Hospice & Palliative Care: A Quality Alternative to Assisted Suicide

-point to ponder-

If you know someone who is caring for someone who has been told that curative treatment is no longer an option for their life-threatening illness, or caring for someone who is experiencing pain and discomfort which is creating a life without quality, encourage them to consider hospice.

by Jody Neufeld

 What words come to mind when this question is posed: What is a life with quality?





 Humans have wrestled with the concept of quality vs quantity of life, ever since medication was discovered to both heal disease and prolong a life. With technology, we can keep a 20-something athlete with a brain injury alive almost indefinitely. Cancer, neuro-muscular diseases, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s and other dementia continue to be some of the difficult life-journeys which bring us, not just as a family or a community, but as humanity to the question of defining a quality life vs. the quantity of that life.

Thirty years ago, I (as an RN) left my job as a critical care nurse in a hospital and took a job with the local hospice. It was a relatively small hospice with an average patient census of 25-30 patients over a four-county area. In the next decade, it would grow to over 400 patients, covering a six county area and be ranked in the top 25 hospices in the United States.

In the 12 years that I worked with hospice, we went from the National Hospice Organization which “took care of dying patients,” and after much public education, some people, like doctors and social workers, now know that the organization is actually Hospice and Palliative Care. What is the difference?

Hospice does not just make sure a patient is clean and dry and support the family as everyone waits around for the last breath. The hospice team (nurses, doctors, social workers, homecare assistants, chaplains, volunteers, pharmacists and the family) actively create a plan of care for the patient that will give them life in each day! Nurses are available 24/7 to answer questions and make visits whether it is 2 o’clock in the afternoon or in the dark morning. With so many medications available to help control discomfort and so many different ways to give the medication, I submit that pain is always controllable in patients with a life-threatening illness. Yes, I have had to sit families down to have a difficult conversation which explained that the two options open were: awake with pain or sleeping without pain. But out of control “torment” should never describe a hospice patient’s situation.

In my time with hospice, I saw the aftermath of 12 suicides. The families were devastated. All but four were done with handguns. The cleanup, not just of the physical location, but of the families’ shock and mental anguish was very hard to watch. Our counselors found the bereavement period was often indefinite. Families had to process not only their loved one’s death but what they perceived as their inability to meet needs or know their loved one’s mind and do whatever to keep them comfortable.

If you know someone who is caring for someone who has been told that curative treatment is no longer an option for their life-threatening illness, or caring for someone who is experiencing pain and discomfort which is creating a life without quality, encourage them to consider hospice. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization can give you a list of hospices in your local area. If you know someone who has received care from a local hospice, a personal recommendation is always good. Many hospices now employ physicians as part of the care team who are well educated in palliative care and will even make house calls! Options in pain control may also include daily assessment by the patient’s assigned RN, so that the administration of medication and non-pharmaceutical treatments are carefully monitored and, what I used to call, “dialed in” to balance with the person’s pain.

Let me quickly answer just a few questions that are often asked about hospice care:

  • Once I sign up for hospice care, can I change my mind? Of course!
  • How much does hospice care cost? Most health insurance policies (now!) have hospice benefits. Like in any other medical treatment, ask up front how a particular hospice does billing. The hospice I worked for was a non-profit and patients did not pay any fees. Each hospice is different so ask questions.
  • Are all hospice patients placed on morphine for pain control? No. While morphine is an excellent drug for the pain management of advanced cancer, there are several options. My son who died from cancer (rhabdomyosarcoma) only required Tylenol #3 (codiene). This is why the field of medicine is an art, not a science. Each person must be assessed individually.
  • Are all hospices the same? No. Like hospitals, there are non-profit and for profit hospices. Some have inpatient facilities. Some “specialize” in the care of children.

I hope that while what I have shared here is a preliminary overview, it may encourage those who are struggling in a difficult situation to know there are options. As I was scanning the Internet for “what’s new in palliative care,” I found a website called “Next Step in Care.” It had some wonderful information about hospice, home care, and facility care. Assisted Suicide is not the only option; I do not believe it is even the best option.

And finally, as a hospice team member, the daughter of a hospice patient, and the mother of a hospice patient, I have stood as a witness in the final months and weeks of someone’s life. It can be a time to reflect on good memories and share heart-felt words which may bring healing in the spirit to the one moving on and comfort in the days ahead to those left behind.






