Tag Archives: afterlife

all saints day

All Saints Day: The Veil is Thin

Today is All Saints Day in the Catholic tradition and Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. It is a holy day, the day after Halloween, the hallowed eve. On this day, the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest of the whole year. Today, the spirits whisper into the physical realm. Today heaven opens and touches earth. On All Saints Day, we are most awake to the other side.

The saints and mystics of old reach out from the spirit realm to all who are seeking wisdom and understanding here on earth. The cloud of witnesses cheer on the seekers to finish the race of faith. Sainthood is the crown at the finish line.

Many start the race, but few finish. Faith is a marathon, an endurance race of exhilarating sprints and excruciating sprained ankles, mountains of marvel and deserts of drudgery, times of strength and times of weakness. Each part of the journey molds and changes us as we ascend to sainthood, and gain that crown, the place at the divine table.

It Is Good to Honor the Dead

Many Catholic and Orthodox churches will light candles and hold services today to honor the saints on All Saints Day. I love the peaceful, illuminating glow of the soft candle, the mystery of the light that quenches the darkness. Meditative. Communing with the saints is a healing place, a place of wholeness, a place of goodness.

In Mexico with Dia de los Muertos, and other places that celebrate holidays honoring the dead, altars will be erected and cemeteries visited. The spirits of our ancestors, our friends and family who have crossed the veil, want to communicate with us. It is healing for them and for us. It is good. Today the lines of communication are clear as they ever will be.

Some churches preach that it is evil to speak with the dead. Some Catholics embrace All Saints Day but reject communicating with ancestors or the dead who have not been declared saints by the church. Protestants reject all communication with the dead.

Certainly, communicating with the other side muddies the Protestant understanding of a black-and-white heaven and hell. But Catholics understand the middle place of purgatory, and Jesus spoke of outer darkness. Spirits roam the earth in this place of decision, longing for healing and reconciliation with their loved ones. They also learn about the divine kingdom, and they work through the agony of purifying their hearts of greed, anger, bitterness, and hatred. To ascend to higher realms, they must make amends for any wrongs and injustice they committed on earth. Altars, candles, and incense help in this communication. It is good. It is healing. It is love.

Take a look at this interesting passage:

1 Peter 4:6 (KJV)

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

The gospel, the good news of the kingdom, can be preached to the dead. All Saints Day, when the veil is thin, is an ideal time.

Thin Veil

There is only a thin veil, a sheer curtain, a mist, that separates the living and the dead, the seen and the unseen. All Saints Day is the easiest day to peek through the veil.

What would you like to learn today? Sit at the feet of a wise saint and ask questions. The easiest way to do this is with a private journal, pen and paper. Don’t censor what you hear, just listen. You can do this at a church, a coffee shop, or at home. Use a candle, an altar, or just your imagination. Use your intuition. The Holy Spirit will not lead you wrong if you seek her wisdom.

Honor the memory of your deceased family and friends on this Dia de los Muertos. Visit them at a cemetery or in your imagination. Talk with them.

Have a happy and illuminating All Saints Day, friends!

hands grasping for hierarchy against kingdom living

Kingdom Living Has No Human Hierarchy

American society is infatuated with hierarchy. We idolize those at the top of the corporate, entertainment, and sports arenas. We disdain, even harm, the lowly and oppressed, the “nobodies.”

Our cliches are filled with hierarchy. “Climb the corporate ladder.” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

But is God’s heart in this “rat race?”

Sigh.

I hear these kind of platitudes all the time in the church. Christians just tend to qualify it as “prosperity” or “God’s blessing.” American living at its finest. Kingdom living at its worst.

America is a Land of Hierarchy

The American education system is a major contributor to hierarchies. I read an article recently about the equalizing pull of cheap or free online education to the brick-and-mortar, traditional university (“Creative Destruction” The Economist).

In the  article comments, one person argued that the physical university will remain as a place for the children of the elite to meet each other, a place to further their connections to Money. This person also claimed that egalitarianism was unheard of in society until the 20th century, and the growing economic inequalities of the 21st century are merely a return to the normality of the ruling elite. This person claims that the “land of equality” was always a myth.

This article was published in The Economist, a politically conservative magazine. Apparently this commenter has never read a Bible. Throughout the Old Testament, God frowned on the ruling elite and economic inequality.

