Learning the New Dance Steps

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp” (Anne Lamott).

Man, is that ever true. I’ve known a lot of people lately who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, grieving the passing of a loved one.

No matter how young or old, how healthy or sick, however near or far they are, you’re never quite ready to say that final earthly goodbye. In the end, you’re always greedy for a little more time.

But you know that in Christ that death is not forever and the grave is not final. Hope has the final say. Jesus will have the final word. Just as He called 4-day old smelly Lazarus, wrapped up like a mummy from head to toe, from the tomb, so will He one day speak the name of that loved one to rise forevermore from the grave. One day, He will call you by your own name.

That won’t be the end. That will be the real and true beginning.


A Beautiful Picture of Death

I’ve always loved the story about the doctor and the patient who was asking about death. Not that I obsess over death, but I was reminded again of this little story that sums up faith so very neatly. Maybe it will speak to you in your grieving.

“A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to
Leave the examination room and said,
‘Doctor, I am afraid to die.
Tell me what lies on the other side.’
Very quietly, the doctor said, ‘I don’t know..’
‘You don’t know? You’re, a God fearing person,
and don’t know what’s on the other side?’
The doctor was holding the handle of the door;
On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining,
And as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room
And leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.
Turning to the patient, the doctor said,
‘Did you notice my dog?
He’s never been in this room before.
He didn’t know what was inside.
He knew nothing except that his master was here,
And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.
I know little of what is on the other side of death,
But I do know one thing…
I know my Master is there and that is enough’”

Heaven won’t be wonderful because of golden harps or white robes or streets of gold.

Heaven won’t be so desirable for mansions or biblical heroes or anything like that.

The best part of Heaven, the part I long for someday, is that Jesus, God made flesh, will be there.

And that will be enough.

Thoughts on Grief

“I don’t believe grief passes away. It has its time and place forever. More time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story” (W. Berry).

Don’t worry. No one I know has died lately.

I was just missing my old cat Lucy a bit today after seeing an old video of her and ran across this memory on Facebook.

How true it is.

Grief never passes away. You never completely get over the sadness.

I heard that grief and loss is somewhat like losing an arm or a leg. You don’t go back to the way you were before, but you can learn to live with a new normal.

Even though I haven’t been touched by grief lately, I know several who have. I also know that this life is fleeting, so grief is inevitable for any of us who haven’t completely closed off their hearts to love.

I also know that we serve a God who in Jesus is completely acquainted with grief. Isaiah called Him a Man of sorrows.

This same Jesus also took the sting out of grief and death when He burst out of the tomb on that Easter Sunday morning. Now those of us who belong to Jesus don’t have to grieve as those who have no hope. We have hope.

I still don’t know how it works with animals. I’d like to think there’s that rainbow bridge and I’ll see Lucy again one day. I do know that all the best parts of what we had will live on in my memory and what awaits in heaven will be far better than anything I could ever possibly imagine.

In the meantime, grief and loss are a part of life. Right now, I wish they were not. One day, I know for certain that they won’t be.


Grieving a Pet

“I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast. I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. We love everything in one way too much (i.e., at the expense of our love for Him), but in another way we love everything too little.

No person, animal, flower, or even pebble has ever been loved too much—i.e., more than every one of God’s works deserves” (C. S. Lewis, The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III).

I’m seeing a lot of people grieving over having to say a final goodbye to their beloved pets. Maybe it’s because I went through the same experience on June 21 when my Lucy crossed the rainbow bridge and took that piece of my heart with her.

Part of me still feels a little stupid for grieving over a cat when people have lost parents, siblings, and children. I don’t pretend to say that my losing a cat is anywhere close to the same as a parent having to bury a child. Still, a loss is a loss.

My heart goes out to all those who come home to silence. My prayers are with all of those who are missing the quiet presence of a pet who always seemed to be there when needed.

My own heart still hurts a little when I see videos of Lucy. I still wish that I could reach through the screen and grab her and pull her back to me, but I know that’s not really her. It’s only an image on a flat screen.

I do know that the present world is broken and that nothing works quite like it should. People die. Pets die. So much sadness and pain seem to be everywhere.

I also know that we who suffer loss and pain can better comfort others who go through the same. No one knows grief better than the grieving.

I further know that one day God will restore all creation to what it was originally designed to be. The last book of the Bible says He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more sorrow or pain or sickness or death or grief.

Until then, my prayers and thoughts are with you.

Dancing with a Limp

“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp” (Anne Lamott).

I still miss my ol’ cat Lucy. It still feels wrong that she’s not here anymore and that she’ll never jump in my lap and settle down for a nightly nap. I think I’ll always miss her and my heart will always ache a little when I think of her or see pictures of her.

Some of you are going through much worse. Some have lost friends, parents, spouses, and even children. I saw where the mayor of Nashville lost her only son and child last night from an apparent overdose. I can’t imagine the grief she’s enduring right now. Regardless of your politics, no one should ever have to bury a child. No one.

I know it’s part of life. I know that since the fall introduced death into the world, we’re all destined to say goodbye to those we love, whether two-legged or four-legged. The pain will seem unendurable at times and you’ll wonder how you can ever survive without them.

The good news is that God knows all about grief. The cross is about God sending His one and only Son to die for us that we might live. God can comfort those who grieve and they can in turn be a comfort to others who suffer loss.

In the end, God does really work all things together for good. Even death. You carry all the memories with you in your heart, and one day in Christ you will see your loved one again.


Life Lessons from a Dying Baby Bird

Earlier while I was mowing the lawn, I almost ran over a baby bird in the yard. It was so tiny and scrawny that I almost mistook the little guy for a leaf or debris. I looked around for a bird nest he might have fallen out of, but couldn’t find anything.

I cupped him in my hands and took him to the side of the house where I wouldn’t have to worry about accidental “bird”-slaughter with the lawnmower.

It was obvious from the first moment I saw it that the bird was most likely not destined to live much longer. It didn’t have very many feathers and couldn’t fly.

I felt awful watching him open his little mouth looking for food. I wish I could have done more, even though I know there was precious little I could have done to save this baby bird.

That made me think. Sometimes there are people in our lives that we desperately want to help. You may have tried numerous times but in each case, either the help is not wanted or not received.

Sometimes, all you can do for someone is to love them. You can no more save them than I could that baby bird. But maybe in loving someone like that you can save yourself.

There is so much fleeting beauty in this life that passes like a vapor. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it and afterwards, you are never the same. I think it was another God-wink moment.

I suppose I’ll give the little guy a proper burial out of respect when he finally passes. It seems like the very least I could do. Maybe there’s a bird heaven where he’ll finally find his wings and his family.

I know that this isn’t how it was supposed to be in the beginning and I also know one day when all creation is restored, all things will be put right again.

PS When I woke, the little bird has passed away. I gave him as fitting a funeral as I could manage at 6 am before my morning commute. I like to think my life is just a bit richer for knowing this little guy.

Good Friday 2017

“But thank God the crucifixion was not the last act in that great and powerful drama,” King preached. “There is another act. And it is something that we sing out and cry and ring out today. Thank God a day came when Good Friday had to pass” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone but in every leaf of springtime” (Martin Luther).

Why is today called Good Friday? What’s so great about Jesus being tortured to death for a crime He didn’t commit? Why does it still matter nearly 2,000 years later?

It seems weird to call the day of Jesus’ crucifixion Good Friday, but when you look at it with Easter Sunday in mind, it makes a lot more sense.

If all you had was Good Friday with no resurrection, then it’s a very Tragic Friday. We should all stay home on Sunday and live however we want. Get stoned, get drunk, get laid, do whatever because none of it matters if Jesus is still in that tomb.

But God raised Jesus from the dead. He walked out of the tomb two days later and everything changed. Absolutely everything. That’s what makes it good.

So much of what happens in our lives will only make sense in reverse. When God promises to work all things together for our good, we often can only see that good not looking ahead or in the midst of it, but looking back on it. We see then how God orchestrated every moment perfectly to lead us where we are now, the best possible outcome.


