“Most of all, I want to arrive in heaven
all used up, skidding in
broadside with a big “Wow!””
Greg Murtha’s opportunity to discover and live out his calling has come and gone, yet his influence continues today. I had the privilege of walking with him over the past twenty years, as he took full advantage of that opportunity.
Last Thursday, Greg went home to heaven after more than five years of struggling with cancer. I cried as I flew through the night from NYC to Sweden, praying for comfort as he passed the last few hours of his life here, knowing how deeply he will be missed.
Twenty years ago, Greg called me and asked me to join him and Bob Buford as they were launching the Halftime Institute. He had heard my Halftime story and felt it would fit well with Bob Buford’s.
Greg was a talented young banker with a big heart to hear and follow God’s promptings in his life. His call started our journey together of sharing the Halftime message all over the world.
When I think of the countless lives transformed at the Halftime Institute, Greg was one of the key people to lay the foundation for that transformation. The fruit of his life is realized in the men and women who make eye contact with God in their season of halftime, get clear on their calling, get free, and get going – living out their days to impact the Kingdom.
I want to share with you a few words from Greg’s learning through suffering more than 70 rounds of chemo treatment – this excerpt is from what Greg calls “My Final Chapter” in his soon to be released book Out of the Blue …
“GREG, THERE’S NO CURE FOR WHAT YOU HAVE.” My oncologist’s words didn’t surprise me, but here are some that might surprise you: There’s no cure for what you have either. Like me, you’re terminal. I may be closer to the front of the line than you—but maybe not. The truth is nobody leaves Hotel Earth alive. God did not design our bodies to last forever. And they don’t. Some of us take a long, hard beating on the way to the front of the line; others check out without notice.
Most people live life with the unexpressed intent to arrive unscathed at death. Cancer has taught me that I want to enter heaven used up. The way I see it, there’s not a better way to live.
An Epic Win
I’m thankful God used cancer to save me from myself. Cancer has sculpted me into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly, and lives more passionately.
Frankly, I’ve discovered life is richer because of my interruption than it was without it. It leads me to places where there are people who need to receive what I can share. It forces me to slow down and make eye contact with God. It makes me solely dependent upon him, and there’s not a better place to be.
Recently, I read this compelling quote by Atul Gawande in When Breath Becomes Air: “The dying have the most to teach us about life.”
I couldn’t agree more. God has allowed me— a man with a weak heart, Stage IV cancer, and the attention span of a goldfish— to finish this book about what suffering has taught me. That’s something to celebrate. That’s the miracle of Jesus. He is allowing me to celebrate interruption all the way to heaven, and that’s the greatest blessing of all.
I’ve discovered magic happens through weakness, through suffering, through tears, and when I am forced to cry out. True connection comes through pain, so I’m inclined to ask people to stop praying for my healing. Yes, a better prayer would be for God to glorify himself in my weakness. I believe this is closer to God’s heart, and if we’re honest with one another, the power of prayer is when it changes our hearts to be closer to his, not the other way around. He is God. He knows better. This is his story, not mine. His power is made perfect in my weakness, and that’s a good thing.
We aren’t meant to live life covered in bubble wrap. There will be bumps and bruises, but I challenge you to trust Jesus and go for it. The great philosopher Rocky Balboa put it this way:
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit; it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
If you know Jesus and have placed your faith in him, there’s no loss. Passing to the next life is a win. When I check out of Hotel Earth, please don’t say, “Greg lost the battle to cancer.” That will not be the truth. No, when that time comes, when I make the transition, it will be a point in time when I have never been more alive, and it will be an epic WIN!
It’s my desire to make the most of every moment I have left—to squeeze the last drop out of the life I have on this earth. I want to collect experiences, not stuff, to make friends, not deals, to share Jesus and his love with deeds and with words, if necessary. Most of all, I want to arrive in heaven all used up, skidding in broadside with a big “Wow!”
Will you join me?
