September 21, 2016
John Nunn, Christ UMC, Neptune Beach
HEAVEN HERE AND NOW: My wife of 53 years passed away on May 29, 2013. Nothing could have prepared me for the effect this event had on me. I was unable to function, lost weight, grieved and cried almost without end.
As an example: One day while shopping at the supermarket, I thought about how we used to shop together, me carrying the grocery list and marking items off as she pointed out what to get, our discussions about various items. All of a sudden I missed her so much that I could not continue. I was overwhelmed with grief. I left the cart in the aisle, drove home, curled up in bed with my clothes on and just cried.
I spend a good bit of time on the beach. When I walked on the beach, if I saw a couple walking together, my thought was, they don't know how lucky they are, and they won't until one of them is gone. If I saw a family playing on the beach, I was envious.
This went on for three months. One day I trudged out onto the beach, head down. I looked up and the beauty of the sky filled me. I stood and looked around, taking in the grandeur of the sky, the ocean, the sand. I was hit with a sudden thought: I'm like Job in the Bible, complaining to God about what I had lost and not being grateful for what I had.
My heart filled with joy. I stood and thanked God for the 53 years I had with Norma, the beautiful world he has put me in, the beautiful people in this world.
From that day to now, I see the world differently. I see friends where before I saw people. I see beauty where before I saw objects and surroundings. I feel an uncompromising love for every person I see. I feel a closeness and love and compassion toward everyone I meet. I appreciate the sights of nature. If I see a couple together, I rejoice in their happiness. If I see a family playing on the beach, I feel joy for their happiness. I look for occasions to tell people that I appreciate them. I carry spare money in my pocket and offer it in a tactful way to anyone who appears to be in need.
If someone expresses anger, rather than following the natural human reaction of returning the feeling, I feel compassion, realizing that that person is in a dark place and hurting and not knowing how to diminish the hurt. I take joy in every meeting, planned or by chance. I want to testify to everyone I encounter that we have a wonderful world and we should be unremittingly grateful. If I see someone do something positive, no matter how small, I tell them that it is a good thing. I want them to feel appreciated. If I see someone in need, I try to figure out how to help that person.
I have resolved to do what I can through acts of kindness and joy to make the world a better place. I believe that is what Jesus was telling us, that it is up to us by our acts of kindness, to create the Kingdom of Heaven on this earth, in this lifetime, in this moment. I have found Heaven, and it is in my heart. Heaven is here, it is now and it is available to those who stop seeking it and open our hearts and let it come to us. I have the unthinking, unquestioning faith of a child, as Jesus said we all should.
I now realize why Jesus suffered. I cannot compare my suffering to His, but I understand that without suffering there can be no redemption. I'm not waiting for Heaven. Heaven is in my heart.
Becky Jordan, First Brandon
I had occupied a pew for several years and become a museum Christian. No longer alive, no salt or light. I was full of self and limited God to a microscopic place in my life. Matthew 6:23 says …’the darkness that takes over the body of a child of God who has gone astray—that is the deepest, darkest darkness there is.’ I can say without hesitation this is the deepest darkness there is.
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