Deader than Dead

Ding dong my Dell is dead……

Everyone knows the blue error screen that comes up. You know the windows one that encourages you to hit an option to restart and reload and hopefully get everything back up and running the way it was before.

Then there is the black screen of death, the land of no recovery. That’s where mine is now. No service will be held. The new one is already on it’s way. The laptop, thankfully, is serving as temporary stand-in until it gets here. It is doing a fine job, but it is a bit unfamiliar since I don’t use it as much.

How dead is dead? When someone is dead you know it. There is no doubt. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, he had already been in there for 4 days. In fact, after Jesus heard that he was sick, he stayed where he was for an extra 2 days. Jesus knew that he would die, of course. He just wanted Lazarus to be very, very dead by the time he got there, so that the doubters would have no room to argue that he really wasn’t dead, after all.

The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” John 11:12-14

Of course, by the time they got there he was indeed dead. Martha was concerned about how bad it would smell when Jesus told them to roll away the stone, yet she and her sister believed that Jesus could do it. They knew who He was.

Many of the Jews there believed that Jesus was the Messiah after they witnessed this miracle, this man who had command over death itself. However, many of the Jewish leaders were concerned and deeply troubled at this because they thought it meant certain destruction of the religious hierarchy they had constructed for themselves. They thought it meant death to them as a people, instead Jesus was trying to bring them life.

From that point on, they sought to kill Jesus. Not only that, they wanted to kill Lazarus as well! Imagine, having been raised back to life, hopping out of the grave bound in stinking grave clothes, only to find out that somebody was plotting your death……

It always amazes me, this account in John. It amazes me that someone could see a miracle like that and not only not believe, but be so threatened that they would seek to stamp out Jesus, who was the very embodiment of the God that they thought they so sincerely believed. He was right in front of them and yet they still couldn’t bring themselves to believe, despite the many miracles they witnessed day after day.

Some people think that all religions are the same, but here lies the HUGE difference that makes Christianity stand out from all the rest:

Buddha, Confucius, Mohammad, Gandhi, L. Ron Hubbard, to name a few…….All Deader than Dead.

Jesus is alive. He rose from the dead on the third day and He intercedes for us today at the right hand of the Father, and is alive within us in the form of His Holy Spirit, who testifies to this truth.

Shining Through

“I am grateful that despite everything, a lone bird singing at dawn can still move me to tears. The sight of a crescent moon in a sapphire sky can still take my breath away……”
I was feeling emotional this morning. A dear friend lost their cat early yesterday morning. She lifted her head and meowed once and then layed down as if she were asleep and that was it. It’s funny how the death of a pet can let loose all the emotions that have been stuffed down for everything else. It’s like you feel again, everyone you have ever lost before. Death is just so unnatural.
A bird sang alone as I opened the door to leave this morning at around 5:20. It brought me to tears. I have often written about how I feel that birds are little harbingers of hope given to us by God….to remind us that life is always, always worth it. So when I heard it sing this morning in light of all that has been happening, and Allie dying, and changes at work, I was reminded again. God is the glorious backdrop of everything else.
And though I feel the joy of the Lord burning inside me when I think of all the wonderful things He has done for me and continues to do, the challenge remains. How to get that joy to spring forth so that it spills over onto others. Lately I haven’t recognized the person I am at work.
How do you shed the light of Jesus when you’re at a place you are not excited about being? In general, I am very excited about being here on the earth, about what God is doing in my life. But then I get to work and I feel more like a wet blanket. I see the person I should be at work, and the person I am, and I feel the gulf between them. Too many times, I keep my light hidden at work. I feel like a firefly beating around in that bushel Jesus was talking about.
We all have bushels in life, what’s yours?
The challenge remains, how to get the light that is inside my heart out to others?
The place of prayer is the place I go when I can’t find the answers, there, and in the wisdom of the Word that brings life…..I hope something is shining through even when I can’t see it myself.
How do you let your light shine in challenging times?
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
You are missed, Allie! Thank you for the joy and comfort you brought in your six years of life…..