God is the King of Kingdom Living

Through Samuel (1 Samuel 8), God bemoaned Israels desire for a king. God said Israel had turned away from him and all his miracles in bringing them out of Egypt. He longed to be their king, completely just and righteous. He knew the corruption that power brings to the human heart, and he warned Israel of the oppression they would face under a human king and a hierarchy. But, through heavenly tears, he gave them their free will.

Some may argue that God ordained kingship through the Davidic line. We must remember, though, that He chose David from the peasantry to overthrow the ruling elite, Saul. Clearly, God did not believe in rule by birth. God always judges by the heart, not by elite status of human hierarchy.

Fast forward to the New Testament, and we find  that Jesus’ life and teachings center around the idea of kingdom living with God as king. Although Jesus had every right to claim kingship over Israel, indeed kingship over the whole earth, he lived a simple servant life with nowhere to even lay his head. Through his parables and his sermon on the mount, he lifted up the meek and humble. Jesus blessed the poor who had been thrown to the trash dump by the world’s hierarchies.

Jesus Teaches Us the Way of the Servant

One day, the disciples began to argue about who was the greatest. I hear this same tired bickering around me all day every day, especially in ego-driven, appearance-adoring, hierarchical American culture. In response, Jesus said something profound:

Mark 9:35 (NIV)
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Read that again. The first to enter the kingdom of heaven will be the servants of this world.

I don’t see many people practicing this around me, least of all those who call themselves Christians, “followers of Jesus.” They claim to “serve” Jesus by showing up to church on Sunday, or singing some song with a rock-star worship band. Meanwhile, they prevent their homeless brother from entering the sanctuary, they renounce their sister who is a poverty-stricken single mom, they rage against their gay brother looking for love. They create human hierarchies in the very church that should be practicing kingdom living.

Hierarchies of hatred. The antithesis of kingdom living.

Jesus sees and loves these precious ones that the church rejects. Take another look at his words in the parable of the sheep and goats recorded in Matthew 25 (NIV):

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The poor and oppressed shall stand in judgment. There is no place in the heavenly kingdom for those who set themselves up as the ruling elite on earth.

There are no hierarchies in kingdom living.

caskets and mattresses, money casket

Caskets and Mattresses: Price of Death

Caskets and Mattresses and the Price of Death

I am taking a class in death and dying. It is fascinating to learn all the different cultural and religious beliefs around this subject. We are studying funeral traditions, and I read that caskets come in varying price ranges. One of the price determinants is the quality of the mattress on which the deceased is laid to rest. Cheaper caskets get straw mattresses; expensive caskets get spring coil mattresses and luxurious fabrics. Caskets and mattresses show your wealth and social prestige even in death.

This really bothers me. A dead person “sleeps” on a mattress made for royalty while many living people sleep on dirt or concrete. Does this bother anyone else?

Death and Social Status

I think it is quite shameful to make such a show of social status even when one  dies. I know this is an ancient practice. The Mayans and Egyptians went to elaborate measures to bury their royalty and others of high social standing.The Mayans buried their dead with clay statues and other symbols of their wealth. The Egyptians perfected the practices of embalming to the point of mummification.

Egyptian high status mummies were laid to rest in the most expensive caskets- coffins made of gold. Millions of Egyptian slaves labored to build tombs for the golden coffins of the kings, tombs so elaborate that they became a wonder of the world, the Egyptian pyramids. Ironically, many of these poor slaves died while building a death chamber for the rich. How many people today are poor and dying because the more fortunate want to build their corporate pyramids of globalism, their “pyramid schemes?”

But even with all the money in the world, and the finest caskets and mattresses, these CEOs still must die and meet their Maker.

The Money Game of the Casket and Cradle

It is a very expensive proposition to die in this society. Ironically, it is also a very expensive proposition to be  born in this society.

You are born in a flurry of money and you die in a flurry of money. The richer your family, the nicer your cradle and your casket. Some of the poor are born in mangers and are buried in common graves. The ruling elite have fixed the game so that even spiritual transitions are taxed.

If you aren’t good at the game, or if you decide that you do not want to play, you end up sleeping on the dirt- in life and in death. Some places still dig common graves for the paupers. Morgues in the United States are filled with unclaimed bodies because the families cannot afford caskets and mattresses, or afford cremation, or afford a funeral at all. It is tragic. (Unclaimed dead stack up in Wayne County morgue.)

