Tag Archives: death

i John 1

A Matter of Life or Death

(A four minute read)

I’ve been thinking a lot about absolutism and relativism lately. Which leads naturally to thinking about life and death.

Before you nod off, know that this won’t be a Humanities 101 lecture. I won’t channel Frances Schaffer either (although he was right about many things). This is just some light musing from my frequent state of semi-confusion.

On the relative scale there is worst, worse, bad, better, good, best. On the absolute scale there is Good and then there are the rest of us. The creatures. The created ones. Since we can’t be good enough to make it There, we can’t make it anywhere. At least not after death.

Don’t worry: I’m not obsessing with death per se, even though I’m about to turn 65. It just seems like the best example because it comes to all of us.

Only the absolute scale can measure this. Either we are alive, or we are dead. There’s no room for ‘kinda dead’ or ‘sorta dead’. Even the term ‘half dead’ is only an idiom, as illogical and useless as ‘half pregnant.’

So there are things in life that must be objectified. There are absolutes. Death is one of them. What happens after death is also an absolute, but there remains a tremendous argument about what happens There.

As a Christian I believe there’s some sort of life after the death experience. It’s promised in the Bible. It also just seems logical that there should be something after the transition through death, just as there is something after the transition through birth. A transitory life that includes self-awareness is devoid of meaning unless it prepares me for something.

The well-worn ‘classroom preparation/test’ metaphor is apt here. However, if life is actually a test, then it’s wrong to call God a God of Love. More like God with a clipboard. I prefer to think that life is a choice (God’s choice), and then a series of choices by me that move me toward God or away from God.

The Eternal Problem

The key then, is which direction am I moving when I Bite the Big One?

Sooner or later, believer, agnostic or atheist, we all come face to face with a living God who created us. At least that’s what I believe. I imagine Him leaning in, not malevolently, but with kindness, and asking me, ‘So?’ Since He already knows what’s in my heart the question would seem irrelevant, except that I have free will. I’m allowed to speak.

I’ve been allowed to speak for almost 65 years now, and most of what I’ve spoken does not bear repeating; much of this I admit to, but am not proud of.

We imagine God as having a great memory – the best memory in fact. After all, He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-seeing so must be all-remembering as well. Except He’s not. He can just as easily be all-forgetting.

The Bible has many reassurances of this. Here are two:

First, we get the bad news: ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.’

Then the good news: ‘ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1

Bad news again, where God says, ‘you have made Me burdened with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities.’ But then immediately we are stunned by, ‘I even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and will not remember your sins.’ 2


Why? Why would God declare that sin is not acceptable in His presence but then invite us in, sin and all, and, oh – none of this makes any sense unless God truly is a loving entity, not an angry vindictive one.

It’s easy to argue that this apparent inconsistency in God’s behavior shows that He IS vindictive, because He is ‘inconsistent’. The logical fallacy that follows is that He is ‘arbitrary’. But that imprints human values on God, which doesn’t work. Human values are relative. God’s are absolute. And we don’t necessarily understand them.

I’ll argue instead that if He were vindictive He wouldn’t offer us a way out of our sinful, selfish madness.

It’s the darnedest thing. He loves me so much I got free will. Which means I can endlessly choose things He doesn’t like. But He’s not a cop; I don’t get arrested and jailed and then put on trial and executed. Not if I say I’m sorry.

That’s the way of grace. And grace must exist because free will exists in a world where sin exists. And all these are absolute.

1. 1 John 1:8-9
2. Isaiah 43:24b-25

Sky at sunset

Stream of Unconsiousness

Verbs are sunny days outside
Nouns lock me away
Anger collects all the adjectives
Adverbs subjectify

Sleep is a punctuation
My heart lies with the nouns
No definitions are forthcoming
Actions speak harder than words

Failures cross-connect
Building an interlocking hole
Who can take my words and say
The pictures lack some definition

My life in puns, yet so obscure
Kaleidoscopic shifting
Becomes the norm
Norm is for normal

A setting on the washer
A nominal standard
Sought by all
And achieved by none

Of the people by the people
For the people all the people
This is what life looks like
When I cast away identity

In favour of a shroud
Shrouds cover death
Which obscures hard truth –
An envelope for the eternal letter

Sometimes a disguise
For something shameful
Walk a mile in my shoes
Shined and ready to going

Nowhere except to feed the
Baby needs new shoes.
7-come-11? No – Snake Eyes
Casting lots over a broken life

Is a powerless roll of the dice
When I could easily reach out
For the One who keeps knocking
With infinite patience.

You can read more poetry here.



Some years ago a friend of mine shared a poem about an intimate and life-shattering moment. I responded, attempting to encourage her.

Many of us are raw and vulnerable now. Loved ones, family, friends, have died or are dying. Or we are afraid.

Such are the realities of life. And death.

We are exhorted to ‘Be happy with those who are happy,’ and let us also be quick to ‘weep with those who weep.’ (Romans 12:15)


There is no coming back, only
going forward.
There is blue
in your face, in your hands and feet.
A cool cloth is on your head.
The nurse appears precisely on the hour.
I understand the compassion of precision
for the first time:
there will be no moment in this interminability
when you are in pain.
I play all the most beautiful music
I can think of
on my phone:
Bach’s solo cello sonatas,
Lauridsen’s Lux aeterna.

(By the Rev. Jane A. Beebe, used with permission)

Coma, an Answer

Man is red, but Heaven is blue.
Man is hot, hot and bothered;
Christ is cool, cool and relaxed;
Relaxed in invitation, “Follow me.”

Blood is red, but Heaven is blue.
In the violet of blessed sleep,
We lie between,
For a time.

Sleep is abandonment,
A time in which all must trust in the Lord.
Sleep or go mad.
Trust, or go mad.

The Great Commandment
Continues after death.
Love is happy duty,
And duty, happy love.