|Here is Charlotte at our house this summer making frozen lemonade for the kids that came to our Istre VBS|
My dearest friend and sister in Christ, Charlotte Felix, passed away recently and unexpectedly after struggling with a lifelong medical condition. We became REALLY close friends these last few months. Both of us grew so much spiritually during this time. Several months before Charlotte died, she had asked me if we could share communion thoughts together at our church, HOPE Church of Christ, sometime in the near future. Charlotte had volunteered her services to our worship leader, Jessalyn, a couple of months before her death. Below is the email I received from Jessalyn last week, the reply I gave her, and the communion thoughts I shared in her honor.
Chelsa, (January 29, 2013)
A few months ago we asked for volunteers to do the communion meditation and Charlotte came up to me after church that night and said that she wanted to offer to do communion some time, but not yet. She said to ask her in a few months because she wasn't ready yet but she thought she wanted to try eventually. I wanted to share that story on the Wednesday night after her death but I just couldn't pull it together enough to get it out with everything that has been going on. The time of her death was just about the time she had said to ask her about it again and I had a heavy heart because she didn't get to. But it did stand out to me because I felt like it represents a lot of what HOPE is about. It's special because even where Charlotte was, she was still growing, and I think that is the heart of what we are at HOPE and the transformation we've been going through in the last year. I could tell that it was not something she was comfortable with doing, but I feel like a lot of the change we are experiencing as a church was a part of Charlotte stretching herself and doing the same sort of transformation within herself that we're doing as a community.
Charlotte can't do communion this week but I thought maybe you could do it in her honor. I think it would've been special if she had actually got up in front of the crowd, but I think that the more significant thing is that she had made the step towards growth and stepping out of her comfort zone and offered to do it.
If you thought you had it in you to think about what insight Charlotte might have for communion or even insight you gained from your relationship with Charlotte, I would like to honor her request to participate in communion.
I understand if it might be too much or too short of notice. I could preface the communion with the story of the night she asked to do communion.
Let me know how that feels.
Jessalyn, (January 30, 2013) I remember Charlotte talking to you about that. She had spoken to me several times about it and I kind of know what she was wanting to say because we had talked about it. So in honor of her I would be happy to do it. But just a fair warning: I know I will be very emotional. I will cry. I can't seem to help it right now! But I know she would want me to, and I think God does too. So, yes, I will try and the Spirit will intercede for me. Thank you for asking me Jessalyn.
Communion Thoughts in honor of Charlotte- February 3, 2013 at HOPE
Although I'm going to be sharing things about Charlotte, this communion talk is not about her. She would be appalled if it was. This talk is about how we as Christians are to follow Jesus with the help of the Spirit.
The very first time Charlotte mentioned wanting to share communion thoughts happened several months before she talked to Jessalyn. We were having Ladies Tuesday night bible study. It happened on a night when we were doing an in depth study on the Holy Spirit. We were discussing how the word used in the bible for Holy Spirit means breath or wind. I gave some illustrations about how oxygen is used in our bodies and how we could relate that to the Holy Spirit in our body. That really resonated with her because of her breathing problems and her dependance on oxygen. After that lesson, she asked me if I would be willing to get up here with her and share communion thoughts together about that. And I told her I would. So even though Charlotte isn't physically here with us tonight, I want to honor her request.
When Jessalyn asked me if I would be willing to do this tonight in honor of Charlotte, I immediately knew what I was going to say, which is VERY UNUSUAL for me. When Charlotte first asked me to do this with her I wasn't exactly sure what she wanted me to do and when we tried working on it, nothing much materialized for me. But tonight, I know. The Spirit has given me clear insight to what needs to be said.
These last few months I spent a lot of time with Charlotte. Not just here at church pushing her around in her chair, helping her in and out of her car, but at her home, too. It really started when she got her hot tub. Some of you may remember going over to her house to unload it off of Philip's trailer. She had asked us and a few others to help her move it into her back yard. As I hung around her that day I felt the Spirit nudging me to be more involved in her life and to show physical affection towards her. I kept thinking about the idea that God didn't create us to be alone. We all need each other. So I began going over there as often as I could to check on her and help her around the house, pray with her, and give lots of hugs. It was then that I got to see firsthand how she managed living on her own and how difficult simple tasks like laundry and housecleaning were for her. I hadn't realized how hard it was for her and how desperately she needed that oxygen. It truly was her lifeline. She could not go without it at all, especially these last few months when she was having so much trouble breathing.
