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Layman's Walk

“Cry a Little; Laugh a Lot.”

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These were the words a man spoke to his niece regarding how they should approach his death, which would occur before the end of the following day.

This is a phrase that has been burned into my brain; I hope I retain the ability to state this during my own final days.

Earlier this week, I had the honor of presiding over a funeral service–my third in total, and my first for a person who was not a family member.

Even in a time of true, sincere grief, the spirit I witnessed in the departed’s wife, family, and friends, was simply awe-inspiring.

I delivered a message that highlighted some of the events of this man’s life–specifically those that involved his wife, family, and friends. Then I continued to discuss God’s plan of salvation for all people. It was a message meant to soothe the hearts of those who were grieving; for them to know their loved one was in the care of God –safe, secure, and no longer in pain or facing any of the trials of this live.

While a message like this is meant to help people feel confident in the state of their lost loved one, I learned a lesson that I believe is equally important for those who remain in this life after the passing of a treasured person.

This man and his widow had developed, over the year,s such rich and wonderful relationships within their own families and friends, that there was a small army of people who could both simultaneously grief their dear loved one and who could also be the support, strength, and shoulder to cry on that was also needed for one another.

Even with the strongest faith in the live everlasting that is promised through Christ, it still hurts terribly when a loved one is lost from this world.

But together, this tightly knit group of people were able to do exactly as they had been instructed: they cried a little at a loved one’s passing–but they also laughed a lot at the memories created, the love shared, and the rich and wonderful relationships they all shared.

May you be so fortunate as to have those relationships with the family and friends who surround you, that when a loved one leaves this world for the next, you too may receive not only the comfort that comes only from God, but that which comes in the warm hug of a friend, the recalling of a treasured story, or a toast to great memories made here on earth.


Layman's Walk

Guilt and Grace

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I read a post on Facebook the other day that said something to this extent:

“The forgiveness that is given to others is also for me; I need to accept it.”

Over the last few days, I’ve wholeheartedly embraced this idea–not because of some big bad thing I’d recently done, but because of all of my seemingly minor failures that have accumulated into a large mass that I continually carry around with me.

Some examples:

  • Harshly judging others with whom I disagree.
  • Writing off the legitimate concerns of others in favor of those which benefit me.
  • Being intensely jealous of other people’s circumstances.
  • Swearing, cursing, and the like.
  • Neglecting the needs of my wife and kids.
  • Not being the role model I want to be for my family.
  • Delivering work of inferior quality because I’m lazy or just “don’t feel like doing it.”
  • Neglecting my daily devotions.
  • Snapping and speaking harshly to others with the excuse that I’m in a “bad mood.”
  • Being less than a good steward with the gifts (money, time, talent) I’ve been given.

The list goes on…

A person might look at this list and think, “Hey, no big deal.  Everyone does this stuff.”  And it’s true.  I know everyone screws up–it’s in our nature.  But lately, I have felt like the screw-ups have piled-up.

This morning, I remembered the statement above–that the forgiveness that God offers freely to everyone includes me, too!

Maybe it’s because I’m “in my own head” 24-7 or maybe it’s because I’m the only person who truly knows all my actions and understands my motives that I overlook this important concept.  But whatever the cause of it, I overcame it this morning with the help of God.

Remember, God loves everyone and will forgive anyone.

Including you.

And even me.




Layman's Walk

Getting Your Ash in Church Reminds You of What Matters

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Worship this past Wednesday night helped me remember what’s really important, and what is not.

This past Wednesday was “Ash Wednesday,” which marks the beginning of the season of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday).

It’s possible you noticed some people walking around with greyish-black markings on their foreheads shaped roughly like a plus sign (+).

This is a practice in Christianity (in particular, for Catholics, Lutherans, and Orthodox denominations, but some others practice this as well).

As you kneel, the pastor makes the sign of Christ’s cross on your forehead with ashes while saying, “Remember you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.”

It serves as a reminder that our existence is of God’s doing and of our own ultimate mortality–that just as we were made of the “dust” (or molecules, atoms, elements, the matter of the universe), our bodies will ultimately return to that “dust” after our deaths.

On its face, this may sound somewhat morbid or considered a downer, but it’s more than that.

As we look forward though the next 40 days, it concludes with Christ’s death on a cross, and his resurrection three days later.

As we consider our own mortality, we are reminded that God loves us enough to come into our midst, freely give a love to us which we do not deserve, and to suffer a terrible human death.

We also remember that God raised Jesus from the dead and that in faith, God has promised to do the same for humanity.

In the Ash Wednesday Gospel lesson, we are reminded to “store up treasures in heaven” rather than on earth. This means to put others needs ahead of our own gain, to be charitable, loving, forgiving and selfless. We are also reminded not to brag about the good we do or to call attention to ourselves. The good we do for others isn’t about us and how “good” we are, it’s about sharing God’s love with others as God has with us.

As we move through the season of Lent, remember your mortality–that to dust you will return. We remember this as we prioritize our lives. We remember this when we interact with other people. We remember the call to put others ahead of ourselves.

Often, Christians will “give something up for Lent.”  Many times, people will abstain from something as a practice in self-sacrifice and discipline.  You may be familiar with people giving up things like chocolate, lunches out, or alcohol.

But if you’re looking to both “give something up” and to improve the lives of others, we are encouraged to give more.  This could be an increase in your giving to a charitable organization or volunteering your time to a good cause.

Remember that at the end of Lent, we mourn the death of Christ as we mourn those of our loved ones and consider our own. But we also celebrate the resurrection of Christ and remember in faith God’s promise of the same for our loved ones and for us.