-point to ponder

Make no mistake, you don’t have to work at a co-op or wear breathable pants to be in a cult. In fact, your cult leader doesn’t even need to profess himself as “I AM”....They might be completely blind to your fanaticism. Wouldn’t that be the worst—to birth someone into cult status without them even knowing?

by Nick May

Cover3Titles like these honestly make me wonder how many folks per year are unwittingly lured into participating in organized zealotry and/or brainwashing. Like, does the thought never cross your mind? Wait…this reminds me of an episode of Boy Meets World I saw once. We all know “cults” in the traditional sense. It’s probably a good indicator as to why we’re reading this instead of lying belly up somewhere with a Kool-Aid mustache as drones fly overhead, photographing our bodies. MOLE CRICKET, my third novel, deals with a cult boy named Moses, who has the excuse of being a twelve-year-old. What’s yours? Here are 3 ways to tell if you’re in a cult.

Your allegiance is tied to a man, not a mandate.

None of these describe a traditional cult model, but they all find their roots in the DNA of devoted fanaticism. The idea of attributing most, if not all, of one’s motivation to a figurehead, rather than the calling or cause that figure champions, can lead to borderline occult tendencies. In the book, Moses’s parents lose sight of the convictions they once shared, and instead, place their hope and trust in a person. And we’re not talking Jesus here. It’s one thing to baptize folks. It’s another thing entirely to drown them. A good vision always outlasts the visionary.

Your mom is your best friend (and not by choice).

I’m imagining the scores of mother/daughter combos that want to curse me to no end for making such a statement. But if you’re offended, I want you to take the parenthetical portion of the subtitle and renounce this particular rule with all the gumption you can muster! What I mean here is that it’s been a while since you’ve made a new friend. You’re comfortable in your bubble. You like compartmentalizing the company you do keep. It’s easier. In Moses’s case, his mom was the only person on the farm who ever displayed a remote sense of love unabashed. But then *spoiler* she betrays him pretty hard. What a tool.

Your death involved someone’s misplaced hope.

Ok, so this one’s a bit of a stretch, and, of course, there’s no way of knowing until Steve Jobs gets iPhones working in the afterlife, but the premise is simple. Your death is the immediate result of your own belief that some mortal being or some temporal thing was going to come through for you, and they didn’t. A lot of overly skeptical celebrities or successful people will say to flee headlong from the dependency of people coming through for you. I’m of that same school of thought, but just in a way more hopeful “faith in the human race” kind of way.

Make no mistake, you don’t have to work at a co-op or wear breathable pants to be in a cult. In fact, your cult leader doesn’t even need to profess himself as “I AM” the way Moses’s Man in the Woods does in MOLE CRICKET. They might be completely blind to your fanaticism. Wouldn’t that be the worst—to birth someone into cult status without them even knowing? Good grief. Get a grip on yourself, man!


by Nick May

Cover2 MINUTEMEN was a book I wrote that repeatedly caused my mom to ask, “How can you tell a story with no redemption?” She questioned whether or not it was even biblical to do so. I questioned whether or not I even cared. Regardless of my attempts to write stories with no moral or tidy sense of redemption, such elements often have a hard time staying buried for long within lines about real people in authentic situations. Even I couldn’t spin a yarn (knowingly or unknowingly) without some kind of inherent moral compass. Maybe you identify with one of the four dudes from my sophomore title. Just in case, here are 3 ways to tell if you’re irredeemable.

Your current life path was determined by a girl you no longer know.

This one is funny, because I assume it could pertain to a male or a female, but I hear more stories about girls attracting guys down ambitious roads that, at some point, bear a flagrant fork in their destinies. Think back for a moment. Are you sitting where you’re sitting today because some girl you liked was a part of something you might have never discovered without her? I think you’ll be surprised at how many of your life choices are a direct result of chasing teenage girls who now have kids that look half like what your potential child would have looked…

Somewhere back there, you chose beef stew over birthright.

