About Those Poor Departed Souls

IMG_0756 (1)Glenn and I were rummaging through items at a yard sale in New England recently when I ran across this Purgatorian  Society certificate dated 1932. Someone actually bought this from the Catholic church during the hard days of the great depression with the full belief that membership in this society would benefit him personally as well as be of help to those “poor departed” souls in purgatory. Membership grants this certificate’s owner the right to participate in “the priceless and countless benefits of Eight High Masses offered daily in Redemptorist Churches, for the spiritual and temporal welfare of its members.” As benefactors of the Redemptorist Order, all members of the Purgatorian Society are privileged to share in the prayers and all other good works performed by the Order throughout the World.” This particular certificate was “Given at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help” in Roxbury, Massachusetts, under the “direction of the Redemptorist Fathers”, on July 15th, 1932. It was duly signed by the “Reverend Father Rector” and contained these words at the bottom: “May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

Eighty-three years after it’s first issuance, I gave two dollars for this at a yard sale. The proprietor at this yard sale was a woman who was ninety-three years old. She would have been ten years old at the time of its issuance, so it more likely belonged to a parent or grandparent. It belonged to someone who believed that in the purchase of membership in this society, the answers to  prayers of “Fathers” during eight masses each day would serve to benefit personally the owner of this certificate. The owner likely also believed that these prayers would aid in behalf of loved ones who had died and were being punished in Purgatory. The prayers of this “order” would help to shorten the time that loved ones who had died were being tormented for their sins. In all of the research that I’ve done about these societies, those suffering in Purgatory are usually referred to as the “poor departed souls.”

Several things come quickly to mind as I think about the ownership of such a certificate:

  1. The owner is deceased now and knows the reality of the permanence of the conditions of “poor departed souls”.  He would gladly give the price of tens of thousands of such certificates–yes, all that he ever had–if he could have just one chance to submit to the simple plan of the New Testament in order to be saved.
  2. The owner of the membership was content to rely on the prayers of lost men, when he could have, if he had chosen to be righteous, availed much as he, himself, talked to the Father in heaven (James 5:16).
  3. The owner of the certificate put His trust in the wrong “Father” when he purchased the document (Matthew 23:9).
  4. The certificate, once prized, has never actually been worth even the yard sale price. The frame (from a very old frame shop in Boston), that we threw away so that we could more easily ship it home, was the only thing of ANY value. In fact, the doctrine on the parchment was believed at great and eternal expense by the owner.
  5. When people in the Catholic faith, the Pentecostal faith, the Mormon faith, the Jehovah’s Witness faith– yes, any well meaning people of any faith–decide that there is more divine revelation than what we have in the Bible, there is no end to the fanciful doctrines of assurance that can be designed and believed. The authority principle (i.e from whence we derive authority for religious beliefs and practices) is a principle about which we must settle our minds in order to please God. If we decide that the New Testament is our authority for worship and practice, as it claims to be (II Timothy 3:16,17), there can be no room for men to devise alternate plans of spiritual benefit and societies to benefit “poor departed souls”. But if we do not accept it as the final authority from God, the door swings wide open for any human society, belief system, authority, and practice. Purgatory and any system of payment for “poor departed souls” is the product of a belief in continuing revelation. But then, so is the papacy, the acceptance of modern-day prophets and/or apostles, and actions based on what God “is laying on my heart” separate from the Word.

Someone, somewhere in Massachusetts took great comfort when he passed through his chamber at night upon retiring and saw the certificate guaranteeing him and his departed loved ones the benefits of eight masses each day by the Order of the Redemptorist Fathers. One night, he likely pillowed his head, never to rise again on this earth. But he still exists on the other side of time and He has tragically learned the truth about the piece of paper that I shipped home from New England.

Would you like to talk about the New Testament’s simple plan for assurance–for knowing we are saved–as we face death? I would love to talk about that with you. byhcontest@gmail.com.

