A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend of mine about some advice his parents had given him:

“Live now on earth as if you’re already in heaven.”

Because eternal life doesn’t have to wait until earthly death, we can experience the joy and power and peace of heaven while still in the struggles, despair, and anxieties of this earth.  We were discussing what that could actually look like, but came up with very few answers.  Well today, one came to mind as I thought about Pastor Carl Steufert! If anyone I know did this “heaven on earth” thing well it was Carl.  This beloved pastor, coworker, friend, husband, father, and more cherished every single moment of life and truly found the joy in EVERYTHING.  Not only did Pastor Carl understand what it meant to live as if heaven is here and now, he brought a little slice of that heaven to everyone he interacted with every day.   And now I can’t help but smile through the tears as he is truly living in the 100% beautiful joy of heaven!

When you would call him on the phone it was always “a beautiful day out here in Clarence” and he would want to know about the beautiful day happening in Tonawanda.   For the years that I had the privilege of being a coworker of Pastor Carl’s I always cherished his presence and wisdom in our staff meetings.  He was one of those people who didn’t say much but when he did you definitely listened because you knew it would either be incredibly wise or absolutely hilarious… often, it was both.

I loved the ways Pastor Carl really cared for all people.  He especially loved being around young people in the congregation and looked for opportunities to encourage them whenever he could.  This summer Pastor Carl and his wife, Thea joyfully attended a Bible study I was leading on Sunday mornings.  He was always a calming presence in the room if discussion was getting heated and just like the staff meetings, wouldn’t say much, but when he did, you listened.  I was so thankful for the high school and college students who got to know such an amazing, joy-filled, gracious, wise man through this opportunity or through his service as one of our college prayer partners.

The Streuferts were some of the very first people I met upon arriving at First Trinity, and not without reason.  The connections between my family and theirs began long before I was even born.  In addition to members of our families attending college together, my maternal grandmother, who I never had the privilege of knowing, was one of the teachers for Pastor and Thea’s children in elementary school.  Through them I have gotten to know more about the amazing woman that my grandmother was.

I could go on and on about the amazing Carl Streufert.  From conversations over a dinner when they invited a friend and I to Olive Garden with them one holiday to the final conversation I had with him in the hospital just days before he went to heaven… there’s only one phrase that seems appropriate, (and for those who knew him it will come as no surprise)… the only way to desribe knowing him:

WHAT A JOY!

Thank you God for Carl and for the joy and grace and peace he brought to this world in his time here! We will miss him but look forward to the joyful day when we see him again! 

 

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