Saturday, August 06, 2011

Celebrating a Life, Legacy and Home-going

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This Friday, our family will celebrate the life and home-going of Joseph (“Jay”) Benjamin Phelps (October 26, 1917 – July 31, 2011). The tears I shed the day he passed away were not really from grief, as much as they were from great gratefulness at having had the privilege of having him influence my life.

I met Jay and his dear wife Beverly when I was in junior high and shortly after I was baptized at 11 years of age. They owned a big ranch-style house out in Twenty-nine Palms and my family had been invited to a big “family reunion”. I met cousins and aunts and uncles and all kinds of new people who were introduced as “family”. Jay had married into the family when he married my grandmother’s cousin. So, yeah . . . we were distantly related. It was a wonderful time and experience. One that I will treasure FOREVER. We lived in shorts and bathing suit tops. We slept on the patio on folding plastic chairs. We crashed inside on the floor. We slept in the back of trucks. We went “mining” and exploring during the day and sat around a campfire at night singing all the Christian camp songs anyone had ever learned. We prayed together. We shared stories together. The adults sat and played cards and games in the garage with the big fans blowing and laughed themselves silly. We kids indulged in water balloon fights.

Jay and Beverly encouraged me way back then as a young junior higher, and later as a high-schooler, and eventually as a college student and on through the various seasons of my life. They kept pointing me to Jesus and telling me how proud He was of me and how proud they were of me.  They encouraged me to be who God had created me to be and to use the gifts and talents He had given to me. They really accepted everyone around them so graciously. I remember when my grandmother passed away. I was really struggling with some anger issues and wrestling through some hard things. My mom encouraged me to call Beverly and Jay. I did. And they shared things about my grandmother that they had experienced as they had traveled together with her and my grandpa over the years and they helped me to understand her a little more. That’s how Jay was. He and Beverly made it their life’s mission to “love people to Jesus”. Jay had a very soft voice. Very calming. I can still hear it. I loved hearing him talk. I don’t ever remember hearing him “yell” (though maybe he did), and I don’t recall ever hearing him say something mean or negative about anyone, no matter where they were in life or what they were struggling with. He would just sound “sad” and communicate so much love for them and hope that they would be all right. That encouraged me, challenged me and taught me. I saw many whom I know he prayed for come to know Jesus because of how much he sought to imitate Him.

Thank you, Lord, for the family you have blessed me with. All of them. And for how you have used them (and are still using them) in my life.

Thank you for Uncle Jay.

Thank you for the sweet spirit that you gave that man, for his gentle ways, and for how you loved me through him.

And thank you most of all, for calling me to Yourself . . . so that one day I will once again get to hear the stories and see that smile, unfaded by age and weariness.

Thank you that so many of this earthly family you’ve put me in will once again gather on those shores and rejoice around the throne, singing the songs of Zion again and worshiping together without having to leave.

 

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Another Soldier's Coming Home,
Written/Composed by Janet Paschal


His back is bent and weary
His voice is tired and low
His sword is worn from battle
And his steps have gotten slow
But he used to walk on water
Or it seemed that way to me
I know he moved some mountains
And never left his knees
Chorus
Strike up the band
Assemble the choir
Another soldier's coming home
Another warrior hears the call he's waited for so long
He'll battle no more
But he's won his wars
Make sure Heaven's table has room for at least one more
Sing a welcome song
Another soldier's coming home
Verse 2
He faced the winds of sorrow
But his heart knew no retreat
He walked in narrow places
Knowing Christ knew no defeat
But now his steps turn homeward
So much closer to the prize
He's sounding kind of homesick
And there's a longing in his eyes.
Chorus
Strike up the band
Assemble the choir
Another soldier's coming home
Another warrior hears the call he's waited for so long
He'll battle no more
But he's won his wars
Make sure Heaven's table has room for at least one more
Sing a welcome song
Another soldier's coming home…

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