"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
August 29, 2012
Last week the topic of my devotional was faith, and an example I used was my brother-in-law, Jimmy. This week is "part-two", the topic not necessarily being that of faith, but of faithfulness.
This past Sunday morning, August 26, Jimmy went home to be with Jesus. One thing I can say about Jimmy is that he was consistently faithful and diligently lived each day for God. He was enthusiastic and gung-ho, and expected everyone else to be the same. If you were going to say that you're a Christian, then live like it each and every day and always give 100% and give God your best; this was how he lived his life and how he wanted others to live theirs.
On Saturday morning, Jimmy's breathing changed and became very rapid and labored. His lungs had stopped working and he was having to use his diaphragm to push the air in and out. The nurse told us that it was literally as if he was running a marathon, and he was having to work hard to breathe. You could see his stomach push in and out with each breath. When this first started, he was taking about 42 breaths per minute, and towards the end had got up to over 60. We were told that there would be a transitional period where his breathing would start to slow, then he would begin taking fewer and fewer breaths per minute. For almost 20 hours, Jimmy "ran" his marathon. At the end, there was no transitional period. He suddenly went from the rapid breathing to 13 breaths in one minute, 9 breaths per minute for 2 minutes, then he was gone. The family were talking afterwards that Jimmy didn't slow down to walk or crawl through the gates of heaven, but he literally ran all the way there! He ran the race, he finished his course, and he crossed the finish line with diligence.
Throughout the past couple weeks, there has been one word that has come up time after time when someone has been talking to Janie about Jimmy -- and that is "excellence". Jimmy did every single thing that he did with excellence. He didn't do it half-way, or just enough to get by, but he did it to the very best of his ability. It didn't matter if it was mowing, taking care of his tools, cleaning the gutters, keeping things organized, or keeping the lights in unused rooms turned off and doors closed to save electricity -- he did it with excellence. Pastoring, sermon preparation, and working in deaf ministry in many different capacities -- he did it with excellence. Being a husband, father, and grandfather -- he did it with excellence. Living his life for God and being faithful -- he did it with excellence.
Honestly, he is one of the very few people that I can say daily lived out Colossians chapter 3, verses 17, 23, and 24. "Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Jesus."
I know that there were those who misunderstood Jimmy or thought he was sometimes harsh. He wasn't a perfect man and made mistakes at times. He was very plain-spoken and didn't always "filter" his tone or words very well, so he often sounded very blunt and was very straight-forward. If you asked him a question, he wasn't going to tell you what you really "wanted" to hear, but he was going to tell you his honest opinion and what he thought. People don't always like that! But his thinking was, "If you don't want to know, then don't ask me." You always knew where you stood with Jimmy and didn't have to guess.
Everything he did, he did it heartily and gave it his very best. When he mowed his own yard or the church lawn, as he did for many years, he did it as if he were getting paid for it and wanted it to look professional. If his name was attached to having done a job, he gave it 100% and took it personally that everything he did was a reflection on him.
He was very active in deaf ministry for many years through pastoring a church, traveling in the US and internationally preaching revivals and retreats and camps, was deaf retreat coordinator for many years, and served in various other leadership roles. Jimmy truly had leadership qualities and organizational skills, and people loved it when he served in various positions because they knew that everything was going to be taken care of, all bases covered, it would be organized, and it would all be done with excellence.
When he first came to Tulsa, he talked to the A/G presbyter, who oversaw all the A/G churches in this section, about having qualified interpreters at all district events. He didn't want someone interpreting for the deaf who wasn't skilled. He wanted them to have the best and wanted this to be done with excellence. The ex-presbyter recently spoke with Janie and said that after Jimmy spoke to him about this, he thought, "Why hadn't I thought of that?!" He had a lot of respect for Jimmy and the impact that he has had on deaf ministry.
Jimmy didn't want deaf ministry to be something that was secondary in churches where they were all thrown in a corner with someone who barely knew sign language interpreting for them. He wanted them to have the best and worked hard see that that was achieved. He loved the deaf community and was active in personally getting to know people and ministering to them.
When someone asked Jimmy to pray for them or a specific need they had, his response would always be, "Okay, I'll pray for you right now." He didn't want to say that he'd pray, then get busy and forget, so would do it right then and there, no matter where it was. If they wanted prayer, then he would pray.
Jimmy loved the people in the church that he pastored. He would spend hours each week preparing sermons and never got up to preach without a lot of preparation. That's not to say that occasionally he felt God lead him in a different direction in the middle of a service, but he was always prepared and ready to preach. He spent time praying for the people in his church. He wanted the inside of the church to always be clean and be appealing to those who attended or visited. He pastored with excellence. That's not to say that everyone who attended the church throughout the years always loved Jimmy in return or agreed with everything he did, but he would pray about each situation and handle it the way that he felt God would have him to; and that is not always a people pleaser. But Jimmy know that in the end, he had to answer to God, not man. This past year, Jimmy missed being able to preach each Sunday and pastor the people like he wanted to do. That was his heart and his calling and it wasn't just a duty or a job to him, but Jimmy loved studying the Word of God and preparing sermons and preaching. He loved pastoring the people.
