Did you ever realize that when you die someone will go through all your stuff ? There’s a thought that might give some of us pause.
Recently I’ve been going through pictures and letters of Diana’s. I don’t think she would mind if I shared parts of some letters she wrote back when she was in college. There are lessons to be found in them. These are from 1980 and 1981, when Diana was at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. In 1981 she was also involved in a summer evangelistic project in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Diana was growing rapidly as a young Christian and, interestingly, her mother, in Columbia, was also experiencing a time of intense spiritual growth while she fought her own battle with cancer. She would pass away in January 1982.
Sunday, August 14, 1980 (Springfield, MO)
Dear Mom —
Hi ! How are you doing ? Things here are super ! Today I slept till 11:00. I set my alarm but it didn’t go off. I was pretty upset as I really wanted to go to church. I had planned on going to the National Christian Church on National Street. So for sure I will next Sunday.
Today was such a great day ! I studied from about 2-4 pm and at 5:00 was Woods Olympics. It was each floor against all the rest. We’re on 7th floor. The events were water balloon – you and another person stand a few feet apart and throw a water balloon and then if you catch it without breaking it you take a few more steps apart and throw it and so on. We lost that one. There was a tug-of-war, ten people on each side. We won first in that event. Against all seven floors. Woo ! Then there was the bat twirl – you run to the bat and you put the end of the bat on your forehead and spin around in a circle eight times, then run back. It was the funniest thing ever ! People couldn’t run back ‘cuz they were so dizzy. Funny as heck. There was a 10-man pyramid. We got second. There was a mystery – we won that.
Anyway, we got first of all the floors and got a big trophy ! We were so excited ! We all went out to eat and then to Mom’s Ice Cream. Mom, I’ve told millions of people (note : I think she means here that she had told millions of people about the ice cream store), and every time I go in there they thank me so much !
I’m getting a lot closer with the people on my floor. They’re all neat people. They’re different from me – but I like that.
My classes are so hard, Mom. I hope to do real good … but I can only do the best I can !
I miss you, Mom ! Call sometime. Keep growing and get the strongest ever ! Write me !
Thru Him – Diana.
Doesn’t the story about the alarm clock sound like a typical college student ? All the best intentions. But, even though she didn’t meet her early-morning expectation, it was a great day anyway !
“Keep growing and get the strongest ever” was encouragement to grow and get strong spiritually. Isn’t that a good exhortation and goal for us today and throughout life ? Let’s get the strongest spiritually that we’ve ever been ! And, why not ? That’s what God has us here for.
I loved what Diana wrote about people who were different from her. She was always looking for what she could glean from people around her who came from different places in life than she did. I think the church should be that way too. Let’s learn and grow from each other.
Finally, notice that she was always telling people about something. In this letter, it was about ice cream … but she believed that if you knew the truth about something, you ought to tell others.
May 13, 1981 (Springfield)
Dear Mom —
Thanks so much for the letter and all the little surprises. I love that poem you wrote me – how true ! Finals are coming along fine … doing my best ! I just can’t wait until I can start new. Still looking for a job – but hope not to come home till I find one.
Thanks so much for the fun weekend ! I love our family – God’s really blessed us real good ! I guess everyone has to go through some experiences to learn and appreciate the good. It’s so neat knowing you and dad are behind me, willing to pick me up whenever I fall. I love you !
If you won’t get to come to Myrtle this summer, I’ll understand. Just so you write lots. I’ll miss you and your loving hand …. but I am so excited to go, also. So many people haven’t even heard about Jesus Christ enough to make an intelligible decision – and I know my job is to help fulfill that commission. About the end of the world – isn’t it kind of neat, no matter when it is, it’s the beginning of a whole new life ? Cool !
Be good, little mama – and take care.
Psalm 31:24 – “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”
I love you.
I smiled when I thought about people in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, not having enough information to make an intelligible decision about Jesus Christ. That’s usually something you would think about people living in some remote part of the world. And yet, the thought of such a possibility burdened her … and motivated her to do whatever she could do to give people access to that information.
And besides, isn’t it true ? There are people in Myrtle Beach, and people in Hermann, who have not heard the truth about Jesus and the Gospel He came to offer the world. Does this motivate us, as it did Diana thirty years ago and throughout the rest of her life ?
June 20, 1981 (Myrtle Beach)
Dear Mom —
Hi there ! I had an urge to write just you – there’s so much to tell you.
