Keep Your Eyes on our Shepherd

Whenever my phone rings late at night or very early in the morning, I know the person on the other end is usually not just calling to chat. That was the case Sunday morning, January 21. Thankfully, I was already awake and dressed for the day. I was about an hour or so into my Sunday morning routine when the ring of the phone startled me. The person on the other end of the line was my mother.

When I heard mom’s voice I immediately guessed why she was calling. I assumed the news had to do with My Aunt Cile who lived in Knoxville, Tennessee. She had been in the hospital since two days after Christmas battling cancer. My assumption was correct. Mom shared with me that at 5:00 AM Aunt Cile went home to be with the Lord.
Aunt Cile was a special woman in many, many ways. Proverbs 17:22 best describes her—a cheerful heart is good medicine. Aunt Cile was always cheerful, and she made everyone around her cheerful with her zest for life. As I said at her funeral, she had the uncanny ability to live until she died.

An example of her living until she died occurred the very weekend she went home to be with the Lord, and with her loving husband, Uncle Jack—mom’s brother. On Friday Aunt Cile requested one of her daughter’s call her beautician to come to the hospital to cut and curl her hair. On Saturday, she requested her manicurist to make a visit. And, the next morning Aunt Cile breathed her last breath.

I told that story at the close of her funeral service, illustrating how Aunt Cile was prepared to die. To verify how prepared she was to die she even purchased the bottle of nail polish—which she never did—so her girls would have the right color to paint her one unpainted nail that was being used to monitor her blood-oxygen levels. That’s what I call planning ahead.

Preaching a family members funeral is tough business for a tender soul like me. Four years ago one of my brothers asked me how I was able to conduct Uncle Jack’s funeral without falling apart. Before I could answer, one of my favorite cousins interjected, “He didn’t do it; the Holy Spirit did it through him.” My cousin Mark was correct. Last weekend the Holy Spirit empowered me once again.
Before concluding the service I shared one other story I discovered from my reading:

In his book, A Turtle on the Fencepost, Allen C. Emery tells of a night he spent on the Texas plains with a shepherd who was keeping two thousand sheep. The shepherd prepared a bonfire for cooking supper and providing warmth. The sheep dogs lay down near the fire as the stars filled the sky.

Suddenly Emery heard the unmistakable wail of a coyote with an answering call from the other side of the range. The dogs weren’t patrolling at the moment, and the coyotes seemed to know it. Rising quickly, the shepherd tossed some logs on the fire; and in this light, Emery looked out at the sheep and saw thousands of little lights.

Emery writes, “I realized that these were reflections of the fire in the eyes of the sheep. In the midst of danger, the sheep were not looking out into the darkness, but were keeping their eyes set toward the shepherd.”

To trust in the Lord is to keep our eyes on our Shepherd, to be always looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. As each of you face the sorrow and grief of losing Aunt Cile, may we be reminded to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Wow, that’s good stuff. That is a huge reminder, isn’t it? When grief comes, and it will come, keep your eyes on our Shepherd.


2 Responses to “Keep Your Eyes on our Shepherd”

  1. 1 Stacy
    January 31, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    That is so true. My grandfather passed a year ago January the 14th. It was very hard for me as we were so close, but God gave me strength to sing at his funeral with out crying or missing a beat. God’s unfailing hands were holding me tight as he knew the hurt that I felt. Once that peace came over me, I didn’t have to be sad anymore. I knew that God had taken my grandfather home to be with him and that I would be with him again someday. He never fails!!

  2. 2 Kristin
    February 1, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    We live our funeral every day of our life. The story of Aunt Cile reminds me how we need to make the most of each day.

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