And Then I See…

My emotions get trampled along with the troops and helpless victims in Russia’s war against the Ukraine, and my burdened heart slows my steps. I shake my head in despair and mutter, “Evil. There is no hope in the world.” And then I see a flower.

Rising prices, rising taxes, shrinking finances—I shake my head in despair. And then the little birds in the tree outside my window sing their spring songs of love, joy, and praise and my heart rises higher than food and gas prices, higher than taxes. No one can tax a bird song.

Aches and pains tempt me to stay inside reclining in a chair and let the calories I’ve consumed for the day settle comfortably wherever they want. But I push myself up from the chair to take the dog on a walk and then I see the first spring green on a tree and my heart fills with joy that no physical pain can steal.

Loved ones—sick, weak, or dying to this world. So sad. So helpless. So hopeless. And then I remember the empty tomb and the fact that Jesus lives—and because He lives—hope returns. Because He lives, we will live again after this life in a place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no suffering, no illness, no death, no parting. I smile.

It’s a cold and dreary day. Grey inside. Grey outside. Grey everywhere. And then I see a flower.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are noble, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—mediate on these things. Philippians 4:8 Stephanie Parker McKean: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Dying to Live

The oldest inscription on a gravestone at the Rosemarkyne, Scotland – since changed to Rosemarkie – churchyard dates back to 1644. The present church building was constructed in 1821, on ground claimed for worship since the first century – 6 AD.

One family of pastors shepherded the flock for a combined total of 150 years. The salutary import of this glimpse of history is to demonstrate the truth Jesus taught: we must die to live.

Easter, or Resurrection Sunday is quickly approaching. Jesus said (Matthew 16:24-26) let those who want to follow Me deny themselves and be willing to accept the difficulties that following Me will bring. Whoever is afraid of public criticism and denies Me to win public approval will lose their lives. Whoever refuses to be swayed by fear of public opinion and serves Me will find life in Me and blessings. What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?

Once we are not afraid of dying – either physically or socially – we can live in the fullness of joy, because fear of death is the ultimate fear.

Walking through a land peopled by grave markers illustrates the frailty of our human bodies and the intransigent nature of death. We will die. All of us will die no matter what race, sex, nationality, or religious creed we claim. No one has ever out-maneuvered, out-run, or out-distanced death. Even Jesus died.

With death certain, our only hope and comfort is that Jesus is alive. Death could not keep Him, the grave could not hold Him. Because Jesus lives, we will live. Because Jesus lives, we can die to live, confident that we are not living to die.

One headstone in the Rosemarkie churchyard is a quintessential example of how to die to live instead of living to die: a cross resting on the Rock of the Ages with an open Bible next to it. That’s an earthly reminder of a heavenly citizen who understood that death is just a shadow that can’t hurt us. We must all pass through the false shadow of “death” to enter eternal life where there is no more sorrow, illness, death or dying.

Our earthly journey is short. We own the choice to live it victoriously in Jesus, or in meaningless comfort, seeking the approval of other people who – like us – will die.