Pride Comes Before The Twilight Zone

Daniel Foster stood looking out the window. From his corner office on the 50th floor he had an amazing view of downtown Manhattan. All of this, he thought to himself. All of this I have earned from the sweat of my brow. The long evening hours. The Saturdays and Sundays in the office. All of my hard work has really paid off. And of course my incredible negotiating skills and ability to quickly conduct extensive research didn’t hurt either.

Daniel chuckled as he turned away from the window and walked across the office to his desk. He took a seat in his cushy leather chair. It was 8:30 on a Friday night. But there was nothing odd about his being in his office that late. He had worked his way from junior to senior associate in record time at the second largest law firm in NYC. And then last year he had taken that next, huge step. Partner.

But Daniel was different than most partners. Instead of taking a breath and realizing he could finally relax a bit, he continued with the 100 hour work weeks as if he was still a junior associate fresh out of college. And with a merger between two companies each worth billions currently on the line, he new this weekend would be another where he saw very little of his plush apartment overlooking Central Park.

As Daniel got back to work on his laptop, his cell phone began buzzing. He looked down at the number. Really Steven, you have already left me 6 messages, he thought as he reluctantly took the call from his older brother.

“Hey Steve, what’s up?”

“What do you mean what’s up Danny? Didn’t you listen to any of my messages?”

“Yeah, I listened. But is she really that bad? I mean, over the last six weeks you’ve had me come rushing to the hospital four times saying that ‘this was going to be it.’ Then, I get there and it’s a false alarm. I’ve missed out on a ton of billable hours from all of these ‘emergency visits.’”

“Are you serious! Come on Danny. Your billable hours are more important than being by mom’s side when she passes?”

“Of course not,” Daniel answered without much conviction as he continued reading through a document on his computer. “But if it were just more certain when it would actually happen it would make things a lot easier.”

“Well, sorry little brother. My crystal ball is in the shop right now. But she is definitely not doing well. And I really think this could be it. The nurses keep coming in and giving her more pain medication. They say that all they are trying to do now is keep her comfortable until the end comes.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

Daniel hung up before his brother could say anything else and went back to his work. I’m sure I have at least a few hours before I need to get over there.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

At 10:00 Daniel rubbed his eyes and decided to check his e-mail. He needed to quit staring at the report he had been pouring over for hours. As he scrolled down past the e-mails from associates trying to show that they were also still hard at work at this late hour and past the obligatory invitation from the partners to join their Sunday golf outing that he never went to, something caught his eye. The sender line said Thomas Foster.

Weird, thought Daniel. That was dad’s name. But, of course since his dad had been dead for over a decade now it was impossible that the e-mail was from his father. But out of curiosity Daniel clicked on the e-mail with the subject line entitled Don’t you remember?

When he opened the e-mail there was a short message: Don’t ask how or try to explain it, but your old man is checking back in with you. Click on the video link. I think there is something you need to see. Love, Dad.

And below the message, sure enough, there was a video link. What in the world? Daniel thought to himself. Is this someone’s idea of a sick joke?

Daniel scrolled the cursor over the delete button. But there was something that just wouldn’t let him do it. Something that compelled him to go down and click on the link. When he did, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a home video. He was about 8 years old and he was out in the garden planting flowers with his mom.

But, this was not just weird, it was impossible. His family had not even owned a video camera until he was in his teens. Daniel didn’t know how this was happening, but it was undeniable that it was he and his mother on that computer screen.

“Mom, I’m getting pretty tired. Can we call it a day?”

“Well, honey,” she answered. “It’s up to you. But I know you really want to earn that money to buy yourself a new bike. And if we don’t finish pulling weeds and watering the flowers, then next week you won’t have very pretty flowers to sell in the front yard to earn money to get that bike.”

“Okay, mom. You’re right.”

Daniel watched as he and his mom continued to pull weeds from around the flowers, sprinkle fertilizer and pour water. He smiled thinking back to that summer. He had indeed earned the $40 he needed to buy his brand new Schwinn bicycle.

And even now he could still hear mom’s words the first time he rode the bike echo in his mind, “See honey, a little extra time and effort always pays off.”

The video had stopped and his phone buzzed again. It was Steve again, but this time just a text. If you were still planning on coming, don’t bother. The doctor says she has stabilized. He said she has at least a few more days….looks like you can keep racking up those billable hours.

Daniel started to type a reply, but then decided not to. What was the use? There was nothing he could say that would make the situation any better. He logged off his computer and started to pack up his briefcase. That e-mail and video really had him on edge. He needed to go home, fix himself a stiff drink and get some sleep. After all, he planned to be back into the office by 6:00 tomorrow morning.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

As Daniel was driving home, he tried to run through what he hoped to accomplish at the office tomorrow. This was his usual routine for a drive home. Silent car. No music. No phone calls. Just mentally preparing for what lay ahead the next day. But, this evening he was having trouble focusing. His mind kept replaying the video of he and his mom in the garden.

“Delilah, thanks for taking my call.”

Daniel jerked himself forward in his seat. Turned and looked in the passenger seat and the back seats of his car and then realized the voice was coming from his radio. The radio that he hadn’t turned on….

“Sure. Now tell me what’s your name and why you’re calling?”

“This is Gabriel. No last name. Just Gabriel.”

“Well, okay Gabriel,” the hostess chuckled. “I like to just go by Delilah as well.”

“My dedication is to my mom. You see, I’m a very successful corporate lawyer in New York City. I make mergers happen between billion dollar companies.”

“It does sound like you are doing quite well for yourself. And how does mom fit into all of this?”

“Well, Delilah. Back when I was in junior high I was sort of a mis-fit. Tried out for several sports teams and didn’t make them. Even went out for band and was actually asked not to come back because I couldn’t hit the right notes on my trumpet.”

“Wow! Sounds like a rough go for an adolescent.”

Daniel didn’t know what in the world was going on. But so far this Gabriel guy was giving a play by play of Daniel’s junior high experience to everyone listening to Soft Rock 104.5.

“Yeah Delilah, it was pretty rough. But then, one day when my mom was cleaning up some papers I had left lying around from school she saw one that caught her eye. It was for the debate team. And she called me over to her and said, ‘Gabe, I think this would be perfect for you. Why don’t you give it a try?’ I was hesitant at first, but eventually I agreed. I figured what have I got to lose? Well, turns out I was pretty good at it. And as I continued into high school I kept getting better. Anytime I had a debate meet coming up, mom would practice with me ahead of time. She would research the opposing view and debate me at home with my dad serving as judge.”

