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Monday, September 7, 2020

Volga River State Recreation Area in Northeast Iowa. Steve Ephraim
Volga River State Recreation Area in Northeast Iowa.
Photo by Steve Ephraim
Click on photo to enlarge

"Rest From Our Labors"

Message summary:  Today we consider the aspect of death being a blessing, that time when we will rest from our labors.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13).

Wilma DourteOn Saturday morning we attended a memorial service for Wilma Dourte. She went to be with the Lord on August 13th after living a long, fruitful life of 95 years following a stroke five days earlier. We met Wilma and her late husband, Jesse, during my three year pastoral role in a small country church about 10 years ago. Jesse had previously pastored this church in his younger years. For longtime readers you've seen us feature this fine couple many times as we've written about our close association with them and featured their photos.

The entire Dourte family is very gifted musically so, along with beautiful preludes, the service began with "Victory In Jesus". Each participant offered moving and often humorous tributes. The service was a testimony of a life lived well and a heart full of devotion to God. Jesus Christ was lifted up as her Savior and all in attendance were encouraged to follow Him.

Jim Hain, son-in-law to the Dourtes, gave the meditation basing his text on Revelation 14 with special attention to our daily text. What a fitting verse to use on an occasion like this.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." What a wonderful perspective to see death as a blessing but this is conditioned on the words, "who die in the Lord". This is speaking of those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This blessedness is affirmed by the Spirit, "'Blessed indeed', says the Spirit". The Psalmist wrote, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15).

This verse points out that these believers "die in the Lord". This phrase marks them as new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Unless raptured before dying, every person will keep an appointment with death. He or she will either die in the Son or in their sin. Those who die in the Son enjoy eternal rest. Those who die in their sin experience eternal unrest. Jesus extends the invitation, "Come to me…and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:28–29). (from here)

"That they may rest from their labors". Wilma was characterized as a laborer. The line in the song, "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder" fits her well, "Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun". This Labor Day it is fitting to consider the example of hard work Wilma and so many in that generation demonstrated. Even in her nineties Wilma still liked to mow her large lawn with a push mower despite her children begging her not to do so. Someone quipped that Wilma probably already had sought a way to serve in heaven. But the text states, "That they may rest from their labors". This is in contrast to the wicked who in their torment cannot rest day or night. (Revelation 14:11)

"For their deeds follow them!" What a tremendous truth to ponder; our labors on this earth will follow us to heaven!

Andrée Peterson writes,

"It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). It is evident that for the blessed people spoken of in Revelation 14:13, it is a pleasing thought that their deeds will ride their coattails. They have done well. They have lived in total commitment to God and kept themselves unstained from the world.

Every day that you and I live is unrepeatable. It's all about choices: We can live the duration in conscious, daily, obedient faith, or we can live in spiritual sloth and what Jesus rejected as "lukewarm" (Revelation 3:16). When the time comes, I want gold and silver jingling behind me, not rattling kindling wood. And I am sure you want the same."

May a life well-lived like Wilma's be a source of encouragement to each of us who remain!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we participate in life's greatest celebration when a believer is promoted to glory, though it is among life's greatest heartaches when we no longer have their presence among us. Instead of sadness our hearts are uplifted when we consider that those who go before us are blessed, for blessed are the dead who die in You, Father.  They now rest from their earthly labors and yet their deeds follow them so that the generation who follows is greatly influenced years after their earthly departure. May our thoughts, actions, and deeds reflect that which influences others for the kingdom of God. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Homesick For Heaven"  Video  Jim Brady Trio

"When I Reach That Home Up There"  Video  Dailey & Vincent

“It Is Not Death to Die”  Video  Sovereign Grace

"Knowing What I Know About Heaven"  Video  Guy Penrod & Sarah Darling

Last Friday we shared a message based on 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12. Yesterday on the way to church we listened to the sermon at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lancaster and heard this passage expounded upon. This is a much needed message for our times. (Audio)

So many memorable stories:

Wilma was a very colorful person right up to the end. We saw her at Pastor John Keefer's retirement dinner in July and she made her way around the room visiting with others (though we had to sit in individual family units due to the coronavirus stipulations).

Of all the stories told at the service here's my (Stephen's) favorite from David, a son-in-law: The Dourtes had six children, 5 daughters and one son. David was originally from Massachusetts and had met their daughter, Colleen, in college. The first time that his folks drove down to meet the Dourte's they arrived at the farm but it appeared no one was there. Colleen searched and found Wilma behind the house shooting groundhogs (a real pest to farmers). She and Wilma went to greet her boyfriend's parents with Wilma very comfortably toting her gun with her. Such an introduction was a bit startling for the New England couple, and later, they asked, "Son, do you know what you're getting into?" A very devoted son-in-law, David very graciously told the attendees that he was ever so grateful that he did get into the Dourte family.

