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Yesterday, I took the day off of work. Leanne and I had intended on going to the shore for the day, but the temperature was a little chilly for Jersey Shore weather. We stayed around our house for most of the day. I went to my men’s group (DIBs – Dudes In the Basement) at 6AM. Then Leanne and I went to The Energy Station in Vernfield, PA for a rare breakfast out together (that place is amazing). We drove down to King of Prussia, PA to pickup a new pair of running shoes at Road Runner Sports and to try out some donuts at the new Duck Donuts in the King of Prussia Town Center (the donuts didn’t disappoint and my new running shoes are a welcome change from my old shoes).
Friday late afternoon, we drove to Mt. Holly, NJ to attend the family gathering at First Presbyterian Church to honor and celebrate the life of Phil Olson. Phil was the Minister of Local Missions at the church for 13 of the 18 years my dad was there as one of the pastors. Phil passed away earlier this week after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer. The gathering gave family and friends a chance to greet Phil’s family and to say hello to old friends from the church and the community.
(I’ll always remember Phil as an important friend and co-worker for my father. I’ll remember his love for the New York Mets (I’ll never understand this one). I’ll remember that his family always eats ice cream on Christmas morning (I love that tradition). I’ll remember catching up with Phil a few times at the Plymouth Meeting Mall where he served as the Pastor at The Church on the Mall. And I’ll always remember his passion for practically ministering to the local community.)
First of all, being back at First Presbyterian Church felt like home. It felt like I was going back in time to a significant time in my childhood and teenage years. This was the church where I worshiped and grew in my faith from 8 years old (1980) until I married Leanne in 1996 (now you can figure out my age). The building itself is beautiful – stained glass windows, stone exterior, tall steeple, majestic pipe organ (but that’s a story for another time).
More than the building, the people made it feel like home for me. People remembered me (and my family), and I remembered most of them. Some people had changed (as have I), but many people seemed exactly the same. I’ll treasure the opportunity to talk with people like Ray and Joann Rivera, Mark Redlus, Dave and Nora Kennedy, Dan and Marla Kennedy, Thad Livingston, Larry and Linda Taylor, and so many others. They asked about my parents who were part of the congregation for 18 years. It’s hard to imagine it’s been over 20 years since my parents moved away from Mt. Holly. It seems like it was yesterday.
After our time at First Presbyterian Church, Leanne and I met up with some wonderful friends (the Grovers and the Becks) for dinner and time to connect. It turned into a later night for us, but it was so heart-warming to be at home with old friends.
Mt. Holly, NJ will always be home to me in some ways. I treasure the memories and the people there. They saw me grow up, and many of them helped me grow up.
Schwenksville, PA is my home now. In fact, I’ve lived here for longer than any other place in my life. I’m thankful for the community we live with here, and I look forward to the memories and friends we will create in the years to come in this area.
My physical home is my sanctuary away from the rest of the world. It’s where I find real encouragement. It’s where I often find rest. My home is a place where I can leave a mark on those who mean the absolute most to me.
Phil’s passing was a reminder that there is another home that is waiting for me. As we passed through the receiving line waiting to greet Phil’s wife, Holly, and the rest of the family, I noticed a verse that was posted near some of the flowers and other memories of Phil:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. Philippians 1:21-26
I don’t know what the future days hold. I strive to make the most of the opportunities (Colossians 4:5) here in my earthly home. And I yearn for the day when I’m in my eternal home. From what I can tell, Phil lived his life this way. He impacted the lives of so many people here on earth (I’m sure the funeral service today was packed with some of the many people who were impacted by Phil and his ministry), but this verse was a clear reminder that Phil also longed for the opportunity to be home with Christ in heaven.