Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
It’s that time of year again. While Santa is making a list and checking it twice, most of us are formulating our own lists for him. Have you started your Christmas list yet? While I haven’t actually written anything down yet, I can take a lawn mower and a blue North Face pullover off my list. I own them now because they both belonged to dead men.
Forgive the lack of euphemism, but the matter of fact-ness is intended.
The lawn mower belonged to my wife’s grandfather who passed away two weeks ago. Another one of her relatives died of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) recently. How do you put to words the feeling of wearing someone’s jacket that faced one of the most painful and lonely exits from this world?
The word sobering isn’t quite sufficient. As I wore the jacket, I looked around the room at all of my other stuff. Ghostly names began to appear on everything. Names of the people who will own my things when I’m gone. What if your Christmas list had two columns:
Things I Want From Santa Person Who Will Get This When I Die
Our things will scatter to others like the seeds of a dandelion in the spring breeze. If we’re honest, we admit that we spend most of our time envisioning the empire that we will leave behind rather than picturing the yard sale of our belongings. Surely our legacy will surpass the boundaries of ancient Rome, we subconsciously plot.
James writes, “But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” (James 1:10) Similarly Isaiah proclaims, “A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.’” It’s even more sobering to realize that in the Palestine of which these men wrote, grass stayed green only a few weeks.
The reality of death humbles one before God like nothing else. And in that light, the assurance of death becomes a merciful opportunity to worship the one who made us like grass and yet cares about us down to the root and loves us wildly while we wither.
I’ll join the other 14 billion people to post this. Simply beautiful.
-Thanks for passing it along, Doyle.
For that deeply serious masculine devotional time…
Brene’s talk is brilliant. Take twenty minutes to listen, and fight the temptation to multi-task while doing so. My favorite line: “Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language, it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart. And the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
Imprisoned Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, originally sentenced to death for apostasy and refusing to renounce Christianity, is now in even greater danger of being put to death in light of reports in state-run media of other charges, including being a Zionist and a threat to national security.
“The charge of being a Zionist and thus a traitor is among the most serious accusations that can be made in Iran,” said Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, or ACLJ. “Unfortunately, we know that this is the charge Iran levies to justify executing people who were actually arrested, imprisoned and tried on completely different charges.”
In a ruling from the Iranian Supreme Court obtained by FoxNews.com, Nadarkhani was sentenced to execution by hanging for breaking Islamic law by conducting Christian worship and baptizing himself and others.
Nowhere in the ruling is there a mention of these new charges, which were first reported by Iranian news agency FARS.
Nadarkhani’s lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, says he has not received any of these new charges from the Supreme Court, according to the ACLJ.
“The opinions of these new charges come from the political branch. Not a single judicial figure, a prosecutor or member of the court has spoken to these new charges,” Dadkhah said through a translator.
Fox News reported last week that the pastor, who also held house church services in Iran, was facing execution after being convicted of apostasy last November.
He appealed his conviction all the way to the Iranian Supreme Court.
His appeals trial began last month in Gilan Province and he refused to renounce his religion, according to rights groups monitoring the trial.
The European Center for Law and Justice, an affiliate of the ACLJ and an non-governmental organization with consultative status at the U.N., is looking at taking action at the United Nations this week.
“We have not seen any new charges from the court,” an official for the U.S. State Department said. “We continue to seek additional information.”
ISTANBUL (Compass Direct News) – Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani refused to recant his Christian faith yesterday at the fourth and final court hearing in Iran to appeal his death sentence for apostasy (leaving Islam). Applying sharia (Islamic law), the court in Rasht gave Nadarkhani, 35, a final chance to recant Christianity and return to Islam in order for his life to be spared. Nadarkhani refused.
At an appeal hearing in June, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld Nadarkhani’s sentence but asked the court in Rasht to determine if he was a practicing Muslim before his conversion. The court declared that although Nadarkhani was not a practicing Muslim before his conversion, he was still guilty of apostasy due to his Muslim ancestry, a source close to Nadarkhani’s family told Compass.
A defense lawyer told Nadarkhani’s family and friends there is a way to take the case back to the Supreme Court or extend Nadarkhani’s prison sentence, but the source said the directives of the Supreme Court were clear and he didn’t think there was much hope. It is critical for foreign governments to negotiate and engage in diplomacy with Iranian authorities about Nadarkhani’s case, the source said, adding that advocates in the international community fear that authorities may execute Nadarkhani as early as midnight tonight or any time in the coming week. The court said a verdict on Nadarkhani would be issued within the next week. “They probably won’t kill him today, but they can do it whenever they want,” the source said. “Sometimes in Iran they call the family and deliver the body with the verdict.”
I climbed Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, and I wrote a couple thoughts down as I hiked. I share them with a disclaimer: I participate here in the age-old writer’s tradition of comparing a mountain to life’s journey. The pile of rough drafts from writers who’ve used such a metaphor could likely form its own mountain. You can throw these blogs on top.
Not All Who Wander… (Pondering #4)
Our hike brought to mind Tolkien’s famous line turned bumper sticker, “Not all those who wander are lost”. As with most things, there are two sides to every coin. If you’re the parent that watches your teenager try on different identities in search of his own, this bumper stick might better serve on your bathroom mirror. I remember a season early in my adolescence when I experimented with the inclusion of swear words in my athletic vocabulary. In one-on-one basketball games with my dad, I responded to my own missed shots with shouts that would redden your ears. But my dad never scolded me. In fact, he never spoke of my language on multiple drives home. As look back I see that I wandered in search of myself without being lost under the shadow of the freedom and grace he offered.
On the other side of the coin, consider this: In the final stretch up Mt. Washington, no one traveled horizontally. No hiker jumped from rock to rock just to explore or play. You climb up, hike down, or lay there in hopes of rescue. I think of 1 Corinthians 9:
“24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
If life is a mountain, throwing pebbles into the steam at the mountain’s base may suffice for a while. But once the climb has begun, the stakes increase as does the danger, and wanderers get hurt or die. Three days before my hike last year, a man ventured off path and slipped down the face of the ravine. While it’s true that all who wander are not lost, many that do are. It’s interesting to note that of the 100 leaders with enough data to study in the Bible, only one-third finished well. Most of them failed in the last half of their life. As we increase in age, may our sense of purpose become narrower and more clearly defined as we live with deep intention founded on the God who bestows our identity.