The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon because of ongoing safety and security concerns.“–May 29, 2015

My co-worker Christine pointed this out to me on her i-Phone as she ate her salad the other day.

“Well,” I said, sipping a frappuccino, “it’s probably just an update.  I think their threshold is pretty low.”

“That definitely means you should go,” she said, sarcasm reflecting off her lettuce.

I’ve wanted to go to the Middle East for so long that my excitement dominates my thoughts.  But one day this week I began to think it over more seriously:

Maybe I won’t come back.

Of course, driving to Walmart has the same possibility, and I don’t think the danger of interviewing refugees in Lebanon and Jordan is exceedingly high, and I have a lot of confidence in the wisdom of the organization making my plans.

Still, the Middle East hardly has a reputation for stability, and the United States is warning travelers to stay away.

So this week I realized that even if the risk is very low, I still want to be comfortable with the possibility of not coming back.

“Prepare for the worst,” said my co-worker and mentor Sue across the table, also eating a salad, “and then if everything goes well, that’s great.”

I’m afraid I would never be brave in the face of torture or kidnapping, or even the idea of never coming home, but I realized this week, to my relief, that am not afraid of dying and going to heaven.

Maybe heaven seems natural because it’s June, and there’s so much sunlight. (“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days…”–James Russell Lowell.)   …Sunlight falling between the necks of the geese crowding the park path as I’m trying to bike to the Baker’s Nook for breakfast, and lighting up the fuzzy goslings.  Sunlight, glistening on the long straight pony tails and long mini braids of the beautiful young girls at VBS, as they sit in the grass watching a game.  Sunlight, so bright I keep adjusting the blinds and the car’s visor and holding my hand in front of my face when I’m biking so I can see when the stop light turns green.  Sunlight, warming the black top as my one of my twin nephews loses his shoe.  Sunlight, high among the cumulus clouds swimming in the blue sky above the hospital…as if you could follow a ray, and you would be in heaven.

Or maybe it’s the other way: I’m noticing the sunlight because I’m thinking about dying.

I read about a man who visited a war-torn region, Kosovo I think.  He made the comment that life was somehow made richer by the ease with which it might end.

Once again, let me not wax dramatic.  I could die in Elkhart tonight or on my way to church or work; so could you.  I only say that looking death in the face is probably a good exercise for me, perhaps for all of us.  If this is the last June for me on this earth, how do I want to spend it?

One way I want to spend it is just how I have been: drinking in the sunlight, wondering if our sunlight is the same as their sunlight, up there where there is no night.  Sometimes, sunlight seems to be a door… through which we could almost walk home… through which we could transition so cleanly, that we would be walking and suddenly realize we are in heaven … through which we could slide, and find the end of the slide at the River of Life.


God is so good.  May my loyalty be unfaltering, whether in the little, annoying things, or the big, dramatic things.

When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died…

…Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

–Isaac Watts

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