Tag Archives: Christian love

Irreplaceable: When a Mary, a Martha, or a Dorcas Goes Home

You probably didn’t notice a wobble in the earth’s rotation, a split-second tilt in its axis, a brief cosmic stutter last Wednesday. Neither did I.

But when I learned later that a sweet lady in Amarillo named Melba Joy had passed away suddenly that day, I immediately felt an emptiness in my soul, a pain in my heart, and a deep sense of loss. And I confess to being irrationally surprised that this planet could sustain that kind of loss and keep spinning as the solar system carried on business as usual.

I suppose that an unbeliever, an agnostic or atheist, but a skeptic of a kind sort, would feel compassion for anyone in grief, even if the bottom line in the skeptic’s life philosophy is that we’re all accidents anyway and the planet/universe can’t be expected to notice, much less, mourn, our loss.

Rationally, though I’m a Christian believer—and one who doesn’t believe for a second that belief negates rational thought—I know that the universe is impersonal and cannot mourn. But I believe its Creator is God, not an impersonal force or capricious pagan deity, but the Father who loves his children with an intensity we cannot begin to fathom, who, as Christ has told us, numbers even the hairs on our heads.

I believe the Creator of the universe not only noticed when Melba Joy passed away last Wednesday, I believe he welcomed her with an inexpressible love and, yes, joy. I believe that our Father not only loves every one of his children, I believe that he loves us as if there was only one to love. And, though I believe that the Father rejoiced to receive her truly Home, I also believe that he feels the loss and grief of those who loved her.

Obviously, my words come from the perspective of a believer. They are also coming from a small-church pastor. If you’ve not known and loved life, and the lives, the folks with faces, in a small church family, a real family in every sense, I doubt you can begin to understand the loss the folks in the little but lovely Anna Street Church in Amarillo are feeling right now. (It’s been my privilege to know and love them for lots of years, and my brother is their pastor.)

They love all of their folks, but for over 60 years, Melba, a “charter member,” has been integral in the life of that church family. For much of that time, she served as their church “hostess” and was later also recognized officially as what she had long been, a sweet deaconess. If it was warm, beautiful, well-organized, tasty, filled with joy, you can be very sure Melba Joy had a serious hand in it.

Sweet, talented, filled with joy to match her name, and beautiful in every way, Melba died at 93 (and could have easily passed for 73). When my younger brother heard of her passing, he wrote, “How sad! But didn’t she show us how to serve right up until the finish line? What a remarkable ‘Martha’ who had a big helping of the heart of ‘Mary’!” (Mary and Martha were Jesus’ dear friends). Yes, and what a “Dorcas” (Acts 9) whose passing the ancient church mourned so deeply.

Irreplaceable. That’s the word that keeps coming to mind. For small churches who lose such a lady, irreplaceable has a name. It’s Melba Joy. It’s June Conway. It’s Robin Taylor. It’s ______; fill in the name. If you’re a genuine part of a small church family, you know it. Speak the name. Thank God for her. And when she goes Home, ask the Father to help you honor him as you also honor her by being part of the small army you’ll find it will take to try to even begin to do what she did so wonderfully with so much selfless and soul-warming love.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Advertisements

“What About Folks on the Other Side of the Fence?”

“Teacher,” John the Apostle said to Jesus, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (see Mark 9:38).

The disciples were royally ticked. They were absolutely indignant, and who can blame them? They’d discovered a fellow casting out demons without a license. They’d uncovered a do-gooder doing good without a permit.

Now John was reporting the infraction and evidently looking for an “Attaboy!” from the Lord for putting a stop to this unlicensed demon-removal.

You’ve gotta give it to John—he was absolutely ahead of his time and thoroughly modern. How could he have known? The time would come when Christians would take morbid delight in dividing and subdividing, walling themselves off, separating one group from another behind massive walls built of the bricks and mortar of hatred and ignorance.

The walls would not only effectively obscure their view of any good being done by folks on the other side of the particular wall obscuring their own field of vision, those walls would also keep them from seeing anything that others who also love the Lord might even be seeing more clearly.

If he’d been allowed to keep that walled-off attitude, the Apostle John could have become the patron saint of any number of modern folks whose toxic approach to religion motivates them to be absolutely proud of small-minded divisiveness and who expect an “Attaboy!” from Christ for doggedly clinging to incredibly stunted and spirit-withering views of the folks they barely acknowledge on the other sides of the unholy walls they’ve built.

But John didn’t get a pat on the back. Instead he got a word of correction from the Lord: “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said, and (I’m paraphrasing), here’s why:

1) No one who does good works in my name is likely to say anything bad about me in the next breath.

2) Anyone who is not against us is for us, and that’s a very good thing!

3)  And, in fact, anyone who does good to my people will be sure to be rewarded.

“Don’t stop him!” Be glad for the good being done.

John learned a lesson that day, and he seems to have learned it well because it is in John’s Gospel that Jesus’ beautiful prayer, truly “the Lord’s Prayer,” a prayer that Christ’s modern disciples have largely ignored, is recorded. John recalls Jesus’ deep desire for his disciples as Christ prays to the Father, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).

What is Christ’s attitude toward other groups of his people outside of our own doing good in his name?

We don’t have to wonder.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

 


%d bloggers like this: