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Selecting Funeral Clergy or Eulogist

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So you’ve basically completed your own funeral plan. You’ve taken out a funeral insurance policy to cover the funeral costs and funeral expenses that your estate is likely to incur, you’ve selected an obituary writer and drawn up an outline of what you want covered, and you’ve even addressed other funeral needs. But now you are faced with a problem. You are not sure about the funeral clergy requirement and what you want said.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience at a particular church or maybe you even doubt the existence of a Higher Being. Perhaps you’ve been to a funeral where you thought the comments were not inclusive or they contradicted your point of view. Or maybe it means you have personal decisions about your faith and beliefs that need to be made. Whatever the reason, determining who will officiate at your funeral is important since it will determine how your life is presented to your loved ones and friends as a means of remembrance. Clearing the air, thinking through your thoughts and reaching an answer not only makes it easier for you to finalize your plans, it can also open your eyes and dramatically change your life.

Uncertainty is a common problem for many today. With the nuclear family and the constant relocation of household units during a life’s career, it is more difficult than ever before. Back in the old days, when many Americans grew up and lived their lives within a small geographic area, it was not uncommon for a family to attend the same church with a limited number of different ministers throughout their life. Today, the changes in life have also brought with them the likelihood of attendance at many different churches, often of different denomination or doctrine, and it can be difficult to decide what specific clergyman or woman matches up with you and your beliefs. And if you are not a church goer or are unsure of your beliefs, you need to think very carefully about what you want said at your final ceremony ending life. It can be very confusing and even troubling.

From my personal viewpoint it is sad that there are so many of us today who don’t have a strong basis for our own lives based upon faith in a loving God, a God who gives us hope for the future through His love and grace. But if we don’t, and since our decisions are based upon our free will, shouldn’t we at least ponder the possibility? It doesn’t cost anything and while for some of us it will make no difference, for others it could totally change the direction of your life. It’s never too late for that.

For those of you who are unsure and questioning about your beliefs, I am providing a series of questions about faith which I hope will be helpful to you in really knowing who you are. It will also help you decide whether or not you want a funeral clergyman or just an official with no religious significance. Even if you think you are set in your way, it can do no harm to consider these questions for, remember, the answers are entirely up to you and only you will know what you think about them unless you desire to share the information.

1. Do you believe in God as the Creator of all Life? If so is your belief Christian, Jewish, other? These questions are designed to determine what your actual religious beliefs entail from the perspective of a Creator. It should start you thinking about your place in the Creation.

2. Do you believe in the tenets of the Holy Bible or some other religious doctrinal foundation? Here we begin to explore the documentation with which your beliefs were developed and what they mean to you. This is your foundation for what you believe.

3. Do you believe in Heaven and Hell? If so, what do you see as the differentiation between the two and do you believe in Life after Death? The questions of the purpose of life enter here and the resultant consequences for the way you live your life. You have free will but you must understand that the decisions you make will impact you directly, be it good or bad.

4. If no to the above, do you have a different context of a religion or do you have no religious beliefs? Here those who have another concept of religion will have the opportunity to focus on what really provides meaning in their life. If the resultant finding is a void it will open them up to deep self- scrutiny. Sometimes we can find that we are truly searching for meaning and haven’t found it yet.

5. Do you want a religious ceremony? If not, do you want a secular ceremony with a memorial presentation of your life? Eulogies by family and/or friends? This will clearly separate those who want the religious connotations foremost in their final rites or not. The impact of the family is considered here because the funeral actually benefits the living that are in attendance and, because of this, it may change the way you look at your presentation to others. Example, your wife is very religious yet you aren’t. What kind of conflict does this create and do you accept that or you may even want to change things.

6. Do you have an idea of who you want to officiate or, if not, do you know if qualified persons are available near your location? You may want an officiant, or religious official or clergy, which requires specific religious qualifications or someone instead to officiate which can be anyone you desire.

7. If you are a non-believer, what kind of official do you want and what kind of background do you want presented? This question, after the buildup in prior questions, begs the cold, hard option of non-belief. You may very well find that by this point in the questionnaire your feelings of non-belief have disappeared and you find yourself to be a believer, just uncertain of your specific beliefs. Introspection frequently does this.

8. What part does your family play in this decision? Again, as alluded to earlier, most people want their family to be proud of them and if your non-religious option causes heartache and sadness from those you love, you may want to look inward and address the cause.

9. Are you still considering where you really stand on your beliefs and do you need help and guidance in addressing your needs? If you are now in turmoil because of the earlier questions, that is a healthy sign that you really aren’t sure where you stand. As long as you are alive it is never too late to open your heart and soul to love. As for help; there are many good people available who will help you find yourself and your place.

10. Finally, what kind of image of yourself do you want to project to be remembered by? Bingo, the image you want to reflect, once you fully realize what it is, is what you truly want to be. And that’s the purpose of the questionnaire, to help you identify the truth about yourself.

