Friday, August 31, 2007

In honor of my grandmother

My grandmother died on August 9, 2007. I had the honor of performing her funeral on August 26 at the Laemersville Grace Brethren Church in Pennsylvania. We then did a graveside at the Brumbaugh cemetary, where she is buried next to her parents and other ancestors. I don't usually post things here that I preach, but the family has asked that I share this. I generally work from a manuscript like this and then go from there. I don't remember what I added and changed "on the fly" but it's usually a pretty good amount. Particularly with something like this I like to personalize it even more when I deliver it. Still, I think this gives you the general feel of the message. The message was preceded by the songs Wonderful Words of Life and Ivory Palaces, as well as the Lord's Prayer. Afterwards we sang the songs My Jesus I Love Thee and Face to Face. My grandmother was a gifted musician, and this lead to the music theme that you will see.

On behalf of the family of Kathern Lingenfelter I want to thank you for being here today. The song Ivory Palaces was always very special to grandma because she remembered her parents singing it as a duet. Her father, George Rogers, founded this church 1936 and was the individual responsible for leading Harvey Lingenfelter, my other great-grandfather to the Lord.

In Psalm 106 we read a brief account of Phinehas, who interceded for the Israelites in prayer, and it is written that his righteousness was counted to him from generation to generation. Truly we can see the same thing happening in the work that George Rogers did to spread the gospel here in Pennsylvania. I mention this because I am the grandson of Kathern Lingenfelter, who is the daughter of George Rogers and Elma Brumbaugh. I serve on the pastoral staff of a church in California and I am very honored to be speaking to you today in what is truly my spiritual home.

Around Christmas of last year I went over to my grandparent's house with my daughter to sing with grandma. She loved to sit at the piano and play while we all sang along. One of the pieces that we sang that night was Ivory Palaces. I remember standing there, having difficulty singing as I choked up listening to Kathern's frail voice singing a song that she clearly loved and had sung all of her life. It is also a song that was passed on from generation to generation as her parents sung it, she sung it, and today you heard my parents sing it.

One of the poignant things about this hymn is that it speaks of the pain and suffering that Jesus endured as he left his ivory palaces to dwell with us here. Kathern lived 82 years, and she served God through her life, while enduring mental suffering at times, as well as living through the great depression. Life wasn't always easy, but she always knew where her eternal destiny was.

In John 14 Jesus assures us:

John 14:2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The story does not end when our life ends here. For Kathern, this is only the beginning. Now she is experiencing the place that Jesus has prepared for her, face to face with her savior at last. Kathern now dwells in the ivory palaces she could only sing about during her time on this earth.

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon late in his life, as he wrote down his observations on life. Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom, and the Lord granted it. In 1 Kings we read about how wise Solomon was:

1Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore,
1Kings 4:30 so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.
1Kings 4:31 For he was wiser than all other men

While we must always take scripture seriously, I think it's worth taking a moment to dwell on the fact that scripture refers to Solomon as wiser than all other men. The language is unequivocal, the Hebrew word translated "all" literally means all, every or the whole. Solomon was wiser than the whole of mankind.

The center of the book of Ecclesiastes is chapter 7. When writing in ancient times the center of a text was extremely important. It was the key point on which everything else hinged. Here's what Solomon has to say at the center of Ecclesiastes:

Eccl. 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
Eccl. 7:2 It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.

Let's look at each of these statements as we reflect on today. A good name is better than precious ointment -- Our name is a reflection of the life we live on this earth. Your name is a reflection of your integrity, it is a reflection of whether or not you lived with the fruit of the spirit or not. The smiles in the slideshow we watched show how Kathern presented herself to her family. We knew her, we loved her, and we were impacted by her love of Christ.

The day of death is better than the day of birth -- when we are born there is joy, but much uncertainty. Our lives are a clean slate, unwritten. We will make choices that will affect our eternity. Our day of death, if we have lived for God and have a good name as a result, is a day of certainty. Kathern's earthly problems are now history, she is free from the troubles of her mind and body, free to rejoice in the presence of her creator.

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart -- put simply, there is no better place for you to be right now than at this funeral. Funerals have a way of making us think about our own lives, and this opportunity is one of the few times our society allows us to pause and reflect on our own lives, as we celebrate the passing of another.

Furthermore, we all have the same end. Unless the Lord returns very soon, every one of us will come to the same end. As we reflect on Kathern's life today, we have the opportunity to think on our own ends, and being that we are still among the living, we still have time to do something about our name, and how we will be remembered.

