Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"The Time Would Fail"

(Thanks to Jack and Steve for their ministry with us)

    Frances and I conduct four services at week at a local retirement community, which includes both an assisted living section, and a nursing care facility.  The nine years we have spent with the people at Gordan Oaks has blessed our hearts beyond all measure and description.  I'd like to share a few of those blessings with you as an expression of gratitude to God and appreciation for the dear friends at Gordon Oaks Retirement Community who have so enriched our lives.

    First, this ministry came to us completely by surprise.  A friend had begun ministering at Gordon Oaks on Tuesday afternoons, leading services in both the assisted living section and the nursing facility.  He asked me to come over one Tuesday to sing and preach.  Little did I know that "one Tuesday" would lead to many Tuesdays, as well as Sundays (and soon to come, Thursday, as we begin a new service this week).  Frances and I were already busy with other ministries, and had no idea that such a path awaited us in life.  Now, however, we can't imagine having missed the joys we've known at Gordon Oaks.  The Lord does that quite often regarding ministries, doesn't He?  They come to us rather than our going to them.  "A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

    Not long after our ministry began, I recall a Tuesday when I said to Frances as I informed her of my schedule for the day, "I have to go to Gordon Oaks."  Immediately, the thought occurred to me that I had misspoken.  "No, Frances, today I get to go to Gordon Oaks!"  Never have we felt otherwise, which says nothing about Frances and me, but everything about the Lord who so graciously works in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).  "The love of Christ constraineth us" (II Corinthians 5:14).  Indeed, when in our hearts and minds, "I have to" becomes "I get to," we enter into God's truth and its sublime grace and blessedness.

    On a Tuesday in November, 2003, about six months after we had begun ministering at Gordon Oaks, the activities director approached me, asking if I knew of anyone whom might be interesting in leading a Sunday chapel service for the nursing home residents.  For several weeks previously, I had been thinking of asking Beth about this very possibility.  The fellowship of believers I pastor meets on Sunday afternoons, so the morning was open. "Well, Beth, uh, I think I might know of somebody...."  "My times are in Thy hands" (Psalm 31:15).

    As I often say, I wouldn't have wanted to have lived without knowing Jim Kelly.  Jim was a resident at Gordon Oaks during the first 4 years of our ministry, and celebrated his 100th birthday while there.  You may recall that I've written about Jim on several occasions in the Orange Moon devotionals.  The truth of the matter is that I could write a book about our dear friend!  From his joyous faith in the Lord Jesus, to his singing in "the key of J," to his uproarious laughter that filled the halls of Gordon Oaks, Jim left a legacy in our hearts that will never leave us.  Frances favorite memory of Jim involves his frequent response to the question, "How are you, Jim?"  "I'm great, Frances!" he'd say with his singular Jim Kelly gusto.  "This is the best day of my life!"  And he meant it.  For me, I'd just say that Jim Kelly was the youngest person I ever met.  Again, I wouldn't have wanted to have lived without knowing our dear friend, or for that matter, countless other dear people at Gordon Oaks.  Many have passed on to be with our Lord, of course.  I look forward to seeing them again in that blessed Community where there will be no weakness, no sickness, no wheelchairs, and where Jim's uproarious laughter will sound and resound  for the glory of the Lord Jesus.

    I think also of Liz, the dear lady who loves the first hymn many of us ever learned as children.  "Glen," Liz told me one day, When I'm going down the halls in my wheelchair and encounter somebody who looks down and sad, I stop and take them by the hand.  I ask the person, "Why don't we sing 'Jesus Loves Me' together?  It always seems to help."  Whew!  I want you to imagine that scene, and then join me in wonder at so glorious a Savior, and so faithful and powerful a sister in Christ!  Liz moved to another retirement community last year, where I am sure the strains of her music are often heard.  "Jesus loves me, this I know..."  We miss them and we miss her at Gordon Oaks.

    Mike Balzli comes to mind and heart.  Mike and I played baseball together in our younger days (Mike was also a state champion runner, whom the coaches had lead us in our laps before and after practice.  Boy, I hated Mike in those days! :) ).  His mother is a dear and devoted believer who lives in the assisted living section of Gordon Oaks, and regularly attends our services.  I hadn't seen Mike in more than 30 years until he came to a meeting with his mother about a year ago, the first of many services he attended.  Mike has very serious cancer, but more importantly, he trusts the Lord Jesus.  I've never heard him complain, but I've seen him walk with our Lord through this great challenge, and I know he will greatly appreciate your prayers for him.  Frances and I have been blessed over and over again by the same faith and devotion to Christ in so many hurting people at Gordon Oaks.  Amazing, and once again, we've seen so glorious a Savior and so faithful and powerful our brothers and sisters in Christ!

    In principle and doctrine, I strongly believe there to be no division between the sacred and the secular in our lives.  "Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).  In practice, however, I too often fail to see the presence and involvement of the Lord Jesus in all things.  One day, as I prepared to wash dishes (an everyday task that, as Frances says, becomes obsolete almost as soon as you finish performing it), I felt burdened and put out.  "I have to do this again?!"  The thought and accompanying feeling of irritation began to settle in, until it occurred to me.  "How many of our dear friends at Gordon Oaks would love to be in their homes again, washing dishes?"  Overwhelmed, I realized how blessed I am, and without their even knowing it, our brothers and sisters once again became the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life, reminding me that every moment, every venue, circumstance, situation and condition provides opportunity to know the blessedness of the Lord Jesus with gratitude and praise.  "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thessalonians 5:18).

   When chronicling the faith and faithfulness of God's trusting children through the ages, the writer of Hebrews concludes, "
The time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets." (Hebrews 11:32).  I know how the writer felt.  Frances and I could never begin to report and describe all the blessedness we have experienced at Gordon Oaks.  Indeed, I've not mentioned the wonderful staff members we've known who so self sacrificially give of themselves to the residents and their families.  I've also neglected to tell of countless family members who visit their loved ones at often as possible, and exemplify the love of the Lord Jesus in ways that beautifully honor and reveal Him.  Indeed, so many moments, so many gifts to our hearts of God's lovingkindness and grace have come to Frances and me through the people of Gordon Oaks!  "The time would fail me to tell..."

    A final thought.  Frances and I are hopeful that we have provided some ministry to our dear friends at Gordon Oaks,  We know, however, what they have provided for us.  Ministry works that way in Christ.  Things get turned inside out, as it were.  Those who seem to be giving are actually the ones receiving.  Of course, I write to those who themselves experience such blessedness as you walk with the Lord Jesus in your own lives and ministries.  Which leads to another story for another day, of how all of you have so blessed and enriched our lives.  Yet again, the time would fail me to tell...

"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20-21)

    I failed to express appreciation in this morning's message to our friend Larry Voas, who frequently drives over from Mississippi to speak in our services.  Larry is a dear friend and wonderful Bible teacher, and greatly loved by the people of Gordon Oaks.  Thanks, Larry, and it's about time for you to come over!

    Also, our friend John S. (I never can remember how to spell your last name, John!) provided amazing personal ministry to the people of Gordon Oaks for several years.  Thanks so much, John, and we miss you.



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