They Knew Not

The kiss meant to betray honored

The arrest meant to end began

The words meant to charge freed

The stripes meant to wound healed

The crown meant to mock heralded

The cries meant to doom lifted

The cross meant to burden unleashed

The sign meant to accuse declared

The nails meant to torture identified

The sword meant to pierce solidified

The stone meant to secure revealed

The cloth meant to cover displayed

The tomb meant to hide announced

The death meant to squelch ignited

Photo by Ismael Paramo on Unsplash

Leaving Secrets

Posthumous secrets.

Some are good. We find out things that the person did that mattered, that impacted, that altered courses, that showered generosity without attention. We read things they wrote, produced, created that uncover meaning. The world is blessed by unexpected surprise.

Some aren’t good. We find out things that the person did that shocks, that hurts, that damages, that produces unanswerable questions. We hear things they chose, hid, manufactured that defy understanding. The world is grayed by unexplainable bewilderment.

May we live lives that leave good secrets.

Photo by Nathan Hanna on Unsplash

This Life is Just a Dot

Yesterday I posted thoughts from Bruce Wilkinson’s book A Life God Rewards. Before leaving that, here’s one other quote that could impact your day.

Most of our life happens after our physical death.

That’s “chew worthy.”

Of course, he’s referring to the belief of eternal life. Can’t say I’ve heard anyone put it like this. Gives it fresh reflection.

To make it more clear, he gives six main events of forever life: Life, Death, Destination, Resurrection, Repayment, and Eternity. The thought that this life we know is just a dot on an unending line might bring you joy or fear. Wilkinson’s objective of his book is to help you not wonder or worry about what might await you outside the dot. What you believe and how you live now can give you hope for the rest of “most of your life.”

Chew worthy.

Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Drainer or Refresher

Lunch took an interesting turn at Chickfila on Friday. For one reason, my Fridays normally don’t involve lunch out, so there’s that. And it was a late lunch, so add that.

But I ordered my lunch and took a seat. Within minutes, two of their employees, also friends of mine, joined me to chat. So not only was my tummy getting full but my soul was also. In our chat, one of them mentioned an opportunity they have coming up that even though it may seem like work actually felt like the opposite. Exact words, “I don’t leave there drained.” When I left the restaurant, I had gotten refreshed with more than Combo #1.

That interaction led me to ask this question that I’m throwing out to you: Am I a Drainer or a Refresher? In my interactions with others, do they leave drained or refreshed? No doubt there are days I know I’m drained, so it’s seems impossible to be a refresher. But is that excusable?

One of the most draining days of Jesus’ life is recorded in Matthew 14. On this day…

  • …he found out his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded…
  • …while trying to find seclusion, he ended up healing many people and feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fishes…
  • …and ended the day walking on the Sea to rescue his disciples and calming the storm. 

My worst day will never match that one. What Jesus models for us is even when we’re drained we can be a refresher. Does that mean we always have to ignore our drained state? Absolutely not. We are not the Son of God. It does mean that it is within our relationship with him to be something to others what only he could be through us.

When I’m drained, I need Refreshers.  When I’m drained, may I allow others to refresh me so I avoid being a Drainer.

When others are drained, I need to be a Refresher.  When I come across a drained person, may I allow the Holy Spirit to make me a Refresher.

Live How You Want to Die

Since Saturday I’ve had quite a few interactions with people giving me reason to ponder this question: How is it some people die happy and others don’t?

I say since Saturday because that’s the day some of our church family gathered to remember the life of Buna Brannon. She lived a full life. And I’m not just referring to her age of 84. Buna lived a full life because she chose to live it to its fullest.

By the time I met Mrs. Buna, she was already retired, 76 years of age. Nothing kept her down. Not illness. Not emotions. Not people. She made a choice to live life how she wanted, not how others wanted. And the foundation of that choice was her faith, how she understood God wanted her to live. And because of that faith, she lived happily, joyfully, actively, and extremely generously. And that’s also how she died. Until days before her living was done, she gave to others and thought of others which brought her joy, peace, and purpose. She had lived life in such a way that she was more than ready to leave it as she lived it.

However you live is probably how you’re going to die. It’s sad to watch people live unlike how they probably want to die. Angry. Depressed. Judging. Discontent. Proud. Buna made the choice to live with joy, with hard work, with purpose, and with love. And that’s what everyone will remember about her. She died how she lived.

If you want to die happily, live happily.

If you want to die sacrificially, live sacrificially.

If you want to die peacefully, live peacefully.

If you want to die regretless, live regretless.

The choice is clearly all yours.

That’s Just What I Needed

Yesterday, we had a memorial service for a longstanding, faithful member of First Baptist. The service, which included selections of their favorite worship songs, was planned by him and his wife. After the service, his wife said, in thanking me for my part in the service, “That’s just what I needed. I hope those songs were okay, but they meant something to us.”

To be frank, who cares if people attending a memorial service have any offense to service choices. They mean something to you; that’s why you plan them ahead of time so they reveal what’s important, your values, your life.