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

He sat there alone in his island of grief.
I could feel it from where I sat, I recognized it, remembering.
Just what is it we’re afraid of when someone is grieving?
That if we are too close we will catch it?
Go over there” the Holy Spirit whispered.
I waited all day, awkward as I passed his desk each time.
Do I really want to go back there,
To that dark place I knew long ago?
“I don’t even know him,” I argued.
“But you know it” God said.
Yes, I do know it, I walked that path long ago.
And making contact, saying I understand, is a bit of going back to that grief.
That dark place.
I waited all day, and then tentatively, having to cross the room anyway,
I walked by his desk.
Said I was sorry for his loss,
Stuttered and stammered a bit.
I said the only words that really matter at a time like that.
“I lost a spouse too.”
And as I looked into his eyes I saw it.
Saw what I felt all those years ago.
Recognized it, felt it.
I pray that He recognized the same grief in my eyes.
That he knew that I knew.
More important than words.
We touched souls.
There is a consolation in going through terrible things once we have reached the other side. That we may help others find the way back though the fog. I remember so well, those first few weeks back at work. I was almost superhuman, but at the same time, moving through a pea soup fog, that made moving extremely difficult. Everything was labored. Life was going on all around me, but it was all outside. I was locked inside.
We may feel ineffective, like we don’t have the words. Many times we don’t. So don’t say anything. Just sit there a moment with your arm around them. Maybe shed a tear with them. Just don’t leave them alone. I can’t express how much the kind actions of others meant to me at that time. Yes, there were the stupid comments, the thoughtless comments. But all these years later, it is the kindness that emerges, that still at times moves me deeply.
The fog did lift. It always does.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
This picture was taken by Andrew Schmidt at publicdomainpictures.net. I have always loved fog except for the danger of it. I was raised in the fog of San Joaquin county. It would come in so thick you couldn’t see the house across the street. I loved the way it surrounded everything, swallowed everything up. I liked the closeness of it. I never forget that on an extremely foggy day, I had the most incredible spiritual touch from God that I have ever had. That experience has never left me. However, the fog did get depressing at times, and it is extremely scary to drive in it.

Where isn’t God…..

“Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:2-5
I have always wondered why people who don’t really give much thought to God blame Him when catastrophes happen. They ask, “Where was God?” Most of the time they say it when especially evil people do terrible things to innocent people. Every terrible event in history it seems to come up again. I heard it concerning the Holocaust, events in Africa, every war that has ever been fought. And here at home it came up again after 9/11.
When it’s a natural disaster, the question comes up again. They say: ”Why did God allow this? I have also  heard some Christians try to pin it on God as His judgment on whoever got struck down.
Why didn’t God do something? The question should rather be, “Why didn’t we do something, or for that matter, “Why didn’t I do something?”  We are creatures of free-will, and that was given to us as a supreme gift from God. This is a sacred gift, and He will not take it away. We can use it to do good, or use it to cause tremendous grief and suffering for others. Yes, He could certainly stop all evil for good, and someday He will. But the time is not now. It has been said…..
“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”~British statesman Edmund Burke

The truth is, evil flourishes anyway. It just flourishes more when good people do nothing. It is the result of sin, and that is a word we don’t use much anymore.

God was watching, has been watching, and His heart has broken along with all those who have suffered loss. He has been there in every foxhole and trench, every death camp and burned village, in the towers that fell. I have heard the stories. His Spirit was there residing in people who came alongside to help, hiding people at the risk of their own life, putting people on trains to freedom, getting people to safety, jumping in front of bullets raining death.

Believe me, I understand about asking why and where when you are in deep sorrow. Some people have gone through some things so horrific, so unimaginably terrible that I can’t imagine how they got through it, are getting through it. But I do know this, it is possible to get through it victoriously with Him but not without Him.

When Jesus was on the cross they scoffed, “Where is Your God?” What they couldn’t understand was that by His very act He was saying…..”I am right here.”

“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

If you are going through something right now that you think is unfair, unwarranted and you feel neglected and abandoned by God, please draw comfort from the fact that He is surely with you. He still loves you and He is working for your ultimate good.

