Tag Archives: life lessons

Learning to die – Learning to live

Learning to die is such a curious thing.

On the one hand it is so foreign, even distasteful to us, we are usually afraid to approach the subject. We’ve never been to this place before and suddenly, ready or not,  here we are. Fear of the unknown sets in like an ominous fog that swallows up everything it encompasses.

On the other hand, death is indeed a natural part of the circle of life.  And we have been to this place before, in fact many times.

We learned to die to our way of living in the womb to the completely unknown and foreign world of breathing air. I wonder what grief a baby faces when they make that most amazing and painful transition from darkness to light, from a world of moistness to dry air, from relative quiet to a cacophony  of noise, light, and multiple sensations.

We learned, each of us, to die from being a baby to becoming a young child, from laying on our backs to crawling to walking and running. We died to our pacifier, blankie, and baby bed to more intricate toys and the “big boy (or girl) bed.” From the delight of childhood to the angst of teenage life. We died to high school and graduated to college, and from college we graduated to the completely new life of work and marriage and families. And so we all face the “final” death and graduate to a new life.

Oh for sure, this “real” death, the end of all life as we know it is indeed something quite different from these other life transitions and it does bring on such a frightful array of emotions. At least with previous “graduations,” we had others to assure us it will be okay. We learned from their experiences as they recalled to us what it was like when they were there. Wouldn’t you have loved to visit with Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead?! “Tell us Lazarus, what was it like?”

We call dearth “the final event.” But death is not the end. It’s turning the page of one chapter to the beginning of the next and final chapter of the story of life. Like leaving school, it’s our graduation to an exciting new life of unimaginable wonder and joy.* And we do have someone to guide us and teach us to navigate this narrow and seemingly perilous path. Much more than our guide, Jesus delivers us through this amazing gateway to our wondrous new forever-joyful life that awaits us on the other side. We can believe and trust him because his promises are  always and faithfully true. And if in my clearly imperfect life I can trust him, so can you trust him to guide you as your Lord and Savior through this life and death to the life ever after.?

Yes, God created us with an immensely strong desire experience life and we naturally grieve losing all we have known, all we’ve seen, heard, touched, tasted, and experienced. Of course we grieve being separated if even temporarily from those we love and cherish. We grieve the loss of physical and emotional comfort, the joy of being strong and being able to choose the many options the menu of life offers.

And yet our truly one great hope is in achieving the prize of our highest dreams, to graduate to heaven, our forever home of peace and joy.

It’s in embracing this choice of learning to die that we truly learn to live well.

*Footnote: I speak here of the transition from death to a wonderful and eternal life of “no more sorrow and no more pain that is freely offered by Jesus to any who follow him. There is, we are clearly told in God’s Word, the BIble, another death that leads to eternal pain and suffering and the lonely and forever separation from God and everyone we ever loved. Jesus says the choice is ours. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. I Am the resurrection and the life.” While I respect the right of each person to make their own choice, I sincerely invite you to give Jesus a chance to be real in your life.

Choose well, my friend. Choose Jesus.

Am I denying God or affirming I know his love?


If you were sending a letter of instruction to someone setting out into the world, what would you write? Maybe you would reflect on some of the life lessons you’ve learned along the way. So would I. Maybe we’d give words of encouragement and words of warning that we’ve learned. That’s what God did in writing his love letter, the bible, to you and me. And that’s what Paul did in his mentoring letter to Titus. He talks about many things, including to remember:


