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What the Game of Thrones Can Teach Us About Death…..

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” 55  “Where, Death, is your victory? Where, Death, is your power to hurt? 56  Death gets its power to hurt from sin, and sin gets its power from the Law. 57  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (TEV)

383 The scholastics do not teach the righteousness of faith. They interpret faith as merely a knowledge of history or of dogmas, not as the power that grasps the promise of grace and righteousness, quickening the heart amid the terrors of sin and death.

(disclaimer, I haven’t watched GoT yet…. but please keep reading)

Last night my Twitter and FB feeds went crazy, I mean really crazy. Like 1000 posts in five minutes crazy. 

Everyone was talking about someone dying, reacting the way I remember us reacting when the Challenger exploded, or perhaps when the way people did when Kennedy was shot.

Turns out it was a character on a television show called Game of Thrones. ( I vaguely remember a similar incident when someone shot JR, but then again, I didn’t watch that show either!)

One of my much younger friends tried to explain it to me.  She was kind of shocked that I hadn’t watched GoT yet and tried to convince me I MUST watch it. We “chatted” across FB for a while, and I went to sleep thinking I might be able to watch and episode or two… maybe in August?  

But I thought about it, apparently this show, like a few others this last year, have made a point about people dying who are someone special to the show.  Someone died in Gray’s Anatomy (McDreamy McSteamy, McBlasphemy?) , And I think there is some other show where they regularly kill off a character. I suppose if BlackList (the only show I regularly watch, and I am a season behind)

All this shock of death, even the death of a fictional character is, in my mind a good thing.  We can learn from it, that death is fleeting, and that life needs to be taken in a proper perspective.  That the relationships, we count on can be horribly marred by death, Whether that death is a friend in their 90’s or infant still in the womb. Whether it is the death of a dear friend whom we will miss for years or of someone across the world.

Dying sucks.

It can cause fear as well, I can testify to that.  Because of a genetic heart condition, I’ve faced it for a long time though since 1998 the threat has lessened because of surgery.  Even so, death has an incredible power over us who live. It threatens us, it hurts us, it damages our psyche as we try to cope with our lives being shorter and more tragic than we want to admit, that we want to face.

Yeah – a character can be killed off.  Even more importantly, a friend can die, or you can.  An accident, a cardiac arrest, food poisoning, cancer, war, civil unrest.  No one is immune.  No one.  (as GoT so aptly proves!)

In the quote above in blue, a man named Phillip Melancthon talked about belief, about faith, in a way that can give us some comfort.  Faith is what gives us peace in the midst of death and dying,  It isn’t just knowing some facts and figures, it isn’t just about thinking about God, or trying to behave well.  It is clinging to God in a way that brings hope, even in the midst of tears, and anger, and trying to make sense out of this life, and the terminal nature of it.

Faith clings to the God, who promises that death is not as brutal, that there is something more to life than ending in death.

It clings to the promises God has made, that He has revealed, that He sends the Holy Spirit to confirm to us and to comfort us and to be our guarantee of eternity. When we have faith, we count on God more and more, and He sustains us, comforts us, holds us close.  And nothing, not even death, can separate us from His love.

So if GoT caused you to grieve, to be angry, to hold onto speculation that the character really isn’t dead, to go even into a small depression, maybe that’s a good thing.  Take the time to think through your reaction, to realize the power of death, and the only way to break its very real hold on you, is to hold on to Jesus.

He’s promised to protect your heart and your mind… and surround you with the incomprehensible peace of God our Father.

You’ll be okay.  He died to make sure of it!

God’s peace!

Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 165). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

The Perspective of Death… and Eternity

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:
13  “I wish you would hide me in the grave and forget me there until your anger has passed. But mark your calendar to think of me again! 14  Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death. 15  You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork. 16  For then you would guard my steps, instead of watching for my sins. 17  My sins would be sealed in a pouch, and you would cover my guilt. Job 14:13-17 (NLT)

Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said .1 Corinthians 15:1–11

I woke up this morning, exhausted in body and spirit and especially soul.

In the last 6 days, six families i know have had to face grief and death.  Four deaths in a forty-eight hour span. Not to mention 4 or 5 other things that are pretty high on the trauma scale.

I don’t feel like Job, exactly, for I am not the one who is directly suffering.  Just praying and trying to comfort those who are.  I do understand his weariness, and the above quote, wishing there was a way to put life on hold until the day when this broken world that seems so futile ends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be frozen, and didn’t have to endure this complicated and broken life?

Yeah, I resonate with Job’s thoughts.  More often than I would like you to know.  Even this week, as I face so much, I really resonate with them, so much I wanted to shout amen when I read them.   For if only that would happen, and the next thing to hear from God would be, “welcome home!”

