Wednesday, June 14, 2006

two sticks in the mud

june carter wrote
everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die

as to why many christians want to go to heaven but they don't want to die ... i think it is because

a) they're not really sure if they're actually going to heaven because they haven't figured out the whole 'grace' thing and are still trying to be good enough to earn their way in, but are insecure as to their ability to do so (what with integrity lapses, moral failures and just basic self-centredness) in the time provided.


b) they kinda like it here and are having trouble embracing the idea that being eternally in the presence of the creator of the universe would be any fun because there would be no one for them to judge or pity.

once a person shakes off these two sticks in the mud, he or she is usually up for the trip.

a friend of mine and fellow marathon runner fell unconscious the other day while jogging. no warning, no clue. running along she feels something a bit buzzy and next thing you know she's being awakened from her slumber in the middle of the road where she has created a warm pool of vomit to sleep in. weird.

afterwards as i met with her in the hospital, she said "you know, it doesn't surprise me at all that right now, with so many exciting things going on, i'd have to deal with a surprise like this. but you know what's killing me? just laying here doing nothing. if i would have died- well that would have been a good day: go for a jog, meet Jesus. but this laying here wondering what's going on and what happens next..."

wondering what's going on and what happens next.

basic existential anxiety. it began when we took the bet and took the bite. everything since then has been about trying to be 'like God' with disappointing results. sad thing is that we were like God anyway- we were made in his image- still are. apparently that has never been enough for any of us because we just don't get it.

bob dylan wrote
something is happening and you don't know what it is... do you mr jones?

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Blogger SocietyVs said...

There is a definite fear of death amongst the people, but I think you missed the obvious, most people are scared of the unknown and aren't exactly sure if their 'faith' is telling them the truth, about a life after death (it's nothing you can prove).
We only know 'life' and 'death' is a one time thing but I think we catch glimpses. I remember this one time I almost choked on some food I was eating (stupid I know). What happened during the choking on the food was a weird sense of calm even in the midst of absolute fear...I realized something that day. God gives us grace to face anything, even death.
Although we may hate to admit there is an end, there is. In that time of dying we will find a grace unknown to us to allow us to experience the unthinkable, our own perishing from earth. We must believe God while we have the chance, focus on what we can do to change the lives around us, 'life is for the living'.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"...but I think you missed the obvious, most people are scared of the unknown and aren't exactly sure if their 'faith' is telling them the truth, about a life after death (it's nothing you can prove)." SVS

well, SVS, i'm not so sure i missed the obvious so much as i was trying to look beyond it in order to explore why our faith fails to free us from mortal fear.

this post began as an email to an achristian friend of mine who likes to periodically poke believers' faith with a stick to see if it is still alive. in this case, he was nudging me with the whole 'well if your faith is real and your treasure is elsewhere then how come so many of you seem to be so terrified of dying?'

in other words, he was posing the question that, if we say death is merely a doorway between the here and the hereafter, then why are so many Jesus people so afraid to go through it?

hence the 'two sticks' idea. both of them default to the motion that there is, in fact, life after death- that heaven is, either figuratively or literally, real.

from that presupposition, i tried to punch out why, if one believes enough to officially align him/herself with that belief and with the author and finisher of that belief- Jesus- that person might still be playing cosmic dodgeball with mortality instead of packing his or her bags for the journey across the crystal sea.

you are right, though, that life after death represents a huge unknown. what we believe about it largely determines what we do in the interim- this short in-between time that we call 'the rest of my life.'

the whole notion of sacred (or existencial) anxiety landed in my lap one day as i was reading an interesting book by a guy named robert gerzon called 'finding serenity in the age of anxiety.' he outlined some really good things in it: one being that we alone, or all of God's creations, suffer from sacred anxiety... we are aware that death is immanent.

jim morrison articulated it well in his song 'five to one':

five to one, baby
one in five
no one here gets out alive, now
you get yours, baby
i'll get mine
we gonna make it, yeah, if we try

a secular humanist might say that it is from the knowledge of our own mortality and a stubborn disbelief in the notion that it all just ends here with no explanation (particularly in the area of meaning) that every religion is born.

