Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Death’

The movie, Heaven Is for Real, opens today in theaters all across America and I would encourage everyone to go and see it. Back on July 6, 2011, I wrote about how the book, on which this film is based, impacted my wife and me, so I am reposting that account here today. Grace and peace to you all, and may your hope and assurance of a heavenly reality be rekindled and strengthened.

*****

I was shopping at Costco recently when I stopped by the book section and spotted the book Heaven Is for Real, about a little boy, Colton Burpo, who underwent emergency surgery for a misdiagnosed appendicitis that nearly took his life just short of his fourth birthday. His story had been featured on several recent TV programs, so I bought the book and read it in one sitting.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 9.42.29 AMWhen Colton made it through surgery, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival, but they were surprised and astonished during the following weeks and months as he began to detail his extraordinary experience of going to heaven during surgery.

He described leaving his body while under anesthesia during surgery, and described exactly what his parents were doing in separate parts of the hospital while he was being operated on. He described being in heaven, meeting people whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born, and described details about heaven that matched the Bible, even though he had never read the Bible because he had not yet learned to read.

One of the events in the book that affected me deeply was when Colton’s father, Todd, described the evening when Colton came into the living room and stood in front of his mother, Sonja, and said to her, “Mommy, I have two sisters.”

His mother replied that he had only one, his older sister, Cassie, but Colton was adamant. “No, I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?”

“Who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?” asked his mother.

Colton explained that when he was in heaven a little girl ran up to him and wouldn’t stop hugging him. “She did, Mommy. She said she died in your tummy.”

Todd and Sonja were very surprised, for two years after Sonja gave birth to Cassie, she became pregnant with a second child, but miscarried two months into the pregnancy. Eleven months later she gave birth to Colton, but neither Todd nor Sonja had ever told their son about the miscarriage, figuring that he was too young to understand.

Seeing his mother’s bewildered expression, Colton assured his mother, “It’s okay, Mommy. She’s okay. God adopted her.”

“Don’t you mean Jesus adopted her?” Sonja said.

“No mommy. His Dad did!”

Sonja was overwhelmed to learn that the baby had been a girl, and asked Colton a number of questions, including what she looked like (answer, like Cassie, but with dark hair like Sonja’s) and what her name was.

“She doesn’t have a name,” replied Colton, “You guys didn’t name her.”

“You’re right, Colton, we didn’t even know that she was a she,” Sonja said.

At this point, I paused in my reading as tears began to stream down my cheeks. I went into the living room and asked my wife, Diana, to read the four pages describing Colton’s account of meeting his sister in heaven.

While Diana read the pages, I went back into my study and my tears came freely as I thought about our own experience losing two babies to miscarriages.

I had been married twice before meeting Diana, and had produced two daughters from the first marriage and a son from the second. When I married Diana, she was 37 and had never been married nor had she ever had a child. She was hoping that we would have children, but I had been unwilling to have any more children.

But three years later I relented and we decided to try to have a baby. We were joyful when we learned that she was pregnant and for the next two months we lived in anticipation of this addition to our family. But after these two months the baby miscarried. The cause—fibroids in the uterus.

We tried again, she conceived, our hopes rose, but again the same thing happened. For the second time, Diana was devastated by the news, and mourned the losses for months.

After Diana finished reading the four pages, she came into my study and I could see that she, too, had been crying quietly. We hugged for a long while, until Diana said, “I’m glad that I named our babies.”

“You did? I don’t remember. What were their names?” I asked.

“Katherine Elizabeth Coy and Andrew Daniel Coy. The doctor told me that the first baby was a girl, and even though we didn’t know for sure the gender of the second baby, I felt very strongly that it was a boy.”

She paused for a while, and then added, “Even then I knew without a doubt that some day we’ll meet Katherine and Andrew in heaven!”

What was it about reading Colton’s experience meeting his sister in heaven that moved Diana and me so profoundly?

We had always believed that young children who die—including both wanted and unwanted unborn babies—have a special place in heaven. Though there is no direct Scripture passage to support this, a passage such as Psalm 139: 13-16 inspires us to believe in a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us, and has a plan for each of us, even from as early as our beginnings in the womb:

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.” (New Living Translation, NLT)

Though we had always believed that we would be united with our babies and other loved ones in heaven, reading the eyewitness account of Colton moved us emotionally and joyfully, and intensified our faith that we would some day meet and recognize our children, Katherine and Andrew.

Most comforting to us is our belief that Katherine and Andrew, along with Colton’s unnamed sister and all the other named and unnamed babies are okay, for Jesus’ Dad adopted them!

