I write this column each week under the premise “God is [has been] at work” in me in some particular way He wants me to share with you since we last talked (Philippians 2:13). This week, I had a sad and poignant but glorious experience with God that is perfectly timed to share from our Psalm for the week: Psalm 16.
I just spoke with my friend, former pastor, and brother in Christ, Doug. Doug is heaven-bound any day, under hospice care, and with his wonderful, Godly wife Karen by his side. When I was a prison chaplain in Florida, he was our family’s pastor for over ten years. He was terrific in that role, visiting me, encouraging me, mentoring me in many ways. He loaned me more books than I could read but everyone was choice and one I needed and wanted to apply. He modeled the heart of a shepherd beyond my family and me, even participating in some prison events and reaching out to ex-inmates when they were released. He baptized one of my daughters. He is a dear friend.
All of these things are truly amazing, and a work of God in and through Doug. You see, Doug is a quiet man—reserved and never forward—but fueled with courage, conviction, and love by the Word of God, his love for Christ, and his heart of a shepherd to walk beyond the quietness God placed in him. He embraced the man God created him to be and he modeled the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Doug makes me think of Psalm 16:11, which says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In context, in the midst of a world running away from God and with personal struggles abounding, Doug’s testimony is “God is my chosen portion” (and Doug has had real, painful afflictions over his tenure on earth). Doug came alive when he’d call me about his time and studies with the Lord Jesus Christ. “Hey John,” was his usual greeting, with the leap in his voice of a boy that just discovered the perfect tree for a house. The presence of Christ gave him joy unspeakable and full; just the thought of Christ brought him unending pleasures.
Is that our testimony?
I told Doug what a great pastor he was for me, how I loved him, and how we would meet again someday soon. Friend Doug said he loved me, too—a couple of times. Barely audible, Pastor Doug’s last words to me were, “Say hi to your family.”
Heaven hasn’t experienced the joy Doug is going to unleash when he arrives.