A Life Well Lived!

This past weekend, my wife and I attended a Celebration of Life service in honor of a man named Donald Reid Houston, Sr.

I never had the opportunity to meet Donald, but we are very good friends with his daughter, Rhonda Thompson, and her husband John,  We wanted to show our respects and I’m so glad that we went!

It was an exceptionally beautiful day—for any day of the year, but especially for mid-December!  The thermometer topped out at 70° and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  Even for Georgia, this is unusual.  It was almost as if God had planned it. 

The chapel was full as we walked in, so we sat near the back.

The first thing I noticed was the song that the piano player, Della Ruth Johnson, was playing.  It was an old hymn, which she was playing in a very upbeat way.  She played it with joy, and it set the tone for the rest of the service.

As soon as the family was seated, Dr. Bill Coates did an introduction and then prayed.  Then he talked about how every person will one day follow in the footsteps of Donald.  He turned to Ecclesiastes 3 and began to read:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Death was just another time in Donald’s life.  It’s as natural as the changing of the seasons, and it will happen to you and me.

Next, Reverend Bruce Fields sang a song by the group MercyMe called, “I Can Only Imagine.”

Every time I’ve heard this song since it’s release in 2001, I well up with emotion.  I can close my eyes and “see” what they’re singing about.  I know it’s in my future and I can’t wait to experience it . . .

If you’ve never heard the tune, Google it and you can watch the video.

A few of the verses I’d like to share with you:

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

Then Dr. Coates began to talk about Donald.  He spoke of the love he had for his family, his work, and his Father.  The whole time Dr. Coates talked, he had this radiant smile on his face. Why?  Because he was speaking of a man who had done life right—who had lived his life in a way that was pleasing to those around him but more importantly to God!

There was no doubt in my mind that in the hundreds of services he’d performed over the years, he didn’t always have that smile on his face.   I’m sure that at some of them, there was great sadness.  Because of choices that were made.  But not at this one!

Rhonda’s husband John got up and did one of the funniest, yet moving talks I’ve ever heard at this type of a service.  You could feel the love and respect that John had for his father-in-law as he told several inspiring stories.  What a great tribute!  It really made me wish that I’d had the chance to have met Donald.

They finished with the old hymn, “I’ll Fly Away,” by Albert Brumley.  What a joyful way to finish the service.

You may wonder why I’m writing about this.

First, I believe that we have a lot to do with the way our lives end up.  It was apparent that Donald had made good choices.  Although I never met him, I could tell that he was a happy man, satisfied man.  It was written on everyone’s faces who had known him.

In addition, being at that service was a reminder to me that the life we’re experiencing will one day end.  But that’s not THE end.  It’s only a new beginning.

Quite honestly, as I sat in church last weekend, I was a little envious of how they honored this simple man who in reality had everything.  The words that were spoken in tribute to Donald were nothing more than a reflection of who the man who had been.

Finally, I believe that Donald heard God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

I can only imagine . . .

I want that.  I think you do too.  And that’s okay . . .

So let’s watch what we do today, and tomorrow, and the next day—because it matters.  One day I know that I’ll get to meet Donald and get to know him.  My deepest hope is that you will too . . .

You and I have been given a choice.

Thank God!

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