Saturday, April 24, 2010

In His Father's House

My dad's brother, David Thorson, pictured here on Dec. 10, 1952, is fourth from the left in the second row. The photo was taken at his graduation from Air Force Mechanic's school.  A little over three years later, while working on a bomber, he was hit on the back of his head by a revolving propeller.  Fortunately, the injury was not fatal.  David was hospitalized first in Denver and then in Minneapolis.  He eventually moved back to his parents' home where he lived during all of my growing up years.

As a child I never thought much about why David was living at his parents' home.  David was just "David."  I knew he enjoyed drag racing and I was always interested in all his trophies.  Later I found out that he liked roller skating and was very impressed at his ability the time or two we went with him to "Skateland" or one of the many other rinks he frequented.  When my grandpa died, it was David and Grandma living there at 4340 Washington St.  Then Grandma weakened and needed more care at an assisted living place, so David moved an apartment.  While he was there he made hundreds of paper airplanes which he would launch with a rubber band outdoors.  He would eat at Wendys or other fast food places, buy gas and bread and milk where he could find it cheap, and spend hours watching television.

David was not a very ambitious man, but he was kind and generous.  He never spent much money from his air force disability, so on three or four occasions he gave significant gifts to me and others in our family.  He helped me pay off college loans, paid for our airline tickets in 2004 when we went to Brazil, and on his 76th birthday gave his four nieces and nephews several thousand dollars.  I traded my gift back to him in exchange for his 2002 Honda Civic when he could no longer drive.

David died this past week on Tuesday.  At the funeral my brother talked about how David never got caught up in the things of this world.  That is so true.  David was simple in many ways, depending for many things on the care of my aunt Betty.  We are so thankful for Betty and her husband Glen.

In recent years David's suffering has become more obvious.  He broke his leg roller skating many years ago and his leg never really healed.  He had an leg wound for years, was on crutches and then, most recently, in a wheelchair.  He also suffered from headaches.  I have had severe headaches from time to time too, so I know how they can sap a person's ambition and interest in many ways.  His Air Force injury was "fixed" with a steel plate as a replacement for the bone on the back of his skull.  How much that has caused him suffering over the years, and what affects the injury has had on his brain, we may never know.  But, thanks to Jesus, who died for David's sin and who rose again to open the door to new life, David is now rejoicing and whole in the presence of Jesus.

At David's funeral yesterday, Pastor Tom Johnson of First Lutheran Church, Columbia Heights, shared the following message.  We are saved by grace, not by what we do.  Praise God!
David Thorson had a little prayer book that he kept with him
His family found it in his personal belongings and they shared it with me
It is a wonderful book of prayers and Bible readings
Looking at the book, and the parts that David had underlined, gave me a glimpse into his soul.
One of the scripture passages printed in the book was our reading from the Gospel of John
--John 14:1-6
It is the well-known story of how Jesus told his disciples not to worry about him because even though he was going to leave them
--he was going to a wonderful place
--which he called the Father’s house
Jesus also told his followers that he would prepare a place for them, also, in the house that he was going to
Jesus’ promise of the next life in God the Father’s house was intended to keep his disciples from being troubled and upset when Jesus died and left them behind

And it was a promise for those who believed in him to look forward to
--that one day they would join Jesus there

Interestingly, David underlined two parts of this story from John 14
The words:
Let not your hearts be troubled
Clearly these words brought comfort to him
It helped him to know that he could look forward to a new home in heaven with God his Father and Jesus his Savior
That promise of Jesus must have given him strength when life was difficult here on earth
Those words of encouragement from Jesus
--Let not your heart be troubled
Must have given him hope

I would echo those words for you who gather together as David’s friends and family today
Don’t let yourselves be overly troubled or distraught
Remember that David has gone to the Father’s house
--and that Jesus has prepared a room for him there

The other part of this Bible passage that David underlined was the very last words:
Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me

How do we know that David is in the Father’s house?
How do we know that he is living in the presence of God the Father?
Because David believed in Jesus
It’s as simple as that
Jesus is the way that David, or anyone else, can come to live in the Father’s house
David knew the way
Jesus is the Way
The way to the Father’s house

Besides scripture passages, there are also a number of prayers in David’s little book
Prayers on a variety of topics
Prayers that could be used on many different occasions
Some of these prayers had parts that were underlined by David
One of the prayers was titled “For My Loved Ones”
Clearly, David’s family was important to him
And he prayed for them
These are the words that David underlined in this prayer:
Bless my loved ones from whom I have been separated; guard and comfort them in my absence and grant that we may soon be reunited again, giving Thee thanks for Thy mercy and tender care.

This prayer takes on special meaning today
David has been separated from you now
But he has asked for God to guard and comfort you
And you will be reunited again
--in the Father’s house with many rooms

David did not lead an easy life
An injury he suffered while in the Air Force continued to bother him the rest of his life
But here, too, David found strength in God’s Word
In a prayer asking God for strength and healing David had written in the margin the reference Romans 8:28
That is the scripture that I read a few minutes ago
Where the Apostle Paul makes the bold claim that
All things work together for good, for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose
Obviously, David believed that
He believed that God could use anything that happens in our lives to bring about good
That was the faith that David had in God’s goodness and grace

There is one other place where David wrote a scripture reference in the margin
It is the reference Matthew 11:28
Perhaps you recognize that reference
It is a well known verse from the Gospel of Matthew
That verse quotes Jesus as saying:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest
No matter what burden David had to endure in his life
He knew that he could bring it to Jesus
--and Jesus would give him rest
He could find relief for his burdens as he brought them all to his Savior

Today we will lay David to rest
He will have perfect rest from all his burdens
He will no longer be weary
He will no longer suffer any pain
He will instead be ushered into the Father’s house with many rooms
Jesus, the Way, his Savior, has prepared a place for him
And he will have rest
Thank you, Pastor Tom!  Yes, there is rest for David.  Not only that, but, according to the promises of God, David now has a new body and a new mind.  He is rejoicing with the Lord.  I look forward to the time when I will be with him in the Father's house.

As a little preview of that, after laying David's body to rest with the playing of taps at the cemetery, we took two big bags of paper airplanes and played with them, like children, launching them into the blue sky. What comfort to know we can be children in the eyes of our God--and that we always have a place with Him.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this. God's peace to you and your family!

    Your brother in Christ,

    Mike L.