Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Bliss 2010 – December 5th

1105136_christmas_balls Today is the 9-month anniversary of my friend Sue’s death.  That means that those of us who were left behind have made it through 9 months without her.  It’s hard to believe that in only 3 months it will be a full year.  In many ways, I find it getting harder rather than easier.  There is not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and miss her.  Some days are easier than others, sure – and some days just downright stink – but, in any case, each day is a learning experience.

As I think about the upcoming holidays, my heart just breaks for Sue’s girls.  Sue loved Christmas and getting everything ready to make the holidays special for her family.  I loved talking to her as we wrapped our Christmas gifts and as we shared what we bought for everyone on our lists.  The thought of not seeing her happy, smiling face this season makes me sad. 

As I was pondering what I was going to write on this day, I got this in my e-mail inbox:

Week of December 3

The Question for the Canyon's Edge
by Max Lucado

The canyon of death.

Have you been there? Have you been called to stand at the thin line that separates the living from the dead? Have you lain awake at night listening to machines pumping air in and out of your lungs? Have you watched sickness corrode and atrophy the body of a friend? Have you lingered behind at the cemetery long after the others have left, gazing in disbelief at the metal casket that contains the body that contained the soul of the one you can't believe is gone?

It is possible that I'm addressing someone who is walking the canyon wall. Someone you love dearly has been called into the unknown and you are alone. Alone with your fears and alone with your doubts. If this is the case, please read the rest of this piece very carefully. Look carefully at the scene described in John 11.

In this scene there are two people: Martha and Jesus. And for all practical purposes they are the only two people in the universe.

Her words were full of despair. "If you had been here ... " She stares into the Master's face with confused eyes. She'd been strong long enough; now it hurt too badly. Lazarus was dead. Her brother was gone. And the one man who could have made a difference didn't. He hadn't even made it for the burial. Something about death makes us accuse God of betrayal. "If God were here there would be no death!" we claim.

You see, if God is God anywhere, he has to be God in the face of death. Pop psychology can deal with depression. Pep talks can deal with pessimism. Prosperity can handle hunger. But only God can deal with our ultimate dilemma—death. And only the God of the Bible has dared to stand on the canyon's edge and offer an answer. He has to be God in the face of death. If not, he is not God anywhere.

Jesus wasn't angry at Martha. Perhaps it was his patience that caused her to change her tone from frustration to earnestness. "Even now God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus then made one of those claims that place him either on the throne or in the asylum: "Your brother will rise again."

Martha misunderstood. (Who wouldn't have?) "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

That wasn't what Jesus meant. Don't miss the context of the next words. Imagine the setting: Jesus has intruded on the enemy's turf; he's standing in Satan's territory, Death Canyon. His stomach turns as he smells the sulfuric stench of the ex-angel, and he winces as he hears the oppressed wails of those trapped in the prison. Satan has been here. He has violated one of God's creations.
With his foot planted on the serpent's head, Jesus speaks loudly enough that his words echo off the canyon walls.

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25).

It is a hinge point in history. A chink has been found in death's armor. The keys to the halls of hell have been claimed. The buzzards scatter and the scorpions scurry as Life confronts death—and wins! The wind stops. A cloud blocks the sun and a bird chirps in the distance while a humiliated snake slithers between the rocks and disappears into the ground.

The stage has been set for a confrontation at Calvary.

But Jesus isn't through with Martha. With eyes locked on hers he asks the greatest question found in Scripture, a question meant as much for you and me as for Martha.

"Do you believe this?"

Wham! There it is. The bottom line. The dimension that separates Jesus from a thousand gurus and prophets who have come down the pike. The question that drives any responsible listener to absolute obedience to or total rejection of the Christian faith.

"Do you believe this?"

Let the question sink into your heart for a minute. Do you believe that a young, penniless itinerant is larger than your death? Do you truly believe that death is nothing more than an entrance ramp to a new highway?

"Do you believe this?"

Jesus didn't pose this query as a topic for discussion in Sunday schools. It was never intended to be dealt with while basking in the stained glass sunlight or while seated on padded pews.

No. This is a canyon question. A question which makes sense only during an all-night vigil or in the stillness of smoke-filled waiting rooms. A question that makes sense when all of our props, crutches, and costumes are taken away. For then we must face ourselves as we really are: rudderless humans tailspinning toward disaster. And we are forced to see him for what he claims to be: our only hope.

God Came Near Deluxe EditionAs much out of desperation as inspiration, Martha said yes. As she studied the tan face of that Galilean carpenter, something told her she'd probably never get closer to the truth than she was right now. So she gave him her hand and let him lead her away from the canyon wall.

"I am the resurrection and the life.... Do you believe this?"

From the newly released 
God Came Near: Deluxe Edition
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1987) Max Lucado

If you, too, are missing a loved one this holiday season, know that you are not alone in your sorrow.  I pray that you can rest in the assurance of seeing your loved one again in heaven.  (If you have questions about this, please feel free to e-mail me.)  I’m thankful to know that Jesus conquered death and that, once we are reunited in heaven, this time without our loved ones will be like the blink of an eye. 


Kelly said...

Praying for peace for you today and the days to come. God knows exactly how you feel and He alone is the one who can heal your hurt.

Sheri said...

My arms are like Stretch Armstrong today-stretching all the way to you to give you one gigantic hug. I have you in my sights dear friend, and I will be praying for your sorrow to be lightened. And if you feel like you cannot get thru too well....just envision a crumpled lunch bag with your poochies poo burning up the porch like a torch to heaven-I believe Sue would get a pretty good giggle out of that one! (and for those of you who don't get that statement-that is OK, cuz it is a private joke betwixt my friend Heidi and I)....HUGS!


Carrie said...

A loud and hearty AMEN!

Debra said...

Heidi, May the God of all peace comfort your soul.
May the resurrected Christ be ever near you, and your friend's loved ones during this holy season and always.
What a beautiful and encouraging post!
So glad I paid you a visit today. This was truly a blessing.
I welcome you to visit me too.
Love and prayers,

Janet - AKA: Latte Lady said...

Just stopped by to say, have a blessed day!


SisterTipster said...

Amen~we WILL see our lost loved ones again! Thanks for such a beautiful post. I am always reminded almost daily that life is just too short~way too short and our energies need to be spent on the eternal...Sending a big hug your way today!

~ Denise ~ said...

Thank you...

Jodi said...

(((hugs))) I know you are missing Sue, especially this time of year. It can be the hardest time when you don't have your loved one. This post brought tears to my eyes, and really touched my heart. I miss my mom so much every Christmas, and I don't truly get into the spirit as much as I should, and I think that's why. I do know that someday I'll see her again, and that's comfort enough for me for now. Great post, Heidi. :)

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