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Have you ever thought about King Solomon’s heart? I hadn’t until recently when I was asked to give a talk about Solomon’s errors in life, and what we can learn from them. Ever since then I have been thinking about Solomon’s life, and it is a complicated one.

Growing up I would attend Sunday School, and it seems, at least once a year I would hear the story of Solomon asking God for wisdom, and the teachers would tell us students that it was a wonderful thing that Solomon asked for and that we should be like Solomon and ask God to make us wise.

Considering Solomon’s foolish ways toward the end of his life, one naturally is prone to ask, “Hey Solomon, what happened? You started out wise and ended up a dummy.”

My initial answer to that question, is that when God asked Solomon what he wanted, he should have said he wanted a heart that would be dedicated to God and follow him all the days of his life. While wisdom is important, whole hearted devotion to God is sublime.

The story of Solomon asking God for wisdom is found in two places in the Bible, in 1 Kings 3, and 2 Chronicles 1. I think the Sunday School version is from 2 Chronicles because in verse 10 Solomon specifically says, “Give me wisdom and knowledge that I may lead your people.”

In the 1 Kings account, Solomon doesn’t specifically ask for wisdom. Instead he talks to God about his father David, who had a righteous and upright heart, and then Solomon asks God in verse 9 to “give your servant a discerning heart”. God was pleased with Solomon’s request and responded to him in verse 12 saying, “I will give you a wise and discerning heart.”

Following this encounter with God we see examples of Solomon’s wisdom:

Two women have a dispute over a baby and Solomon says, “Cut the child in two and give half to each women (1 Kings 3:16-27)

He spoke 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32)

From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 4:34)

He builds the temple (1 Kings 6)

He dedicates the temple saying, “You keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue whole heartedly in your way.”

Martin Luther said that if someone came knocking on his heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Martin Luther, but the Lord Jesus Christ.” I think that at this point in Solomon’s life, that if we went knock – knocking on the door of Solomon’s heart and asked who lived there, he would say, “Not Solomon, but the Lord God Almighty.”

Let’s fast forward to 1 Kings chapter 11, toward the end of Solomon’s life. Verse 4 tells us that as Solomon grew old, his (700) wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of his father David had been.

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomom to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. (9,10)

If someone were to knock on Solomon’s heart at this stage of his life, and asked him who lived there, I wonder what the wisest mortal who ever lived would have said. Maybe, “Solomon the mighty lives here.” Or “Solomon the wise” or “Solomon the great”. Whatever it would have been, it would not have been “the Lord God Almighty.”

How tragic. How depressing. How did it happen? It makes me think that if this happened to the wisest person who ever lived, a man that God appeared to twice, what hope is there for me? What hope is there for any of us?

It helps me to consider the words of Jesus from Matthew 18:3-4, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I find it hard to see Solomon taking the lowly position of a child. I find it hard to imagine him humbling himself to serve like Jesus served, or to wash feet like Jesus did. I see his great “wisdom” leading him to be arrogant, haughty and proud, and in the end his Godly wisdom became the wisdom of the world, which as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 is foolishness. In the end, his heart became hard toward the things of God.

So what about us. What do we say when someone comes knocking on our heart, asking “Who lives here?”

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9,10

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Using our time, talents and treasure to bring glory to God by doing good, making beauty and sharing truth.

Toward the end of Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of The Bags of Gold, as the NIV titles it. Jesus follows this up with a description of what it will be like when he returns to earth, sits on his glorious throne, and separates the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. I’m sure you know these stories, and have probably heard sermons on both these texts. I certainly have. But I have never heard a sermon that connects these two passages. This is unfortunate because they are clearly connected in Matthews gospel and surely in the mind of Jesus. I don’t think we can really understand one, without connecting it to the other.

The parable of the Bags of Gold, found in Matthew 25:14, tells of a master going away on a long journey. Before he leaves he calls three of his servants and gives them bags of gold to invest for him while he is gone. The amount he gives to each one is according to his ability. When he returns he is delighted to discover that two of his servants have doubled the amount of gold he gave them, and proclaims to each of them, “Enter into your masters joy.” The master is disappointed that the third servant hid the money in the ground, and there was no increase. The master rebukes the man, calling him wicked, lazy and worthless, and has him tossed out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

After this parable, Jesus proceeds to tell the disciples that when he returns, he will judge humanity according to what they did and did not do. To those who helped people by feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, taking strangers in, ministering to the sick and visiting those in prison, he invites them to take their inheritance and enter into the kingdom of eternal life, because when they did good to those in need, they were doing good to him.

To those who did not help the needy, who did not do good to the “least of these”, he proclaims ” Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!”

I think God gives everyone three symbolic bags of gold, those being time, talent and treasure. To those who invest their bags of gold in doing good, making beauty and sharing truth for the glory of God, they will one day hear those delightful words, “Enter into your Masters happiness. Come into eternal life.”

Unfortunately, it seems most people use their bags of time, talent and treasure towards selfish ends. To advance their careers, improve their lifestyle and up their prestige. Sadly, one day they too will hear from the Master, King and Judge, but they will hear words of condemnation and enter eternal fire.

I love living in Oaxaca, Mexico, working at FFHM’s Home For Needy Children and working alongside so many brothers and sisters in Christ who have dedicated their time, talents and treasure to helping the least of these, the poorest of the poor. In our own ways we are doing good things for the kids (great meals, warm clothes, lots of play) making beautiful surroundings and beautiful lives (gardens and art work) and sharing the truth of the Gospel (as well as the truth of math, science and history at our elementary school).

I hope and pray that all Christians can find that happy niche in life where they joyfully give of their time, talents and treasure to do good, make beauty and share the truth of God’s love, all to God’s glory.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,

which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

I recently read Genesis 3 – The Fall. Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. They disobey God’s one command. The results? Shame. They realize they are naked (7). Fear. “I was afraid, so I hid” (10).

God asks Adam, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Adam replies, “The Woman YOU put here with me me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Adam moves from shame to blame. “Not my fault!” That’s what Adam is telling God, except he is also telling God that it is His fault. “YOU gave me that woman. If you wouldn’t have given me that woman, this wouldn’t have happened. How could you do such a terrible thing?”

I imagine Adam continuing. “And that tree. Why did you have to put that stupid tree here in the first place? We have this beautiful, perfectly nice garden here, and you have to go and ruin it with that tree. Oh yeah, we really needed a tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!”

The rant goes on. “Maybe the tree isn’t what is so bad. What is bad is your rule. What were you thinking? Was that really necessary? Thou shalt not eat from that tree! If there was no rule there would be no disobedience. Did you ever think of that?”

Adam just can’t shut up. “And what’s up with this Free Will? If we didn’t have Free Will, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Couldn’t you have created us with a little less Free Will, or better yet, no Free Will? You could have tweaked that whole ‘made in the image of God’ thing so that we wouldn’t even give taking a bite from the forbidden fruit a second thought.”

Our family is going through a devotional called Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. The author, Starr Meade, focuses on one question and answer for a week. This week is question 18, “What is sinful about Man’s sinful condition?”

The answer is, “The sinfulness of that fallen condition is twofold. First, in what is commonly called original sin, there is the guilt of Adam’s first sin with its lack of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature. Second are all the specific acts of disobedience that come from original sin.”

Meade writes, “We are guilty before God because of what we do and we are guilty before God because of what we are. We are human beings. Adam acted as the representative of all human beings when he rebelled against God, so all human beings became guilty. Adam passed on his guilt to all who came from him. We are all born guilty because of Adam.”

When God confronts us with our disobedience, we tend to follow Adam’s lead with blame and protests. God asks us, “Did you disobey my commands?”

We reply:

“Not my fault. I’m a descendant of Adam and Eve. Remember those two jokers who blew it for everyone in the Garden of Eden?”

“Not my fault. Original sin.”

“Not my fault. Corrupt nature”

“Not my fault. Imputed guilt.”

“Not my fault. Inherited bent toward sin.”

“Not my fault. The Devil made me do it.”