I hope that those of you who took time to address the questions have learned something about yourself. I used it myself long ago and it really got me thinking about what I want to leave behind as my personal legacy to those I love. The questions forced me to look at myself openly and honestly in evaluating my beliefs and, in my case, they made me a better Christian. While I thought I knew the answers before I began, I found that my desire for having a funeral clergy of my Christian faith, one in tune with my individual views of many differing alternatives became clearly important. Whatever your particular faith, I hope it might have a similar result for you and, for those who either don’t acknowledge a God of love and grace or have doubts about Him, I hope this might open your heart. There’s a wonderful life ahead for all of us and it need not be limited to our life on earth.

Have a wonderful week and God bless you all.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark portrays my family life with animals living with and near me at my farm in North Florida. Animals are truly a gift from a most gracious Father above.

 

It’s Never Too Late to Plan

This week we will look at a couple who have had fun, enjoyed life and yet they have not prepared for the future.  A turn of events in life brings them to the realization that their life style needs adjusting and they must think ahead.  Meet the Andersons, Samantha and Bill.

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Samantha and Bill truly loved life and everything in it.  They worked hard and played hard and just never concerned themselves with tomorrow.  The most popular couple in their upper middle class neighborhood, they were the life of every party and were always at the top of the invitation list. And they also liked to throw parties, inviting guests to evening cookouts and swimming at their tropically themed home in Central Florida.  Their happy go lucky nature was infectious and Bill could make a crowd laugh for hours.

Unfortunately, things at home weren’t nearly so much fun as they seemed to others.  Oh, they loved and were devoted to each other but they had never planned for life and were “living on borrowed time” as far as their finances were concerned.  Bill and Sam both worked and had good jobs; Bill was a construction superintendent and Sam was a successful real estate broker, yet they never saved money or planned for a rainy day.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, they had not completed an estate plan, had no will and they had not saved sufficiently for the future.  Funeral planning was out of the question and no evaluation of funeral costs and funeral expenses had been performed, nor had any funeral plans even been contemplated.   The two of them were a disaster waiting to happen should fate rear its ugly head.

Sam was a shopaholic, always picking up unneeded things while Bill was always planning short, yet expensive vacations that they could ill afford.  And, of course, their entertainment expenses were high.  But while Bill acted unconcerned outwardly, he had deep seated fears inside about what the future for his family might be.  His two children were grown and reasonably self-sufficient and Bill also worried that they had developed the same lifestyle habits that they learned from him when they lived at home.

Despite his nagging concerns, life went on in its usual fashion until tragedy struck in Bill’s family.  His older brother, Jack, a good and wise man was killed in a serious car accident.  Upon notification, Bill and Sam hurriedly got ready and were off on the eight hour drive to the old homestead.

Jack bought his parent’s home from their estate when they died and the extended family gathered there for most holidays.  Special birthdays, Christmas, and usually at least one long weekend in the summer brought these two brothers together with their families for fun and frolic, but Bill was always a little bit jealous of his big brother for having the finances to buy the place.  He always loved returning to the family homestead, however, and he was glad it had stayed in the family yet he knew it would never be the same again with Jack gone.

Arriving late in the afternoon, the house was ablaze with lights and a number of cars were parked out front indicating that friends were giving their condolences.  As they walked to the door, nephew Paul came and greeted them with a hug although there were tears in his eyes. He and his dad were extremely close.

Sister-in-law Jean excused herself from her visitors and came to the door, hugging them both.  She was holding up well and she dearly loved Bill and Sam.

“You know the drill, Bill,” she said. “Put your things in your guest room, wash up if you want and then come down and meet some of our friends. We can talk privately when everyone is gone.”

After freshening up, Bill and Sam came down to visit.  They knew some of the visitors and all reminisced about Jack and what a good man he was.  When the visitors left and the extended family was together, Jean asked them to come in the den. She had something she wanted to show them.

“Jack told me many times that he wanted you at my side in carrying out his wishes, Bill”, she offered.  “Here is his funeral plan and I’d like you to review it with me.  Sam, you’re welcome to participate if you wish.”

Sam just sat nearby listening while Jean went over things with Bill.  He was absolutely amazed at the detail of the plan.  Jack had prepared in advance a complete funeral plan, starting with the estimate of likely funeral costs and funeral expenses and the source of the funds to pay for his final rites.  The body already was on hold at the cremation services facility and would be cremated after Bill had the opportunity for a viewing.  The funeral would be in two days and Paul had served as the obituary writer since he was a literary agent.

“I’m really lucky, Bill”, Jean said.  “Jack had his estate plan in order with his attorney and probate will be easy.  I am fortunate that I will be able to live comfortably although it won’t be the same without him”.

Bill hugged her as tears began to flow, and Sam also patted her on the back.  Then, after she sighed, she told Bill that Jack had left a special envelope for him. She went to get it.

Returning with an impressive box and an envelope, he knew what it was.  The box contained his father’s coin collection and a gold ring he had received from his father when he was a little boy. Jean said that Jack wanted him to have it as he knew in his heart that Jack wished he had the family house.

Jack sobbed and didn’t know what to say.  After all, Jack didn’t have to show such generosity.  It was a very valuable assortment and the ring was also appraised at great value, but the sentimental value was priceless.  Jack had received it as was customary in families where the father was born in the Old Country, in this case Scotland.

