Yesterday I got one of my best birthday gifts ever – certainly one of the most unique. I hadn’t heard from the publisher of my book for two weeks – it was just kind of in limbo, then yesterday I got the final edit and was able to approve it for print. So, hopefully this time it will come out perfect and will be available to the public – where it can again hopefully begin to help people struggling with end of life – possibly as soon as the end of the week, electronically, then next week in book form. Yeah! Praise God.
The apostle Paul is known for being long-winded, both in his preaching (Acts 20:7-12) and in his writing (with what we would consider long, run-on sentences, for example Romans 1;17-20). But Paul summarizes for us his view of death (and the theme of my book) in four words, four words that are often overlooked in preaching and study. In one of the most famous of Paul’s declarations, he says in Philippians 1:21: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” We often hear sermons about the first four words, “to live is Christ,” and rightfully so, because it is about how we live our Christian lives here and now. But the last four words, “to die is gain,” are often then overlooked, but they contain a powerful truth for the Christian facing death or who has a loved one facing death. For Paul, DEATH = GAIN. Not loss, although there is loss, and not grief, though there is grief. No, according to these four short words of Paul, for the Christian the most important truth we know about death is that death = gain. And so the purpose of my book follows closely this truth, that the more we know about just how much we or our loved one gains through death the more we can focus on that and hopefully the less we focus on what we lose temporarily. For what we gain through death is far greater than what we lose in this world. Yes, it’s hard to imagine a joy or love greater than that of our earthly families, but in heaven we gain so much there is no need for family to bring us joy. We have the infinite love of God shining on us constantly, plus the intimacy of our heavenly family. So as we or a loved one faces death, let’s keep this truth of Paul’s front and center: Death = Gain!
Sep 15, 2016
My goal in this book is similar to what Dorothy’s dog Toto in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” did when he pulled back the curtain on the Wizard, near the end of the movie. Before he did so the main characters were scared and anxious, mainly because of the unknown nature of the Wizard. But once Toto pulled back the curtain and the characters could see what was happening behind it, they were no longer afraid. That’s what I’m trying to do in this little book. To pull back, at least a little bit, the curtain on the mystery of death and the beyond so we can face our own or a loved one’s death with less fear and anxiety.
As of today, the publisher has my (hopefully) final edit and will be sending me a final copy of the updated book for a final read before they publish. So it should be out in digitial form – for the Kindle and IPad – by the end of this week or sometime next week. Yeah. Can’t wait.
OK, I promised one more illustration that has affected me deeply in my thinking about death, dying and heaven. So, here it is, courtesy of Katheryn Marshall, author and wife of Peter Marshall, former chaplain for the US Senate:
In a home of which I know, a little boy—the only son—was ill with an incurable disease. Month after month the mother had tenderly nursed him, read to him, and played with him, hoping to keep him from realizing the dreadful finality of the doctor’s diagnosis. But as the weeks went on and he grew no better, the little fellow gradually began to understand that he would never be like the other boys he saw playing outside his window and, small as he was, he began to understand the meaning of the term death, and he, too, knew that he was to die.
One day his mother had been reading to him the stirring tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table: of Lancelot and Guinevere and Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat, and of that last glorious battle in which so many fair knights met their death.
As she closed the book, the boy sat silent for an instant as though deeply stirred with the trumpet call of the old English tale, and then asked the question that had been weighing on his childish heart: “Mother, what is it like to die? Mother, does it hurt?” Quick tears sprang to her eyes and she fled to the kitchen supposedly to tend to something on the stove. She knew it was a question with deep significance. She knew it must be answered satisfactorily. So she leaned for an instant against the kitchen cabinet, her knuckles pressed white against the smooth surface, and breathed a hurried prayer that the Lord would keep her from breaking down before the boy and would tell her how to answer him.
And the Lord did tell her. Immediately she knew how to explain it to him.
“Kenneth,” she said as she returned to the next room, “you remember when you were a tiny boy how you used to play so hard all day that when night came you would be too tired even to undress, and you would tumble into mother’s bed and fall asleep? That was not your bed…it was not where you belonged. And you stayed there only a little while. In the morning, much to your surprise, you would wake up and find yourself in your own bed in your own room. You were there because someone had loved you and taken care of you. Your father had come—with big strong arms—and carried you away. Kenneth, death is just like that. We just wake up some morning to find ourselves in the other room—our own room where we belong—because the Lord Jesus loved us.”
The lad’s shining, trusting face looking up into hers told her that the point had gone home and that there would be no more fear … only love and trust in his little heart as he went to meet the Father in Heaven.
OK, so here’s the second illustration I found AFTER the book had gone to the printers that I wish I could’ve included, and will include in a second printing if there is one. This comes from one of my favorite authors, the Catholic priest, mystic, and prolific author Henri J. M. Nouwen, from his book “Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring” In it he shares the story of his association with a troupe of German trapeze artists. He writes:
“The next day, I returned to the circus to see them again and introduce myself to them as one of their great fans. They invited me to attend their practice sessions, and suggested I travel with them for a week in the near future. I did, and we became good friends.”
“One day, I was sitting with Rodliegh, the leader of the troupe, in his caravan, talking about flying. He said, ‘As a flyer, I must have complete trust in my catcher. The public might think that I am the great star of the trapeze, the real star is Joe, my catcher. He has to be there for me with split-second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump….The secret….is that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catchbar.'”
“You do nothing!” I said, surprised.
“Nothing,” Rodliegh repeated. ‘The worst thing the flyer can do is to try and catch the catcher. I am not supposed to catch Joe. It’s Joe’s task to catch me. If I grabbed Joe’s wrists, I might break them, or he might break mine, and that would be the end for both of us. A flyer must fly,and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.'”
“When Rodliegh said this with so much conviction, the words of Jesus flashed through my mind: “Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit. Dying is trusting in the catcher. To care for the dying is to say, ‘Don’t be afraid. Remember that you are the beloved child of God. He will be there when you make your long jump. Don’t try to grab him, He will grab you. Jut stretch out your arms and hands and trust, trust, trust.'”
What a beatiful picture of dying. The believer’s job is to trust, God’s part is to catch, and guess what – GOD NEVER MISSES!
I have one more such illustration and will publish it when I find it.