Some of us may have taken the shorter route to satisfaction. Maybe we saw that long haul and decided it was just too much gas. Thom, John, Nate and Ezra (the book’s main characters) each display a piece of this mindset in their own way. Thom believes he’ll never love again, John believes he never should, Nate doesn’t even understand love, and Ezra, well he finds a way to have his stew and eat it too. In each of their cases, the boys give up meaningful commitments in favor of immediate belonging.

Your long-term plan looks more like an escape plan.

There’s a mess that you’re standing right in the middle of. You made it, now you’re making your bed in it. Maybe you didn’t even make the mess. Maybe you were born into it, like a pig in the pods, and that’s your excuse. Either way, you’ve probably uttered the phrase: “I’ll be so glad when I’m out of this town…this job…this relationship.” Trust me, no plan worth keeping is one that begins with you running away from something.

If there’s one thing MINUTEMEN did right, it’s scare folks. It may surprise you that I’ve never cast a shadow on the door of a strip club, or been inside a rundown beach motel where they’re cooking crystal meth for frisky hazwopers, but I know, first hand, that messy people most certainly exist, and they absolutely lead messy lives. A lot of us would call these kinds of bottom feeders irredeemable. I’ll let you judge for yourself.


-point to ponder-

Taking a cue from "You know if you're a redneck," Nick May wonders if you are a (Bible) Belter. He offers three possibilities you may recognize in yourself,  and asks if you know of others. [EDN Editor]

by Nick May

 Cover1When I wrote MEGABELT, the “Bible Belt” South had the market cornered on funny traditions, religious stereotypes and condemnation disguised as good-natured child rearing. Back then, it was easy to tell if you were a Belter. Like Gil (my main character), you attended a gospel sing followed by an ice cream social, you knew not to use a lowercase “g” when referring to the God of Abraham, and you may have even fooled around in the back of a church van. Things are nowhere near as black and white as they used to be. We live in a very different version of the Belt today. Here are 3 ways you can tell if you’re a modern Belter.

You’re not exactly sure what the protocol is for saying the blessing anymore.

In MEGABELT, I poked a lot of fun at the idea of “blessing” meals or people who just sneezed. The question was never “Who’s gonna do it?” Instead, it was “Really, what’s the thought process behind this?” Now that my little novella has liberated so many from these empty traditions (I also started the YoYo craze of 1998), the question has morphed into the panic-stricken uncertainty of “Should we even cast a magical spell over our food at all?”

Church is something you occasionally give yourself a break from.

In Gil’s South, church was what you did. It was what everyone did. And if you didn’t do it, you lied about it and said you did. Today, church attendance is something you feel the need to purge yourself from every now and then. You post an Instagram of yourself “Worshiping the creator at the beach today. #blessed” It’s something we do as much as working, and something we get as shifty with as our three hour night classes at the community college.

You sometimes miss the simplicity of your parents’ Jesus.

Gil couldn’t wait to get away from his parents’ church. There was nothing to get excited about; nothing to work towards (other than perfect attendance). Today, Belters are so much more aware of what’s behind the curtain. They know the ins and outs of churches that appear to be fruitful and busy. The things that used to leave you dissatisfied (like a lack of programming, serving opportunities and easily understood sermons), now seem like precious commodities.

Whether you admit it or not, chances are you can identify with one or more of these things. If you’re familiar with all three, well then ring a bell, you’re a Mod Belter. Maybe you were offended by one or more of these statements. That would be swell. Let’s hear it. Tell us what is that you miss about the old Belt, and let us know what other designations you think fit on this list. Until next time, god bless.

What did Jesus say?

-point to ponder-

David Cartwright asks a simple question, yet finds answering it to be a lifelong quest...should we choose to pursue it. [EDN Editor]

by David Cartwright

       Cover   Of the three questions that drive my quest for an answer concerning the paradoxical teachings of Jesus, “What did Jesus say?” would seem to be the easiest to answer. On the surface, “What did Jesus mean?”, and “What would Jesus do?”, surely require more reflection and discernment. Not so, I’ve found, during my study of these sayings of Jesus. In fact, all fifteen sermons in my book deal with the question, “What did Jesus say?” with varying degrees of difficulty and success. Whether it is “To Speak or Not to Speak”, “A Public or Private Affair”, or “To Turn the Cheek”, each is a representation of the on-going struggle to uncover what Jesus actually said.

