Update added below
Today, when I went out to the cemetery with my mother to decorate my father's grave, I saw this sweet little marker in an older part of the cemetery. I love the way the maker set the square stone on edge. "Budded on earth to bloom in heaven" must have been a comforting sentiment for Mr. and Mrs. Wolf and I am confident that little Zoe Ilene is indeed in the arms of Jesus Christ.
So many babies died back then. Sometimes, when we travel to a particular city, we take walks through an old cemetery there. It is full of large mausoleums, huge, beautiful monuments and ornate iron fences around family vaults. In the oldest part of that cemetery, there is a section of baby graves all dated around the same time; they probably were all lost to an epidemic of some sort.
Death is always difficult, but babies are the hardest to lose. When a baby dies, no doubt some people want to know why God would allow such a thing to happen. But the reality is that everyone dies. The day a person is born, the number of his or her days is already known to God (Psalm 139:16); some of us live tens of thousands, some several thousand, some several hundred, some just a few, some not even one full day. Death is a part of life.
Somehow, even though we all know this very well, we still don't ever really expect that it will happen. We know that it will sometime, but we always think of it as being in the far distant future, leaving us plenty of time to...
I recently went with a group of friends to a public gathering. We went with the intention of presenting the gospel to people there. At one point, three of us spoke at length to a group of young adults. A young lady was the dominant personality of the bunch and she was the most vocal, though all of them interacted with us at least a little. We explained the nature of man and showed them that they--like all of us--are sinners. We spoke to them about God's justice and why He must punish the guilty. We made it clear that hell is a real place. We also spoke to them of God's mercy and grace, demonstrated through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which made a way for the forgiveness of our sins.
Finally, we asked if it made sense to them. One of the young ladies told us something along the lines of, she wasn't going to die for a long time and so it was not important right now. The one who had done the most talking said she just didn't buy the heaven or hell thing and didn't believe God would punish her, as she wasn't that bad. She was looking for door number three, purgatory was suggested. Her idea of purgatory is probably different than the official Catholic definition, but it doesn't matter, because they are both inventions of man.
Of the group, there was one young lady who seemed to have taken in what was said, but she was quiet and had hardly spoken. We suggested that they all look into God's Word to see for themselves if what we had told them was true (they said that they do believe in the Ten Commandments and we told them the whole Bible is true, not just that part). As one of my friends was handing out tracts, he seemed to be overlooking the quiet one, and she noticed. I asked her if she would like a tract as well and she said she did. As we discussed it later, my friend said that often, the person in the group who does the interacting with you is not necessarily the one who you are speaking to. You never know whose hearts are being affected by the living Word of God.
There was another thing at the cemetery this afternoon that caught my eye, a headstone of a husband and wife that was very close to the road. It was a large one with lovely engravings and all of the essential information. At the bottom, underneath the husband's and wife's names, were these words (names changed to protect the innocent):
I don't know who messed up, but this is one grammar error that can't be easily corrected. When you fail to engrave the apostrophe in its place on rock, you will have grammarians shaking their heads for years and years and years.
Failing to make a word possessive instead of plural on a tombstone is an error that cannot be corrected short of starting over with a new piece of granite; it is a costly mistake. Refusing to bow the knee to Christ before you die is an error for which there is no remedy, only eternal punishment in hell. But if you submit to Him, the Lord will make you a new person and He will engrave the image of His beloved Son upon you, rendering you beautiful and fit for heaven.
Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."
Update: File this one under "appearances can be deceiving." It turns out that Lenny's wife was a Ms. Lennys before she married Lenny. Lennys was her last name! I am impressed. First, I am impressed that her last name before she married Lenny was so close to his nickname and second, I am impressed that a person we know who was at the cemetery at the same time my mom and I were bothered to pursue what the story was behind the Lenny/Lennys words. It turns out that the engravers are very, very careful about that sort of thing.