Dying Well

I have been repeatedly reminded in these past few weeks that nothing on earth is going to stay the same or remain forever. To that end, I have also been reminded that one day I will pass from life on this earth, to life in eternity with God.  I have sensed in my heart that God has been whispering to me over and over again, “Patricia, you don’t have much time left.”  The following is the message I believe God is relaying to my heart, and also, I believe, God’s message to all of us, to live life so that we will die well:

I know no one wants to ponder their death. It all seems so depressing and final—but it doesn’t have to be.  Dying well, to me, does not mean having all the toys and grandeurs of this world. One can have that, and still not die well.  Dying well does not just mean being popular and having everyone love you.  To me, dying well means to have lived knowing you have fulfilled your purpose and that God will say to you when you come before Him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So, how does one fulfill his or her purpose? Well, first one needs to find out what it is!  I believe that my overarching purpose can be surmised in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, where it says, “The [purpose] of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” If you are a follower of Christ, that should be your purpose too. 

However, I think God gives us different assignments, if you will, to help us fulfill that purpose, through both our circumstances and the people He puts in our path.  For instance, despite the stresses that my day job brings, I believe He has and continues to use that job as a calling for me to minister to broken and hurting people around me and to strengthen my character.  In this job, I am learning, not only some marketable skills in my job, but also how to be more patient, kind, caring and at peace with life.  I have learned that anxiety gets me nowhere, but trusting God does.  When I cooperate with God in these lessons, I am much better able to fulfill His purposes for me.  When it is my time to depart this world, if I persevere in this and all other assignments He gives me to fulfill His purposes, then I would die well.  

Another example is my faith hero, Rachel Joy Scott. She became a Christian a few years before her death in April 1999, and God used people in her school, her church, and her job to strengthen and build her character and to be a dynamic example for those around her that would be recounted long after she had departed this earth.  Although Rachel died what many consider a tragic death, I think she died well, not because thousands of people came to her funeral, but because of the positive impact she had and continues to have in millions of people’s lives today because of how she had lived her life and fulfilled her God-given purpose.

I believe to truly die well, we must die to self. In fact, in Luke 9:23-24 (KJV), Jesus says, “ If any man should come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”  Jesus is saying that in order to live, and, ultimately, die well, we have to be willing to give up our selfish desires, ambitions and hopes for the benefit of others.  I can attest to this fact in my own life. When I am thinking selfishly, I often find that I don’t get what I wanted anyway, and my life unravels before me. Not only that, people often lose respect for me, and I become an angry, resentful and bitter mess. However, when I humble myself and submit my desires and ambitions to God, I find that I am more at peace, no matter what my circumstances are, and things often go a lot more smoothly.  I also find the same is true for those around me.  Those around me who complain the most are often, and not just coincidentally, the same people who have not submitted their selfish desires and ambitions to God!  What a miserable way, not only to live, but to die! Many people think that when we die to self, we will live a miserable life and never get to do what we want to do. I won’t lie; sometimes I am tempted to believe this very lie!  However, in reality, the opposite is most often true.  When we are willing to sacrifice for others, we become more fulfilled in our God-given purpose and are more likely to be content with our lives, rather if we just lived for ourselves and our desires.

Another part of dying to self is being willing to serve others. Helping others not only encourages us to keep the focus off ourselves, it also makes us more content and fulfilled with our lives, because we sense we are making a positive contribution to this world. For instance, when I work to focus on making the customers satisfied and happy with our products and service, I find I feel much more confident and willing to serve them, rather than if I am focused on just checking something off my list. Dying well, means having died knowing that you served others the best you could, and were not just out for yourself.

In order to truly die well, I believe we must strive daily to fulfill our God-given purpose for this life, deny ourselves, and be willing to live to serve God and others with a whole heart.  As God has said in my heart, repeatedly, “You don’t have much time left.”  Yes, we don’t have as much time left as we may perceive in our minds, but we can use what is left to make sure we die well, and full of purpose.  

