Monday, October 12, 2015

"Black Diamond"

Jeremiah 4.25-26 NLT

“I looked, and all the people were gone. All the birds of the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.”

From the Sermon on the mount by Darlene Slavujac Thau
I indulged myself a few years back. Black Diamond is an old coal mining town south of Seattle and I convinced my family to stop there on our way to see friends in Enumclaw. I was the pastor of the Black Diamond Presbyterian Church from 1978-1985 and wanted to stroll down memory lane at the old church I served 30 years before.

It was Sunday afternoon and front door was unlocked so we walked in. I was struck by the generally poor condition of the facility. There was deferred maintenance everywhere. God’s house was a mess. It was tired and seemed ready for some serious T.L.C. The building needed paint, repair, cleaning, landscaping, and major de-cluttering.

It hurt my heart to recall the days when this rural church was alive and packed with several hundred enthusiastic people hungry for God. We were a single-minded fellowship of genuine faith and motivated to reach our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remember when there was no Christian education wing and the vision and courage it took to build it. I remember the Labor Day parades and mini-Passion plays in the school play ground. I remember the music and fun, the pot-lucks and picnics, the children and programs, the work parties and prayer groups, the worship and joy, the love and dreams we all shared together.

Now “I looked, and all the people were gone... and the fertile fields had become a wilderness”. It was eerie. The space was silent. I found only a few faded mementos of days gone by… a portrait of Jesus hanging in the lobby donated by the artist, the old pulpit I used to preach from, the “state of the art” speakers we hung from the sanctuary ceiling. I felt sadness, even mild remorse. I thought to myself, I have a new life now. A new wife, a new family, a new home, a new career, a new ministry, a new future. But I really missed the wonderful people and experiences of those days. I still do. I cannot recreate this amazing experience, nor should I try. The Bible says...

“Do not say, ‘Why is it that the former days were better than
these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”
Ecclesiastes 7.10

Six years ago I was in Spokane and watched my dear friends Randy and Cherri bury their daughter. Laura Elizabeth (Simon) Quentin was born on June 23, 1981 and went to be with Jesus on October 4, 2009. Exactly thirty-four years ago I gave their precious Laura to the Lord in an infant dedication ceremony at Black Diamond Presbyterian Church. I stood before a cheerful and vibrant congregation while very young parents Randy and Cherri beamed with joy and love and hope for Laura’s days ahead. We were all so fresh and youthful and wrinkle-free and idealistic about the future. That future is now and so much sadder than any of us anticipated. 

Six weeks ago I said good-bye to the love of my life, my precious wife Adonica. How does one embrace a present reality that looks so different than what was imagined three decades ago, before Laura died? Or, even a year ago, before my healthy, vibrant wife was diagnosed with Leukemia? We cannot recapture the past. It’s gone. The realization that what could have been never fully was, is almost too painful to bear.

“I looked, and all the people were gone. All the birds of the sky had flown
away. I looked, and the fertile fields had become a wilderness.”

Only those who have lost something very precious can take comfort in Christ’s words...

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Matthew 5. 4
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The beautiful painting above is entitled "From the Sermon on the mount..." and used by permission of the artist, Darlene Slavujac Thau. It's rendition of Matthew 5.4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" moves me. You may view and purchase Darlene's work at http://www.biblicalartist.net/theythatmourn.html.

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