Tag Archives: death

Flawed Christian

I am a flawed Christian.  There I said and it is off my chest.  In Matthew 5:48 Jesus Himself says “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  I am definitely not what Jesus says I am to be, and I know it all too well.  Surprise, neither are you so don’t try and pretend you aren’t.

This morning I had a revelation and it went like this. Last night I stayed up way too late, my digestive system was rumbling, did not sleep well and the alarm keeps annoying me to get up and go to church.  So I kept hitting snooze until I was just too uncomfortable to stay in bed.  During the time of snoozing my mind was not fully cognizant so deeper thoughts were able to come forth, hence the revelation.  I was thinking about our new priest (I am an Episcopalian) who is a Rev. Dr. and we all know that a PhD means “piled higher and deeper.”  But he is called to be the shepherd of our church, the flock, and we are called to be his sheep.  Then I began reciting Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makest (I love King Jimmy) me lie down in green pastures…”  I have been taught that in olden days if a shepherd has a sheep that continues to stray he will actually break the sheep’s legs to get it to lie down and learn not to stray.

It is the shepherd’s job to lead the sheep to green grass and protect them from wolves.  Lord knows the world today is full of wolves.  Over the years, however, I have learned that the priests and preachers, the myriad of teachers, evangelists, and all of the theological types are also just like me, flawed, imperfect.  The problem comes in when they try to act perfect and they preach and teach like they are perfect and that we should be like them and act the part.  It does not work.  We are all flawed and imperfect and we are all dying, some faster than others.

So much of the Christian world today puts on a front and wants to have all the answers to being perfect and doing things right.  If you brush your teeth with Pepsodent your will have white teeth, if you use Dove soap you will have clean and smooth skin.  If you drive some car in some specific color you will be an in person, and so forth and so on.  It does not work.

In the modern Christian church if you pray a certain way you can have an inside line to God and your prayers will be answered the way you want.  If you follow certain teachings then you will be living the “good” Christian life and will be counted as righteous.  And oh yes, if you give so much of your money God will rain down even more money.  It is a guaranteed rate of return.  Furthermore, you should not hurt or feel pain, that is very unChristlike.

When we are born we begin the journey to death and we begin to decay and fall apart.  Yes, at a young age we are still on the uphill but at some point the journey starts going downhill.  Maybe very slowly and maybe the journey is very quick.  Maybe the monster named cancer will strike or any of a number of other unnatural diseases and ailments.  Perhaps an accident, tragedy or your life will be taken in a senseless crime of murder.  That has been happening a lot lately.  Just watch the evening news but don’t try and keep score as it is scary and depressing.

So back to our new Episcopal priest and how he plays into this revelation I had.  What I realized is that Episcopal priests, more than any other minsters or theologians I am aware of know that they are also flawed and imperfect.  And that is of great benefit to them.  They know there are no simple answers, nothing pat to offer.  Instead they can just “be” with their sheep.  They can tend them, love them, and wash their wounds.  That, I think, is what Jesus would do and what He does do.  That is honest ministry and that is what people need to draw them closer to the Lord.

God Himself does not offer us answers except to offer us Himself.  He offered Himself so deeply that He came down from heaven as a man, a man just like you and me (I use the term man in the third person meaning man and woman).  This week we celebrate His coming, God Himself coming, as a newborn babe, totally innocent and helpless, meek and mild, borne of a woman into a harsh world.  Jesus came to be born in a stable; sorry the hotel/motel is full go away, to show us God Himself in all of His glory.  The glory Jesus revealed first came to shepherd’s, men like our new priest, people just doing a job who took the time away to go and behold Him, the Promised One.

Merry Christmas to all.  Blessings in Jesus name.

When I Gaze

This post originated while at the gym tonight.  I have a pulled groin muscle which at this time really hurts, as in pain.  When I hurt my thinking goes way off track which can be good or sometimes not so good.  The thought processes are altered because my mind is distracted (in this case by pain).  There is actually a psychotherapy technique called EMDR that uses a distracted mind to help patients approach problems.  That is a totally different subject that is way off track.  So, on to this post.

