MUSING ON HEAVEN
by Joseph S Bonsall
from the book FROM MY PERSPECTIVE
available at amazon.com
I have a very dear and special friend by the name of Lo-Dee Hammock. Lo-Dee was raised in Texas and presently resides in either Florida or Branson, Missouri. I have known her for almost twenty years now. I met her when she was a young bus-tour director. She is the most energetic and inspiring woman I have ever known this side of my own mother.
Lo-Dee is now ninety-two years old and, although fighting some illness, she has not slowed down very much. The only indication that she has aged at all is the fact that she now needs to use a walker to get to her car, which she still drives.
This blessed woman is an angel on this planet, and over the years and perhaps especially more of late, I find myself in her presence discussing heavenly as well as earthly things. I love her dearly, and when the Good Lord decides to take her home to Glory it will sure leave a big hole in my heart as well as in the hearts of all the people she has touched and blessed.
The Oak Ridge Boys play in Branson more than any other town. Of our 150 plus days on the road each year, we work about thirty in Branson. Many of these engagements come in three-day increments, and just about every one of those days I visit with Ms. Lo-Dee.
We laugh, we catch up with each other, we share blessings, and we pray and sometimes even cry together. Like Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, my visits with Lo-Dee have become a fabric of my being. She is indeed my second mother.
On this day, Thursday, October 15, 2009, we shared an incredible few hours talking about what we know and do not know about death and heaven. One might assume that a ninety-two-year-old may be closer to the end of the journey than a sixty-one-year-old singer, writer, and half-baked banjo player. However, one of the things we do know for certain is that the grim reaper has no respect for age.A walk through any graveyard and a hard look at the markers will prove that point very quickly.
Another thing we know is that “It is appointed unto man and every other living creature once to die,” so we are all going. What most of us don’t know is the time or the place or how it all might end.
I also know from experience that, although Jesus has prepared a wondrous place for us, nobody has a burning desire to hasten the trip. The ability to breathe air and live on this earth is one of God’s greatest gifts. I have seen friends, loved ones, and even animals, fight with everything inside them to stay alive. Death is not very pretty, but the journey beyond is full of mystery and wonderment.
Just what is really over there? What is heaven really going to be like? Unlike the unbeliever, I do believe in heaven. I cannot imagine that when a soul leaves that empty shell of a body behind it wanders off into some eternal darkness or, worse yet, comes back as a frog. Quite frankly, with a little bit of faith and knowledge of the Bible, the hereafter that Jesus speaks about is a lot easier to believe. So on this day Lo-Dee and I muse on about heaven, and I am about to share these random thoughts.
We know that one day we shall pass on. Every living thing at one point or another will eventually go back to being part of the earth. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Death is an end, yet it is a beginning for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as a personal Savior. But what happens after we cross that old, chilly Jordan is as much a mystery now as it has ever been. Oh, lots of people have written about near- death experiences, where they saw the Light or God or other glorious sights, and perhaps many of these ring true. It is very possible, but it is hard to know with certainty.
Lazarus came forth from the dead at Christ’s command, but I do not remember reading very much about his experience. Where did you go, Laz? What was it like? Never addressed. After Christ died on the cross, He seemed quite busy over the next three days. He even went to hell and confronted Satan, proving to all the minions of heaven and below that it was He who held the keys of life and of death. He proved it by rising up from the tomb. Christ conquered death and in so doing showed all to come that His promises were true and very much forthcoming.
He said, “I go to prepare a place for you that, where I am, there you will be as well. My Father’s house has many mansions.” The songs and hymns of the gospel contain a plethora of verses regarding streets of purest gold and walls of jasper and gates of pearl, yet these could all be just metaphors for something so glorious that our human mind could never fathom it.
If mansions or crowns or perhaps a jeweled walkway were what we really desired, I might suggest that would be a bit shallow. Heaven will be much more than that, and I think that real saints of God are looking forward to the other aspects with more anticipation. Although I’ll bet that my wife Mary will be looking forward to every jewel she can lay her hands on. Just kidding, honey!
Will we know each other in heaven? You bet! We will be known as we are known! This is my favorite promise. I think when I see those loved ones, who have gone on before, residing in perfect and healthy new spiritual bodies, that perhaps in one glance I will see them at every age. I will see a young Lillie, while at the same time seeing my mom at a later time, and she will be so very happy. She will know me as well in the same way, and she will hold me for as long as she cares to hold her son because passing time will not be an issue in eternity.
There will be great rejoicing and homecomings and tears of joy and happiness. Yes, this sounds like the heaven that God speaks of when He says that no good thing will be withheld from us.
Perhaps it will be multi-dimensional, where layer after layer of places exist. Maybe just by thinking or wishing for something it will happen. I want to see Jesus . . . there He is. I want to chat with Abraham Lincoln . . . it happens. I want to laugh with my daddy . . . it happens. I want to see my Nana Gertrude Clark or Ms Lo-Dee. There they are. Just like that!
I like to believe that there will be animals there. Lions will not only lie down with lambs, but precious pets who meant so much to us on earth may appear at the mention of their name or the celestial thought of the memory of them. Where is my kitty Pumpkin? There he is! Where is my little Omi cat? He is right there!
There will be light and flowers and music the likes of which our
Musing on Heaven
human form could have never imagined. Angels and saints singing praise to the King! Choirs and instruments galore, and if I think about my singing friends who have gone on, then there they will be. George Younce and Glen Payne, James Blackwood and Sister Vestal Goodman, just to name a few. I may sit down by the river and listen to some great Southern-style gospel music for a long time. Then I will join in the singing.
Jesus will be on every level of this wonderful place. He will shine a perfect light upon all of us who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior and King of our lives, and His constant love will burn and shimmer within our spirits. The feeling will be one of pure joy on a level unimagined on this earth.
So then, those are the musings of Joe Bonsall and Lo-Dee Hammock on a beautiful fall day. What may come to be and what may not come to be are truly not known by any of us. But it is fun to think about, and it is a blessing and a comfort to know that farther along we will know all about it! Farther along all our questions will have answers, as is His promise. I am standing on these promises of Christ, our Lord.
In the meantime we live our lives here and live them more abundantly, thanks to our faith in Jesus. This life below is a wonderful journey, indeed, and I am thankful for every single day. I am thankful for my family and for my friends, and I am thankful for songs that are sung and words that are written.
One day we will sit in Glory and reflect upon these days. We will be healthy and strong, and we will be surrounded by friends and loved ones. This we do know! To quote the great gospel songwriter, Jim Hill, “What a day glorious day . . . that will be!”
New addendum: 6/21/12 We lost our Callie kitty today. She stood by Molly for months before SHE went home a year ago and now Callie has made HER journey to the Better Place. My wife Mary said today that Molly must have said “Hey Callie, COME ON... Let’s chase some butterflies... they SING here”
Pets in Heaven?? I say YES!!! God Bless (JSB)