Yet there is room for hope. The money game ends at death, and a spiritual accounting takes place. All the money in the world will never buy your soul. You may not be resting so comfortably on that spring mattress when you have to meet your Maker. Remember, Jesus said  that in the next world, the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and blessed are the meek and humble in spirit for they shall see God.

What will your casket and mattress say about your relationship with Jesus?

caskets and mattresses, graveyard
Image credit: [Freeimages] klsmith77 Licensed under Royalty free.
tragic death, leaf floating in rain

The Tragic Death of Sally

No one remembered Sally. Perhaps no one even knew Sally. Sure, people had heard of Sally. Her picture had splashed across the news in a dramatic end to a quiet life. A life cut short by desperation. A tragic death.

***
Sally stared at the mirror, forward, then sideways.

Can you see the bulge? Perhaps if I arrange my dress this way, no one will notice.

Her thoughts flitted like the sunbeams spilling through the window. Nervous. Excited.

Sally eased herself into the chair, hiding her belly by slouching forward. She stared at the papers on her desk.

The pastor walked by, and Sally averted her eyes.

“Hey, Sal. How are you? You know, I really need that bulletin done, and can you answer some of those emails, people really are interested in the church lately, and I need…”

The stream of words stopped as the pastor’s eyes moved from Sally’s breasts to her stomach. Sally winced.

“What? What? I really thought you were better than that.” The pastor slammed his hand on the desk and papers went flying. “Sexual immorality will not be tolerated in this place, do you hear? You are supposed to be a role model in this church.”

Sally cowered under the pastor’s outburst. Her mind darted back to that late night dog walk, the rush of fear, the piercing pain. Then the darkness. A long nothingness. Then a hospital room, an exam, a police report.

Sally breathed back her tears and looked down at her hands. Hands that should have protected her that night. Why did she not know better?

“Get out of here. You are done. I never want to see you again. All employees in my church must live their lives beyond reproach. Do. You. Understand?”

Sally could no longer hold back the tears. She whispered, “Without this job how can I ever pay my rent? Maybe there’s another way. Nobody knows yet. It’s still early…”

“Go get another job you sinner! Are you thinking about abortion? You deserve to burn in hell!”

Sally ran out the door, tears falling all over the new carpet.

***
Sally adjusted the dress suit. It was already small on her, it had been donated by a friend. Now it would never fit over that belly.

She breathed in deeply and walked through the glass doors. She sat down in the waiting room and smoothed out her resume in her lap.

A woman walked through the door, dressed neatly in pants and a white blouse. Her heels clicked on the floor. “Sally?”

Sally stood up to shake her hand.

She quickly looked Sally down from head to toe. “May I see your resume?”

Sally handed the paper over, her hands trembling.

The woman studied the resume for a moment. “I’m sorry, there are so few jobs right now. Are you sure that you don’t have any other experiences? Your resume is just so… bare. Have you tried the local restaurants? What about retail, fast food, anything?”

Sally bowed her head low. “I’ve tried everything, ma’am. I was hoping your agency…”

“Well, I’m sorry. The economy is tough for everyone right now. Check back in a few months.”

***
Department of Human Services.

Sally studied the sign on the wall. So imposing. So sterile, she thought. They always told me that only lazy sinners and takers go to this place. Am I lazy, God? Am I a taker? Maybe I should leave now.But where can I go? Doesn’t God care about my baby? Doesn’t God care about me?

She looked at the clock on the wall. 9:35. She looked down at the slip of paper in her hands. Appointment time: 9:30 am. Intake counselor: Linda.

“Are you Sally?” Sally looked up to a tired, grimacing face. “Come on back, I’ll see if I can help you.” Linda turned and walked toward the back of the office. Sally tried to keep pace with Linda’s fast step, fast stream of mutters. “Geez, when will this ever end? It will be so busy again today. I know bad economy and everything, but really. Can’t people learn to take care of themselves?”

Linda popped down at her desk. Sally eased her heavy belly into the chair on the other side.

Linda shuffled through the paperwork. “Now, Sally, I see that you are in your ninth month of pregnancy. We can open a new case for you. I can see you have little cash reserves, and your need is immediate.”

