Tag Archive | Death

TRIBUTE TO MY FATHER

Dear Readers,

On 7/17/2017, my father went to be with the Lord. That’s an awful lot of sevens, and that is interesting because the number 7 is often associated with perfection or completion in the Bible. What’s even more interesting is that his name, Kamal, in Arabic, means perfect.

I think he would get a kick out of that. 🙂

One of the things I remember the most about my father is how light-hearted he was and how easy it was to make him smile. Anytime I would come over, he’d grin from ear to ear like it was the first time he’d ever seen me.

As I grew older, I grew to appreciate his sweet disposition and sense of humor.  He was just one of those types of people that was a delight to be around…and he had a quick wit! One day we were at his Dr’s office for some tests. I asked him if he remembered the tech’s name. He did. He stated her name, and I said, “Baba, that’s right! You got it right!”  He smiled and said, “Of course, but I only remember the girls’ names!”

Yet this sweet, unassuming man also went through many difficulties – he moved his family to the U.S. with limited resources, cared for my mother through her illness, and persevered through his own failing health with a quiet strength. I’d often get so worried about him, only to discover that he would again surprise me with his energy and tenacity. I later came to understand that this perseverance came from a strong faith and trust in God. He lived a life that proved God’s love.

I remember once when I was going through a very difficult time in my life. He and I would take walks around the neighborhood every day after work, and I’d complain about my troubles. He’d look at me and say, “Margaret, if God will allow anything negative in your life,” – and he’d say this with emphasis – “it is for a very good reason.” He was right.

And when I had regrets, even the big ones, one of the most hopeful things he taught is that God can even use my mistakes to work together for my good and His glory.

I will always consider him a gift to us, one that I have often wondered how I could deserve.

One thing I am especially grateful and honored to have gotten from him is a love for word of God. My father was a prolific writer, and I think this interest was a strong and distinctive bond between us. I’d often joke with him about how I was most blessed of the three of his daughters to have seemed inherit this from him.

His legacy will live on in countless binders he has written, Bible Studies on every subject you can think of. He’s poured his heart into a study about the book of Galatians that’s been published in Arabic. I’m so grateful to continue his work and vow to publish it in English.

He was the spiritual leader of the family, teaching us of God’s love, even from an early age. I remember we would come home from church and he would always bring up the sermon and we’d discuss it over lunch. One day, reading from our children’s bible, he turned to each of us and told us that Jesus loved us enough to die on the cross for us. I remember that moment because it was the first time that I knew in my heart that someone had to, and I believed.

He lead me to the Lord, and without this, without the fact that he reflected Christ so much, without his demonstration of how life is to be lived, I would not be who I am today.

He was fascinated with Heaven, and often spoke of it with eager anticipation. I can’t imagine how much he is beaming from ear to ear right now, finally reunited with my mother and in the presence of God. It blows my mind that he has all of his questions answered now and is brought back into the arms of the God who created him.

Was my father perfect? If he was here today, he’d laugh and “Yes, of course, that’s my name!”  Yet although no one is perfect, Hebrews 1:14 tells us that because of Christ’s atonement for sin, one day we will all be made perfect:

For it says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”.

Just like my father is now perfected in Heaven.

THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST: THREE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS

Easter 2Pretend with me that we are a forensic investigators, and we’ve been given the call to respond to a just-happened crime scene. We drop everything and rush to the location. From there, what do we do? If you’ve ever watched crime drama TV shows or real-life documentaries, you know that one of the first things we would do is carefully examine the scene.  We would not just scan the area but carefully inspect how it was arranged. We’d consider the rules of time and space and science. From there, we would use our sense of logic to rule out different scenarios to reasonably, and many times without question come up with a conclusion of what happened. The evidence would speak for itself.

We are bound by this physical world we live in, so much so that there are many who believe that’s all there is. How then, do we explain one of the most hotly debated events of history, the resurrection of Christ?

I was reading about the resurrection the other day and I came upon the first investigation of exactly how His tomb appeared that morning. It is written by the disciple John, an eyewitness and one of the first sleuths on the scene, together with another one of Christ’s disciples, Peter.

John writes of himself, reporting in the third person:  “He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there, but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’s head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen”.  (John 20:5-7).

To understand the scene, we need to understand the mode of Jewish burial at the time. As was the custom, the deceased would be wrapped in linen bands and spices. A mixture of aloe, (a powdered wood like fine sawdust), and a gummy myrhh would be inserted between the folds of the linen to preserve the body.