Many years ago my grandparents,Galen & Kathern, came to visit us in southern California, and I was working at the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton. I'll never forget the Easter that I took them to church with me. Chuck Swindoll was the senior pastor, and he preached a challenging message, but one that was not what you or I would consider a "typical" Easter sermon. Chuck was trying to put a different twist on things in hopes of grabbing people who were typically only Easter & Christmas attendees.

I'll never forget grandma's response as we were driving away from the church. "I didn't like it!" she declared. When asked why she said "because he didn't present the gospel!" I explained that he had but he had put a new spin on it in order to try to reach some of those who hadn't gotten the message before. Her reply was simple "They still need to hear it! It's Easter and they should hear the gospel presented plainly and clearly!"

That moment gave me a profound insight into my grandmother. Her response to what most of us thought was a pretty good sermon reminded me of the apostle Paul, who wrote:

1Cor. 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Kathern lived to see the gospel preached to the world, and she was unashamed of its content. I certainly don't mean to be critical of the preaching skills of Chuck Swindoll, but I think this is a great example of how important those wonderful words of life were to Kathern. There was nothing more important that anyone could hear than of how Jesus had died for our sins, and was risen from the grave, for this is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ that was written about at the beginning of Mark. To Kathern, the cross was powerful, and the Word of God was all that was needed to bring people to a saving faith in Him.

Grandma would often play "My Jesus I Love Thee" on her organ at home, and she called it her theme song. We will sing it in a moment. But before we do, I'd like to take a few moments to reflect on what we will be singing:

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine
For thee all the follies of sin I resign
My gracious Redeemer, my Saviour art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

The theme song of Kathern's life is about loving Christ in the present, not in some distant future. It is about forsaking sin and the world in order to follow Jesus, our gracious redeemer.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree;
I love thee for wearing thorns on thy brou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

Jesus died for our sins. Only he could pay the price, only he could make the sacrifice. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus at calvary that we can spend eternity with Him.

I'll love thee in life, I will love thee in death,
And praise thee as long as thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now

Grandma was known around Regency Park as "The piano lady." She filled the halls with the glorious sound of the piano, which so often lies silent. Everything she played on that piano was in praise of God. She played hymn after hymn, proclaiming the glory of God to all who would listen. She played praises to God on that piano until her strength would no longer allow it. Kathern truly loved Jesus in life, and loved him in death. She praised Him until she no longer was able to do so, and now freed of her frail earthly body, she is praising him again with a strong voice.

In mansions of glory and endless delight
I'll ever adore thee in heaven so bright
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.

Why don't we sing this together now in honor of my grandmother, Kathern Lingenfelter.

My grandfather reading Revelation 21 & 22 at the graveside in what is probably his last ever act of pastoral ministry. My dad is standing between me and my grandfather.

Reading on the plane

I don't know why, but I've always had trouble getting work done on the plane. On vacation we were on a plane for 29 hours total, and then for the funeral I flew another 14 hours or so. I discovered that not only can I not work on a plane, I can't read serious stuff. I don't know why. Perhaps there are just too many distractions.

I took the book The Foundations of Mysticism by Bernard McGinn with my on my trip. I tried to read it on the plane, I really did. But in the end I read You Only Live Twice (James Bond book), the first Harry Potter book, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, and a lot of magazines. I took a book on the Emerging Church by Eddie Gibbs, one that I really enjoy, and I read magazines instead.

Sigh. I wish I could be productive on planes. On the other hand, maybe it's nice to have somewhere in the world where I can just relax and have some downtime...

I was able to read the McGinn book while we were on Yap. It's quite good actually. I'm not quite done though. When I finish it I will give it a proper review.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


This weekend I flew to Pennsylvania with my parents and my grandfather to do my grandmother's funeral. It was a huge honor to be able to do the service. The service was at the Laemersville Grace Brethren Church, which was also very special to me because that church was founded by my great-grandfather Rogers, who led my great-grandfather Lingenfelter to the Lord. Furthermore, my grandfather helped build that church when he was fourteen. It truly is my spiritual home.

The burial was at the Brumbaugh cemetary, where my grandmother is buried next to her parents (her mother was Elma Grace Brumbaugh) and grandparents and other ancestors. It was very cool to be there and to be part of everything.

My grandfather is suffering terribly from confusion and memory loss, possibly alzheimers. Frequently he cannot remember that grandma has died, or where he is, or where he is going etc. The great blessing is that when he asks and I tell him that grandma is "in glory" he is happy to know he does not have to worry about her. But even more important is showing him the pictures of the funeral, and the pictures of her casket next to the tombstone. This puts a finality to everything we didn't have before the burial, and seem to put him at rest.

