Always look on the bright side of life … A Eulogy

flutatiousconcerteventPictured from right to left, Cathy Barlow Garrison,
Nancy Shearer, Jenny Cline, and Bill Hutzel (center)

In memory of Cathy Barlow Garrison who passed away Wednesday, November 23, 2016.

Cathy seemed to always celebrate life, and so it was fitting that the ceremony in honor of her was called a celebration. But I was sad to see Cathy go, even though she had gone to a better place, a perfect place where there is no pain or suffering, disability or sickness anymore. It is difficult for me, however, to comprehend such a place as this because I am still of this world and because I cannot see God fully yet. It is a place described in the Book of Revelation as picturesque and glorious. It is grander than anything I had ever envisioned it to be like, that of angels sitting on white clouds, angels playing harps, skateboarding down streets of gold, and other depictions from movies I had seen.

Here in this place, I envision Cathy playing in some glorious flute choir. She no longer has to practice ten thousand hours, as I do, in order to perfect her instrument. In fact, any instrument that Cathy picks up now she plays masterfully.  Matthew 5:48 says “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

The church was standing room only. Tears were flowing everywhere. But at the end of the ceremony, Cathy would remind us, even in death, to look on the bright side of life. As we said our goodbyes to Cathy in our hearts and minds, the ceremony ended with a recording being played from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.

“Go on,” said the priest. “Sing it. Sing it, everybody!”

Cathy would have wanted us to sing it and rejoice with her. “Always look on the bright side of life, de dum, de dum, de dum de dum … always look on the bright side of life”.

But I could not sing it; I could not whistle it. My lips were quivering. I was just trying to hold it together.

It was Cathy’s request to have the song played as her exit song. She always had a marvelous and zany sense of humor.

Oh, and one last thing.  Even when she knew she didn’t have much longer to live, Cathy would look death in the eyes and still have a sense of humor.  For instance, when there was some kind of Facebook malfunction that randomly changed people’s Facebook profiles to “memorialized” accounts with legacy settings a couple of weeks before she passed, Cathy posted a humorous comment about double-checking her Facebook page to make sure she wasn’t dead yet.  You gotta laugh.

Cathy’s email handle was “cheerfulflutist”. She would inspire all of us who knew her to be cheerful. So no matter what is happening in your life, look on the bright side of life; and if you cannot see the bright side, then “try polishing it” I imagine Cathy would say.

Copyright 2016 by Bill Hutzel

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The Impoverished Ministry of Jesus

impoverishedministryofjesus

It is in the night time when I am sleeping that I am especially vulnerable to allowing negative thoughts to infiltrate my mind, telling me “it’s not alright”.  Perhaps it was a life-changing event or events of the day that caused concern.  “You are not going to be able to afford this or that, or you will not be able to pay your mortgage or taxes, or you will not be able to find a job, the stock market is going to crash and you are going to lose everything”. I think many of us succumb to our worst fears in the night.  And during the day, some of those anxieties and distress play themselves out.  As an example, just the other day, with investors reacting to the uncertainty of an unprecedented U.S. election, stock prices took a steep nosedive, although by the end of the day the market had mostly recovered those losses.

A few weeks ago, I awoke early to Dr. Charles Stanley speaking on the radio. His message resonated with me.  “God, where are you? I can’t handle it anymore. God, I really need you to speak to me”.  For a while, Dr. Charles Stanley even stopped preaching.  He had recently had a bad turn of events, life-changing events that brought him to the lowest of lows. Maybe you also are worn, weary, frightened, anxious, uncertain, wondering if you will ever get back.

My well is deep. Where will my help come from?  Who will satisfy the thirst of my soul?  Who will intercede for me and pull me from the depths of my troubles?

That same morning, I also opened to a devotional by Oswald Chambers based on John 4:11. I will share it with you below. It also coincidentally coincided with the same chapter in the Book of John that I was studying that week for my Monday night Bible study. Chambers looks at this verse from a different perspective than how I understood it, and it is insightful. 

The Wisdom of Oswald Chambers

“The well is deep” — and even a great deal deeper than the Samaritan woman knew! (John 4:11). Think of the depths of human nature and human life; think of the depth of the “wells” in you. Have you been limiting, or impoverishing, the ministry of Jesus to the point that He is unable to work in your life? Suppose that you have a deep “well” of hurt and trouble inside your heart, and Jesus comes and says to you, “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1). Would your response be to shrug your shoulders and say, “But, Lord, the well is too deep, and even You can’t draw up quietness and comfort out of it.” Actually, that is correct. Jesus doesn’t bring anything up from the wells of human nature— He brings them down from above. We limit the Holy One of Israel by remembering only what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past, and also by saying, “Of course, I cannot expect God to do this particular thing.” The thing that approaches the very limits of His power is the very thing we as disciples of Jesus ought to believe He will do. We impoverish and weaken His ministry in us the moment we forget He is almighty. The impoverishment is in us, not in Him. We will come to Jesus for Him to be our comforter or our sympathizer, but we refrain from approaching Him as our Almighty God.

The reason some of us are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment or surrender to Jesus Christ. When we get into difficult circumstances, we impoverish His ministry by saying, “Of course, He can’t do anything about this.” We struggle to reach the bottom of our own well, trying to get water for ourselves. Beware of sitting back, and saying, “It can’t be done.” You will know it can be done if you will look to Jesus. The well of your incompleteness runs deep, but make the effort to look away from yourself and to look toward Him.[1]

ARE YOU LOOKING TO GOD?     

“Troubles almost always make us look to God, but His blessings tend to divert our attention elsewhere.

Our difficulties, our trials, and our worries about tomorrow all vanish when we look to God.

Wake yourself up and look to God. Build your hope on Him. No matter how many things seem to be pressing in on you, be determined to push them aside and look to Him.”[2]

Copyright 2016 by Bill Hutzel

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FOOTNOTES
[1] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest”, February 27th
[2] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest”, February 22nd