The Process of Death

a00d8978bbbaa9bbd45840020f0e4c0bWhoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

How have you experienced death in your life?

What feelings do you associate with death?

What has changed in your life as a result of death?

No matter how sudden and jarring death might seem, it involves a process. There’s a process of preparation we may or may not see, and there is a process of coping, healing, and readjustment that many of us know well but are still confused by it at times. Just like birth, death isn’t as clear cut as we think it may be. It’s not just the biggies of physical death but is a series of smaller deaths. We sometimes inadvertently let things die in our lives because of our inattentiveness. And we sometimes intentionally let things die in our lives because we believe we must in order to move on.

Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are not. We let things die that need to live and keep things alive we need to let die.

As far as God is concerned, we need to give up ourselves so that He can prevail in our lives. We claim that we’ve put Him first when we determine we’ll follow Him, but that one claim is followed by many, many additional choices and opportunities. With each one, we can decide to maintain ourselves, put ourselves and our own interests and perspectives first, or set ourselves aside to yield to Him. We get to choose how thoroughly we become less so that He becomes more in our lives. Death is never easy, but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not hopeful and productive. When in the context of faith in God, death makes way for life. Sacrifice gives way to hope. Humility gives way to faith.

What do you need to give up for God? It might be something tangible and measurable, or it might be an attitude, entitlement, position, or pride. Claim what it is. Let God challenge you. Then, make a decision. Maybe you’re uncertain about giving it up altogether, or maybe you simply don’t see how it can be done. Take a step. Just one step. Facing the long road ahead might seem daunting, but taking one step right now is doable. Sometimes you can’t see the next step until you’ve taken a step and are in a new place. Your perspective changes, one step at a time.

Rock Solid Faith

imagesSometimes life feels like being held under water. It’s suffocating and crushing, yet…

I look at beautiful rocks under the constantly rushing water, and I realize it’s a bit like my faith. It is only settling under the water that can constantly cleanse me, taking pieces of me that no longer belong, revealing the clean, smooth, beauty that God intends.

I can still see daylight. My perspective is a bit distorted at times, but I can trust God to correct it, revealing what He most wants me to see. I can trust Him.

This life was never intended to be my everything. Anticipating life after death in heaven was never intended to be my everything.

Trusting God for and through it all is my everything: my rock solid faith.

On My Memorial Stone

I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. (John 17:4)

What will I be able to claim at the end of my life?

Sure, people might describe me with the usual words and phrases: “She was a good person, a good mom. She cared. She was helpful.”

Not to sound ungrateful, but those declarations aren’t enough for me. Those things seem so temporary. Oh, they’re good things, but they’re not lasting. They lose meaning out of context, because their meaning is to the people who experienced and felt them. There is more to this life than this life. It is a piece, not the whole.

I want to glorify God. I want Him to determine the meaning and purpose of what I do and who I am.

I want to complete the work He gives me to do. That means I don’t get to rush through a task, check it as “done,” then move on. It means I don’t set my own path and rationalize how He would be pleased. It means I don’t just try to perform what I think He would like, but I ask Him and respond in relationship. It means it’s more about Him than me.

I don’t know if I will be able to claim I have glorified God by completely the work He gives me to do. But I hope so. It’s the best statement I can imagine begin written on my memorial stone. More importantly, it’s the best thing I can imagine saying to God.

If You’re Still Alive…

People who go through near death experiences often question why they are still alive. I don’t think they’re the only ones who need to consider such a thought. Perhaps it’s easier for those who have been living pretty smoothly to come up with an answer, or at least, a theory. After all, we might imagine we’re still alive because we have family to take care of, we haven’t yet completed that lasting legacy we need to leave behind, or any number of other “no one else could fulfill what I’m doing” slots. I know, it sounds selfish, but really, aren’t most the reasons we state as our reasons for living pretty selfish? We can say our reasons are other-oriented, but we’re right in the middle of them. We’re the indispensable ones other people or a situation cannot continue without us. After all, they’re our lives. Of course, they’re about us!

In Exodus 9:16, God says to Moses (to tell Pharaoh), “I have let you live for this purpose: to show you My power and to make My name known in all the earth.”

Well, that pretty much wraps it up. Isn’t that why any one of us is still alive? Isn’t that why we’re alive in the first place?

Let’s be clear. Things didn’t work out for Pharaoh. He didn’t have an about-face moment when he acknowledged God’s authority and became His strongest disciple. No where close. But that doesn’t mean God didn’t show His power and make His name known through Pharaoh’s life. God can use us even when we refuse to be used by Him. God can use people who refuse Him in our lives, too.