But what Job hopes for, Paul reminds us that we have.  We have a God, a Father who doesn’t want to look at sin and injustice.  He wants to see things made right, and if broken, healed.  In the middle of wanting to know if Job found an out, in the midst of death, there is another death to consider.

The death of Christ.  The only death I know of, where the answer to “why” is answered.

“For you”, the Father whispers.  We hear it again, as we proclaim and celebrate His death in the Lord’s Supper.  Take and eat, the Body of Christ, given FOR YOU!.  Take and drink, the Blood of Christ, shed for you, f or the forgiveness of sins.

The answer is staggering..

For me?  Broken, sinful, confused, anxious, depressed, mourning – that me?   Trusting in this, is the key to our faith, that God would do this, for us.

Job’s dream, come true,

You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork.”

The words of Paul in Ephesians 2:10, says Job was right, his vision of what would be glorious is found to be true.  His hopes exceeded.

That is the perspective death brings, it causes us to ask the questions we dare not,  and here the answers that we can only dream of in our brokenness.

An answer we can hear, and know, passed down to us.  For He died, was buried, and rose again.  United with Him, this is seen in our baptism, and as we feast at His table, as we look forward and cry out with hope, with great expectation for Him to return.  AMEN

Rejocing During Lent? Inconcievable? Not at All!

Devotional THought of the Day:concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - Copy

 25  Then David and the elders of Israel and the generals of the army went to the house of Obed-edom to bring the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant up to Jerusalem with a great celebration. 26  And because God was clearly helping the Levites as they carried the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant, they sacrificed seven bulls and seven rams. 27  David was dressed in a robe of fine linen, as were all the Levites who carried the Ark, and also the singers, and Kenaniah the choir leader. David was also wearing a priestly garment. 28  So all Israel brought up the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant with shouts of joy, the blowing of rams’ horns and trumpets, the crashing of cymbals, and loud playing on harps and lyres. 29  But as the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David skipping about and laughing with joy, she was filled with contempt for him.   1 Chronicles 15:25-29 (NLT)

16  “To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17  ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t mourn.’   Matthew 11:16-17 (NLT) 

1    Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love. With your apostolic life wipe out the slimy and filthy mark left by the impure sowers of hatred. And light up all the ways of the earth with the fire of Christ that you carry in your heart.  (1)

Tonight my church will gather to celebrate the love of God.  Perhaps it is more accurate to say God will gather them, for that too is part of the celebration.

We are in the beginning days of Lent, just a week ago we celebrated Ash Wednesday, with a service that…could only be called a celebration. It wasn’t just that we had a much larger group than is our pattern. It was the idea that people gathered, and with reverent smiles  they were marked with ashes, knowing that this reminder of their sin, which grieves them, would be accompanied by another trip forward, to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, proof that God wouldn’t leave them in ashes, that they would not be left in the dust.

That’s something to rejoice in, that’s something to celebrate, and even…like King David, dance over.

Yes, like Isiah, we are people who sturggle with sin, (and sometmies struggle is a strong word) , who live in a world that more and more rejoices in sin.  This is indeed something we should grieve over, it is something that we should never be callous about either.  Christ grieved and wept as He looked over Jeruslaem, the prophets wept as they reminded Isarel of what would be the consequences of their sin, especially their abandoning their relationship with God in order to choose idols of their own making.  Even so, Jesus went on to the cross, to do something about that grief, just as the prophets would foretell not just of doom and judgment, but of the glory of Christ incarnation, death and resurrection, and what it means.

So to, our journey of Lent, the remorse and grief we find as we review our lives, is tempered by the glory of God. The shear joy of realizing that we will soon be in Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter Sunday!  The joy of knowing that our grief has been dealt with, our expectation of God’s promises have been fulfilled. This is also a season of expectation, a season of hope that is guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit!  How can we not be excited y the promise, and knowing it is fulfilled in Christ.

And so each service is a mini-lent to easter celebration, from the death of sin, to the resurrection to life in Christ, celebrated as we feast together at the altar (and on Wednesday nights, at the table)

Rejioce?  How can I not, when the glory of God is present, when His people are gathered together, when He gives us life and shares with us His mercy, His peace, His love?

As we walk through lent, even as the priests and David walked with God toward the Holy CIty, let us rejoice in His glory.  As well, may the light of His glory draw all to Him.

AMEN.

(1)    Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 171-173). Scepter Publishe(1rs. Kindle Edition.

Death, Grief, Season of Darkness and the Lord’s presence.