i default in a different direction- it is my belief that God has placed within each of us an unquenchable desire to experience him personally, and it is from this indefatigable drive to address this desire that every religion is born.

what is religion anyway? a physical manifestation or enactment of a spiritual condition? a means by which we as mortal beings express our desire to commune with our creator? a checklist of things to do before we die? a discipline that communicates our allegience to a cosmic community and its sovereign leader? in my view, religion is probably all of these and a bunch more.

that's probably why i typically don't consider myself religious- just too much rhetoric there.

it has always seemed to me that religion is more about doing than being, and i personally would be much happier being known as a man of faith, than i would be to be known as a religious man... i mean, even if you place the word 'devoutly' before it, there's still not much distance between religious manism and religious freakishness.

it's not that i want to be a mystic who has no stock in the here and now... the here and now is where our faith is to bear fruit. i just don't want people to equate my faith relationship with all that fascism that seems to manifest itself in the life of a person who has placed a religion in between himself and other people the way the pharisees did.

in expressing my desire to experience God, i try to live his love in a way that makes sense with who i am, believing that he created me this way for a reason. then even a whisper is worship, simple friendship is fellowship, serving others is sacrificially offering of my best... and all of these are done with eternal impact as they are surrendered to the empowering of the Holy Spirit. God's work for God's glory.

with so much living to do for God's glory, the only fear of dying has to do with running out of time to be used of God as his instrument.

(this probably should have just been a post of its own... oh well.)

Blogger SocietyVs said...

Dude, long comment there but it was a good read. I like the part about faith instead of religion, so true. As for death, what can we do to delay or make a deal with death? Not much.
Even to them that question the sincerity of faith while on earth and then ask a question about our 'fear of death'...maybe they question our sincerity of faith as a whole. Even a question about death does that dance back to how religious our faith has become.
But we live while we live and death is a one-time event, it's life that matters and what we do with it. However I confess I believe in a resurrection.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

that, i believe, is a confession of faith.

awhile back CS invited an intercession opportunity to pray for a miracle of healing for a dear friend and saint. this awesome guy went on to glory anyway and i found myself wondering if it is wrong to pray on another's behalf for the prolonging of life. i mean, the reality is we all go when we go and praying for extended life is kinda like begging for immortality isn't it?

conversely, i have a friend who, right now, would rather just 'go home.' she suffers from a horrible disease and says that her work here is done and that she is at peace- she really just wants to be free of the 24/7 pain and be with Jesus.

i'm so glad that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when we grapple with the issues and pray the prayers that we ourselves don't even truly understand.

Blogger Cinder said...

"i mean, the reality is we all go when we go and praying for extended life is kinda like begging for immortality isn't it?"

(i have an inkling before i even start typing that this will be long...sorry, but here goes it.) i've read through this post and the comments over and over again and then thought through the death and near-death experiences i've experienced in the last year and a half.

one small thing first...with my mom, i don't know for sure where my parents completely stand with God. this week a hurdle was placed in the path of transplantation and it's now been set back at least 3-6 months. you could get discouraged and angry with the system...there are times when it's a struggle to not. i have to say that i've had fears which i had to worked through with her previous surgeries, but this was the underlying cause. what God has placed on my heart is that i've now been given a little more time to talk with my parents and be completely sure, before my mom has there are never any guarantees with a kidney-failure patient undergoing surgery.

now on with what i started out to say...two of the near-death experiences, doctors didn't expect to live, but they did. a lot of prayers were lifted up on their behalf and the one thing i remember with them was this...the one was younger than i and people felt in their hearts he was just too young to be taken away and that he still had purposes to fulfill for God's kingdom here on earth...the other was a father of two young children and people couldn't imagine that it might be his time to be with Christ, that Christ would allow his wife to be widowed with two young kids at the age of 33. they did have miraculous turnabouts and recoveries and I do know through this that it was God's will for them to be here a while longer. i guess the thing which has kind of stuck with me was the fact that people wanted their will to be done in the situations and not necessarily His. i remember praying at one point for His will to be done, not what i wanted. not only that, but that i would be accepting of what His will was, especially if it wasn't the hoped for outcome. that if He took them, that it wouldn't harm people's walk with Him, but that it would strengthen their faith in Him and that His will would be done, even through their death.

