For the godly who die shall rest in peace. -Isaiah 57:2 (TLB)

Jack and I decided to give our ten children (his six, my four) the gift of not having to make decisions on one of the most stressful days of their lives … the day one, or both of us, takes our last breath. So we

prepaid for our transportation, refrigeration, cremation, and funeral services. Then I sent my children a letter telling them that I hoped to live to be 110, but if it didn’t happen, enclosed were my final arrangements, plus the names of my financial adviser and bank accounts and where I’d like my ashes to be placed.

At the end of the letter I said, “So there you have it. Easy peasy. When I die, you just have to come to Florida to wrap things up, attend my memorial service, give away my things, collect your inheritance, and go on enjoying your lives. I love you very much and thank you for appreciating this gift I’ve given to all of you. Thank you for being such a blessing to me and for helping make my life so happy and fulfilled.

With all my love, Mom.”

When I mailed the letters, I put “Celebrate!” stamps on them as a gentle reminder that the death of a parent should come with joy, not sorrow … the joy of celebrating a wonderful, happy life filled with love

and adventure. I, for one, am looking forward to the rest of the ride, and to fInd out what’s waiting for me!

Father; thank You for everything You’ve given me on earth and for the greatest gift of all: looking forward to being with You in heaven for all eternity.

– Patricia Lorenz

Digging Deeper: Genesis 3:19; John 11:11-27




A son called up his mom from his college and asked her for some money.

Mom said, “Sure, sweetie. I’ll send you some money. You also left your calculus book here when you visited two weeks ago. Do you want me to send that up too?”

“Uh, oh yeah, OK,” responded her son.

So Mom wrapped the book along with the checks up in a package, kissed Dad goodbye, and went to the post office to mail the money and the book.

When she got back, Dad asked, “Well, how much did you give the boy this time?

Mom said, “Oh, I wrote two checks — one for $20, and the other for $1,000.”

“That’s $1020!!!” yelled Dad. “Are you crazy???”

“Don’t worry, hon,” Mom said, as she kissed Dad on the top of his bald head. “I taped the $20 check to the cover of his book, but I put the $1,000 one somewhere between the pages in Chapter 19!”


I am with you always … , -Matthew 28:20 (KJV)

When my husband, John, and I were students in Paris, we rented an apartment in the village of Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse, the last stop on the metro. We purchased our very first set of dishes from Emil, the local potter.

“I’m going to Paris myself some day!” Emil told us proudly.

We stared at him. Was it possible that this man, maybe forty-five years old, had never visited his capital city, an hour’s train ride away?

Emil must have taken our astonishment for doubt. No, he insisted, he really was going to ride the train all the way there.

“Why not go with us someday?” said John. Yes, Emil would do just that! But week after week he had a reason for staying home. Then one day when we arrived at the station, Emil was there, wearing his Sunday suit and carrying a leather bag in which his wife had packed a lunch that could have fed six. All the way in, he sat on the very front of his seat, staring out the window with little cries of what sounded like pain.

At Cluny station, he walked up the subway stairs so close to us that he jostled the textbooks out of my arms. The cars and buses, the noise, the crowded sidewalks, seemed to fill him with terror. I cut class that day: no way could we leave our friend alone! I sat with him on a bench in quiet Luxembourg Garden, sharing his bountiful lunch. I longed for cup of coffee, but Emil refused absolutely to venture into a cafe.

He never saw Paris! I thought as the three of us boarded the train for Saint-Remy. But now, for all of the ride home, he bubbled over with excitement, impressions, delight! Clearly, he’d live on this trip for years to come.

What had helped him dare the unfamiliar? Simply knowing that someone would be with him.

Where I am afraid to go, Lord Jesus, remind me that someone will be with me too.

-Elizabeth Sherrill

Digging Deeper: Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5




An old man was sitting on his porch, when a young man walked up with a pad and pencil in his hand.

“What are you selling, young man?” he asked.

“I’m not selling anything, Sir,” the young man replied. “I’m the census taker.”

“A what?” the man asked.

“A census taker. We are trying to find out how many people are in the United States.”

“Well,” the man answered, “you’re wasting your time with me; I have no idea.”


I will counsel thee with mine eye upon thee. -Psalm 32:8 (ASV)

Early on a delicious spring morning, I discovered what I’d feared. A small bird had somehow managed to build her nest in our garage. She selected a shoebox and, in an empty corner, fashioned a delicate funnel-shaped nest in it. No eggs yet! Even though we’d tried to be careful to keep the garage door down, she somehow still got in.

Finally, I was able to get her out into the open. She perched on our flagpole and screamed so loudly, it startled me. I hurried back into the garage and grabbed the box, which was within easy reach.