No! This can’t be happening. Daniel didn’t know how, but he knew for sure now that Gabriel was not telling his own story; he was telling Daniel’s!

What an amazing mom! And how were her debating skills?”

“Let me tell you. I never faced a harder debate opponent than mom. Abd since she would do such a thorough job arguing the other side, I was always so prepared for my meets, I never lost! In fact, my senior year of high school I was the state champion at the most prestigious meet in the state of New York.”

“And I bet those skills of persuasion you learned through debate sure do come in handy at the negotiating table.”

“Exactly Delilah, exactly.”

“Well thanks for calling in Gabriel and I have the perfect song for your mom.”

As Boyz II Men began to soulfully sing A Song for Momma Daniel stared straight ahead. If he hadn’t just heard it for himself he wouldn’t believe it. But, a man had just called in and just precisely described his life as an adolescent. He pushed the accelerator down a little further as the thought of that drink was becoming more and more appealing.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Daniel unlocked the door and walked into his apartment. He tossed his briefcase on the couch and immediately went over and poured his drink. He gulped it straight down like he used to do in his college days and poured a second. Usually he had only one drink and he slowly sipped it while watching a little ESPN to unwind. But tonight he had finished his second drink and he still hadn’t even taken off his shoes. He put down a third and could feel himself begin to loosen up and relax. He skipped the ESPN and went to the shower.

After a quick shower, Daniel slid in under to his silk sheets. I just need to get some sleep. My head will be clear in the morning and I can think this all through. I’m sure it will make more sense in the morning.

As he always did, Daniel fell asleep quickly. He worked hard and slept little. But when he did sleep, it was a deep sleep. From the moment his head hit the pillow until the moment his phone alarm rang at 4:30 the next morning, he was dead to the world in a deep and dreamless sleep.

Tonight, though, tonight would be different for Daniel. For as Daniel slept, he had the most vivid dream of his life. If a dream is what it could be called, for Daniel would always insist it was no more a dream than the unexplainable video on his computer or the unsolicited call-in request on the radio.

It began with Daniel standing by himself on a street corner at an intersection. He could see the street signs above hime: Senate Avenue and Campus Lane. He was back at his old stomping grounds at the university he attended for graduate school. And he was even wearing a sweatshirt with his school mascot, the Kicking Coyotes, on it.

As he stood there, a man Daniel did not recognized, dressed in all white, came up and extended his hand. Daniel shook hands with the man.

The man in white smiled a large smile and spoke first, “Hi my names Lucifer, but all my friends call me Lou. Why don’t you come and take a walk with me. I have something to show you here at your old stomping ground.”

Daniel answered, “I think I’d rather not.” But just as he had no choice in what played in the video on his computer or what was said on the radio call-in, he also seemed to have no choice but to follow Lou.

He followed Lou down Campus Lane and then they took a left onto Valley Drive where the library was located. It seemed that Lou was talking the whole time, but that Daniel could not make out his words. However, as if unable to control his own will, he just nodded and smiled walking just a few steps behind his eager guide.

As they got to library, Daniel and Lou entered and went to a table near the back of the library. “Now just sit down and watch,” Lou said as he took a seat on a bench in the corner. Daniel sat down next to him. “You will be able to see and hear everything that goes on. But, no one will be able to see or hear us.”

Just then, Daniel spotted himself, only 20 years younger, walking over to a corner table with a huge stack of books. His younger self sat down and immediately put his head down on the  table.

“That’s me.” Daniel said to Lou. “I was working on my final term paper to complete my graduate degree and I was completely stuck. It was due in just a couple of days and even though I had been working on it for weeks I was no where close to being finished.”

“Yes, I know,” Lou said with a nostalgic smile. “I really thought this would be the end of your dream to become a lawyer.” Then Lou’s smile turned into a scowl. “Until she had to show up.”

In walked Daniel’s mom. She was carrying a paper bag and travel mug. She sat down in the seat across from college-aged Daniel and he lifted his head. “Mom! What are are you doing here?”

“Well, son. I know you too well. And when we talked last night and you were saying all that stuff about being almost done with your paper and how it had turned out to be easier than you thought….I knew you were lying. So this morning I just got in the car and drove over. Now have some milk and cookies to cheer you up and then let’s get started.”

“Lou, I still remember that day so well. She told me that all that research she had done as my debate partner had taught her some shortcuts. She showed me some speed reading strategies and a great way of synthesizing information from multiple sources and in no time I was back on track. By the time she left that evening I was pretty much just putting the finishing touches on it. I still can’t believe I ended up with an B+ on a paper that I had barely even started before mom showed up.”

“I know, I know,” Lou said sulkily. “Don’t rub it in. Now, you remember this night and don’t ever let anyone tell you I never do any good deeds.” Lou got up and started to walk toward the library exit. But before he went out the door he added, “Now, on the other hand, if you choose to ignore my visit, you will have a LONG time to get to know my other side.”

Daniel sat straight up in bed. He was soaked in sweat and breathing heavy. And when he looked down, instead of his plaid pajamas he saw none other a kicking coyote on his shirt. He looked at his phone. 4:29. He quickly turned off the alarm before it could begin its intolerable chiming. He laid his head back down on his pillow. And for the first time in months slept in.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

When he awoke again and looked at his phone the time read 8:15. He couldn’t believe how good he felt. Who knew a few extra hours could  rejuvenate you so quickly?

Daniel ate a bowl of oatmeal and drank his morning coffee. He got dressed. But instead of a three piece suit, he put on a pair of jeans and a sweater. And instead of heading north toward his downtown office, he headed south.

He parked in the Metro General Hospital parking garage and made his way up the 5th floor.  He went into room 512 where his mother lay. No one else was in there. Daniel was sure Steve would be there soon, but he was glad he had made it there first. He sat down next to the bed and took his sleeping mother’s hand. She looked so frail. Her hand felt so bony. As a few tears began to run down his cheeks, she opened her eyes.

“Steve is that you?” she asked softly.

“No, mom. It’s your baby boy. It’s Danny.”

With that she seemed to perk up and opened her eyes a little wider.

“Danny. I’m so glad you came. I’ve missed you.” Her voice was beginning to sound a little stronger.

“I’m glad I’m here too mom. I’m sorry it’s been so long. I brought you a little treat.” He set a cream stick and a cup of coffee on the tray next to her. “From Don’s Donut Shack. Your favorite.”

With Danny’s help she sat up and began to enjoy her life’s one vice. “I never could resist,” she chuckled. “How are you honey? How is work? I’m surprised you’re not there now.”

