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Looking Ahead

  • Today is  Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is one cold lady! Irony: I came from Louisiana and ended up on the edge of a hurricane!

I encourage you to read this powerful message on the Sovereignty of God by my pastor, Charlie Bailey.

Our newest short story collection,  Christmas Jelly, is now available.

I’ve posted one of my favorite short stories from the new book.

Order here: Add to Cart

Click on cover for larger view.

Lazarus’ Second Funeral is from my latest book,  Christmas Jelly.  This story is one of several fictional ones in the new

book. It comes from a thought I had:  Lazarus died again.  He died, was raised from the dead by Jesus, then later died again.

That led to this short story.  Enjoy!

Lazarus’ Second Funeral

 

I guess I’m only one who attended both of Boaz Lazurus’ funerals.

The second one was yesterday.

The first one was thirty-one years ago.

Folks around here simply call me “Rabbi.” It’s a name I like.

I remember Lazarus’ funeral well. I was a young rabbi, only recently assigned to the Bethany synagogue. I’ll never forget the raw grief of his two sisters, Mary and Martha.

I had grown to love the Lazarus family and spent lots of time with them in the days leading up to his death. It was like being on a storm in the sea. Up one minute, down the next. The sisters had such hope that The Teacher would come and heal him.

Martha, the older of the sisters, stood at the edge of town for two days waiting for Jesus to arrive.

He didn’t come.

And Lazarus died.

Like the sisters, I questioned why the Teacher didn’t come when summoned. He’d supposedly healed the blind and lame. He could’ve healed his dear friend.

But Lazarus died.

I helped with the preparation, funeral, and burial.

I was gone for a week after his burial. First Jerusalem then Jericho. On my way home to Bethany, I began hearing strange stories as I encountered travelers.

Jesus had raised a man from the dead.

A man from Bethany.

The rumors used many names. Boaz was such a common name.

It couldn’t be him.

I had felt his cold body.

I had helped bury him.

Lazarus had died.

I hurried my pace as I neared Bethany, arriving late at night. The streets were empty. The Lazarus house was dark but I beat on the door.

Eventually, a lamp was lit.

Martha came to the door. “Rabbi, what is it?”

I hesitated. “Is it true what I’ve heard?”

“Come see for yourself.” She led me to the very room where Lazarus had died. A man was sleeping, snoring softly without a care in the world.

“Lazarus, you’ve got company.”

He rolled over, squinting at the lamplight, then sat up. “Hello, Rabbi.”

I trembled and couldn’t speak. It was like seeing a dead man. No, it was like seeing a live man who’d been dead.

For the next thirty years I served as his rabbi. In spite of my prodding, he’d never reveal much about what he remembered between his death and resurrection. He’d only wink. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

The rumors persisted about him. The most popular was that Lazarus had only swooned and came out of the grave when he awoke.

Lazarus was dead. I know a dead man when I see one.

Over the years, I officiated at many funerals attended by Lazarus, including his sisters—first Mary, then Martha. He grieved along with everyone else but there was always a far-away look in his eyes as if he knew something that made it all different.

Rumors swirled that Lazarus would never die. He shook them off. “Rabbi, I’m going to die soon but have no complaints. I had three decades of extra life.”

Finally, last week he took sick and knew the end was coming. I spent time with him on his last day. “Friend, do you think Jesus is coming to rescue you again?”

“Yes, but in a different way.”

I carefully broached a touchy subject. “Do you really believe Jesus is alive?”

“I know it.”

“But you never saw him alive like some of the others claimed?”

“I didn’t have to. He raised me. He had the power over death.” Lazarus weakly tried to sit up. “Rabbi, what do you believe?”

“I believe he raised you from the dead.”

“But do you believe He’s the Son of God?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What more proof could you need? Just believe.”

They were the last words he spoke to me. He laid back, closed his eyes, and died early the next morning.

His nephews told me just before he died, he opened his eyes, reaching skyward. “I can see Jesus coming to get me.”

Some may doubt it, but I don’t. A wise rabbi once told me, “Which is most crazy: a person who hears thunder and says it was God speaking to them, or one who hears God speak and says it is only thunder?”

I’ve learned not to doubt belief.

Lazarus died the day before the Sabbath, so we hurriedly prepared his body for burial. It was a strange funeral to say the least. There wasn’t much grief. It’s hard to grieve for a man who was given thirty extra years of life and seemed eager to step into whatever lay on the other side.

It was more than ironic that Lazarus died on what the local Christians are calling the birthday of Jesus. I’m skeptical if they’re very accurate about when he was actually born.

It’s what they’re beginning to call one of their two holy days.

The other one is the supposed day of his resurrection.

I doubt if their two holy days will ever be widely celebrated like our Jewish holidays or Roman ones, but the Christians sure observe them.

I can’t get Lazarus’ last two words out of my mind. Just believe.

I’m not sure I totally believe, but I do believe I’m closer.

It’s difficult not to believe in the word and faith of a man who had two funerals. I always loved to hear Martha quoting Jesus’ words from that morning of Lazarus’ resurrection:

 

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

 


  •  My word for today is Simplicity.  I’m seeking to live a more simple life.
  • I’m reading an excellent book, One Thousand Small Gifts. I recommend this unique book on gratitude.

 

“T.I.A.” This is Africa.
  • DeDe and I are in Virginia in training for our upcoming trip to Africa.
  • One of our quotes this week has touched me:  “Approach each day with a thankful heart.”

Prayer Needs:

  • Pray for focus as we learn, grow, and are stretched.
  • Pray for the 250 unreached people groups we’ll be researching and working with in eastern Africa.

This is a memorable story from an Africa trip in 2010.

Beans for Saki Village

“A generous person will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.”

Proverbs 22:9

 

It’s the most devastated village I’ve visited in six African trips.  Saki,  Democratic Congo. Is situated in the middle of a civil war zone where rebel soldiers and government troops have fought over control of the mineral-rich mountains, it has seen its share of trouble.

Saki village residents have recently returned after being refugees for nearly two years. Their wood frame church was one of the few structures still standing. Homes were gone, crops destroyed.

It was a matter of starting over.

I was there with a group of teenage girls on their “senior trip.”  Instead of taking a post-graduation trip to Cancun or Pensacola, they chose Africa.

That’s how we ended up in Saki Village. As the six Louisiana girls visited the local pastor, he requested a gift. “If you Americans could help us, we could plan a bean crop for the entire village.”

“How much would this cost?”

“For $700 US dollars, we could supply everyone in our village, Christian and pagan, with ample seeds. This would feed us and we would save back crop seed for next year’s crop.”

We didn’t have that amount of money to spare but we decided we’d raise it when we returned home.

The pastor’s request was the type I love to hear. They were asking for a hand up, not a handout.  If we helped, it would be a lasting gift that would feed hungry folks who weren’t afraid to work.

We returned home to Louisiana and went straight to GA Girls Camp at Dry Creek, Louisiana.  As we shared about the needs in Saki village, the camp girls took this project to heart.

They didn’t raise $700. They gave over $1400. Many of them bypassed snacks to “put in a bean crop for Saki.”

We received photos of the bean allotment and the good crop in Saki village.

A group of girls took a project to heart. The best girls in the world: a group of generous Louisiana country girls.

 


My Life Verse is ,  “But seek first the Kingdom  of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”   Matthew 6:33    See this verse in various translations.

 

  • My Life Statement:  “To be a man God can use and be respected by my wife DeDe, our sons, and their precious families. “

View Curt’s Current Life Plan

 

  • I invite you to read What Matters Most to Curt

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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