Saturday, December 24, 2011

Going Home and Living

"This world is not my home. I'm just passing through." - Larry Norman.

Our friend died on Wednesday night. His family told us that the time of Christmas singing and communion that we and some other friends had at his house last Sunday after church was a blessing for him and them, too. Now, he's receiving a lot more of that. And on the eve before Christmas, I can't think of a better Christmas gift than to see the Gift we all have been waiting to open.

Our family is spending Christmas with friends in California. It took a full day to get here, over 1,000 miles, in the fog, in the dark, bypassing accidents and animal carcasses, catching a few winks at a rest area, eating bad road food, multiple bathroom breaks and finally contending with bumper-to-bumper California traffic. All that to spend a few happy days with friends over the holidays.

And it's all worth it for a Merry Christmas with loved ones.

At this point, we are quite sure that our friend, just shy of his 70th birthday, would say the pain and discomfort over the past weeks was worth it to spend Christmas with his Savior.

Merry Christmas, Sonny.

Merry Christmas everyone.


Monday, December 19, 2011

More from the precipice

"Jesus wept." - John 11:35

Everyone knows or knows of the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus displays His humanity after seeing the grief people feel over the fear and loss of a loved one. Jesus also was moved by the fact that Lazarus was dead.

There's nothing wrong with expressing sadness over things that are beyond our control. Currently, I am wrestling with my emotions and thoughts over watching a friend embracing his last days. And that causes me to ever ponder my end. I don't believe that it shows a lack of faith or belief that God is capable of doing whatever He wants, unless, of course, we are like those in verse 37 of this chapter: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” That's akin to saying, "I know you're capable of doing anything, God, but you must have been lying down on the job for this one." Let's understand, we can't pick and choose what we think God sees and doesn't see. He does see us and knows what goes on. Everyone knows the 23rd Psalm. They not just pithy words that are written: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear for you are with me."

Jesus understood our greatest fear. He showed His compassion throughout the Gospels through this subject. He wanted to know us and to die for us. He is not cold, calculated and mean. In Luke chapter seven, Jesus was moved with compassion over another scene where a woman was having her dead son being taken out of the house. But He proved his power by raising the son from the dead.

Those two passages of Jesus' interactions with people at the moment of their greatest fears fill me with hope. God can do whatever He wishes. If He wants to heal someone, He can. If He wants to raise someone from the dead, He can. But I also understand that there will come a time when healings don't happen, when temporary relief can no longer delay the inevitable. For that, I have to hope in this: God sees death for what it is: It is a separation of the spirit from its earthly house. In short, at the time of death, our spirit is released to where it will permanently reside. If I really think about it, especially in light of scripture, my soul knows this to be true. I am just renting this body. The best is yet to come.

"For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands." I Cor. 5:1.

I want to see this place and find out what God has for me. What a step that will be when I finally am given that permission.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Stepping into the Great Unknown

"There’s a step that we all face alone, an appointment we have with the Great Unknown." – Bob Hartman.

Much has been said and written about dying. What I have to write about it is nothing new and I am quite sure that there are many people out there who can pontificate about the subject with far more eloquence than me.

But death is a raw subject that is meant to be discussed in a raw way. There’s no other way to discuss it than in matter-of-fact openness. It happens to every one of us and there is no escape from it.

My friend Sonny is going home today to die. He has end-stage cancer and it’s inoperable. Yesterday while in his hospital room, I asked him what the doctors are saying, meaning how much time does he have left, etc. I was hesitant from being blunt as I normally am around Sonny for the sake of those in the room who many not share such openness about the subject. He said to me and his relatives in the room that everyone wants to tiptoe around the subject, but stated that the truth of the matter is that he’s dying and he’s OK with that. Over the past year as he has dealt with his cancer, he said that dying isn’t the problem but has been more contemplative over God using him in the lives of others. I will say with a certainty that Sonny’s humility and courage has made a permanent mark in my life.

No, death is not the problem. It’s an open door to eternity. For those who will get upset reading this to argue with me about proof of an afterlife, I will say believe what you want. But whatever you do believe about death still requires faith. My faith is in Jesus who died and rose again, so what is there to worry about? But I still need to have faith and believe that when I breathe my last and the lights go out, that my existence will go on. “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord,” Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:8. If there is a God then I have to believe that He has all aspects of life covered from birth to death. And I would rather cling to a hope that God will hold my hand during that time than to just be afraid not knowing what to expect, or that life is going to go on without me. If God has been with me through other times in my life, why would the end of my final chapter be any different?

Honestly, I still can’t wrap my head around it all right now. But I don’t need to be concerned with that right now. For Sonny, God is revealing Himself to him and granting him that special measure of grace to get him through the most difficult thing in life. That’s why he can say with confidence and a smile that he’s dying, and he’s accepted that because Jesus is waiting for him. And for that I am encouraged. With Him waiting, what is there to fear?