Death

Unclaimed

by Andy Wood on December 2, 2016

in Esteem, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, Principle of Legacy, Waiting

This photo from December 2013 - People scatter rose pedals during an interfaith graveside memorial service.in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

This photo from December 2013 – People scatter rose pedals during an interfaith graveside memorial service.in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Suppose you were hosting an event for a crowd north of 1,400 people.  Where would you have it?

That’s a pretty serious venue.  Unless your name is something like Biltmore, you can probably scratch the back yard or dining room off the list.  But hey, your local hotel ballroom may fit the bill. Depending on the nature of the event, a few church houses or large theaters or auditoriums would work.

When was the last time you were part of a crowd that big? I was there a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve got to tell you, it was noticeable. Parking was a bit of a challenge. The venue was a little crowded. The energy was palpable. Lots of noise and excitement.

And no, I’m not referring to a Black Friday sale at Walmart.

But I want to tell you about a different kind of assembly. One where 1,430 people came together and hardly anyone noticed.  Parking wasn’t a problem.  Noise wasn’t an issue.  In fact, all was deathly(!) quiet, at a venue that was shockingly small.

The location: a mass grave. [click to continue…]

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(Unlike the previous story, this one actually happened)

Day 0

Lazarus TombMorning seems to come more quickly in Bethany. This village, whose name means “House of Affliction,” sits on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives.  Seems fitting, I suppose.  One of three designated healing centers in Israel, Bethany is certainly no place for slumber.  Even one of the town’s leaders, Simon, has earned the nickname “the Leper” for obvious reasons.

This place gets up early for healthcare.

In one particular house, the residents have yet to sleep. There a man named Lazarus lies very ill, and nothing seems to help.  His sisters Martha and Mary care for him around the clock. Martha has spent the night on her feet; Mary has spent the night on her knees.  Nothing has helped.

If only Jesus were here.  That’s the conclusion both sisters – usually so different in perspective – agree upon.  They know Jesus loves them uniquely; their home has been His refuge. Jesus faithfully and completely heals perfect strangers. Lazarus He loves!  This is a no-brainer, if they can just get word to Him in time. [click to continue…]

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RickI didn’t know it would be the last time.

But then again, we both had lived long enough to know there are no guarantees when it comes to this sort of thing.

It was in Orlando, coming up on three years ago.  Rick said he’d drive me back to the airport. We had been together during the Southern Baptist Convention. (It would be less-than-honest if I said we had been there FOR the Southern Baptist Convention).  But we used the meeting there as an opportunity for a reunion of the Wolfepack. Rick was always the undisputed leader of that gang.

During a difficult time in my life, they had made sure to include me in the meeting. And it was as though we had never missed a beat. That’s the nature of the truest of friends.

Rick dropped me off at the airport to fly home. Just after walking into the terminal, I realized to my horror that I had left my phone in his car.  I found a way to call it, and of course, he turned around and brought it back to me.

Doctored.

He took that picture of himself on it (above), and made it the wallpaper.

That was Rick.

And I kept it as my wallpaper for about a month after my wife started asking, “How long are you going to keep that?” [click to continue…]

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I believe that it is not dying that people are afraid of.  Something else, something more unsettling and more tragic than dying frightens us.  We are afraid of never having lived, of coming to the end of our days with the sense that we were never really alive, that we never figured out what life was for. – Harold Kushner

The great Presbyterian pastor Donald Grey Barnhouse was once riding in a funeral procession in Philadelphia when he noticed a large cargo truck running in front of the procession.  From the way the sun was positioned, he noticed that the truck was casting a large shadow on the sidewalk.  That shadow crossed light poles, road signs, and even people, and didn’t harm anything.  No one would want to be in front of the truck, mind you, but the shadow was harmless.

Every one of us was born on the other side of something called “labor.”  We enter the world completely helpless and fragile, totally dependent on the protection, care and kindness of others.  We borrow the oxygen and assorted things for a span of time the Bible calls a “vapor.”   Despite our claims to ownership, we take no possessions with us.  And we end our sojourn on earth passing through something called a “shadow.”

Birth is a labor soon forgotten…

Life is a vapor quickly fading…

Possessions are an illusion suddenly passing…

Death is shadow silently creeping…

Is there any wonder we struggle sometimes to know what’s real?  And what’s valuable? [click to continue…]

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Storming the Gates of Loneliness

by Andy Wood on October 11, 2010

in Esteem, Life Currency, Love

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” (Carl Jung) 

In an eastern hospital years ago, a group of medical students were doing a pediatric rotation.   As they worked with these hospitalized kids each day, they noticed that the patients responded with great joy to one particular med student.  Nobody could figure out why.  So they talked one of their cohort members into doing a little spying. 