“Not my fault. I’m ignorant. I know not what I do.”

“Not my fault. I’m powerless to change my fallen state.”

In the 1993 comedy movie, Life With Mikey, starring Michael J. Fox, a young girl is caught pick pocketing. She is surrounded by a small crowd on the street with a policeman who finds two or three wallets in her possession. Michael J. Fox (Mikey) comes to her aid, pretending to be her father. Helpless, with no where to turn, she begins to cry and exclaims, “I’m bad. I know it daddy. I need help.”

When we are confronted with our sinfulness, lack of obedience, and rebellion, perhaps, instead of making excuses, blaming others or protesting, we too should just confess, “I’m bad. I know it Father. I need help.”

What’s going on inside of me?

I despise my own behavior

This only serves to confirm my suspicions

That I’m still a man in need of a savior

by Charlie Peacock

Misty morning – Tlacolula Valley – Mexico

2022 is coming ’round the bend, and you can be sure it is loaded with affliction, anguish, battles, calamity, catastrophe, confusion, difficulties, financial setbacks, family issues, misfortune, obstacles, pandemic, sorrow, spiritual attacks, stress, trials, tribulation, work drama, unexpected loss, vexations and a ton of zabernism (the misuse or abuse of military authority) around the world.

What should we do when we encounter nastiness and unpleasantness? What mindset can help us through frustration and disappointment? How can we remain happy and content amid the turmoil and trouble that we will inevitably encounter in 2022?

Our modern world is full of books, articles, essays, blogs, podcasts, youtubers, conferences and retreats that aim to answer those questions in a myriad of ways. But for me, I found a nugget of truth I plan on hanging onto in 2022, from Thomas Haemmerlein, also known as Thomas a Kempis, that dates back to the 14th century. He wrote in his book The Imitation of Christ, in a chapter called That all troubles are to be endured for the sake of eternal life:

An hour shall come when all labour and confusion shall cease. Little and short is all that passeth away with time….Peace shall come in one day which is known to the Lord; which shall be neither day nor night, but light eternal, infinite clearness, steadfast peace, and undisturbed rest….death will be utterly destroyed, and there shall be salvation which can never fail, no more anxiety, happy delight, sweet and noble society.

Thomas a Kempis is giving us all words to live by and to thrive by when we are going through times of difficulties. He is reminding us to always have in mind a larger perspective and bigger picture than we normally have, especially when events and circumstances are not going our way; are not fitting into our plan. He is telling us to look at life from the vantage point of Eternity. The picture doesn’t get any bigger than that. With that view, everything changes.

With eternity in mind (or our eternal home and heavenly country, as Kempis writes in a later chapter) we can think better and overcome the challenges that sometimes surround us. All pain and suffering eventually become “little and short” and soon pass away, even if they last a lifetime, because a lifetime on earth is but a drop of water in the ocean of eternity.

Compare present turmoil to “steadfast peace, undisturbed rest, no more anxiety, and happy delight” that will endure forever and ever.

We don’t know what 2022 holds for us, but we do know Who holds 2022 – Our loving Heavenly Father! We are his dearly loved children, and he will tenderly care for us, in the coming year and for eternity.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14

This has been A Christmas Carol Christmas season for me. I didn’t go looking for it, but it seems at every turn I have been bumping into it.

It started a couple weeks ago when I was reading an article in Mockingbird by Alison Kjergaard, titled A Christmas Carol and Grace in Practice, which I highly recommend. I was inspired and challenged by it and thought it would be a good jumping off point for a blog post. She focused on the quote above.

Shortly after reading that article I was listening to a Christian podcast about A Christmas Carol (sorry, don’t remember which one). But I do remember listening to the In Our Time podcast with Melvin Brag and his guests who spent 45 minutes talking about Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. Also the podcast The American Story touched on it. Finally, I read an essay from the Imaginative Conservative by Chuck Chalberg called Christmas Dinner with G.K. Chesterton where he referenced an essay by Chesterton. Chesterton mentioned the “soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit”.