The funeral went well and after a four day visit, Bill and Sam headed home.  While driving, Bill poured out his heart about how they needed to change their lifestyle.

“Sam, we have to learn from Jack and Jean,” he said.  “We’re in our late forties and we have to start saving money and stop living above our means.  I don’t want something to happen to me and leave you with a mess.”

“You’re right, Honey,” Sam replied. “I want to live a long time with you and I don’t want us to end up in our old age in poverty.  Let’s talk to John next door; he’s a great financial planner. Let’s make a plan and stick to it.”

When they got home, they went to work to solve their problem.  John helped them analyze their situation and offered suggestions for how to change their lifestyle and make up for lost time.  It was difficult at first, but once they got into the groove, they were surprised at how easy it was.  And for the first time in months, Bill’s nagging concerns were gone. He felt better than he had in years.

And every night when they turned in for bed, he said his prayers and he thanked God for using the tragedy of his big brother’s death to wake him up.  He promised to stay on course for the rest of his life.

“And Lord”, he asked. “Please take care of my big brother until I see him again.  And tell him I love him.”  Then he smiled as he drifted off to sleep.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.honeyweshouldaboughttheark.com

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a 2014 best read selection of American Pet Magazine

 

Things Can Change Quickly

In making a funeral plan, we generally consider funeral costs, determining whether burial or cremation services will be used, obituary writer and funeral clergy selection, and whether or not we need funeral insurance or some other funeral fund to help defray the costs which today can be quite high.  Finally, we also must review our probate and estate plan to insure that our loved ones can live reasonably well after we are gone.

The one thing we never think of when making plans, however, is the death of a child.  We always assume that our children will outlive us and generally that is a correct assumption.  But as we all well know, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan and death never takes a holiday.

Sadly, the warm weather which is here now and the activity of young people who naturally think they are immune from harm can combine to create a disastrous situation.  With school letting out and summer almost upon us, now is a good time to talk with your children, be they five or eighteen, about their need to act responsibly and safely in the many fun activities which summer brings.

Following is a true story which involves an acquaintance of my son while celebrating graduation from high school.  The names and location are changed to protect the privacy of the living relatives of the deceased and to respect his memory and peace.  I tell it not to frighten anyone but to make real for others the need to realize just how fleeting the gift of life can.  And since God has given us free will and with it the ability to make choices, poor choices can sometimes result in bad things happening to otherwise good people.

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Johnny was excited.  He was graduating from high school soon and was looking forward to going away to college in September.  He had a good summer job with a local hardware store and enjoyed helping the many customers who came by daily for needed supplies.  But he really looked forward to his free time in the summer since, living in a coastal town, fun in the sun at the beach or on the water was what he and his buddies would be enjoying.

Swimming, waterskiing and fishing were all in the game plan and, of course, whenever they were near the water there were also plenty of pretty girls.  Boys will be boys, but unfortunately they often do stupid things around pretty girls to hopefully impress them or at least gain their attention.  This would prove to be a big mistake for Johnny, one we’ll learn about shortly.

The final week of school went by and graduation was held outdoors at the school’s football stadium.  It was a great occasion and Johnny and his friends immediately left for the beach home of his best friend, Tom.  Tom’s father was well to do and had a beautiful beach home on the ocean about an hour’s drive from the school.  It was within walking distance of a marina, several nice restaurants and the shops and teen hangouts that are always found in beach towns.  A group of four of them had been invited to spend the weekend and relax and enjoy themselves.  Tom’s mom and dad would be in and out, but they trusted these boys they had known since they were children and it was a very close knit group.  Besides, they were warned that the party would abruptly end if any intemperate behavior was involved.

A considerable number of their friends were also spending the weekend at the beach and they made arrangements to meet after dinner the next night at the Rec Center, a group of businesses in a small shopping center beside the beach that catered to the weekend and vacationing set.  It included a fishing pier, ice skating rink, bowling alley and games center, a dance floor catering to teens and numerous eating establishments and shops. 

Linking up in the parking lot, they decided to check out the fishing pier and see if anything was biting.  They had brought their tackle with them and were dying to try their luck.  Besides, it was a beautiful moonlit night, and from the pier the moon shimmered in the water and looking back to shore the twinkling lights up and down the coast were clearly visible beneath the starry sky.

The girls who joined them really weren’t very keen on the fishing idea, so the boys promised if they didn’t have any luck within two hours they would take them dancing.  The girls smiled and were appeased and relented in their complaints.  After all, if they wanted to have a girls’ night out they would have been better off back home.

After an hour or so the boys were growing impatient.  They had only caught two fish and neither were “keepers”.  And this is when things went awry, for the boys started bragging about who could walk the railing from shore to the end and back the fastest.  Johnny’s friend, Tom went first and completed the circuit quickly with no problems. One of the other boys was next and then it was Johnny’s turn.

The railing was four feet high and it was eighteen feet above the water and while wide enough to navigate for someone with good balance, an occasional larger wave coming in would cause the pier to sway a small degree, enough to affect concentration.  Johnny took a deep breath, climbed up and gained his balance and composure and turned seaward.  Heading down the railing he looked strong and confident.  No one could tell he was nervous but he wasn’t about to “chicken out”.