Devotional Thought of the Day:
 I should honour Christ with the utmost boldness by the way I live, whether that means I am to face death or to go on living. For living to me means simply “Christ”, and if I die I should merely gain more of him. I realise, of course, that the work which I have started may make it necessary for me to go on living in this world, I should find it very hard to make a choice. I am torn in two directions – on the one hand I long to leave this world and live with Christ, and that is obviously the best thing for me. Yet, on the other hand, it is probably more necessary for you that I should stay here on earth. That is why I feel pretty well convinced that I shall not leave this world yet, but shall be able to stand by you, to help you forward in Christian living and to find increasing joy in your faith. So you can look forward to making much of me as your minister in Christ when I come to see you again! Philippians 1:18 (Phillips NT)

879 Death comes and cannot be avoided. What empty vanity it is, then, to centre our existence on this life. See how much many men and women suffer. Some suffer because life is coming to an end and it pains them to leave it; others because it is going on, and they are sick of it… In neither case is there room for the mistaken view that makes our passage through this world an end in itself. One must leave that way of thinking behind and anchor oneself to another, an eternal one. A total change is required, to empty oneself of self-centred motives, which pass away, and to be renewed in Christ, who is eternal.  (1)

When I realized what I needed to write this morning, I wanted to not write it. I sat at my desk trying to find a reason not to write it…

But write it… I must?

This season is so incredibly hard, as I look around me and see the damage that death can do.  The family agathered around a bedside, waiting for what they know is coming.  A friend dealing with the family struggles that have appeared as they grieve the loss of a family member. Trying to think of ways to bring the Holy Spirit to them, and to all who are grieving, even while grieving myself. Other friends whose grief is not found in loss, but found in their present existence.  The darkness so well described by the words of St. Josemaria Escriva, the people who are struggling with life coming to an end, and those who struggle with living life, and want Jesus to return, because life is too full of pain. I know that feeling – even somewhat joke about it, “Lord can you come back NOW!?”  

Perhaps it is  not always as much of a joke, as a cry of pain, or tiredness, of trying to see where God is working, and not even realizing that He is working at our side, in us, through us.  Yes, I want Christ to return, but do I want Him here just so the suffering ends.  I want His return so we can enjoy His presence… well – at least that is what I want… to want.

Apparently Paul knew these words as well – the passage quoted above echoes those feelings well.  They speak comforting words, words that mean we can reveal the challenge of life these days, in the manner He did, and come to the realization that Paul did.  To realize that this life isn’t just about “us”, our wants, our “comfort,”  That peace comes from living in Christ, not avoiding the challenge, not avoiding the pain, but allowing Him to strengthen us and lift our weary heats.  I like St. Josemaria’s words here as well, “A total change is required, to empty oneself of self-centred motives, which pass away, and to be renewed in Christ, who is eternal.”  To realize that this change has already begun, as the Holy Spirit calls our lives to be united with Christ’s death on the cross, that we can be share in His life, that we share in His ministry.  That when we go to someone’s aid, and do not have the words, His presence with us, will be there for them.  That our prayers and study will prove fruitful in those moments. That we can bring joy and peace to those who need. Often it is at our weakest, that we see God’s presence the clearest, or that others see His presence with us. To know that our burdens are exchanged at the altar forHis Body and Blood, an echange of “burdens”, on that drags us for one that brings us aware of His peace, the peace in which we do live!.

It is in those moments, when Christ’s presence is so… evident, as His work in our lives we can perceive, that we find the strength in Him to keep going.  to keep serving, to keep being present… even as He lifts us up.

which will fire our desire for His return, not because of what we are enduring – but simply because He is… our God.

“Lord have mercy” we cry… listen and hear His answer… “I am with you!”

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3592-3597). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What can be done to help??? The greatest thing… prayer!

Jesus in Pray

Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.   1 Tim. 2:1-4

439      Prayer is the most powerful weapon a Christian has. Prayer makes us effective. Prayer makes us happy. Prayer gives us all the strength we need to fulfil God’s commands. Yes!, your whole life can and should be prayer.  (1)

In the last day, I have been asked a hundred times if there was anything that could be done to help, that I would let them know.  Messages from friends, phone calls, hugs given quietly, the words over and over….

if there is anything I can do….

There is of course very little, but helping others when they are traumatized is a need we all have.  It is a way of coping…. of dealing with the trauma and suffering we so hate to see friends endure.  Some of us are good at it… we see our lives turn into doing this very thing. 

And yet – nothing,… a small task here, a small thing there….. in some cases those in trauma find themselves making up tasks… or at least in the last days I have found myself in that situation. I truly appreaciate the care – and the sincerity and yet, from the world’s view, there is so little to be done. 

Yes, my father is dead, and yes it hurts… and yes, I know everyone cares.. deeply cares for my family…. and I know there is a desire to help… 

And there is something that can be done… 

Something that makes more a difference, something that is wondrous, even glorious…

Pray… simply that… pray. 