Yet the body was missing. There were only three possibilities of how and why Jesus was no longer there:

1) The body was stolen,

2) Jesus got up on his own, resuscitated, having only swooned not really died), or

3) He rose from the dead.

First of all, it is significant that the burial cloth was there at all. If the body was stolen, the linen cloths that it was wrapped in would have been taken with the body. Not only were they still there, but they were undisturbed. The word that John uses for the word “lying” is “keimena”,* which refers to things that have been carefully placed in order.  John noticed that there had been no disturbance in the tomb. Criminals (or the disciples themselves, as unbelievers would speculate), would not have had any time, to take the body apart from the graveclothes, and certainly not to fold the cloth that had been around his head.

Did Jesus merely wake up from a very bad beating? In that case, he would still be in a physical body and would have left behind evidence of a physical body freeing itself from the strips of linen. If so, they would have been displaced. Even if we can imagine that he got up and put everything back as if to appear that he rose from the grave, the spices used to preserve the body would have scattered and stained the floor.

The disciples saw none of these things. Jesus had risen, and in a resurrected body.

The Bible tells us that we who trust and believe in Him will be as He is:

“Buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5-6)

Our tired bodies that hurt and die will no longer give us grief and pain. Having taken the punishment for our sin, He gave us His righteousness in exchange. Because of that first Easter morning, because Christ has paved the way, we can know that physical death is not the end, and we’ve been given a glimpse of our eternal hope.

He is risen, He is risen indeed.

*The Gospel of John: Volume 5- Triumph through Tragedy, John 18-21, James Montgomery Boice, P. 1567

MUSINGS AT EASTER

EasterDear Friends,

A few thoughts crossed my mind this morning that I’d like to share concerning this Easter season and whatever you may believe about God and who He is. As I reflected upon the questions and doubts we often have about His character and even His existence, it occurred to me that for whoever we call “god” to be the one true God, He would have to conquer death, and He would have to demonstrate the greatest act of love. I concluded that both of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Now this is by no means a comprehensive list of the attributes of God, but they struck me to be compelling, even in their simplicity:

 1)      Conquering Death – There is one seeming mystery that none of us human beings have ever been able to overcome. None of us have ever come back from the dead. Despite our advancements in technology or science, we can’t stop that darn aging process and never once have we seen a loved one return from the grave.

Isn’t it logical that if there is a God (for anyone who may wonder), wouldn’t He be able to conquer the biggest hurdle of man’s existence? Wouldn’t He, being the Creator, be able to both create life and rise from the dead? Shouldn’t He be able to show that death is nothing over Him, to answer the greatest uncertainty of all? Not that I would presume to tell God what to do, but if God is God, I would expect Him to, or He isn’t God.

 And that is exactly what He did.

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” Luke 24:1-6

If there is any other God but Jesus Christ, wouldn’t they have demonstrated his/her own resurrection?

2)      Demonstrating Love – If God is a God of goodness and love, wouldn’t He have the capacity to demonstrate the greatest act of love? If we as human beings know how to love, how much more is the One who created that love able to go far beyond any “goodness” we can muster? That act of love was dying on the cross to take the punishment for our sin. Because He was the Son of God taking on the form of man, His sacrifice was enough to take on all of our punishment and satisfy justice. What greater love could there be than an Omnipotent, pre-existing Being would humble Himself to not only become one of us, but to die for us? His staying on that cross doesn’t call into question his claim to be the Messiah, it confirms it.

 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:8)

And that is what Easter is all about. He took our place of punishment, forgiving in Godlike proportion. Because of the resurrection, we have the promise and the proof that we, too, will transcend death, that we have no reason to despair, fear and grieve like those who have no hope.

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6:5-6)

May His presence and love be evident to you this Easter, and may the reality of His death and resurrection become your foundation of saving faith.

 

THOUGHTS ON MY MOTHER’S PASSING (ONE YEAR LATER)

A year ago today my mom went to be with the Lord.

And today, He has especially given me His assurance of victory and peace…

Of my mother’s comfort and joy,

Of newness and hope,

Of victory over all, when it’s all said and done.

Though there were days I wondered if we’d ever survive, we stood today at her gravesite, and I marveled that we not only made it through, but I knew that He had carried us through.

Today was one of those days that you think God may have turned up the colors on the Earth. Especially bright, sunny, with a just-perfect, soothing breeze. When we played the Hallelujah chorus by Handel, (a piece she loved), I couldn’t help but think that it was a small peek at the beauty she is seeing and hearing in heaven.