“Yes, ma’am, I tried to save, but it’s all gone now. Rent and everything…” Sally blinked back her tears.

Linda didn’t look up. “I can get you food stamps today, and I will put you in the pre-TANF program. You will have to let me know as soon as your baby is born. With a family of two, you can get about $400 month. How is your housing situation right now? I hope you don’t pay more than $200 rent. I can put you on the wait list for Section 8 housing, but it is a three or four year wait. You are not required to work right now, but you will have to start looking for a job when your baby is 6 months old.”

Sally stared at her hands and nodded. She thought back to the opinion article she read the day before. “Many people are turning to government assistance, using the economy as an excuse. Did you know that welfare recipients are not required to work in many states? The government provides everything for them. Do you know that they can even buy lobster with their food stamps? There are simply no restrictions. This laziness is spreading to the millions on unemployment as well. The Republicans are right to put an end to all of this and return to the principles of hard work on which our country was founded. The family is breaking apart and so many unwed mothers are causing poverty to rise…”

“I’m not lazy, am I?” Sally whispered.

Linda finally looked up from her paperwork. “What did you say?” she asked sharply. Sally shut her eyes in fear.

Linda looked back down and slid a paper toward Sally. “Never mind. Just write your social security number here and fill out this other form. I’ll be back in a minute.”

***
Sally moaned in pain. How much longer could this go on? How much longer could she be strong? The hospital gown scratched her skin as the contractions gripped her belly.

“Push. Push! You’re almost there!” The doctor stood by her legs, giving clinical orders. The nurse placed a cool cloth on her forehead.

Sally longed for a drink of water. At least she would meet her baby soon. Hope in a dark world. If she was a girl, Sally would name her Hope. A contraction blazed through her thoughts. Sally drew in her breath, found her last strength, and cried out as she pushed one more time.

“Congratulations! It’s a girl!” The doctor’s jubilant words were met with silence. The seconds ticked by. Under his breath the doctor whispered, “Come on, baby. Just breathe.”

“Sally, we are going to take your baby down the hall,” the nurse said as she rushed out of the room.

Sally was too tired to cry, too tired to feel. This baby was everything, all she had left in the world. She buried her face in the pillow and closed her eyes. God, You took my job, you took my house, you took my dignity. Do you have to take my baby? God, do you even exist? Why is the world so bad?

“I hear your cry, I feel your pain.” The answer came back in Sally’s broken heart. “I have prepared heaven for people like you. Hold on. I see the sin of the world, I see how people have hurt you, and I will judge. Sleep, little one, sleep. Your child is back in the arms of my angels.”

***
“I’m sorry, Sally. With no child, you are no longer eligible for TANF. You can get food stamps. You need to start looking for work.” Linda patted Sally’s hand, her demeanor softer than before.

“But where will I live? I was using all the money to rent a room. Now I can’t even do that.” Sally sobbed.

“Perhaps you can stay in a family shelter. Call 211 for assistance. I can’t do any more for you. I’m sorry.”

Sally left the DHS office. The wind whipped at her hair, and she could hear the sea gulls crying by the beach. They seemed upset at the weather change. Rain began to fall, mixing with the tears on her face.

Sally used her sleeve to wipe the water off her face. She looked at the clouds and then at the road in front of her. She stared at the bridge, not too far to walk. “Into your hands I commit my spirit,” she whispered.

***
The evening news splashed across the town’s television screens. “Woman’s body recovered in Cangey River. People passing by on the pedestrian bridge tried to stop the suicidal young woman. Rescue crews were sent, but it was too late. The identity of the woman has not yet been released. It was a tragic death.”

visit a cemetery, cemetery with surise colors and clouds

A Visit to a Cemetery

I went to visit a cemetery yesterday for a class project. It was mystical and beautiful experience. He is the story I wrote while I was there.

A Visit to a Cemetery

I walked slow on my way to visit a cemetery. This is always a surreal experience, even for those who move in dreams and visions and the prophetic, who think constantly about the afterlife.

As I entered the gates, the sun emerged from the clouds, dancing light beams on the grass, and painting rainbows on the tombstone. The iridescent colors reminded me of the spirit realm, a place of peace and joy, a place of my dreams.