For in doing so, you call on the Lord who does interact in or lives, a Lord who desires that no one of us be lost – and if His love is that powerful, that strong in its desire to care for us, then prayer is not a “well at least I can…”  but it is the primary thing, as St. Paul tells us.  It is our power for salvation and therefore our power to live in His presence. 

So for my mom, for my brother, and sister, and yeah for me….. pray, but not just for us…

for my friends Bob and Nancy, who also lost a dear friend on the same day as my dad…
for my friends, KB, and Hugh and Steve, who have had surgery in the last two days…
for others whom you know, who also suffer… and most importantly… those whom you know who don’t know Jesus, who don’t know His love and mercy… 

St Josemaria has it right – prayer is our sacred opportunity, for it reminds us of His presence, His love, it is our weapon, to defend that which is alive in us… in Christ… to deliver those who God has sent us too… 

You want to help those who are mourning?  Pray… that God would make HIs presence and mercy known… and that the faith fhat sustains us… would sustain those who ill come to know of His love…

and…

Thank you..

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1690-1693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

My Dad, Death and the reality of Semper Fi!

English: Sergeant rank insignia for the United...

English: Sergeant rank insignia for the United States Marine Corps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the day:

( Please note:  The feelings expressed herein are mine, not a reflection or way in which others should mourn)

19  When David noticed them whispering to each other, he realized that the child had died. So he asked them, “Is the child dead?” “Yes, he is,” they answered. 20  David got up from the floor, took a bath, combed his hair, and changed his clothes. Then he went and worshiped in the house of the LORD. When he returned to the palace, he asked for food and ate it as soon as it was served. 21  “We don’t understand this,” his officials said to him. “While the child was alive, you wept for him and would not eat; but as soon as he died, you got up and ate!” 22  “Yes,” David answered, “I did fast and weep while he was still alive. I thought that the LORD might be merciful to me and not let the child die. 23  But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Could I bring the child back to life? I will some day go to where he is, but he can never come back to me.”   2 Samuel 12:19-23 (TEV) 

I probably will not be able to stop the tears tht will come today, and tomorrow and even as I write this, as I grieve at my father’s apssing this morning at 12:02.  I am not like David, save that I think that His words about worship resonate with me, and that is what we have in common.   But ministry will happen – people will find out of God’s love and peace.

But there is something very comforting in David’s words above – that in fact helps me to grieve in a way that I can only find as I encounter God and His Faithfulness.

There is nothing I can do to bring my dad back to life, and the more I think about it, these words mean something.  ” I will someday go to where he is….”

My dad was both proud of and yet very damaged by his military service.  THe PTSD he buried and dealt with for years – and my mom as well, was the result of serving in battle in Korea.  Of having the duty of tending to war-ravaged bodies.  He was a Navy Corpsman, attached to a Marine Division on the front lines.  He only shared with me a couple of hte nightmares – this from a man who shared most everything else in life that happened to him.  Yet, there was a sense of pride regarding the USMC and the men he served with – there were the funny stories ( and some of them were… well not necessarily “clean”. My favorites had to do with his wearing a USMC uniform with Navy rank insignia – which got him salutes from many who outranked him.   Yet there was always the motto Semper Fi.   Marines were the best, the most faithful of the services, the men sent it to do what the US Army just coulnd’t.  (“We’d take a hill, then get to stand downfor a week…. the Army taking our place… sort of… we’d come back and have to retake the damn hill again!)

Semper Fi – always faithful. always

This morning – my dad realizes in a way beyond stating the power of that phrase.  He knows how God was faithful to Him… through the War, through the deaths, through the struggles of adopting and raising 3 kids – each one different.  Of loving people immensely, yet being terrified to show them that love – the anxiety that subconsciously wracks so many veterans, and is so painful for spouses and kids to realize. Sixty years of marriage.  Hurts and pain and pride and health issues and all sorts of crap.  Yet know… he realizes God was faithful, God was there… God sustained Him and used His faith and his scars, as meager as he thought it was… to help people.  He now more than ever realizes the faithfulness of God…. Of that I am fully confident.

Maybe it’s because I’ve walked this horrid road with others, and I know my dad. Maybe its because I’ve seen what peace God gives – even amid tears and heartache.  I’ve seen the faces before Warren and CLyde and RIch and Dale and RIchard an – as we say “with angels and archangels and ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN, even as I know I will see my dad’s face this Sunday… and King David’s words will echo in my mind….

“I will someday go to where he is” – with Him.  our Lord.

For God is always faithful – even as He brings us peace in the midst of tears….even as minsitry happens during lament – for there, I am absolutely convinced comes some of the deepest worship….

I pray that your confidence in God is strengthened – as we see God’s hand in the midst of our lives, the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our eternity… in a place without tears.

Thanks if you made it through this mashed up bunch of thoughts…

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