As he made the turn at the end to return to complete his walk, one of the girls yelled that a big swell was coming.  As Johnny looked back and saw the six footer approach, large for an otherwise calm night, he began to lose balance and the passing wave delivered the finishing touch.  Johnny plunged the eighteen feet into the water and didn’t immediately surface.

Tom ran to the point where he fell, looked down, saw nothing and dove in to search for his friend.  It was pitch black in the water below the pier and Tom dove under several times, coming up empty handed and gasping for air before he finally found Johnny.  His body was limp and his head was at a funny tilt.  Using every ounce of strength that he had, he managed to swim with his lifeless friend toward shore, using the incoming waves to push him along.

Finally reaching the beach, he pulled Johnny out of the water and set him down in the damp sand.  One of the girls ran to the rec center to get help while Tom, a certified life guard with experience in CPR, worked on Johnny trying to get him to breathe.  His valiant attempts were unsuccessful and all he could do was wait helplessly for the rescue squad to arrive.

The arriving medic checked Johnny’s pulse and found none, and he noticed the angle of his head which indicated that his neck was broken.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Johnny’s unbalanced fall had resulted in his hitting the water at a bad angle, resulting in his immediate death.

Tom was devastated and blamed himself.  If only he hadn’t thought up the stupid challenge, everything would have been okay and Johnny would still be alive.  It took him the entire summer to return to any semblance of normalcy, despite Johnny’s parents telling him they knew it wasn’t his fault.  They knew the boys were subject to free will and, in this instance, they had made a bad decision and Johnny and Tom both paid the price. Johnny was dead and Tom would have to live with the memory of a horrible accident at a time when they both should have been enjoying their graduation celebration and a wonderful summer.

Death is unfortunately a fate that we all must face and we never know when it will come for each of us.  And I don’t tell this story to show the necessity of having a funeral plan made for someone in advance as young as Johnny, for even the best prepared of us is not likely to plan in advance for this type of occurrence.  But it is important for us to make arrangements much greater than a funeral plan for all of our loved ones, young and old, and it takes their buy in and their acceptance.

The plan I am talking about is one that can only come through individual faith. Having faith in God through His Son, who died for us, is the only way we can truly plan for our future.  For our ultimate future is not in this world, but rather an eternal one involving our life everlasting with the Father.  Teach your children wisely so that they have a plan in place whenever that fateful ending to life happens.  It is the only way to truly live.

God bless you all and have a safe and happy summer, but always put Him first. Your life depends on it.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark or

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

 

Selecting Appropriate Funeral Clergy or Eulogist

So you’ve basically completed your own funeral plan.   You’ve taken out a funeral insurance policy to cover the funeral costs and funeral expenses that your estate is likely to incur, you’ve selected an obituary writer and drawn up an outline of what you want covered, and you’ve even addressed other funeral needs.  But now you are faced with a problem.  You are not sure about the funeral clergy requirement and what you want said.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience at a particular church or maybe you even doubt the existence of a Higher Being.  Perhaps you’ve been to a funeral where you thought the comments were not inclusive or they contradicted your point of view.  Or maybe it means you have personal decisions about your faith and beliefs that need to be made. Whatever the reason, determining who will officiate at your funeral is important since it will determine how your life is presented to your loved ones and friends as a means of remembrance.  Clearing the air, thinking through your thoughts and reaching an answer not only makes it easier for you to finalize your plans, it can also open your eyes and dramatically change your life.

Uncertainty is a common problem for many today.  With the nuclear family and the constant relocation of household units during a life’s career, it is more difficult than ever before.  Back in the old days, when many Americans grew up and lived their lives within a small geographic area, it was not uncommon for a family to attend the same church with a limited number of different ministers throughout their life.  Today, the changes in life have also brought with them the likelihood of attendance at many different churches, often of different denomination or doctrine, and it can be difficult to decide what specific clergyman or woman matches up with you and your beliefs.  And if you are not a church goer or are unsure of your beliefs, you need to think very carefully about what you want said at your final ceremony ending life.  It can be very confusing and even troubling.

From my personal viewpoint it is sad that there are so many of us today who don’t have a strong basis for our own lives based upon faith in a loving God, a God who gives us hope for the future through His love and grace.  But if we don’t, and since our decisions are based upon our free will, shouldn’t we at least ponder the possibility?  It doesn’t cost anything and while for some of us it will make no difference, for others it could totally change the direction of your life. It’s never too late for that.

For those of you who are unsure and questioning about your beliefs, I am providing a series of questions about faith which I hope will be helpful to you in really knowing who you are.  It will also help you decide whether or not you want a funeral clergyman or just an official with no religious significance.  Even if you think you are set in your way, it can do no harm to consider these questions for, remember, the answers are entirely up to you and only you will know what you think about them unless you desire to share the information.

 

1.      Do you believe in God as the Creator of all Life? If so is your belief Christian, Jewish, other?  These questions are designed to determine what your actual religious beliefs entail from the perspective of a Creator.  It should start you thinking about your place in the Creation.

 

2.      Do you believe in the tenets of the Holy Bible or some other religious doctrinal foundation?  Here we begin to explore the documentation with which your beliefs were developed and what they mean to you.  This is your foundation for what you believe.