As a child, I had a recurring dream of sitting by a pool of water, watching my reflection in the ripples. It was night time, and the moon cast a pale light on the water. Trees waved overhead, their branches reaching down to tickle my hair. Their leaves shown with an internal light, royal blue, velvet purple, emerald green. The colors even now are hard to describe, much richer than those on earth. I felt so loved in this place, so wanted. My life had meaning. Even as a child, I would wake and struggle with the existential questions, and I would long for that beautiful netherworld.

A tear fell down my face as I imagined that place. Or perhaps I don’t imagine. Maybe I remember. Maybe I was there before. Maybe I danced with the trees, and rode unicorns, and made music on a silver flute, before I made that long journey down the birth canal to this planet.

This planet. I looked at the trees around me, back in this physical world. They too had so much beauty, the soft green leaves of the oak, the sharp green leaves of the conifer. I saw a fern growing near the tombstone, its feathery leaves brushing the worn words.

Marjorie Thomson. 1925-1999.

So. I was going to meet Marjorie on my visit to a cemetery.

So she was 74 when she died. I wonder what her life was like. Did she have regrets? Did she have joy? Did a family surround her at her dying breath, or did she die alone, unknown? Apparently somebody loved her because they set up this gravestone, this marker of a life lived on the earth.

What is a life here? Why is it so short? The Bible says that we are but a breath and then we are gone. Gone where? Where is Marjorie now? Is she in that beautiful realm of iridescent peace? Is her spirit free, free to explore the universe, free like a child on a summer playground?

The joy of a child. I dwell on this. I have a two-year-old son, and I love to watch him play. I struggle so much to provide for him. My husband and I have both been out of work for years. I have a master’s degree in music, but right now it seems only a worthless piece of paper. So many dreams, so much hope unfulfilled.

Yet, my son knows nothing of this pain. He just plays and loves and laughs. He is carefree. I long so much to be like him.

Just to be.

Is this what death is like? Even Jesus said, “Let the little children come onto me.” I imagine so. I think the child’s wonder, the child’s imagination, the child’s dream, is our truest state of existence. But somehow we all learn to grow up, shape up, become “something.”

But what is that something?

What was it for Marjorie? What job did she have?

A job is so important in this world, or so everyone tells me. I must work, I must “make something of myself.” As if I am not good enough without that. Did Marjorie struggle with being someone? Did she think well of herself? Did she wonder about the meaning of it all?

Maybe she only thought about meaning at the time of her death. I wonder how she died. Was it after a long illness, or was it a tragic accident? Perhaps she died of cancer, and she spent long hours in bed, thinking about this world, thinking about the next. Was she afraid to die?

I am not afraid to die. I believe that I will go to that world of which I dream. No more struggling with meaning, no more struggling with money, or a place to live or food, no more struggling at all. Carefree. I long for that. Did Marjorie?

The sun has retreated back to the clouds, and a raindrop wakes me from my reverie. I turn my face toward the sky, breathe a prayer, and turn to leave from the visit to a cemetery. Perhaps I will visit again. Goodbye, Marjorie. I hope you have found peace. Maybe you are looking at the emerald leaves and smiling.

the rich man has no name

The Rich Man Has No Name

As I consider the story of Lazarus and the rich man, I am struck by one thing. Yeshua never called the rich man by name. The poor man is named Lazarus. The rich man has no name.

The Rich Man and the Skeleton Houses

I was riding the bus today through Lake Oswego, an opulent, wealthy suburb of Portland. I saw all the “castles” which people build for themselves and I thought, “What is it really all for? I’m sure not impressed.”

In the midst of my thoughts, I passed by a house under new construction. It was gigantic, sprawling, imposing, and… a skeleton. Just a mere skeleton of wood and concrete. Wooden beams stretching to the sky, wooden beams dividing rooms, wooden beams shaping a staircase and a floor. It was not at all impressive. I suppose people will ooh and ahh once the carpet goes in, the windows are filled with glass, the walls are painted a trendy color, and the outside is decorated with expensive stonework.

This house made me think. Who owns the trees which were killed and cut down to make beams for this skeleton? Did anyone ask the trees if they wanted to give their life to become a house? And if so, did they want to become mere property of another rich person? And how did that person come to own that piece of land? Didn’t YHWH intend the land to be shared by all of his creation? Did YHWH ever say one person should get a castle while another person sleeps on a concrete slab under a bridge?

