A Change in Paradigm

When you think of a funeral and what Bible passages are read most commonly, which ones come to mind? Today’s reading of Psalm 23 most certainly is in the top few. When I hear this verse, I picture a person walking down a dark path lonely with a light up ahead. I’m not sure this would be the mental vision God would want me to have about death. As I read this verse more closely, what stuck out to me is that it is “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4. We, who are still living, are in the “shadow of death.” This is where we have fears, anxieties, and worries that cause us stress. This is when we need his “rod and staff” to “comfort me.” This is when I need to “fear no evil” and my soul needs restoring by laying in “green pastures” and by going “beside still waters.”

Revelation 21:4 tells us, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be morning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” When I die, I want my funeral to be a celebration that I’m living in Heaven in perfect peace worshiping the only King forever. I want a band playing songs of praise with everyone standing and worshiping Him reminding all there of the joy they can have in eternal life through confessing their sins and belief in Him and His resurrection! They don’t need to be sad for me…I’m not in a dark valley standing there by myself lonely. I’m experiencing a joy we can’t even imagine on this Earth worshiping Him in a similar way to how I hope they are at that moment.

The first part of Psalm 23:8 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” telling us maybe Psalm 23 is more appropriate for a baby dedication, a first communion, a baptism, or even a wedding. We can live in perfect peace throughout our life because the second part of Psalm 23:8 says, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” When we fix our eyes on that which is eternal (the only thing that matters), we will have comfort and respite from the challenges in this life.

Here is the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman which was sung at my wife’s great uncle Lee Dexheimer’s funeral. It reminded me we will experience a peace that passes all human understanding just like Lee did that day and still is today, forever and ever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXDGE_lRI0E

Dead Weight

stretcher gurney for patient in hospital (blur background and wooden table for displaying your product)

Leviticus 22, Psalms 28-29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1

I was really looking forward to sharing this new book of the Bible I found called Ecclesiastes. Well, it was new to me anyway. I’ve been working for a few days in a row at the hospital. Now that I’m sitting down to write and catching up on my reading I see that this short book has been the subject of a few reflections this week. I’ve been drawing out a little “blueprint” of Ecclesiastes all week. Of course, we already know that it was written by King David’s son, Solomon almost 3,000 years ago. It seems to me that nearly nothing could be the same then as it is now. But, with a closer look, there are 5 key themes that are very relatable.

  • Searching
    • Without God there will be no true pleasure or happiness, searching for wisdom, knowledge or joy is futile outside of Him.
  • Emptiness
    • Fill your life with God. The cure for emptiness is Him.
  • Work
    • God gives you the ability and opportunity to work so that you can use your time to glorify Him.
  • Death
    • God gives us hope that goes beyond death
  • Wisdom
    • We must get to know God and honor him in order to have wisdom

See NIV, ESV and HCSB study bibles for more on these themes, I did NOT come up with them myself

When you place Solomon’s words in those 5 categories, it brings us back to what I think is the most important theme: without God life is empty. I spent the weekend thinking that the lessons presented to us in Ecclesiastes are darker and more serious than Proverbs. Tonight as I sit and reflect on how to really bring them alive in my life, I realized that God had given me an example through death.

My Saturday started in the basement of the hospital. I’m a physical therapist there and I cover a weekend or two a month. I had my clipboard in hand with a long list of patients to be seen for the day. As I punched the up button on the elevator, a security guard rolled up with a metal gurney. A few years of experience told me that she was on a transport mission. A patient had died, the family had come and gone and now it was time for the body to be moved. We rode up together with few words passing between us. We exited on the same floor and I went about my business checking charts. Next to me the security guard was focused on her task, checking boxes on a list and packing personal items into a box. It’s important to take care of sensitive matters at the hospital before visiting hours begin. I asked the guard which room she was going to, so that I could avoid bringing patients into that hallway. Before she could answer, a nurse turned and said, “We could really use some help lifting the patient, it’s kinda like dead weight.”

A life. Transformed in an instant from a vibrant presence to dead weight. For the record, this nurse is a patient, compassionate and kind person. This ill-timed pun wasn’t meant to diminish the life lost. It did get me thinking though about my own dead weight on this earth. The HCSB Study Bible opens the book of Ecclesiastes with this introduction:

“The Bible is never shy about confronting painful truths or hard questions. The book of Ecclesiastes faces the issue of how we can find meaning on life in light of the seemingly futile nature of everything. It will not allow the reader to retreat into superficial answers. It does not answer the problem by comforting us with hollow slogans. To the contrary, its motto is “Everything Is Futile.” But by forcing us to face the futility of human existence, it guides us to a life free of empty purpose and deceitful vindication.”

I got to thinking about the patient that I didn’t know. He or she did not take wealth or poverty with them. The struggles he or she faced in illness and death are now gone. I wonder, was it a life well lived? What truly held weight at the end and what simply didn’t matter anymore? My favorite verse in today’s scripture is this:

“For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” Ecclesiastes 5:7

 Am I so full of words, and dreams and aspirations that there is no room left for obedience to God? The foundation of this teaching is our eventual mortality. We can try and try to impress God with our gifts and promises but in the end we cannot deceive Him. He calls us to be humble and obedient. He is asking us to depend on him and his grace. Without Him, life is meaningless. Back in the hospital room as the clean white sheet was drawn up and the wheels began to turn toward the door, I saw an end as well as a beginning. I asked God to lead me into fulfillment in Him. I asked for more reminders to broaden my vision from the context of today into his plan of eternity. As I heard the elevator ding and the heavy doors slide open, I realized that there is no timeline. There is no promise of tomorrow, only the promise of right now. Lord, help us to seize this moment, this Monday, this week. Help us to delight in you here until we are there…