“I’m doing fine mom. And work is good. Working on a huge merger. But, I’ve actually decided to cut back on my hours a bit. You know, spend some time doing some other things.”

Mom sighed. “That would be nice Danny. But I’ve heard that one before.”

“I really mean it this time. I’m gonna start coming in to see you more. And get back to exercising. And maybe even get in a round or two of golf.”

At that his mom let out roaring laugh.

“Okay, well maybe not so much with the golf. But, really mom. I mean it this time. And mom…”

“Yes, Danny?”

“I want to thank you. Thank you for making me into the attorney, and the man, I am today. I know if it weren’t for you I would never have made it.”

“Nonsense, dear. Your hard work and long hours have paid off.”

“Yes, I know mom. You don’t want any credit. That was one trait I didn’t pick up from you…humility.”

Daniel continued to chat with his mom as she enjoyed her not so healthy breakfast. When she began to get sleepy and nod off, Daniel kissed her on the forehead and promised he would be back to visit again that evening and then headed into the office.

At the office he set an alarm on his phone for 3:00. And when it went off, he got up and went to his apartment, put on some sweats and headed out for a jog.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And Daniel did go back and visit his mother that evening. In fact, Daniel continued to go back to visit with his mom every evening around 6:00 when he left work.

About a week later, Daniel felt his phone vibrating. It was Steve. This is really it buddy. Mom’s asking for you.

Daniel stood up from the negotiating table that seated the heads of the two companies and their lawyers that would make his firm millions of dollars as soon as this deal was finalized and said, “I’m sorry gentlemen. I’m going to have to excuse myself. A family matter has just arisen that I have to attend to immediately.”

Not more than an hour later Daniel’s mother passed away peacefully with each of her two sons seated at her bedside holding her hands.

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He Didn’t Watch Me Snow Blow

I wrote this a couple of years ago and came across it the other day when I was looking through some documents on my computer. I thought it would be an appropriate time to post it as my son will turn 7 this month!!

He Didn’t Watch Me Snow Blow 

It’s kinda funny, ya know

I have three kids

And I love each dearly

None more than another

But there is just something about my guy

Something that makes me realize how fast time is going by

You see, my oldest daughter, adopted at 8

Just turned 13

A young woman now, no longer a little girl

Yet for this monumental moment, no sadness did I feel

A bit of, oh my gosh, can it really be?

But no despair for days gone by

Then, there’s my baby girl… my precious baby girl!

The one who flails her arms  and calls “Dada”

before I’m even through the door

Just a month away from turning 1

My wife asked me, party is coming up, will you cry?

I don’t think so, I told her, but I’m not sure why.

Yet, my little guy, my little man

He does something to my heart

Any random night, it doesn’t take much

Just a little over tired and watching as he sleeps

I don’t want them to come

But yet the tears, they start

I don’t know what it is

What makes it seem so different

What makes it so hard to watch him grow

Could be that he’s the only boy?

Or that when I look at him,

I see myself 25 years ago

Whatever it is I realized today

That my little guy is getting older

My 4 year old little man is much different

Than my three year old Big Boy Helper or

My 2 year old Baby Victor

My little guy is changing by the day

It’s strange what made me realize it

It’s not that preschool is half complete

With Kindergarten around the corner

Not even seeing the change

from baby face to handsome boy

in the pictures I revisit much too often

It’s not that now he puts his straw

into the juice box himself

That I’ve watched the Mickey faze

turn to Cat in the Hat 

and on to Superheroes and now

currently standing firm at WildKratts

No, today what hit me like a ton of bricks

was that as I cleared the snow,

he wasn’t at the window

watching me as I snow blow

To tell the truth, I know this for sure

because I checked quite frequently

See my 2 year old guy,

he would watch the entire time

Daddy was his entire world

Whatever I was doing was the greatest thing around

Would rather watch daddy blow the snow

Than play with toys or even watch a show

Three year old V

would alternate between the window

and his imaginary play

And if I looked up twice from the snow to the window,

at least one of those times

his eyes and mine would mean meet

But my 4 year old guy

has other things to do

No longer am I the center of his universe

No longer is all I do to be worshipped

You see ,I know my guys I growing up

Because today, he didn’t watch me blow the snow

Stand if You Would Get Shot for Jesus

A year or so ago I shared this writing with my adult Sunday School class the week after my pastor preached a sermon and gave a challenge that will be explained below. It brought about great thought-provoking conversation and I hope it will cause you to stop and think as well.

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Our pastor was concluding his sermon. It was both a thought provoking and emotion-educing sermon. A call to live your life in a way that matters; big in the eternal perspective. He was wrapping it up with a headline drawn from the recent news; College students in Oregon willing to be shot in order to pronounce their allegiance to Jesus Christ. These students are now spiritual heroes. In their last moments on Earth, they have taken a stand that will echo for all eternity. I am awed by their commitment. I am deep in inner-reflection as I consider just how deep my allegiance to the Lord really is. Then he drops the bomb, “If a gun was in your face and you would still say, “I’m a Christian,” I want you to stand up.”

My emotional instincts are screaming at me to get on my feet. But, my mind is telling me, Be honest, you can not, with any certainty or  sincerity stand up right now.

I pick my head up to look around. I figure there must be dozens of people throughout the sanctuary grappling with these same feelings, wrestling with this sobering challenge pastor has just laid before us. But, wait…..

WHAT! SERIOUSLY! As I scan of the sanctuary, it seems as if I am literally the only person still seated.


______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

I would just like to take a few minutes to share why it concerns me that I was the only person seated in the sanctuary that day. And this comes from no place of judgment, as this has been a rough week this week, and I believe it was in large part due to the fact that I have not stopped struggling with the fact that I couldn’t stand. That in my heart of hearts, I know I should be ready and willing to live and die for Jesus, but that I don’t know that I’m there yet. So, if every other person in the sanctuary was certain of what they would do with a gun in their face, I guess you could say my words come from judgement, but from envy.

However, my gut tells me that there might have been more than a few who had some of the same thoughts and feelings as me. And if so,  this is for you. Or, maybe for some who popped up without fully thinking about the reality of that promise; I hope that these words might spur you on to contemplate what that stand meant.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I said, as far as I could see all those in the sanctuary where standing, including the teens. After each sermon I typically ask my teenage daughter about what she learned and how it applies to her life. So, after this sermon I asked her about how she felt about the challenge pastor had given at the end of service.