An Attitude of Gratitude

I found out that a friend of the family is currently walking through his own valley of the shadow of death in dealing with incurable cancer. To hear the word “cancer” coming out of the mouth of a doctor is scary enough, but to hear it preceded by “terminal” has to be frightening to an almost paralyzing degree.

Yet this friend of mine has faced this diagnosis with dignity and peace and an unswerving faith in the God who is still in the miracle business. While the odds seem insurmountable, I’m reminded yet again that what seems impossible to us isn’t even remotely difficult for God. Just ask any of the blind or lame men that Jesus healed. Or the lepers. Or Lazarus.

My friend said that it all starts with an attitude of gratitude. I truly believe that. A positive mental outlook is half the battle when dealing with a grim medical diagnosis.

Yet it’s more than that. This attitude of gratitude comes from the same place that allowed the Apostle Paul to pen the words that to live is Christ and to die is gain. It’s literally a win-win with Jesus.

Either my friend gets healed here and becomes a witness of God’s healing power or he is resurrected and finds ultimate healing and stands in front of Jesus to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

When you think about it, we’re all terminal. After sin entered the world, death followed close behind and that proverbial hourglass started on each one of us. Unless Jesus comes back soon, all of you reading this will come to the place where you breathe your last.

Thanks to Jesus death will not have the final word. The grave is only temporary. The resurrection truly does mean that the worst thing is never the last thing and Jesus will have the final word in your story.

I’m praying for my friend for healing here and now knowing that no matter what happens, God is always good and we are always loved and that grace still wins in the end.


Resurrecting Hope

“Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present” (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope).

That was the topic of today’s sermon at The Church at Avenue South– that after being crucified and buried, Jesus actually and physically rose from the grave.

The Apostle Paul says that if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then our faith is useless and futile and we are all still dead in our sins.

If there is no resurrection, then Jesus’ death was meaningless and He wasn’t who He claimed to be, but just another in a long line of those so-called “Messiahs” whose words were forgotten and whose followers immediately abandoned them after death to look for the newest “Messiah.”

But Jesus stepped out of the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, forever proving that He is the ultimate God-Man, Savior of the world, the true Messiah.

Our hope is in more than a great teacher who gave us some great ideals to live by before he died. It’s in more than Jesus being “resurrected” by keeping His memory alive in the hearts of His disciples.

Our hope is in the Jesus who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf and died on the cross, then bodily rose from the grave and appeared to the apostles as well as over 500 other witnesses.

Because Jesus lives, our hope is alive. Because He lives, we live and can face any tomorrow that comes. Because He lives, we know that there is nothing that comes up against us– illness, death, or the grave– that can separate us from the love He has for us.

“We could cope—the world could cope—with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his disciples’ minds and hearts. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God’s new creation right in the middle of the old one” (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope).



I have friends that are dealing with health issues. I have friends who are walking through that dark valley of the shadow of death in grieving over a loved one. So many are struggling through finances, stress, anxiety, and depression.

Sometimes, life can seem overwhelming. It’s hard to look five years down the road when it’s all you can do to breathe in and breathe out and make it through the next five minutes.

The good news is that you can say with confidence, no matter what, “Whatever my problems and no matter how big and insurmountable they seem, my God is bigger. My God is able.”

Struggles are temporary. Even the worst of days only last 24 hours. God is eternal. His promises are true through all seasons and through every passing emotion.

Sitting in the doctor’s office facing the worst possible scenario is scary, but God’s perfect love still casts out all fear. The God who brought you this far in your journey will be faithful to get you through even the darkest and most terrifying circumstances.

Even in those moments, there is nothing that God can’t redeem and turn into something good and glorious. Not even death, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. It’s a win-win.

The Apostle Paul walked through every kind of trial and suffering both from within and without, yet was able to pen some of the most hopeful words ever written not because of a great big faith in God but because of faith in a great big God:

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:38-39, The Message).