Category Archives: Life after death

Bedtime stories

It’s a little after midnight late Sunday night and I just got back from the hospital.  One of our dear friends called to ask me if I would come up to the hospital to pray with a family that just lost one of their own due to a complication with his fight with cancer.  You never know what to expect when you walk into one of those situations.  Is the individual a person of faith?  Is the family emotional or in shock?  You combine those unknowns with your own worries about the “right” words to say, and it makes for an intriguing late night.  Fortunately the deceased was a Christ-follower, but as always… the pain for those standing around his lifeless body is tough.  Even with hope, we grieve. 

So as I drove home trying to think about something else so that I would be able to fall asleep easily the thought hits me.  You may call this morbid, but looking at the lifeless body tonight reinforced in me peace, hope and strength – as opposed to shock, fear or sadness. That body represented a legacy of faith and belief of a man that is no longer with us.  I sit here typing in the quiet of my living room, with my son sleeping in the room next to me and my wife already asleep in our room, realizing that one day I too will be able to leave a legacy of faith and belief.  I really don’t want to dwell on that day too much, but I will be able to sleep well tonight because just like the gentleman that met his maker tonight I too will meet God some day with a peace because of my belief and faith.

So I ask you out there tonight – you on the world wide web – will you sleep tonight with hope and peace?  Would you be able to stare at a corpse and be confronted with hope and not fear?  Peace and not dread?  Celebration and not depression?  If not, why?  I would love to share with you how you can do this.  Interested?  Will you take the offer? 

If so, you can Yahoo Message me at “Wagonmasterjoe” or email me at wagonmasterjoe@yahoo.com.  I hope to hear from you.  

Early Angels

On Sunday, right after our North Campus worship time, I had the pleasure to lead out in a really unique way.  A few families here at FBC have begun a ministry called Early Angels for those couples that have endured miscarriages.  Though these tragic events are fairly common in today’s society, what is not common is the knowledge about when/if they do happen.  This tends to be the case in the church when families and young children typically roam the range with great volume! 

Both campuses held an “Infant Loss Remembrance Service” on Sunday.  At North we had a simple, but intimate, time with a few of our families that wanted to celebrate the lives of those babies that never lived to see their very own parents’ faces.  I was really nervous because Trish and I have never had to endure this severe heart break in our marriage, and I was at a loss as to what to say to couples that have. 

Fortunately we have the Bible and its accounts of how Christ endured pain and heartache.  Thru my own tears of compassion for my fellow Christ-followers and friends, all I could muster up were the following passages in Psalms and in John.  The passage in Psalms is really validated by what Christ does in the account found in John.  We can’t answer why these losses occur, but I do know that Christ understands better than anyone.  I left them with a statement that I have heard my pastor use over and over in funeral settings… “As much as you loved your baby, Jesus Christ loved them more.  So much more, that he felt it best to call them home early.”

The reality is that I am absolutely blessed to be a dad, but I am scared to death to raise LT and his soon-to-be little brother in a world full of strife and ugliness.  It would be the hardest thing for me to face, the death of a child, but I do have hope that heaven is a much better place for anyone – including children… born or unborn.

Tell your story

Here at the North Campus of FBC McKinney, we are always challenging our people to tell their spiritual life-stories.  Often this means that conversations just happen organically with friends, family and neighbors, but on days like today it was done via video in our worship service.

Melissa, the young woman in the video, is married to Jon Glidden, Jr.  Jon is our children’s pastor and they have endured a lot this past year.  Here is Melissa’s story.  Enjoy.

The most important thought you will ever have…

Have you ever wondered what is the single most important thought you can ever have?  Trust me when I say that I don’t sit around and quietly ponder abstract concepts, but really think about that.  What could be the most important thought one could have?  I found myself taking part in another funeral this weekend.  This one for one of our North Campus families.  In the service, I asked that question to the crowd.  Given the context of the afternoon, I thought it was fitting. 

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My pastor says that I may be boring…

Yesterday my pastor continued a series of talks about heaven.  One of his points made me really think about my understanding of paradise.  Pop culture usually depicts heaven as a place in the sky built upon clouds.  You know the image well.  We will all spend our time playing harps and serving as ‘protectors’ of those still on earth.  My understanding of heaven, at least not since I was old enough to begin to grasp the Bible, has never really contained those images of clouds and halos.  But the question did arise yesterday in my thoughts, “What do I imagine heaven to be?” 