Now, if you’re Digging Deep in God’s Word with us (https://www.facebook.com/groups/282349391779769/), don’t forget the podcast is tomorrow night at 7 CST right here: http://livestream.com/whcoc/for-women.

Sister to Sister: She Suffered the Little Ones to Come

Roberta-EdwardsFor years I’ve heard about the selfless actions of Roberta Edwards in behalf of souls in Haiti. I’ve always wanted to meet and know her. I guess now I will have to wait till I get to know her in heaven…a short wait, when viewed through the eyes of the great Father we share as sisters. She inspired and encouraged me, especially as I followed the story of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and her response to those for whom she had sacrificed so very much. For those who are studying persecution in our Digging Deep 2015-2016 study, she stands as a modern-day example of one who constantly rejoiced through trials and even through persecution. Her death was due to an act of violence and we may well find, upon hearing results of investigations, that it was indeed “persecution for righteousness’ sake.” Will you join me in prayer for the children she left behind, for her family members who are grieving in indescribable ways and for the work for which she paid the ultimate price? Many have clamored for various women in the Catholic church to be canonized as “saints”. My sister, Roberta IS a saint (as are you if the blood price has been applied to your soul). She is a saint who is rejoicing in glory on this autumn night. But children in Haiti are weeping. I am praying that their joy, too, will come in the morning (Psalm 30:5). If it does, it will be largely because of the work of Roberta Edwards.

Here is the report about the shooting from the good church at Estes in Henderson, TN, one of her chief supporting congregations:

Our hearts are saddened to report the death of our missionary Roberta Edwards. On Saturday evening of Oct. 10, witnesses report that Roberta’s car was stopped by another vehicle which intentionally blocked her path. Armed gunmen emerged from the vehicle and fired into Roberta’s car, causing her death. Haitian authorities are investigating, and the identity of the perpetrators and the motive are not known at this time. She is survived by her parents, Robert and Laura Edwards.

Roberta was the administrator and “Mom” at SonLight Children’s Home in Port au Prince, Haiti, where dozens of children have received foster care over the years. Roberta also directed a nutrition center that feeds 160 children two meals a day, five days a week, in addition to providing funds for these children to attend school. At the time of her death, she was providing care for 20 children at her home. Her work has been overseen by the Estes Church of Christ since 2002. The facility where the children’s home operates is provided by Manna Global Ministries, and supporters of Roberta’s work in Haiti include individuals and congregations across the U.S. and beyond.

Roberta was a light to those in the community and dedicated to bringing hope to the hopeless. She knew that she worked in a dangerous setting, but had committed herself to care for children in Haiti despite these risks. Roberta has received her reward for her dedication to serving the Lord in Haiti. She will be missed in Haiti by her children, the community and friends. She will be missed here in the States as an encouragement and inspiration to us all. It is our intention to honor her memory by continuing the battle against Satan in Haiti and pressing on in the work of God’s kingdom.

Memorial services and funeral arrangements are pending, and we will provide updates as those become available. If you would like to honor Roberta with a memorial gift for the work in Haiti, those may be sent to the Estes Church of Christ, P.O. Box 191, Henderson, TN, 38340, and her family will be notified of your tribute. Please be praying for her parents, her children at SonLight Children’s home and the many Haitian brothers and sisters who are deeply grieved by this loss.

Sister to Sister: Another Chance (Part 5)

images-6Glenn just kept listening to Jerry and Maria was listening intently as we zeroed in on key passages from Acts.