I’ve blogged about this before, but it begs repeating. If you haven’t done this already, it’s time to think about helping your family out by planning your memorial service. That might mean not having one. It might mean a small gathering at a graveside. It might be a traditional church service. Whatever it might look like it in your head, that’s a problem. It’s only in your head. Speak it. Write it. Plan it.

My father died in 1980. I was 12. I can tell you off the top of my head two of the song selections, vocalists who sang, and who the two preachers were. Why? Because they were amazing? Because they are in a recording I’ve listened to? Nope. It’s because I knew that my dad planned it. Those songs, those singers, those speakers were his choosing. 

Do everyone a favor. Get this done. Help them be able to say after your service, “That’s just what I needed.”

6 Months to Live

Recently I was part of a short discussion around this question: “What if a doctor told you that you have only six months to live? What would you do?” The discussion involved answers that could mostly fall under two headings, tactical and relational. Tactical meaning get everything (insurance, memorial service, will, finances) in order. Relational meaning make the most of every day, do things you haven’t done, say things that need to be said, enjoy the rest of your days.

Let’s reframe the question a tad. What if God told you that you only have six months to live? What would you say? Not what would you do; what would you say? In other words, how would you respond in prayer.

This very message came to a king in the Bible. His name was Hezekiah. His story is told in two passages, 2 Kings 20 and Isaiah 38. Here are the first three verses of Isaiah 38:

“In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’ ” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. He said, “Please, Lord, remember how I have walked before you faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases you.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭38:1-3‬ ‭CSB‬‬‬‬

Hezekiah’s simple and confident response prayer is remarkable. Hezekiah didn’t offer a response of lament, of begging for his life, or of questioning God. He responded by asking just one thing-remember our relationship.

Hezekiah didn’t point out his position, his accomplishments, his family, or even his desire to live. His focused response was about his relationship with God. 

In a “near death” state, you wouldn’t ask God to remember something that is either weak or anemic in order to trade or barter for life. You would offer something strong, vibrant, and full of life. What would you ask God to remember?

From Hezekiah’s response, we can adapt some truths to our prayer life (our responses to God) that apply, near death or not. 

  • You can pray with confidence when you know your relationship with God is active and alive.
  • The status of your relationship with God determines the strength of your prayers.
  • You can pray in simplicity when your relationship with God is deep, trusting, and honest.
  • A strong relationship doesn’t require overdone conversation.

While we can ask God to remember, we have things to remember about him, also.

  • Remember, God sees all, including your heart.  
  • Remember, God knows all, including your needs and wants.
  • Remember, God controls all, including your situations and your future.

Your turn. You get this message, “You have six months to live.” What do you ask God to remember?

31 Proverbs Highlights: #8-Wisdom

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

Doesn’t wisdom call out? Doesn’t understanding make her voice heard?…”For the one who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but the one who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭8‬:‭1, 35-36 CSB)

5 Truths from these verses:

  1. The search for wisdom should never end.
  2. Our ear should be bent to her call, much like the sheep attentive to their shepherd.
  3. Life is found in making wise choices.
  4. Choosing to listen to wisdom rather than refusing is choosing to live rather than dying.
  5. To reject wisdom is to reject yourself.

Refuge

But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!””‭‭ Ruth‬ ‭2:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬

By Ruth’s example we see where the best place of refuge is.

  • It’s not always with family.
  • It’s not always with comfort.
  • It’s not always with the expected.
  • It’s not always with what’s familiar.
  • It may involve sacrifice.
  • It may involve leaving it all behind.
  • It may involve ignoring the norm.

Under the wings of the God of Ruth we see where the best place of refuge is.

Hope in Loss

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve witnessed two families say goodbye to a family member. Both were relatively young, 41 and 61. Both stories could be looked through the lens that life can be cruel. Yet, the witness I’ve observed revealed a different perspective. 

Both of these family members left behind adult children in their 30s and 20s, young adults. Through various means, these young adults, in the middle of their pain and grief, affirmed that even though life can be cruel it can also be hopeful.  In that light, here are a few pastoral thoughts for all family members.

To the older adults, interpreted as you have adult children and maybe even some grandchildren:

  • Spend time (intentional/fun/memorable/meaningful) with your family
  • Model for them what it means to pursue a relationship with God
  • Challenge them to live as much or more for others than themselves
  • Live with eternity in mind
  • Teach them the only source for hope when it comes time to leave this earth isn’t found in anything on this earth

To the young adults:

  • Guess what? Your parents know they aren’t perfect. Love them anyway, like God does you.
  • God has a purpose for you in your family. It may seem weird to step into a more leading role in the absence of your parent, but God is available to guide you just like he was available to guide your parent.
  • The strength that is holding you up right now is the strength you’ll need the rest of your life. Don’t let go. Relentlessly hold on. Better yet, just rest in it.
  • The maturity you’re experiencing right now through this event is just another step of life. There will be more maturing moments. Embrace them. Learn from them. Seek God through them.
  • Life is going to be cruel again; that’s what we’re in for until God returns. Keep your eyes on hope. Guard your hearts from bitterness through gripping to hope.

May these words encourage you:

“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.””‭‭ Joshua‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