We Don’t Mourn Like the World Does

Two funerals in two weeks.

My cousin Kyle was in his 40’s, he battled cancer for years.

My aunt Darlene was in her 80’s, God took her suddenly one night in her home.

Both were believers. Both were instantly transported into the presence of Jesus, and welcomed with love by family and friends who’d gone before them.

So where does that leave us?

Shocked, yes. Lonely, perhaps. Sorrowful for our loss, for sure. But what has been evident to me is the fact that we Christians truly don’t mourn like the rest of the world mourns. We remember their lives with joyful celebration. We miss them, and feel the pain of this loss, but we have hope that we will see them again in eternity.

We grieve, but not in the same way as those who have no HOPE.

It’s perfectly normal to have a sadness about a loved one’s death, and to feel the emptiness of their absence, but interspersed with the sorrow and tears are memories that bring us to laughter. We’ve heard the comments, “How can you be happy right now?” or “Why is she laughing today?”

We grieve, but not in the same way as those who have no HOPE.

It’s hard to explain. Lest you think I’m callous about death – let’s be honest, death is not pretty. There’s nothing fun about it. These dear ones will be terribly missed, and it is painful.

Photo: pixabay.com/geralt

Photo: pixabay.com ~ user: geralt

But I’ve been to the memorial services laced with despair, and I’ve been to the ones rejoicing in hope. I’ll always choose the latter. In fact, my wish when I have been snatched away into eternity is that you all get together and have a PARTY in my honor. A BIG one. Celebrate for me. Rejoice in my good fortune. And then make sure you’re ready when your time comes.

I promise to greet you at the gate with Kyle and Darlene.

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” 1Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)

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OMG !

There is something that has been bothering me for a long time. I have struggled with the thought of airing it on this blog. When we started this family blog we chose the name “LifeWords” because we wanted to impart words of encouragement to you. I don’t want to be preachy, because my faults follow me everywhere I go. But, hopefully the following discourse WILL be words of life to you.

You see, our thoughts often come out in our words through this oracle we have called a mouth, or as James says in his book in the Bible, our tongue. James 3:6 says, “And the tongue is a fire, a work of iniquity. The tongue is so set against our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” (in fact, read the whole chapter of James 3…tough stuff but good stuff!)

Not only do we use our tongue to give life words, but also death words, and death words are not retrievable.

But what I am addressing today is how often we HEAR the use of God’s Name in an expression. It may be in the market place, school or work place, on TV or in a movie. In sit-coms on TV the use of God’s Name is thrown around as if it has no meaning.

WHY??? OMG has become a common expression of anger, joy or surprise. When someone sees his newly decorated home or yard for the first time on reality TV, the reaction is usually OMG! (spoken out in it’s entirety many times).

Our children are hearing this. We are hearing this expression so often it doesn’t affect or hurt us any more. (My upbringing was such that I was corrected if I said gosh, gee, darn or heck.)

You may say, yah, I notice that, but what can I do about it? My thought exactly. But what if we wrote to the TV Networks and producers of shows to let them know how we feel about it? I watch NCIS, and even though the plot has the characters going through stressful life and death situations I don’t hear them taking God’s Name in vain. I think I’ll write to the producers and writers of that series and commend them for not depending on OMG to fill out their script!!!

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain.”

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My caution to you today is to guard your EARS and your TONGUE!

This is serious, because one day EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, and EVERY TONGUE WILL CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD to the GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.
(Philippians 2:10-11)

Dear God, forgive us for our thoughtless use of your Name, and help us to not correct everyone we hear that uses your Name flippantly, but to pray silently for them. Help us to be a defender of Your Name that is above every other Name. Amen

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What Will You Do With Your Dash?

I’ve heard it several times lately, so it’s hard to ignore. It’s got me thinking.

I was watching the sitcom “The Middle” (a rerun) the other day, and Mike (the Dad) had to give a speech at his brother’s wedding. He made reference to tombstones… and what the dash between the years meant. That part stands for the life you led, and that little dash is the most important part. It represents your character, the way you treated people, and where your heart truly was…..