I don’t know what you believe or what led you to your beliefs.  Me, I believe in the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible.  To further clarify that I believe that Jesus is all He said He was, that He died for our sins and that we can invite Him into our hearts to live as Savior and Lord.

Music to me is meant for the heart.  Yes, I know that there is all kinds of technical and even mathematical aspects to it, but I like music that moves me.  Quite often it also speaks to me, volumes, about life and love and good and bad and about people.  I would like to share about three songs (of the many) that have had great impact in my life and which help me gaze in awe at the most wondrous, and Awesome God, the Great I AM.

The first song I heard live in 1971 and it is “Shauna’s Song” by Barry McGuire.  I was a new Christian and he performed during a seminar I attended.  Several aspects of it still stand as a testament to God’s love.  Barry was also a fairly new person in Christ and the testimony of his life and that is exhibited in this song is one of a life changed and transformed completely by Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  It was so clear and obvious that Barry had been touched by the Holy spirit and made new.  The Christian term is Barry had been “born again.”  Here are the lyrics.

Shauna’s Song

I don’t know            why he loves me

I don’t know            why he cares for me

You know I ran from him, oh yes, I ran from him

I turned my back and slammed the door in his face

But still he said to me, said, “I love you”

Said, “I love you”

I don’t know            why he wants me

I don’t know            why he’s so concerned for me

You know I’ve hurt him so, oh yes, I’ve hurt him so

But still he comes to me with his arms outstretched

Whispering these words, “I forgive you”

Says, “I forgive you”

I just don’t understand a man who’ll stand and say, “I forgive you”

Say, “I love you”

But don’t you know

Now it’s true

I love him, too

Like Barry I don’t understand how God could love me how God could send His only Son to die for me, how Jesus could and would choose to die for me and love me.  But He does and He did.  Jesus hung on the cross to pay for my sins.

When I talked in the last post about gazing at the Great I AM I used the picture of astronomy because it was a very good image of gazing at something so vast and awesome and unknowable.  I don’t care what science says, they really don’t have a clue about the greatness of the universe.

Over Christmas of 2009 my wife of 37 years, Deborah, died from cancer and it shattered my life.  Well, God often speaks to me through music and this was no exception.  The first music He gave me was a song by Julie Miller titled “All My Tears.”  Like Barry when you see Julie in the context of her music you see someone who is very spiritual and very much in touch with God.  To me there is an innocence in her love for Jesus.  God gave me this song as being Deborah’s song.  Here are it lyrics.

All My Tears

When I go don’t cry for me
In my father’s arms I’ll be
The wounds this world left on my soul
Will all be healed and I’ll be whole

Sun and moon will be replaced
With the light of Jesus’ face
And I will not be ashamed
For my savior knows my name

It don’t matter where you bury me
I’ll be home and I’ll be free
It don’t matter where I lay
All my tears be washed away

Gold and silver blind the eye
Temporary riches lie
Come and eat from heaven’s store
Come and drink and thirst no more

So weep not for me my friend
When my time below does end
For my life belongs to him
Who will raise the dead again

In and through these word I knew Deborah was home, healed and whole.  There was great peace which came (and still comes) from listening to this music.

The final song has a slightly stranger story behind it for me.  I don’t like a lot of modern Christian music because it seems to lack a depth of knowing and loving Jesus.  A lot of modern music seems written to sell and to stimulate, not to express the Holiness of the relationship we can have with the Father.  This is just some of my thinking so please don’t hammer me for it.  I am not making an absolute statement here.

I have worked in prison ministry with a ministry called Kairos where we go in for a weekend and “Listen, Listen, Love, Love” 42 inmates at a time.  There are broken down to 7 different tables where they sit with volunteers.  During the first Kairos weekend I worked after losing Deborah I was sitting at the table with inmates and ours was in the back of the room.  Over the course of the weekend we sing songs.

Before I go on I should say that I believe in the Holy Spirit and I believe there is a supernatural world that is all around us.  I love the Holy Spirit, believe in the Baptism in it and have seen God do miraculous things in this world.  Really.  Oh, and that is not part of the Kairos plan and is not encouraged.  The book contains the plan and we strive to stick with it.

