“Love your neighbor as yourself…” -Matthew 22:39
My childhood neighbor, John Therkelsen, went home to be with Jesus this past week. I lived next to John and his sweet wife Margaret for 16 years of my life. Words cannot even express how amazed I am that God placed me right next door to them. Not only were they the sweetest neighbors ever, but they were a tremendous example of what a child of God should be. They certainly made it easy for me to love my literal neighbor as myself.
John worked as a chaplain at St. Joe Hospital for 15 years. His sweet demeanor and calm voice was always something I admired as a child. He was always at such peace. The way he tenderly cared for his beautiful yard was just another way of showing how he tenderly cared for all of God’s creation. He was described in his obituary as “a humble and modest man,” but it was also noted that “his ministry was faithful, Christ-like and consecrated.” His ministry to those in the hospital was by no means flamboyant, but he most certainly touched a lot of people. John lived life so well because he knew the One who lives.
Margaret is equally as wonderful. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be as tall as her. She towers over me, but I absolutely love it when she gives me a hug. Her loving arms just smother you with the love of Jesus and you can’t help but feel His presence as well. Margaret is quite possibly the strongest prayer warrior I know. (She has written several books on prayer which are on my list to read now that I’m older.) I can recall many times we would see her walking around the neighborhood with a glowing smile on her face, praying the whole time she walked. Even though we moved from there five years ago, she has told us that she still faithfully prays for my family. The Therkelsens almost always had a car in front of their house, ministering to someone either through prayer or counseling, something I desire to do in my home as I grow older.
One of my favorite memories of living next door to them was getting to hear Margaret play the piano on Sunday mornings. She taught piano at Asbury University for many years. The room where her piano was faced one of my bedroom windows. There is absolutely nothing sweeter than waking up to your neighbor worshipping the Lord through music. I will never forget one morning in particular when she played “Because He Lives.” I just laid in my bed and worshipped with her (though I doubt she heard me!) softly singing, “And life is worth the living just because He lives!”
John’s death gave way to victory for him last Wednesday. Today as Margaret stood next to her husband’s body, she said, “Jesus is good!” I love that lady and I love that Jesus shines so beautifully through her. Even when you are just having a casual conversation with her, she oozes with Scripture. My prayer is to be the same way…that my words would be gracious and sprinkled with His Word.
I hope I’m always a joy to my neighbors as they always were to me. I thank God for the precious Therkelsens and would absolutely love it if God put my mansion next to theirs in Heaven!