I have been reminded (more than I did with any of my other pregnancies) that God is in control and not to waste one moment that He has given me to be a testimony for Him. That my faith must be grounded and rooted in Him and His Word and I must be prepared at all times to answer for Him. Last week we had the attacks in Bombay. My mind has been swimming with thoughts and reflections. Thankfully we are safe in a nearby city, but the reality is that it could be any of us at any He wills. Thank you for letting the Lord use you and your wife.

jajbs said...

Thank you for this post. I truly needed to read this and hear these truths this very day. Everytime I check this blog, I am ministered to in a big way. Thanks for your obedience and transparency!