 

3.      Do you believe in Heaven and Hell? If so, what do you see as the differentiation between the two and do you believe in Life after Death?  The questions of the purpose of life enter here and the resultant consequences for the way you live your life.  You have free will but you must understand that the decisions you make will impact you directly, be it good or bad.

 

4.      If no to the above, do you have a different context of a religion or do you have no religious beliefs?  Here those who have another concept of religion will have the opportunity to focus on what really provides meaning in their life.  If the resultant finding is a void it will open them up to deep self- scrutiny.  Sometimes we can find that we are truly searching for meaning and haven’t found it yet.

 

5.      Do you want a religious ceremony?  If not, do you want a secular ceremony with a memorial presentation of your life?  Eulogies by family and/or friends?  This will clearly separate those who want the religious connotations foremost in their final rites or not.  The impact of the family is considered here because the funeral actually benefits the living that are in attendance and, because of this, it may change the way you look at your presentation to others.  Example, your wife is very religious yet you aren’t.  What kind of conflict does this create and do you accept that or you may even want to change things.

 

6.      Do you have an idea of who you want to officiate or, if not, do you know if qualified persons are available near your location?  You may want an officiant, or religious official or clergy, which requires specific religious qualifications or someone instead to officiate which can be anyone you desire.  

 

7.      If you are a non-believer, what kind of official do you want and what kind of background do you want presented?  This question, after the buildup in prior questions, begs the cold, hard option of non-belief.  You may very well find that by this point in the questionnaire your feelings of non-belief have disappeared and you find yourself to be a believer, just uncertain of your specific beliefs. Introspection frequently does this.

8.      What part does your family play in this decision?  Again, as alluded to earlier, most people want their family to be proud of them and if your non-religious option causes heartache and sadness from those you love, you may want to look inward and address the cause.

 

9.      Are you still considering where you really stand on your beliefs and do you need help and guidance in addressing your needs?  If you are now in turmoil because of the earlier questions, that is a healthy sign that you really aren’t sure where you stand.  As long as you are alive it is never too late to open your heart and soul to love.  As for help; there are many good people available who will help you find yourself and your place.

 

10.  Finally, what kind of image of yourself do you want to project to be remembered by?  Bingo, the image you want to reflect, once you fully realize what it is, is what you truly want to be.  And that’s the purpose of the questionnaire, to help you identify the truth about yourself.

 

I hope that those of you who took time to address the questions have learned something about yourself.  I used it myself long ago and it really got me thinking about what I want to leave behind as my personal legacy to those I love.  The questions forced me to look at myself openly and honestly in evaluating my beliefs and, in my case, they made me a better Christian.  While I thought I knew the answers before I began, I found that my desire for having a funeral clergy of my Christian faith, one in tune with my individual views of many differing alternatives became clearly important.  Whatever your particular faith, I hope it might have a similar result for you and, for those who either don’t acknowledge a God of love and grace or have doubts about Him, I hope this might open your heart.  There’s a wonderful life ahead for all of us and it need not be limited to our life on earth.

Have a wonderful week and God bless you all.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark portrays my family life with animals living with and near me at my farm in North Florida. Animals are truly a gift from a most gracious Father above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Your Final Plans Are Made, Now What?

You’ve been responsible all of your life and have lived within your means.  Moving into the retirement phase of life, you’ve drawn up your estate and probate plans and your funeral plan is in order.  Planning ahead with your devoted wife, you’ve determined who will be your obituary writer, even providing an outline to go by and you’ve set aside sufficient funeral funds to cover all funeral needs and funeral expenses.  Yes, indeed, your funeral plan is ready and written, locked away with your last will and testament for the day it is needed.

For the first time in your life you have time on your hands and can do the things that you’ve wanted to do but convinced yourself you didn’t have time for.  As a Christian, you’ve always been a church goer, offering time and money in support of His cause but you’ve never really taken the time to study what it’s really all about.  So many of us Christians find ourselves in this predicament, but the retirement phase of life offers the opportunity to continue to learn about our God and Savior through The Good Book and in prayer.  We’re never too old to learn more and in so doing get closer to Him.

Since you are a thinker, some call you a dreamer, you decide to sit down and really think what the goal is for a good Christian, what it means and what the ultimate glory provides.  Becoming a bit tired since you were up late the night before, you stretch out for a little early afternoon nap, something you never had the luxury to do in your prior busy life.  After all, you have the time and you want to recharge your physical batteries.  You drift off thinking about what things will be like after your time is up on this earth.

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Suddenly you are awakened in a soft, yet warm light.  Your body seems suspended in air yet it is racing down a corridor toward a golden beam in the distance.  You pass out of the corridor into the lightness and find yourself in a meadow with beautiful blue sky and puffy white clouds drifting by.  Even though you are on the floor of the meadow, your new unlimited senses allow you to see the earth below and you begin to realize that you are no longer earth borne.

While looking at your former home planet, you think about your life and family below and suddenly your mind is able to focus on the exact place from which you just departed.  You can actually see your lifeless body lying on a bed at the hospital where you died with your family crying and comforting one another in their final visitation before your body is removed.  You try to speak out to them but cannot and your consciousness just as suddenly returns to the meadow and you realize that you are either in Heaven or a place nearby.