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On Loss and Love: Lessons Learned 

-in memory of all my loved ones and friends who have passed away

This past week, for me, has been a week of both contemplation and mourning.  The day when I was to attend a memorial service for my friend’s sister, I found out that a dear congregant of my church, who I was just starting to know, had just passed away.  Meanwhile, I heard on the T.V broadcast, more sobering news about the problems of violence in Chicago. Also, I heard on the broadcast that white nationalists and anti-racist protestors where planning marches all across the country. The last time this happened (i.e  last year), there was widespread violence—especially in Charlottesville.  While I have heard that both my friend’s sister and the dear congregant valued people and life, sadly much of society is turning the other way.  I believe that one of the roots of most of society’s ills is the fact that they don’t really value people.

In fact, one lesson that I learned on loss and love is not to take others for granted.  Unfortunately, all of us (including me, of course), have been guilty of taking for granted someone’s presence, at one time or another.  For instance, for many years, I had not taken much of an effort to really help or get to know my aunt. Yes, I appreciated all that she had done for my family and me, but it didn’t register in my head just how much she had done, until she got very sick when I saw her about a month ago.  Fortunately, I still can get to know her now. Also, I was very fortunate that I was able to visit my dear congregant before she passed away and realize what a beautiful and joyous soul she was, even in the midst of her pain and suffering!   Had I not realized how much my aunt had done for me now, and had I not taken the time to see and get to know my dear congregant friend before she had passed away, I would have been filled with regret and deep sadness about missing opportunities to see such beautiful souls.  One practical way not to take others for granted is to thank the people in your life who have had a positive impact on you.  Don’t just assume that they will be with you forever, because even tomorrow is not guaranteed for us—or them either.  Don’t assume they will be able to provide their help or impact you in the way you want them to, because sickness or death may take them.

Another lesson that I have learned on loss and love is to value the time that I have on this earth. Strive not to waste time. I know waiting in line or in traffic may seem like “time-wasters,” but I don’t mean those. The more dangerous time-wasters in our life, I believe, are being jealous of someone, chasing material wealth, and obsessing over our outer appearance.  I am beginning to learn more and more that being jealous of someone (for more on jealousy, or envy, please see this post.)  is so much a waste of time, primarily because it does not work to improve oneself, only to destroy another person.  Also, thinking in your head ways to destroy a person ultimately not only hardens your heart, but also ultimately destroys you, if this envy is left unchecked.  Chasing material wealth is a waste of time because it does not last forever. When you die, you cannot take your wealth or even your car with you.  Being generous and leaving a positive mark on this world will last longer than trying to hold on to something that ultimately will be destroyed or lost.  Obsessing over outer beauty is also a waste of time because ultimately it won’t last. We get older, and eventually our body decomposes after we die.   Yes, we should strive to look and smell decent whenever we can, since this is a gesture of politeness. However, we should not have to spend hours looking good every day just to impress others.  So, how do we save time? I would attest that the best uses of our time are to spend it joyfully with those you love and/or care about, by serving others in need, and by doing what you can to benefit others.

Thirdly, another lesson that I learned in love and loss is to forgive, forgive, and forgive.  Even when a family member hurt my friend and her sister, they still took care of and loved this person when they became sick.  Had they had still held on to their bitterness and resentment, things would have probably turned out much differently.  When we die, knowing we forgave those who had hurt us, I believe we will leave this earth much more joyfully and at peace than if we hold on to bitterness and anger against someone else.  This is one reason that I am glad that I was able to forgive some of the people that I worked with that had hurt me emotionally.   I know I have forgiven one of them, because now I feel closer to them and actually care about them more deeply than I have ever had before.