Maybe you are asking where He is. He understands that. The asking is in itself an acknowledgement of Him. That is something He can work with.

photo credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/ Anna Cervova

When you know you shouldn’t

“Chuckles the clown bites the dust” courtesy of Google

There are few things in life more uncomfortable than being in a place where you know you shouldn’t laugh but you cave in under the excruciating pressure due to circumstances beyond your control. You feel it building inside you like a dam ready to burst forth, and worse, you are with someone whom you know beyond a shadow of a doubt feels the exact same way you do. You are both losing an impossible battle.

Under most circumstances laughing at a funeral would be totally inappropriate. However, certain events I have heard about would render it almost impossible not to. Those who remember the Mary Tyler Moore episode where Chuckles the Clown expires portray perfectly that particular kind of agony. Throughout the show Mary is astounded and disgusted with her co-worker’s insensitivity for making all kinds of jokes at Chuckles’ expense, however, when the priest starts the eulogy describing all of Chuckles the Clown’s characters, she loses it. The resulting show was one of the most highly rated, most famous and in my view most hysterical episodes ever.

There are a few moments I have heard about in my family and among friends where I can only thank God that I was not there. I’m sure I would not have been able to handle the pressure. In both cases, each were wonderful people who no doubt would have seen the humor in it.

“It was a dark and stormy night…..” sounds like something straight out of a Hitchcock movie, but it describes my Great-grandmother’s funeral. My Mom and Dad went to the funeral home to meet with the director who was right out of Central Casting, complete with ill-fitting black suit and dandruff like snow-drifts on his shoulders, and whiskey breath. They were led down catacombs of hallway to a stuffy back room where they sat and went over the service with Mr.Dandruff and his assistant. As lightning flickered the already dim lights, and thunder crashed outside, all they kept hearing was, “Don’t worry, everything is paid for!” They should have worried.

The funeral was held in a very old building on Pine Street that could have been a stand-in for the Bates Motel or a sanitarium. Flower arrangements were plastic, and very faded. The only saving grace was that a very nice minister showed up and did a wonderful eulogy. If he hadn’t they would have had Mr.Whiskey breath. By then, however, it was too late, the damage had already been done by a trio of singers. They lost control when the warm up started, which everyone in the service could hear. No amount of warming-up could have helped them. Now, my Dad had specified “no singers” but some well wishers no doubt wanted to make a contribution to honor my Great-grandmother. Whoever told them they could sing was badly mistaken.

After the very nice Pastor was done, they gave a huge sigh of relief, thinking it was all over, however, the singers were not done and they proceeded to start warming up again. Mom and Dad were front and center and in full view of everyone. The bench was shaking so hard from them trying to stifle their laughter that the faded pot of flowers threatened to topple over, and my Mom bit the side of her mouth until it bled. She says it was excruciating.

I also knew someone pulling a casket with a team of horses, when they hit a bump and the casket slid out of the wagon and the body came out. They were so mortified they kept right on driving! Tragic, no doubt, for the horrified onlookers and family members who hopefully were waiting somewhere out of sight of the carriage.

The last instance was a couple days ago. My Mom had an elderly friend who had survived the death of a husband and two grown sons before she passed on herself. She was known for telling jokes to anyone and everyone who would listen. She loved God and was a blessing to all who knew her. Even lying in the stretcher on the way to the hospital she told a joke to the paramedic. That was just how she was. My Mom attended the service with a friend of ours who also has a very healthy if slightly bent sense of humor. Everything was going along fine, again, until the singing started. They handed out the words to every song which made it worse, they knew just how many excruciating verses were left to be mangled. They were trying to harmonize, but as my friend said, “They should have stuck to the melody and gotten that right.”

Bless their hearts, I am sure they meant well.

As for Doris, she is now telling her jokes to the Angels in Heaven, finally home with her loved ones once more……

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13

Disclaimer: I know there are certain instances where laughter is never appropriate, but I think that life is tough and we need to find humor in situations whenever possible. It is how I have gotten through my own grief. I sincerely hope I didn’t offend anyone with the subject matter. Lori