Yet there comes a time in each of our lives when we reach a plateau of sorts that represents a plane of existence, comprising our ideals, core values, fervent beliefs and yes, religious and political advocacy. You may reach the plateau at any age, however, typically, and more often than not, it will be some time after you’re out of the K-12 school system.
“Truly, it is completely normal and entirely expected that we will (and should) be challenged about our beliefs, for it is in these “Moments of Truth” when we learn more about who are; as sons and daughters, as husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers… most importantly, as spiritual beings. For if our beliefs are never or seldom challenged, we lose focus, motivation, self-awareness and yes, direction in our lives.”
And without question, my childhood was no exception. Born and raised a Catholic, I regularly attended church, was educated for five years in a Parochial elementary school, served as an Altar Boy, learned the Mass in Latin, and of course, was instructed in the constructs, requirements, expectations and directives of living as a Catholic.
I began to seriously question, for lack of a better word, the validity of Catholicism as contrasted to other “alternatives” within the Grand scheme of the world, even universe. Keeping in mind this is MY personal journey; upon inquiry, discussion, research and comparison, the Catholic Religion emphasized an inordinately large amount on finances/”dues”, spent an equally small amount of time on the Bible, and ubiquitously created the mental hierarchy of Church, Priest, Catholicism and lastly, Jesus Christ (in that order). Needless to say, this troubled me in a deep and huge way.
And then, I began to read the Bible on my own. I began to personally experience Jesus Christ in the most wholesome, reverent and meaningful way, like I had never envisioned before. It was as if I had just discovered that Santa Claus (Catholic Church) was not the real deal. It caused me to feel betrayed, angered, frightened and anxious about my future. In short, it challenged my core values to the point of nearly destroying my sense of self, value and being.
I have always been, and am, however, a Survivor. Throughout my life, I’ve trusted my instincts and my gut, to analyze, make decisions and move forward in my mortal journey. Truthfully, my transformation from Catholicism to Christianity occurred well into my 30’s, as it simply took my faith that long to mature. And I remain confident in my path, who I am, who is Jesus Christ, what our relationship has become, and what my expectations are of myself to effectively and successfully live life as a Christian and Child of God.
Am I perfect? HARDLY. I struggle, like everyone else, with the sins of humanity. Yet, that realization does not hinder nor prevent me from striving with every breath I take, to live my life in His image. Do I have guilt as a father for not having done a better “job” raising my children as Christians? EVERY DAY. Yet, that reality, when examined, yields the conclusion and belief that every human being has a Free Will and uses it to form their own thoughts, make their own decisions, create their own behaviors, future and certainly, their personal accountability for their life.
As a father, I provided the toolbox and attempted to teach my children (and myself) how to use the tools of life; compassion, integrity, accountability, motivation, enthusiasm, reverence, humility and forgiveness. Now, it is their choice which tools to use and how to use them; or whether to use them.
Does the Catholic Church serve a purpose? Absolutely, as a resource about Jesus Christ, history, self-discipline and community. My most trusted reference, however, is the Bible, for it represents the unequivocal “Word of God” and when viewed holistically, is the ultimate Book of Life.
I am a Christian and I live to become exclusively like Jesus Christ. There is no other. I humbly ask that you pray for me as a Christian to continue down the righteous path. God Bless You all in finding yourself; in finding Peace, Love, Joy; in finding your Savior and Salvation. There is definitely something in the water. Be well.
We’ve all heard about and perhaps have even read books about the grand nature of life, e.g., “The Purpose Driven Life“, by Rick Warren; “Chicken Soup for the Soul“, by Jack Canfield; “Heaven is for Real“, by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, and “The Last Lecture“, by Randy Pausch.
Books like these, present us with an opportunity to change or better comprehend our perspectives about the significance of (our) life, perhaps a deeper meaning or connection with our spirit and overwhelmingly, insight into our human nature. They are, without question, all great reads.
What if I told you, however, that how we die is more important than how we live? Would you immediately disagree? How could this be true? Isn’t death an ending? Why focus on the negative?
Certainly, these are all relevant and valid questions or thoughts about something we know precious little about, yes? Yet, if one views life as an accumulation of knowledge, experience, wisdom and dare I say, faith; well, now you know the purpose of this discussion.
“Have you ever uttered that age-old phrase, “If I had known then what I know now…”? Trust me , you’re not alone. The essence of that quip, is that living life yields much insight into ourselves, our situation, our environment, and the world, as it relates to people and relationships.”
Many factors intertwine to make us who we are today. Among them, our childhood, the location(s) we’ve resided, family, friends, education, information about the world, events, and especially our faith.
I’ve assembled a punch list of 10 factors that influence just how prepared we will be when we die. Prepared, you might ask? For what? Well, prepared for what follows our death, of course. The following net outcomes at the time of our death largely determine our path forward:
- Have we truly accepted Christ as King?
- Have we “Chosen Wisely” using our Free Will?
- How did we utilize our Time on earth?
- Were we motivated in moving toward life or Running Away?
- Did we present ourselves to others in an Authentic fashion?
- Have we developed a sense of Inner Peace?
- How effective were we at dealing with Change?
- Were we in a faithful Mental State?
- Did we consider the Bigger Picture as we made decisions?
- How effectively did we demonstrate Compassion and Love for others?
As evidenced above, when we die is truly irrelevant in the Grand Scheme of our Eternal Existence. The things we accumulated during our lives are likewise meaningless as they remain behind in their entirety.