An angel appears.  No, he does not have wings but he is dressed in a perfectly pressed linen suit and he has an aura of peace and light surrounding him.  He smiles and motions you to follow him but he does not speak.  As you walk through the meadow you see a wide assortment of animals and even shepherds and farmers tending to them.  They smile and nod as you pass.

Finally the angel leads you to a golden gate which has a bright sign on it which says “Welcome to the Gateway to Heaven.”  The angel motions you to a large cushioned bench on the porch of a beautiful little cottage just outside the entrance which looks like something out of a fairy tale.  You both sit down and he turns toward you and speaks for the first time.

“John, I am your guiding angel Harold”, he says with a smile. “And, yes, you are at the Gateway to Heaven.  You will still have to meet with the Father and discuss your successes and failures in life and receive His instructions for the future but you will be staying with us forever.  Your life was lived well for a mortal and you did a good job with your family.

“Your immediate task is to decide what it is you expect out of Heaven.  Time and space are no obstacles, and only good and favorable things are included, but God will want to know how you see yourself as a Member of the Eternal Flock.  For the next three days you will stay here in the Welcome Cottage and pray for the answers to what your place in Heaven should be.  The Father knows that each person is different and He wants each of His family members to have the Heavenly Experience that they seek.  Think about it, pray on it and when I come back I will take you through the gates to meet him. 

“Oh, and this is also a good time for you to plan what you will say when you meet with your Maker.  He knows what is in your heart and soul and He wants to make sure that you know both the good and bad of your life past.  Going forward, you won’t have those problems as you are now in the direct company of the Lord Jesus who you will also see in person soon.”

With that, Angel Harold stands, turns toward the roadway and walks through the Gates of Heaven and disappears into a fog.

As you sit and ponder what you were told and look at the beauty of the small taste of what is to become the beautiful Eternal Life you are entering, you begin the initial steps of formulating the answers to your assignment.  You pray that you are up to the task and that God will be pleased.

                                                                         ***

Suddenly you hear the door close and realize that you were sleeping.  Your wife walks into the room and smiles asking, “I’m glad you got some rest.  You have quite a magical look on your face.  Were you dreaming?”

You look at her with a radiance to your face and tell her, “Oh, yes, but I’ve got to think about it before I tell you about it.  It was wonderful; actually it was Heavenly.”

And with that the reason for the dream becomes clear.  God has spoken to you and told you what to expect and with the wonders you have seen you want to work hard to live up to His trust.  You now know that you must devote the remainder of your life to furthering His love and grace so that others will use their lives to fulfill his Heavenly wishes for them as well.

Who can say what is going in the hearts of others?  No one knows except God who knows all.  Who knows what Heaven will be like if we attain that lofty eternity?  No one until they experience it.  But I can tell you this much.  We do have some hints.  Here are just a couple of them from the Bible:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.

                                                                        Revelations 21:4 (ESV)

But as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of men imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”

                                                                        1 Corinthians 2:9

It sounds pretty magnificent doesn’t it?  So while we’ve got our funeral plans done and our life aiming in the right direction, let’s devote the remainder to He who is responsible for it all. Let’s live the rest of our lives with the Love of God in our hearts and souls and act accordingly.

Oh, and I hope you will seriously consider the exercise of thinking about what you would expect out of your Heavenly Life in the hereafter.  I think it might be fun and next week my blog will be my personal desire in this matter drawn from my individual perspective of my life experiences and loves.  Maybe we can even compare notes.  Until then, have a wonderful week with God in your heart.

James Dick

Website:  www.northfloridawriter.com

Author page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark or

                        www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

Author of Honey We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a Best Read Selection (2014) of American Pet Magazine

 

 

Our Legacy is the Way We Live

As we get older and begin to face our mortality, we naturally think much about our families and how we want life to be for them after we are gone. Certainly funeral planning, with all of the associated actions such as probate and estate planning, funeral needs and associated funeral costs, and the possible need to select an obituary writer come to mind. I think, however, that most important is the legacy that we leave behind, a legacy which is honorable, tells our life story and which makes our remaining loved ones proud. If we are successful in doing so by the way we live our life, one issue that often requires professional help, grief care, can often be negated. Let me explain why.

If we live in an upstanding manner, earning the love and respect of our loved ones, our light will shine brightly for them and in them after we are long gone. The pride that they feel having been part of our life will help them avoid grief care, for they will rest easy knowing that we have gone to a better place and a long needed rest. Oh, they will still miss us and have some moments in solitude of sadness, but the joy of their memories and the strength that our example has given them will negate the need for special help. They will be able to provide their own independent grief care with the positive light that we have left behind of ourselves.

Now having said that, what do I mean by living in an upstanding manner? After all, that is a broad term and all I can do is explain it in the manner that my heart directs me. If you don’t agree, establish your own criteria to live by but this works for me. It means trying to live the remainder of my life with the following foremost in everything I do, and I place the important things in order: God, family, and country.