Keep in mind, my daughter did stand up, but she told me, “I didn’t want to stand up. I mean, I knew what I would want to do, but in that situation I don’t know what I would really do.”

My 13-year old daughter had just processed an emotional moment at church and articulated her true thoughts and feeling. I was very proud to say the least. She had also just stated precisely my first layer of thinking when I chose to stay seated last week. Pastor did not just ask if I’d like to have the courage to stand with a gun in my face (to which I could have answered yes adamantly), but in essence, would I commit to doing so. And in that situation, do I really know what I would do? Does anyone really know? And how does standing amongst this of this sea of people who are all standing make my commitment any more real?

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

Let me share some of the reasons for doubting that I truly know what I would do in that situation. First of all, it is a panic situation. One full of feelings, emotions, stress and terror that I have never experienced. It’s really unfair to say I am certain of how I would handle it.

I do know that in situations where great consequences are sure to come from the choices made, the best and worst in people tends to brought out; in some, the most extreme courage to do what is right no matter what the cost, and in others, the greatest of cowardliness to save their own butt regardless of what will happen to anyone else. Now I know which group I want to fall into, but I cannot say for certain  in which actuality I would.

I do know my track record in panic situations and it is not too hot. You can ask my wife about  time I cut my hand while trying to pry apart frozen tacos with a knife. (I know, brilliant…) The cut was just bad enough to maybe need a stitch or two. However, as I sat on the floor holding a towel on my hand and trying to stop the bleeding, I kept telling her over and over how bad it hurt and that I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. Or ask one of my former students how well I do in pressure filled moments. At recess, she hit what we thought at the time was inside her eye (but thank God, turned out to be just above her eye)on a piece of metal fencing.  The wound was gushing blood. I told another teacher to call 911 (the only good thing I did) then promptly took her into the building and sat her right in the doorway of my classroom….. A spot that every other 5th grader entering the building from recess had to walk by and had a great view of her as the puddle of blood formed below her as they walked by.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I sat in my seat in the sanctuary last week, eyes closed, hoping that if it looked enough like I was in deep prayer not too many of those around me would judge me for not standing, the even scarier thought popped in my head of what would happen if the gun was to my face and I was actually thinking clearly.

If I was thinking clearly, would thoughts of Jesus have been what was running through my head? I like to believe he would be, but I can’t help but think of some of the other possibilities as I lay on the floor with the dead bodies of those brave enough to stand for their faith just feet from me.

I get a clear image of wife in my mind, then my teenage daughter,  my 5-year old son and my baby girl barely 2 years old. If I stand, I am not going home to them tonight. If I just stay put on the ground I will tuck my three children into bed and hold my wife as I fall asleep.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

And then there is another possibility. Might my fears of what is to come if I do stand and take the bullet rush to my mind. I mean, I believe that after death I will spend eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven.  If I didn’t, I would live a very different life. I believe, with all my faults and sins; my life and the choices I make demonstrate my trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and point me towards life everlasting.

However, although it is a matter of much prayer and much pleading, when it comes down to it, eternity scares me. First off, no matter what is going to take place forever, the very thought of forever brings me fear. Secondly, there is the thought that of, what if I’ve been wrong about the whole Christianity thing? That thought that when I die, that’s it…….terrifies me. I guess when it comes down to it, I am scared of the unknown. Because no matter what we say or think about eternity, what takes place after we breathe our last is unknown, until, well…..until we actually breathe our last. So, I wonder, with all of my fears of eternity, would I still stand?

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

And then I get to maybe the most rational thought of all. We all believe that Jesus shows us the extent of God’s forgiveness with stories like the Prodigal Son. With his promise of paradise to the thief who hung next to him on the cross. I’d venture to say that we all believe someone in that situation in Oregon who did not stand; yet genuinely repented at a later time, would be forgiven.

So, if as I ways lying there with gunshots still ringing in my ears, and my mind happened to be clear enough to think all of that through, to tell myself that I can save my life and still be forgiven by Jesus; I am afraid I might not have stood.

 

______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

 

As I continued to try to process the question asked by pastor this week.  As I wrestled with the haunting thought of would I be willing to be martyred for Christ; I seemed to keep coming back to the a slightly different question: Will I daily take up my cross? I hope that being asked about whether or not we would make the ultimate sacrifice theoretically does not in any way keep us from making daily sacrifices in reality. Might we face physical persecution or even death for our faith? Yes. But we will certainly daily be granted opportunities to live a BIG life that require us to sacrifice by not making the easy choice. YES!

How often do I fail to sacrifice my fear in order to share Christ with co-workers? How often do I fail to sacrifice my selfishness in order to spend more time with my family? How often do I fail to sacrifice my laziness in order to take a shortcut at work? And the list of questions that hit a little too close to home could go on and on.

And so my challenge to myself, and to anyone else who left last week burdened by pastor’s question, is that we might share, first with God, and then with another human being who will hold us accountable, something that we know we must begin doing, stop doing, or do more consistently, in order to truly daily sacrifice for the sake of Christ, and to live a life of eternal significance. And once, with the help of the Lord and our accountability partner, we start to find ourselves achieving sacrifice in that area, we move on to the next and the next and the next.

And for me, maybe, just maybe, if I were truly in a situation where my faith was going to cost me my physical life, I would be so used to my daily sacrifices for Christ, that the final and ultimate sacrifice would come a little more naturally.  
______ _____________ _____________ ___________ ________

Eternity: The Ultimate Comfort

My family visits at a nursing home each month. While we’re there I present a message, my teenage daughter dances, my first grade son reads a book or shares a poem, my wife keeps our youngest daughter from interrupting what everyone else is doing 🙂 and at the end we just visit with the residents. The last time we went Jasmine danced to the song “Tell My Heart to Beat Again,” by Danny Gokey to set up my message. If you’re not familiar with the song, take a minute to click the link and listen before you read this blog.

htpps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13wFGffg

_ _ _ _ _ _

You may recognize that name Danny Gokey from American Idol. Gokey finished third place on season eight of American Idol. What you might not know is that just a few weeks before Gokey auditioned for “American Idol,” his wife died unexpectedly during a routine heart surgery.

Which then makes the story behind the inspiration for this song all the more amazing. Gokey tells the story of a pastor in Ohio who had a heart surgeon who went to his church. The pastor wanted to see a heart surgery actually take place. So, the surgeon pulled some strings and the pastor was there watching as they opened up the patient’s chest cavity and took the heart out to work on it. Now before they can close the patient’s chest back up, they need to restart it. But this time the heart wasn’t restarting.

