Death

From the Archives: Musings from a Country Cemetery

Reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.

A forgotten country cemetery sits atop a windswept hill not far down the gravel road from where my parents used to live. While living at home, my attention was always drawn in the opposite direction of that cemetery.

In the other direction was “town.” School, friends, athletic events, parades, concerts, restaurants, church—everything exciting was in that direction. But as the years passed and occasion afforded a brief visit home, my interests were strangely drawn toward that quiet graveyard. On occasion I would walk there and stroll among the tombstones.

Bordered by a shallow creek and cow pasture, nestled among a few gnarly trees, this little cemetery is one lonely place. I never saw another person there. There is no marquee, driveway or parking lot. No flowers, shrubs, benches, sidewalks or manicured lawn. Nor are there any impressive monuments—just simple, weathered tombstones rising in obscurity from the prairie grass. Some of the stones, as if too weary to stand any longer in their struggle against time, have been toppled over and rest on top of the graves they mark.

1576 reads

Dealing With Loss: A Hero Named Larry

I have always appreciated the old hymn “It is Well With My Soul.” The melody is hauntingly beautiful. The words are especially touching, as they were written while Spafford was crossing the Atlantic when he was near the place where his four daughters died after the vessel in which they were traveling was involved in a collision at sea.

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.

I can barely sing these words without tears welling up. Imagine the faith Spafford must have had to pen these words—especially in that place and at that time. Imagine how he must have suffered and agonized on his journey to being able to speak like that. He must have known God’s word well, to be able to lean on God’s promises like he seemed to do.

2329 reads

The Groaning Tent and the Exodus

A man went to a psychiatrist with a problem.

“Doc,” he explained, “I keep being plagued by two recurring dreams. One is a dream that I am a wigwam. In my other dream, I dream I am a teepee. Doc, you gotta help me. Am I going crazy? Is there something wrong with me?”

“Relax,” consoled the psychiatrist. “There is nothing wrong with you. You’re just two tents.”

The subject of tents was something Paul the Apostle took seriously. He was a skilled tentmaker by trade. Because tents were not far from Paul’s mind, he was in familiar territory when he compared life’s temporary nature to tent dwelling.

1068 reads

From the Archive: Singin' About Dyin'

Originally posted 10/3/12.

When my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer a few years ago, quite a few changes occurred in my perspective on life and death. The brevity and fragility of life were no longer abstractions. I truly felt them. One result of this new awareness was that I began to notice all the hymns and songs with stanzas about dying.

I recall selecting some songs for Sunday school one day. As I glanced down the list of songs in our database—those we hadn’t sung in a long time, I came to a title I’d passed over many, many times. This time it gripped my attention. A song that had seemed frivolous and silly to me before now moved me deeply as words and music played involuntarily through my mind.

Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away
To a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.

The congregation sang it in Sunday school. It’s providential that I was at the piano because I don’t think I could have sung it. Though it had never been more than a light, peppy trifle to me before, it was now too strong to sing.

For a while, quite a few songs were hitting me like that.

1586 reads

Too Excited for Home to Sit Still

There are three basic perspectives regarding life after death. Some believe such notions are pure fantasy. There is no such future—no continuation of consciousness after death. We live out our days in this world, then it’s lights out. Forever.

A second perspective is held by those uncertain about life beyond the grave. Such people are generally a hopeful lot. While never brimming with confidence, they suspect there is life after death and knock on wood that the experience will be a happy one. It’s all a mysterious prospect.

A third perspective is held by those who live with confident expectation of life beyond the grave. A degree of mystery is acknowledged; but they remain convinced death is a portal leading to continuing consciousness on the other side.

People in either of the first two categories share a life orientation that focuses primarily on the rewards of this life. Some from the first category are bold enough to insist that those who die with the most toys win. Grasp all you can get now. Eat, drink, and be merry. There is no future existence and thus no reckoning or eternal reward. Others in this first category labor less selfishly, desiring to leave the world a better place than they found it. Nonetheless, the focus is on this life. There is no other for which to live.

326 reads

Pages