We went over to Acts eight, where that Ethiopian officer of the queen Candace, was riding along in the chariot and reading from the prophetic book of Isaiah, when Philip, at the Lord’s bidding, joined him. There is little of the Bible study revealed, but at the end of that study, the man saw water on the roadside and asked Philip if he could be baptized. Whatever it is that Philip said when he preached (literally “announced the good tidings”) to him, it made him want to be baptized. We talked here about how that baptism is a burial, indicated by the fact that they both went down into the water. But we need more than an indication to be sure we are getting baptism right, so we went over to Romans 6:1-5 and clearly read where the mode of baptism is distinctly portrayed as a re-enactment of the burial of our Lord—a burial from which we are resurrected, just as he was, to walk in a new life. I told her the truth about the Greek word that’s translated baptism in our versions today. It literally means “burial”. Translators were reluctant to use the word “burial” because it so plainly contradicted the mode used by religionists of the day. But it was the word chosen by the Holy Spirit. No matter where you look, you see that the very word “baptizo” means “burial” or “immersion”. Maria did not even want to argue about the mode of baptism, though. She could see that people in the New Testament were immersed in water to be saved.

We looked at how Paul, in reviewing his conversion story in Acts 22:16, related that Ananias, who came to him with the gospel said these words: “And now, why do you tarry? Arise and be baptized, washing away your sins.” Maria had no trouble seeing that Saul was IN sin and had need of the washing until he was baptized. We talked about how he had definitely believed out there on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), but that he still needed the washing in baptism before forgiveness could occur. Maria was reading and nodding and becoming very seriously contemplative. She was not taking this conversation lightly.

We continued to read in chapters ten and eleven about the good man Cornelius. We talked about the fact that even though he was devout and God-fearing, prayerful and benevolent (10:2), he was still in need of being saved (11:14). So Peter taught him about the Christ and baptized him.

We saw Lydia in Acts 16, at the place of prayer by the river, learn the gospel and submit to baptism. We looked at that jailer in Philippi, also in Acts 16 and how he went out of the prison in the middle of the night at the obvious risk of his own life for the purpose of being baptized. Maria was already convinced about her own need. But still, we went to the very plain words of Jesus as he commissioned his apostles to teach the gospel to the whole world:

“He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”

Very plain and simple. You just have to have  help to misunderstand the clarity there (Mark 16:16).

And then there’s that I Peter 3:21 language that is so plain….You would think God was expecting the devil to come and do crazy things in our world with the concept of baptism.  So he just came out and said it:

“Baptism does also now save us.”

I frankly told Maria that the devil has done a good job of mixing up the world about this very plain teaching. He has people make fun of “water baptism” people.The devil wants people to die in hell forever. He knows that it doesn’t matter how many medical mission trips you do, how many wells you dig in Africa, how many pies you bake for your grieving neighbors, even how many times each week you go to worship….If he can keep you outside of Jesus Christ, you will still belong to him. And it is baptism that puts people into the body of Christ (Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:27) So, in spite of the ridicule, we have to keep saying it if we love souls. Throughout history, those who have spoken the truths of God have been ridiculed.

On that note, we talked about how that the whole picture of Maria’s obedience would not be easy. She would have a “hard row to plow” upon going back to Mexico. We would first have to search out a group of God’s people, if they even existed, in her hometown. I told her I would try and network a bit and see if I could find them. “The people of God, if they truly are His, will be good to you and help you with transportation to worship, if you need it, and they will encourage you as you start this difficult, but blessed lifestyle.”

It was time for the big question. “Maria, have you been baptized for the remission of your sins?”

Maria’s simple answer: “I have not been baptized with the baptism you have talked about today.”

I then asked Maria if she was ready to be baptized. Maria’s sweet answer? “I am ready now.”

After speaking with her a bit more about the magnitude of her commitment in a world of wickedness, I went to get Glenn. He was still listening to Jerry. My patient husband had given Jerry a bottle of water and let him talk while we had offered Maria the living water. She was ready to quench the thirst that can only be satisfied by the Water of Life.

Sister to Sister: Don’t Tell My Husband =)

Night-Scavenger-Hunt-Flashlight-Search-OutsideI definitely had my hands too full when I left the church building that Wednesday night. Every time I go, I’m loaded coming and going. That’s the way it is when you’re going to see your family, I guess. So this time I set my books on top of the SUV, specifically thinking, “It would be just like me to forget these books, but I am not going to do that. I am going to keep thinking about these books. I am going to remember that my Bible is on the roof.”