The Bible talks in great length about the “new heaven and a new earth” upon the return of Jesus Christ, but what does that mean in tangible terms?  My pastor mentioned in his talk that much of our limited “image” of heaven is probably based on our own boring state.  The more I think about it, the more I am beginning to believe in that statement.  If we don’t treasure those glimpses of “heaven on earth”, then our imagination can’t carry us much further into the realms of heaven.  If you don’t appreciate the slivers of joy and excitement found on this rock, then it is probably hard for you to imagine a place much better once this rock has been “restored.” 

This “boring” talk doesn’t take into effect the realities of sorrow and disappointment that riddle this world and how they can influence our perception of heaven – but the truth still exists.  We all can see glimpes of heaven in the natural, and even relational, elements of this place – things like pristine waters, snow-capped mountains, someone telling you that they love you, etc.  As I began to ponder those things that point to heaven, it hit me… either I am a boring person in not appreciating those precusory elements, or I am just plain blind.  Well, I have my sight so I must not fully weigh the beauty of this world… thus living a boring life! 

I am not a boring person, but my take on life can be.  Why?  I can be very impatient, and a rushed life is a boring life.  I know it seems counterintuitive, but it’s true.  A rushed life is a blurred life, and there is nothing exciting or engaging about a blurred perspective on the setting in which we live our lives.  I don’t know of anyone that drives through the mountains and doesn’t consider them to be magnificant.  But I do know people that live a hurried life in the shadows of mountains every day and would not consider them to be any more special than I do a Texas sunset.  This is all due to familiarity.  If a rushed life is a blurred life, then a blurred life leads to a callousness to our surroundings. 

It is my hope and prayer to live life each day at a slower speed so that I can take it all in.  Having a child has helped in that process.  He forces me to slow down and see things at his level and pace.  No one wants to be boring, and I know that heaven is not boring (Psalm 16:11).  So God help me to be sensitive to the things and people around me.  They may be glimpses of heaven that You have provided to bless and sustain me in days of trial.

“In the truest sense, Christian pilgrims have the best of both worlds.  We have joy whenever this world reminds us of the next, and we take solace whenever it does not.”  C.S. Lewis

Dying w/out Regrets

I performed a funeral today for a family friend of my in-laws.  It was a beautiful day, and there were many in attendance to pay the family their respects.  As I prepared my thoughts for the service, I began to ask myself… “Would I die without regrets?”  I believe the person we put into the ground today could answer that question with fairly confident tones, but I am sure there was a lingering thought of regret somewhere in the crowd or within the family unit.  Only they will truly know the answer to that… but back to me.

At my funeral would those standing by family say that I lived the “good and right” life?  Would they relish the memories of the slice of life they shared with me?  Would there be someone in the church/funeral home that wished I would have been more friendly or loving?  I guess there really isn’t any way of knowing how to make that day truly beautiful for all parties.  But I do believe in my heart and mind that there is a way that we all can die without regrets. 

As I spoke to the grieving this morning, I passed along the truths that were given to me as I journeyed to this date.  Let me share them with you…

  1. Friends:  Community is such an important thing in this day and age.  In a severly fractured world, true community can be a springboard to transparency and authenticity… two prinicples the world lacks.  Make sure you spend profitable time with your friends, and make sure the friends you keep are profitable to you for all the right and healthy reasons.  If you are not careful, inauthentic and clouded friendships can suck the life right out of you.
  2. Family:  Family, much like friends, is a fragile commodity in a world filled with hatred, self-indulgence and general lack of connectivity.  I know my generation craves the family dynamic in its most rewarding form.  The sad reality is that for many of us family is a dirty word.  That doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate that ugly dynamic.  Begin to speak into your family unit things like honesty, unconditional love, grace and affirmation.  If it can’t happen inside the family, then we set up our emerging generations for failure due to our inability to model healthy family models.
  3. Faith:  It is my opinion that the first two components to dying without regrets are null and void if this last one isn’t resolved properly.  Faith in Jesus Christ is the rock-like foundation for healthy relational interactions.  Living with hope leads us to living a life of giving hope to those around us.  Through faith in Christ, we are empowered to truly love and be truly loved.  The latter is what can fill the massive void prominently found in our world.  Without accepting “true” love offered by God through his Son, then we tend to use our friends, family, and other close relationships for our own never-ending needs. 

I guess that is secret to dying without regrets.  Loving your friends, family and yourself in the way that God lays out in the Bible… by first accepting His love so that we can learn how to love in the most powerful way known to man… unconditionally.