  • Our life role is to be servants who are truthful in all our ways.
  • Our main job, before ministering to others, is to make sure WE are holding onto OUR own faith firmly, SO THAT we can encourage others with that same truthful faith and also defend it against those who try to persuade us with false teaching.
  • He warns Titis (and us) to not get tripped up with meaningless talk. In the hospital, I’ve found where people are in extreme painful situations, either as a patient or family member, or more often as a staff constantly dealing with people in pain and sorrow, there are often open opportunities for simple conversations to become doorways for gospel conversations. Once, I approached a stranger waiting by the elevator, and asked “How is your day going?” One simple question led to a discussion of his wife’s cancer, his Muslim faith, and a time of prayer with him, to then his inviting me to come to his house to share with him and his wife. There are many opportunities for God encounters if we simply put an end to meaningless talk and exchange them for opportunities to build relationship bridges with people that lead to meaningful gospel conversations and prayer.
  • Paul gives a warning to Titus – and us – about people who “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Oh my prayer, is that this not be a warning about me. I can look back in life and sometimes even now, and see times when I claim to know God but my own actions don’t reflect it. In fact maybe they actually deny God when I choose meaningless chit chat over meaningful time with others, my own comfort and interests instead of reaching out with practical expressions of God’s love. Recently a friend offered to do yard work for us while I am in the hospital. Another is going to change a car battery for Marcia. Their simple acts of compassion affirm they do know God who wants to encourage us through the simple yet generous actions of his servants.


The bad news is we have so many opportunities to become distracted by meaningless activities, that in the end amount to nothing and waste our lives, while others go about their lives without God or discouraged in their walk with God. In our self-absorbed loves we become unfit for any good work.


BUT THE GOOD NEWS is that we have so very many opportunities to let God’s Spirit help us see every day practical ways of expressing his love and thereby affirming that we really love God and are coming to know him more and more.


How do you want to live your life?



Simple Gifts


There are moments in life that snap you from your drowsy sleep and suddenly wake you up. It might be the unexpected loss of a job, being presented with divorce papers, a life-threatening diagnosis, or the loss of loved one. It could be a news story covering some tragic life situation that speaks to your heart or the gentle experience of restored hope. When we free ourselves from the pressures of a constantly busy life that is wrapped up in our self-pursuits, our hearts are touched both by the experience of despair and those of hope and courage. They remind us to turn our focus from the complexities of life to the “simple” lessons life teaches us.


It seems we are always seeking to discover these lessons, even when we don’t consciously pursue them. We ask such important questions at both ends of our life:

Who am I?
How did I get here?
Where am I going?
What is my purpose in life?


We busy ourselves with studies and jobs and the pursuit of so many ambitions. We think they’ll offer the fulfillment we desire. But sometimes in the end we find they were meaningless and empty. In the grand pursuit of happiness we try to learn how to deal with our fears and insecurities, our sense of loss over people, things, and missed opportunities, and our guilt and regret over mistakes we make. We turn to accomplishments, money, education, status, service, relationships, and faith in our quest of finding what makes us happy. Our pursuit of happiness puzzles and confounds us. But as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross points out:


“We are not unhappy because of the complexities of life. We are unhappy because we miss its underlying simplicities.”


“Simple” lessons are not always easily attained but they are presented to us in the daily course of our lives however complex we make them. They are revealed joys even in the midst of great suffering and pain. These are the lessons of learning to love when we feel unloving, to be strong when we are weak, trust when we feel betrayed, hope in the face of despair, forgive when we have been so hurt. They are the lessons of discovering who we are, not only in success but in failure, not only in health but in disease, not only in riches but in poverty.


“Simple” lessons teach us our lives are intricately and purposefully intertwined with one anther. We are connected in ways that both frustrate and bless us. They remind us that great complexities of life and theology can be summarized in living simply just as Jesus taught us:


Love God and love others as he loved us.


Focusing on the “simple” things of life frees us to be who we were meant to be. We don’t learn these lessons automatically, but we might learn them when we turn our attention away from our busy day and invite God to rewrite our daily to-do list and to reveal miracles in the simple opportunities he gives us.


Living simply means involves resisting the temptation to fill our lives with more of everything to more of the ONE thing that really fills our life abundantly to the full and overflowing with happiness and peace. Don’t live simply for the sake of simplicity. Live simply to find the freedom and delight that God offers us every day. As the old Shaker hymn reminds us:

“‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.”