Ok, Lord I get the message!The first time "the message" came on a vanity plate. It read, FNSHWLL. The second time, the reminder was etched on a Historic Marker along Highway 82.
Shannan and I were driving east, enjoying the summer countryside of "Alabama the Beautiful." When we saw the marker we pulled off the road. As we read the text, we were treated to a little piece of history and a BIG life lesson. It read:
In 1835, Reverend John Wesley Norton located near Batesville and established the Providence Methodist Church and School which thrived for many years until his death in 1862. Located four miles south, only the Providence Cemetery remains where Reverend Norton, his wife Nancy Phillips Norton, and many of his church members and neighbors rest in peace. He was a man of few tears, solid piety, true benevolence and spotless character. He was a real pioneer and his death inflicted an irreparable loss upon those he left behind.
I am a pastor. This man was my spiritual kin. When we finished reading the sign it was an easy call. Sure, there was a lot of blacktop between this marker and Boca Raton, Florida. But we threw away the clock and turned south on Country Road 79 in hopes of finding the cemetery. At the four mile mark we began to think the old gravestones were far off the highway, but as we rounded the corner there it was--Providence Cemetery.
Some people avoid final resting places at all costs. Call me weird, but I don't. God says, "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" (Ecclesiastes 7:2 ESV). There are lessons to be learned from funerals, memorial services, and on this day -- from a graveyard.
We walked the cemetery in quiet solitude, pausing to read headstones that were 150 years old. The etching on Norton's stone had been severely weathered by time, but it left a deep and lasting impression on my heart: FINISH WELL.
We arrived home the next night. As I stopped to examine the mound of mail on our kitchen table, I received God's message one more time. This reminder came courtesy of my friend, Bob Schuemann. Scrawled on a postcard in Bob's unmistakable script was this message: "T - Praying for your family & you & for wisdom as you shepherd SRC -- FINISH STRONG."
Tonight our daughter-in-law, Katrina, gave birth to our third grandchild. His name? Micah Thomas.
Ok, Lord. I get the message! Help me to finish well!