on the other hand, i had a family member who was terminal and they put everything in place and came to terms with the support for them, the family needed to try and do the same. with my grandpa, he became sick with something very treatable, but he was ready to go and so he pulled his breathing tubes out, as he knew the nurses couldn't legally put them back in, as it would have been against his wishes. i remember going to be with him and trying to console my family. i can't even describe the desperation which some of them felt and yet they couldn't understand or probably describe the extreme peace i had. because of my family history, i don't know with 100% certainity his heart, but i'm as sure as i can be and ultimately, God knew it and therefore it's not my decision to make or worry about. this situation showed me something very important grandpa was at complete peace with dying and therefore because i loved him so much, i needed to be too and because i was with him until his last breath, i needed to respect his wishes and make sure that those around him, family and those caring for him, kept him as comfortable as possible, but ultimately respected his wishes and not what their desires might have been.

i had my cheek to his when he took his last breath and there was complete peace in that room as his spirit left...that's what i want for me, because that's what it should be. a lot of times i think we lose sight of something really important...God has blessed us with families, soulmates, children, friends, etc., but they are ultimately temporary. yes, we are to enjoy experiencing life with them and serving God together with them, make each moment with them count to the fullest. we are supposed to treat all them with the utmost of care and love, but we aren't to let them become more important than Him, as life here on earth is only a very small portion of what life will eternally be.

i've struggled at times with that mindset...i'm human and do have the hurdles of human short-comings and narrow-mindedness at times. i've thought a lot this last year and a half though and a lot has been spoken to my heart about the fact i need to be accepting of His will, even though it might not have been what i expected...whether that be through a move, relational discord, death, etc. we might not understand His will all the time, but we don't have a right to dictate what we want it to be, even though human nature leads that way sometimes. but it's because of those very apparent struggles, that i agree with you in the fact of being glad that the Holy Spirit does intercede on our behalf, because there are going to be those times when we do grapple with the issues at hand or when we just don't truly understand why something's's the Spirit that does allow us to pray despite the inner turmoil going on inside.

Blogger SocietyVs said...

Wow, Cinder, that is long but I really like the point of view you bring to it, about the time we have been given on earth.
I am currently in the midst of some deep questions about the Christian faith and personal responsibility. I think some of this post is very enlightnening, basically how life needs to be our sense of importance since it's the time we have with the people around us.
Nothing comes easy with me, I am a skeptic to the Nth degree, resulting in a realist POV. The stuff you say about life is absolutely true, we are going to be made to count for the time we spend with people around us, whether quality or quantity. I notice it is my responsibility to treat people 'right' or like they will effect me here and now but also my faith in God would be compromised by treating people lesser than I treat myself.
Great inspirational stories, I really dig the blogs coming out of this place.

Blogger Cinder said...

hope you had a very happy Father's Day jb...blessings to you and yours!

Blogger Cinder said...

hey there society, i didn't comment last night when i was here, as i was still brutally tired (i guess i'm getting too old to stay up 31 hours without sleep) kidding that post was long...I just read it. that was one of those comments/posts which just flew off my fingers before i knew it and i didn't really know what i even typed.

"The stuff you say about life is absolutely true, we are going to be made to count for the time we spend with people around us, whether quality or quantity. I notice it is my responsibility to treat people 'right' or like they will effect me here and now but also my faith in God would be compromised by treating people lesser than I treat myself."

yep, i do believe we will be accountable for how we spent our time. it's a continuous learning curve with me, especially now that my kids are with me all the time. they are very impressionable canvases and i've really grown throughout the last year, as they've caused me to very mindful of being true and myself and also making sure that 'true and myself' are a positive influence to not only them, but my family and those around me. we do need to treat people fair and with Christian love...when we are able to bring down our walls and go to people and be there for them, regardless of how they does something to you (at least i know it does something to me). it's humbled me, softened my heart a lot and is working to help me truly begin to see the world and those around me a little more through Christ's eyes, instead of my own.

"I am currently in the midst of some deep questions about the Christian faith and personal responsibility."

this last year has been a huge reflection for me in more ways than i can say. i don't think it's a bad thing to be reflecting and asking questions...that's what strengthens our faith, allows us be secure in our foundation and realign and know what we truly believe, so we can stay true!

