Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Carpenter


MARK 6:3










"Mark's here"

My Dad,

There are a few things in life that I've often have pondered and the mystery of it all is more than the human mind can fully comprehend. One of these mysteries is the death of a loved one.
May 31st 2007 this mystery unraveled unexpectedly as it came knocking on my door when we were told in the hospital waiting room that my Dad of 82 , who had been in surgery for 11 hours for heart surgery was having difficulties breathing on his own. We were told that the oxygen wasn't getting through to his blood even though the heart surgery was more or less successful. Furthermore we were told that we should prepare ourselves for the worst. My heart sank but then I reached out to God who I knew held the keys to life and death. As I prayed I asked for His will to be done in my Dads life I knew that it would be best if I left it in his hands. My Mom lowered her head into her hands as she sat in her wheel chair and quietly sobbed as we prayed with her and reassured her that he wasn't gone yet and not to give up. The minister prayed with her as well and tried to be of comfort. Who ever had cell phones placed calls to various individuals and support groups as we waited. The moments quickly progressed and then we were told by the doctor that we should go see him for the last time while he was still alive.
I gathered all of my kids together and started down the hallway and up the elevator with my Mom and brothers and sister with all of there family members that had arrived.
As we entered the room my Dad laid motionless with tubes in his mouth and arms all connected to various supporting electronic apparatus at his bed side, the doctor talked to those who had questions. The nurse told us that it was ok to talk to him. Each one of us went up and touched him on the arms and forehead as we looked for a sign of hope.
Naturally these were moments of anticipation and concern for his health. Then the nurse told us that they needed to make some adjustments and that we should leave the room and wait until they were done. In the waiting room someone began to pray as each of us reached out to God for his guidance and healing mercy.
My brothers and I had gone off with our Mom to another area to talk with her. Soon we were told to come back in the room because Dads condition was slipping at a rapid rate. As we entered the room we were informed that he wouldn't make it and that he had moments to live. We all said our good byes and sang a song from church. Soon the alarms began to sound off at 7:35 and the attending nurse said I'm so sorry, he's gone. They turned off the electronic support systems and a hush of sadness gripped each of our hearts. So sad to say the least as our eyes filled with tears and no one could hold back their emotions as we cried together.
I have every reason to believe that My Dad slipped away into the arms and presents of his heavenly father where he was given a new body and the pain of the earth was gone forever. What a good classic movie with a abrupt ending that I wish could have lasted longer.
I loved my Dad, He meant a lot to me as he was always there when I need him. He was also there in prayer every day as he would pray for me and each of my family members. Each of them are saved and have Christ as their hope for eternity. My dad will be missed by all of us so much so that when I went to visit my Mom the next day to make funeral arrangements, my ears were programmed in anticipation to hear the sound of my Dad say, "Mark's here" as I stepped up to the back door of my parents home I reached up and opened the back door of my Moms kitchen as I so often did .I soon realized that those sounds were now called memories and that it would never be herd again.
Someday when I die I want my Dad to greet me at the gates of heaven and say, "Marks here", as he raises up his hands in a gentle wave and then the familiar hug and embrace.

Dads funeral

James L. Phenicie, 82, Huntington went to be with his Heavenly Father Thursday, May 31, 2007.
Mr. Phenicie was born October 5, 1924 in Bement, IL. His parents were Frank and Ida Phenicie. They preceded him in death.
He married Jean Orr June 21, 1947. She survives and lives in Huntington. Mr. Phenicie attended Moody Bible Institute of Chicago and was a retired minister. He had worked at the First National Bank, Huntington, also worked for the Huntington County Community Schools till he retired. Jim was an accomplished artist and woodworker.
Mr. Phenicie was a WW11 Navy Veteran and served aboard the USS Wake Island. He attended the Charity Baptist Church.
Additional survivors include: 5 Sons: Daniel (Susan) Phenicie, Tipton, IN, James (Rebecca) Phenicie, San Diego, CA, John (Patricia) Phenicie, Ft. Wayne, IN, Mark (Gale) Phenicie, Ft. Wayne, Nathan Phenicie, Union Grove, WI; 1 Daughter: Beth (Zis) Phenicie Milentis, Ft. Wayne, IN; 23 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
Calling will be Monday, June 4, 2007 from 2-4 and 6-8 pm at McElhaney-Hart Funeral Home, 715 N. Jefferson St., Huntington, IN.
Additional calling will be Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 10:00 AM at First Nazarene Church, 1555 Flaxmill, Huntington. Funeral service will follow at 11:00 AM at the First Nazarene Church with Pastor Wallace Morris officiating.
Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery, Servia, IN.
In lieu of flowers gifts to Shepherds Ministries, Union Grove, WI in honor of Nathan.
McElhaney - Hart Funeral Home, 715 N. Jefferson St., Huntington, IN.
McElhaney-Hart is in charge of arrangements.
On line condolences to

Last Night, I talked to my Dad

Last night i talked to my dad!!! As i saw him standing there he looked content in his heavenly body, and even though it was brief he and I began to talk.