Ten minutes later I was walking up and down Oakwood trying to find my Dickson Bible and one of my husband’s antique books from which I had read in my ladies Bible class earlier that night. I am not going to tell you which antique book because the preachers’ wives might tell their husbands and there would be uncontrollable grief among the soldiers of the cross.

I was a sight. Trying to find a place to park my SUV…trying to dodge the traffic as I walked along a road that really doesn’t have a shoulder, and thinking of just how I was going to break this news to my husband, who was, of course, yet again, preaching out of town that night.

If I could find these books, I knew by now they would have been run over, torn apart and generally mutilated. I wasn’t sure which road to even search because, true to form, I had gone down one road and realized I had forgotten a stop I had planned to make, so I had turned around in an apartment complex drive and gone the opposite direction. At which point had I lost the books? “Since I thought I saw one of them flying away in the rearview mirror on Oakwood, I’ll start there,”  I thought. “But what are the chances?” It was dark. It was kind of dangerous, and, as time passed, so did lots and lots of cars. My chances of assimilating that Bible again were diminishing quickly.

And then a mini-van slowed and stopped, its lights almost blinding me. “Oh dear…friend or foe?” was my first thought….

And then the voice…”Cindy Colley, is that you?” It was the familiar voice of my brother, Tommy Barkley. “I thought that was you,” he said.  “I told Paula…we have to go back and see if that was Cindy. Something is wrong.”

And so Tommy and his wife, Paula, diligently and slowly retraced my path until at last we saw the scattered pages and Mrs. Paula got out of that van and picked up pages and pieces of pages for at least five minutes. She also picked up other things that really should not have been in my Bible as my good husband has told me over and over:  a photograph, a bulletin, a five- dollar bill, several attendance cards with notes on the back, a candy wrapper, an outline of a lesson I had taught, etc…. Tommy would not even let me get out of the van because I was on the traffic side; so there was my sister Paula out there chasing my paper trail all over Oakwood Road. I’ve been thankful for Tommy and Paula before—for helping me locate the right guitars for gifts, for encouraging me in teaching one of the baby classes, for making the sound system at the building so great, but I have never appreciated them quite so much as when I got home and realized that, with a few pieces of Scotch tape, I could actually piece together every single passage of both of those books!

Sometimes, people are spiritually looking for assimilation. We know about the Bible. Most of us own a copy. But, in our lives, we place the Bible in positions of irrelevance as we navigate the highway. We make turns, back up and turn around, stop and go, while we, like I was doing that night, drive further and further away from the Word; sometimes, like me, without even knowing it. Finally, we are not even sure exactly where we left it behind, but we know we need it back.

But by that time, we have often put ourselves in some dangerous and compromising situations. We find ourselves hurrying down a roadside that we would have never traveled had we not lost the Word. We desperately wish for light, for direction back to the Word…for someone to help. Spiritually, we need Tommy and Paula Barkley.

I want to BE Tommy and Paula Barkley for people around me who have reached this point of retracing, searching and putting-back-together. When I see someone who is looking for the light, may I always take the time to stop and say, “What’s wrong? Can I help you?” Then may I always take whatever time it takes from a busy schedule to lead her back to the Word and help her put it back together again so that it can, once again, be useful to her life; both now and for all eternity.

“All eternity”…perhaps that’s an oxymoron. We can never do anything for ALL of eternity, because there is no “all” of it. No matter how much has been expended there’s always that amount again…times infinity. It’s more than the human mind can unravel. That’s why looking for those people on the roadside who are trying to retrace is so important. Retracing is impossible without the blood of Jesus. And people have to find, assimilate and study the Word to know about the great power in the blood. I’m determined to stop and help someone back to the Word every time I get the chance.


Sister to Sister: Casts Collide!

10408793_808612822769_7343901606879980347_nI’m right in the middle of that generation we call “the sandwich generation”. We really should call my crew the “sandwichED ” generation because we are surely just the part of the sandwich that is squished between the bread. My bread this week was a seven month old and his wonderful parents on one side, and my 92-year-old father on the other. Lately, I’ve been feeling like someone obese has been sitting on my “sandwich”.