After all that, I decided I should gather the family around and watch the movie since I have not seen it for years, and my children never. I forgot how mean and humbuggety Scrooge was throughout the movie and how transformed his life was at the end-a man who ended up keeping Christmas as well as any man alive. I must admit I shed a few tears. Some because of the wonderful change in Ebeneezer Scrooge, and some because of the scroogieness that still dwells within me. I don’t know if it is my culture, nurture or bent nature that occasionally brings out the humbug in me, but I know I don’t like it. I’m still a man in need of a Savior.

The Christmas Carol thing that really got my attention through the Scrooge deluge was the quote above from Jacob Marley which comes toward the beginning of the book and the movie, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Isn’t that a great line? Especially hard hitting for a lot of us who are more task oriented than people or relationship oriented. Even though I grew up in a Christian home, it seems to me that the task is what was usually front and center in my developing years. My family lived on a farm and there was always pigs to feed, fields to seed and a garden to weed! That was beside regular household chores and schoolwork. Certainly there was love expressed in various ways between the family members, and the message of the love of God was never far off, but what primarily stuck for me was to accomplish the task. Do the business and do it good. Even after Bible college and 16 years of giving of my time, talents and treasure here at the home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, I sometimes forget the reason I am here – charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, and I end up more focused on planting gardens, watering plants, killing bugs and pulling weeds, since I am the gardener.

So, just as Jacob Marley had to give Scrooge the business about what is the true business of life, I have to remind myself that people are more important than projects, relationships are more important than responsibilities, and the well being of my neighbor is more important than the well being of my garden. Loving and helping humanity is my business because it is God’s business.

I think we should all try to be more devoted to making others lives beautiful rather than our own; living the love of God rather than loving the “good life”; tending to souls rather than careers. If we have these attitudes and actions we will enjoy God more and truly glorify him in our lives, families, churches and world.

Truly he taught us to love one another

His law is love and His gospel is peace

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

And in His name all oppression shall cease

From O Holy Night

Recently I was reading the first chapter of first Peter when a phrase in verse 18 hit me – Empty Way of Life. Peter is telling his readers that now that you are believers you should be holy in all that you do (15) and live in reverent fear of God (17). In verse 18 he reminds them that before they were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, they were living an empty way of life. Those four words – empty way of life – prompted me to begin thinking of our culture and all the people who think their lives are full, but are really empty. Here are a few thoughts for all of us to consider:

If your checking account, savings account and wallet are full of money, but you don’t know the riches of God’s love, your life is empty.

If your Christmas tree of life has been filled with beautiful ornaments like cars, houses, fine furniture, new appliances and electronic gadgets, but you don’t know the Christ of Christmas, your life is empty.

If your time is full of political podcasts, right wing books or left wing propaganda, and you know powerful people in high places, but you haven’t experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, your life is empty.

If you identify as LGBTQ but aren’t the least bit concerned about WWJD, then your life is empty.

If you give lots of money to charity and spend lots of time promoting good causes, but have not received God’s gift of forgiveness, your life is empty.

If you love things, wealth and power, but don’t love God and people, deeply, from the heart (verse 22), then your life is empty.

As is attributed to Pascal, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” Or, perhaps more accurately, “this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”.

This Christmas season may we make a greater effort to read God’s Word, meditate on his promises, ponder the incredible significance of the baby in the manger, internalize the importance of Emmanuel and thus enjoy truly full lives.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18-19

Second Chronicles 14 begins by reporting that Abijah, king of Judah, had died and that his son, Asa, succeeded him, and that the country was at peace for ten years. That was primarily because “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.”

Verse eight tells us that he had an army of 580,000 men, from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and that they were well equipped with various types of arms.

That is a nice place to be in life. Living at peace with everyone and secure. Confident. Well off. No worries. If only it could last.

We are informed in 2 Chronicles 14:9 that Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with an army of thousands upon thousands and three hundred chariots as well. The kingdom of Judah was clearly out numbered and in a tight spot.