A year ago, I heard another wonderful song, “Grace Falls Down” by Christy Nockels. It kept running through my head when God comforted my mother after an especially hard day. It kinda became a theme of God’s goodness and care for her in my head:

 

As I was leaving the gravesite and got into my car today, I turned on the radio. Guess what was playing?

Amazing Grace

How sweet the sound

Amazing Love

Now flowing down

From hands and feet

That were nailed to a tree

As Grace flows down and covers me

 

What a reminder that He has covered my mom with grace, in her life, and now in a greater way I can’t imagine in heaven. As I walked the park later today, I noticed the same brightness, and His creation seemed to speak one word: Peace.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

Yes, life is hard. Sometimes it is a horrible nightmare. We will suffer. We will be in anguish. There will be days when we may doubt His presence. ..but He can and will snuff that away. He whispers his comfort and a heavenly “told you so” when we look back on His faithfulness. And having shown this, we see a small way that He will ultimately provide the final victory. Besides, He said He would:

“And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” 5And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end…”(Rev. 21:4-6) 

Christ has the last word in all of this. Just wait and see.

 

See the original post: “Thoughts on my mother’s passing at Easter

A JOURNAL ENTRY WRITTEN EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO TODAY

Dear Friends,

I don’t normally write posts like this, but this one just fell in my lap. I have to share it.

I was looking  through my journal from last year, and my eyes fell upon an entry.

Then I noticed that it was written exactly one year ago today.

January 7, 2013

I’m seeing something in Mom as I observe her these days.

I see peace.

She’s much more mellow; more calm.  I see it when she says that this is the suffering God wants for her.

I saw it the other day when she made reference to only being here for a little while…

“Right?” she asked.

“Yes, Mom”, I said, much to my shock and surprise.

My instinct was to say “Don’t say that, Mom! You’ll be here for a long time!”.

But I didn’t, because I know…I knew on some level…she is leaving us.

She is starting the first leg of her journey and we are seeing her fade…

*****

It’s been a whole year since that entry, but I look back and I see how God carried us in those days, and I see His grace with us still. Most of all, I look forward to the joy ahead.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

KEEPIN’ IT REAL: MY THOUGHTS ON LIFE AND DEATH

Clouds

I’ve learned a few things in the last several months. No matter how prepared you think you are, the death of a loved one will still take you by surprise. It’s nothing less than surreal to know that the only thing that separates him/her from eternity is that one last breath.  When the chest heaves for the final time, you can’t snatch the air and give it back to them …and although you are close enough to hold their hand, they will cross the greatest gulf – over which they will never leap again.

And so we are rendered speechless, both in an odd mix of denial and wonder.

That’s when I realized how distracted I am in my little world. The passing of a loved one took me out of the mire of the mundane, even if just for moment, to see the greater realities of life. The impressions I got seemed to overflow as I jotted each down and now  want to share with you. Some of these realities include:

The reality of faith – To see a loved one go is to understand that what we believe in this world bears weight in the next. We can’t just sashay through life, simply wearing our faith as a badge. Christian or not, we all have to content with the fact that Jesus Christ claimed to be God. This Man fulfilled over 300 prophesies and defied death with evidence that can’t be ignored.  He also happened to claim that no one would go to God the Father except through Him. (John 14:6). Pretty powerful words – so whether we believe it or not, we all have to answer the question: “What will you do with Jesus Christ?” Do you believe He is the Son of God? To be neutral is to reject Him. Given His strong words, I’d say that the reality of faith is immensely important…and not just faith itself, but what and who we believe in. The consequence is too great. Faith matters because eternity matters.

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27)

The reality of heaven – I remember a sermon I heard about heaven a few years ago. It left me so amazed in its description of the glory of God’s eternity that I walked out of church literally feeling like we are living on a tiny crumb liable to blow away. It peeled back my blinded eyes just long enough to see how small we are, long enough to see how our existence is a blip on the radar of this universe.  Now, to add to that the knowledge that my mother is there, and that she knows heaven not just intellectually, but experientially is mind-boggling. It became more personal. It’s peaked my interest even more, and now I want to know all I can about this glorious, very real place. I recommend reading the book of Revelation, which describes heaven with as much detail as God would have us know. I also recently picked up John MacArthur’s “The Glory of Heaven”, a book which is as comprehensive and descriptive on the subject as I’ve ever seen.