Last weekend, my father wanted to travel throughout the weekend to attend two of his sweet grand-daughters’ graduation ceremonies. I love that he still wants to do this family stuff. So I had the privilege of keeping him at my house throughout the weekend and making the “graduation tour” with him. My son-in-law, Ben, was speaking at one of these ceremonies, thus I had the extra privilege of having The EZRA household visiting, too. Four generations in my house last weekend made my sandwiched self pretty happy. But traveling to two graduations and attending two after-parties (one of my dad’s favorite parts of graduation) and getting home at about 11 o’clock pm the first night and  about 1 am the second night? What were we thinking?! I just prayed that my dad would be okay and carefully dropped him off at doors and made sure the seating was in close range of our stops and I had lots of help from my daughter and all of my father’s kids and grandkids. I knew there are always some risks of traveling with a nonagenarian, but I had to believe the joy it was bringing him was worth the risk. Ezra entertained everyone and my dad loved getting to be in the car with him.

It was truly hard to believe on Sunday afternoon when the diagnosis of bronchial pneumonia was given after the ambulance transported him from the doctor’s office to the hospital….Oh, it wasn’t Dad who was sick. Dad was at worship that morning and that evening. It was baby Ezra. He had RSV to go along with the pneumonia as well as an ear infection and lots of upper respiratory symptoms that come with RSV.  That little boy went from entertainer to fighting for breath pretty quickly.

And so continued the cast collision, I cancelled my scheduled root canal for Monday and entered a sleep deprived vortex, along with Ezra’s parents. My days this week were mostly spent on Four Mile Road with my father. My nights were mostly at the hospital with Ezra, while the parents came home for a nap.  And there was nothing boring about the collision. Here are some highlights:

  • We “nebulized”  at both places. At the hospital, I wrestled a flailing baby trying to keep that smoking wand of albuterol in his face. At home I instructed my father, “please don’t eat jelly beans while you do that breathing treatment.”
  • We pumped at both. At the hospital I witnessed an amazing and rhythmical breast pump. (They’ve come a long way since 1987.) At home, it was the wasp-covered pool pump. (Probably the same one as in 1987.)
  • We charted at both. At the hospital there was a chart I had to remember to mark for every feeding and every diaper change. (And when you are changing diapers that are antibiotic affected, the last thing you are thinking about is marking a chart.)  It made me compassionate at home when my dad forgot to mark his medicine chart.
  • We rejected meds at both. Ezra was obviously and verbally disgusted with the “not-so-grape-and-pretty penicillin-y” taste of that antibiotic. Dad was obviously and verbally disgusted with a couple of his meds, too. “The reason I am not taking that kind anymore is that I ran out of it and I do not like it, so I was hoping we could just…run out of it and be done with it.”
  • We treated algae at both. Well actually, at the hospital, Ezra and I watched a long 4 am episode of something that was a premiere to this grandmother. (Love to be up at 4 am finding new cartoons!) It was “The Octonauts” on the Disney channel and they were these cute little octopi who found out how to clean up the whole ocean from harmful algae. It was very environmentally and politically correct. But where were they when I was sweeping and treating  that pool out at Four Mile? That bottle of algae-treat that I bought at the pool store was so expensive that I half-way expected them to pop out when I opened it.
  • We ran meals-on-wheels at both. Sometimes I got so sleepy that I would almost forget which direction I was going with this coffee or this filet-of -fish sandwich, this bunch of half-price Cinco-de-Mayo Sonic slushes or these tacos. (Well, you do know you are not going to Four Mile with tacos, for sure.) And parking was at a premium at times at both places.
  • We answered lots of questions at both. PieDaddy wanted to know every detail about Ezra. “Is he getting a little bit back to normal?”… “Is my boy eating yet?”…”Is little boy smiling sometimes?” And at the hospital… “Is PieDaddy okay?” …”Where is PieDaddy’s Lysol, so I can spray every thing while I am there?” “Will you get PieDaddy to leave the light on and the door unlocked, so we can get in there and sleep a while?”
  • We figured out transportation. At the hospital, it was a bit challenging to figure out how you navigate a little red wagon up and down the hallways without unhooking it from the IV dispenser. But it was worth figuring out. At home, exactly how do you figure out driving issues for a 92-year- old who has his mind set on a new pick-up truck?
  • We read books; the Bible and a book about pigs going on a cruise at the hospital…the Bible and a book about the Crimson Tide at home.
  • We adjusted thermostats. At the hospital, we tried to make it a little cooler.  At home, we did, too. (But at home, whenever we got the temperature below 78, we found PieDaddy in his chair under a blanket.)…and back up it went.
  • We bargained. At the hospital to the nurse: “ I’ll give you five dollars if you will NOT wake that baby up this time.”  At home to dad: “ Tell you what. You eat this biscuit I brought you now and then after we take a nap, we will go to Betty’s for a barbecue potato.”
  • We sanitized. Gloves are at the hospital for holding the baby. Gloves are at home for doctoring the sore toe. (Sanitized may be a bit too strong a term for what we did at PieDaddy’s. I guess scraping up squished jelly beans off the kitchen floor before giving it a “lick and a promise” with the mop may not qualify. But toilets did get cleaned at both.
  • We prayed. At the hospital, I would drift off for a few minutes on that little couch while asking God to watch over and bless that little boy in the bed beside me.  At home, I heard PieDaddy pray for our baby…”that they will be able to help him get better.”
  • 11209738_828630921339_9127776047429791699_nWe’re all thankful for medical technology.  Is it any wonder that I ended up in my own doctor’s office yesterday afternoon and got my own needle sticks and prescriptions, and that, while I was waiting in line for the meds, I talked to Hannah, who would have already called in sick on any other job but the Mom job.  We’re all just praying that Dad steers clear since we did steer him clear of the hospital and we did spray Lysol all around Four Mile.