What was King Asa’s strategy? PRAY! He called out to the LORD his God and said,”LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. LORD, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”

Life in the kingdom wasn’t so peaceful anymore. King Asa and his subjects were in trouble. King Asa falls to his knees in prayer. Well, like the words in the song Higher, by Unspoken say, “That’s a pretty good place to be.” It can lead to treasure. It can lead to plunder.

Verse 12 – Good News! “The LORD struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the LORD and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder.”

So there you have it. King Asa and the kingdom of Judah were living in peace, not bothering anyone, just minding their own business. And then the bully Zerah the Cushite decides his own kingdom isn’t enough anymore. He wants King Asa’s kingdom, which isn’t really King Asa’s kingdom, but God Almighty’s kingdom. This time Zerah the Cushite picked on the wrong King and kingdom. Asa prayed and put his trust in the One, True God. God honored his prayer and his trust and not only was the Cushite army destroyed, but Judah ended up with a lot of plunder. That’s a pretty good place to be!

Now I’m not saying that (problems + prayer = plunder) all the time; or that (trials + trust = treasure) in every situation, but it does happen more frequently than you might imagine. Remember the story of Gideon and his 300 men going up against 120,000 Midianites? The Midianites were routed and plundered, with God doing most of the heavy lifting, if you know what I mean. (Judges 7-8) Or how about King Hezekiah and Jerusalem under siege by more than 200,000 soldiers under Sennacherib. Hezekiah prays that God would deliver his people, and “that night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib retreated in haste and his camp was plundered.

It pays to pray and trust God!

I wish I could say that our friend King Asa lived happily ever after, but that is not the case. He stopped praying and trusting God. Toward the end of his life he started trusting in men, and not in God. Hanani, a prophet/seer, confronted Asa, and reminded him of the good ole days when he trusted God. He told Asa that the “eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those who hearts are fully committed to him.” But now that Asa’s heart was committing to foreign nations and looking to them for help; he was under the judgment of the LORD. Asa was angry with Hanani and put him in prison. He also began to brutally oppress some of his people. Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet, but still did not seek help from the LORD. He died two years later. (2 Chronicles 16)

We suffer needlessly when we reject God and rely solely on humans.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5,6

Art work by Elaine Croft

Proverbs 16 gives us some important insight into how our words can help other people. It talks about “gracious words”.

The wise in heart are called discerning and gracious words promote instruction. (21)

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (24)

The definition of gracious is courteous, kind, and pleasant.

According to the author of Proverbs, gracious words do three things: promote instruction, are sweet to the soul and are healing to the bones.

What would be the opposite of gracious words? And what do they do?

The opposite would be cruel words; degrading words; sarcastic words; insulting words. Instead of promoting instruction, these words hinder growth. They are not sweet to the soul like honey, but bitter like gall. They do not promote physical well being, but invite sickness and poor health.

When I think of these two extremes, I think of the art work in the picture above. Gracious words are like roses. They are beautiful and sweet smelling and bring life and happiness to the soul. Harsh or demeaning words are like dry, lifeless, dead bones and benefit no one.

This Advent season I want to be more intentional about my words. I want to put kind, courteous and pleasant words into the spiritual and emotional Christmas stockings of those I come in contact with – my family, friends, co-workers and even complete strangers. I want my words to be sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Perhaps we can all take Mother Teresa’s advice and speak kind words into our world, and then step back and listen to the endless echoes.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Passiflora Foetida, also know as Wild Passionfruit, Running Pop and Wild Maracuja

I truly believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy. I believe that because the Bible tells me so.

The phrase in the Bible that leads me to that conviction is “The LORD is good, and his love endures forever.” These words are found 11 times in the Old Testament, from 1 Chronicles (16:34) to Jeremiah (33:11). It is found most frequently in Psalms (100:5; 106:1; 107;1; 118:1; 136:1).

Most of the time, this scriptural nugget is preceded by the words, “Give thanks to the Lord” as in Psalms 106:1 and 107:1. “Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; his love endures forever.”

I try to practice that admonishment everyday. When the sun pokes its head over the horizon every morning, I tell myself and those around me, “Look, he did it again!” God doesn’t have to make the sunrise everyday, but he does because he loves us and wants us to be happy!

