Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Inez Bjorkman April 21, 1923 - April 21, 2008

At the top of this page, next to Inez’s name are her birth date and the date of her death. In between is a “dash.”

I can’t let Inez’s life be summed up by a simple dash, because God puts a lot of love, grace, and blessing in that “dash.” And that was certainly true for Inez, as all of you could willingly attest to.
Inez’s “dash” includes many wonderful memories, songs, travels, family and friends. The “dash” of Inez’s life is to be celebrated and remember by us – it is her legacy to us.

Inez loved life and loves Jesus Christ. I say “loves” because even though Inez is not here with us now, she is living with Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ loves Inez with an everlasting love, a love so deep and profound that He died on a cross so that Inez could live forever. And Inez does lives forever now in the place that Christ prepared for her, where Christ prepares a place for all of us who have faith in Him.

From practically the beginning of her life, Inez knew the love of Christ in her life. Her mom and dad loved her as did her brothers and sisters. That kind of love can only come from God – unconditional, profound and deep. You see, the love of God is known to all of us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His love for us is the mold, the model, the preeminent example for our love for each other. Inez could love because God first loved her. God’s love for us in Christ makes us who we are and fills our “dash.”

I was honored to know Inez only during her last days of sojourn here on this earth. But even in that short time, I could see passion and joy in Inez’s life.

One of her passions was travel, as some of you shared with me. Travel through the United States and Europe were highlights of Inez’s “dash.” She never let obstacles get her down and I think that was because of the love of Christ. She didn’t worry about things. Wherever she went, her joy and her smile shared the love of Christ with other people.

She lived the love of Christ – as summed up by Emily Smith - “Treat others the same way that you want others to treat you. Surround yourself with family and friends, because they are the ones who will share your joy in the good times and comfort you in the hard times.”

Inez’s “dash” included a lot of good times and hard times. Living through the Great Depression and World War II included some of those “hard times.” But the good times far outweighed those hard times, good times spent with family and friends – laughing and loving, even while eating lutefisk!

Music also was a large part of Inez’s dash. We have sung some favorite hymns of Inez already this afternoon. George and faith shared with me a song lyric that especially sums up Inez’s “dash”:

I will come to you in the silence; I will lift you from all your fear
You will hear my voice, I claim you as my choice, Be still and know I am here.
Do not be afraid, I am with you. I have called you each by name.
Come and follow me, I will bring you home; I love you and you are mine.

Music touches all of our lives in many and various ways. What is Christmas without the song “Silent Night”? What is the Fourth of July without the “Star Spangled Banner”? For the World War II generation, the music of Glenn Miller plays a special part in their memories of that time of their lives. Each of us has a “soundtrack” to our “dash.”

The music that was so loved by Inez and such a large part of her “dash” was music that sung of her savior, Jesus Christ! God’s love for Inez was shown in so many ways, but so powerfully in music. And that is what she is enjoying right now.

God promises us that we will see Him face to face in heaven and that song will be a large part of the heavenly experience. In the Book of Revelation – the Apostle John’s glimpse into heaven – there are seven songs that he hears sung by the citizens of paradise. I don’t believe that is all that we will do in heaven, but it is certainly a part of the heavenly experience and one that Inez looked forward to.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you that Inez also loved her work. She spent nearly half her life at Graber Olive House and considered the people she worked with not just fellow employees, but family. This, too, is part of the love of God for us. For God created all of us to enjoy “work” – doing things with our hands and lives, taking care of creation. Inez was able to do this in a very special and satisfying way at Graber’s.

Travel, music, work. All these made up the “dash” of Inez Bjorkman. And we have been given a legacy of love and grace from God through Inez’s “dash.”

It may seem like just a simple thing – the dash between the dates of our birth and our death. But to those who know us and love us that dash means a lifetime of love, faith, and grace. It is my prayer that Inez’s “dash” will be a source of blessed memories and grace to you as you live out your own “dash.”

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Remember when you got married, when it was all fun and games? You were in love, you felt good, someone depending on you to take care of them.

Then kids show up. Now there’s less time. Certainly less money.

Then the job goes away. And with it, your pride. Ok, you’ll start over. You get a “do over,” a chance to follow a dream that maybe got sidetracked when the kids came along – or a dream you never knew you had.

Things are looking up.

Then your spouse gets sick. It’s bad. Things have to change completely. You have to take on more responsibility while your spouse recovers from surgery and therapy.

Hey, you didn’t sign up for this! You wanted a happy, fulfilling future!

Then life happened.

Now what are you going to do?

What are you going to do?

You need to make a decision. You need to make a choice.

This isn’t a game. This is real life.

This is the way it is.

This is the truth of the matter.

This is the life you are called to live.