Best of all, are Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:14, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (NLT)

******

Here’s a movie trailer for Heaven Is for Real:

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 2.23.15 PM

None of us has escaped those passages of life during which we are troubled, confused, drained of all vitality and direction, or plagued by self-doubt and ineffectiveness.

Recently I have been suffering from writer’s block as I try to work on both a novel and this blog. Among the doubts that seem to be blocking my efforts to write are: Am I good enough? Do I have anything significant to say? Will people read what I write? Will my writing inspire people to journey with Jesus Christ? Will my life or my work for Christ matter?

I was therefore encouraged when I came across I Corinthians 15:58:

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” (New Living Translation, NLT)

This verse comes at the end of the 15th chapter in which the Apostle Paul responds to critics who claim that the resurrection of Christ is a lie and that the Christian faith is empty and useless.

Paul reminds the Christians at Corinth that:

• The resurrection was factual—that Jesus was crucified and died for our sins, that he was buried in a tomb, that God raised him to life on the third day, that he was seen by Peter and the disciples as well as over 500 people, including James, the brother of Jesus, and Paul himself. (I Cor. 15:1-10)

• Because Jesus was raised from the dead, all who are related to Jesus by faith will also be raised from the dead. (verse 22)

• Because Jesus overcame death and ascended into heaven with a new heavenly body, all who are in Jesus Christ will also be resurrected with new bodies fit for his heavenly kingdom. (verses 42-53)

• Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death is no longer a source of dread or fear for those who follow him, for he has defeated death and gives us hope and assurance for life beyond the grave. (verses 54-56)

For all these reasons, Paul insists that nothing we do is useless in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have each been called to share the good news of his life and resurrection in all areas of our lives, and we should not be discouraged during those passages of life when we are troubled, confused, drained of all vitality and direction, or plagued by self-doubt.

Instead, Paul encourages us to be strong, steadfast, and enthusiastic in all that we do—for it is by remembering and celebrating Christ’s resurrection that we find meaning , strength, and reason to face the challenges of our lives.

We should not worry about the results of what we do for Christ, for that’s up to our Lord. Our responsibility is to be obedient to the Lord and to the tasks or call that he has given each one of us.

It is enough for us to be assured that nothing that we do for him is useless or in vain.

Read Full Post »

That was the title of a Los Angeles Times article announcing the release of Kris Kristofferson’s new CD, “Feeling Mortal,” in which the 76-year-old actor/singer/songwriter looks unflinchingly in the face of death and is comfortable with what he sees.

Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson

For instance, in Kristofferson’s opening track from which he pulls his album title, he writes:

Here today and gone tomorrow
That’s the way it’s got to be
With an empty blue horizon
For as far as I can see

In the same track Kristofferson wonders if he is where he ought to be (presumably in his relationship with God), thanks God for making him the kind of man he turned out to be (faults and all), and then ends the song with an expression of satisfaction:

Soon or later I’ll be leaving
I’m a winner either way
For the laughter and the loving
That I’m living with today

Randy Lewis, the writer of the article, states that despite Kristofferson’s outstanding legacy in country-western music and rock and roll, mainstream radio programmers most likely would not give much airplay to “Feeling Mortal,” the implication being that listeners do not want to be reminded of their own mortality.

But what is likely true for radio listeners and society at large should not be true for those of us who follow Jesus Christ. We should not be afraid of where we are going.

And where are we going when we die? We’re going immediately into the presence of Jesus Christ, fully aware of our savior and ourselves.

The apostle Paul expresses it this way:

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.
–2 Corinthians 5:6-8 (New Living Translation, NLT)

Or, as the New King James Version (NKJV) translates verse 8:

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

And in his letter to the Philippian Church, Paul expresses his conflicting desires between living and dying:

For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. Yet, if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don’t know which is better. I am torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, but it is better for you that I live. – Philippians 1:21-24 (NLT)

Paul longs for death because it is the gateway into the glorious presence and eternal life of Christ himself.

Paul understands that life and death, the present and the future, are gifts from God to us who follow Jesus Christ. The gift of death is only the beginning of eternal life with God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Like Paul, we are also torn between this life and going home to be with the Lord. We want to live long, healthy, and happy lives, enjoying our families and loved ones, and accomplishing our goals and dreams. And although we know that death is inevitable, we are reluctant to leave loved ones behind, and we fear that someday no one will remember us.

While some of us are enjoying financial success, fulfilling careers, beautiful homes, and happy families, and are in no hurry to go home to be with the Lord, there are others of us who are struggling with pain, illnesses, financial hardships, and a host of problems that so suck the vitality out of living that death might indeed seem like a welcome gift that leads us into a new life free from sorrow and pain.