An example can be found in complimentary passages from the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I am thinking right now of a passage that I could have included in my book, but for some reason at the time of writing, escaped my search. It all has to do with loving one’s enemies. The discussion can be found in Matthew 5, The Sermon on the Mount, and Luke 6, The Sermon on the Plain. Both report Jesus saying, “Love your enemies.” Matthew 5: 44 puts it this way, “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Luke 6: 27: “But I say to you that hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” So far, so good, as far as I can tell. But then we come to Matthew 5: 47, “And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Compare Luke 6: 34: “And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” Notice that Matthew, a Jewish Christian, uses the loaded word, “Gentiles.” Luke, a Gentile himself, uses the much more generic word, “sinners.” What did Jesus actually say? One of these, or perhaps, both? And to make matters even more puzzling, this is one of those places in scripture that we call “Q,” where Matthew and Luke are evidently following a source that is not in the gospel of Mark. Conceivably, Jesus may have said something that neither Matthew nor Luke chose to incorporate in their reports. My hunch is, that is all we can know until we find the lost source “Q.” It seems clear to me that both Matthew and Luke chose words that their audiences would or could relate to.

But there’s an even more intriguing saying that also reflects the biases of these two gospel writers. In Matthew 5: 48, Jesus says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” While Luke 5: 36 concludes, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Which is it? Or both? Or again, did Jesus say something entirely different that neither gospel writer chose to use? As I said before, we simply do not know.

For myself, I can see how Jesus may have at one point in his ministry said, “Be perfect,” and at another time, “Be merciful.” The overarching point of agreement is that Jesus is telling us that we should emulate these qualities of our heavenly Father. We should strive to be as perfect (complete) and as merciful (compassionate) as God is and desires us to become.

I’m glad for this opportunity to expand my thought, as I wish I had spent some time on these sayings and included them in my book. Which is only to say that my quest to answer the three questions continues.


what did jesus mean?

-point to ponder-

David Cartwright asks us to consider the scope of differing opinions, but not let this deter us from coming to our own conclusions. That's the least expected of us. [EDN Editor]

by David Cartwright

 Cover         It’s funny what we remember and what we forget. Some things stick with us for a lifetime. Others refuse to come to light. One insight that has stayed with me now for fifty years is a comment one of my professors made while I was in divinity school. The class was discussing various views of the doctrine of the Eucharist. Speaking of Reformation viewpoints, the professor said, “What you have to realize is that Luther’s question was, “What does the text say?” Calvin’s question was, “What does the text mean?” That is the basis of their disagreement on Jesus’ words, “This is my body.” Luther came away from the text with a doctrine of the ubiquitous presence of Christ in the elements, while Calvin believed in a memorial interpretation. After all, as Calvin put it, Christ’s body cannot be in the elements since Jesus ascended into Heaven. Needless to say, the discussion has continued to this day, with a sordid history of in-hospitality on both sides of the divide. What did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body.”?

Well, that’s not the only scriptural saying of Jesus we could reflect on. There’s an interesting place in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 22) that suggests that some of Jesus’ disciples were carrying weapons. Earlier in Chapter 10, Jesus had explicitly told his disciples to go out with no bag, no purse, no sandals. Now he tells them to sell their cloak and buy a sword. Picking up on this, the disciples say “Look, Lord, here are two swords,” most likely the ever-present near-Eastern dagger. Jesus replies, “It is enough.” What on earth could he mean? Does he mean that two swords are enough? That’s all they need. Some commentators say no. These commentators say that this is not what Jesus meant at all. Others take a slightly different tack. They say that when Jesus saw that even his disciples were carrying swords, his heart was broken. They hadn’t gotten his message of non-violence. Still others say that Jesus is simply acknowledging that there is no way around violence in this world. “Let them have their way.” And sadly, even his disciples will be a part of it.

