DANCING WITH DEATH

Dear Words of Hope reader, please do not flee from this WOH because of the word “death.” To equate it with dancing will be mind and heart boggling. Today we use “dancing” in fun and freeing terminologies:

  • Dancing with the stars
  • Dancing with the devil
  • Dancing with your sweetheart
  • Dancing at the Final Four
  • Dancing with endless possibilities
  • Dancing with hope

In the distant past, King Solomon wanted to inspire open discussion about death as a way to live more effectively in the here and now. He expressed his dancing with death in two positive ways:

  1. “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies.”
  2. “A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.”

Because western culture abhors death discussions, often grand accolades are spoken or written after a person dies. What good is this to the dead person? Also, often there is improper preparation for death, especially a sudden death; no written will has been created, and “I love you” not shared. A self-help consulting firm has a sobering, life-map exercise: Write your own epitaph. 

One of the wisest attorneys I have known (the late Ray Eberle) explained it the best: “You are never ready to live until you are ready to die.”

Personally, dancing with death these past ten years has forced me to consider the end of this life more profoundly. For much of my adult life, the overwhelming words written by St. Paul in his powerful book to his loved ones at Philippi intrigued me. It was a letter written in a dark, prison hole, 30 feet below ground level. How could Paul say: “Rejoice in the Lord; again, I say rejoice”? When touring abroad with NBC Camps basketball teams, I take them to Paul’s prison cell in Rome. I want them to know the answer to this deep question: How can you rejoice in pain, tragedy, loss, and even death?

There is no easy answer. Joy does not come quickly, but it is life-affirming. There are four profound big steps to climb.

  • STEP ONE: Discover the skill of sacred silence, the secret garden deep in your innermost being. You won’t find it on an i-phone or in a crowd of people.
  • STEP TWO: Become intimate individually with God. Intimacy is always one-on-one, even in the marriage union. So it is with the Blessed Holy Trinity.
  • STEP THREE: Obey willingly, not out of duty. The “I have to” must become “I want to.” 
  • STEP FOUR: Joy joyfully. Our Lord Jesus went to the cross gladly for the ultimate joy awaiting Him. St. Paul was gladly beheaded for the joy awaiting him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer gladly received Hitler’s execution, although from a cruel heart. St. Peter called it the “living hope” because he knew heaven is real. Fred Crowell has that hope also. I now gladly dance with death for the joy awaiting me. I know I will see other family members, friends, and Bible characters. Death has no sting! Otherwise, fear of death would be a chain around my heart–paralyzing, entrapping, enslaving.

To prepare for such a blessed day for each of us, I suggest:

  1. Get end-of-life affairs in order, including a will;
  2. Get rid of all resentment and bitterness;
  3. Tell your love to those you love every time you see them;
  4. Write your epitaph;
  5. Plan your memorial service;
  6. Live large right here, right now; 
  7. Make heaven real here where you are now living; and
  8. Look forward to love and hugs to and from your blessed Savior.

Hey, Ya Wanna Dance?

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