“Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain. . .”
Mary Elizabeth Frye
Today is October 2, 2017. When I woke up today at 5am, I began this chapter on mortality. I had been thinking about it for the last few days and when I awoke, I felt that today was the day to begin. My normal routine is to write for a few hours and then turn on the Today Show at 7am. Today on the screen, the words across the bottom was a complete contradiction to a picture frame I have sitting next to the TV – “Life is Beautiful”. It was the first reports coming in from Las Vegas of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. The account is alarming in its inhumanity. What will we hear about the shooter that will help us understand his decision to transport multiple automatic weapons and numerous cases of ammo to the 32nd floor of a Vegas hotel for the purpose of murderous mayhem against thousands of concert goers that particular weekend? What explains, breaking out a window nearly 400 ft from the ground and standing there spraying bullets down on innocent people. After the May, 2017 terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, a father of one of the victims wrote to her “We need inspiration.” Inspiration comes from a source of hope and light that can work through us to bring understanding and healing and be a path through the insanity at times. I have always used Sweetwater Journey as a platform in which to bring hope and light for the reader. This writing will be no exception but you, the reader and I will have to work together to come to a mutual understanding of life and death from God’s perspective. To begin our mutual work, I can look to the only common resource we have to understand who we are and what God has in mind for us – the Holy Scriptures.
There are phrases in the pages of this holy book that put into perspective the truth about life here like: “you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” James 4:14; “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” Psalms 144:4; “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls,” I Peter 1:24; “We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” II Samuel 14:14; “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” Psalms 39:5; “For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding” I Chronicles 29:15.
God created us for a relationship with him.
“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” I John 3:1
“That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:” Acts 17:27
We were created with a deep dependency for that relationship but we must seek him and choose him. Sometimes we create unhealthy dependent relationships that can distract us from God. We try to fill that hole with people; or money and the things and influence that money buys; or seeking the approval of others which has something to do with the downside of the popularity of social media; and unfortunately drugs and alcohol that temporarily numb us to living in general and the disappointments and even trauma that comes with it because of our misplaced relationships. This would explain the epidemic of drug addiction we are facing now in our country.
As I grow older, my relationship with God is now becoming more of a state of being in which I can feel and know his spirit.
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking; (Anonymous)
It’s not a self-righteous or moral high ground kind of being, it’s just a right state of being. As I was thinking about the innocent victims in the light of a mass shooting, I realized that rather than be concerned that I die for a good purpose, I would rather that I live for a good purpose. God has given me control while I live to mindfully have purpose in my life by helping others in my work and as a volunteer. Unfortunately, there are many who die because of strangers’ random acts and heinous choices. Even though we don’t want to imagine that our passing and that of our loved ones may not have a lofty reason or serve a good purpose, or our number just came up, it would be quite a stretch for us to believe that God orchestrated getting all of the 58 people who died on October 2nd into Las Vegas to the concert to meet their destined fate. Many of the survivors stated that the dead did not die alone. That was important to them to assure loved ones of those who passed.
God to enfold me, God to surround me
God in my sleeping, God in my waking.
God in my watching, God in my hoping;
Consider this reference as we contemplate our mortality:“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:13-17
The last line in this reference gives us a deeper insight “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Keep in mind that sin isn’t just a moral issue, it is the wrong choices we make that separates us from God. It is the times we fail to do what we know to be right. That is sin.
We find another element to consider in 2 Samuel 14:14;“We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God will not take away life, and he devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”
It is my understanding that God has devised a means to “not take away life” but continue our life elsewhere, going on in eternity. We will not be an outcast. He has a plan for when we die. We don’t have to understand this. It’s only important that he understands it. It’s important that we do the right thing here in this life while we have the opportunity. It is important that we seek a relationship with God and demonstrate his loving ways as we live for others, not just ourselves.
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ..”
“ What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He (God) jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” James 4:1-17 NIV
If eternity is the ongoing relationship we have with God here in this life, then it would be important that we begin to look inward to the vast world of sacred inquiry and knowledge that awaits us. God has already shown who he is and what he’s about in his Son, Jesus Christ. I don’t fully understand why God had to come here and die to restore us back to him, but I believe it if the Scriptures say that’s how it is. What He went through during His short life here is important to us. He knew his life was moving toward a heinous end at the hands of religious people who looked and acted normal; influential people He knew who were a powerful force in His time and cried out “Barrabas” with the crowd, knowing full well the results of that choice. But God had the last word. He knows about innocent death. Out of His innocent death came the greatest outcome for us that is beyond our understanding but has transformed our lives forever – resurrection, from death to life and the restoration of a relationship with God.
God in my life, God in my lips.
God in my soul, God in my heart.
God in my sufficing, God in my slumber.
Over the next several weeks and months we will hear experts’ opinions on how to keep another mass shooting tragedy from happening again. Their ideas will be around many facets of this problem but the only real solution is each of us doing the right thing, Christ in us, living beyond ourselves for others the way Christ taught us.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17
Today, is October 3rd and the stories are pouring in of people helping people that night on the blood-stained concert grounds. This is who we are when love and compassion fill us to do the right thing and put others before ourselves. This is who we are capable of becoming beyond the week following a tragedy, where each of us are helping others have their best lives. Our history is proving out that there are most likely more sick people who are making plans in secret because their distorted view of the world is driving deliberate choices to destroy. It is possible that some, even one could think differently and change their mind if hope and compassion begins changing the world around them. What a legacy we could provide for all the innocent people who have died unnecessarily and will never have a chance to realize their hopes and dreams. It begins with one.
The teaching in the Scriptures about our mortality is not easy to understand but we don’t have to fully understand. We take them on faith because we were made in God’s image and we have a blood relationship with him. He is family. He is our Father. The Scriptures are an amazing living relic that came to us from a world above and beyond ours from an entity who is reaching out to us in love and hope to tell us who we are and why we were made for not just this life, but forever.
When Christ prepared to return back to Heaven, He assured us that we weren’t going to be just stranded here, He would send another representative of Him and God, the Father – the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
I don’t know how many people who have taken part in the jail ministry I offer really turn their lives around and never return to jail, it’s just important to me that I am making the right choice to go there and represent the love of Christ to them; that I am telling them about the love God has for them and how he showed us that love through his Son.
“We are all beggars telling another beggar where to find bread.” I don’t know where I read that phrase; I just know that I believe it and I try to live it. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. . .” I Cor 15:10 ESV
Life is beautiful if we see it through God’s eyes and the time we do have here is spent in glorifying him with our lives in relationship with him. We are but sojourners traveling through a foreign land and learning to understand that by letting go of the things over which we have no control and trusting God with them, we can have peace of mind and take care of the person in front of us whom God has sent into our path that moment.
God be at my end, and at my departing.
God in my ever-living soul; God in my eternity.
A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:6-8
Sometime in the early morning hours on October 4, our little Borgie (Border Collie/Corgi) dog “Raven” passed away in her sleep. We will miss her.
“. . .When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.”
Mary Elizabeth Frye