The observer followed him around all day and discovered nothing.  Finally that night, the mystery was solved when the young doctor made his last round. [click to continue…]

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Halftime, Durham, North Carolina.  The Duke Blue Devils have just scored the first touchdown that top-ranked Alabama has surrendered in two-and-a-half games. 

Not exactly a moment to panic, however.  Alabama leads at the half, 45-13.

Cue the halftime interview with Coach Nick Saban.  “Coach,” Sideline Babe says, “Were you upset about giving up your first touchdown of the season?”

“I don’t care about the touchdown,” Saban replies.  “I’ve just been talking to our guys about playing to a standard.”

Fast-forward one week.  Halftime again.  This time, nobody wearing white and crimson was strutting to the locker room.  The defending national champions are trailing a very strong Arkansas Razorbacks team in Fayetteville 17-7, and it’s no fluke.  These Hogs are good, and Bama’s looking rough.

Somebody… not namin’ names here… but somebody woke somebody up.  Final Score:  Alabama 24, Arkansas 20.

After the game, Coach Nick had this to say:

“I want them to remember what it’s like not playing the way you’re capable of playing, not playing with the intensity and focus you need to have. We have a standard we want to play to, we want to play to it all the time. We certainly didn’t get that done in the first half.”

Another Clock is Counting Down

Football is not the only place where the clock is ticking toward zero.  [click to continue…]

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I still miss her sometimes.  Pity I’m so busy I don’t miss her more.  For me it’s mostly in passing sighs… Like now.  (-From my journal a couple of days ago, referring to my mother, who died earlier this year.)

Heard any sermons on longing lately?

I doubt it.

In spite of the fact that it’s such a common experience, and one that is treated a surprising number of times in the Bible, “Dealing with Longing” doesn’t typically generate offerings, baptisms, or slick series brochures from the local worship establishment.

And yet it’s there… right in plain sight.  The Bible’s own version of “Miss You Like Crazy.”

Paul wrote those wild child Corinthians a pretty dress-you-down letter (we call it 1 Corinthians).  Their response?  They turned their hearts, and longed to see Paul.  His reply?  Same thing[click to continue…]

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You never knew Lillie Edwards.  I hardly did either, except for a brief two-week period years ago.  But Lillie will always be a significant figure in my life and memory. 

When I met Lillie Edwards, she was dying.  I was green-green-green as a young pastor, serving in my first church in a senior role.

Lillie Edwards would be my first funeral service.  But she taught me some things about living, and about dying, before our paths parted. [click to continue…]

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In the course of this short year so far, I have been reminded suddenly, and sometimes rudely, how short life can be, and how there are no guarantees of the things or people we tend to take for granted in this world.

I have also been reminded that life is filled with the potential to make mistakes.  Sometimes those mistakes arise out of misguided values.  Sometimes out of boneheaded stubbornness.  Sometimes mistakes arise out of good things taken too far in self-serving directions.  Often those mistakes come when we lose our sense of balance.

I’ve thought a lot lately about how short life is, and frankly, sometimes how much shorter that I wish it could be.  Hillsong United’s “Soon” sure sounds appealing: [click to continue…]

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The Friend of a Wounded Heart

by Andy Wood on May 20, 2009

in Insight, Life Currency, Love

grief-stairwellThis is for Larry Chastain.

Larry Whitehurst.

Dawn Pitchford.

David Overton.

Dee Ann Hallmark.

Thomas Barrett.

Priceless people, much younger than me, whose last visit I had with them was over a casket.

This is for parents and grandparents, girlfriends and boyfriends now long since somebody else’s spouse, little brothers and sisters who once were left as only children.

This is for Caden Trethewey and Elizabeth Rodes.  Two children I will never meet in this life whose stories profoundly touched me, and I think will touch you.

This past Saturday, Elizabeth was born in South Carolina.  Both her parents, Will and Kelly, are on staff at Newspring Church in Anderson.  She was nine inches long and weighed 8 ounces – a victim of anencephaly.  Without asking for it (who would?), Will and Kelly discovered what so many before them have – that Jesus Christ came to heal the brokenhearted.

Here’s Will in his own words:

I wish that I could describe the presence of God that was with us in that hospital room, but I can’t. Even if you know Jesus, it would probably defy your comprehension, like it still does mine. It is just one more thing in life that I don’t understand, but I do know that God is sovereign and He reigns over all of this and all that is to come.
This is not the end of the story, but rather the beginning of a great work.

You can (and should) read his entire reflection of the story here.

The Tretheweys tell their own story in the remarkable video below. [click to continue…]

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