Blogger Pastor Josh said...

I think that christians are affraid to die sometimes, because they still have there own thoughts and plans ahead of them. When we give ourselves totally to God we don't have any plans or thoughts of our own. But of God's. When we have our own plans on what we want to accomplish before we die. We won't want to die, because we haven't accomplished everything that we wanted to do. So our flesh is incontrol of the situation. That's why we have to give our lives totally over to God. Let Him be in control of everything. Then you will truely be ready to die when the time comes.

Blogger Internet Street Philosopher said...

Yeah, I've heard some people say that they'd rather not be in heaven cause all they thought they could do was stereotypical activities like play the harp and fly around among the clouds.

God is not boring at all. He's probably got more up there than we will ever have the time to do. And also grace is a difficult concept to grasp for us human beings. We feel like we have to do something when God has taken care of it for us. But heaven is a cool thing to look forward to.

Blogger 2eyes_open said...

being the marathon runner who dropped unconscious and awoke in her pool of vomit, and just reading all these posts, thought I'd add this:
Yep, despite my absolute faith in Jesus and being with God when I do die, I did allow anxiety and fear of leaving this world I know, this existance where I can choose to do God's will or mine, to enjoy a beautiful day or not, to be in control, to overshadow a very important fact:

I am living my eternal life NOW---it doesn't start on the day I drop(no pun intended) dead, I am assured of and am living my eternity now, this time on earth is just a mere flicker of time in the scheme of things.

When I collapsed, when I had a bunch of tests, when I ultimately had open heart surgery and had my heart stopped for two hours...I forgot, that for all the amazingness of being alive here and now on earth, it is just that, a slim slice of an etenity that goes on forever...what the heck can I possibly be anxious about??

I read my operating room report--I should not be here. I should have died that day I collapsed. After 39 years, my life should have been done.

Am I happy I'm still here? SUre--I've got a husband, kids, grandbaby.I'd even say the sun seems to shine brighter, the air smells better, and trivial things don't annoy me nearly as much as they used to. Man, this life on earth that God gives us really is a bloody gift. But if I die today or tomorrow, I merely go on to be with my Father, which gives me no anxiety at all. And if I am alive tomorrow, I will not worry about what's going to happen next, I will embrace it, whatever comes.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

thanks for your words, 2eyes... especially the 'bloody gift' part.

perspective. how many of us ever gain any and live to tell the tale?

Blogger daubmir said...

Beginning with some pork::::::=

"Men fear Death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other." ~ Francis Bacon

What happens when we die? Does everything we are just stop? Is consciousness lost forever? Or does some vital spark inside us, a spirit or a soul, live on?

We find it almost impossible to think about not having a mind, of our awareness being snuffed out like a candle. Yet the stark fact is that within a century or so, everyone alive today — all six billion of us — will be dead. Nothing in life is more certain. Sooner or later, whatever we do, whatever we achieve, our physical remains will be rotting in the ground or have been burned to ashes. Or perhaps like Einstein's brain, blanched bits of us will be languishing in formaldehyde, pickled for prosperity and science.

We look around for comfort. But the message from the front line of brain research could hardly be more bleak. We should not build up any hope, it tells us, of being able to carry on after death. The brain too obviously plays a master role in making us what we are. When its workings are impaired, by drink, drugs, or disease, "we" alter too. And when the higher centers of the brain are completely put out of action, by a knock on the head or general anesthesia, our whole inner self seems temporarily to wink out. During life, our memories, personality, and awareness seem to depend crucially on the state of that bizarre, tofu-like mass between our ears. Why, then, should we kid ourselves? What is the point of holding out hope of being able to think and remain conscious when the brain is dead, if we can't even do it in the depths of sleep?

Ending with some wood::::::::::=

"I am not afraid to die . . . I just don't want to be there when it happens". ~ Woody Allen

Still around, my man, still alive & kicking, sho'nuff!
Just back from the Hebrides, I'm starting a new cycle of emotions...
(aka -daubmir, aka -Proteus, aka -AnyOneYouWantMeToBe)


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