So we were having a singing time and were all standing up having a good time.  Our music leader lead us in a song I suppose I had heard before but I had never “heard” it before like I heard it that day.  The song is “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me.  I swear I hadn’t heard it before today, okay.  Well, the Holy Spirit took me, in the spirit, up to heaven and there I was in the great throne room of God.  And Deborah was there to greet me with this great big smile that simply radiated with her eyes bright as can be.  Now you are probably thinking yea, the guy goes to heaven and sees his wife and she is hunky-dory.  I would be thinking that too so I don’t mind if you do.  But, this is my vision of heaven so follow along.  Then Deborah takes me by my hand and she leads me over and introduces me to Jesus.  The message God had for me came through loud and clear, it is all about Jesus  Here are the lyrics to “I Can Only Imagine.”

I Can Only Imagine

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk

By Your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When Your face
Is before me

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

[Chorus:]
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I
fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself
Standing in the sun

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You

I can only imagine
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still

Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I
fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine
I can only imagine
yeah
Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for You Jesus or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I
fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all

I can only imagine
yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever,
forever worship you

I can only imagine

When I went to the gym this evening I played these three songs in a loop over the course of about an hour and at times I buried my face in my workout towel and cried, weeping over the emotions these songs stir up in me, songs that stir up Christ in me.  Just like my vision which occurred in prison, it is about Jesus and the depth of the meaning of knowing Him.  Do you have a belief that is strong enough to carry you through life, through good and bad, to take the weight of all the wrongs in your life (called sin), a belief that can stand in the storm?  I do, I believe in God, the God, the Great I AM.  And along with Barry I don’t know why He loves me.  And with Julie I know that one day all my tears will be washed away when we see Him face to face.

To gaze at the I AM can be outward, heavenly, or it can be inwardly, inside each of us.  Gaze, be in awe.  Dare to look and seek to know Him who is.  Yes, we truly cannot comprehend Him but we can gaze and we can seek to but touch the hem of His garment and be made whole.

Below are YouTube’s of the three songs.  For Barry it is his performing it live, laid out like the question it is.  All My Tears has been done in many variations by many artists.  I give you Julie singing it in a simplistic version that I think lays open the music and bares it for the soul.  I Can Only Imagine is Mercy Me’s original version of the song.  Blessing on you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rxv6Os66U3I

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YzreoXax1A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lrrq_opng

Yes, I know you hurt

Yes, I know you are in pain and that you hurt. It’s not okay, it doesn’t feel good. But I will weep with you and stand by you. You have to understand that the reason you are in pain and hurt is because you are human. Further, because you are human you will suffer pain and hurt. It comes with being human.

Deborah, my wife, died in 2009 from cancer, the Big C. we were married 37 years and she was the love of my life. I spent 2 full years in very deep grief and even now I miss her and I still cry at times. My sister contacted me today to tell me that today was the day our father died 19 years ago. Both of my sisters still hold our parents close in their hearts; they still hurt.

When I looked at the news and saw about the bombing in Boston I wept and I cannot give a specific reason why, the news just made me weep. I learned of some very dear people in our church whose daughter is going to give birth this month to a girl, who is already named. When the child is born she will go from the delivery room into open heart surgery to repair things that aren’t right. Open heart surgery is not minor and when it has to be performed on a really new, newborn infant it is very major and serious. More tears, more pain, more hurt.

On any given day open your newspaper and there is a section devoted to pain and hurt. It is called the obituary, I have been through that hurt, haven’t you. Go to the legal pages where they print all the legal notices of every kind. There you find divorces. God, the pain, please help! Visit any or every hospital or go to a military base where a unit is shipping out for a tour overseas. Those aren’t tears of joy, trust me. Pain, hurt, suffering of all kinds is going on. Natural disasters, man-made accidents (the town of West, Texas, is totally in shock and pain), senseless crimes, all of these things happen in life and cause pain, hurt and suffering.

Are you down enough yet to look for some perspective? What does it mean and why does it affect us so much? This is one of man’s great quests for understanding. Well, you have come to the right place looking for answers and I will make it simple and easy. I don’t know, I don’t have a clue and I could just say go look someplace else. But I won’t because I started this post so I better have a pretty good reason for putting you through this.