Obviously, the interpretation of this passage continues to cause us to reflect on the question, “What did Jesus mean?” The Two Sword passage has been used by some to justify going to war and by others to justify having nothing to do with war. Personally, I can see how these scriptures might apply both to situations of war and of non-violence. That is why I personally cannot conclude that Jesus is a pacifist, as many believe; nor do I think he’s an insurrectionist, as at least one is saying these days. Taken together with other things Jesus had to say, these scriptures help me see what the other side is talking about. Specifically, Luke 10 and Luke 22 taken together at least force us to ask the right questions, if not ultimately arriving at the answers we’re looking for. For instance, what are we to make of the use of drones in air strikes? What would Jesus think of this? As a Christian, all I can say is that finally it’s up to us to make the hard decision based on what we think Jesus means. That is the one thing I am confident that Jesus asks of us.

Next time: What did Jesus say?


What would Jesus do?

-point to ponder-

[L]ooking for a definitive answer from Jesus can be quite challenging. For many times, it’s not all that clear what Jesus would do, and often times it gets down to “it all depends.”

by David Cartwright

  Cover        In my book on the paradoxical teachings of Jesus, there are three questions that prompted my quest for answers and shaped the course of all fifteen meditations on the sayings of Jesus. “What did Jesus say?”, “What did Jesus mean?”, and “What would Jesus do?” Although, that’s the most helpful order to deal with the questions, most often that is not the way these questions are experienced. Usually, I find that most of us proceed the other way around. We begin with “What would Jesus do?” Then turn to “What did Jesus mean?”

And finally arrive at the most basic one, “What did Jesus say?” Maybe, because the most common approach appears to begin with the most obvious and least difficult. For my part, there’s enough obscurity and difficulty all along the way. However, in these three posts, I have decided to begin with the usual experience of the action question, “What would Jesus do?”

Not too long ago, it was very popular in many Christian circles to wear a little wrist band with the initials, WWJD. As a pastor, I remember seeing many young people in my congregation with these bracelets. Also, around the same time, there were visible yellow wrists bands with the words, LIVE STRONG, a promotion of Lance Armstrong, when he was at his best and highest in popularity. These are two approaches to living the good life. One, a call to reflection, and the other, an admonition to perfection. Neither of these approaches provides a concrete answer or program on how exactly one is to go about this. The best thing about both of these approaches is that they leave the specific outcome up to the person wearing the bracelet. We all know what happened to Lance Armstrong, and I haven’t seen many of those bracelets around recently. For that matter, I haven’t seen a WWJD wrist band in a long while either. Still as a Christian pastor, I think that these approaches are not altogether off the beaten track to good ethical living.

But looking for a definitive answer from Jesus can be quite challenging. For many times, it’s not all that clear what Jesus would do, and often times it gets down to “it all depends.” Take for instance, the matter of the response to Jesus’ healings. One time Jesus tells a man cured of leprosy not to tell anyone about what has happened (Mark 4) However, at another time, Jesus seems perfectly content to let another cured man go and spread the good news (Mark 5). What are we to make of this? It just so happens that the first man is a Jew in Jewish territory, and it is early in Jesus’ ministry, and Jesus is trying to be on good terms with the authorities. To the other cured man, a Gentile in “the Gerasenes”, Jesus seems to be saying that the man can speak his piece, because at the moment the environment is receptive to what Jesus is about.

What would Jesus do? And what would Jesus do today in the 21st century? It all depends. But one thing is clear. There is always an appropriate response, but it may differ under specific circumstances.

Next time: What did Jesus mean?

How is the church to interpret the cross of Jesus today?

-point to ponder-

The variety of images which Paul used to write about the death of Jesus shows that the cross touches life at many places....The cross of Christ is not merely an ancient event which occurred two thousand years ago, but curiously affects our present situation today.

by William Powell Tuck

CrossWithout question, the cross is the central symbol of Christianity. But the centrality of the cross is far more than symbolic; it represents finality– an act of God. As Paul is bold to claim, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (II Cor. 5:19). Through the central act of the cross, Jesus died once for all for the sins of humanity. Paul and other New Testament writers put the cross t the heart of their preaching and teaching. Paul declared that he delivered to the churches what he had received from earlier Christians how Christ died for our sins (I Cor. 15:3 and 11:23).

Many today wonder what the death of a prophet from Nazareth, who lived two thousand years ago, has to do with them. “What could be its relevance for me now?” they ask. But I think F. W. Dillistone is correct when he boldly states in his book, The Christian Understanding of Atonement, “Indeed I am confident that there is no doctrine of the Christian faith which has more points of contact with life in the modern age.” The cross of Jesus addresses our emptiness, aloneness, suffering, pain, rejection, sins, alienation, and the questions arising out of God’s silence.

