Monday, March 24, 2008
Laying Jennifer Cuellar To Rest, Lifting Jesus Up on Resurrection Day, and More
Jennifer Cuellar's graveside service was on Good Friday, and her celebration service was on Saturday. For a person who lived just 28 years (on this side of eternity) she left a mark on so many people. More than 300 were at the graveside service, and Church For All Nations (a mega-church in Tacoma) was nearly packed on Saturday.
Pastor Wolfson officiated at the graveside service and read a letter Jennifer sent him. Every page of the 4 x6 cards (that's the way Jenn sent letters; I have a one-page note from her on a colorful card, which I cherish) was a different, bright color, and she used several different colors of pen during the course of the letter, even on a single card. That was Jennifer: bright colors and the trademark flower-in-her-hair would let you know you were in the presence of a true light in the world, and when she grinned and giggled and her eyes crinkled with delight (which happened frequently, no matter how wiped out she might be) you were transported. You knew she had something few others have. What she had, in a nutshell, was a reflection of God's love coming through her face and features.
Saturday's celebration service for Jenn's life was fabulous -- 80% joy and love, 20% tears and sniffles. My former boss, Pastor Ken Ecker, was the emcee. This man is truly anointed, and I need to write him again and tell him. (When I worked for him, I made him a home-made card that said, "Whenever I'm in your presence, I see Jesus." But Jesus as only Pastor Ken can channel him!
Pastor Ken is both a very serious Bible scholar and an effervescent, fun, sometimes wonderfully wacky teacher of God's word. (P.S. So was Jesus when he walked among us in the flesh! People tend to forget that aspect of Jesus, but it's why kids and others flocked to him in the thousands. He was Quite Sum'pin Else -- and it wasn't His looks that drew them. It was his authority, love, miracles, scholarship and concern. This description also applies to Pastor Ken. So he's a genuine reflection of the God he serves.) Pastor Ken can take a difficult theological subject (as was his question to those gathered to celebrate her life, "Where is Jennifer Cuellar Right Now?") and have everybody in stitches first and in happy tears just seconds later. If there's a video of his presentation, I am going to get it and show it to everyone I know. If I can get permission, I will even publish it here!
My answer to Pastor Ken's Question, "Where is Jennifer Now? can be found at the URL below:
http://denimandlace.50megs.com/1whenigetwhereimgoing.html Play it -- then come back here and read the rest of this!
Pastor Ken might disagree with me. He said he's not exactly sure where she is right now. "Until the new heaven and the new earth are rolled out, she may just be asleep right now... but wherever it is, there is no sorrow, no tears, no suffering, no fears...."
For the rest of the celebration service for Jennifer, anytime anyone else would mention Jennifer dancing with Jesus or being in Heaven, they would look at Pastor Ken (sitting in the front row) and append, "-- or WHEREVER!"
By the end of the service, people who loved her without limit were saying, "God, Bless Jennifer, Wherever!!" and laughing.
I'm sure Jenn was looking in on all of us, praise be to God, and loving every minute of it!
But Pastor Ken said something very serious that will stay with me forever. He had a ball of fabulous, glitter-filled (or silver thread filled, or whatever) yarn at the podium. One end was coming out the top. He had a volunteer take the sack of yarn up the middle aisle and out the back door as he held the starting point of the thread in his right hand.
As the yarn sack disappeared past us, leaving a long single thread that stretched from the sack to Pastor Ken at the podium, he said, "This beautiful, multi-colored, glorious thread represents Jennifer's life. My volunteer will be gone quite a while, because she is taking the other end of this thread out through the sanctuary, into the mall, out the front door, south to Portland and San Diego and Tierra del Fuego and Argentina and out of our atmosphere and across the Milky Way galaxy, and then she'll be heading out to the farthest reaches of the universe and starting back with it...
"So we won't wait for her to return. But take a look at this part of the thread." He held out about two feet of it, and continued, "Most of us will live 75 or 80 years, about this much of the thread, on this side of eternity." And he cut it off and laid the "eternity" part on the podium as he regarded the two foot section he still held. "Jennifer Cuellar didn't make it to 75 or 80 and we're all having a hard time with that. In the natural, it stinks. Jennifer lived just this long here on earth." And he cut off a piece about four inches long. Held it. Twirled it. "It looks small, too short, it looks utterly insignificant when measured against the 80 years many of us will enjoy. And it looks completely negligible compared to the eternal part of life." And he held up the thread that stretched out the door and across the universe.
"But just look what she accomplished during her little snippet of existence on this side of the scissors, the Great Divide! She invested it connecting other people to the eternal part of their story in a way that saved them and destined them for kinship with the Father. That was her focus and that is why so many of us are here from all across the country today -- to show and to celebrate the impact she had on us. Her entire focus was in reflecting God's love and helping people realize how special and wonderful each of us are in His eyes."
The above is a paraphrase. Pastor Ken said it better. This is the essence of Pastor Ken's message about Jennifer.
We all wonder, I think, what kind of a legacy we will leave, how many people will drop everything to attend our "coronation service" (memorial service). Our egos, those pesky things, want to know. But even more deeply than our egos, our souls long to know.
We want to live lives of significance and contribution: our Creator made us to be significant and to contribute. It's in our DNA! We're supposed to make a difference!
We're supposed to reflect Him -- how cool is that?
And Jennifer did it -- in Technicolor -- all the days of her life.
To quote Jennifer Cuellar, "How "stinkin' cool" is that?!!"
(Jennifer was talking about God sending His Only Son to die on the cross for HER when she wrote into her journal, "How stinkin' cool is that?")
Pretty stinkin' cool, Jenn! Pret-ty stinkin' cool!!!!
God bless You, WHEREVER!
Resurrection Sunday was fabulous, too. Although fighting a bad cold, I got dressed and went to Bible study at 9 and to the Resurrection Celebration Service following at CFAN (www.churchforallnations.org). My hoarseness and congestion disappeared as we sang forty minutes of crucifixion and resurrection songs. Some people raised their hands; others danced, others knelt and prayed.
I love attending Church For All Nations because it is truly representative of 54 different nations, including a Deaf Church, which praises and worships in sign language. Sometimes I stop worshipping long enough to watch the ways in which other people groups worship. Doing that can transport me into the Throne Room of God at warp speed. Sometimes it's good to get outside one's own head and see how others interact with God. It's unutterably fabulous!
At our church, you'll see the "frozen chosen," those from denominations where standing utterly still (reverent) is the norm; Jewish Dance (Messianic Jews who dance before the Lord); Deaf Church (seeing the signs for Holy Spirit, God Almighty and other terms put me in tears the first few times I saw them; the signs are so expressive); Hispanic ministry, Middle Eastern, European... you name it... Everyone worships uniquely. It's a joy to behold.
Something else. I invested in The Word of Promise, the New Testament brought to life (New King James version) in audio format using a full orchestra and more than 120 actors, ten of whom are award-winning or very well-known people (Richard Dreyfuss, Marisa Tomei, Jim Caviezel, Stacy Keach, Louis Gossett, Jr, Luke Perry, Terence Stamp, Lou Diamond Phillips, John Schneider, Michael York, etc.). I put the first disc in (there are 20 total) and wasn't able to stop listening until I hit disc 5 and it was close to midnight. I've read the Holy Bible cover to cover at least four times, but hearing it (which is the away it was originally heard, learned and passed along by elders until the Gutenberg Press made Bibles accessible to everyone four or five hundred years ago) .... fully orchestrated... with dramatic highs and lows expressed via instrument and human voice -- well, it's just fabulous! If you want to check it out, here's the link to it at Amazon.com:
Guess that's all for this time. Be well!