She died in her sleep over a year ago, and I wasn’t there.
A dear, dear daughter of God. “Oh come in, Pastor! Come in! Tell me, how are your wife and the kids? Oh, sit down, sit down! Don’t mind the mess. I’m trying to make sure Frisky doesn’t cause any more messes. She got so angry last time I was at the hospital!” She died. Over a year ago. And I wasn’t there.
“Pastor, take this money. Get some ice cream for the kids. If there’s any left, you have some too!” she’d say with that smile. That wonderful, wonderful smile. And now she’s dead. Over a year ago. And I wasn’t there.
“Pastor, I’m not superwoman! I can’t keep up the house the way I want. But I’ve got help now! They come in twice a week and clean anything I can’t. They do the laundry, too! Oh, I could never leave. My husband built this home.” It’s the home she died in a year ago.
I was her shepherd. I visited her every month. She encouraged me so often. She was eager for Communion. She longed for God’s Word. She called in to listen to the church service every week. I got to hear her sing and hold her hand when she went to the hospital.
And now she sings in glory. Now there are no more hospitals for her. Now she sees her Jesus face to face.
But I failed her. (more…)
And all the festering puss that had built up in her wounded soul spilled out. Her fear at her weakness. How close she was to death. She missed her dead husband so much. Why did her brother die so young? Her daughter hadn’t called in two years. And all her misery, all her tears, her wailing for comfort, all of it flooded from her and over me.
Her hospital room is dark. Her nose keeps running in her grief. There’s no decorations here like in other patients’ rooms; no smiling pictures from family, no get-well cards, no vases of flowers.
I’ve come because she requested me. I serve as a chaplain in this little hospital; I listen and then share the Gospel. It’s pretty straightforward. I’ve gotten to speak Jesus to so, so many people who have needed to know what Jesus did for them, and what that has to do with their pain today.
And this woman today. Her fear and her sorrow enveloped me. And then she asked, “I want to be with my husband in heaven. But why would God ever take me?” (more…)
Yesterday I got to stop two men from clobbering each other in a hospital parking lot. I was there to visit a member, but as I walked through the parking lot, one man I didn’t know attacked another man I didn’t know. I got between them. It was either angelic intervention or the fact I was carrying a Bible that kept them from turning on me. I escaped with only shaking hands and a heart beating just a titch too fast.
One of the things shouted in the fight was, “I’m here for cancer treatment!”
I don’t know what caused the fight. The two men seemed to not know each other at all. But I suspect that for at least one, the sheer stress of facing what might well be death caused him to cling to what pride he had and burst at some affront to said pride.
And he broke.
…I forgot what it was like to be broken. (more…)
Listen, for what I am about to tell you is true. It is the heartbeat of the world. It is your heartbeat. These things are true, and they are the only reason we have hope. It is the heartbeat of the Bible, and every verse, every syllable leans in toward this story: The story,the true story, what happened in history with real people with flesh and bone and blood and hopes and dreams. The Fall of Christ.
Chapter One: The Beginning of Sorrows.
The Prince sat on the Throne in the City of Light, and he looked toward creation. His creation. His love. And what he saw was sorrow. His creation rejected him. And rejecting him meant they rejected every good thing, for every good gift comes from him. He and the Father wove a plan. It held a high cost, a dear cost, but it would be enough to redeem the entire world, to bring it back to them, to grow joy where sorrow had laid down deep, deep roots. The Prince was willing to pay that cost.
The Father whispered: “It’s time.” (more…)
Death is the final enemy. But if it is… why do we pretend it’s not there?
I remember Mike.* He was my first death. Pastors can say things like that; other than doctors, soldiers, and funeral workers, we probably see death the most. And Mike… he was my first. The doctors declared him brain dead, and after a fairly lengthy time, the oldest son decided to pull the plug. The son came, signed the papers, and then fled. He would not stay.
I sat in the room as the machines beeped around Mike. I was there with his younger son and a family friend. A CD player plunked out a version of “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.”