Finally, but not least, another important lesson in loss and love I learned is to strive to enjoy life.  My dear congregant friend, even though she could barely get out of bed and was in immense pain, still was able to greet my other friend and me with a joyous demeanor when we saw her.  From her, I learned that one is still able to have joy even in the midst of life’s trials. I can have confidence that either or both God and my loved ones will always be with me in the midst of my pain, and in that I can rejoice.  I can look to the positive aspects of my life that are still intact, and focus on those, instead of my pain. I am still struggling to apply this to my life, but I do see some improvements.  My congregant friend, even though she is no longer with us, still inspires me with her infectious smile that was present even in the midst of her illness and suffering.  I also have learned to enjoy every moment of my life.  Even in waiting in line to pay for groceries, for example, one still can enjoy it by striking up conversation with the other people waiting in line for you. This can be an opportunity to see the beauty in the souls with you.   Learn to enjoy life even in the mundane tasks that you may have to do at work or at school.  I see too many people just going through the motions, and then wondering why life is so hard and depressing.  Find joy in the people you are with. Don’t assume that everyone you are going to meet is a jerk. Yes, some of them are, but there are also others who may be very considerate and loving of you.  Try not to focus on the tasks and the people that make us miserable, but on those that help you get through the day.

Both my friend’s sister and my dear congregant friend embraced life and others in a way that allowed them to both enjoy life and value others.  This is the legacy they will leave to me, and this is the same way I strive to live my life. Sometimes, death makes us ponder what our purpose in life is and where we are going.  This pondering is vital so that we can fulfill our life’s purpose and be more focused on what’s most important in our lives. We have only a limited time on this earth. Let’s make it count!

Precious Soul- a poem

written on : 8/1/2018

The world judged you,

Left you to die

Forced you to hide

The light inside you

 

But you survived

And lived to fight

Against the dark

That hid your light

 

Angels peeled away

The layers of dark

That hid your light

Out of your sight

 

Then, I saw you

A precious soul

Amazingly whole,

So full of light

The Legacy I Want To Leave

Having gone through depression and being an Advocate personality (a, la Myers-Brigg personality type), I had rarely felt like I belonged anywhere, and thus the subject of death came up many times in my mind.  However, in the past few years, when I think about death and dying, I think more about the legacy I want to leave and what kind of life I want to have lived should the inevitable happen.  Recently, I visited one of my fellow congregants, who is now in hospice. Thinking about the pain and the triumphs that she has been through, I started also thinking about the legacy I want to leave when it is my time to go.  Here is the legacy I want to leave:

First and foremost, I want to lead a legacy of love. I don’t want to leave this earth with people thinking that they were not valued and loved by me.  Sure, I may have bad days, and inevitably this may happen to some degree, but as far as it is possible, I want people to know that they are valued.  I not only want to speak encouragement into others’ lives, but also want to show tangible demonstrations of God’s love to them whenever I can.

I also want to contribute to ending social injustices, such as abuse and slavery.  One way I aim to continue to do this is to spread awareness about these injustices and help some of those who are or have suffered through this.  I want to continue encouraging and coming alongside, as a support, to those I know who have been through abuse or any other type of social injustice.

I also want to buck the trend of apathy in this society, by going against this trend. For instance, I have seen a lot of people both in the places where I work or used to work, do their job solely for the paycheck, and have no passion or joy in what they are doing or for the people they are supposed to be serving. For me, I don’t want to be that person who has no joy or passion for others or for life.  I want to serve others, both at my job, and at other places, with all my heart. I want to work hard because I know it will all be worth it in the end.  When I see someone hurting or suffering, I want to at least stop and pray for them.  I don’t want to turn a blind eye to them, but see where I can help meet their need.

One of the reasons why I don’t ever want to be known as apathetic is because I know how it feels to be devalued by seemingly apathetic people, or people that just gave up on me.  When I have been visibly upset, I lost count of how many times people either just judgmentally stared at me, or avoided me altogether, not even trying to help or seeing if everything is OK. I was also rejected by caretakers at a daycare because I was too unruly for them to handle.  Also, because I had had a demanding personality when I was a child, most of my peers didn’t really want to be close friends with me. When I was going through hell and back in my early teenage years, I could probably count on my hands the number of people that actually cared enough to ask me what was going on with me.

