The birth of the Christ-child is a much deeper mystery than what is embodied in most of our Christmas preparations...
We cannot exist in the presence of God until we can exist naked, unafraid, and uninhibited.
Jesus' message is for us to live in such a way now that what we seek in an afterlife becomes our present reality.
Such a (completed) life requires relentless optimism, a bit of faith, and a short memory.
Preparing to die well has many of the markings of falling in love...
Dreams and Dying, Part 2 Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him. John 11:11 Many years ago I was told that if a person died in a dream they would be dead in real life, too. I am not sure how anyone would know, but the thought was … Continue reading Dreams and Dying, Part 2
Dreams and Dying, Part 1 I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28 I do not regularly journal about my dreams, although I believe it can be a helpful practice. Much has … Continue reading Dreams and Dying, Part 1
Grief, Part 6 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 Understanding and identifying the five stages of dying (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and … Continue reading Grief, Part 6
Grief, Part 5 If a patient has had enough time and has been given some help in working through the previously described stages, he will reach a stage during which he is neither depressed nor angry about his “fate”…He will have mourned the impending loss of so many meaningful people and places and he will … Continue reading Grief, Part 5
George Floyd and Jesus Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a … Continue reading George Floyd and Jesus
Grief, Part 4 When the terminally ill patient can no longer deny his illness, when he is forced to undergo more surgery or hospitalization, when he begins to have more symptoms or becomes weaker and thinner, he cannot smile it off anymore. His numbness or stoicism, his anger and rage will soon be replaced with … Continue reading Grief, Part 4
Grief, Part 3 “When the first stage of denial cannot be maintained any longer, it is replaced by feelings of anger, rage, envy, and resentment.” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, MD According to Swiss-American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the initial stage of dying is denial and isolation, which I reflected upon in last week’s Life Note. The next stage, … Continue reading Grief, Part 3
Grief, Part 2 “Those who have the strength and the love to sit with a dying patient in the silence that goes beyond words will know that this moment is neither frightening nor painful, but a peaceful cessation of the functioning of the body. Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of … Continue reading Grief, Part 2
Grief “The dance of life finds its beginnings in grief…It is the way in which pain can be embraced, not out of a desire to suffer, but in the knowledge that something new will be born in the pain.” Henri Nouwen No discussion of death and dying would be complete without considering grief. Grief is … Continue reading Grief
Dying Before We Die, Part 3 No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins. Mark 2:22 As I close this trail of thoughts about dying-before-we-die, I wish to focus on … Continue reading Dying Before We Die, Part 3
Dying Before We Die, Part 2 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life…nor things present, nor things to come…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8::38-39 Admittedly, the concept of dying-before-we-die is not easily grasped. It might better be titled consciously-letting-go-before-we-must. Done right, … Continue reading Dying Before We Die, Part 2
Dying Before We Die Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12::24 The concept of dying before we die has nothing to do with unreasonably hastening our physical death. Rather, it … Continue reading Dying Before We Die
Cultural Fear of Death, Part 4 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 I write this in the midst of Holy Week – the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. In the Christian story, Jesus enters Jerusalem as a hero, only to be mocked, beaten, … Continue reading Cultural Fear of Death, Part 4
Cultural Fear of Death, Part 3 …it is appointed for mortals to die once... Hebrews 9:27 Last week I reflected on the financial and emotional costs of dying. My conclusions were that (1) dying is expensive, (2) dying is emotionally trying, and (3) dying is even more expensive when death is prolonged for reasons other … Continue reading Cultural Fear of Death, Part 3
Cultural Fear of Death, Part 2 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Philippians 1:21 Last week I referred in passing to the high cost of dying. The costs can be financial, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual. Those costs go up when death is needlessly delayed in ways that are based more on … Continue reading Cultural Fear of Death, Part 2
Cultural Fear of Death I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.” Psalm 82:6-7 We live in a culture that is, in my opinion, unreasonably fearful of death. We even avoid the word, saying someone passed away or crossed … Continue reading Cultural Fear of Death
Reconciling NDEs and Religious Tradition I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36 Can we reconcile the reports of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) with scripture … Continue reading Reconciling NDEs and Religious Tradition
After Near-Death Experiences And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:11 I want to share one more Near-Death Experience (NDE), a particularly powerful account because it comes from a neurosurgeon, … Continue reading After Near-Death Experiences
Near Death Experiences, Part 3 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 2 Peter 3:8 Reports of near-death experiences (NDEs) are the narratives told by those who have experienced clinical death, witnessed an afterlife, and … Continue reading Near Death Experiences, Part 3
Near Death Experiences, Part 2 The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” Isaiah 38:1b Last week I shared three stories of my experiences with loved ones who were near to death. My … Continue reading Near-Death Experiences, Part 2
Near Death Experiences The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” Isaiah 38:1b When discussing near death experiences, many people think of the stories of those who went through an episode of clinical … Continue reading Near Death Experiences
The Hidden Heaven Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day… because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16,18 Over the past … Continue reading The Hidden Heaven
Heavenly Allegories And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. Genesis 2:8a While the Bible has many references to heaven, both as an afterlife and as a present state of being, two of its most well-known stories can also be read as allegorical stories of heaven. The first is found in … Continue reading Heavenly Allegories
The Heaven of Jesus To you it has been given to know the secrets (mysteries) of the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 13:11 According to the Gospels, Jesus said a lot about heaven. Consistent with his method of teaching, he did not give concrete descriptions of or direct answers about heaven. Rather, he provided thought-provoking images … Continue reading The Heaven of Jesus
Heaven Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. Psalm 139:7-8 Unlike the relatively few biblical references about hell, references to heaven abound in the Bible. I find this to … Continue reading Heaven
Free Will and Hell Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32 No series of reflections on hell would be complete without mentioning free will. Among the amazing … Continue reading Free Will and Hell
Hell and Suffering My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Psalm 22:1-2 The contemporary image of Hell is of a … Continue reading Hell and Suffering
‘Twas the morning of Christmas, when Love came to earth, By way of a tiny and humble child’s birth; His parents had traveled so far from their home, For the census decreed by Augustus, in Rome. Arriving in Bethlehem, with no place to stay, The new baby slept in a manger of hay; With cattle … Continue reading Merry Christmas!