The variety of images which Paul used to write about the death of Jesus shows that the cross touches life at many places. It is my prayer that those who read these pages about the cross of Jesus will sense anew the point of contact which this cross makes with their lives. The cross of Christ is not merely an ancient event which occurred two thousand years ago, but curiously affects our present situation today.

William law, captured the truth of the centrality of the cross over 200 years ago in the following words from A Serious Call to A Devout and Holy Life:

The Christian’s great conquest over the world is all contained in the mystery of Christ upon the Cross. It was there, and from thence, that He taught all Christians how they were to come out of, and conquer the world, and what they were to do in order to be His disciples. And all the doctrines, Sacraments, and institutions of the Gospel are only so many explications of the meaning, and applications of the benefit, of this great mystery.

The New Testament is filled with many images which the various writers employ to depict the power of God which was revealed in the cross of Christ. Paul used the image of justification which he took from the law courts. He drew pictures of redemption and emancipation from the slave market, reconciliation from the image of friendship, adoption from family life, propitiation or ransom from the sacrificial system of Judaism, sanctification from their worship practices, and the view of setting person’s account right from the accounting system. Many theologians have built their theological system around one of these pictures.

But the New Testament does not give just one interpretation of Christ’s death on the cross. There are many. A casual glimpse into the New Testament discloses images of Christ’s death as sacrifice, substitution, metaphors drawn from the law courts, expiation, forensic, satisfaction, example, revelation, deliverer, representative, suffering servant, lamb, and many others.

No single one of these images contains all of the truth about what God has done in Christ’s death. All of these images underscore the great mystery involved in the God who has loved and redeemed us on the cross. The cross can never be reduced to images of legal, judicial, transferring of guilt, paying off a debt, contracts with the devil, appeasing an angry God, etc. All of these images are just illustrations of the power and mystery of what God has done in Christ on the cross. No one of these pictures can contain the whole of the mystery.

In my book, The Church under the Cross, I seek to examine the unfathomable meaning of the cross for the church today.

How can we develop a real discipline of prayer when God seems silent?

-point to ponder-

I am convinced that one reason that more laypersons and ministers do not spend more time in meditation is not because these persons do not love God or the Christ-like way, but they lack spiritual discipline to aid them in their religious journey.

by William Powell Tuck

Busy SignalThroughout my life I have sought to commune with God. I have undertaken this endeavor in many places. I have found moments of contemplation in quiet, small, white-framed country churches, in large traditional or contemporary-designed urban churches, in ancient Gothic cathedrals in Europe, in a Quaker Meeting House, in tent meetings, by lakes, rivers, creeks or sea shores, on secluded wooden mountainsides, on top of an extinct volcano, on white and black sand beaches, by campfires at night, before a blazing fire in my own den, in my study, on park benches, walking through multicolored hillsides in the fall, pausing beside a snow blanketed field, beside waterfalls, jogging along roadsides, following the path of saints from the past, secluding myself from others, fasting, finding an oasis of quiet in a noisy city and immersing myself in its stillness, and in many other ways. In many and varied modes, I have looked for ways to meditate. I have seldom found this desire so easily met or the place and conditions ideal. I have often been embarrassed to admit that praying has not come so easily or naturally to me.

I thought for a long time that this was simply a reflection on my personality or background. I soon discovered, however, in my Christian pilgrimage that most persons I know struggled with the same difficulty. Too many laypersons were content to have their pastor do their praying for them on Sunday morning. Prayer was not their “thing.” In our busy, modern world, prayer seems so remote, old-fashioned, and impractical. “Leave prayer to the professional holy men and women. We have real work to do,” they say.

Yet, I have heard ministers complain because laypersons interrupt their time for praying and give them so much busy work they have that they have little time to pray. One minister I know got in trouble with his church because he refused to give up the time he had set aside for prayer to attend a denominational breakfast meeting. He considered his prayer time so important that he would not let anything change it, even a denominational church meeting.