Let’s talk about Jesus and His take on hurt and suffering. I want to leave out Good Friday which is pain, hurt and suffering beyond anything humans can or should have to endure. Yes, it is pivotal to Jesus and all that He did but I want to see and show you how much He loves you and me, where He talked about our suffering.

Read John, chapter 11. Go ahead and read all of it to see your family there, two sisters and a brother. I know from personal experience Lazarus never got to choose what TV show was watched because the two sisters would gang up and out vote him. That meant no Gunsmoke or Bonanza. But the sisters loved their brother, loved him a whole lot. They also loved Jesus. Lazarus gets sick, really sick, so the sisters send for Dr. Jesus. If only He could come in time Jesus will heal Lazarus, we believe, we know that Jesus can and will. But Jesus didn’t come in time, the miracle Mary and Martha so desperately believed would happen didn’t. Their brother, the one they loved dearly, Lazarus, died. Stone cold dead as dead can be. Wrapped him up they did, and they laid Lazarus in a tomb knowing he would rot away and return to the dust from whence he came. And Mary and Martha and all the family and friends suffered great pain and hurt. Modern man likes pretty titles so let’s call it this wonderful name, grief. Pain, suffer and hurt is all you need to know to understand grief.

The story in John 11 is very clear that Jesus knew all about Lazarus being sick and Jesus knew that if He didn’t go up there quickly Lazarus would die. Jesus also knew the end of the story, He knew the greater plan that would speak volumes to all mankind. So Jesus waited a couple of days to make sure that when He did arrive Lazarus would be really good and dead, and there would be a stench. Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise up and come forth from the tomb alive and returned to his loved ones. Oh the great joy of that moment. Jesus knew all of this in advance, part of the plan for you and for me.

Now, when Jesus hadn’t even gotten all the way to the village Martha comes out to meet Him and Mary also rises up and comes out also. Now the moment! Jesus saw Mary and all the Jews weeping, weeping out of their love for Lazarus, tears pouring out, faces red and flush, clothes in a dishevel, torn up. Jesus saw all of the pain, hurt and suffering these people were going through, and that, my friends, is what moved Jesus. Jesus wept, John, chapter 11, verse 35. He did not weep for Lazarus, Jesus wept because His friends were in pain and were hurting. Jesus not only wept but Jesus hurt and He hurt with the hurt you experience when you lose a loved one, when you suffer a physical injury or pain. He suffered and hurt just like you.

It is because we are human. Let me say it again, the reason you are in pain and hurt is because you are human. Further, because you are human you will suffer pain and hurt. It comes with being human. But know that God Himself is not immune to the same feelings and because Jesus Himself felt and knew such pain and suffering and just plain old hurt He can bear witness with us.

Jesus walks with us, lives with us. He comes alongside us when it is the worst not to cure us but to be with us to tell us that one day all those we love will arise and come forth from the tomb. Greater still, Jesus Himself went into the tomb, our tomb, before us, to show us that one day we shall rise.

I would that I could hold and comfort all that read this who have been down that road, but I can’t. I can say that Jesus is that and He weeps when you weep. Blessings in Jesus name.

Spring springs with life

DSC03326

I received an email this week from someone who loves me dearly that was a reminder that this week is the anniversary of when we interred Deborah in 2010.  It was actually not a date on my calendar or in my mind, but being reminded has brought forth much loving thoughts as well as a stirring in my heart and mind.

Between one and two months after Deborah passed away God gave me the song “All My Tears” by Julie Miller as a gift for healing.  The youtube version attached is Julie singing it at it barest (from the movie Songcatcher) and to me is the most beautiful version of this song.  It has been covered by Emmylou Harris (both with Julie and on her own), Jars of Clay, Selah with Kim Hill, Julie and her husband Buddy Miller.  But I like this bare version of it.  One line in the song is “So weep not for me my friend when my time below does end for my life belongs to him who will raise the dead again.”  Well, I still weep at times.  I was driving home from an appointment and I played a version I had in the car over and over, for 45 minutes, and I wept.  But rest assured they are good tears.