The reason Charlotte struggled so much is because she had Restrictive Lung Disease. That just means that her lungs could never fill up to full capacity because of her severe scoliosis. Kind of like trying to fill a big balloon inside a glass jar. At some point, the balloon can't get any bigger even though it could if it wasn't inside the jar. And this problem kept her from being able to do normal things we take for granted, like walking across the room without stopping. If her muscles didn't get enough oxygen, she had to stop, concentrate on taking deep breaths, and rest until they did. Her lack of oxygen limited her ability to function normally. She knew that the use of oxygen was directly related to how she performed.
The more I hung around Charlotte the more questions I asked her about her health because I wanted to know how to help her best. There were lots of things I learned, but one thing she told me really stood out. And that was about the amount of oxygen she would use on her machine. I would say "why don't you just turn it up all the way if you need more." And she would tell me that sometimes she needed to turn in up, but most of the time she needed to use as little as possible. That didn't make any sense to me for a while until she explained. When we breathe in, we receive oxygen, and when we breathe out we exhale or get rid of carbon dioxide. She could pump in all the oxygen she wanted, but if she didn't exhale enough co2, it wouldn't help. In fact, if the amount of CO2 was too high it could make her very sick. So receiving oxygen is important, but getting rid of co2 is just as important.
After Charlotte died the kids and I decided to study the respiratory system in the human body. Did you know that every cell in the body needs oxygen to function properly? The red blood cells in the blood carry oxygen to all the parts of the body. And when the blood gets depleted of oxygen, the veins take that blood to the heart where it can pump it directly to the lungs. That's where the blood receives new oxygen once again. This new oxygenated blood flows back to the other side of the heart where it can be pumped to all parts of the body again. On average it takes a red blood cell about 20 seconds to make a complete round.
Now lets relate this spiritually. We are the body of Christ. Jesus is the head. We are his hands and feet in this world. His blood cleanses us and makes us clean and whole. Life is in His blood. But do you remember what else is in blood? Oxygen and carbon dioxide. Charlotte would be the first to tell you that a body must have oxygenated blood to function at peak performance. Think about breathing. The name Holy Spirit means wind or breath. As we breathe in, the Holy Spirit enters us and gives us the gifts, power, and support we need to perform as God intended. The Holy Spirit must enter every cell of the body for us to truly be what God intended. But we cannot keep all of this power inside. If we do not breathe out like we should our body will grow sick because we were created to share Him with the world. The fruit of the Spirit is revealed when we reach out and love others. We will not live fully as a church until we let the Spirit pulse through our arteries and veins. Which means each person here needs a Spirit-filled life. Part of that is this intimate communion time we share where we remember Jesus being inside of us by eating this bread which represents his body.
Father, may we see our desperate need for your Spirit as the body of Christ. As we think about Jesus' sacrifice for all of us, empower us to live Spirit-filled lives that love and serve others in need. Help us to see our need for your Spirit every second of our lives, like Charlotte realized her constant need for oxygen. In Jesus name, amen.
This song you're about to hear always reminded me of Charlotte. Especially while she struggled so much these last few months. I think you'll see why as you listen to the words. But my hope is that it will remind us all of our desperate need for God.
SONG- Need You Now by Plumb
Before passing the cup
The more I went over to Charlotte's, the more I wanted to do for her. The more I wanted to show her God's love for her. It was like I couldn't wait to get over there to serve her. It never felt like a burden or sacrifice. It wasn't drudgery. It was pure joy for me. Pure joy. Do you know why? Because it wasn't me at all. I was there and my hands and feet were moving, but the Spirit was working in me and empowering me to love her like Jesus. I don't know how to truly love someone, but Jesus does. And through his Spirit we can love like him.
I want to tell you something that happened to me last week, but I hesitate in sharing it because I don't want you to take it the wrong way. I had this picture come to my mind, kind of like a daydream. I was awake, and I saw myself walking up to Charlotte's front door. As I put the key in and walked inside, my image transformed into Jesus. And it was Jesus coming in to love on her and serve her. Please don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say. I'm not saying I'm Jesus. But I am a vessel He can enter and use. We are all vessels created for Him that can pour out His love to someone else.
Father, as we fix our eyes on Jesus, who had JOY in knowing what was coming later, endured the cross, the suffering, the sacrifice. May we find pure joy in serving and sacrificing and suffering for others in need of Jesus. In Jesus name, amen.