Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day

In July of 1863, near Gettysburg, PA - a fierce battle was fought during the Civil War. Although the battle at Gettysburg has often been recognized as the turning point of the war, it was also one of the most devastating and deadliest. Over the course of three days, there were approximately 60,000 casualties and 8000 deaths ~ all American soldiers.

On November 19, 1863, there was another gathering at Gettysburg. This time the fighting was over (though the war would continue two more years) and the battle site was being dedicated as a cemetary and war memorial. An orator by the name of Edward Everett stood to speak that day and delivered a speech of nearly two and a half hours. Virtually no one remembers what he said. Then President Lincoln stood to speak and though his words were few, the thoughts he gave on behalf of the dead are forever engrained in our history and our memories. Even today, there are no better words to commemorate Memorial Day than the Gettysburg Address:

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brough forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ~ that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ~ that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Thank you, Mr. President.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Life Lessons from Mike

These are things everyone should know according to Mike Storter ~ written in his own hand ~ as read by Rev. Tommy Warnock:

Pizza is a breakfast food.

Los sientos means "I'm sorry" in Puerto Rico.
(In a lot of Central FL, too)

Why would you make tea and not put sugar in it?
(People make tea and don't add sugar?)

The Bible is still as relevant as it ever was.
(Yes, it is)

If you are a believer, you need to act like it.
(Yes, you do)

Leaving a Legacy

Edit: November 29, 2012
This post was originally published on my blog in May, 2012. Mike was truly a man who inspired many to live a 'greater' life. I don't know that he would have considered his life 'lesser' or that of a 'loser'. Being diagnosed with a terminal illness, he could have decided that he did not have to continue to work and serve. He could have laid down and let others serve him. Instead, he continued to attend church, minister to others, and preach until literally days before his death. He didn't do anything magnificent or explosive, he just continued living out his life and his faith in the midst of what we all felt was a tragedy. His quiet persistence in his faith touched an untold number of lives. Below is the post I wrote after attending his funeral service.

I haven't written much lately. Truthfully, I have been rather uninspired. However, having just left the memorial service of someone I consider to be one of the giants of our faith, it would be impossible to not be inspired. Mike Storter was the real deal and he left a tremendous legacy of faith - evidenced by the packed service (I would guess 1000+ in attendance) and additional viewers on the webcast. He influenced an entire community for the gospel and it was reflected at every turn in his "Life Celebration" service tonight.

Dr. Lewis spoke from Philippians 1:19-26. This scripture says things like "...Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death" and "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain". The Apostle Paul said he was torn between the two options of living and dying. I'm not sure I will ever attain that. As Dr. Lewis spoke my eyes were drawn to the banners at the front of the sanctuary related to the current sermon series. Hanging over the casket were two banners that said "Make my Life....A Living Sacrifice". In every way, I believe that is what Mike did. I remember most vividly the last time he addressed the church - seated, oxygen on, walker at his side - and talked about his leukemia. He said he was ready to die and pointed at himself and said, "In the light of someone else's eternity, what is this?" He was willing to sacrifice himself and take on the mantle of cancer and death, if it meant that someone else might spend eternity with Christ.

How does one come to this place? Over the past couple of years, I have struggled with what it means to be totally surrendered to Christ. Not just to give it lip service or to go through the motions, but to just give it all up, lay it all down, whatever He wants. In that, I have thought about what it would mean to sell all and move away, go on the missions field, live without, etc. But what if it meant the ultimate sacrifice? Would I be able to go through an illness unto death with the grace and faith that Mike showed and leave the kind of legacy that he left? I don't think so...not now.

Yes, I am inspired. Inspired to become more like Jesus. Inspired to continue to pursue total surrender. Inspired to deepen my walk. Inspired to reach out to others. Inspired to leave a legacy that glorifies Christ alone.

Thank you, Mike, for your life, your dedication, your passion. May we continue to learn from your example in death as in life.