Jesus experienced both grief and joy at his own impending death. He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, telling his disciples, “my soul is crushed with grief to the point of death . . .” for he was about to take upon himself the sins of the entire human race (Matthew 26:38).

Yet Jesus ultimately faced his death joyfully, for he knew that his upcoming death was the doorway that would take him back to God and the glory they shared before all creation (John 17:5), so he submitted to God’s will (Matthew 26:42) and endured his crucifixion “because of the joy he knew would be his afterward” (Hebrews 12:2, NLT).

His death and resurrection make it possible for us to pass from death to life, from our temporary home on earth to our real and eternal home that our Father has prepared for us in heaven (John 14:2-3).

That is why we, who have committed our lives to following Christ, must evaluate our lives and live each day from the perspective of eternity. Wherever we are in life—whether we are young in age or young in our faith, whether we’re going through our mid-life journey or facing our senior years—we are called to live joyfully each day because we are not afraid of where we’re going!

Hear, then, the words and sentiment of another country and western singer, Tim McGraw, as he encourages us to “Live like you were dying.”

Read Full Post »

Having not been hit by a personal tragedy in my life so far, such as the tragic death of one of my children or grandchildren, I cannot say for sure how I would handle it. I would surely grieve deeply, for I love each of them, but would I find a way to deal with my grief and eventually move on with life in a healthy way?

Would I be like Eric Clapton, the award-winning musician?

On March 20, 1991, Eric’s four-year old son, Conor, opened the latch of the window of a family friend’s 53rd-floor apartment in New York and fell through the window to his death. Eric arrived at the scene shortly after the accident and was understandably distraught, so much so that he went into seclusion and mourning for several months.

One of the things that ultimately helped him to deal with the tragedy was that he was able to channel his pain and loss into his song writing, especially his song, “Tears in Heaven”:

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven.

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?

I’ll find my way, through night and day
Cause I know I just can’t stay
Here in heaven.

Time can bring you down,
Time can bend your knee,
Time can break your heart,
Have you begging please…
Begging please…

(instrumental)

Beyond the door
There’s peace I’m sure.
And I know there’ll be no more
Tears in heaven.

Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?

I must be strong, and carry on
Cause I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven…

Lord, I know I don’t belong
Here in heaven .

Although the song won several music awards in 1992 and 1993, Eric stopped singing it in 2004, saying, “I didn’t feel the loss anymore, which is so much a part of performing those songs. I really have to connect with the feelings that were there when I wrote them. They’re kind of gone and I really don’t want them to come back, particularly. My life is different now. They probably just need a rest and maybe I’ll introduce them for a much more detached point of view.”

If I didn’t handle my tragedy like Eric Clapton, would I be like Horatio G. Spafford?

Horatio was a Christian and a successful attorney in Chicago during the mid 1800s, but was hit by three calamities in close succession:

  • The Chicago Fire of 1871 wiped out his extensive real estate holdings and investments.
  • His young son died of scarlet fever.
  • His four daughters—Tanetta, Maggie, Annie, and Bessie—were killed in 1873 when the ship on which they were sailing to England with their mother was hit by another vessel in the Atlantic and sank quickly, taking the lives of 226 passengers and crew.

Horatio was supposed to be on the ship with them, but a last-minute crisis in his business delayed him and he sent his family ahead, with plans to join them soon after. When he heard the news, he took the next available ship to join his wife, who survived the sinking, in England.

On the voyage over to England, he spent most of his time on deck, staring at the waves and praying. When his ship passed the approximate area where his daughters lost their lives, Horatio was aware of God’s sustaining and comforting presence, and the words “When sorrows like sea billows roll…it is well with soul” imprinted themselves in his mind.

With those words guiding him, he then went on to pen six verses of a hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” with four of the following verses becoming well known, loved, and sung by churches for over the past 138 years:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain)
It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

(Refrain)

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

(Refrain)

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain)

As beautiful as “Tears in Heaven” is, it does not answer Eric’s soul-searching questions, and it reveals a father whose only recourse is to dig deep within himself and move ahead with the hope of someday finding peace through his own effort. Even then he is not even sure that he will make it to heaven to be united with his son!

Horatio, on the other hand, finds immediate peace and consolation in the midst of his tragedy, and attributes that peace and assurance to the love, grace, and redeeming sacrifice of Christ on his behalf.

It is my deepest desire that when the time comes for me to face my own tragedies, that my grief will be tempered by my faith, trust, and reliance on my Savior, Jesus Christ, who assures us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14: 27, RSV)

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: