I needed to write the message for a funeral for a woman I had known for several years. She was outgoing. She loved encouraging people.
As I thought about the person and about what to say, I looked at her Facebook feed. She shared posts of others, she made some personal comments, and she had some one-sentence sayings, the kind that appear in a block of color. Like “We can trust God to handle the things that overwhelm us”.
So I kept looking at those one-sentence sayings going back for the last year. And they became the heart of the message I prepared, the words of Carol to her family and friends as they gathered to grieve her loss.
Her posts were perfect. Over the last year, she spoke truth about turning to God and being loved by God. Her words, shared every week or two, gave us a trail of wisdom and encouragement from a woman who was known for her encouragement.
I read from Isaiah 61 earlier, a passage that Jesus reads during his life. It is words about rebuilding, about serving, about caring for people who need care, in God’s name and with God’s power.
When we read it, many of us think about Jesus. Which is true. He was the servant who came to bring good news and offer comfort and freedom and healing. But as we read those words, they talk about what happens next. Once those who are captive and afflicted and broken-hearted and mourning have been helped, God plants them. The text calls them “oaks of righteousness”, who rebuild and restore, who themselves offer comfort and freedom and healing. They become priests, those who serve the people of God.
It is what Carol did. Many people on Facebook talked about her words, about her smile, about her encouragement. She moved from place to place, from person to person, and offered affirmation and encouragement.
Years ago, in the middle of pain, Kenny had a vision of Carol. Years ago, in the middle of pain, Carol had a word from God that said “You can sit here or you can move.” And Carol got up and Kenny got busy and they’ve been married for twenty-five years.
As I thought about what to say about Carol, and about God, I realized that I needed to let Carol talk to us about God. She regularly shared short sentences of encouragement on Facebook. And I’d like to share a series of those from the last year.
- November 11 Christ at the center brings life into focus!
- November 20 Let God’s Spirit, not the world, shape your mind.
- November 28 Christians can erase from their memory what God has erased from the record.
- March 10 Just got back from a fun morning of clowning at The Cedars nursing home. They had just lost several folks. I missed them but at the same time, can’t wish them back. But on the flip side, I met some new, neat residents, too. I so respect those who are in the medical field. Now going to sign off and spend time with my wonderful hubby and two spoiled kitty cats. So enjoyed this morning. Perhaps God made clowns just for fun! So here’s hoping you have a great day, too. Take good care & God bless!
- March 13 Feeding your faith helps starve your fears!
- March 24 Regardless of how “incomplete” we feel, we are priceless to God.
- April 4 If you know Jesus, you’ll NEVER walk alone.
- April 18 When we help or hurt one another, Jesus takes it personally.
- April 26 A big part of loving is listening!
- May 4 Nothing we do can earn what God gives by grace.
- May 6 How can I serve as God’s hands and feet for someone today?
- May 9 Prayer is a much needed conversation with God.
- May 17 Thanks for the birthday greetings you sent Kenny. He had a great day. I often thank God that he’s still alive. He’s had many near death experiences. So enjoy life, it has an expiration date!
- May 18 We can trust God to handle the things that overwhelm us!
- May 28 Each day brings new signs of God’s faithfulness.
- June 22 God’s free gift to us cost Him dearly!
- July 4 Faith is the radar that sees through the fog!
- July 20 We can trust God to handle the things that overwhelm us.
- August 30 No one is invisible to God!
- September 14 In all situations, God is working!
- September 24 No matter how low you feel, God offers grace to lift you up!
- September 28 Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible & receives the impossible!
- October 6 Had a neat morning “clowning around” at The Cedars again. It was nice to see familiar faces + some new ones too. The nurses often tells me how the residents love me but I get far more pleasure from seeing them. I used to wish I could do balloons & face paint. But God gives us all different talents & perhaps mine is trying to cheer others up & being a good listener. Often I stop by the chapel to pray for the residents & staff. Next month I’ll bring a huge comb to make everyone pretty for the holidays & a big bottle of Joy as the season is hard for some. OK, hope your day is awesome too. Shalom….
- October 11 – In Christ the hopeless find hope
- October 27 God is always stronger than our problems
- November 4 – Pray about it, God is listening
- November 11 – Jesus longs for our fellowship
- November 13 – There is always, always, always something to be thankful for.
On November 17, she and Kenny visited a GriefShare group that they were going to help lead during the winter. That afternoon she went into the hospital.
In Carol’s words, and even more, perhaps, in the pattern of her words, there is a blessing for us and a challenge for us.
The blessing is her reminding us of God’s care for us in the middle of our lives, whatever our lives are. She was not ignorant of pain. She was well aware that people suffer and struggle. But all during her last year she kept pointing us toward God’s care, God’s love, God’s desire for us.
She has been an oak of righteousness.
Kenny said that John 3:16-17 were part of her life: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
And her words point us toward that love.
And here is the challenge:
Her voice is gone. Carol will no longer be posting those encouraging words.
So what are we going to do about that?
Not today, maybe not tomorrow, as the waves of grief continue to hit us at the most unusual times. But, in time, as we experience the comfort that God offers for those who mourn, the freedom that God offers for those who are caught up in life, we can begin to offer stories of Jesus and Carol.
One last Facebook post, from a granddaughter. “My grandma, she was a clown. No, really. She was a clown. And she couldn’t make balloon animals. And she couldn’t do face-painting. All she could do is let people know that they were seen and loved.”
It was because she loved and was loved by Jesus.
I am, too.
And so are you.