I said to him, "so Dad, what is heaven like"?
He replied,"it is good, very good".

Are you "ok"?

"yes i am, I'm doing well".

So I said, "what does it look like in heaven ,are there flowers and normal things there"?
Then he said, "well i can't really describe it to you but.......

then right in front of me were two men on a bench (i assumed here on earth) and one of them began to say to me,

"if you knew someone that didn't have long to live, what would you tell them"?
I said, "well, i would say, "Read the scripture and memorize as much of it as you can, and then tell as many as possible about the love of Jesus"........

Then, just like that, I woke up!!!

wow !!!!, The dream was so real!! His face, his voice, and mannerisms were all him and the dream was so real that I couldn't get it out of my mind all day. I savored those moments that I had visioned him. I don't even know what it was all about, except that it was as though in my dream he knew that I needed to hear my own answer as a reminder.

Before my Dad died, he had a brief moment with each one of the grand children and told each one of them individually to study the scripture and serve the Lord.

So many times we are often too busy with our own schedules that we don't take the time to sit down and read the scripture and to memorize it. I loved my Dad, and as it gets closer to the end of May when he went home to be with the Lord...i can't help but think of the good times i had with him here on earth.

I'm sure my Dad is doing fine in heaven and it was just a dream on my behalf however it was quite realistic and I'm sure it would be too difficult to explain to those of us here on earth what heaven is really like. However, Gods word is with us and the comforter is with those of us who have believed.

Fathers Day

As I awoke this morning I made my way to the kitchen table. It’s “Fathers day” I thought. There were banners on the walls and notes from my children all expressing their love for me as their dad.
My youngest daughter of eleven (Grace) wrote: “Dad, without you our family wouldn’t know what to do(because we love you so much) You are the perfect Dad anyone could ever have! When ever I need something fixed, you’re the one I’d ask because you know how to fix anything! Whenever I need a hug I know where to go! Your hugs are like a warm teddy bear. But most of all I love you daddy! Happy Fathers Day.
P.S. “Boom –Daddy-Boom Daddy -Boom!!

Then there was a list of “things to do” that my wife had left there on the table from the night before. One of the items on her list was to call her Dad. As I looked at the note, I thought oh yea, “call Dad” and then …. I thought “ooooh I can’t do that any more” . It’s another one of those things I use to do that I‘ve added to the list of my memories of my Father who went to be with the Lord on May 31st this year.

I’m finding that thoughts of my Father tug on my heart and cause a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye at the most unexpected moments. Jesus understood this when he said “I will never leave you nor forsake you, even unto the ends of the world”.

Our minds have a unique way of reviewing our past and the things that have left life time impressions on us. With this hope of Jesus our tears are wiped away and our hearts are comforted when we are reassured that, we who have accepted Christ as our savior will be re-united with the saints who have gone on before.

If you have never experienced this comfort in your loss of a loved one I challenge you to take a moment and ask God to bring peace and comfort into your life through Jesus.

I loved my Dad and someday I too will be with him again even though I miss him now and have wonderful and fond memories of him.

Memories of Jim Phenicie

Memories of Jim Phenicie,
By a neighbor - Jim O’Donnell - fortunate to have been his friend, 6-5-07

“Eternal God, our heavenly father, who loves us with an everlasting love, and who can turn even the shadow of death into a bright new morning: Help us, grieving family and friends of Jim Phenicie, to wait on you with reverence and believing hearts. In the sadness of this hour, give us the joy that lets us catch a fresh glimpse of You , our Lord, who so beautifully guided our beloved Jim for so long.

Beyond our sense of loss, speak to us of eternal things.

Bless and use my memories of Jim to reveal the soul of a great friend hidden in such an extraordinarily humble man. Give us hope and patience to be lifted from the darkness and distress we now feel amid this enormous change and reordering of life. We know Jim is in a far better place. But we still miss him. And our humanity tugs at us, wanting him back a while longer.

In the meantime, give us peace, dear Jesus, through your Spirit’s invisible presence.” Amen.


I’m not standing before you because I want to. I certainly didn’t want Jim’s death; nor, in light of his dying, would I ever have asked to speak on behalf of his family and friends.