I am grateful to God for the peace he granted my grandfather this weekend, and for the mercy he showed us as we traveled across the country. God is good!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

20 Grand Days Out

In 1979 I travelled with my family to the island of Yap. I have always wanted to go back, and the summer of 2007 we finally got to make that dream a reality. Our trip began with a visit to my parents house, for dinner and a nice evening visiting with them. We then slept there and my mom took us to the airport in the morning. We were supposed to meet up with them again at the airport in Guam before flying to Yap, although as you will see later, things changed a bit.

Our kids had never flown before, but they did really great. We tend to do very long roadtrips frequently, and our plane flights were all shorter than that and had easy access to the bathroom... We arrived on Hawaii and got settled into our hotel, the Aqua Ocean Tower. It met our needs, although the rooms could use a serious upgrade. The staff was awesome though.

The next morning we set off with a rental car to go get our passports. If you read the "oops" entry below you know why we needed to do this. We had an appointment at 9:30. We walked into the passport office, waited about 10 minutes, and were at the window. We walked out of the federal building at 10:10 including about 10 minutes spent taking turns for the restroom! It was absolutely awesome. I peeked at the appointment list for the day and noticed they were labeled from 1 to 10. That sure beat spending five hours in line in Los Angeles! We had to return the next day to get our passports, which we did. All told we spent 45 minutes getting our passports, as opposed to the 6-8 hours it would have taken us in LA, and we would have needed to wait days.

We had lunch at Maui Mikes, a restaurant we found in the book "Oahu Revealed" which is an excellent guide book. Maui Mikes was incredibly awesome. The chicken was cooked perfectly and really didn't need the sauces they gave us. If you are heading to Oahu and get a car (it's not in Waikiki, it's on the way to the Dole plantation) this is a must! It was cheap too. Maui Mikes was probably my favorite restaurant we ate at on this trip, and we ate at some very nice places...

We went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation, which is a tourist trap if I've ever seen one. Still, Patty wanted to go and we had a good time. Jacob is really into mazes these days so we, of course, simply had to go to the Dole Pineapple Maze. Patty was, as you can see, quite happy to see the finish line. The Dole Plantation was fun, but it was a total tourist trap. How many overpriced Pineapple souveniers can one person buy? Not only that, but Jacob decided he wanted to buy a piece of jewelry for his mommy. Needless to say the first necklace he picked out was like $100, a bit beyond his meager budget. It took quite a while for the saleslady to steer him toward stuff that he could actually afford. Still, we enjoyed the experience and are glad we went.

We moved on to a few lesser known sites on Oahu. First is the Hawaiian Birthing Stones. These stones are where the Hawaiian queens used to come to give birth to their children. Supposedly this process involved something like thirty elders of the tribe all standing around. Talk about a gallery! This place is considered sacred to Hawaiians, so we were respectful and when this gentlemen showed up to pray we moved out of his way and tried to keep the kids quiet.

After enjoying the Dole Plantation and the Birthing Stones, we moved on to the North Shore Area. This area was really beautiful. I think we just barely missed having a window broken out of our car based on the look of the guys who showed up as we were leaving the site where we took this picture. That's one of the unfortunate things about Hawaii, in that there are a lot of teenage types with nothing better to do than see what they can steal from tourists. Thankfully we have never had a problem, so I guess it's not a huge problem. Still, there is a lot of broken window glass around the touristy parking lots...

After a few great days on Hawaii we moved on to Guam, but that's for another post.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Home at last

I know this super highway
This bright familiar sun
I guess that I'm the lucky one
Who wrote that tired sea song
Set on this peaceful shore
You think you've heard this one before

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

She serves the smooth retsina
She keeps me safe and warm
It's just the calm before the storm
Call in my reservation
So long hey thanks my friend
I guess I'll try my luck again

Well the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last
Home at last

As I landed at LAX these lyrics kept running through my mind.

The trip was awesome, but it's good to be home. Much, much, much more to come.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Honolulu Has an Apple Store

so I can check my email and update my blog!

this internet thing is a sickness really...

we've had a great time in waikiki thus far, and are looking forward to the next phase of our trip. i think i got a sunburn today, which isn't good. too early in the trip for that.

best meal of the trip so far: maui mikes:

the people at our hotel have been wonderful. they even got us an anniversary basket!

more to come when we return.