And the surgeon did something completely out of the ordinary, that blew the pastor’s mind. He got down on his knees and said, “Mrs. Johnson, this is your doctor. We have fixed your heart. There is no longer anything wrong with it. Mrs. Johnson, if you can hear me, I need you to tell your heart to beat again.” And then, as if on cue, her her heart began to beat.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

We have all had our moments in life when it seems as if our heart has actually stopped beating.  When something is happening that is simply too great to bare and it feels like life may no longer be worth living.

As the powerful opening lyrics of the song put it:

Shattered, like you’ve never been before

The life you knew

In a thousand pieces on the floor

Words fall short in times like these

When this world drives you to your knees

You think you’re never gonna get back

To the you that used to be

 

It may be a cancer diagnosis. The loss of spouse or a child. Opening the mail and taking out a letter that explains your house is being foreclosed. Being let go at work and having no idea how you will support your family. Having your spouse walk out on you without warning. Driving home from the your office’s Christmas party and seeing the flashing lights poll up behind you when you know you’ve had too much to drink. Trying for years, but never being able to conceive. And the list could go on. I am sure each person in the room could certainly tell their own story.

For most of us, though, somehow or another, we all survive our most terrible moment. We find the strength to go on. We resolve to never be in that position again. We decide to allow our terrible moment to motivate us to do some sort of good with our life moving forward. Our heart does indeed beat again.

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Today, I want to talk about the moment for Jesus’ disciples when their world came crashing down around them; when it seemed like all they had been living for had been taken away. And I am of course referring to when Jesus was crucified. But, then we all know the rest of the story. Three days later, Jesus was raised again! And the disciples’ tragic moment quickly turned to joy and they were rejuvenated with the strength to press on. Yet, there was something more to their strength to move forward; something way beyond the way in which most of move on back into the ordinary day to day routines that we were accustomed to before our moment of tragedy. And this is what we need to pay close attention to today: what gave the disciples such a  more powerful rejuvenation?

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First though, we need to start by going way back, far before Jesus ever walked the earth. Because we need to remember something that is often forgotten in our modern American churches. Jesus was Jewish. He was born into the history and culture and religion and traditions of the Israelites.  So, we must take a moment and remember this history.

The Jewish nation since almost their earliest time had been in a pattern of being enslaved by foreign nations delivered to freedom by the Lord, enslaved or exiled, delivered, enslaved, delivered…you get the picture. Going all the way back to the book of Exodus and the most well-known example, when God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, but only after the Lord convinced the Pharaoh with 10 plagues that He really meant business and then for an encore parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through on dry land before having the waters come crashing back down on top of the pursing Egyptian Army.

From there the was the exile to Assyria of the Northern Kingdom and then the Southern Kingdom to Babylon. Then, after Cyrus of Pers took Babylon, the Jews were allowed to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem and many were allowed to return. A couple hundred years letter it was the Greeks who gained control of Jerusalem and over the next several hundred years,depending on the ruler, the Jewish people had varying levels of independence to practice their religion and traditions.

Now as we near the time of Jesus’ birth, the Israelites had been under Roman rule for about 60 years. And at this point we start to see a change in the expectations of the Israelites. No longer did they think they would they reclaim their freedom through simply God’s intervention in giving some extra daylight to win a war or his knocking over a city wall at the sound of a trumpet blast, but God would now send a Messiah to lead the Israelite people to freedom. This Messiah would be a conquering Messiah who would lead the Israelite people victoriously in battle and regain their freedom as a people.

But, even more than this, the Messiah would establish a Kingdom on Earth for God Almighty to come down and be with His people on Earth. For God to directly reign on Earth. And in doing that, He would save not only the Israelites, but through Israel, God would then save all nations. And when the Lord came to reign, God would establish a Kingdom on Earth where all was made right. Peace and love would reign supreme.

The prophet Amos talked of this time when justice would roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream.

 

Isaiah spoke of the day when (Isaiah 40:4-5):

4 Every valley shall be raised up,

   every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

   the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

   and all people will see it together.

 

Also also of a time when (Isaiah 11:6-9);

6The wolf will live with the lamb,

   the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together;

   and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow will feed with the bear,

   their young will lie down together,

   and the lion will eat straw like the ox.

8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,

   and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

9 They will neither harm nor destroy

   on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord

   as the waters cover the sea.

 

This is the world into which Jesus came in to. And the claim of Messiah was not unique to Jesus. There was a self proclaimed Messiah, Simon of Perea who came shortly before Jesus. He rebelled against the Romans and proved himself a false Messiah when he was killed by the Romans. A few decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection came the First Jewish revolt, which was ended by the Romans in AD 70 when they completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. But, in 132 AD, the Second Jewish Revolt was fought and led by Simon bar Kochba, who also claimed to be the Messiah. There was even a short-lived Jewish state founded, with Kochba hailed as the Messiah-king, before the Romans once again squashed the revolt, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and selling many more as slaves.

Now, it would seem odd to someone who follows the Christian tradition that someone claiming to be Messiah would come after Jesus, since we believe Jesus is indeed the true Messiah,  and in fact, the Son of God. But most Jews, and for that matter, most of humanity ever since, did not and have not realized Jesus’ true identity, because they missed what happened 3 days after the cross. They missed what turned the disciples dejection to elation; they missed what caused the disciples’ heart to beat again.

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But, before we get to the good news at the end of the story, we must look at just how tragic, just how devastating, Jesus’ death on the cross would have been to his disciples. We start with when the disciples first began to follow Jesus. And we must remember they had lives of their own. We know that a number of the disciples were fisherman, including Peter, James, John and Andrew. We also know that Matthew had been a tax collector. In addition, Simon is referred to as Simon the Zealot and we can assume he would have already been involved in some nationalistic leanings before meeting Jesus. We also know Peter was married because we hear of his mother in law in the book of Matthew. In addition, in 1 Corinthians, Paul is asked whether he also did not have the right to take a believing wife as did the other apostle and the Lord’s brothers and Peter. So, we can assume other disciples also had wives.

So, when these guys decided to follow Jesus, they dropped everything, left all they knew behind and simply went where Jesus went.

And then they spent the next three years side by side with Jesus. Talking with him. Eating with him. Following him wherever he went. Jesus was the disciples’ friend. They had spent three years with this man. They knew him more intimately then they knew their own families at this point. But, he was not just their friend, but the friend who had all the answers. Jesus had settled their arguments, taught them as their Rabbi, and calmed the raging storm when they were afraid. Jesus was the friend who everyone turned to when they weren’t sure where else to turn. The friend who made everything all right when there seemed to be no way out.