Jesse and Wilma with Amish children 4/15/12
Jesse and Wilma loved people. Here they visit with some Amish children.

Senior ministry couples at Mount Pleasant
After our role ended at the country church where we met the Dourtes, Jesse and Wilma attended Mount Pleasant along with two other retired pastors. Counting Brooksyne and myself along with the current pastor there were five pastoral couples in a church that had about 100 in attendance.
Left to right: Jerel (now with the Lord) and Fran Book; Jim (now with the Lord) and Eva Ketner; Jesse and Wilma (both with the Lord); Pastor John Keefer and his wife Faithe on the right who recently retired. The Keefers lived across the street from the Dourtes and drove them to church weekly after Wilma was no longer allowed to drive. The Keefers were a caring and attentive pastoral couple to the Dourtes as they often expressed to us.

Our annual fall date processing Squash and Pumpkin

Always a heart to serve here are the Dourtes assisting Brooksyne with butternut squash and neck pumpkins! During the fall season Brooksyne always received a call from Jesse or Wilma warning her not to start processing the vegetables until she set up a date for them to come and help. And come they did! Jesse always brought his sharpest knives and vegetable peeler. Too weak to stand he sat on a stool, cut off the ends of the veggies and then peeled the skins off. I chopped them into sizeable pieces and Wilma then cut the pulp into small pieces before I microwaved them in the oven. Afterward I purreed and bagged them for the freezer. The Dourtes always looked forward to our day together and we had such wonderful conversation over lunch, as God was usually showing Jesse something in the Scriptures that gave us challenge and/or contemplation.

One more of many fond memories: Jesse and Wilma lived ten miles from our house, and on one of our dates to process squash, they brought us some fresh venison. They both heard a loud noise as Wilma was driving them and Jesse suggested they turn around to make sure they hadn't run over something. In doing so they spotted a shiny object in the road and pulled over to check it out. Turns out, Wilma forgot to fasten the hatchback to their car which had popped open while they were traveling. A large gallon size stainless steel bowl that was holding the venison had fallen out onto the road. She scooped up the venison and put it back into the bowl before they continued on in their short journey to our house. (We considered how upset their children might be upon hearing and envisioning this event that took place.)

When they arrived they brought in the large banged up bowl with the venison. Wilma insisted on scrubbing off the small gravel that stuck to the venison under running water since they certainly were not going to dispose of this valuable meat. So we teasingly referred to the venison as "roadkill", and, yes, we ate it with no ill effects. I had a bowl the same size and insisted she take it. I took the banged stainless steel bowl as a reminder of our special date together. I will soon process squash and pumpkins again this year, but I've never enjoyed it like I did when these two kept me company all day long. We always had such a good time working together, whether it was church related or domestic.

Dourte's picking rhubarb 5/8/18
Always at work:  A few years back we drove over to pick up Jesse and Wilma late one morning. They wanted to visit our dear friends, the Lapps, in Paradise. We found them picking rhubarb and asparagus. Jesse told us he didn't want to show up at the Lapps' house without sharing fresh produce from their garden. Yes, they still gardened in their 90's, preserving and canning that which they grew as well as produce collected from friends and nearby orchards. Wilma helped Jesse farm over the years and he helped her with canning.

Pantry shelves at the Dourte house
Into her nineties Wilma kept a well-stocked pantry as colorful evidence of an abundant harvest!

Jesse and Wilma Dourte 3/19/17
70th Wedding Anniversary: Jesse and Wilma joined us for a Voice of the Martyrs Conference in Hershey a few years back.  Following the service we stopped by a Red Robin for dinner. While being seated I mentioned to the hostess that the Dourtes would soon celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. After she told the general manager she sent word that they could choose a dessert from the menu "on the house". She later came out and personally congratulated them.

Last Thoughts: Wilma described her aging body like that of an automobile. At the Memorial Service her daughter, Loine, read the following reflection about aging that Wilma herself wrote:

It is the vehicle for my soul. That is the part of me that's inside, looking out, controlling the instruments which will take me in the direction I want to go. Sometimes not looking at my road map, I don't always get on the most convenient highway or make the wisest choice at a crossroad. There are always unexpected curves that can throw me into a ditch. If my construction is good and my parts are sturdy, I might travel around for a long time (that is, if I don't have a major accident; I already have a few scratches and dents on my exterior). 

Age will weather some of my parts with rust. My upholstered padding has has already begun to get thread bare in some parts and lumpy in others. I can't put just any kind of fuel in my gas tank without expecting stalls, backfires, or fuel line stop-up. My headlights aren't what they used to be. Sometimes my tail pipe drags. My battery gets so tired just trying to get started for the day that I suspect one morning it will not turn over at all. My mileage is something only my repairman knows.

Wilma Dourte
December 28, 1924 - August 13, 2020

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Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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