Back outside, I searched tor a safe place to reposition her nest.

Still in my nightgown, I ran from one spot to another. Nothing was right. Then I caught sight of our reproduction of a well. Other birds use this area annually. I wedged the shoebox tightly near the roof:

The mother bird still screamed at me. I rushed back inside, praying she’d agree with the change. I knew best. Slightly out of breath, I sat down in my prayer chair and continued writing in my prayer journal,

“Please, God, let her understand that the garage isn’t safe and to settle down underneath the well roof Guide her … “

God seemed to interrupt my prayer so that my pen stopped midair.

Marion, you’re like the little bird. You select paths that seem perfect to you and confidently follow them. I have My plans for you daily. Let Me guide you, Child.

I laid down my pen and shut my eyes. “You’re right, Father. So often I run around making choices for myself and others – only to discover I’ve been oh so wrong.”

Forgive me, Lord, for being head strong. Help me submit to Your guidance today.

-Marion Bond West

Digging Deeper: Psalm 25:5; Isaiah 55:8-9




Last year I entered the New York City marathon. The race started, and immediately I was the last of the runners. It was embarrassing.

The guy who was in front of me, second to last, was making fun of me. He said, “Hey buddy, how does it feel to be last?”

I replied, “You really want to know?”

Then I dropped out of the race.


Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy, Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? .. -1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV)

I couldn’t understand it. Recently my legs felt leaden, dead, like they had weights on them or the muscles were all gummed up. And they were a little achy too. I noticed I wasn’t walking at my usual clip, and my stride had shortened. What was wrong with me?

Perhaps most alarming, my numbers on the bike were down slightly. I’ve been doing competitive indoor cycling for more than twenty years. I don’t rack up as many miles annually as I used to, but I still keep a

pretty grueling pace. Something was wrong, something serious.

I went to see my doctor. He had me do some balance and strength exercises while he took notes. Then he flipped through my chart. Finally I demanded, “So what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing,” he said, “except that you’re getting older.”

“How can that be?” I asked. I detected a note of absurd disbelief in my voice.

“You have birthdays, you get older. Pretty straightforward,” he said.

Look, you do things that people age forty-two can’t do. But you can’t do things that you could do back when you were forty-two, right? You’re normal. The body slows down. It’s perfectly natural. Accept it and stop worrying.

I left feeling both depressed and reassured. Nothing wrong with me except I was getting old. Yet why did that seem wrong? I looked down at my legs. I’d put more than one hundred thousand miles on them in

In the past twenty years because I always wanted to come in first. Maybe it was time to shed my baby-boomer sense of immortality and thank God for the years and the legs He had given me,


Father in heaven, let me never lose sight of the blessings of health, even if I’m slowing down-just a bit.

~Edward Grinnan

Digging Deeper: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 3 John 1:2




A husband took his young daughter to the grocery store to help him buy groceries. In addition to the healthy items on his wife’s carefully prepared list, the two of them returned home with a package of sugar-filled cookies.

“Why in the world did you buy those?” his wife asked. “You know they aren’t good for you!”

“Oh, but don’t worry, honey, these cookies have one-third less calories than usual in them,” the husband replied.

The wife looked all over the package but couldn’t find any claim to that fact, so she asked, “What makes you think that?”

“We ate about a third of the box on the way home.”


“I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their fruit. “-Leviticus 26:4 (NIV)

 I was making the trek to pick up my son Kalin from college, exactly an hour away from our home in Tennessee. I had driven this route more times than I could remember, but on this spring day, I noticed

cloudy skies as I embarked. Minutes later, the sky turned an ominous gray, and by the time I pulled on to the highway, a torrential rain had begun.

I struggled through the downpour, barely able to see the road. I contemplated pulling over, turning on my hazard lights, and waiting out the storm, but I decided to persevere and keep moving.

I complained to myself the entire time. Man, why is it raining so hard? This is so annoying!

When I arrived at my son’s campus, I let out a huge sigh, grateful that I’d made it safely. My son ran to the car and quickly loaded up his overnight bag, and all I did was complain some more. “We’ve had such

terrible rainstorms recently. It’s been ridiculous. I hate the heavy rains this time of year, especially here in the South.”

I had just finished stating the long list of reasons why the rain offended me when we approached our street. The sun was showing off now, shining brilliantly, and it served as a spotlight on my neighbors’

fuchsia azaleas, white cherry blossoms, and red Knock Out roses.

“April showers bring May flowers,” my son simply said.

Of course, I thought. It was a saying my late mother was fond of reciting. I smiled at the lesson in the words and at the sweet memory they brought. How could I have forgotten?

Lord, thank You for producing glorious beauty lifter storms.

-Carla Hendricks

Digging Deeper: Psalm 85:12; Joel 2:23




One day a state trooper was pulling off an expressway near Chicago. When he turned onto the street at the end of the ramp, he noticed someone at a chicken place getting into his car. The driver placed the bucket of chicken on top of his car, got in, and drove off with the bucket still on top of his car.

So the trooper decided to pull him over and perform a community service by giving the driver his chicken. He pulled him over, walked up to the car, pulled the bucket off the roof, and offered it to the driver.

The driver looked at the trooper and said, “No thanks. I just bought some.”



“Hear my prayer, 0 Lord, and give ear to my cry; do not hold your peace at my tears. For I am your passing guest …. ” -Psalm 39:12 (NRSY)

I had a routine for my daily prayer hour. I stood for a time before a cross, prostrating myself in humility before God. I knelt, praying for forgiveness, my needs, and the needs of others. And I spent time

hunched over my Bible, which also has devotions and readings.

After my accident, I couldn’t move well or assume these positions for long, if at all. How would I pray? Technically, I knew I could pray in my place, any position, but this was my routine!

[ had always worshipped God with body, mind, and spirit, but now my body was too broken to “pray right.” I was determined to find a new routine for my prayer hour; I couldn’t imagine going to God

without a plan. It seemed almost disrespectful, like wasting His time.

J decided to sit in a comfortable chair and run through all my prayers in that position. But then my mind started blanking out during prayer; I had a hard time remembering all my prayers, and sometimes I even

dozed! I was mortified, I wondered if God was as disappointed in me as I was in myself.

I poured all this out to a friend who shook his head, smiling in his gentle, wise way. “You are not sleeping on the job before God,” Nick said. “God is giving you the rest that He knows you need. He’s leading you to pray the way you need to pray now.”

For the first time since I fell, I understood that God was using this time to mend more than my bones.

Lord teach me the right way to pray which is any way.

-Marci Alborghetti

Digging Deeper: Job 9:1-4; Matthew 6:7-8




My dinner party was headed for disaster.

One man, an insurance salesman, was monopolizing the conversation with a lengthy account of recent litigation involving himself. Since two other guests were lawyers, I was becoming increasingly uneasy.

“In the end,” the salesman concluded, “you know who got all the money.”

I cringed.

“The lawyers!” he shouted.

There was embarrassed silence at the table. My heart was pounding until the wife of one lawyer said, “Oh, I love a story with a happy ending.”


I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. -Romans 8:18 (NIV)

Lonny, the three youngest boys, and I rode on the bike path that stretches alongside the river. It was finally spring. The trees held tender buds. A family of turtles sunned on driftwood. The valley was

rich with endless shades of green. Everything was waking, changing. There were changes in my boys too.

Seven-year-old Isaiah steered his three-speed close to my rusty green Schwinn.

“Did you notice, Mom,” he said, “the difference in me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Last year I could only make it to the bench. This year I’m going to make it to the bridge.”

He was right. Just last fall his legs gave out. He’d pushed all he could, but the bridge was too far.

You’ve grown, Isaiah, I said. You’re one winter stronger.

My son smiled, pedaled, and kept his bike even with mine.

One winter stronger. I could relate.

For a long time now, a young-adult son has struggled. Watching him hurt brought deep heartache, and seeing him walk away from the things I taught him took me to a place of panic. I tried to help, but worry

and fear settled strong. Recently, though, I’ve begun to pray to grow in understanding – not in the circumstance but in knowledge of the Lord.

And as I one-day-at-a-time let go of fear and control and choose to claim God’s powerful presence in my son’s life, my faith-muscles firm.

“What do you think, Mom?” Isaiah asked from under his helmet.

“Race me to the dock?”

“You’re on,” I said. And off we went, both of us stronger.

Father; thank You for the growth that can happen during tough times. Amen.

-Shawnelle Eliasen

Digging Deeper: Psalm 9:9-10; James 1:2-4; 1 John 4:4




A patient at the dental office where I was a receptionist stopped by my desk to pay her bill. She began rummaging through her purse, as so many patients did when they had a check to write.

“Do you need a pen?” I asked, offering her the use of mine.

“Yes, thank you,” she replied. She took it, put it in her handbag, and proceeded to pay in cash.


The first time I met my wife, she was an intense aerobics instructor at my health club and I was an out-of-shape new member.

After one grueling workout, I gasped, “This is really helping me get toned.” She looked me up and down. Feeling self-conscious, I added, “Big men run in my family.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Apparently not enough.”


