Thursday, January 17, 2019

Small Things With Great Love: Remembering Chris

Photo by Samuel Zeller
Randall recently said on "This Is Us" that sometimes it feels harder to be a good man than a great man.  We all want to do something great with our lives.  The past two and a half years, I've struggled with what to do with the second half of my life, knowing that I want to do something great with it.  Sometimes, the hard part, the best part really, is what we do with our every day, walking around life.  As Mother Teresa once said, "Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love."  My friend Chris did just that.

Some lucky people live to be 100, and then there are others who only live for a few minutes or days, or in the case of my friend Chris, only 20 years.  Having been in youth ministry for 15 years, I always loved the celebration moments.  The graduations, the birthday parties, and now the weddings and births of babies.  The deaths are the ones that absolutely break my heart.  This is the third young person from my time in ministry to pass away.  It has left me breathless with grief, but also helped me to remember what life is all about.

Adopted at less than a year from Russia, Chris came to the United States, where he was fiercely loved by his parents and his church family.  He lived what some may consider a regular childhood, swimming on the team at the local pool, camping with the Scouts, going on adventures and mission trips with our church.  He died his hair blue or orange depending on the week.  He had a sweet smile and made everyone around him laugh at the little things in life.  He had a beautiful spirit about him, one that cared about the people some may not usually care about.  He loved to sing to the elderly, eat lunch with the outcasts, and most of all, to rescue hurt, sick, or dying animals.

Chris smiling on our Club 456 Winter Trip.


We never knew what animal Chris would rescue next, from mice to cats to birds to dogs.  Sometimes he would even bring them with him to church, as he had just found them on the way there.  "Look what I found!" he'd exclaim and then proceed to tell us how he'd help to fix whatever was ailing that particular animal.  One of my favorite Club 456 meetings was the time I asked Chris to come and lead us in a project to help rescue animals.  He brought his knowledge and his passion to the group.
Chris leading a Club 456 project for rescued animals.


He himself had been "rescued" from a life unknown.  He would go on to rescue many other creatures.  As an accident-prone young man, like these animals he helped, Chris got hurt many times, suffering broken bones and concussions.  He also had an odd allergy to blue die which prevented him from eating regular old marshmallows.  One sweet youth leader found some he was able to eat and all was right with the world.

Chris had his share of struggles, griefs and pain.  There was a lot he went through in his high school years that many of us never knew about.  But, as I look back on the years when I knew him best, I will always remember him as a sweet adventurer.  One who looked for the broken and hurting, to help put them back together again.  He may not have had time to do something huge with his life, but in his twenty years, he truly did "small things with great love."

Visiting and singing to the elderly on a Club 456 Mission Trip.

Buying food for the hungry.

Bowling with the elderly.
Talking with a man from church on the CROP Walk for Hunger.

Making blankets for shelter pets.

Playing messy games at Club 456.

Sorting food during the 30 Hour Famine.

That smile...

Christopher Thurman

September 30, 1999 - January 7, 2019

May our adventures together always be remembered.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Rocking Baby Jesus

Photo by Greyson Joralemon
This year the Christmas season seemed to take me down rather than build me up.  December was a tough month for many reasons.  On top of the usual wrapping presents, stamping Christmas cards, attending parties craziness, we had some added challenges.  A close relative had emergency surgery, I had two different versions of the flu, and my children experienced this flu in the form of a tummy bug after a birthday party. 

I tried to focus on the meaning of the season, I really did. I read my Advent devotional.  I listened to Christmas music.  I put up manger scenes around my house.  However, it just seemed a little harder this year to focus on its meaning.

The other day, however, I walked into my daughter's room and asked what she was doing.  My sweet three-year-old had her head bowed, her eyes gazing down at a little baby doll, which she was cradling in her arms.  "I'm rocking baby Jesus," she replied. 

The beauty of this moment stopped me in my tracks.  I stood there gazing at her for a few moments, taking it in. 

Rocking baby Jesus.  The meaning of Christmas hit me once again.  Jesus came down in human flesh.  As a babe.  Not some perfect, never-crying infant, but as a real, live baby.  One who screamed at his birth and wiggled around in his mother's arms.  One who needed milk and comfort and love. 

A baby who needed to be rocked.

What beauty there is in a God who willingly chooses to come down from Heaven to become a little baby.  A God who makes himself vulnerable and allows himself to be dressed and fed and taken care of by his new, young mother. 

A baby who needs to be rocked.

As the long, cold days of January stretch on, may we keep this babe in our arms.  May we remember to rock him close and gaze down at his beauty.  The beauty of Emmanuel, God with us.