"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)
They say, "Things happen in threes". I'm not sure I fully buy into that saying, but I did receive three sad reports this weekend which have left me in a solemn and reflective mood.
The first sad and stunning report was received from my daughter Amy who informed me that the two-month-old great grandson of Bill and Joanne Lincoln (who were active Members and lay leaders at First Assembly of God of Framingham, MA where I pastored for over twenty years) had suddenly and unexpectedly died. Little David Joseph Magorian passed into Heaven on the morning of Saturday, February 28. The family is understandably shocked and devastated. I had a phone conversation with Bill Lincoln last night and with Joanne Lincoln this afternoon. I tend to be a very verbal and animated person; but such news left me speechless. It was only with the help of the Lord that I was able to speak words of comfort and wisdom to them. I have been very blessed in that up to this point I've never had to conduct a funeral service of anyone under the age of twenty-one. Let's face it; the death of a baby is devastating.
The second sad and stunning report came when I tuned into one of my favorite radio programs. The show is called "Says You" and is heard on about one hundred public radio stations. It's heard in Boston on WGBH-FM and in fact the show is based in Boston. I guess "Says You" would be called a radio program for "word geeks". It's a fast moving and thoroughly entertaining game show featuring some very colorful panelists, including Paula Lyons who was a consumer reporter on Boston television for many years. "Says You" has been on the air since 1997. I did not discover it until I picked it up one Saturday evening on my car radio as I drove from my job in Framingham to my (then) residence in Webster. In those days, I was a particularly sad and grieving person. That show was so interesting and so entertaining that it put a smile on my face and truly cheered me up. I became a regular listener, either on Saturday evenings or on Sunday afternoons (when the show is rebroadcast). The host, Richard Sher, really made that program what it was, with his delightful sense of humor and schtick. "Says You" goes on location during each year and tapes programs in various locations all over America, but always does a few shows in Boston and New England. It was a goal of mine to one day go to a live "Says You" event. It's unusual for me to not listen to "Says You" for seven weeks in a row, but in fact, when I tuned in last night it had been that long since I'd heard it. What a shock I received as I heard the opening announcement telling us that this was Richard Sher's last broadcast! It was being done in his memory. It turns out that sixty-six-year-old Richard Sher of Weston, MA passed away on February 9. This weekend's broadcast was recorded before a live audience at Regis College in Weston in early January. It was surreal listening to the energetic and comical Sher last night, knowing he died just about a month after that was recorded! I've learned that Sher had developed the show and wrote most of its material. I'd love to have met him sometime and shook his hand. Instead, the best I could do was post my condolences today at the "Says You" website.
The third sad and stunning report came this morning when I learned that Denny and Debby S. (good friends of my wife and me) who are Assemblies of God missionaries in Central America were victims of a very serious crime on Friday evening. At the large church we attend in Westminster, MA, the service was opened with special prayer for Denny and Debby. (Their photo was displayed on power point for all to see as we prayed.) When I think of Denny and Debby, the words that come to mind are "Godly", "generous", "classy", "talented", "gifted", and "humble". I don't have the words to express how sorry I was to hear the news of their suffering!
Clearly, each of these situations needs prayer. I've also found myself doing a lot of thinking and reflecting about each situation. Regarding Richard Sher, it reminds us that we are never sure of tomorrow. Any one of us could die at any time. I'm also reminded that Richard Sher used his talent and personality to the fullest. He really taught a lot of "stuff" (which admittedly many would say was trivial) on "Says You". He also brought some cheer and happiness to me during some very down times, and he probably did so to many others. You know what, God wants us to use the talents He's given us and to touch the lives of others. Richard Sher did that. Regarding Denny and Debby, it's absolutely true that "bad things happen to good people". Missionaries have suffered persecution and martyrdom going all the way back to the first century church. This is something we don't like to talk and think about, but it's true. Denny and Debby could be selfish and lazy Christians if they wanted to be. But they have made a choice to follow and obey the Lord, no matter what the cost. They're real heroes! It's easy for me to think, "Well, I'm no Denny or Debby Seler! I'm no hero!" Yet, God calls me and God calls evry Christian believer to humility and service no matter what the cost. Am I willing to serve the way Denny and Debby do? I honestly need to do exactly that, no matter what the cost! Finally, the loss of a baby is deeply painful. As of this writing, I've been asked to conduct the funeral service. I'm not sure exactly when that will be. Such a loss is confusing. We don't understand it. I think of a great teaching C.D. that some friends sent me last year. The Bible teacher on that C.D. said that Christians should never ask, "Why?" That's the wrong question. Instead we should ask, "What does this mean?" and "What must I do?" I've never experienced the death of a child or of a grandchild. My parents did. Following the death of my brother Eddie in 1983, they were never quite the same. But, I will say, there was a bit more vulnerability and sensitivity in each of them after that terrible loss. The Rev. John DeBrine says, "Difficulty will make you either better or bitter." Eddie's loss was terrible for all of our family, but in some ways, I think it did make all of us "better". I think of the story of King David in the Old Testament. His little baby was deathly ill. King David fasted and prayed. He was distraught. Yet, the baby died. The King's aides were shocked that following the child's death, David got up, cleaned himself up (we'd say "took a shower") and went about his business. They asked the King how he could possibly accept the death so calmly when he'd previously been so despondent and upset. The King essentially said, "I thought that perhaps my fasting and praying would result in the baby's healing. But now that he's dead, he cannot come to me, but one day I will go to him." (see 2 Samuel 12:23).
This weekend, the sad reports came in threes. I am a writer, so I thought sharing this with you would be a good thing, and I hope it was exactly that for you.