“However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The reality of the gift of life– If you are or have been a caregiver, you know that it leaves little time for much else. I saw it as privilege, but I ran on adrenaline, bracing myself for the long haul. Down-time felt like spun gold. Since my mother’s recent home-going, I have a sudden increase of time. I want to see this time for the value that it is. I’m thinking of starting a ministry of some sort, perhaps to meet different needs around me and to write more. I don’t know what the future holds, but I am excited to pursue what God would have me pursue.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

The reality of death itself – Death distresses us, not just for the separation it brings, but because it is the sum of the effects of sin. When it arrives, it presses down upon each one of us as the very evident weight of our depravity. As I witnessed my mother fade away, I realized the failure of our own flesh. These bodies of ours, however resilient, however life-supporting, however glamorized or useful, is not really who we are at all. It is merely the wrapping that houses the soul. Without the soul, the body is literally just a shell. It will fail us. It will stiffen and grow cold. No wonder Paul described this packaging as “jars of clay.”…

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7)

The joy is that we know that we don’t have to have hope in anything corruptible, but we know that the corruptible is cast away. We can look forward to leaving these old shells behind when God Himself gives us a new and glorious body. We look forward to the day when all the suffering, all the pain and struggle will be over, to His great name and glory.

What is it about struggles that allow for greater awareness and spiritual perception? Have you ever noticed that you have heard more from the Holy Spirit when you are in a meditative mindset?

THOUGHTS ON MY MOTHER’S PASSING AT EASTER

Picture of Mom (2)

It isn’t Easter anymore, so I’m sure this doesn’t make the most “on time” post entry, but it is one that I simply have to share.  I spent last week making service arrangements for my mother, who passed from this world just in time to meet the Lord on Resurrection Sunday. She was in the same home she lived in for the past 20+ years when she took her last breath, surrounded by her family. I remember at the time that my dad asked if we would like to sing. So we began to sing…and somewhere in the middle of our rendition of “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, she slipped away from this world and into the arms of Jesus.

My mother was a woman who lived a life of sacrificial love, wanting nothing more than to honor God and see her family happy and healthy. She had a humility that always acknowledged God’s will and loved the old hymns of the faith. I think I will always remember her anytime I hear the Halleujah chorus from Handel’s “Messiah”. (My dad made a scratchy recording of it on, yes – a cassette tape that she played literally dozens of times. 🙂 ) She was God’s constant blessing in my life growing up, not to mention the many years she stood by me through illnesses, apartment moves, and getting ready for any big occasion. She taught me how to be kind, how to be hospitable and to always finish any job I start. I didn’t inherit her artistic talent, but people tell me I’m a spittin’ image of her, and that is good. She was always ready with a meal, lived to care for my dad, and was never happier than when we were all together at the dinner table.  She had a simple yet strong faith that loved and held on to God.

I can’t begin to imagine what she sees and knows right now. I do know one thing, though. She is praising God more than the greatest enthrallment in praise we have ever had on Earth…and she sees Christ face to face. She is laughing, greeting her siblings that have gone before, and will never shed a tear in pain again.

The timing could not have been more bittersweet or surreal, because it was on the first “Easter” that Christ took that same journey into the grave and eternity many years ago. He too, died and was buried. But there is a big difference – He is deity and physically rose from the grave.

“But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said…” (Matthew 28:5-6).

No one but deity could have risen from the dead, and no one but deity could have lived a sinless life. Jesus did both. Not only that, but He laid down that life as a perfect sacrifice, so that anyone who trusts in Him can also approach God with no fear of condemnation.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:9-10)

It is because of Christ’s resurrection that we could look at my mother, who was a believer, and know that Jesus paved her way to eternal life. Because He rose from the grave, she too has risen spiritually into eternal life.

Check out Romans 6:5-6:

“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

As we saw her slip away, the meaning of Easter was no longer a reality in an I-believe-and-profess kind of way, but now became a  true-to-life-played-out-before-our-eyes reality.  This is where the rubber meets the road, friends. We couldn’t sing “Morning by morning new mercies I see” without remembering the greatest mercy of His rising that first morning. We are saddened, but not without comfort. While we grieve, we are not in despair. What better way to understand the significance of Easter – the resurrection of Christ, than when we need the grace of His resurrection the most?

Let’s not forget the lyrics of the rest of that song:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

This is the meaning of Easter, folks. So I’ll go ahead and say it…let’s not dilute this holy event with the silliness of Easter eggs and a bunny!

The fact that a holy God would choose to show Himself merciful to save you and I is an unfathomable mystery. Even the angels can’t understand it. (1 Peter 1:12). For that I believe that there is continual praise in heaven, a holiday every day, so to speak. (Rev. 4:8)

So while we formally celebrated Easter a couple of weeks ago, I believe this is cause for continual praise on earth as well…so maybe this message isn’t so “not on time” after all.

I’ll leave you with His own words as the parting question: “… I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)