The sandwich generation is not so bad, really. In fact, it’s the best. There are blessings that those who never have the “bread” on both sides cannot know. There’s variety like you would not believe. But there’s also a “sameness” that will take your breath away when the generations roll on in the Lord. The 92 year-old is just a speeding arrow on the same course as the 7 month-old that’s just leaving the bow (Psalm 127). And one day, when we’ve been there ten thousand years, where we do not need hospitals or fast food or sanitizing agents or thermostats, the generational differences between the baby born in 1922 and the one born in 2014 will be unimportant; maybe even nonexistent.  I pray that there will be a great cast collision there. I pray I’ll be sandwiched between both casts around that throne.

Sister to Sister: My Legacy

MassGraveI’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Whatever it is that I’d like to leave behind, I’d better get busy accumulating and organizing. Grandmothers had better start thinking about what matters and what doesn’t. As the song says, “Today we are here, but tomorrow may see…just a grave in the vale and a memory of me.” But I will be in conscious existence in one of two unbelievably different places. And, even if a pauper, I will leave much behind. It will be more than any little treasures (or trash) that my children may find when opening drawers, safes, old Bibles or even documents. It’s not about being morbid. It’s about the reality of how I’m living now. Just what will I leave?

When the last line has been written
And my time on earth is through,
What will my friends remember
When they see my empty pew?

Will they say I’ve gone to glory
And declare with certainty?
Or wonder if his grace is vast
Enough for even me?

Will they say, “This church will miss
Her great example to our youth”?
Will they say I led them Heavenward
If they really tell the truth?

What of my home and family?
If I reach my present goals,
Will I leave behind a spotless house
Or blood-cleansed spotless souls?

My legacy for others…
Just what’s on the bottom line?
If it’s figured all in dollars
I’ll leave every cent behind.

But if my kids’ inheritance
is faith and Purity
Then they Are very rich!
My Legacy will follow me!