When someone is dying, proper theology goes out the window; plus, why I believe in heaven


The co-pastor of the church where I am a member (not where I am employed) died last night. She was a wife and mom of 3 in her 30’s and has been sustained by a heart/lung bypass machine for two weeks after a heart attack that came out of no where. Totally devastating.

When were were walking the dogs last night, I was saying to Kelly that when this is all over, when Stephanie recovers or when she passes, the church will have to do a break down of the theology of prayer because I don’t think Lutherans believe that if you just get more people praying more fervently on one team, that God listens any differently or heals any differently based on who is praying what and when/where. At the time I was saying that, we had received a Caring Bridge update that she came out of a heart bypass surgery well, and was not out of the woods, but that she was off the machines. That there was hope and people could rest. A few hours later she died.

What about the babies with distended tummies in east Africa who have no one to pray for them, and they die in a ditch somewhere with no one to bury them because they were an orphan? I asked. How does God hear prayer? And what if no one prays?

I’m a minister – and if you asked me these questions with an open Bible I’d mumble out a bunch of gobbledeegook and make the right awkward facial expressions and talk about the mystery and all that you’re supposed to say, and I’d talk about “wonder” and “silence.” I’ve done it before in sincerity knowing that there’s no answer for these things.

And then when we got the call that she died at about 12:30am, we spent time looking at people’s facebooks and pictures of her family and her babies and here they are at a ball game or here they are with Halloween costumes or here they are with the chickens in the backyard… And it was sad and pathetic and then I said, “But now she’s with Jesus. I really believe that.” And Kelly (who was Stephanie’s co-worker) said yes, she’s now with her dad and her brother.

And I really believe that too.

Like I really do sincerely [want to] believe that there is an afterlife. A paradise. A heaven with Jesus Christ and the saints gone on before. With the rolling green hills like C.S. Lewis describes and golden streets. I’m not entirely sure that Lutherans believe this, since so many are quick to say it’s not in the Bible, and there’s also not a hell or a devil… And I still believe in hell & the devil. [Hell being a big rotting garbage pile where ridiculous ideas will be burned up like when people kick dogs or harm animals or separate babies from their families at the border of a country…] So I’m probably not a good Lutheran and I don’t care and that’s another subject anyway, we all make up our own beliefs to make ourselves sleep at night.

But to get back to sleep, since I had to be up in just a few hours I just went to heaven in my mind. I’ve probably written about this before, my plans, if they count for anything will be an ice cream sundae buffet that goes on for several weeks. And you don’t get sick. And a pizza buffet same thing, goes on for weeks and at the end of that one there are cheese burgers and enchiladas and more ice cream and pie, etc. And it’s good for you in heaven so you can eat whatever you want. I’ll get to go fishing with my dad and also spend a lot of time working with him in his shop, which I’m sure he’s busy working in at this very heavenly moment, plus he has all those classic cars that have “gone on before” to work on to his heart’s content; only this time when he gets the catalog with the parts to order, he uses his heavenly debit card and they arrive in the mail in no time. He teaches me about mechanics because I never bothered to learn when he was living. We get greasy when we use our triangle rulers and levels and then we’re done, so we take a break we eat our pickled fish with toothpicks right out of the jar. One jar has the creamy kind and one jar is the non-creamy kind; both are good.

Then I can visit my Grandpa George (Gramps) in his workshop. He’s a different worker – he’s got a black room he’s been very busy in, making pictures of heavenly things, landscapes and things like that. He also is carving to his heart’s content and when he takes a break he sits with my Grandma Larson on a glider and they eat raspberries with thick cream and I get to ask them to tell me about their childhoods because I never got to know them personally, only through my mom’s stories.

And not long after I arrive, I forgot to mention the little white fluffly puff Westie dog who runs up to me -named Noah who was my best friend from 5th grade all the way to mid-college, who has completely forgiven me for not comforting him in his final minutes when he was dying under my bed in my room and I was afraid to go near him because he was so sick. He gets to run and swim in the pond where my dad fishes every day and he loves me and missed me so much and he can’t wait to meet Baxter and Romeo when-ever they join us up here.

And of course, now Noah can eat chocolate and he doesn’t get sick, like the one time he ate the whole bowl of m&ms, so I share some with him.

It’s not biblical, and it’s probably way better than I can imagine, but I can’t wait… And death is terrible and scary and total crap for all the people that are left in tears. Stephanie’s babies won’t know her and will only remember her in videos and pictures because they were so young. So I just have to turn my eyes to the promised land and believe in a cool place where we will be some day – with all the stuff yet to come. And comfort one another and pray for those who today are heart broken. Peace peace peace.

Oh, and when I’m done with so much eating, I also would like a hobby farm up there. I think I’d do a good job with it. And I’d also have time to read a lot of the books that are on my wish-list here. And there won’t be any Donald Trump. Heaven.