Spring has arrived in the Texas Hill Country and with it comes wildflowers out the wazoo.  The photograph above was taken in 2012 when Deborah’s bench and surrounding area was buried in Bluebonnets and other wildflowers.  So in essence she was buried in life, new life that returns each spring.  Hence, spring springs with life.  Life and beauty will reign.  Death cannot hold sway forever.

Now, I have said all that to say I believe.  I believe in God, that there is a Greater One, a Creator of everything that was, is and will be.  I believe that Jesus is God and is God’s own Son who came to bring life to all men who will choose to accept it, all men who choose to embrace something that is unseen and unproven, and to accept that not only is there a God, the great I AM.  I believe and I stand on that belief.

Next, this belief says that God will raise the dead one day in the future.  I believe that.  I don’t know it, I can’t prove it, there is no evidence to prove that statement but I believe it.  One day I will rest in the same bench Deborah’s ashes are in.  My ashes will be next to hers and I believe that I will be with her in the presence of God in heaven.  Where is that and how does it all work?  I don’t know, but I believe.

My question to all who read this is what do you believe?  What are you basing your life upon and what are you risking your life for?  I could preach, and would love to, but I would rather invite you to ask God to reveal His truth to you.  I once prayed “God, if you aren’t dead and are there come and fill my heart.”  And you know what, He did.  That settled the question of if there was a God or not.  It still took me more than a few years to realize that I could live in Him, in Jesus, but the matter of God was a settled issue with me.  So, talk with Him about whether or not He is and go out and enjoy and see the new life spring brings, it is a gift from Him to you.

Finally, please stop and say a prayer for me.  A touch from the Master’s hand right now would be nice.  Blessings.

Time and place, please

Today is Holy Week Saturday and is the interlude between Maundy Thursday, where we commemorated Jesus giving to us the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (His Body and His Blood), Good Friday, where we celebrate our killing an innocent man for our sins and our crimes (oh, yes, He did it by His own free will) and Easter Sunday, where in the Episcopal Church we can say Alleluia again.  The children get to hunt painted eggs all over the place and eat sugar until they are ready to implode and explode from it.  It is a grand and glorious day of celebration as it should be.  But are we missing it?

In the news today was a story from Zimbabwe of a prostitute who died while performing her appointed tasks in a hotel room with a stranger.  She just up and died.  Of course the client notified the authorities who sent out paramedics to collect the body and find out what happened. They came and they put the woman’s body into a coffin for the purpose of carrying her out and off to her final resting place, God rest her soul.  After putting her into the coffin the prostitute leaps up and out of the coffin screaming “You are trying to kill me!”  I bet at that moment a lot of pants needed to be changed as the air turned foul.  The woman probably wasn’t the only one screaming by now.

Why tell this story on a Holy Week day?  The woman did not want in the coffin, did not want them to “kill her .”  Let me out of here, as in now.  Jesus wanted to die, He wanted to be buried, He wanted to stay in the grave long enough that there would be no doubt that He was dead, buried and gone.  I will ask the question here for us to consider:  “When did Jesus know He came to die for you and me?”  when He was an infant looking up at the ceiling of a dirty, stinking stable, when He had His coming of age ritual, as He worked in His father’s carpentry shop, or was it when John baptized Him in the river Jordan and the Holy Spirit fell on Him with the very voice of God Almighty pronouncing “This is My Son.”  We know Jesus knew but I don’t know that scriptures tell us when He learned it.  When did you learn that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter bunny, no tooth fairy?  Now, when did you learn that Jesus, God’s only son, came to live and die for you?  Would you please, right now, right where you are reading this blog, say out loud when you learned Jesus is your savior, that He died for you.  Let me be a bit more specific, when did you accept that fact, name the time and place, the events surrounding it.  Okay, some of you will same I have always known it, accepted it, believed it.  But when did you acknowledge it to yourself, consciously.  So go ahead and say it, aloud, right now, right where you are and know that He already knows not only where and when and why but that He knows exactly how many hairs were on top of your head both back then and right now.  Happy Easter.  He is Risen, Christ is Risen indeed!  Alleluia! Alleluia!