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Living on Purpose -- Twyla McNeff (published in The North Weld Herald 2/11/10)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:15 PM by Fccea Webmaster
Mom died a couple of weeks ago of congestive heart failure. Actually, what happened was at about 8:00 am California time on January 15, 2010, she was suddenly absent from the body -- but present with the Lord (II Cor 5:8)! And while the event was jarring to us left behind, it was precious in the sight of the Lord (Psalm 116:15).

Twyla (McBride) McNeff was a gifted woman who grabbed life by the throat from the moment of her entrance on September 17, 1927 until her last labored breath that Friday morning. Her intense determination led to her becoming an accomplished seamstress, artist, businesswoman, musician, published writer, teacher, mentor, valued counselor and most importantly wife and mother. Her only known failures -- inability to manage a DVR and the GPS in her new car!

But what drove her most was her commitment to Jesus Christ whom she had accepted as Lord and Savior at the age of 12. From that early age she "got it", that life is not just about here and now, but that it is eternity that counts. She knew that this life matters because decisions made and actions taken now are decisive for eternity, but she never made the fatal near-sighted mistake of grasping for the "things" this life offers. She sent her treasure on ahead (Matt. 6:19-21).

Mom lived life "on purpose" -- that purpose being to know and glorify her Lord. She rightly considered anything less is a wasted life. Dad, who preceded her in death by 3 years, shared her passion. Together they were exceptional.

Their expressed purpose when they married in June 1947 was to rear children to know and to love God. God blessed them -- or cursed them, depending on your point of view -- beyond their wildest dreams with eleven of us. And in case you don't think God has a sense of humor, you should know that on his wedding day, Dad expressed a desire for six girls and, of course, the first six of us were boys! Clearly man proposes but God disposes!

Mom told someone that after the first two or three births, she just expected boys, and if it came out differently, all the better!(?) Rumor has it that when the last two were born, twin girls (saving best for last), Dad said to Mom, "Okay, that's it. If you're going to start having twins no more kids!" Beginning with my birth on May 5, 1948, one or more of us rowdies occupied their home for the next 39 years until 1987. That's commitment to a purpose!

Money was scarce, but Mom set the tone and our home never lacked for fun, joy and positive energy. We boys quickly found out about sports and were soon playing something year round, organized and otherwise. With so many children, our home was naturally always the center of activity. There is no telling how many free meals were doled out when neighbor kids snuck in for lunch-- lost in the crowd.

Mom and Dad seemed to favor work as much as we favored sports, so we never lacked for chores. Breakfast, for example, was an assembly line -- every boy a job -- one to set the table, another to cook the oatmeal, another to toast the 1-2 loaves of bread that we consumed each morning. We all went to work as soon as we could -- shoveling snow, mowing lawns, painting, paper routes -- whatever we could find.

You can imagine with the purpose at the heart of Mom and Dad's commitment, we were at church every time the doors were open -- and they were open a lot in those days. But Mom understood that the church is only a support, not the main attraction. She took seriously her responsibility to lead her children to the Lord personally. Bible stories, Christian books, wall plaques -- Christian education of all kinds was a staple in our home.

So was music. We all got piano lessons whether we wanted them or not -- and one sister actually learned to play. Mom regularly sang at church and other events and soon turned the first four of us into a quartet -- singing at church, Youth for Christ meetings, and anywhere else that would take us. Brother Steve still thinks he's Elvis re-incarnated! Our folks didn't just talk it -- they lived it, and that made it real to us.

All of which doesn't mean it was easy. Mom and Dad were a testimony to the fact that Christianity is not for wimps as is so often supposed. Trials abounded. Among their eleven there have been three divorces with all the pain and turmoil that entails. Accidents have taken two of us to the doors of death. There has been substance abuse, teen age rebellion, stealing cars for joyriding purposes, infidelity, the death by drowning of 2-year-old grandson, Charlie, severe disability by stroke for my Dad and a couple of cases of rejecting the faith. True faith is always tried -- severely testing whether we really want Christ above all (see John 21:15).

But the tougher it got, the more Mom and Dad purposefully turned to their Father who was and is always faithful. Trials are temporary; living on purpose is forever. Victory? Victory was won every morning of the world when you could find them at 5:30 am reading the Word and praying together. And God was faithful. Today, out of 55 total children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all but 4 or 5 are following the Lord with vigor and enthusiasm. The others will eventually come around, too, because of the prayers of my parents and those of us who are now left.

In his book, Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper references a story from the 1998 edition of Reader's Digest, which tells about a couple who took early retirement when he was 59 and she was 51. "They moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruised on their 30-foot trawler, played softball and collected shells." Piper says this: "At first, when I read it, I thought it might be a joke. But it wasn't. Tragically this was the dream: Come to the end of your life -- your one and only precious, God-given life -- and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: 'Look, Lord. See my shells.' That is a tragedy."

I prefer the rich legacy of my folk's -- life lived on purpose. If we could ask them now, "Was it hard?" I think they would answer, "Yes, it was hard. Harder than we ever imagined!" But now ask them, "Was it worth it?" "Yes, a million times YES!"

From their home in heaven they bear witness to the truth of Paul's statement in Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." This is their legacy. This is what they were meant to say. Jesus is worth more than anything -- more than any earthly pleasure, any earthly achievement or any earthly suffering. He is supreme. This is what their life was meant to say -- eternity is what counts. Trials are temporary; living on purpose is forever. It's the legacy I want to leave my children.

By His Grace Pastor Dave