Hell and Sin But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. Romans 6:22 The concept of hell that I carried with me from childhood was one of eternal punishment and misery. Humans were sent to hell for reasons that … Continue reading Hell and Sin
The Pit and Purgatory Can a blind person lead a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? Luke 6:19 One of the most common biblical reference to contemporary images of Hell today is the Pit. When we do not count the pit references that seem to mean a regular hole in the ground … Continue reading The Pit and Purgatory
Sheol and Hades For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me, the snares of death confronted me. 2 Samuel 22:5-6 The term Sheol is commonly used in the Old Testament as a synonym for what many consider as Hell today. Hades appears a handful … Continue reading Sheol and Hades
Images of Hell Then he will say to those at his left hand, “you that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And these will go away into eternal punishment. Matthew 25:41,46 I grew up with the image of hell as a hot place where bad people … Continue reading Images of Hell
Biblical Resurrection Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise, O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! Isaiah 26:19 To wrap up this series of reflections on resurrection, I will consider a few of the biblical references to it. As I mentioned in an earlier Life Note, I do not find the … Continue reading Biblical Resurrection
Resurrection, Part 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. Romans 12:4-5 Last week, I reflected on the possibility that those who have passed before us … Continue reading Resurrection, Part 4
Resurrection, Part 3 Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. Luke 20:36 The reoccurring life pattern of birth, growth, decline, death, and rebirth is found all around us, from trees and shrubs to animals to mountains to the changing seasons to our … Continue reading Resurrection, Part 3
Resurrection, Part 2 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Luke 24:36-37 It is ironic, though not intentional, that this reflection will first be published on Halloween. It may not … Continue reading Resurrection, Part 2
Resurrection, Part 1 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again. Luke 18:33 For Christians, the reference point for resurrection is found in the story of Jesus, as recorded in the Bible. Throughout the Gospels, he predicts that he will be killed and, on the third … Continue reading Resurrection, Part 1
Many Births, Many Deaths The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8 One of the central points of embodiment is that the me that … Continue reading Many Births, Many Deaths
Embodiment, Part 3 God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing, Embody me. Flare up like flame and make big shadows I can move … Continue reading Embodiment, Part 3
Embodiment, Part 2 For every matter has its time and way, although the troubles of mortals lie heavy upon them. Indeed, they do not know what is to be, for who can tell them how it will be? No one has power over the wind, or power over the day of death. Ecclesiastes 8:6-8a As … Continue reading Embodiment, Part 2
Embodiment, Part 1 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. John 1:3-4 In order to reflect on our death and dying, I want to start by sharing my … Continue reading Embodiment, Part 1
If I Should Die Before I Wake Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. -Bedtime prayer for children This week I begin a new series of Life Notes titled If I Should … Continue reading If I Should Die Before I Wake
Praying With One Eye Open (Reprise) Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with Thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well… Colossians 4:2-3a Throughout this series of Life Notes I have presented the metaphor of praying with one eye open in a negative light. I have used it as an illustration … Continue reading Praying With One Eye Open (Reprise)
Praying With Both Eyes Closed But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. Psalm 69:13 In January of this year, I began this series of Life Notes with a reflection about praying with one eye open. I … Continue reading Praying With Both Eyes Closed
This is our hope: that we would know, or perhaps that we would remember ourselves as the Beloved of God...
We cannot exist in the presence of God until we can exist in the presence of God naked, unafraid, and uninhibited.
Jesus' message is for us to live in such a way now that what we seek in an afterlife becomes our present reality...
Such a (completed) life requires relentless optimism, a bit of faith, and a short memory...
Preparing to die well has many of the markings of falling in love...