There are few things as refreshing and renewing as a warm, beautiful, spring-like day following the months of mostly cold, wet, overcast days of winter. The songs of chirping birds in the trees are welcomed sounds. The Purple Martin scouts have returned once again with all their exciting acrobatics and un-matched chatter--signaling that the return of our spring tenants is coming soon. New growth is budding out on trees and bushes that for so long have been dormant and bare. Clovers and ryegrass are greening up the pastures where the new calves and baby goats run and play. It is a good day for a picnic and a walk in the woods.
Many of the trails and bare spots on the ground show signs of increased wildlife activity as the deer, hogs and coyotes reach the end of their breeding seasons. The neighbors beautiful lake through the trees is dark and smooth. I see the swirling water in the shallows where a fat largemouth prepares to make her bed. I am not fishing, but I can feel in my hand, the cool, thick bluegill that I know must be lurking below that leaning log by the cypress. I can literally smell 'that smell' that brings back so many good memories of pulling spring bluegill from the cool, but warming waters. I can hear in my mind the sound of the propane cooker and the sizzling of the grease as I fry the fresh caught fish while Steve makes up the hushpuppies.
My mind just would not slow down as the beauty of this beautiful, spring-like Sunday afternoon continued to refresh my energy and my hope for more better and brighter days that are sure to come. I visualized taking more jeep and four wheeler rides down the open trails and dirt roads near the farm. Most of these trips I will take with my grandchildren, some will be just include me and Lisa, and some will be with Lisa and another couple, but they will all be good times that I look forward to.
As this beautiful afternoon neared an end, I forced myself back into the office to write. Within just a few minutes, the door flew open as the boys came running in to get their bridles and saddles. They and Grandmamma were going for a ride that would be a near perfect close to such a beautiful day. Not only was the day beautiful, seeing my wife and grandchildren having fun and enjoying being together is a beautiful sight in and of itself that gives me a special sense of inner peace and joy.
After about an hour, I just could not sit still any longer. The day was just too beautiful and too inviting not to enjoy more of it outside in the sunshine. Though another friend had my horse at her house, I still wanted to be outside with Lisa and the boys as they rode on this beautiful day and in near perfect weather. I walked about 100 yards to the mailbox and saw Bryant and Lisa three pastures over on Jack's place where the goats are. Lisa was on Penny (our four year old sorrel mare), Bryant was on Nikki (our 11 year old black mare) and it appeared that Bryant was riding bareback. I was looking for Bradyn when I heard the sounds of pounding hoofs coming up behind me. I turned around just as old Sonny Boy (our 21 year old sorrel gelding) came galloping past me with Bradyn astride hollering: "Watch out Granddaddy, we've got to catch em!" The boy's confidence and riding abilities have really improved over the last year.
This beautiful spring-like day was so refreshing and encouraging. It caused me to think about the past, but it also prompted me to think about the future--not just the near future, but the future as it pertains to eternity!
I cannot speak for you specifically, but my guess is that you and I have a lot in common. Much of my past is filled with treasured memories like the ones I mentioned and many more that are even more deep and meaningful. This part of the past, I hope never becomes cognitively out of my reach, though I do sometimes now take them for granted and fail to value them as I should. Some of the things and relationships that I most remember and treasure, I just assume that I will always have the opportunity to enjoy and experience in the future. However; when I really stop to spend some time thinking about it, I realize that I am taking an awful lot for granted. There are already some things that I used to do that I just cannot do any more. There are some things that I used to enjoy doing that I just do not have the time for, or, they are just not worth the effort to do now. There are many people that I love and have great memories of and with, that are no longer here for me to be with--some have moved on and some have passed on. There are dreams of things I wanted to do, places I wanted to see, family and friends that I wanted to do and see them with, that if I do not do soon, will remain just dreams.
There are other parts of my past, if they have to be anywhere, in my past is the only place I want them to be. Though I cannot do anything to change the past, I am so thankful that it is all washed clean in the blood of Jesus, not only for my benefit, but for the benefit of others who were a part of it. Some things in my past, I needed forgiveness for. Other things in my past, others needed forgiveness for. I am grateful that God's grace is sufficient for my sin and mistakes and the sin and mistakes of others.
Last week, a good friend of mine died from unexpected complications following open heart surgery. Not only had he been a long time friend of mine, though I had not spent much time with him over the past several years, he was also a good friend and substitute teacher (Mr. D) for two of my grandsons: Bryant and Bradyn.
Bryant was out of town, but Bradyn was home and able to go to the funeral with me. It was a nasty, stormy day, one of just four or five consecutive nasty days. There is just something about a funeral on a nasty day, especially in the winter, that makes them gloomy and depressing, no matter who you are or how prepared the person was to die.
On the way home, Bradyn started talking about heaven and dying--not in a morbid way, but in an honest and inquisitive way like we all do from time to time. Honestly, it would be better if we all thought about the future (especially eternity) more often in this way.
Like most of us, Bradyn was thinking about all of life that we would not get to live after we die! Think about that! He knows that Heaven is where he and I are going. He knows that Heaven is where we are supposed to want to go and that it will be good. He knows that Jesus will be there along with everyone else who believes in and walks with Jesus. He know all these things, but he could not associate Heaven with living. Like many of us, he was struggling trying to comprehend how being in Heaven could compare with living in this beautiful world and all the adventures and wonders that are found in it. That is a genuine conflict that we all face or have faced.
Because we have never seen Heaven, it is hard to imagine it. In fact, Scripture says: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love Him." (1Cor2:9). Even in the Revelation John received, he could go no further to describe what he saw in Heaven than: "...it was like...". What he saw was so overwhelming and glorious, there were no words for it. All John could do was try to compare it to something else that he had seen but that could not do justice what he was now seeing.
Because all we have firsthand knowledge of is life on this earth, as corrupted by sin and the fall as it is, it is hard us to imagine anything better. Because Heaven has always been associated with a bunch of imaginary angels floating on their own individual cloud, why would we ever believe that real living could have anything to do with that? Seriously, if spending eternity worshiping God is nothing more than we experience in most churches on Sunday mornings, and all that we have to look forward to in Heaven is that, would anyone really want to go for any other reason than to escape a Biblical hell?
The Bible has SO MUCH more to say about Heaven that we CAN understand, but that we have not learned, much less taught to our children and in our churches. The Bible says that eternity for followers of Christ will be lived out in tangible place, a new Heaven and on a new earth--as it was in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden! There will be a new Jerusalem where God will reign. There will be no more sin, evil, sickness, hurt, disappointment, fear, separation, suffering, or death. Jesus will wipe personally wipe every tear from our eyes--never to cry again.
Heaven will be a place of indescribable beauty and of gigantic proportions. The Bible describes just the new city of Jerusalem as encompassing 1,960,000 square miles, with 12 gates where nations can come and go as they please. It is a place where Jesus is the light and there is no need for the sun, the moon or a church building. It will be a city of life where a river flows from God's throne, watering trees that will bear food for all the inhabitants.
Not only will the born again live with Jesus and with one another, we will reign over the new heavens and earth with Him. An entire life of the most beautiful spring days in this life, fails to compare to one day in Heaven! Hope to see you there!