A Bible Story About the Rich Man

Luke 16:19-24 (NIV)

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

As I consider the story of Lazarus and the rich man, I am struck by one thing.

Nowhere did Yeshua ever gave the rich man a name.

The poor man has a name, Lazarus. But the rich man has no name. Was this accidental? Perhaps Yeshua just drew a blank at that moment. I doubt it. I think Yeshua was making a point. In this world, the rich reduce the poor to a mere number, a nameless face in the “rabble” on the street, a piece of refuse they pass by on the sidewalk which messes up their day for awhile.

The rich man buys all the land, leaving nowhere for the poor man to build his house. The rich man builds a castle and takes all the wood for himself, emptying the forests so the poor man has nothing left to build his house. The rich man heats that castle, taking all the energy for himself and driving utility costs so high that the poor man is forced to shiver in the cold.

The Poor Man Has a Name in Heaven

YHWH sees all this. It happens every minute of every day on earth. YHWH knows that poor man. The poor man cries out day and night for justice. YHWH comforts that poor man, adopts him as a son, invites him to His home in heaven, and gives him a name.

YHWH does not know the rich man. The rich man never has time or need to call out to YHWH. The rich man is proud, and he runs the worldly justice system for his own gain. YHWH judges the rich man in the heavenly justice system, and finding him wanting throws him into hell. The rich man is no adopted son of YHWH, and the rich man has no name.

The CEO and the Pauper

“Sunny day again today, Mr. Bracken.” The slim young man inched toward his boss. He watched for a nod from the gray-haired man sitting behind the desk, and then he took a seat at a nearby chair.

“Yes, just like the company finances. Everything is sun and roses.” Mr. Bracken adjusted his suit jacket and tie, then leaned back in his chair. He placed his arms behind his head and thought for a moment.

“You know, Tim, everything is going so much better since we laid off those 400 people last month.” He brought his arms forward and gestured to a graph in front of him. “Surprisingly, productivity has actually stayed up, and with the trimming of the budget we will all get nice Christmas bonuses this year.”

Tim nodded his head, perhaps a little too vigorously. He tried to cover his shaking hands. “Oh, yes, I can’t wait to tell my wife about our upcoming trip to Barbados. She has been bugging me for a while to book another vacation. I am so thankful that you promoted me to the board at this company. I couldn’t ask for a better job, or a better boss.”

“Well, thank you. I guess I better be going for tonight. You know that I volunteer on the church finance board, and we have a meeting later. I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving service this Sunday. My family has so much to be thankful for.”

“Me, too. Me, too. All thanks to you. Good night, sir.”

“Oh, Sam, whatever will we do now?” The woman looked across the table at her husband, tears rippling in her blue eyes. “I can’t believe that they laid you off.” She stroked her bulging belly. “How can anyone even have the courage to bring children into this world anymore? And your medical treatments, how will we ever, I mean you know the doctor says that the cancer is getting worse…” her voice trailed off as she laid her head down on the table and sobbed.

“It will be ok, sweetie. We need to trust God. He sees what is happening. Cheer up, it’s almost Thanksgiving. At least we have food on the table. The unemployment benefits will pay for that much.”

Tina looked up. “Trust God? But, Sam, we have had no way to go to church in months. Don’t you think God is mad at us?” Tina drew in her breath. “What about our rent, Sam? You know the money won’t cover our rent and your hospital co-pays. How can we choose between the two?”

Tim winced as he rose from his seat. The bones poked out of the hollow spaces of his body, chemo having decimated his once-strong build. He winced as he shuffled over to the other side of the table. He took Tina’s head in his arms and let his tears mix with her own. “I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen. But I do know that God is bigger than my job.”

George Bracken edged up to the side of his black BMW. He patted the gleaming side and whispered, “I love you. You are such a fine car.” He pulled out his remote and beeped the horn, then gave a sideways glance to see if anyone was watching.

A rain drop fell on his head. He looked up at the sky and said, “Well, girl, you ready to go to church? We better get out of her because it looks like the weather is turning bad.”

Tim helped Tina wiggle her way into the passenger seat. Her belly grazed the dashboard. “It won’t be long, now, before we meet you, little guy.” Tim patted his wife’s belly playfully. “You’re going to love it on planet earth. Do you think you’ll be here in time for Christmas?” He kissed Tina’s belly and then he kissed her cheek. “I love you so much. Try not to worry.”

