Numbering Our Days

What happened on February 17?  For most, it’s just another day, nothing special.  For me, it is one of those most life impacting days.  February 17, 1984 is the day my mother died.  And February 17, 2002 is the day my father died. Yes, eighteen years to the day after my father was widowed, he joined the saints in heaven with her. Not that it means anything particularly, just an interesting reality. And yes, I’ve written about this before, but it’s one of those things that continues to impact my life.

Mom’s death impacted me most. Not because I loved her more than Dad, but because I was least prepared. I’d been through the loss of all four of my grandparents prior to that. I had been a pastor for almost eight years and done dozens of funerals, so I thought I faced death fairly well. Continue reading “Numbering Our Days”

Five Years Plus an Eternity of Grace

“5 years ago you fell off your bike and …busted your face,” so was the friendly text on Monday from my granddaughter, Delia. Indeed, she was right, at least partially.  She was commemorating five years since I fainted while riding my bike, probably due to dehydration, and ended up in the ER. Gratefully, “busted your face” wasn’t quite accurate, but it looked like it. I blogged about it the next day in a post called In Praise of the Helmet!

But the five years since my infamous bike wreck isn’t the main focus of this post.  That event was just three days after my wife, Linda, had a mastectomy on June 10, 2011. See In Sickness and in Health. She was recovering at home just three days after surgery when she received the call from law enforcement that her husband was in the hospital ER due to a bicycle accident. She couldn’t come to check on me and was left with no information for some time whether I was dead or alive. But I was fine, probably a mild concussion, but no lasting effect, and was released to go home. Continue reading “Five Years Plus an Eternity of Grace”

Death and Hope

Guest Post by Scott Hackett*

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15

In the past month, we have experienced our share of death.  Not a cheery subject for the beginning of the year, I know, but keep reading.  First, a security guard at GIS died unexpectedly leaving a wife and children behind.  On the same day, a close Thai friend of ours lost her brother-in-law in the same way; he left a wife and seven children behind.  Within the same week our landlady stopped by and told us her husband had died.  A week later, Sarah’s grandmother passed away.  Finally, one of our pet rabbits died as well.

All death is tragic and no one wishes for it.  However, the Thai friend’s brother-in-law as well as Sarah’s grandmother were believers in Christ, and we rejoice that they now have comfort in heaven.  The rabbit, well, that’s a theological debate.  (There can be an argument that there will be animals in the new heaven and earth.)

The others are a different story.  The guard was Buddhist.  A Buddhist funeral is quite a heartbreaking experience.  After monks prayed over the coffin, the wife and children placed a banana on the coffin, cut it in half to symbolize their separation from the deceased, then ran to a motorbike that sped them away.  This quick departure was to assure that the spirit didn’t try to follow them.  Afterwards, the coffin was moved to the incinerator to be burned.  The fire began to go out, so people quickly doused the coffin with accelerant to keep the fire burning.  This was said to be a bad omen indicating the body was not ready for the next life and was trying to return; therefore, many were left in fear, including fellow guards who believed they saw his spirit.**   This demonstrates a small example of the confusion in this country.  The GIS community was able to reach out and share Christ’s love with the family, for which they were blessed and appreciative.

Our landlady is of a different faith.  We were able to cry with her and hug her as she told us her bad news.  We also delivered a small gift of candy and fruit with a note of encouragement wishing her comfort through Christ’s mercy and love.  She responded with appreciation, saying “God bless your family also.”

We rejoice with those who rejoice over the hope of new beginnings.  However, we mourn with those who mourn over uncertainties of the hereafter.  Living here includes daily reminders of this sorrow.  Please pray for this country, that the Thais will know the hope not merely in the new year, but in everlasting new beginnings in Christ.

***

*Scott and Sarah Hackett and three sons live in Chiang Mai, Thailand where they teach at GIS, Grace International School. Check out their pictorial blog, hackett5journey’s blog  Sarah is my niece.

**Buddhist funeral content taken from a coworkers’ blog post.

Ebola, Risks and Opportunities

How should followers of Jesus respond to the Ebola crisis?

Are Ann Coulter and Donald Trump right that we should stay at home and leave Africa to its own problems because we have enough of our own right here?  Were Kent Brantley and Nancy Whitebol fools to place themselves in harm’s way to serve Ebola patients?  Does the fact that they were infected by Ebola themselves, prove they were fools?  Continue reading “Ebola, Risks and Opportunities”

A Monday Prayer

After my reading this morning from Daniel 12 and Psalm 119:48-72, and praying a prayer from The Valley of Vision, with no obvious connection to the previous, my mind latched on to the lyrics of a 200 year old hymn, Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart.

The line that surfaced was Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move. The seemingly random lyrics were imprinted from repeated exposure when I was a child, but suddenly took on fresh urgency. I had to look up this hymn and remember the other lyrics. It was all familiar except for the second stanza, an essential part of the whole.

I commend this hymn to you.  Pray it aloud (sing it if you know the tune) and ask God to graciously imprint the meaning on your heart.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art;
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear.
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh,
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
O let me seek Thee, and O let me find!

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heaven descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

Lyrics by George Cro­ly, Psalms and Hymns for Pub­lic Wor­ship (Lon­don: 1854).  Croly was born Au­gust 17, 1780 in Dub­lin, Ire­land and died No­vem­ber 24, 1860 in Hol­born, Eng­land. Cyber Hymnal   Note that he was 74 years old when he penned these words, acknowledging even at that age that his heart still needed to be weaned from a dependence on this world.

What Next for the Church? Our Response to Same Sex Marriage

June 25, 2014 – a federal judge declared Indiana’s marriage laws unconstitutional, opening the door to the issuance of same sex marriage licenses in Indiana.  Then a stay was issued on the ruling until it could be appealed,

September 4, 2014 – a three judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that laws in Indiana and Wisconsin violate the U.S. Constitution. Again a stay was issued on implementation pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

October 6, 2014 – the United States Supreme Court, shocking both sides in the battle, declined to hear appeals from Indiana and four other states, thus letting stand the 7th Circuit’s decision, resulting in the legalization of same sex marriage in Indiana and several other states. Marriage application forms have been amended to accommodate same sex applicants and these so called marriages have resumed.

As I wrote in response to the June 25 ruling, Mourning and Rejoicing, I was not surprised by this ultimate outcome, as the trajectory has been established for several years. I am deeply saddened about it because God’s creation order is being violated and the whole nation will suffer. You don’t need a Bible to have overwhelming evidence that this is unnatural. The damage is incalculable for the nation, for children, ultimately for those who flaunt God’s law as the Scripture declares such persons will not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:10)  Continue reading “What Next for the Church? Our Response to Same Sex Marriage”

The Gospel of Jeremiah

Gospel means good news. Chapter after chapter in the book of Jeremiah is bad news.

The lonely prophet, sometimes called the weeping prophet, began preaching during the reign of Josiah, one of the best kings ever. It was a time of revival, renewal of worship, and ending the evil practices of his father and grandfather.  But the revival didn’t last. Josiah died and it was all down hill from there.  Well, not quite… Continue reading “The Gospel of Jeremiah”