In loving memory of Alexis Chatham-Teel and the life and teaching of Billy Graham.
"When we all reach the end of our earthly journey, we will have only just begun." – Billy Graham
In a world that seems to spin faster and faster with each and every passing day, it’s so shocking and unexpected in those rare moments when time appears to stop in its tracks, frozen solid… by grief. And that’s just what happened to me today, my friends, when I learned about the sudden and unexpected death of my beautiful cousin, Alexis. My cousin… who was only thirty-two years old and who was thirty-seven weeks pregnant with baby number two. A baby named Colsen, who is currently in NICU, fighting for his life…
Just last week, the world celebrated the life (and glorious after-life) of one of God’s great servants, Billy Graham. And I was right there with them. What’s not to celebrate, right? He lived nearly one hundred years on this planet… and no doubt, each day to its fullest potential by winning countless hearts and lives over to the Lord. All those who loved him and his teaching found peace in knowing that his life hadn’t ended… it had only begun, just as he had said. He had also been quoted as saying this related to the imminence of his own future death: "Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God." – Billy Graham
And while I know this is true for him and all of us… this time, with my vibrant and young cousin, who was on the brink of giving birth (and actively participate alongside God in the miracle of life), it feels so different. It feels hard. Really hard. I want to rejoice in the fact that she is now in a much better place and accept with a heart full of peace that God’s ways are (thankfully) not our ways; they are far greater, capable of rendering beauty even out of ashes and the frequent devastation we experience in this world. But right now, it just seems too difficult to do myself. Tragedy like this is impossible for you and me to endure… but nothing is impossible for God.
But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." – Matthew 19:26
That’s why it’s so very important for us to always (but especially when we find ourselves in these moments) cast all our trust, hope, and faith on God… and let Him and His word carry us through the difficult times.
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though the flocks disappear from the pen
and there are no herds in the stalls,
yet I will celebrate in the Lord;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
The Lord my Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like those of a deer
and enables me to walk on mountain heights!” – Habakkuk 3:17-19
So, with a heavy heart I am calling out to God today, to be with Alexis’s family and friends… especially her husband, Chad, and son Camden (age 5). I am calling out to God for His peace that passes all understanding… and for His glory that is known to transform loss into the brilliant and unexpected gain of the masses.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.” – John 16:20
I’m also calling out to God to thank Him for Alexis’s life and the unfathomable impact she had during her short time on earth. I know she touched the lives of so many around her, in many ways many of us will never know. But I thank God that He knows. And I thank Him that He celebrated each and every one of her victories, which through Him, have made an everlasting mark on humanity. And… I thank God that once she fulfilled each and every one of His tasks and purposes for her life, He called her Home. And her reward… looking into the eyes of the God, Who I know welcomed her with an enormous hug not possible on this side of eternity, and a joyous musical serenade of a trillion angels, far too beautiful for us mortals to even imagine.
"Do I fear death? No. I look forward to death with great anticipation. I am looking forward to seeing God face to face. And that could happen any day." – Billy Graham
What I know Billy Graham meant to say here was, “any marvelous day”.
"Death for the Christian is the doorway to heaven's glory. Because of Christ's resurrection we can joyously say with Paul, 'Where, O death, is your victory?'" (1 Corinthians 15:55) – Billy Graham
At this very instant, I am thankful to God (and to Jesus, who paid the ultimate price to abolish death) Who made it possible that we don’t have to wonder. I’m thankful that we know with great certainty, that Alexis has been given an eternally glorified body (and quite possibly, her very own set of wings). She is happy and smiling through a grand celebration above all earthly celebrations… with her awesome heavenly father on one side of her… and her loving (late) earthly father, Mark Chatham, on the other. And I thank God that she is finally alive… so much more than all of us who mourn her earthy presence today.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” - 1 Thessalonians 4 13:14
So goodbye, for now, Alexis. Until I see you again… give Uncle Mark a great big hug for me, Billy Graham a high-five, and sweet Jesus… all my love.
And to all you prayer warriors out there… I’m asking for your help! Baby Colsen needs prayers for health and healing… and lots of them! The Bible tells us that when God’s children come together in prayer asking according to His might and will, miracles happen!!! So I’m inviting you to join me in praying for the almost impossible… for a God-sized miracle… for baby Colsen to live and serve as a living testimony of God’s unfailing goodness. And if you’re so inclined, please SHARE and spread the word so as many brothers and sisters as possible can join in on our prayer crusade.
“Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18 19-10
Lastly, for those of you who have been journeying through the life and times of Gideon with me… thank you. And, I invite you to join me back here next week, where I will resume that study.
Until then, I want to leave you with this… this week and every day, may being available be at the top of your to-do list. May you strive to be interruptible. May you intentionally work toward being present. Because life… it is fleeting, and the present moment is the only gift we can really count on. So, close down your laptop and leave work early. Turn off your TV. And open your eyes and arms and hearts to the ones you love. And cherish them. Really and truly… cherish them. But above all else, my friends, take the time each and every day to cherish Him.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” - 1 John 4:9-11