I am the gardener at a home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico. When I see the Birds of Paradise, Hibiscus, Geraniums, Canna Lilies, Bougainvilles or Roses in bloom, I can see how God is so good and loves us so much, and I happily give him thanks and praise his name. He didn’t have to give us all these beautiful flowers, but he did, because he loves us and wants us to be happy.

My wife and I have a little piece of property not too far from the home for needy children. I am constantly planting and caring for many flowers, bushes and trees that I planted. They need a lot of TLC to flourish and thrive (kinda like us humans). I was pleasantly surprised about a month ago, by the appearance of the Passion Flower pictured above. It is beautiful. I did not plant it. God did. Why? Because the LORD is Good and his Love endures forever and because he loves us and wants us to be happy. Just ask Benjamin Franklin.

“The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the LORD. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voice in praise to the LORD and sang:

He is good; his love endures forever.

Then the temple of the LORD was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple of God. 2 Chronicles 5:13,14

Entrance to the Mitla municipal cemetery. The message above is translated to say, “for dust you are and to dust you will return.

I have had death on my mind this last week. November 1 and 2 are the holidays in Mexico called Day of the Dead. It’s a big deal in Mexico, and especially in Oaxaca, the state where I live. The Atlantic magazine had a photo spread with Day of the Dead pictures, and two of them were from Oaxaca, one from a little town down the road named Tlacolula. It’s primarily a Catholic holiday (Mexico is 90% Catholic). It comes from a mixed belief of the Zapotecs and Mayans combined with some Catholic beliefs that the spirits of the dead come back for two days every year. Those who celebrate Dia de los Muertos, usually have a shrine in their house dedicated to the dearly departed, and also go to the cemetery and decorate the grave(s) of those family member(s) who have passed on. They usually spend the night at the cemetery eating pan de muertos (dead bread) and drinking. It is a big tourist attraction, where visitors from all over the world come and tour certain cemeteries during the midnight hours. My wife, Anita, was born in Mitla, just down the road from the home for needy children where we serve. Some consider Mitla the dead head capital of Oaxaca (and I don’t mean Grateful Dead). The municipal cemetery there is normally a hoppin’ place during Day of the Dead, but these last two years it has been closed down due to Covid concerns.

Normally the Mitla cemetery would be decorated with hundreds of marigolds in preparation for Day of the Dead this time of year.
Mitla cemetery closed because of a rise in Covid cases.

Another reason I have been thinking about death is that Anita’s uncle died at the end of October. He had dementia and had been ill for quite awhile when he died. He was Catholic. He lived in Mitla. When a Catholic dies in Mitla, it’s a big deal. The deceased is put in a casket and then put on display in one of the rooms of his or her house. Then family and friends come from miles around to comfort the family. My wife was helping the family prepare food. When family and friends show up you give them hot chocolate and bread. Then, about midnight, you start making the real meal, which everyone eats about one a.m. Finally they leave about two a.m. After the clean up, Anita fell into bed about three a.m. She arose early in the morning to do the whole thing over again. The priest shows up and does a mass for the dead, and everyone walks to the cemetery, but not before packing the casket with extra clothes and food and favorite things of the newly dead. A bottle of water was also put into the coffin. Anita asked what that was for. She was told he would probably get thirsty on his long journey (through purgatory?).

At the cemetery, only the immediate family was allowed to view the burial, due to covid concerns. In July we were at the same cemetery for the internment of Anita’s mom, and everyone was allowed in, but it seems the pandemic is experiencing an uptick and restrictions have reared their ugly head. The immediate family finally came out of the cemetery, but relatives and friends hung around for at least an hour drinking beer and mezcal and eating chips. Anita and I had to get back to the mission for a big birthday party and we left. I have no idea how long they all stayed.

Day of the Dead reminded me of my mothers death a couple of years ago, and my mother-in-laws death in July. I also thought of Anita’s other uncle who died a year ago. Some were Christians, some weren’t. I thank God for the hope that Christians have in the face of death: O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Cross embedded on the wall of the Mitla cemetery.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. Jesus – John 11:25

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