And more than a friend, but a teacher and Rabbi.  The disciples had listened to Jesus’ teaching for the last three years. They had bought into what he was teaching. They had heard the sermon on the mount and believed in the almost unreal expectations to not only love your neighbor, but also your enemy. To not only stay clear of adultery, but of all lust. To not only keep blood off your hands, but to keep violence from your heart and mind and angry words from your lips. And not only had they heard his teachings, but they had witnessed his miracles. They had seen him heal diseases and physical deformities and even rebuke nature itself. They had seen Jesus do the impossible time and again.

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Now, put this together with the backdrop of Israel’s history that I shared and the time and place Jesus came into. Jesus’ disciples had come to truly believe he was the Messiah. Peter declares this when Jesus asked the disciples who other people said he is and then followed it up with who the disciples said he was. Peter tells Jesus,  “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

They believed they were following the one who would lead the nation of Israel to freedom. The one who would overthrow the Roman rule and usher in the coming of God Himself to reign in their midst! Their expectation was that they would be a part of, and not just any part, but a ruling part of, this new kingdom. In Mark chapter 10, when James and John ask Jesus that one of them may sit on his right hand and the other on his left when he comes to glory, they are not talking of heaven. They are talking of the very near future when they believed Jesus would rule as the Messiah-king on Earth!

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And this thought of Jesus’ Messiahship had built to a crescendo as Jesus had come riding into Jerusalem on a colt for the Passover Celebration. This festival commemorated God’s deliverance of the Israelite people from Egypt. The religious fervor that was already a part of this weekend was incredible. And as the people laid down their cloaks in the street, shouting Hosannah and waving palm branches, the nationalistic zeal was palpable. This Jesus, the people had heard about, he might just be the one. And this might just be the time. And no one in Jerusalem believed this more than the disciples.

But, a short time after this triumphal entry, Jesus does something odd. Instead of claiming his throne and making a public declaration of being the Messiah, he washes the disciples feet and talks about a master being a servant and how to truly be great you must humble yourself as a servant to all. He then shares a passover meal with disciples. And during, it he breaks bread and drinks wine with the disciples, referring to it as his body that would be broken and his blood that would be shed. But the disciples just don’t get it! For Luke’s account tells how just after the bread is broken and the wine is drank, the disciples are back to arguing over who will be the greatest.

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And then comes the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus lays down his own will in order to take up God the Father’s. Yet, the disciples, even at this moment are still not yet willing to see what is destined to take place. They are unable to comprehend that Jesus will not rule as a conquering king, but instead will save humanity as a suffering servant.

As a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees came with lanterns and torches and weapons to arrest Jesus, Peter, still not understanding Jesus’ true mission, took his sword and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. At this point, if the disciples could not make it any more clear they had no clue, all fled and deserted Jesus. As a trial that was a mockery to justice took place, as Jesus was scourged and beaten, and eventually nailed to the cross, it would seem from scripture that except for  Peter who watched from afar and denied Jesus three times, and Jon who stood at the foot of the cross in Jesus’ last moments, the disciples where nowhere to be find.

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The disciples were utterly hopeless. They were lost. Their best friend, their teacher, their Messiah was dead and gone. They were grieving over the loss of one they loved and also mourning over finding out all they had believed was soon to take place, the promise of the prophets and the scriptures being fulfilled through Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, was not going to happen. And now what? Would the authorities come after them next? There was certainly a fear that gripped the disciples. We already heard of how all fled at his arrest. Then in the book of John, we hear how the disciples were meeting together behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. And once a bit of the fear had worn off, the overwhelming emptiness  set in of having what you believed to be truth completely and undeniably shown to be a lie. And with no thought of what else to do, the disciples simply went back to the lives they knew before Jesus, as John records that a group of disciples were back out fishing.

You see, the disciples were having a moment to make their hearts stop, without any reason to think that it would beat again. There was nothing to make them believe that they would see the promise of the Messiah fulfilled. Nothing to dull the pain of losing their best friend. Nothing to ease the sense of loss they felt of having chased a lie for three years.

But then, in the greatest comeback story of all time, in the  single most important moment in human history, the disciples hearts are jolted to life once more. As if the paddles where placed on their chests and the electric shock of the defibrillator put life is put back into their bodies. Or maybe, it was more like Jesus getting down on his knees and whispered to the disciples, “I am alive again. I have come back. I am no longer dead. I need you to tell your hearts to beat again.”

And once Jesus spoke these words, once they realized the resurrection was for real, the disciples hearts didn’t start to beat, but they pulsed with an energy they had never known before. When the women tell the apostles of the empty tomb, Peter and John race there to see for themselves. And when Jesus appears to seven of the disciples on the shore while they are fishing, as soon as they realize it is him they get their boat full of fish back to land as fast as they can, except for Peter who jumps out and swims! For the disciples cannot wait to hear what Jesus has to tell them next.

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You see, when that life is put back into us, when God takes us out of that dark place where we just don’t believe we can go on and we realize there is something greater to live for; we don’t just putter along, we hit the ground running. We find new purpose, new focus, new desire. And this is what happened for the disciples. For each of them went out after hearing Jesus’ great commission and began to tell others about Jesus’ death and resurrection with a fervor. And the only thing that could stop them from sharing this message was death. Tradition tells us that all of the disciples but John, who lived out his last years exiled alone to the island of Patmos,  all the other disciples, were martyred for their faith.

What changed for the disciples? What took them from hiding behind locked doors to boldly proclaiming the gospel? I think it is that after the resurrection, when Jesus restarted their hearts; the disciples realized that what they were now living for was not simply a better life on this earth, but for eternal life. What their heart now beat for was not taking up arms to be a part of a kingdom of this world, but to be a part of an eternal Kingdom where all will be made right through the redemption found in the sacrifice Christ made on the cross and the victory over death that came through His victorious resurrection from the grave!

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Now, when I started out this afternoon, I talked about the fact that we all have those moments when we wonder if our heart will beat again; when our world comes crashing down around us and we wonder if life is even worth living. And yet in these situations, we find a way to make it through; to press on and continue with our lives. Maybe even to turn our tragedy into triumph by making something good from our misfortune.

But, I also mentioned when I began that there was something different about the way the disciples bounced back then the way we typically do. And I think this difference was shown clearly in their willingness to follow Jesus even to death after they saw him resurrected. So, what was it? What was it that caused the disciples to not just press on with the day to day, but to boldly declare Jesus to all those they encountered.