On the other hand, I have heard lay persons express dismay that their minister was not a praying person and refused to offer them any spiritual guidance. I have also known many devoted ministers and laypersons who have longed to deepen their spiritual life. My spiritual life has been enriched by both laypersons and ministers. I know one layman who arises each morning at 5:30 a. m. and prays and meditates for an hour. He has continued this practice for twenty-five years. I know a minister who sets aside several hours a day for quiet a reflection. Are these persons exceptions? I am afraid they are.

I am convinced that one reason that more laypersons and ministers do not spend more time in meditation is not because these persons do not love God or the Christ-like way, but they lack spiritual discipline to aid them in their religious journey. My book, Lord, I Keep Getting a Busy Signal, is one pilgrim’s suggestions on what has been meaningful to him. I have not tried to offer more than a brief sketch to throw some light on the path. I do not believe that our habits of superficial prayer time will ever change until we take seriously the necessity for spiritual disciplines.

Order Lord, I Keep Getting a Busy Signal here: https://energiondirect.com/ministry/lord-i-keep-getting-a-busy-signal

What’s Beyond Death?

-point to ponder-

“Death is no more the dark door that shuts forever behind man,” Brunner says, “but the opened door through which he enters into true life.”

by William Powell Tuck

Untitled            In one of the churches I served as pastor, a high school student wrote a paper entitled, “The End of Time.” He began his paper with this sentence: “This paper will tell and explain about the end of time.” That’s a remarkable claim for a high school student! But that’s the only time I felt I had all of the answers to the Doctrine of the Last Things. When I was in high school, I preached a youth revival in my home church in Lynchburg, Virginia and I spoke with authority on the Second Coming of Christ, Hell and Heaven. I have not been so knowledgeable since!

The theological term for “the last things” is eschatology. Eschatology is the Christian doctrine which is concerned with the final end of humanity. It focuses on matters such as death, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the immortality of the soul, the final judgment, heaven and hell. As I reflected on these topics, I realized that these themes are at the heart of the Christian faith, but it is difficult to voice with clarity what we mean by them.

Although there is no clear, simple, New Testament answer on all of these issues, the New Testament is unequivocal in its hope for men and women in Jesus Christ. No one can speak with certainty about such matters as the mystery of death, the resurrection, heaven and hell, the second coming, or the final judgment of God. However, the New Testament does offer some concrete pointers which I believe can be helpful to us. I invite you to join me as we look to see if we can gain some insight to determine the future hope for those who die in Christ.

The journey toward the “undiscovered country” is filled with uncertainty, puzzling questions, strange reflections and enigmatical images, but it also travels across the bridges, mountains, and valley paths of mystery, faith, hope and anticipation. As Christians, we should travel toward our final destination with quiet confidence and Christian assurance.

The Christian approaches death with the awareness that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is not our “natural” end, but is an enemy of God and stands in opposition to God’s ultimate will. “Death is the peak of all that is contrary to God in the world, the last enemy,” says Karl Barth, “thus not the natural lot of man, not an unalterable divine dispensation.” But Jesus Christ has already won the battle against death and so Paul can shout: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57). Death for the Christian becomes a transitional path from this life to the next; it is not a dead‑end street but a thoroughfare that leads into another dimension of living. “Death is no more the dark door that shuts forever behind man,” Brunner says, “but the opened door through which he enters into true life.”

Imagine how a baby might try to philosophize if he or she were able to contemplate another kind of life outside his or her mother’s womb. What could she use as a base from which to speculate or surmise? How could she understand life free from surrounding liquid? What does she know of light, or breath, or food, or eating? What does he know of choices, companionship, friends, work, art, or reading? Is it not possible that to the infant the birth process is a crisis which is a sort of “death” as he or she leaves the safe, comfortable, secure world where every need had been met? A new and marvelous world awaits; he or she has no resources to imagine what it will be like‑and how wonderfully different from the other world. Death for the Christian is a “birthing” from the physical world to the spiritual realm. How can we possibly describe it; words fail us. “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

In my book, The Journey to the Undiscovered Country: What’s Beyond Death? I deal with some of these issues.

Order The Journey to the Undiscovered Country here: https://energiondirect.com/theology/the-journey-to-the-undiscovered-country

Discussion of issues in society, biblical studies, and religion encouraged by Energion Publications authors