weekly email to Life Connection Church in Euless, TX
Dear Friends and Family,
Thanks to reconnecting with old friends on Facebook I found out about the passing of a friend from High School this past week. I had not seen Jan Burkhalter in over thirty years but I really felt I needed to be at the memorial service on Wednesday. I am so glad I was able to attend. At first I wondered why I felt so drawn to be there. In my job, as a pastor, I have lost friends and have officiated at quite a few funerals, but for some reason, the passing of Jan really stirred something in my soul. I thought about it all week. I got a little emotional last Sunday while I was teaching and mentioned the loss of an old friend.
I kept thinking, “What is the deal?” Is it because I just hit the big 50, maybe, I didn’t know but it had rocked my world. Thirty years had passed since I had seen her. I didn’t know anything about her life or her family, whether she was married or had kids. I needed to be at the memorial and I am glad my schedule allowed for it, and if it had not, I would have made arrangements to make it happen.
The service was at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a huge church in North Dallas in a very large chapel. I arrived thirty minutes before the service time and the first thing I noticed was a parking lot full of cars.
I approached the main entrance at the same time as Jan’s dad. I thought I recognized him. We used to hang out at Jan’s house all the time. He reached the door first and opened it for me. He said, “I remember you. Thanks for being here.” Then it started to clear up for me.
All at once, as I entered the lobby of the chapel, I was surrounded by old friends from MacArthur High School. They were all the same people who used to hang out at Jan’s over thirty years ago. Most of us had not seen each other since. It was an overwhelming, comforting feeling. They say that the teen years are tough times as we search for our identities and wrestle with who we are and seek acceptance or rebel against authority. But all of the sudden, I was in the comfort of friends and familiarity. We had all come to hang out with Jan and her parents one more time.
It was a beautiful and uplifting service celebrating the life of a cheerleader. That was it….Jan was a cheerleader…..She had been taught to be a cheerleader by her cheerleader parents. Jans’ daughter with great courage and composure eulogized her mother who for her and been her best friend and her biggest cheerleader. She talked about all of her friends coming over and her mom being their cheerleader too.
Then a big group of us went to a local resteraunt and continued talking about Jan, our cheerleader. Yes, Jan was one of our uniformed Friday night and pep rally cheerleaders, but she was not just a cheerleader because she lead the cheers for the football or basketball team. Jan lived her life as a cheerleader. We went around the table and shared our Jan moments and what made us all gather on this day thirty years later, was that we had lost a true cheerleader.
Now I knew for sure why I was there. Jan, at a point in my life when I was just trying to learn what was up, was there to cheer me on. And what I heard from people who had known Jan for a much longer period of life then me, was that Jan cheered people on everywhere she went. The chapel was full of people whose lives are better somehow because they had been friends with a cheerleader who had cheered them on to being something better than they would have been without her.
We need cheerleaders. We tell people about our lives, we brag about our kids, and we live among others always with the hope that someone will cheer us on. That was Jan. The people who make the most impact in this world are cheerleaders, legitimate cheerleaders who cheer for us because they really want to see us do well and not because they want something from us.
And here is the deal…..If you cheer for others, it brings more joy into your life. Because God blesses the cheerleaders……And the more cheer we give away, the more lives we encourage, the more God gives us and cheers us on to be better.
So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified. Rom 15:7 NLT
Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. Heb 10:24NLT
So encourage each other and build each other up…..1 Thes 5:11
How about you? Are you a cheerleader? Are people’s lives better because you cheer them on? Is there a cheerleader in your life you need to thank while you still can?
Thank you Jan for being a cheerleader for so many people. And thank you God for cheerleaders and for commanding us to cheer for each other.
Your brotha from anotha motha