Take a look at John 14 with me.

Jesus promises to “go and prepare” a place for us. Thomas hears one word, “go.”

Go? Where are you going? How can we follow you?

Jesus backs up His claim by equating Himself with the Father. Philip hears a word that piques his interest, “Father.”

“Show us the Father!”

I get the impression that Thomas and Philip are still thinking this whole “Jesus” thing is a game. Things are going well. The popularity of Jesus is at an all-time high and they are part of inner circle. Great “signs” are happening – people are being cured, the hungry are getting fed, the dead are rising to life.

But Jesus puts a stop to this. This isn’t a game, guys! This is real life and it’s about to get serious. Since Adam and Eve bit into that fruit, the plan has been moving unstoppably to this moment in Thomas and Philip’s lives. Jesus is about to die for their – and our – sin.

And this is good news. Because Jesus’ death means we can now begin to live. Really live.

Recently eight children were baptized on one Sunday at Redeemer. It was great, right? Sure it was.

But this is just the beginning. They have begun a new life. A life with God. A life in God.

It won’t be easy. That’s why their baptisms were just the beginning, not the end. Life is going to happen – in all its glory and in all its pain (here on earth). We’re going to need Christ to show us the way, to tell us the truth, to give us the Life.

What we need to do is step out in faith.

And Jesus tells us – as we step out in faith – “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.”

I know you’re scared. Life is scary. How can we make the next mortgage payment? How can I afford to send my son to camp this year? How can we make ends meet in our school ministry? How will I be able to live and raise these kids if my spouse isn’t around? What will happen if we have to move? These are all honest questions. They are hard questions.

These are life questions.

Truly, our lives depend on the answers we get, don’t’ they?

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”

I know you’re scared. But you can get through this. You can live. You can live again. Because the one we follow knows exactly what we are going through. He’s faced it all – even that gaping hole of a grave! He’s “been there, done that.” And he is the rock that doesn’t move! Life is an unstoppable force. But life meets its match in the immovable object that is the Rock, Jesus Christ our risen Lord and Savior!

So what happens now? What are you going to do?

We’ve got some questions to answer, don’t we. In our families. In our lives. In our church.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”

That’s what Jesus said. Then some twelve or so hours later, He’s dead!

“Let not your hearts be troubled.” This is inextricably connected to the death of Christ. And here’s how. Jesus’ death takes away what brings us trouble! His death is our life. His death removes our sin. His rising from the dead gives us His power to live.

Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us our identity.

“What is your identity is Christ? Before you make one more choice in life, you need to be aware of that identify, and you want it to be strong—just as past winner of Olympic gold medals know that they will forever be identified as Olympic gold medalists. This explains why these fabulous athletes devote years and years of training to a ten-second sprint, a two-minute floor exercise, or a five-minute program in figure skating. Who they are and what they want to become fuels the desire to sacrifice in training.

It is also why a man will practice all his life to perfect the art of playing a violin, knowing that he might one day sit in a row with other violinists on a world-class stage and play a piece of music written by someone else centuries ago. Being a violinist is his identity.

Intuitively, we know that to perform anything at a world-class level means that we cannot have a divided-heart commitment. And yet many people, who understand what it takes to succeed in sport or business or the arts, are perfectly content to go through life with diluted or marginal spiritual outcomes.

Why? Because of fear. [Every Man God's Man, Stephen Arterburn, Kenny Luck, Mike Yorkey, 2003, page 24]

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Follow the Leader

A man doesn't like to be called a "sheep." At least this man doesn't. As one of my friends once said "sheep are smelly and stupid." I don't know a lot about sheep, but I do know they are smelly. Stupid? I don't spend a lot of time around them to know about that. But I really don't like to be compared to a smelly, small animal that gives its fur up for clothing.

But that is what Jesus calls us in John 10.


What good is that? I don't want to really be known as a sheep. I know that I do want to be a follower of Christ. But why does He have to call me a sheep?

I much rather be called something like a "trooper" - like one of the 17 men that follow the jump master out of the C-47 in the U.S. Airborne.

But maybe that is pretty much the same thing. The 17 men that followed the jump master did so like sheep following a shepherd. They didn't know what could happen once they went out the door, they only knew that the men around them were counting on them to jump.

Christ is our leader. He calls Himself the "Good Shepherd." That would make His followers "sheep."

So that's what I'll be. I may not like the analogy, but it fits. I'm going to follow Christ wherever He leads because He's counting on me and the troops .... that is, the sheep, around me are counting on me and I don't want to let them down.

I will follow Christ. He knows where He's going. And He's leading from the front. He's the first one out the door. He's been there before. I may be afraid, but there's no reason to really fear because I know my Leader, my Shepherd, will get me through.