For my Grandmother

I wrote this to be read at my Grandmother’s funeral today. Since no one will hear these words there, I still felt they deserved an audience. I still felt that my Grandmother deserved a memorial from me. 
Morning. I don’t know if this will be read in the morning, but it’s habit for me to start like that. This is a hard thing for me to write. It may be a hard thing for people to hear. Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV). He goes on to list that there is: 

“a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,”

“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,”(Ecclesiastes 3:2, 4-5 NIV). Though this is a time of weeping, it is also a time for us to gather together and not scatter. Though this is a time of mourning, it is also a time for us to embrace one another and draw near. This is a hard time in my life, and for those of you who were close to my grandmother, I am sure it is for you as well. In light of that, I wanted to share some words, stories, and memories to comfort and to challenge. The first challenge would be the one that Jesus always gave: let those with ears to hear, let them hear. 

So the first story is about a woman who just lost her brother. He had been struggling with a disease and well, he lost his fight. It is in this moment when her brother has been dead for four days, and all hope seems lost, that Jesus appears. Do you know what the first thing she says is? “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I don’t know where everyone stands with God, I won’t even pretend I know. Maybe though, someone is right where this woman is, angry and upset with God. Maybe you don’t feel His presence or question His plan. Maybe you feel like He is against you. When Jesus says she will see her brother again, she says she knows that. She has resigned herself, however, that she will not to see him until she too dies. Here is Jesus’s answer to that in John 11:25. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25 NIV). I could stop there. That is a tremendously comforting statement. Since Jesus is life, since Jesus is the resurrection, I get to live. Maybe because I’m a college student, and I’m used to reading for prerequisites, I see what the woman probably saw. You live, but you also gotta die. I feel so often, people stop at the promise of heaven. Yet Jesus doesn’t even stop his sentence with that promise. “and whoever lives by believing in me [Jesus] will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26 NIV). Jesus isn’t simply telling us to wait until we die to experience the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus spoke of His Kingdom it was always coming and already here. Jesus is not calling us to exist until we die, to survive until we die, or wait until we die. No Jesus is calling us to believe and to live. 

I learned many things in my grandmother’s house. Not to jump on the couch for one. I learned patience and problem solving working on puzzles. I learned from some string that some knots we tie last longer than others. More important than that I learned about love. I learned about self sacrificing love. The apostle Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV). In my grandmother’s house, I learned love. I learned the kind of love that cares for a grandchild who shows up at the crack of dawn. The kind of love that cared for a child too young to change his own clothing and covered in his own filth. The kind of love that makes room and space in their house any time a night needs to be spent there. The kind of love that gave without expecting in return, especially to a child too young and foolish to give the thanks deserved. The kind of love that leads a person to give hours that become days, days that become weeks, weeks that become months, and months that become years, of care, kindness, compassion, and joy. I learned many lessons in my grandmother’s house, but the greatest of these is love. 

My Grandmother Sandra Hamilton, or Grammy as we called her, lived. I can not tell you all the amazing memories that showed the life Grammy lived. When I was in her house, it was a time to laugh. Grammy had an amazing sense and capacity for joy. I will always cherish the many memories of her smile that could make a person feel good. Not only did Grammy live, but she was concerned with the lives of others. I remember how she always strive to make my family feel welcome in her house. I remember many phone calls and many questions about how my life was going. I remember that she would be able to talk with my dad for what felt like, and might have been hours, over their favorite basketball team, the Lakers. My grandmother lived. “and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26 NIV). Do you? Grammy lived. I know she would not want us to simply be waiting, trudging, existing, or surviving until we die. She would have wanted us to live. 

Are you ready for the crazy part? What if you showed up for a funeral and the person in the casket is not the deadest person there? Because Grammy believed, and she lived. Whoever lives by believing will never die. So I ask again, do you believe? The offer Jesus makes is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. The offer Jesus makes is as true today as it was when Grammy accepted it. The offer Jesus makes, still stands. Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus and God are not thieves who come to steal away things and people from us? Do you believe that Christ came to give life? And not just life abundantly? A life like my grandmother lived, filled with Joy and love and the blessing of family? Do you believe that God wants a life like that for you? Do you believe he died to forgive you of your sins, not only so you can be with Him when you die, but so that you can Live? I ask all this, because I don’t want anyone to leave this funeral deader than the person in the casket. Which is a tall order because my grandmother lived an amazing life. So one last time, do you believe?