May your unfailing love be my comfort according to your promises to your servant. -Psalm 119:76 (NIV)

During a vacation in Mexico, I went for a waIk on the beach near a wall of huge sand-colored rocks that skirted the ocean. Suddenly, I stopped dead in my tracks. A three-foot-long iguana was sitting right

in front of me as if to say, “This is my path. Back offl”

I continued nonetheless, but slowly. I was on alert for the gray-tan reptiles. Soon I started seeing them everywhere on the rocks. They’d been right in front of me all along, only I hadn’t seen them because

they were so well camouflaged.

I began to wonder what else I hadn’t seen clearly that was right in front of me. I thought about the more than one hundred workers who made hings run smoothly at the immense resort where we were staying. I hadn’t gone out of my way to show much appreciation to any of them.

When I returned to the resort, I decided to pay closer attention to those helping to make my vacation so pleasant. I smiled more and started using my high-school Spanish to say “Good morning” and “How are you?” to each waiter, housekeeper, and pool and beach attendant. I put dollars in my beach bag to share with the workers, even though tips were included in our stay. I started cleaning up after myself

after each meal to make it easier for the staff.

When I returned home from Mexico, I made an effort to talk to and appreciate the people who help me in so many ways, such as grocery-store clerks, waitresses, even my pastor. Thanks to those well camouflaged iguanas, I’m now trying harder to show my gratitude for every person who makes my life richer.

Heavenly Father, help me to keep my head out of the sand and to show kindness to everyone who crosses my path.

-Patricia Lorenz

Digging Deeper: 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 1 John 1:5-7




The businessman dragged himself home and barely made it to his chair before he dropped, exhausted.

His sympathetic wife was right there with a tall cool drink and a comforting word.

“My, you look tired,” she said. “You must have had a hard day today. What happened to make you so exhausted?”

“It was terrible,” her husband said, “The computer broke down and all of us had to do our own thinking.”




If we been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly united with him in a resurrection like his. -Romans 6:5 (NIV)

The ringing bells in the tower sounded like a Hallelujah! as we joined throngs of people funneling toward the church on Easter morning.

Birds were singing, crocuses blooming, and a blue sky promised plenty of sunshine, All of creation seemed prepared to celebrate. Me too.

With our daughters and their families, we filled a whole row in the sanctuary, six adults and six grandchildren, girls in colorful Easter dresses, boys with moussed hair.

I leaned back, absorbing the buzz of anticipation to celebrate the Resurrection. I thought of Leslie and how she kept seeing Jesus in her final journey, but I realized it wasn’t just Jesus. She saw the resurrected

Jesus because she believed in the Resurrection.

I looked around and saw many people whose stories reflected similar faithfulness and hope. And others I knew were hungry for the hope of the Easter message: a family raising other people’s children; a widower learning to find a new way in a life alone; people in financial crisis, unemployment, and homelessness; folks in broken relationships. Here we were, all together, waiting to hear the Easter message that Jesus’s death and Resurrection promises eternal life with Him in heaven, where there will be no more pain or stress or loneliness or death.

Soon the music started, and the pastor stepped forward and pronounced:

“Jesus Christ is risen!”

Together, we all responded; “He is risen indeed!”

“Let the celebration begin.”

Hallelujah, Jesus! Your Resurrection promises that the best is yet to come. Amen!

-Carol Kuykendall

Digging Deeper: Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:12-19




Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15 (KJV)

It is done.”

Those three words in an email from Alan told me that Leslie had completed her journey. I expected the news, so why did I suddenly feel unhinged to the faith that had carried us through this season?

If Leslie is finally home with You, God, why don’t I feel like celebrating?

I sensed an answer but didn’t know if it came from God or my struggling heart: the death of someone you love forces you to face what you believe about the mystery of heaven.

The last time I saw her, I reminded her how she saw herself hiking up a mountain toward the summit where Jesus waited with arms open wide. Just a few more steps to Jesus and heaven. Then I repeated the words of the song we’d often shared in her last weeks:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of this world will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

Why couldn’t I simply believe what I believed that day? My question remained unanswered.

Maybe that’s why God gives us a day in Holy Week that I call “Silent Saturday,” between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. A day of silence when grief can cloud our thinking about death and heaven. On this

Silent Saturday, I remembered all that Leslie had said about heaven becoming more real, while admitting she didn’t always understand.

Lord, much about heaven seems a mystery. but I trust You will give me the same increasing faith You gave Leslie.

-Carol Kuykendall

Digging Deeper: Mark 16:9-11; Luke 24:13-26




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