Tag Archives: death

When Death Dies

Last night I had a vivid dream that I entered death through a dark car accident, the space between this world and the next began to morph.  I abruptly awoke, but it has me pondering today. 

Like a woman searching and finding love
Like an ocean buried and bursting forth

Where it comes, flowers grow
Lions sleep, gravestones roll
Where death dies, all things come alive
Where it comes, water’s clean
Children fed, all believe
When death dies, all things live
All things live Gungor “When Death Dies”

So here we are in the Lenten season, we creep along the 40 days leading to death, we stroll the 40 days leading to life.  I know of no greater season for the contrast of death and life than that of Lent.  It is the narrative of Christianity that life comes after death, they are inexplicably bound.  It is the announcenment of life at the end of Lent that changes the rules, quite certainly changes everything. 

When death dies, how should we live?

We all get to choose somewhat how we live, at least the attitude we can give to this life of ours.  We can follow the blindness of consumer culture, believing that meaning can be bought or acquired, of course it’s folly and expensive.  We can follow the idols of self-reliance and radical achievements, only to find in the end they were a kind of fool’s gold.  All the shine to others, but lack the intrinsic value we hoped for.  We can pursue the circus of self-pleasure, seekng the excitement of life under the big-top, denying our eyes and bodies nothing we desire.  The circus turns to be the freak show that the colorful poster promised, a short night of chaos. 

When death dies, how should we live?  In the end, will we have lived any differently?

I’m pondering the end of the story of David Brook’s The Social Animal:  The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement”.  In the last chapters of their life, Erica and Harold find meaning in not running the rat race, but finding a different story altogether.

“They had also achieved what is called success, but theirs was a different kind of success.  Without really thinking about it, they had created a counter-culture.  They didn’t consciously reject the lifestyle of the affluent mainstream; they just sort of ignored it.  They lived and thought differently, and their lives had taken on a different and deeper shape.  They had a greater awareness of the wellsprings of the human heart, and when you met them you were impressed by their substance and depth.” (p. 363)

How many people do you know that are the kind of social animals that can be described this way?  How rare is it to watch a person live within a kind of security of being, comfortable in their identity and have the swagger to walk in their own skin?  I can say at least within the rat-race of American culture, it’s as scarce as hen’s teeth. 

It is Nietzsche that said, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”   Brooks then goes on to give this gem from Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning to describe that meaning in life is only discernble within the specific conext of one’s specific life.  In the war concentration camps:

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.  We needed to stop asking the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those where were being questioned by life – daily and hourly.  Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right contact.” (p. 369)

How do we measure success in this so called life?  It has got to be more than collecting a paycheck long enough so you can collect shells on the beach in the end.  Excuse my language, but it better be a hell of lot more. 

Brooks describes Harold’s passage from this world to the next with a kind of poetic brilliance that remarkably resembles the experience of my own dream.  It is such a mystery isn’t it, the locative space between this world and the next?  If you have never sat at the bedside of someone in hospice care and watched this transition happen, you absolutely should.  It is soul-shuttering and beautiful.  Brooks pens the transition this way:

“Harold entered the hidden kingdom entirely and then lost consciousness forever.  In his last moments there were neither boundaries nor features.  He was unable to wield the power of self-consciousness but also freed from its shackles.  He had been blessed with consciousness so that he might helpf direct his own life and nurture his inner life, but the cost of that consciousness was an awareness that he would die.  Now he lost that awareness.  He was past noticing anything now, and had entered the realm of the unutterable. . . . Harold had achieved an important thing in his life.  He had constructed a viewpoint.  Other people see life primarily as a chess match played by reasoning machines.  Harold saw life as a neverending interpenetration of souls.” (p. 376)

 When death dies, how should we live? 

I want to see what Harold saw.  I want to not just search for mening, but bathe in it’s waters.  I want to throw off the scales of this faulty flesh and see with the soul of my inner life.  I want to know, experience and lavish in the love that created us all.  There is more, when death dies, there is so much more.

For these 40 days of Lent, this is my haunting question.  When death dies, how should we live?

peace.

When Hope is your home, and not your home

Tragedy in La Limonada

Lalimonadamurder-10-15-11

I can’t shake this story from my friends in Lemonade International.  I just want it not to be true.  This is not the created intention for this 15 year old girl wanting to escape the clutches of evil.  Deep, deep loss.  My heart saddens for her family, friends and community.  Christ have mercy.

What do we think of hope in a time and place of such darkness?  As followers of the Christ, we have only one thought in regards to hope.  Hope is our home, and moment to moment we realize we are not home.  We long, we yearn, we wait . . . we hope.  Our Hope is in a Kingdom that has come, and a Kingdom that is yet coming.  Hope is our home, but we are not yet completely home. 

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity puts it this way in his chapter on Hope:

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. . . . If I find in myself a desire in which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. . . . Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. . . . I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find til after death; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.”  (p. 136-137)

Today I mourn with La Limonada, and today I Hope with La Limonada.  We are not home, but we don’t leave this world as it is. 

What do we do against such heavy darkness when hope feels like a faint echo?  What do we do when the stench and sting of death pierces our senses?  We do what we have always done, we follow the Resurrector.  We do what is written in our soul, we read words of life.  We in no uncertain terms, RISE AGAIN!  We know no other way, we are people of the Resurrection.   

So hear is my prayer today for my friends serving in La Limonada, go in the Spirit of the One who created it all and proclaim your hope this day.  Proclaim the Hope of the One who is Resurrected.  Serve, love, give mercy, sing, dance, worship, feed, educate, clothe, persevere amidst long suffering and all in the name of the Hope that has come.  Show the children what Hope looks like.  They long for the ‘other’ country, a place where it is as it should be.  Reveal to them the Hope just on the other side of the veil.  Let the light come in and pierce the darkness.  God as you once did, I pray you push away the stone in La Limonada and release your Resurrection of Hope. 

When I have no more words to say in this regard, I fall on the words of my brother who has passed on to Kingdom fullness who knew this hope full well.  These are some of Mark Palmer’s final words and I pray them over La Limonada this day:

“When it seems that hopefulness is the least appropriate response in this situation, let it rise up even more. Whisper your hope when you lie down at night; scream your hope when you wake in the morning. Live your hope as if it is the one and only thing that sustains you in this ravaged world. You will not be disappointed.”

May Hope be your home today in La Limonada, even though you are not yet home.