Tim walked around the car and sat down in the driver’s seat. “Ok, old car. I know you’ve been feeling a little sick lately, but we need to go to the human doctor this time. Please keep driving for me, ok?”

The rain came faster and faster. Soon ice began to fall from the sky along with the rain. Traffic snarled and came to a standstill.

“Damn this traffic.” George Bracken pounded his fist on the dashboard. “I have to get to that meeting. The church cannot function without me.” He craned his neck to get a better view, and he saw a side road a few feet in front of him. He slammed his foot on the accelator and jerked his steering wheel left.

The side road was clear. “Now this is more like it. I’ll just find a little short cut.” The car shuddered as the odometer’s needle spun skyward.

Suddenly an old, tan Chevy came into his view. It seemed to be stalled in the middle of the road. George slammed on his brakes, but the BMW careened out of control. Wheels and ice flew together.

Shattering glass and crumpling metal drowned out Tina’s scream.

Tina and Tim looked around. “Where are we?” Tina whispered. Music floated in the air, encircling the emerald trees and making waves on the iridescent ocean. Suddenly they saw George beside them.

“Mr. Bracken?” Tim jumped back. “Wh..What are you doing here?” Tim paused as he realized George was not wearing any clothes. Without his designer suit and tie he looked rather…well, normal, even ugly.

Before the three could gather their thoughts, a man appeared beside them. He stood about eight feet tall, holding a sword on one side and a trumpet on the other. He wore gleaming white clothes, made even more splendorous beside their naked bodies. George’s face turned white, as he covered his eyes with his hands. “It’s too bright,” he cried.

The man put the trumpet to his lips and let out a long, low blast. He said, “I am an angel of YHWH. Come, it is time for the judgement.” He whisked the three up in his arms. As he flew, they could see a city in the distance, gleaming with a white light. Coming closer, they could see an abundance of gold, sapphires, and rubies, the most beautiful kingdom ever seen.

“Look at all the wealth. I can’t wait to tell the other guys about this place.” George was transfixed on the jewels. The angel continued his flight until they came to the city gates. In front of the gates stood a mountainous pedestal holding a gigantic book. The angel set the three down in front of the book. The pages flipped open.

“Tim and Tina, I have seen your struggles.” The three humans fell down prostrate as the voice boomed around them. The angel continued to stand upright, watching the book. “I have seen your struggles, and I have heard your prayers. I saw when you bought your neighbor’s groceries, even though you barely had money for your own food. I saw when you took that orphan child into your home until she could be reunited with her parents. I saw how you helped the sick and the lonely and the imprisoned ones. Your deeds have been recorded in the book. Welcome to my kingdom, my good and faithful servants. Enter into eternal joy. Here you will experience need and suffering no longer.” The angel took Tina and Tim by the hand and raised them to their feet. The city gates opened in front of them, and they joyfully ran into the city.

“Mr. Bracken, I entrusted you with a lot on earth. You went to church and you said my name, but you never knew me. You gained all the world’s money and all the world’s fame, but you helped nobody.”

“Stop, stop!” George cried. “I helped lots of people. I ran my church’s finances. I mean, we used that money to send lots of missionaries to Africa. I also ran that business that my father gave me. I mean, we hired lots of people.”

“NO!” The voice boomed. “You did not hire lots of people. You destroyed lots of people. I saw when you laid all of those people off. Was it really worth your bottom line to let people starve and go homeless? Or did you even think about that?

I saw when you pocketed the kickbacks from those African charities which your church supported. Your life consisted of stealing, killing, and destroying while you sat back and called yourself good. It is all written in my book. You have no place in my kingdom.”

“But, Lord, what about that time I brought computers to that middle school? I mean, I donated those machines, and the publicity was not that much. Or the time that my company sponsored that soccer team. I mean, you do like soccer, right?”

“You are a wicked servant. You are not worthy to see my face or to even say my name. Your good works are a mockery to me. Your church cannot save you.

“But, Lord, I said the salvation prayer. I thought that was enough.”

“Enough! You had ample chances on earth. Your heart is evil, and you are not worthy of the kingdom. Depart from me!”