I also want to be able to let go of the things that won’t matter after I die.  Right now, what I am working on letting go of  is a.) holding grudges and anger against individual people. b) the need to be always in control.  c) little things that bother me now, but won’t matter after death.

Sometimes (ok, often), when people offend me, I tend to replay what they did and how I would respond if it happened again.  This replay-tape in my mind tends to build up my anger and bitterness for those people.   I am working on (and getting a bit better at) not replaying the tape so many times. I want to be able to let go and forgive, because I don’t want to be holding grievances against any person when it’s my time to go.  I also want to let go of the need to have everything go my way. I always had thought that if everyone would just cooperate with me and everyone and everything would exactly be this certain way, I wouldn’t be stressed or upset at anything anymore.  However, I have learned that even if things don’t all go exactly my way, I still can find joy and peace in the fact that everything will turn out how it is supposed to and that God will give me the strength I need during each season of my life.  I also want to let go of all the other things that bother me in life, but that won’t matter when I go, such as not finding  something that I want to use or waiting in traffic.

Finally, I want to hold on to the things in my life that will ultimately matter. I aim to always value my God, my family, and my friends, in that order, and above all else, than anything else  this life has to offer. I want to value people over things. I want to hold on to continually developing and improving my character.  I want to be less angry and anxious. Ever since I was little, I have had the propensity to worry. However, I want to leave here not worried about anything anymore. I want to be at complete and total peace.  I also want to be more compassionate to others and less self-centered. I don’t want to let one more day go by without being thankful, in some way, for the people that are in my life. I want to glorify God every day of my life, and I want to love others the way that my God and the people that He brought into my life have shown love to me.  I want to cause a positive chain reaction and ultimately change my world for the better.

Why I Believe in Miracles

Because miracles are rare and spectacular displays of divine affection and because life can be very difficult for many people, there are some that no longer believe in miracles. According to the Oxford-English dictionary, a miracle is, “a remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences.” (source: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/miracle) However, I personally believe in miracles mainly for these three reasons:

  • Miracles cultivate hope in my life.
  • Because the demonstration of miracles by God in my life has saved me on more than one occasion.
  • Because God’s miracles have restored several of my relationships with others.

Often miracles, whether in literature or in people’s lives, happen when it seems like hope has run out. This has certainly been the case with me.  I believe the miracle of me becoming a Christian started when hope seemed to run out for me. I was sixteen years old and in high school. The teenage years are a turbulent time for many people, and I was no exception.  I just got out of coping with a couple of serious mental health issues, and I felt like I had no one I could really turn to or trust.  I had few, if any, friends and my course load at school was challenging. To top the stressors off, I encountered a teacher who had the reputation of being a bully and a verbal abuser.  I even flirted with the idea of suicide. However, after a friend of mine invited me to a bible study and I started to search for answers, God took a hold of my life, a few months later.

About fifteen years later, God saved my life again, but this time physically. (For more details on this miracle, see this post. ) It started when I was having pains in my side at work. My parents and I thought it was just a hernia or a muscle pull, so I tried all the over-the-counter medications we had.  However, when I started throwing up blood, we knew something was terribly wrong. Long story short, I went to the ER, and the doctors treating me discovered that my gall bladder was terribly inflamed and twice the size it should have been. I learned later that I could have very well died from this if I still had not listened to that voice inside after I had thrown up the blood! My gall bladder was then taken out just in time before it burst and caused any real damage.

About a week ago today, God saved my life yet again! I was driving to church, minding my own business. It was dark, but the street lights were on. I had the right-of-way, but a driver, not even seeing or caring about their surroundings, cuts in front of me to the point of almost colliding with me. Luckily, my instincts kick in, and I stop just in time to avoid colliding with the driver, as he or she just whizzes away.  I felt startled, but was very grateful that I was able to avoid a serious accident!

