(Picture of the sunset in Roatan, Honduras; courtesy of Jeannette Gartner.)
Hymns can make me nostalgic and one of those hymns is Beyond The Sunset, which always reminds me of my father. Here is an entry from January 2, 2007 about that same beloved hymn.
I'm where I want to be right now. Four or five times a year, I travel to be with my family and that is what makes me the happiest. That might mean I am in St. Louis with my folks, as I am this minute, in Kansas with my brothers, or at a family reunion in Arkansas. It isn't so much the place but who is present at the location. One year while I was a college student, my parents moved to Thousand Oaks, California while Dad did an internship for his doctoral program. Seventy-five degrees in December didn't feel much like the holidays when we were used to Nebraska winters but we were together so it was all right. It's sort of like the difference between the church and the church building. It's not where you are; it's who's with you.
I do have a backup favorite place to be. On a number of my mission trips to Honduras, our group has spent a day-and-a-half in Roatan to relax and contemplate the work we had just completed in the name of the Lord. Roatan is a Honduran island off the mainland in the Caribbean. It's popular with cruise ships and vactioners for its beautiful beaches and breathtaking snorkeling and scuba diving. We always stayed at the Inn Of The Last Resort, a rustic hotel on an isolated lagoon. The service is the finest of any place I have been. The food is fantastic and when you walk into the open air restaurant/lodge, you half expect Jimmy Buffet to stroll in from a day on the water. I have never been married and I'm not engaged but I know where I want to go on my honeymoon: the Inn Of The Last Resort. At least I have my priorities straight! My folks have wonderful friends from their congregation, Don and Jeannette. As they began to near retirement, this couple decided to build a vacation home away from St. Louis where they can spend several months a year. Guess where their almost completed dream house resides? On Roatan, right across the road from the Inn Of The Last Resort! I saw Don and Jeannette at worship service yesterday and we talked about their recent visit to Honduras and the progress on their home. I'm thinking...WOW! Can life get any sweeter than to have a place like that waiting for you when your work here in the States is complete? The Scriptures condemn envy but in this case, I have to confess to pangs of jealousy.
One of the great comforts of the Christian life is the assurance that an unimaginably beautiful home awaits us when our clock on this side of eternity has wound down to its final tick. My favorite hymn about heaven since I was a little boy has been Virgil Brock's Beyond The Sunset. It seemed to render death a little less scary with the promise of everlasting existence in the presence of the Father and the souls of loved ones. In his last hours with the apostles, Jesus reassured them of the dwelling he was making ready for his chosen ones on the other side:
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2 (King James Version)
The New International Version translates mansions as rooms but for obvious reasons, most of us prefer the KJV, at least in that verse. The Twelve had been wandering around with Jesus for several years: you know the thought of a palatial retirement forever with Jesus had to carry them during the persecutions of the early church. We sometimes are so focused on the day-to-day battles in our Christian walk that we forget where the path ultimately leads. Maybe I can't visualize a heavenly condo yet but my mind can picture a beach front cottage next to the Caribbean waters in Roatan. That's a pretty good vision for the time being.
Applicable quote of the day:
"The trouble with retirement is you never get a day off."
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