Tag Archives: death

Who would attend my funeral? Some thoughts on friendship.

Don’t worry, I am not planning my death or anything crazy like that.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, we spend the first two acts getting to know George Bailey.  He grows up in a small town of no real consequence.  He has loving parents, and a brother, he is friendly, loyal, honorable, part of a local community, and is bent on seeing the world.  But, life takes some twists and turns he did not expect.  Instead of traveling the world, he marries, takes over a business he does not want (his father’s Savings and Loan), has a few kids, builds homes for others, and does his darndest to keep the local baddie at bay.  He has some friends and life is okay.  Until something terrible happens, and he effectively wishes he were dead, or had never been born.  The third act of the movies shows us what life would be like in his small town had he never been born.  Life is ugly without him in Bedford Falls.  A measuring stick was held up to his life when the townsfolk started to show up to help him out of his crisis.  George needed that angel to show him that alternate reality to help George to understand what his life has meant to others.  George definitely made a difference and it showed.

Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder if I died, who would show up at my funeral?  How would I be eulogized? What would people say to those closest to me in an attempt to comfort them?  I used to have a morbid fascination with this idea because for a time I felt that no one would show up.   I felt lonely and afraid that I would die alone and unnoticed.  I struggled with invisibility (and often still do) and felt disconnected.  I really wanted connections in my life so people would show up at my funeral.  Initially, my motives were selfish.  I wanted people to care about me enough to care about  my death.

God does not like selfishness.  He likes selflessness.

Forging lifelong friendships is a long and difficult process fraught with danger and pain.  There were some relationships that were toxic, some that just ended, and some that kept going.  The friendships that kept going were eventually based on a mutual exchange of time, trust, and energy.  At some point, this process became less about what I could get from others, and became more about what I could give.  A bowl of soup here, a friendly and kind word there, a much needed moment of free childcare, some empathetic tears, a hug, a kiss, a little cash, trusted advice, helped others to know their worth to me.  And I receive these things in return and can feel my worth to those people.  The Holy Spirit gives us energy to maintain relationships with others because He desires an exchange of love between Him, us, and others, above all things.  Relationships matter.  Jesus said that the world would know us by our “love for one another” and that “no love greater is this; that he would lay his life down for his friends”.   Having friends is not really about what you can get from others, it’s about what you can give to others.  It’s about offering yourself, your gifts, your wisdom, your time, and your energy to other’s benefit.  The more you pour out, the more is poured into you.

I have many people that I love dearly outside of my little family.  Let’s cross that out; these people are my family.  I rejoice that these people are my brothers and my sisters.  They really care about me, and I really care about them.

To quote Clarence the angel, “…no man is a failure who has friends.”

Would love to hear your thoughts here….

Hold on, just a little longer.

Thief

by Third Day

I am a thief, I am a murderer,
Walking up this lonely hill.
What have I done? I don’t remember.
No one knows just how I feel;
And I know that my time is coming soon.

It’s been so long, oh, such a long time,
Since I’ve lived with peace and rest.
Now I am here, in my destination,
I guess things work for the best;
And I know that my time is coming soon.

Who is this man? This man beside me,
That they call the King of the Jews.
No, they don’t believe, that He’s the Messiah,
But, somehow I know that it’s true.

They laugh at Him in mockery,
They beat Him till he bleeds,
They nail Him to the rugged cross,
And they raise Him, yeah, they raise Him up next to me.

My time has come, and I’m slowly fading,
But I deserve what I receive.
Jesus, when You are in Your kingdom,
Could You please, please remember me.
Well He looks at me still holding on,
And the tears fall from His eyes,
And He says I tell the truth,
Today, yeah, you will live with Me in paradise, woah yeah.

And I know that my time, yes my time, is coming soon, woah yeah.
And I know that my time, yes my time, is coming soon, woah yeah, yeah
And I know that paradise, paradise is coming soon.

I was listening to this song the other day while I was driving…somewhere (can’t remember).  I have listened to this song a thousand times and sung along with tears in my eyes all choked up (which makes me singing this song not pretty to listen to).  And usually, I reside in the place of the thief when I dwell in this song for the few minutes that it plays.  From the perspective of the this thief, I feel the weight of my sin and understand the price that I must pay.  And at the end of the song, I feel hope in the redemptive power of Jesus’ death there next to him (me) on the cross.

This is all good.

But that other day (the one where I can’t remember where I was going in my car), when the last verse was being sung I had a waking dream.  A brilliant flash of understanding that I had never experienced before.  It was blinding.

And, I felt like I had been delivered a roundhouse kick to the chest.  I couldn’t breathe because of the depth of what I saw and understood in that brief moment.

Jesus/God was gracious enough to hang on that cross long enough for this one last person to be saved while He was still here on earth.

WOW.  And I cried, hard.

He could have chosen to give in to death a bit sooner and end his suffering.  Who would have blamed him?  From what I  have heard, death on a cross is an agonizingly slow death of suffocation.  If it had been me up there I would have prayed for a swift death.  But Jesus/God chose to go just a little bit farther for that one last person He could touch while he still breathed.

His example has taught me a crucial lesson: When others look at me they are supposed to see Christ in me.  When I am open and there Christ can flow through me.  Being human, I am required again and again to die to myself because I am not God and therefore not perfect, but the thief in the song saw a beacon of hope in Jesus as He hung there dying and I need to be a beacon of hope in my relationships so that others may see Him.  I need to hold on just a little longer.

What are the ways that you and I can hold on just a little longer?

Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver

Proverbs 25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.

Proverbs 25:12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.

 

Everyone should have someone in their  life that is a truth-speaker.  A wise truth-speaker.  Anyone can point out the bad stuff in our humanity, but a wise truth-speaker will bring life.  Truth spoken is like a fresh breeze flowing into the dark, dank corners of the mind and spirit.  Conversely, truth spoken can bring death to that which should be dead.

To be sure, truth spoken can be difficult to hear, particularly when we cannot admit to ourselves our wrong-doings.  We want to hate the truth-speaker for bringing light into the dark caves in our lives.  Light exposes the pile of dry bones, the festering wounds on our flesh, the seriousness of our defeat.  We feel embarrassed, ashamed, and sometimes, attached to the pain in our lives.  We don’t want to let go.

But God in His great mercy doesn’t leave us at the mercy of our flesh.  He sends us people that will lovingly uncover the wounds in our life.  Exposing a wound can be painful.  But once uncovered healing water, light, air, and salve can be applied.  Healing and wholeness can begin.

 

Do you have a truth-speaker in your life?

How does this person bring light into your life?

 

On being a victim and a weakling

My Prince is calling my name.  But, I cannot hear Him, the rumble in the Dragon’s throat is too loud.  Pain is my constant companion here in the Dragon’s mouth as I lay skewered on his teeth.  Death-stench overwhelms my senses.  Woe to me as the Dragon makes his plan for getting me out of his mouth and into his stomach.

My Prince keeps me caught between Heaven and Hell, preventing my destruction.  Light breaks through my blindness, catching my attention and distracting me from the pain and darkness.  I am too weak to get up on my own and leave the Dragon’s mouth.  I call to my Prince to help me, a damsel-in-distress. 

My Prince hears me calling and suddenly is closer than life itself.  He tells me that that I am the only one keeping me here, a victim of my own choices.  “But”, I protest, “the pain, the darkness, the stench overwhelm me and I have no strength.”    “Do you not know that I have come to defeat the Dragon?  And overcome death?” 

“Help me.”, I reply,with faintness of breath.

My Prince reaches into the pouch on his belt and pulls out a crystal vial filled with dark red fluid.  He begins to reach towards me and undoes the stopper.  I cringe back, unsure of what is next.  My Prince reassures me with depths of unspoken love in his eyes.  He places on drop of the dark fluid in my mouth. 

Unexpectedly, I choke and sputter.  My body is wracked with pain and uncontrolled spasming.  I fear that by accepting this fluid from my Prince, my death has come.  Perhaps that is my release from this slavery.  My body becomes still.  I wait for death to come. Instead of feeling my life fade away, I feel a rush of Life.  Warm gold begins to emanate from my body overwhelming my senses with sweetness and light. 

I am literally pushed up from the Dragon’s teeth and the wounds instantly heal.  And the healing pushes past the boundaries of this world, there are no scars, no traces that I was ever there in the Dragon’s mouth.  I turn with gratitude on my tongue and in my heart to my Prince, who has come to save me from myself.

He puts his finger to my lips and shushes me.  “You are welcome.”

Killing the pet cougar.

Sugar addiction has been like having a pet cougar.  Soft, fluffy and just waiting to be stroked.  One a bad day this cougar purrs and behaves like a kitten luring me in, then when I am contented and feeling drowsy, it attacks.  Boy does that hurt.  Yet, I keep coming back for that sleepy, dreamy feeling I get from petting the cougar.  There is no way out of this particular mess, except by the grace of God.

I have been contemplating the long-term effects of living with an addict.  I am sure that my mother didn’t intend for her life to turn out like it did.

My life has taken a sudden turn for the worse because I have Primary Hypertension.  Apparently my mother had Primary Hypertension too, amongst other things.  This has affected me in ways that transcend the “I don’t feel so good” physicality of my predicament.  Contemplating the train wreck of Primary Hypertension in my life has impacted me emotionally and spiritually and brought me to thinking about what has lead to this.  Not only did I inherit hypertension from my mother, I inherited addictive tendencies.  I am sure that the two train wrecks are on the same set of train tracks.  It is easy to tell myself that I am not as bad her, at least it isn’t painkillers that I am addicted to.  Just like sin is sin (at least I am not a murderer!), an addiction is an addiction.  The only difference between her and I is what we used to deal with pain.  I struggle everyday with sugar.  Every moment that I spend eating involves analyses of what is going into my mouth and why.  This process often leaves me wracked with guilt, or mired in self-pity, or self-loathing.  I often wonder, did my mother ever take a moment to evaluate herself before she popped another pill?  I wouldn’t know because after I left home, I didn’t talk to her much.  But, I mean, come on.  It must have occurred to her on some level that she was destroying her life because of her addiction.  Since she died from an overdose 5 years ago, I guess I’ll never know.

But, enough about my mother.  She can’t be redeemed from her sin, but I can.

That’s right, there is a way out of this mess.  God has made a habit of taking my ashes from me and giving me a crown of beauty.  I am talking about Isaiah 61:3.  The literal translation of this verse means that God will take from me the ashes of mourning, also figuratively “worthlessness”, that I have on my head and will replace them with a crown, or head-dress/ornament/turban.  How cool is that?  And only God can do that.  There is no one else on this planet that has that kind of power or authority over sin and death.  I could accept the addiction and the hypertension as my inheritance or I can reject them and accept God’s plan for me.  So what does this plan look like?

I’ll let you know how that works itself out.