Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The main thing

The Beve, SK and I went to a memorial service yesterday. The wife of the minister of congregational care of the church we went to for 10 years died unexpectedly last week. She was 75, loved Christ and His church, loved her husband and family, and was an inimitable personality around our church. She left her mark on the kitchen, in Bible Studies, and, among a host of other things, organized an amazing pickle party every summer--the best pickles I've ever tasted came out of the jars made with her recipe.

Personally, we got to know her because we lived within walking distance of her house for six years. And she took a great interest in E. She would have been a scholastic athlete if such things had been possible when she was young, so E's sports drew her. She and her husband came to watch E play high school volleyball and basketball several times over E's high school career. And when E left for college, she wrote or emailed E often. When I heard the news that she'd died, I called E before I called the Beve, in fact. I liked this relationship E had with Phyllis. It's always meant a lot to me that she cared so much, that she was also a voice of God in E's life. And E always made sure she talked to Phyllis when she came home. E was sad to hear the news, and sad to be so far away she couldn't join us in honoring Phyllis.

So we went to church, sat down in a crowded sanctuary, and listened to people speak of her impact on their lives. She lived a Kingdom-life, from beginning to end. And the stories told about her never deviated from acknowledging that. Phyllis had the same kind of spice and vinegar as her pickles (and I'm not talking sweet pickles), a dry wit and an unfailing eye for what didn't please her, as well as what did. She liked things to be a certain way--like the church's kitchen where everything had its place, and the punch for every function at the church, which is always made with white grape juice and ginger ale, because it doesn't stain carpets--and she wasn't afraid to tell people what she thought, good, bad or ugly. She was a real person, is what I'm saying. And in her strengths as well as her weaknesses, God used her mightily. He took her as she was and used her.

Anyway, sitting there, singing those wonderful old hymns she loved, listening to her nephews sing in Swedish, hearing the stories of her faithful service, I was deeply moved. It was definitely a celebration, not merely of a life, but, as her brother said, "of Christ's work through His servant, Phyllis."

Afterwards I heard several people say it made them wonder what would be said of them at their memorial service. It's the question begging to be asked, I suppose. And her example is hard to stand up to. What has my life been about? When all is said and done, will those I've been rubbing shoulders with in this world testify to Christ as the thing my life has been about? The one thing? Thirty years ago, I heard a pastor say, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." I've taken these words seriously, said them to others countless times. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. That's what Phyllis did--keeping Christ first, keeping her eyes on Him. And it's my goal as well. When I'm flying to Jesus, finally, I don't want anything to be left undone that should have been done, or done badly that I haven't reconciled.

I like her example because she wasn't simply a sweet old lady. But being herself was what God used. Sure, she ruffled feathers. But I know me, I'm not all that 'sweet' either. I'm built in the mold of Phyllis, I guess. Pretty opinionated, certain that I'm right, sure of how things should be...and yet, God uses me. Thankfully, that's what He wants to use. Not me trying to be as sweet as my favorite aunt, or as girly-girl as my youngest child. With all my warts and flaws--He both loves and uses me. Just as I am. Just as He did Phyllis. Thank God.

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