I believe it was that when they saw Jesus after His resurrection, their focus changed. It changed from an earthly focus, to an eternal focus. You see, when we come back from our tragedies it is with a focus of moving forward with our lives. Making the most of the years we will walk this earth. Which is wonderful. And we should make the very most of every moment we have. However, the disciples had a different focus after seeing the resurrected Jesus. It was a focus to live the rest of their earthly lives to do something that would matter for eternity. The disciples no longer worried about what would happen to them as they walked this earth, because they knew where they were going when their time on earth ended. And they wanted as many people as possible to come with them.

And when we have our times when the worst seems to have happened, sometimes the only thing that can truly make it right is if this eternal promise is real. Think of the loss of a child. Sure, you may go onto have more children and raise a beautiful family. But, every Christmas, every birthday, every anniversary of your child’s death, the ache is there. But, what about in the eternal perspective? That child has been made new and whole and one day you will be reunited forevermore.

Your spouse has walked out on you. And sure you heart has stared to heal. And you may have even met someone new. But the scar is deep. And the trust issues are real. And you can never love quite as fully as you did before. Yet, in the eternal perspective, you are the bride of Christ. And he loves you more deeply then any spouse ever could. And he reaches out his hand and says I will heal you in part now, as much as earthly possible, but just you wait until one day after you have breathed your last and real life begins. You will hurt no more. You will will weep no more. And you will be blown away by a love that makes all loves you knew on earth seem like mere weeds in a garden of roses.

Or the terminal cancer diagnosis. You can come to terms with it. You can get get going on your bucket list. You can get your will in order. You can say all your goodbyes. But, then there is that thought, I’m really going to die. I am really going to close my eyes for the last time and no longer exist.  However, the eternal perspective says something much different. The eternal perspective says that when you close your eyes for the last time here on earth it is not a period, but simply a comma. And what comes after that comma is true life. What happened here on earth was just a mere shadow of the real thing. The real thing that is beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations that we can not even begin to comprehend.

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And so, I ask you today, do you have the eternal perspective? Do you believe its real? Are you able to have peace in life when the moments come that make you feel like you heart has stopped beating? Not because you simply push on with a new determination to live this life to its fullest, but beaus you know there is something so much greater than this life waiting for you. Are you sure of where you will go when you breathe your last?

The Bible says being sure of this is very simple. Romans 10:9-10 tells us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in you heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and with your mouth that you confessed and are saved.”

In order to have the eternal perspective you must have faith in the one who holds eternity in His hands. You must tell God that you understand he is God and you are not. That you know that you have sinned against him. Done things that you knew where wrong. Chose to be your own god and make your own choices instead of allowing him his rightful position as God and letting him lead your life.

And you must understand that these choices you made were sinful. And that a Holy God cannot be in relationship with sinners. And there IS no way that on your own you could earn your way back to God or cleanse yourself of your sins.

But, this eternal God is not only Holy, but also loving. And he sent Jesus, God’s son, to this earth. Jesus came and lived a blameless life.He died and rose again. And in his death, he took all of the sins of the world upon him. And in his rising, he conquered death once and forevermore, so that all people may have the chance to spend eternity with the Lord.

But, God is not a God who forces. No, in his love he gives us the freedom to choose. And in order to have the promise of eternity we must choose to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We must choose to willingly lay down the agenda we had for our lives and take up his agenda. And in doing this, we are taken in by the Lord as a son or daughter. And he will be with all of the days of life; but even greater than that, when the days of our life are over, we will go to be with him for all of eternity.

 

 

 

MLK Jr. – 5 Truths (Truth 5)

Truth 5: God is pleased with us when we try, even when it doesn’t end the way we would like.

I have to be honest, this is my favorite of the truths. I have a CD set of some of Dr. King’s most influential sermons and speeches. And this truth comes from a sermon near the end of the set. But, the first time I heard it, this sermon became my favorite. And by now I must have listened to it dozens of times.

The sermon is entitled “Unfulfilled Dreams” and was delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist church on March 3, 1968, just a month before King was assassinated. And his sermon immediately gets to the point,

          “I want to preach this morning from the subject: “Unfulfilled Dreams.” My text is taken from the eighth chapter of First Kings. Sometimes it’s overlooked. It is not one of the most familiar passages in the Old Testament. But I never will forget when I first came across it. It struck me as a passage having cosmic significance because it says so much in so few words about things that we all experience in life. David, as you know, was a great king. And the one thing that was foremost in David’s mind and in his heart was to build a great temple. The building of the temple was considered to be the most significant thing facing the Hebrew people, and the king was expected to bring this into being. David had the desire; he started.

           “And then we come to that passage over in the eighth chapter of First Kings, which reads, ‘And it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. And the Lord said unto David my father, ‘Whereas it was in thine heart to build a house unto my name, thou didst well that it was within thine heart.’’ And that’s really what I want to talk about this morning: it is well that it was within thine heart. As if to say, ‘David, you will not be able to finish the temple. You will not be able to build it. But I just want to bless you, because it was within thine heart. Your dream will not be fulfilled. The majestic hopes that guided your days will not be carried out in terms of an actual temple coming into being that you were able to build. But I bless you, David, because it was within thine heart. You had the desire to do it; you had the intention to do it; you tried to do it; you started to do it. And I bless you for having the desire and the intention in your heart. It is well that it was within thine heart.’”

I am only 33, but I guess I am an old soul, because this greatly resonates with me. I have already come to the realization that there are so many grand schemes, so many idealistic notions, even so many plans we believe are inspired by God; that simply do not come to fruition. Whether it is because of a lack of resources or because we go from being single to married or from childless to parents or the neigh-sayers dissuade us  or our waning passion for what we once held dear or if life simply keeps going on day by day and we wake up one morning and realize we have done so little of what we had planned and dreamed.

You see, Dr. King had spent the last decade dreaming of and protesting for and speaking about a beloved community where all men would love and respect one another based simply on their being human, instead of judging them based simply on their simply being a different color. And while all seats on busses were now open to all people and lunch counters had been desegregated and anti-discrimination laws had been passed, King realized that changing ordinances was much easier than changing  a man’s heart. And in spite of all of the legal victories, America was still a very divided nation.

And not only this, but as King cried out for a peaceful war on poverty be waged here in America and for an American withdraw from Vietnam, he felt the stinging rejection of those who thought he was going too far. And for the first time in his public career, it was doubtful that  King held the support of a majority of Americans. And with the rise of a more militant black power movement and young charismatic leaders like Stokley Carmichael, it was even doubtful that he was still the most prominent leader in black America.