One time my niece was talking to her parents and asked if they ever had any regrets. Janie answered, "Yes, I've done or said things that I've regretted." Jimmy's response was, "No, not really." That made Janee' and Janie laugh at the time, and they remembered that a few nights ago. But Jimmy was sincere in his reply. He always tried to live his life so that that he had no regrets, and felt that he had done his best at doing so. I think perhaps he also felt that there was no reason to go through life looking back and regretting things in the past that were already repented of and forgiven by God. He didn't look behind him at the past, but looked ahead to the future.
Jimmy loved Janie and was a wonderful husband to her for 30 1/2 years. They made a great ministry team and both felt honored that God called them into deaf ministry. They sharpened one another to make each other better. They had a deep love and devotion to one another. Jimmy never expected Janie to wait hand and foot on him or to serve him. After every single meal that she cooked throughout their marriage, he would always say, "Thank you honeybun!" and would compliment her cooking. He would take his own plate to the sink and rinse it off, and taught the kids to do that also. Jimmy respected Janie and honored her.
He also loved his children and prayed for them daily and was a good daddy. His son said, "When dad gave us a compliment we knew that we had earned it and it felt good to get it." The kids all loved and respected their dad. He taught them how to do things and loved spending time with them. When they got older and began moving out of the house, he always looked forward to them coming "home". All three kids, plus Devin, thought the world of him and was honored that God chose him to be their dad.
Jimmy adored his grandkids! When he wasn't feeling his best or not communicating well, anytime Jax or Abigail walked into the room his eyes would light up and he would perk up. One thing that he looked forward to and planned for months was making a trip to San Antonio to see his new grandson, Owen, when he was born this past July. There were times when my sister wasn't sure whether or not he was going to be able to make the trip, but he managed to go. All he wanted to do the entire time they were there was to hold Owen.
Most of all, Jimmy loved God. He did his best to please God in all that he did. He never lived his Christianity half-heartedly or just enough to get by through life, but he lived it fully and joyfully. Jimmy did everything heartily as unto to God. And he wanted everyone else to do the same. He was faithful, not just when it was convenient or his prayers were being answered or he was being blessed, but he was faithful in all situations and under all circumstances. This past year he was faithful. Jimmy trusted God and never questioned, "Why me?!" when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. But he continued living his faith in God and believing God to provide and care for him and Janie and honored God in all that he did. He was faithful to the very end! What a testimony!!
We will all one day come to the end of our lives, some sooner than others. Not all of us will live to be 100, or whatever our "old age" goal is. Jimmy was 57 years old when he began his eternity. We're not all promised long life and good health until we "think" we're old enough to die. But my question is, what will others say about us when our life comes to an end? Will they say, "All he/she did was gripe and complain and nag and worry and everything was always so negative......" Will our life be a testimony that we were daily faithful to God and gave 100% to all that we did? There may not be people worldwide whose lives have been touched by ours, like Jimmy was able to impact people. But what about our family, church, friends, and community? Have we made any difference in anyone's life, or will very few people even notice when we're gone and soon forget our existence?
I want to make a difference. I want my life to be a testimony of God's faithfulness. I want to be an awesome wife, sister, friend, etc. I want others to be touched by my words and actions, and to be a positive impact on people. If asked, I want to be able to say, "I have no regrets." But I can't just sit around and wish for it to happen. I have to make the right choices and honor God. In everything that I do, I have to choose to give 100% and do it not for the applause or praise of man, but to do it as unto God. I want to leave behind a godly legacy that will impact my family and friends and church. What about you? What type of legacy do you want to leave behind -- and are you doing your best to make sure that your life is a testimony to the faithfulness of God? Let's choose to be examples and live our lives fully for the glory of God.
Hebrews 12:1: "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us"
Acts 20:24: "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
And best of all, Paul wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 4:7: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
The nurse who visited Jimmy the day before he passed described his breathing as if he was running a marathon. He kept up that breathing for over 20 hours. Jimmy ran a good race.
Zucchini Parmesan Crisp
1 lb. Zucchini (about 2 medium)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray lightly with vegetable spray. Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch-thick rounds. Toss rounds with oil, coating well. In a wide bowl or plate combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Place rounds in parmesan-breadcrumb mixture, coating both sides of each round, pressing to adhere. The mixture will not completely cover each round, but provides a light coating on each side. Place rounds in a single layer on baking sheets. Sprinkle any remaining breadcrumb mixture over the rounds. Bake for about 22 to 27 minutes, until golden brown. There is no need to flip them during baking -- they crisp on both sides as is.
More times than not, whenever Janie (my sister) and I get together, we end up wearing basically the same color. We don't plan it, but it just happens that way. Jimmy used to say that we looked the same from the back (and did get us confused a time or two) and would ask, "How come you all wear the same colors all the time? You need to dress different so I can tell you apart!" Of course, Jon has got the two of us confused. He walked up behind Janie and started rubbing her shoulders. She told him, "Thanks for the neck massage, but I'm not your wife." The thing is, Janie and I really don't think that we look that much alike, other than both being chunky and having short hair. We don't understand why people think we look so much alike!
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy 4:7
We love you!
Loretta & Jon