God is placed first for me because He is truly my Father. Everything about me and all that I have been blessed to have comes from Him. With Him I am everything, but without Him I am nothing. And by following His Son, Jesus Christ, I am offered the opportunity to live forever with Him after this life is done.

Family is placed second and it follows after God because if I love Him and do my best to live my life as He demands my family will be cared for. And if I love Him, I will bring His love and caring to bear on them and they will ultimately reach the same conclusion from His light. In my life I have been blessed that my wife and children have accompanied my growth into becoming strong and loving Christians. They have had their ups and downs as we all have but when all is said and done they know that God is with them and that His Son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and has offered his grace through faith.
My love of my country comes next. I was blessed to serve her in uniform and I am grateful that I was born in the greatest country on earth. I must say that I am sometimes troubled these days with some of the things that are happening but I know that if I rest my cares with God He will do His will. If that means times have to be tough for mankind to understand His truth then so be it. And when I pray to Him he will direct my energies to do what is right and just for the land that I love.

So when I die I want to be remembered for my strong belief in these three things, the second and third of which are always dependent on the first. And I know that if I live my life in this fashion and my family understands where I am coming from and has accepted a similar viewpoint about life, they will thrive after I have gone.

They may suffer some hardships and sorrow, but they will be focused on what is really important in this world. It is living your life as He would have us do and in so doing, with the love of Christ and the forgiveness He has given, they will be secure and safe whatever the future might bring.

In the end, the strength that He provides us through the gift of free leads us to true freedom. And this freedom is infectious if we display it by the way we live with love. For God expects us to live our lives with love in our heart both for Him and for mankind, even those who don’t love us. If we love in this manner we cannot fail because He loves us and He rewards those who praise Him and His Son. And that reward is the ultimate security blanket, more precious than property, gold and power. It is the gift of eternal life.

So put God in the form of the Holy Trinity, family and country in your heart in that very order. He knows that America was given a special gift of freedom like no other country has ever seen and he wants to see it strengthened and returned in full force. He also wants us to enjoy life on earth while we have it, but that enjoyment puts many worthwhile responsibilities on our shoulders. Meeting that requirement will secure both your family and your country and, for playing your part in doing so, you will leave wonderful memories for your loved ones and both you and they will be truly blessed.

God bless you all and have a great week.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
Northfloridawriter.com
Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, recognized as one of the
Best Reads of 2014 by American Pet Magazine
outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

 

Funeral Planning: Selection of Funeral Clergy

An important component of funeral planning that used to be of little concern in America is the selection of funeral clergy. After all, it wasn’t too many years ago when it was common for families to worship together each Sunday and their minister was accepted as their spiritual leader. When the need arose for funeral clergy by the family, it was routine for the family minister to officiate. He knew the family, their loves and beliefs and was well suited for the task of presenting the story of the decedent. And this wasn’t limited to the Christian community; members of most other religious families did the same.

I remember vividly when my father died. Our family attended church as a unit every week and our minister knew each member of the family well. It was just automatic that he would be the one to deliver the Word, speak knowingly about my father and offer prayers for his soul and for those of us left behind. He was already in the living room of our home before I even arrived from school.

With the family being comforted and spiritually cared for, it made it much easier for my mother to spend some time handling the pressing matters of the funeral and family affairs. These included such items as appointing an obituary writer, approving a kind neighbor’s offer to prepare funeral meals, meeting with the family accountant to insure that funeral costs would be covered, and beginning to deal with her own grief and depression.

Sadly, things are much different today. While about eighty-five percent of Americans claim to be Christian, a surprising study by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association identified a huge gap between those claiming Christianity and those who actually consider themselves saved. Only forty out of every one hundred placed themselves in that category and this likely correlates to some significant degree to regular church attendance. The saved Christian is one who religiously tends to his or her church attendance, prayer, meditation, Bible reading and outreach. This would apply generally to the devoutly religious in other major religions as well. Those less active are much more likely not to have a designated religious leader to officiate.

So what does this mean for the family without a close tie to a “person of the cloth”? Basically, unless the decedent makes plans prior to death, the family is left with the task of determining who will officiate at the funeral and what will they be asked to say. Sometimes it can be difficult to find an ordained pastor to handle the service for a stranger. Often ministers are reluctant to officiate for people they don’t know. The spiritual background of the decedent is important to most clergy, and the lack of knowledge of the beliefs that were held might make them feel their involvement would not be appropriate. On the other hand, some will meet with family members and agree based upon what they learn from that meeting.

Another option would be asking a close friend of the deceased to lead the occasion or, in some cases, even a family member might agree to do so. I once attended a ceremony where the son-in-law officiated under a large fruit tree in a family pasture that the decedent dearly loved. She spoke often of her love for God but had a “falling out” with a particular church earlier in life and never returned.

In some communities there are even listings for professional public speakers who can lead a ceremonial event such as a memorial service for the deceased. While they may be appropriate for those not professing or practicing any religious belief, I cannot personally vouch for any of their services.