And it was with all of this weighing on his heart and mind that King went on in his sermon to call life “a continual story of shattered dreams.”

You might be thinking this is a strange truth for me to end with. Quite a depressing note to conclude with. But, you see, why I love this sermon and why I love this truth, is it doesn’t end with the fact that many of our greatest dreams will never be fulfilled. It doesn’t conclude with the reality that many of our best intentions to do majestic things for the Lord fall far short of what we intended. Instead, Dr. King goes on to reiterate that in the end God will bless us for the effort. God will bless us because we tried. God will bless us because He knows that in our heart we truly wanted to make that dream a reality, that deep down in our soul we truly wanted to fulfill His will for our lives. King goes on to say to his congregation,

          “And each of you this morning in some way is building some kind of temple. The struggle is always there. It gets discouraging sometimes. It gets very disenchanting sometimes. Some of us are trying to build a temple of peace. We speak out against war, we protest, but it seems that your head is going against a concrete wall. It seems to mean nothing. And so often as you set out to build the temple of peace you are left lonesome; you are left discouraged; you are left bewildered.

          “Well, that is the story of life. And the thing that makes me happy is that I can hear a voice crying through the vista of time, saying: ‘It may not come today or it may not come tomorrow, but it is well that it is within thine heart. It’s well that you are trying. You may not see it. The dream may not be fulfilled, but it’s just good that you have a desire to bring it into reality. It’s well that it’s in thine heart.’”

And when we fight the good fight, when we keep on trying in this life to do the good work the Lord calls us to, even when we fall short, the Lord accepts us because we tried. And one day all will be made right. One day for all who have bowed their knee to Jesus Christ and proclaimed Him Lord and Savior, there will be no regrets. There will be no sorrow. There will be only the eternal love and acceptance of the Lord.

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As I conclude these 5 truths, I just want to quickly review these each of them. I also want to encourage you to pass on both these truths and others that you know about this great man, so that he might be known as more to the next generation than just the “guy who gave the I Have a Dream Speech and gets us a day out of school”:

Truth 1: Our lives are not our own to do with whatever we wish. We must follow the Lord’s calling and will for our life no matter where it takes us.

Truth 2: We can lean on the Lord’s promise that He is always with us to get us through the difficult trials of life.

Truth 3: Whatever we have to forgive others for and love them in spite of, we are forgiven of much more and God’s love is much greater.

Truth 4: We must do what we know is right, even when it leaves us alone. We must seek to shape other’s views, not be shaped by the most popular view of the time.

Truth 5: God is pleased with us when we try, even when it doesn’t end the way we would like.

Along the Way: Part 3

Well, this has certainly taken me much longer than I ever expected to get back at it and finish out this last part of my blog on eternity. But, life happens…

Part 3: Along the Way, an Exposition

A lot of well-known people died near the end of 2016. Alan Thicke. George Michael. Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. And to start off 2017, Mary Tyler Moore. And this has gotten me a little too focused on death again. I really am just not too sure that this isn’t going to be one of those “thorns in my side” throughout my life. I mean, it’s not like I get up in the morning and say to myself, “Hey today I am going to drive to work and the whole way I am going to think about the fact that people all around me, both younger and older, are dying everyday.” Nor do I lay down at night and intend to lie awake troubled by the fact that the only way to have a 100% certainty as to whether or not my faith in Christianity and Heaven are true is to die. (And I guess that is only if it’s true, because if it’s not I will never know the difference!) Yet, I find my mind inadvertently stuck in these places far too often.

At times I can draw myself out of these dark thoughts by going back over my reasons for believing in eternity. On my best days, because the bible teaches it. On my decent days, by going through my rationalizations again. 1) The anticipation and let downs in life are preparing us for the ultimate anticipation. 2) There just has to be more than this! On, my worst days, well, on my worst days, I take deep breaths until I can find a distraction that relieves my mind from my morbid focus.

So, where does this leave me? I think it leaves me asking myself, “What I am I going to do along the way?” You see, I continue to make it a matter of prayer that I would have more confidence in eternity and I continue to remind myself why eternity makes sense. But, at the end of the day, there is no certainty of what is to come until we breathe our last. So, for now, I need to live each day as if I am certain. Each day I need to live as I would if God gave me an out of body experience to go up and get a preview of Heaven, that would confirm for me beyond a shadow of a doubt that eternity was real.

As I wrote back in my introduction blog, my goal is to live each day as if it is one of my best. To choose to trust and hope that on those best days God is revealing Himself to me and giving me the strength to persevere when I’m not “feeling it.” To seek and to question and to think and to act and to fight for the faith that I have in fleeting moments, but desire to have every moment of every day. 

You see, I should endeavor to live each so that if it were my last, if indeed my faith and hope in eternity are true, when I meet the Lord I would hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into the Master’s joy.”

And I have noticed quite a curious phenomenon when I live my days that way. On those days, when I have truly given my all for the Lord, when I lay my head on the pillow at night, I rest just a little easier; and I find that I have just a little more faith than the night before, that indeed eternity is real.

Seasons of Life

I am still working on Part 3 of Along the Way, to wrap up my posts on eternity. So, I thought I would put out another post in the meantime. I hope you enjoy the poem!

 

Seasons of Life

Spring

New life is born                 

Joy abounds                

Happy people                                  

all around

Big boy, big girl                

so proud of you                

Encouragement                                    

in all I do

Playful spirit                

Life is fun                  

Never a worry                                    

On the run

Growing quickly              

Changing fast                  

Never stopping                                    

Present turns to past

Summer

Growing up                      

ups and downs              

Stuck in between                                   

smiles and frowns

Body changing                

mind is too                

Understanding                                    

confusing you

Falling in love                

just a crush                

So much pressure                                   

what’s the rush

Only June now                

Forever young                

August ending                                    

I’d just begun

Fall

Changing colors                

On my own                

Lots of people                                    

all alone

Working hard now

Rise to the top

Determination

Never stop

Met my someone                

settling down                

Trade big city                                    

for small town

Kids are growing                

way too fast                

Wishing somehow                                   

to travel back

Winter

Wind is howling                

Empty nest                

Looking back                                    

Did my best

Family growing                

Grandkids kissed                

Retirement party                                   

Bucket list

Body weakens                 

mind does too            

Time is short                                    

Still much to do

Breathing slowing                

Time is near                

Take me home, Lord                                   

into your care