I’m not worthy or deserving to speak for so many of you who knew and loved Jim so much longer and more deeply than I did. But dear Jean asked me to speak as Jim’s friend and neighbor, so, with God’s help and grace, I want to try my best for Jean. But, Jean, it’s hard to speak of Jim without speaking of you. So forgive me if I include you in some of these memories, too.

There are so many, many ways for me to remember my friend Jim Phenicie.
• A man who was always “1,000%”.
• A mistreated orphan who grew up to be a pastor.
• A pastor who felt unworthy of being a pastor and became a janitor.
• The loving father to five sons and one daughter; grandfather to 23 and great-grandfather to 13. (And how fortunate you all are to have such an ancestor.)
• A roaming junk man who could fix, even redeem, almost any broken thing.
• An artist and woodworker
• A lover of Jesus.
• The lover of Jean.
• A writer of poetry.
• And a man who yearned and prayed, daily, to be a blessing to someone.

And I could, in just few minutes, I’m sure, dash through a dozen touching little memories of my friend Jim that would bring a smile -- or a tear -- to you. But in the few minutes I have to speak of my dear friend Jim, I’d rather take the man’s full measure by recalling just two memories, but I want to recall each in more detail.

Both memories reveal Jim’s soul, and that particular desire of his to be a blessing to someone, somehow, everyday.

One memory recalls our move to Huntington 13 years ago, the other involves Jim’s special love for Nathan. I have pondered these memories many times, and know I will continue to think about them as long as I live.

Let me explain. When Lizzie and I moved to Huntington in the summer of 1994, Lizzie arrived two weeks ahead of me to greet the movers, who did a truly wretched job of transporting our worldly belongings from Boston, Massachusetts. Several “antique-y” pieces, very special to Lizzie, were broken through incompetence and carelessness. Then, the moving truck couldn’t get down our driveway. Lizzie told me this over the phone, and told me about a nice, older man, from across the street, who worked so hard, late into the night, to help out. He had a pick-up truck, Lizzie told me, and he ferried load after load of stuff out of the moving van parked illegally on Jefferson St. and brought the stuff around back to Cherry St., up our driveway and into the back of our house. This was a long and painful process for Lizzie to behold, late at night, in the humid heat of mid-July, 1994. And it was Jim Phenicie, who didn’t know us from the man-in-the-moon, who, unasked, went way out of his way, to be a blessing to Lizzie that night.

Two weeks later, Lizzie was back in Boston and I had arrived in Indiana, to do some set up and repair. I especially wanted to fix the seven pieces of broken furniture that had broken Lizzie’s heart. Lizzie would be back in mid-August for good, and I wanted her to feel a little better about our move, if I could. Our dining room table, for instance, which came down to Lizzie from her great-grandmother – also named Elizabeth - had collapsed, like a card table, in the move. Yet, as I talked over the phone to Lizzie back in Boston, and as I looked at that very dining room table she said was so broken, there it was, in front of me, standing now, in fine shape, with boxes on top of it, no less.

So, I turned my eye to an old mahogany plant stand. It, too, had been demolished, or so Lizzie told me. Yet, there it was, also looking as good as I had always remembered it.

What was Lizzie talking about? Was she not well? Was the stress of this big move getting to her? What did she mean by “seven broken items” that had upset her so much? Did she mean scratched? Even that I couldn’t see. Yes, our new home was a jumble of boxes. But there were no broken items in desperate need of fixing.

Turned out, that Phenicie man, who had helped ferry the items from the moving truck into the house had seen Lizzie’s distress, and, somehow, over the days after she had left, yet before I arrived, he’d gotten back into the house, and fixed them all.

Like an angel! With pixie dust!

When I finally learned of this great kindness and met this Jim Phenicie, I wanted to thank him and pay him. Do you know what he did? He gave me two, hand-written bills. One, he said, was in case I could collect damages from the moving company. That bill was for the whopping sum of $90. A second bill, should I not be able to collect a dime from the moving company, was for $45. But that second bill, he assured me, didn’t need to paid at all. He was just sorry we’d had such a painful welcome to Huntington, IN.

That was my introduction to the extravagant graciousness of Jim Phenicie. And I had the good fortune to be his neighbor. Thoughtfulness and consideration like this oozed from Jim, again and again, like heat from a stove.

But as unforgettable as my first memory is, I have one more to share that is, to me, even more powerful. Because the second memory kept unfolding. It didn’t happen just once. It’s my memory of Jim and his relationship with his special son, Nathan, and the remarkable love Jim had for him. That love for Nathan guided, shaped, and challenged me, too, in the choices I was and would be making.

