The Back Pew - December 2019
Submitted: Ernie Isbell, VLOA Chaplin
When I agreed to become the VLOA Chaplain for this period of our organizations existence I decided not to portray myself as an actual minister, but rather someone who seeks out anecdotes that are worth sharing. The following is from the January-March 2003 Outlaws Newsletter and was provided by Chaplain John Doyle as a story that he ran across. It has a great message.
“There was a woman who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and was given three months to live. As she began to get her things “in order”, she called her pastor and asked him to come to her house and discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him what songs she wanted sung at her service, what scriptures she wanted read, and what dress she wanted to be buried in. She also asked that she be buried with her favorite bible in her left hand.”
Everything was in order and as the pastor was preparing to leave the woman remembered one final request that was very important. “Please Pastor, just one more thing.” “Sure, what is it?” came the Pastor’s reply. “This is very important to me,” the woman continued, “I want to be buried holding a fork in my right hand.” The Pastor gazed at the woman, with a loss for words. “That surprises you doesn’t it? the woman asked. The Pastor replied, “Well to be quite honest, I’m puzzled by your request.” The woman explained, “You see pastor, in all my years of attending church socials and pot luck dinners, I remember that when the dishes were being cleared after the main course, someone would inevitably lean over to me and say, “Keep your fork.” “It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake, or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance to end a great meal.”
The pastor listened intently, and a smile came over his face. The woman continued, “So, I just want people to see me In that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder why. “What’s with the fork?” I want you to tell them, “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”
The pastor’s eyes welled with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times that he would see her before her death. But he also realized that the woman had a better grasp of Heaven than he did. She KNEW and trusted that the best was yet to come.
At the funeral everyone that walked by the woman’s casket saw her wearing a beautiful dress with her favorite Bible in her left hand and a fork in her right hand. Over and over the pastor heard people ask the question. “Why is she holding a fork?” During his message the pastor told of the conversation he had with the woman before she died. He explained the fork and what it symbolized to her. The pastor told everyone how he could not stop thinking about the fork and that he hoped they would not be able to stop thinking about it either. This had quite an impact on everyone and he hoped they would not stop thinking about the meaning as well. Won’t you share this message?
A footnote – During this passed summer I was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder. My doctor removed the cancer in late October and at his office last week he reexamined the site and told me that it appeared to be in good shape. He changed his prognosis and recommended no chemotherapy treatment at this time. I have my fork in my hand, but the future looks brighter. I wish the best for all of you. God Bless.
Ernie Isbell, Chaplain VLOA
What can the Chaplain do for me?
My primary job as Chaplain of the V. L. O. A. is to conduct the Sunday morning worship service at our reunions. In addition, should you have the need to talk with someone who has "been there, done that," I am available to listen.
Outlaws Devotional - July 2017
Ephesians 4:29. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
When I entered the U.S. Army in 1960, I quickly learned that getting straight to the point was the norm. Commanders were “old school;” give orders and demand soldiers execute them. In later years, younger military personnel were a “different breed of cat” and required more explanation before the order.
As a young commander, I wasn’t attuned to the fact that the “explanation” I gave might be perceived as blunt, harsh, or critical. My orders were more often than not very straight-forward, even though they contained some explanation. My Father-in-Law made a statement one time when we were hunting on his Florida farm that really hit home with me. He said: “Words are like a bullet shot from a pistol; once you pull the trigger, you can’t take back the bullet.” As my names imply, I have always been earnest and frank! My Father-in-Law’s words stuck with me as I grew older.
Some years ago, I forwarded an email I received criticizing a politician I didn’t support, only to get a return email from an Army buddy. “Good Christians don’t criticize others” he said in his lengthy response, but then he criticized me for criticizing others. I did a great deal of thinking about what he said.
Have you experienced someone that criticizes or disparages someone else in the written or spoken word, seriously or jokingly, knowingly or unknowingly? Just about everywhere we look in today’s society, there is an abundance of hate, offensive statements, Tweets, Facebook posts, TV reports, and newspaper articles that have clearly moved away from being Christ oriented in our words and deeds. This is the right time for all of us to take a step back and really see how our words and deeds are received by others. Maybe we should apply Ephesians 4:29 during this period where our country is trying to find who it is and what it stands for again as a world leader. Just maybe, some things might work better in our personal lives, our church, our community, and our nation.
My Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, oh Lord, my Strength, and my Redeemer. Amen.
Submitted by Frank Estes