My amazing across-the-street neighbor just passed away early in the morning the day after Easter. I went to his Homegoing Celebration ceremony the following Saturday at Victory Christian Center, Charlotte, NC. The Pastor mentioned this dash that symbolized the life that Mr. Taylor lived… almost 71 years worth of life and love. The speeches and outpouring of love for the life Mr. James Taylor lived were precious and inspiring.

This is the first time I’ve been challenged to think about that “dash.” This is the first time I’ve heard it. Maybe it’s cliche to you and you’ve heard it many times.  But, is it really? When you REALLY stop to think about that tiny – you begin to ponder what kind of an impact your life will have.

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Surely you’ve thought about it. I have. I have thought about it in great times when I am really pleased with what I’ve done with the opportunities God has given to me, and I think about it in the times of self-pity when I wonder if anyone would even notice if I was gone.  The older you get, the more real life and death become. The more it happens around you, and the more you notice your own aging body.  Death is in fact, a part of life. And we expect it to come….sometime down the line.

But sometimes that young person you know is suddenly gone one day. You never thought they would be gone so soon. Did they know how much you loved them? Why didn’t they get the chance to live a longer and fuller life? What about that scholarship they were going to receive and the impact they would make? WHY, WHY were they taken so soon?

These are the questions only God knows. Many times we see the working for good that comes from a tragedy like this, but other times we don’t. It remains a mystery. These are the times we really wrestle with our faith. And that is okay.

But back to that dash.

My cousin James passed away before his 18th birthday. Big strapping athletic young man with a bright future ahead. And one night, he was gone in his sleep. ABSOLUTE SHOCK and DEVASTATION. His friends and loved ones rallied around his family. The outpouring of love for James to his family was, and still is overwhelming and inspiring, even four years later. Grasping for a purpose could never outweigh the shock, but it stood for something. In less than 18 years James had done so much with his dash that the impact was, and still is, nothing short of phenomenal.

He loved Jesus and he loved people. That is the greatest commandment after all. All the errands and activities and “things” we pack into our lives won’t matter…but the way we showed the loved of Jesus to everyone we contact, will. That is what will last. Whether we have 18 years or 70 years (give or take) on this planet, our charge is to live life to the fullest and to LOVE.

We are not promised tomorrow. We must live each day as if it could be our last.

My cousin James was known by his nickname…. JAMES “1:12” FRENCH, because he stood the test.

James 1:12 NIV “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

I can only hope to have my friends and family assign me a new alias that is in reference to such a Scripture. James stood the test. And his life continues to touch hundreds of other lives day after day because he lived his “dash” to the fullest. Let us all aspire to that.

I want everyone I know to stand one day to testify that my dash was well spent. But even greater than that, when I stand before The Lord on that final day of judgment, I want to hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Think about it.

What will you do with your dash?

In loving memory of:
James French, May 4, 1992 – February 19, 2010 and
James Taylor, July 11, 1943 – April 21, 2014

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Death is Precious?

MomDad.GraveMarker

As I happily flipped over to the next page of my scripture-a-day-little-spiral-flippy-thing the other morning, the words caught me off guard:  “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

I’ve always heard it – at funerals, mostly.  Death is precious. Go figure.  Babies are precious…but death? Not so much.

It’s so hard for us mortals to even comprehend — how could God count as precious that which causes the rest of us such pain?  And yet, it reminds me of the time I asked my mom if it bothered her that so many of her friends were dying at this stage in her life.  Her face literally lit up and she exclaimed, “Oh, no!  That’s our HOPE!”

My perspective on death was instantly changed that day.  As the days of mom’s life grew dimmer and she had her sights fixed on heaven, it became clear to me that the death of a saint is not only precious in the sight of the Lord, it is precious to the saint as well.

Do you struggle with the preciousness of death?

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