We all have choice. God gifted us with free will. (Of course, it doesn’t always feel like a gift.) God isn’t surprised by anything we choose or fail to choose. Now, we could get into the whole predestination thing and explore foreknowledge, God’s will, and try to explain how everything is connected. Sometimes, it makes sense to me. Many times, it doesn’t. My level of understanding doesn’t determine my faith though. The bottom line is…

God gives us life. Only He is able to give life. And He does not create anything without purpose. He can weave purpose in the beautiful and with mucky scraps of threads. We don’t always give Him ideal building materials, but He uses it.

God will reveal His power and make His name known. He’s been doing it since the beginning of time and will continue forever. Just so you know…in case you ever wonder why you’re still alive.

Faith and Despair

the-fork-in-the-road_0The choice you have isn’t between life and death as much as it is between faith and despair.

Many who read this are facing a significant choice right now, a daily choice, to fight or to give up. Some people want to give up but they keep on living, at least, if living is defined as breathing, going through the motions. Some people don’t want to give up, but they are facing death is such a real way that it feels as if they don’t have a choice. Death isn’t just physical. It can be emotional, spiritual, psychological.

How does that person who is facing such a battle get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other? How can that person find something to smile, even laugh, about?

How does that person who seems so content, happy, successful, or at least better than he or she has been in a  long time, have such pain underneath that no one truly knows about? What if that person would let someone in just long enough to glimpse the despair, the hopelessness, the pain?

I don’t know. The answers aren’t easy. But I do know this: People who look like they’re doing fine still have hurts. They might be monumentally worse than you imagine. Or, they might be fairly accurate to what you see. You can help. But you can’t make their choices. You can do your best. But you can’t change somebody’s attitude. You can’t untwist what they are desperately clinging to no matter how knotted you know it is.

Notice people.

Love people.

Serve people.

Listen to people.

And every step of the way, let God do His work. He is more merciful than you can ever be, but He’ll use you to live out a glimpse of His mercy.

Maybe the choice isn’t as much about that other person as you think. You’re not facing the same crisis, but you face the same choice. You might not see it that way, because you compare situations. Even across many situations, the choice is similar. Whatever you’re going through, whomever you’re trying to encourage and help, are you choosing faith or despair? Not for that other person but for yourself. A situation might not turn out the way you prefer, but you still have a choice in how you respond.

Be honest with yourself and with God. It is only with authenticity that you will truly see the choice in front of you.


Hope of Life, Even in Death

The past couple days, I’ve written on experiences at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. It’s not an easy place to visit, but I wouldn’t take a trip to Israel without spending time there. I may not want to look, listen, or touch the experiences, but the Holocaust happened. People lived it. I need to know. The least I can do is respect people’s lives and honor their memories.

I read a letter by Abramek Krzepicki: “Tomorrow we will be heading toward the Great Unknown in full awareness and at peace. If we are meant to live, all the better; and if not…” I stood beside a railway car and read about how the last car of trains was often left empty. People would die along the way, so the last car could be filled with bodies.

The letter contained hope despite the threat of death.

The train snuffed out hope with expected death.

People faced the unknown with different perspectives. We do the same. We have hope in life. Our hope often focuses on (what we determine as) positive outcomes. Our hope is in the things we want most. When life involves something else, do we lose hope?

We don’t have to lose hope in life or death, because death can include life. Death is part of life. It’s inevitable. Life conquers death.

Where is your hope? With whom do you trust your life? How does it impact your death? How is it impacting your life, today?

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)


Who’s There?

When we exited the tunnels of Akko, Israel, the sun was setting over the Mediterranean Sea. I saw a few lights start to dot the horizon and wondered who was out there and what were they doing.

11.2.14 Akko Crusader city coastline (2)


We drove inland to Tiberias, and all along the way, lights dotted the land. Sometimes there was just one or two lights. Many times, there were clusters of lights. Again, I wondered what each light represented. Who lived in its brightness? What were their lives like? What were they doing right then? Was a baby being born? Was someone crying in grief? Was someone working, providing for hungry children? Was someone praying, praising God for provision? I took a moment a prayed as I tried to focus on one light at a time. I might not know the details of each life, but God does.

I’m supposed to be a light for Him in this world. How am I doing? Am I shining in the darkness? Do I offer people God’s hope? Do I help others see Him? I wonder…

How about you?