And Mike awoke in heaven.
I didn’t get to see that. I saw a younger son in great grief. I saw a family friend in pain. But I saw them there, in their pain, admitting it.
But the older son? I don’t think I ever saw him again, not even at the funeral. (more…)
The Lay of the Lord
by Christopher Yokel
The true story of Jesus’s life remains an epic full of emotion, unexpected twists and turns, and tragedy and triumph. Sometimes its familiarity makes us forget, though. Christopher Yokel recasts the gospels as an epic poem, recapturing our wonder at what Jesus has done. Beginning with the announcement of John’s impending birth to Zechariah and ending Easter evening, the book walks with Jesus and leads us to gasp again at the story we have known for so long.
This book has power. I would not give it to a newbie Christian or someone who isn’t Christian unless they were the type of person who likes looking deeper and looking up allusions. It is filled with poetic shadows and illustrations and mentions that I understood, but would fly over the head of someone not familiar with the history of salvation. Scapegoats? Moriah? Fig trees? (more…)
Friends came to visit. Dear friends we care for. They stayed a few days before going home. We laughed together. Ate out way too much. Their oldest daughter and our daughter played together a lot. We got to hold their newest child. It was good to see them. Healing.
They’re getting divorced.
They came to visit in part as a last-ditch effort to get back together. As if I could work a miracle and undo years of hurt they’ve caused each other. He’s been stupid. She’s been stubborn. They’ve been to counselors and roundly ignored what they’ve been told. They could have a good marriage. They could. Instead, they march away from each other.
I grieve for them. (more…)
Christmas worship should be epic.
Wednesday I watched a concert livestreamed. The main artist was Andrew Peterson, singing his Behold the Lamb of God album. I highly recommend it. During the first half of the concert, he debuted a new song. It’ll be on the album Resurrection Letters Vol. 1 coming out at Easter. I wish I could link you to the song. It is… powerful. It asks some very difficult questions:
“Do you feel the world is broken?”
“Do you feel the shadows deepen?”
“But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from shining through?”
“Do you wish you could see it all made new?”
Those are the opening lines of this incredible song. And as Andrew leaned into the song, speaking about how Jesus answers these longings, how he is worthy of praise and glory and honor… he begins to weep.
He is responding to my Jesus. (more…)
We’re all good with what God says until we realize what it says.
The couple came to faith recently. They want to get married. I’ve worked with them for a while, teaching them about Jesus, connecting Jesus with their everyday lives and what that means. We’ve struggled together over a good many things. I’ve learned that it’s wise to simply lay out what the Bible says, hear them as they argue, and then give them a few days. Usually the Holy Spirit works in those days, and by the time we get back together, they say that what the Bible says is correct.
After a few weeks of premarital counseling, it was finally time to talk about the wedding ceremony itself. I’ve made it a policy to not talk about the ceremony at all – except to select a date – until the premarital counseling is done. Let’s lay groundwork for a good marriage. The wedding is one day; the marriage will be for the rest of their lives. At least, that’s the plan. (more…)
Death by Love: Letters from the Cross
by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears
Jesus died on the cross to take away your sins. If you are Christian, this is a truth you hold close to your heart, because it is the ultimate comfort. Yet the cross is so much richer than that. In this book, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears explore various aspects of Jesus dying for you, examining it as though it were a multi-faceted gem. Every chapter, Driscoll introduces a person he knows, outlines their problem, and then in a letter to them shows how the cross is the answer to their problem. Then, Gerry Breshears steps in after each letter to answer some of the more technical questions about the theology examined in each chapter.
In general, this book is solid. Every chapter looks at the cross of Christ using a different theological picture: justification, redemption, propitiation, atonement, reconciliation… the list goes on. What makes this book excel though is that it’s not a dry theological text; every chapter begins with a real person struggling in real ways, and Driscoll excels in showing how the cross is the answer to what they need. (more…)