I’m learning so much, Mom. It’s unreal ! God is so faithful and good. The one area I’m praying for this summer is contentment. At my age, it’s so easy to be “looking” for a husband or get into the competition scene. There’s so much peer pressure. So, what I’m trusting God for is to make me content only in Him in any situation. That’s quite a goal – but I know I’ll have victory in it. So I’m going through gobs of trusting times forcing me to see that only in Him will I find all I need.
My discipline area is definitely improving : sleeping, eating, and getting prepared for studying.
My roommates are the best. You will love them. Of anyone on the project, I wouldn’t have picked any other girls. I am so happy.
I have so many neat places to show you when you come down.
I haven’t fallen in love yet. There are two really special guys I’m spending time with. One goes to my school. He’ll be a junior. The other goes to Colorado. He’ll be a senior – pre-med student. It’s so neat – so many top notch students here. We went to the North Myrtle project today and had an outreach with them on the beach. I met one guy from Harvard, one from Duke, one from Yale. Do you believe it ? Shocked me !
How are you ? I’m sending you a book that’s for Christians. It’s like the 4-laws book. I’ll send you one of those too. This is what we use on the beaches … the yellow for non-Christians, and the blue for Christians who feel defeated in their Christian life. They’re both great. How’s the lady in your office ? What an inspiration.
Know that I love you – and honestly think you’re the best !
You’re in my prayers …
In Christ’s love – Diana.
Again, I chuckled when I read about the blue book “for Christians who feel defeated in their Christian life.” Probably some of us need that book ! But, Diana’s zeal was rooted in these things :
- Every person needs an honest relationship with Christ.
- He has promised victory in life.
She happened to believe we could take Him at His word and, by doing what He says, experience victorious living.
I was reading this week in John 11, the story of the death of Lazarus and how Jesus raised him back to life. If you’re familiar with that story, you know there is some unusual timing in it — in particular, the fact that Lazarus’ sisters send an emergency plea to the Lord when Lazarus falls ill, but Jesus purposely delays two more days so that when he arrives at the family’s home Lazarus is dead.
Jesus was going to do something really powerful there – a very public demonstration of God’s glory and the promise of resurrection. But, as you read through the steps in the story you can sense His emotion and His great sorrow, both for Lazarus and Lazarus’ family. You get a sense that the delay – which was so important in the miracle – was hard for Him too. Finally, He arrives at the tomb and it seems He can just hold back no longer : “’Lazarus, come forth !’ The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (John 11:43-44).
Jesus loves to do good. From a human perspective, it’s as if He just can’t stand not to. It’s within His very nature to do good all the time. This is the Jesus Diana knew and believed in. It’s the Jesus who is in the Bible and who is alive today, … and who is coming back one day. Maybe this is why my children wrote these things about their own mother a couple years ago :
Diana Rea is a 49-year-old mother. She has light brown hair, hazel eyes, and a brown tan. She is very smart and excels in a lot of things that you wouldn’t think she could be capable of doing. She is a very good cook and cooks a wide variety of foods. She is very good in sports, mostly ping-pong and tennis. She teaches her kids school and how to be kind and gentle.
Her children think she is very kind and a little bit strict. Strangers who might pass by and observe her might think she is cheerful for no reason. She has good, strong relationships with people. She firmly believes that even though you make mistakes you can confess them to Christ and He will forgive you, and that all things work together for good for those who love Him.
In 2007, my mom felt sick in her chest. She made some carrot juice and she felt better. But, it came back so we took her to the doctor and they told us she had cancer. We were all very surprised. She had to take a lot of pills. In 2008, she had to go to Florida for her health. She stayed there for about a week. And it helped her with the breathing and the pain. She came back and she had more pills to take. But cold weather wasn’t the best for her. So in 2010 she went back to Florida and it helped her a lot. And she loved to go down there. it was much nicer there and she stayed about two weeks. Every time she comes back, she is always cheerful and fun to be with. She went to Florida again in 2011 with me. And it was fun. And I couldn’t ask for a better mom.
Final Thoughts :
Let’s thank and love the people in our lives. For most of us, we couldn’t ask for a better friend or spouse or son or daughter or sister or brother or parent … or church (?) … than the ones we have. God is so good to us.
Bart Larson will be delivering the message at Emmanuel this Sunday for the final time in this series where he has been filling in for me and teaching us from the book of Isaiah. I don’t think we could have asked for a better friend for our church at this time. Certainly, Bart has been a friend and comfort to my family and to me. God has blessed me to have received rich spiritual input over the years from Bart and his wife, Phyllis. I hope you will join me in showing your appreciation to Bart. I’m sure he would love to stay in touch with as many of you as he can.
Thru Him —