Posts Tagged: "Death"

I think I need to have you start calling the office and threaten me.


(Thankful Notes #358)

I had a couple of favorite moments/encounters at our Sunday Campfire Service last night…

It’s been five months since I’ve last seen mother and son Betty and Billy (who, before the pandemic, came to the church every Friday to help with various projects—Billy quietly serving as a custodian and Betty helping in the office while making loud threats to the staff). It was such a joy to see their faces, even behind masks, at the church last night! I told Betty, “I’ve missed you and your threats. I think I need to have you start calling the office and threaten me.”

She said, “Oh, I’ll just come and whoop your… Read More

Everyone In My Church Is Dying

*photo: Laurice Brooks outside his home the day before his wife Betty died

*     *     *

Everyone in my church is dying.

I don’t mean that as an exaggerated statement. I mean it literally. We all will die. We are all on our way. Unless Jesus returns within our lifetime, everyone is dying.

Now, admittedly, we’ve had our share of funerals and memorial services recently. And there have been a string of deaths that hit close to home—people whom I loved and they loved me back. The most recent was Betty Brooks. I’ve known Betty, her husband Laurice, and their son Danny since I was a child (Danny was one of my best friends in school).

When Betty was diagnosed with cancer, I went to visit her in the hospital. Her diagnosis was bad, as in… you don’t have much time left. She surprised me by how accepting she was of the news. She shrugged her shoulders, chuckled, and said, “I’ve lived. What are you gonna do? I’m ready.”

In the hospital, I held her hand and prayed with her. I told her that she’s beautiful and I said, “Betty, I want to be like you.” Betty laughed again and said, “Me? Why?” I said, “Because you are fearless.”

Just a few weeks later Betty was back in her own home receiving hospice care. The day before she died, I went to see her again. This time she was in and out of consciousness. She didn’t have the strength to speak. She looked at me and I’m pretty sure I saw her eyes smile. I sat next to her, holding her hand for a while. There wasn’t much to say. Eventually, we gathered around Betty and prayed. I said goodbye, knowing it was probably the last time.

Laurice walked us outside and we talked for a few more minutes. I took his picture, wanting to remember the sacredness of this day.

When Betty died, even though I knew this was coming… Read More

Lent Day 20… If You See Something Special Or Unique In Someone, You Should Tell Them

When someone sees something in you, and they have the courage to speak it out, it changes everything… that is what my community does. I’ve learned from them that if you see something special or unique in someone, you should tell them. Our words hold a lot of power. —Dana Tanamachi

While in Los Angeles last week with my daughter Ashah, we spent our mornings at Starbucks because… coffee and free wifi. She needed to use my computer to do some homework, and I was writing each morning on the blog for Lent. On one of the days, I gave her the computer after I had finished writing. I must have left my blog open on the web browser, because when I looked over at Ashah a few minutes later, she had tears in her eyes and a solemn look on her face. She turned the laptop towards me and this is what I saw… Read More

The Necessary Slow & Unnoticed Work That We Must Do

I’m reading a book by Zack Eswine right now and the title’s byline is: Discovering joy in our limitations through a daily apprenticeship with Jesus.

Joy in our limitations?!!!??! You gotta be kidding me. My initial reaction to this idea is HELL-TO-THE-NO!

And yet, I know full well that life, like construction projects, always takes longer and costs more than we projected. Always. Life is full of the necessary slow and unnoticed work that we must do. Shall we talk about it?

Here’s a brief section from the chapter called Desire:

You want to do large things famous and fast. But most things that truly matter in life need small acts of overlooked love over a long period of time.

Many people believe that… love for God and neighbor is supposed to happen instantly.

Take an exasperated husband, for example. He said to me, “I just can’t take this; it’s too much! Either she deals with this issue, or it’s obvious that she doesn’t care about this marriage! I’m not going to put up with it anymore!

When he said this to me, he had been married a total of three months. The issue he referred to was six days old. He quoted the Bible and talked in epic terms about what God wants for a marriage and a life. Yet if he had to wait six days to fix this issue in the context of having been married for a total of eighty-nine days, it was obvious to him that God was not in the marriage or that his wife didn’t love him, and that he had to prepare to move on. This man can quote the Bible, but he has no stamina to wait upon God amid something that he does not like. For all the grand talk about stellar things that God wants, it does not occur to him how grand a thing God says it is to learn how to persevere and wait upon him. Many of us pastors express the same kind of emotional inability to wait on God in and for our congregations.

Our problem is that most of the God-given joys we seek get damaged when words like instantly and haste and impatience are thrown at us. Many of us are confused about what it means to have true joy if we have to embrace a delayed gratification amid the slower speeds required by the things that most matter to Jesus.

Now imagine loving God and others through the desolations of life. Desolation cannot easily endure an accelerated pastoral pace.

This explains why many of us have no patience for pastoral care. Broken bones and minds are not hurry prone.

Burned skin or victimized souls have to get to the miserable itching in order to heal, and we who wait by the bedside must wait some more. Death, grief, loss, recovery from addiction, as well as emotional or physical trauma, parenting special-needs kids, adjusting to chronic illness, depression, disability, or disease—all of these desolations are handled poorly when “efficiency” and “quantitative measures” are required of them.

To the important pastor doing large and famous things speedily, the brokenness of people actually feels like an intrusion keeping us from getting our important work for God done.

As a rule then (and this often surprises us), haste is no friend to desire.

The wise man says so, because “whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Proverbs 19.2). His point is clear enough. Haste has a habit of not coming through on things that truly matter. In a crisis it can help. But when it comes to understanding, sorting out, and fulfilling the desires of a human soul, haste constantly and legitimately gets sued for malpractice. Haste offers immediate promises to our desires for a mate or ministry or work or our kids, but haste actually can never deliver on these promises for what is most precious to us.

The point I’m no making is this. Our desire for greatness… isn’t the problem. Our problem rises from how the hast of doing large things, famously and as fast as we can, is reshaping our definition of what a great thing is.

Desire greatness… but bend your definition of greatness to the one Jesus gives us.

At minimum, we must begin to take a stand on this one important fact: obscurity and greatness are not opposites.


Tribute To My Mom (A Strong Woman)

Today is my mom’s memorial service. My dad and the four of us kids all wrote something to be shared at the service… and here is what I wrote:

 *     *     *     *

When people talk about my mom, I often hear them say things like, “She lit up the room with her smile,” or “She is so sweet.”

Yes. It’s true. I can’t argue with that.

But I do have something to add.

My mom is a strong woman. And by strong, I mean… Read More