Verna Peters would have been 90 years old on February 14th. She died in the early morning hours of February 2nd. Her longevity is, of course, impressive. Her life and her legacy are more so. She did so much with the nearly 788,400 hours she spent on this earth. Much can be, and has been, said about that. Each of us has a bucket load of “Verna stories.” It is her final 168 hours of life, however, that stops me in my tracks. That gives me pause. That humbles me.
On January 26, Verna Peters took her normal seat in the JCBC sanctuary amidst several hundred people to participate in our iMAGiNEXT conversation held during the Sunday School hour. She prayerfully, carefully considered, intentionally imagined, and deliberately discerned the new and next call on her life. Remember, she’s nearly 90 years old.
During that next week, some friends took her to lunch for an early birthday celebration. The table conversation came around to the iMAGiNEXT session in which she participated the previous Sunday. To the question, “Verna, what did you think about the session?” she replied, “I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I’ve been praying. I believe that my next is to give up going to Wednesday night bible study so that I’m physically able to play the piano for Thursday morning devotionals at Sunrise (Senior Living – her residence.)” “That’s what I feel led to do so that’s what I’m going to do.” She died about 72 hours later.
Three things about this story stand out to me.
First, Verna’s “next” was just as much about what she needed to give up as it was about what she felt compelled to take on. At 90, Verna was willing to jump the tracks – to upset her routine – in order to follow the compulsion of the Holy Spirit of God. Wednesday night bible study was a time of personal satisfaction, spiritual growth, and community living for Verna. Yet, she was willing to set her personal “wants” aside in order to respond to what she felt “needed” to be done.
CAUTION: Your “next” may necessitate self-sacrifice. In fact, it most probably will. In order to take on the next and new call on your life, something probably has to be removed from your plate. Your routine is going to be upset. How will you respond to that?
Next, I am simply inspired by the fact that, at age 90, Verna was not finished “doing” faith. She was not finished being the church. She was not finished discerning and obeying. Verna was not a church consumer. She did not rest on her laurels. Nor was she satisfied with past works and manifestations of her Christian faith. In Christ, there is never not a next. Verna lived that…right up until the time that she lived no more. Again…inspiring.
The thing that stands out to me most of all, however, has little to do with Verna. Our faith, our Christianity, isn’t really about us or what we do. It is about Christ and what he did and what he continues to do in our lives. Right up to the very end.
I don’t pretend to understand everything about God. I am perfectly comfortable living in the mystery of God and God’s working and God’s timing. But, I have to think in God’s omnipotence – in the all “being-ness” of God – that God somehow knew that Verna would soon take her last breath…mere hours away.
Yet, God was not finished with her either. Right up to the very end.
In her last 168 hours on this earth, God was leading, communicating, reaching, pursuing, compelling. I don’t know how many hours I have left…I don’t want to know. I am humbled, however by the knowledge that right this very instant…God is leading, communicating, reaching, pursuing and compelling each of us. Candidly, if God is that interested in us…I think I’ll pay attention.
Join the conversation. Go here to participate in the guided thinking Verna experienced.
Explore the possibilities. Go here to learn about ways to mobilize right now.
You are not finished. Neither is God.
Johns Creek Baptist Church
Thank you David for this wonderful tribute for such a loving, kind, and inspiring woman. Really enjoyed singing in the choir with her for many years, and have really enjoyed getting to know her daughter and son-in-law (we live down the street from them) who are just lovely people.
As a visiting “twenty something” who came to JCBC in 1994, Verna was one of the first choir members to reach out to me and my husband, and she took her time to find out all about us. She was always smiling and was eager to ask how you were everytime you saw her! I have fond memories of her giving my children their first “Noah and the flood” books, singing with her in our JCBC Christmas program (including all of us Sopranos and Altos, laughing, doing the “quick change,” and sprinting back to the sanctuary in time to process in for the second part), and taking my family to see her “new place” at Sunrise. Such class and generosity.
Would LOVE to know what her next is – – wonder what she’s doing right now in heaven?! Whatever it is, I’m sure God is smiling just as I am right now. Miss her, and loved her dearly.