Something to Celebrate
Tracey and I had the honor of attending the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D. C., during which Bart Millard, lead singer of the group MercyMe, sang “I Can Only Imagine.” Before singing, Bart shared the story of the genesis of this double-platinum hit song:
“I Can Only Imagine” was written after my father passed away with cancer many years ago. He was abusive most of my life. If he had a bad day, he took it out on me. He was diagnosed with cancer when I was a freshman in high school. For me, it was a blessing and a curse. I was kind of glad because I thought (the beatings) would come to an end. But, at the same time, my parents divorced when I was three. I lived with my dad most of my life so, he was still my dad and it was all that I knew. …For the next four or five years, I saw Jesus change him completely. He went from a monster to being a man who was desperately and passionately in love with Jesus. It kind of set me on this war path for the gospel because, if the gospel can change that dude, the gospel can change anybody.”
As Bart sang, I sat among 4,000 other guests with tears streaming down my face. Because of the blessing of cancer, Bart’s dad found Christ, left behind his ugly past, really lived for five years, and now resides in a place so stunning it surely renders every new entrant speechless. That’s something to celebrate. That’s the miracle of Jesus. That’s embracing interruption all the way to heaven.
A few years ago, the wife of a friend of mine walked into her kitchen to prepare a meal. She had no way of knowing a few minutes later she would be wheeled out on a stretcher after suffering an aneurysm. Within hours, her family had to make the difficult decision to remove her from life support. We are simply not promised tomorrow.
The woman’s funeral was held in a dark, windowless church. In the lobby, tables held coffee, cookies, and Kool-Aid. One of the women who spoke at the funeral explained her friend had led her to faith in Jesus during their college years. The speaker’s parents chose to follow Jesus because of their daughter’s newfound faith, as did her husband. Finally, she shared her friend’s faithfulness forever changed the lives of her four kids.
I sat in that windowless church and wondered, Why in heck are we sitting in the dark when this woman brought such light into the world around her? She lived a life worth celebrating! To me, the passing of that woman from Hotel Earth to heaven was a great excuse for a party. When Jesus participated in a party, he turned water into wine. Guests rolled back the rugs and celebrated for days on end. I’m confident they did not sit!
When I exhale my last bit of carbon dioxide and leave behind my beat-up body, I’ll inhale the pure breath of heaven. I like to imagine I’ll be in party mode, toasting heaven’s other residents with wine reflective of the vintage Jesus produced in his first recorded miracle for the wedding party in Cana in Galilee—saving the best for last. Since I’m going to be in such a magical place with my Savior, Jesus Christ, I want those temporarily left behind on earth to also enjoy a laughter-filled party, not a church service filled with people dressed in black, sitting in a dark room, soaking boxes of scratchy tissues with tears.
I would prefer a party, a celebration–a time to share the love of Jesus with everyone who joins my family to celebrate my homecoming. I want this to be fun.
It makes me a bit sad to think I won’t be there. But something tells me, I’ll get to watch. It does make me sad to think Tracey will be alone and Jackson will no longer have a dad. These realities give me the courage, desire, and strength to fight this cancer battle for as long as I’m physically able.
 J.C. Rile, Anglician Bishop of Liverpool source of quote
 Atul Gawande in When Breath Becomes Air
 I Can Only Imagine story source
Thank you, Greg, for all you have done to further Bob Buford’s vision and legacy, for the impact you made on the Halftime Institute and so many other organizations. Most of all, thank you for using this “interruption” of what you had imagined for your life as an opportunity to passionately seek God, minister to others (often strangers) in very personal and vulnerable ways, and not waste a minute of your precious life on anything but loving Jesus and loving others.
Greg, brother, you finished well.
Halftime Family – We hope you will join us in celebrating Greg’s life and impact on thousands of Halftime men and women around the world.
For more information on the celebration of Greg’s life, visit gregmurtha.com.
To read Greg’s obituary in the Dallas Morning News, CLICK HERE.
If you want to hear from Greg directly, you can watch this powerful video interview with Greg about his journey.