Some of the miracles, that I believe God has worked in my life, have also caused my once-broken relationships with certain others to be restored.  I can think of some people in particular where I did not think the relationships could be restored. I thought the best it would be is that we would quietly  tolerate each other and/or avoid each other as much as possible. I really thought (wrongly) that these people would ruin my life. However, because of the support of God, my family, pastors, and many of my friends at church and many prayers, the people who I have had problems with, have not only failed to ruin my life, but they have turned out to be one of my greatest blessings in my life thus far!  God also worked in my heart and life to let go of (i.e  forgive) the hurts that I held against them and really love them even more than myself.

If I had to list every little miracle God displayed in my life, I would be writing forever. However, these are some of the major ones in my life. This is why I believe in miracles.  Yes, life has been difficult, at times, for me, but then there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. That is when miracles can happen. What miracles happened in your life? Why do you or do you not believe in miracles? Please discuss in the comments.

What I Learned From the Movie, Miracles From Heaven

DISCLAIMER: Contains movie spoilers!, sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_from_Heaven_(film)

Last Sunday night, my mom offered to watch a movie with me that she thought I’d like. It was called “Miracles From Heaven.” Wanting to spend a little quality time with her, I agreed. It turned out to be one of the best movie decisions I’ve ever made in my life! I learned so much from this movie about how to live life, and here are some of the main lessons I learned from that movie:

  1. Sometimes you have to go through the storms (i.e: pain) in order to see the sunshine (i.e the miracle or blessing). –10 year old Annabel (Anna) Beam started experiencing vomiting, intense stomach pains, and almost died, before being miraculously cured of her illness after falling into a hollow tree hole.  In the movie, Anna is depicted at one point as wanting to die because her pain is so intense. She no longer cared about life and became very depressed. However, after she was saved, life had a new purpose. However, if Anna had never gotten sick, she wouldn’t have seen God’s grace intervening in her desperate situation.
  2. Live life as if everything is a miracle.–Near the end of the movie, Christy Beam (played by Jennifer Garner), Anna’s mother, begins before telling about Anna’s miraculous recovery by saying, “Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, ‘You have two choices as to how to live your life. Live as if nothing is a miracle, OR live as if everything is a miracle.’ ” Because Christy’s daughter’s life was saved, Christy began to see everything as a miracle and as precious, because she almost lost her beloved daughter and almost lost her faith in the process!  I can relate to this too, as I almost lost my life three years ago when the doctors found out that I had an enlarged gallbladder (She said it was twice the normal size! ) and that I had gallstones. If that gallbladder had burst, and I had waited longer to go to the ER, I would have most likely not be here writing in this blog today! More on this story, go here.  God suddenly reminded me of this event after I watched this movie and remembered the quote about living as if everything were a miracle.  Today, I remembered that quote as I was going about my work at my job and felt really joyful because I had remembered and realized just how blessed I am to be here and to be able to meet all the wonderful people at my job. Truly, everyone I have met, especially those that I have known for less than three years or had helped me through my illness is a testament to my miraculous life!
  3. Be grateful for all those people in your life that helped you succeed or get you through life .—In the movie, Christy pays tribute to all those who helped her and her daughter Anna through her (Anna’s) illness. She thanks Angela, the waitress who befriends Christy and Anna and walks them through the ordeal so they would not have to suffer alone. She thanks Dr. Nurko who treats Anna, and the receptionist who barters for a last-minute opening for her (Anna) despite her mother not having an appointment for her.  She thanks a guy friend at Anna’s school who temporarily abandons his other friends to befriend Anna so she does not feel alone in her illness.  She thanks the guy at the ticket counter who lets Anna’s father and her siblings go on the plane free, so they can see her at the hospital.  Christy does this not to gain attention, and not because she is some holy-roller, but because she realizes that she and Anna couldn’t have made it alone.  I can certainly relate too. For instance, if it had not been for the many doctors, nurses, and the surgeon who operated on me in 2014, I would not be here today. Also, I want to give a shout out to my parents, sibling, and my friend K who came to see me a few days after surgery so I wouldn’t feel alone.  Without all these people and more in my life, I wouldn’t be where or who I am today. So, thank you everyone. And I especially want to thank God, who I firmly believe made this all possible!

