Looking Back, Looking Ahead

 Chuck and I with our family at our retirement party

Chuck and I with our family at our retirement party

“How nice for Chuck and Sharon to hear these things while they are still alive!” I wonder how many people said or thought this on their way home from the Retirement Party that Glasgow Church threw for Chuck and me!

            After the party, our adult children laughed when they said, “Well, Mom and Dad, we’re already for your funeral. Heidi can pull out her comments and we can just show the video!”

            My sister, Gayle, told me that after my brother and she helped our parents prepare their funeral service years before their deaths, my mother looked over the program and said, “I want a run through!”

            I think we got our run through and I wish everyone could experience the joy and overwhelming blessing of such an event. There are no words to thank our son, Chuck, and friends Melissa Weisenfels and Stan Sanders for their leadership in planning and executing such a large celebration with excellence and joy.

The video our son Dan made

            The evening was surreal, we couldn’t get around to all the friends who gathered to celebrate this momentous event in our lives. We watched a macro view of the past forty-eight years of our life, portrayed in a video produced by our son, Dan.

We laughed, we shed some tears, and once more we were overwhelmed by the obvious hand of God on our life journey.  Laura told us that each era was like a book chapter, waiting to be written.

            Our daughter, Heidi, wowed the audience with her description of life with us through her grid:

 
 

So many memories, not enough time to share.

            Friends from one of our first Philadelphia churches shocked us with their presence. Chuck was undone with emotion as he hugged eighty-eight year old Mary Scarborough and her adult children. The memories of street ministry, of Mary’s fearlessness in her passion to share the Gospel in the hard places of poverty-stricken Philadelphia, and how she taught Chuck by her life that fear was not an acceptable component in the life of the believer. And many tears flowed as Mary’s daughter sang, It is Well With My Soul. We remembered Chuck standing next to 17-year old Paulette, as she cried her way through singing such hymns in front of the congregation. Paulette reminded us of how Chuck would insist she had to sing, she had to push through her tears and allow God to use her gifts His way. He would not take no from her. Twenty-five year old PB (as the teens called him) repeatedly stood next to her during services, hand on her back, reassuring her but firmly making her get through the whole song. Paulette is now the worship leader at her church.

 Chuck and I with our Philadelphia church family

Chuck and I with our Philadelphia church family

            What a joy to see friends from every era of our life journey. Oh, the stories we could share if only there was time that night! We did life together, raising our kids, building schools, building churches. We experienced real life miracles as God provided the funds and people to buildbuildings in the middle of corn fields. We wept over shattered dreams, going into the dark places of life, shoulder to shoulder, grieving at the gravesides of too many friends, rejoicing in the accomplishments of children, celebrating marriages, births, baptism, graduations, anniversaries, family celebrations, picnics, softball games, and too many sermons to count (but close to 2500). Mention a few words and our minds and hearts took us back to watching God do what only He could do. In spite of the dark and shattered places, the over riding theme in our hearts was and is that God is sovereign and we can trust Him. And how do we express our joy and thanks at how the next generations are fully engaged with building God’s church and loving the journey of doing life with like-minded friends.

            Though we are grateful for the opportunity to look back and rejoice in God’s faithfulness, we are once more in a waiting room, waiting for our “redeployment orders.” Yes, Chuck is retired from the vocational pastoral role. But retirement from ministry is not in our DNA. We’re grateful for the wide open doors of MARKINC Ministries, where we will continue to produce and distribute resources designed to offer help and hope to the hurting. But is there more? What platform does the Lord have in mind for Chuck to continue to share the Gospel through preaching and teaching?

            We wait with trust that just as He has led us in the past, He will continue to lead us in the present and into the future:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will you allow Your Hold One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Psalm 16:5 – 11