As some of you may know, not long after the moving van had unloaded our belongings, my dear Lizzie was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, which led to heart failure, and then to a very risky heart transplant. Over the last 13 years, this good and dear woman has faced many other medical problems. I confess that as a husband and father – and, like Jim and Jean, as a lover of Jesus -- I despaired at times over what was happening to our family, over what had set off such rage from hell or anger from heaven because we had come to Huntington.

Also, you may know that most men like to fix things more than talk or even relate to others. And, sometimes, when men can’t fix things, they give up. Women, on the other hand, are often much, much better dealing with life’s unsolvable problems. They just hang in there. But with Nathan, both Jean and Jim hung in there. Jim was no absentee father. He loved Nathan extraordinarily, even if that love didn’t fix Nathan. Well, my love for my Lizzie couldn’t fix her either. But I had to learn to live with that. Jim showed me not only how to hang on, but how to love that someone I wanted to hang on to yet whose illnesses could still drive me crazy.

I confess there were times when I despaired with the open-ended suffering Lizzie and I face. I grew angry with God, too. I told Jim about this. He told me that he prayed for us every day. And I know he did. But I still wondered why we were being tested so severely? Sometimes, my coping skills failed. At such times, I could complain and whine to Jim; he let me. He never judged me. I could always go across the street and share a care. He always made time for me.

Yet, all the while, it was not lost on me who Jim was. He was not some twenty-something year old, bouncing along, carefree, effortlessly going from victory to victory in Jesus, because his faith made everything easy. No, in truth, Jim (and Jean) struggled sometimes, too. They got worn-out, very profoundly, with Nathan, at times, who could get upset with, say, the weather and abusive with his elderly parents, even though he meant no harm.

Over on Jim’s side of No. Jefferson St., I watched real love and devotion – no schmaltzy, sentimental Hallmark Card stuff. I saw it in Jim as a dad and as a husband up-close and personal and could only hope that, one day, I, too, would grow into the kind of patient, unconditional love for my Lizzie and her illnesses, that Jim had for Nathan. Jim’s (and Jean’s) example, from a life-time of suffering love, turned on its head, the goal in life I had heard so much about – the one about pursuing my own dreams, of seeking my comfort, my luxury, early retirement, and ease -- the dream of the carefree American life -- of self-absorption and endless devotion to personal pleasure.

At Jim’s, the dream was simply to hold onto Nathan as long as possible. That dream ran deep, for Jim had loved his Nathan for over 40 years by the time I first met him; Jim never given up on Nathan – no matter what - and his loving of Nathan came to shape and change Jim’s own life.

Jim’s love for Nathan, his sidekick in the pickup, his buddy with the rabbit, his friend to pick up sticks and sweep the front walk – never far from Jim’s watchful eye - all this -- showed me Jesus’ self-sacrificial love lived out before my very eyes. And I needed that example more than I needed anything else, certainly more than I needed the self-pity I got from some.

What a profound example Jim Phenicie lived out in front of me, day after day. From the very beginning of my learning about suffering love for my Lizzie, Jim gave this weak-kneed beginner courage to face the rigors of long-term, chronic illness in a loved one I also wanted to keep on loving – no matter what. Silently, Jim’s example and his friendship kept me asking myself good questions, like, “What are you made of?” “Is your faith in God real?” “What do you really know about love?”

In God’s answers to the many prayers that I raised up seeking guidance, help, his hope, wisdom, constancy, and love, it’s as if God gave me Jim Phenicie, as a visual reminder, in the midst of my own struggles. For Jim – and yes, for you, too, Jean -- I am, and will remain, forever grateful. Both of your examples, especially with Nathan, gave me courage; directed my steps. Your simple but deep wisdom and virtue have meant the world to me.

Jean, I’m so sorry that you are now, for a while, to be parted from Jim. I love you. You and Jim made me feel like the son of a certain kind of father and mother I never had. So much in our world brings before our eyes celebrities whose tawdry lives or depravity with money or power struggles or relational disasters offer us nothing to live by, to grow by, to ponder. But you and Jim were and are the real deal. You gave me the jackpot. You are “the real thing”- and you offer all of us, if only we have the ears to hear - the pearls of great value, the keys to eternal joy.

And Jim, you’re home now. You were, all along, only a strangely wonderful sort of ambassador from another world anyway. Yes, we’ll miss you. But we all know you’re in a far better place now. Your race is over, and you’ve won. You’ve won the only prize, too, that is truly worth winning. May we each run our own races more wisely in light of having known you, Jim.

I know I speak for many, I’m sure, in expressing the hope that, one glorious day, we will meet you again, and you will shout aloud that you are “1000%” in your creaky voice -- in that place beyond tears, beyond time. But right now, I hope, you -- simple, humble, truly good man that you were -- can bask in the words I hear in the distance, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little… Now enter into the joy of your Master.”