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Breath

We are dead. When we walk, we clatter. We are dead. There are no lungs to fill. They are gone. We are dead. There is no heart to move. It rotted away. We are dead. Give us drink. We are thirsty. Give us food. We are hungry. We lie in our graves. We are dead. There is no hope. We are dead. What once lived is bone. We are dead. 
Without lungs they cry out. With out a word they speak. The bones. All that remains of my people. All that remains of friends. Creatures without hope. Dead things. Dry things. Bones. We are dead. 
They said it would fill. It emptied. We are dead. The entertainment corrupted. It drank the fun from us. It emptied the life from our eyes. We are dead. They said it would protect us. It didn’t. The hurt came. We grew apart. The things connecting us decayed. We are dead. We hid. We put walls of glass up. We painted status after status. We posted tweet after tweet. No one could see us. We are dead. They said it would strengthen us. It weakened. We are dead. Our muscle decayed from our striving. Our sin dissolved our bodies. We are dead. They said it would satisfy. It did not. The drink. The pills. The sex. The food. The party. It rotted our organs. We are dead. We are but bones. We have no life in us. We are without hope. We are dead.
“Can anything be done for them?”
“Lord you alone know! Please tell me if anything can be done for my people. Can this generation be saved?”
“Speak and command them.” 
“That which is dead come together. Let new connection be made. Let new muscles come over you. Let skin cover those muscles.” 
We are dead. What will stop this decay? We are dead. What will raise us from death? We are dead. 
“Come breath and breathe into them. From the four winds come breath!” 
Inhale. When we were beaten you cared for us. Inhale. When we were sick you tended to us. Inhale. When we were in prison you visited us. Inhale. When we were orphaned you took us in. Inhale. Exhale. When we were lost you searched tirelessly. Inhale. Exhale. Your compassion was our air. Your love was our breath. We are alive. 

By TKH Hamilton 

If this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, go read Ezekiel 37. It’s a beautiful passage that provides an illustration for the restorative power of God. It also happens to be one of my favorite passages in all of scripture.

About a lonely girl

Let me tell you a story. A story about the things we usually miss. You see long ago, in this broken world, there was a country. It was a country ravished by wars. It passed between various conquerors until it wound up in the hands of one of the greatest kingdoms of all time. It wasn’t a real prize, but it came with the spoils of war. A broken world, and an unwanted country.
Now the people of this country weren’t well liked. Their neighbors walked on the other side of the street as they approached, or pulled children close in fear. The officials of the ruling kingdom saw them as nothing more than troublemakers and low lives. Those in power would avoid the whole country, adding on weeks of travel time, to avoid this nation and her people. A broken world, an unwanted country, and a hated people. 
In this country was a city. Long ago it might have been a hub of trade. Then the wars happened. People found new ways to get where they were going. The city fell on hard times as the world abandoned it. A broken world, an unwanted country, a hated people, and a forgotten city,
Now one day, in the hot desert heat, a woman went to draw water at the well. It was the only well in town and was completely deserted at this time of day. Most people retrieved water for the families in the morning when it was cool. They came and drew water and talked. The woman knew they didn’t like her. She used to hear the conversation stop as she drew near. She used to see them turn away as she pulled up water. They had rejected her and so she stopped drawing the water with everyone else. Now she came when the only company was the scorching sun and the bugs. A broken world, an unwanted country, a hated people, a forgotten city, and a lonely girl.
Now on that day, in that broken world, a teacher and his students were traveling through that unwanted country amongst the hated people. He came upon that forgotten city, and telling his students to get food, he went to the well and met the lonely girl. The teacher spoke to her. The girl nearly dropped her bucket down the well. No one talked to her. No one looked at her. No one knew her. The teacher spoke again.
“Can I have some water?” He smiled kindly as he sat on the edge of the well. 
“Why are you asking me?” She snapped at him before turning away and lowering her bucket down. The teacher watched for a moment or two.
“If you only knew who was asking you.” He chuckled to himself. “You’d ask me for a drink.” To this the girl only snorted. 
“The well is deep down you don’t even have a cup.” She pulls up her bucket. “Who do you think you are to make a claim like that?” He watched her struggle with the rope a while before speaking again.
“Everyone who drinks this water comes back every day, still thirsty.” He pauses as if to allow her to object. “The water I offer is living water. When you drink it, you will never thirst again.” He didn’t say it like a traveling salesman, or like a madman, but like a teacher. For a second she almost believes him. 
“I’d like some of that water.” She snarked at the teacher. Deep down she wanted it. She wanted to never ever have to come to the well. She wanted to avoid the judging eyes and the cruel voices. The teacher just smiled and leaned forward. 
“Then bring your husband, I’m sure he would like some too.” The lonely girl locked eyes with the teacher. For an instant she wonders how much this stranger can see.
“I don’t have a husband.” She said as she broke her eyes away.
“You’re right.” The teacher spoke gently and still looked at her. “You’ve had five husbands. The man you live with right now definitely is not your husband.” There was no malice, no sneakiness, and no disgust in his voice. It was simply a fact. She clutched the bucket to her chest confused.
“You must be a prophet to know these things.” She looked at the teacher in fear. She had something she wanted to ask him about. “There’s this man…” She started before realizing she didn’t have to tell him about that. She didn’t have to tell him about the man everyone was waiting on. The man who was supposed to save them. The man who would throw off the oppressor’s chains. The man who would bring people back to God. The man who would save the world. He was a teacher. He knew all the stories. “Maybe he will be able to explain this to me.” She looked up and saw a look of glee in the teacher’s eyes. A look that asked “who else could offer you a drink like I have?” Her heart began to races she understood what he was saying.
“I am him.” She dropped the bucket and raced into town. Shouting “I found him! I found him!” She told people that she found a man who knew all about her, things about her life no one knew. The people paused. Did they really want all their darkest secrets known? Then the once lonely girl said, “and he didn’t hate me for it.” 
So they went. They went to see the man who had seen the lonely girl. They went to see the man who remembered their city. They went to see the man who loved a hated people. They went to see the man who cared about their unwanted country. They went to see the man who could mend a broken world. They went to see Jesus. 


Told by TKH Hamilton