This is just some of what I learned in the movie, “Miracles From Heaven.” It’s a great movie; I highly recommend it.  (If you would like to purchase this movie, please go to the links in my “recommendations” section. ) It may be slow in parts, and it may not be for everyone, but if you want to live your life with more passion or purpose, this movie is a great supplement to get you thinking about life more deeply.

Why I am a Christian *Religious content*

“Be ready to always give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” -1 Peter 3:15 b (KJV)

DISCLAIMER: Please respect my beliefs, especially if you do not agree with them. Please keep comments and emails family friendly and respectful of all people. Do not bash other religions or mine, or your comment(s) will not only be deleted, but you will be banned from this site. Thank you, and happy reading. 🙂

So why do I personally worship Christ? Why do I think it is so important to know God’s love? Well, here are some of the reasons I profess Christ as Lord and Savior.

1)In worshiping Christ, there is a great hope.

When you worship Christ, you don’t have to wonder if a Christian loved one is in a better place when they die. Also, you yourself don’t have to fear dying or even what others think of you, because I believe He is eternal and the only One that will ultimately matter above all. Also, after you leave this earth, you have great joy and things to look forward to that will surpass anything you could ever dream or see! Just the promises that Jesus gives us of a blessed eternity gives me much hope and much in which to  look forward in the future. So, I know that this earthly life, with all its burdens and trials, will only be temporary and will not last forever, even when it seems like it does.

2.) In worshiping (and living for) Christ, there is great purpose given to our lives. 

One of my friends had aptly stated that when you live for God, ” everything you do matters.” Nothing you do for God is ever wasted. You may not get rewarded right away on earth when you do something for God, but you WILL get rewarded. You are living for a greater good other than yourself, and, that to me, is most satisfying. Even in the most mundane or banal tasks, a worshiper of Christ can find joy because he or she knows that there is always great satisfaction in knowing you are ultimately working for God.

3.) For a Christian, there is great mercy given by God.

Everyone is a sinner, whether they are a Christian, Muslim, or atheist, and whether they will admit it or not. If you say you are not, then you are probably lying because to say one is sinless is to say one is morally perfect, and no one is or has ever been, except Jesus.  However, when you are a Christian, unlike what some people may have you believe, you do not have to constantly beat yourself up over every sin you commit. Yes, you do have to confess and repent, but you don’t have to still feel guilty or like you lost your salvation after you have confess and repented.  Great mercy is given by God then. He also gives mercy to those who are not Christians, not only by letting them live their lives, but also by occasionally blessing them as well, as He does for us who are Christians.  For us Christians, we don’t worship a mean-hearted god who smites those who sin and/or who don’t believe, but we do worship a God that doesn’t wish ” for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9-NASB). You also don’t have to do certain things to appease God, or to “earn” your salvation. In fact, God’s mercy is revealed in that you can’t earn your salvation, it is freely given through faith in Jesus Christ.

4.) Worshiping Christ changes you for the better– No, we don’t necessarily “become” better than non-Christians, and we still do sin. However, one of the things that distinguishes Christians from those that are not, generally, is that we are able to see our flaws more readily and are more motivated to change them. As I have grown in the faith, I actually see more and more things about myself that God needs to help me to change, and the realization that I cannot do this life on my own becomes more apparent! No, we aren’t  necessarily “worse” people, either, just that we are more sensitive to our moral failings (sins) and are more willing (usually) to change because that is what God requires of us. You also “see” more things you can do where God has placed you, so you can make a difference for Christ, which inevitably gives you more joy.