I think it is pretty clear where I am headed with this. The easiest way for us to find the funeral clergy we need is to develop our basic belief in God into a stronger, closer and more loving relationship by clearly fully and opening our hearts to Him. Let Him infect our lives while we are here on this earth so that we receive His love and guidance and thereby find ourselves in Him. Sometimes something has drawn us away or we are just stubborn and think we are capable of handling all things by ourselves. But when it comes to the subject of “facing the music’ at the end of life, wouldn’t it be better to be at peace with God and show this in our lives with our family and friends. Regular involvement in a Christian fellowship or church, daily prayer and Bible study will loosen our chains of stubbornness and show us the way to Him. And by doing this, we will also solve the issue of funeral clergy for we will have someone who knows us and can present our life in celebration of our finale when our time on earth is done.

If you are active in your belief through thought, word and action, God bless you. And if you aren’t, but sincerely want to be, God will show you how. Let Him unchain your heart and change your life. You will be rewarded for eternity. God bless you and God bless America.
James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

 

The Reality of Christianity: I Am Second

Writing a blog for a funeral planning site can be challenging. While it is important to discuss all aspects of funeral needs including selecting funeral clergy, determining whether burial or cremation services are best, even whether or not an obituary writer or eulogy writer is needed, none of these things do anything for the inner self or soul, both of the decedent to be who is planning in advance, or for his or her family, left behind to carry out the request of their loved one as well as carry on without that special person.

Two weeks ago we talked about the need to recognize the importance of God in our lives. He is the one who can best help our loved ones deal with the uncertainty, grief and depression that will likely surface in a time of sadness and loss. His love and caring, gained through our opening of our hearts to Him, will not only help us while we are still here but will certainly positively impact the future of those we love.

Fortunately, while I thought about how to really “bring home the message” that was broached in my earlier discussion, I came upon a wonderful Christian web site that is clearly a tool for making God’s wishes clear. It is called I am Second, web address iamsecond.com, and it is designed to inspire people to put God first in their lives, to live for Him and, in so doing, follow His guidance on dealing with both routine and major problems that we will face in our lives. None can be more critical than the feeling of aloneness and fear that we all sometimes face, and these fears can often translate into grief and depression. And no subject can be gloomier than planning for your demise or participating in a service for a departed loved one.

Founded by Norm Miller, the Chairman of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, I am Second was initially developed to lift the Dallas-Fort Worth area to a higher recognition of God’s purpose for us and now has grown to other areas of the country, including Central Florida. Being a good organizer, Miller has set up a leadership team to guide its growth and development, including a working relationship with e3 Partners, a communications production organization that has developed written and video material and tools for use by those who are seeking answers to questions from God. These materials use true stories from real people who found Jesus, decided to put Him first in their lives and, as a result, dramatically changed themselves and have been saved by Christ’s grace and redemption.

What types of people are participants? Well, they include athletes, actors, business leaders and political types as well as regular people like us and our next door neighbors. Also included are people mired in bad habits and a disastrous life style including drug addicts, alcoholics, even prostitutes, you name it and someone meeting the description is probably here. You see, God loves all of us and he wants us to seek Him out, pray and work to change our ways through our love for Him, and put Him first in our thoughts and actions. If we make Him first and relegate ourselves to second, the wonders He can work in, for and with us are incalculable. And while one might think that this is asking too much, remember that the Lord sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth as a mere mortal to suffer a horrific death as a man, not as God, with all the pain and suffering that a man would feel, so that by dying for us we might find eternity with Him. All we have to do is put him first in all that we do. He’ll take care of the rest.

The stories told in the videos represent almost every imaginable struggle. They include such issues as abortion, abuse, anger, cancer, affluence, divorce and many more. They show how any of these things, including some which seem on the surface as positive factors, can become just the opposite when not handled the way God wants. And each of the stories shows the pitfalls of that lifestyle and its detrimental impact. Eliminating pitfalls and sorrow which can be avoided through Him will play a leading role in precluding much grief and depression which would otherwise come with ultimate regret. You see, God wants us to live happily and we can truly only do this if we have Him in our heart and put Him first. Otherwise, our riches, our passion and even our weaknesses will ultimately consume us.

I am Second also spends time dealing with many of the questions that we have regarding faith. Some of the same people who tell their stories about how God has changed them also offer their views on a variety of these questions. This is an excellent approach since it offers real life, not theoretical, examples of what God has to say about these questions. Some of the questions are:
Does God care about me?
How do I know everything that happens in life is God’s doing?
Why is Jesus the only way to Heaven?
Why does God allow bad things to happen?
How do I become second?
And these are just some of the subjects with which we can be helped. Looking over this short listing, I think we can clearly see how the power and the glory of God and His son, Jesus Christ, can lift us up with brightness, joy and light, just the opposite of gloom and doom, grief and depression. And when we are faced with our own pending demise, or with the loss of someone close to us, we will see it as a road to glory above with Him and a time for celebration.

I would highly recommend that all of us who want to develop a deeper relationship with Our Heavenly Father should consider taking a close look at iamsecond.com. It’s open to everyone, it can be a strong inspiration to those seeking to really get close to God and it can help you understand that He is first and we are designed to glorify Him in our lives by being “Second”.

Have a wonderful week ahead and I’ll look forward to meeting with you again next week if the good Lord is willing. Bless you all and God bless America.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

James Dick Book on Amazon