What matters, when our physical life is distilled, is how prepared were we to die all along the way. Collectively, our priorities, values, mindset and intent represent the bellwether of how we are to be judged, held accountable and projected forward into eternity.
I find it curiously informing how we direct our attention throughout our lives. In a telling and deliberate manner, as youth, we absorb information, accumulate knowledge and develop skills as we continuously define who we are, what we like (and dislike), what values we espouse, and most importantly, who we wish to become; perhaps who we wish to become… like.
As adults, we repeat or practice those values, continue to absorb knowledge and develop, perhaps more complex, cerebral and intricate skills, and largely, establish ourselves as social animals in our neighborhoods, communities, groups, associations, families and society. Many times, we seek out others who share our interests, beliefs and passions. In a managerial sense, we execute the plan.
As seniors, we guide others, offer our help and expertise, provide moral support, perhaps learn new, yet intangible skills, witness the world growing up around us, and yes, reflect much about the past, our acccomplishments, successes and failures, relationships, and with grounded certainty; the could have’s, should have’s, and might have’s; as we look forward to an uncertain future… OUR future.
“Now, it goes without saying that the behaviors that primarily exist and characterize each of the phases of our lives, sometimes exist in each of the other phases. To a large degree, I believe that is a sign of a healthy, focused, authentic and self-actualizing human being. It speaks to clarity of purpose, values, beliefs and yes,the courage to see them manifested in our lives.”
What might not be quite so obvious, however, is whether our values, behaviors, and aggregate plan of our lives, were and are influenced by external forces, such as spirits, past family members, saints, angels and even God Himself! What is equally amazing and simply incredible is the realization that the same God who spoke to and with, guided, disciplined, comforted and encouraged the Greatest human beings of all time… is the same God who walks with us every moment of our lives; if we invite and welcome Him into it.
“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” – Socrates
To be sure, each of us are indeed, worthy of God’s love, deserving of his Grace and destined to be with Him in heaven one day. Of this I am certain. Life is but a preparation, perhaps a dry run and most assuredly, practice, for our eternal and spiritual existence.
Of all the aspects of life that define it, I find one of the most intriguing to be, intent. The driving motivation, desire or outcome we strive to realize in life is driven, at times in an invisible fashion, by our intent. True intent reveals our authentic soul and accordingly, is painstakingly guarded to remain unseen, lest we allow others to see us for who we truly are as individuals. Yet, the most powerful people I know in the world, all share at least one trait, in that they deliberately allow their authentic soul to be visible and manifested in their lives by their actions, words and deeds.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
So, in revisiting my initial question posed in the headline, How, and will, you remember me? And in a parallel manner, how do you project yourself to the world? What is your intent? What core values guide your thoughts, actions, words; and prayers?
Peace to you… Joy to you… Comfort to you… Courage to you… Eternity to you.
Be well and know that God loves you every moment you breathe. It is your right to be loved, valued and included. Look for the Good, Always.
Even though a hexagenarian, I find myself facing a new experience; the death of a sibling. As the youngest of five, I experienced that inevitable, awkward and painful telephone call from my nephew yesterday, to inform me that my brother (his dad) had passed away. On the surface, one might surmize this is not an earth-shattering event, it eventually happens to all of us, and it happens every day, in every city, of every country on the planet.
Let me assure you, however, death is anything but routine, ordinary or insignificant. As a Christian, death is the debt we pay as the entry fee to cross the portal from human reality to spiritual eternity. It is a process, a portal and many times, painful. Make no mistake, though, death is also a celebration, albeit a melancholy and bittersweet one.
Death is as the Yang to the Ying, as it permeates Life. It can be construed as an ending, however, the Christian’s reality is that death is another beginning; a rebirth of our spirit/soul. Death can certainly be viewed as routine, ordinary and perhaps even normal, that is, until it directly impacts YOUR life.
When you witness death in the first person of someone you intimately know, love and share history, it is exponentially more significant, impactful and forever changes your essence as a human being.
“In a peculiar sense, death morphs your sense of reality, self-image, mortality and perspective of the world around you. Ironically, viewed as a polar region, death coexists and even defines the boundaries of life as do the poles on a planet. Profoundly, death has its own life.”
As you experience death at a very personal and familiar level, every emotion in the library of your mind is touched, jolted, carressed and exposed. In that context, death can be defined, understood, acknowledged and bounded by each of our realities of life. Death is the wild stallion being broken, it is the uncontrollable child morphing from adolescence via puberty into an adult; psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
Without question, witnessing death up close and personal is an experience you simply Never forget. The bittersweet nature of life is that positively, it ends all aspects of human suffering, be it physical, emotional, or psychological. Death, as a metaphysical event, takes away the undesirable aspects of life, and to that end, can be looked upon as something good. The rest of that story, however, is that death also creates an ending or sense of finality (absent faith), for those remaining alive. It is the proberbial locked door, separating the past, the present and the future.
In a comforting light, however, faith and Christianity offer us the key to unlock that seemingly impenetrable barrier. All we must do is use the key, without fear of the unknown, to master our own mortality, prepare for our own passage and comfort those standing on the mortal side of eternity.
Importantly, death is not to be feared, but to be understood, prepared for and anticipated… and the way we accomplish those goals is through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Death serves as that little voice in the back of our minds coaxing, whispering and urging us to take stock of the life we have, leaving no stones unturned, to demonstrate gratitude for it, to reconcile our differences with others, remind those close to us just how much we love them and how much they mean to us. In a terse and succinct context, now, go do it! Be well.
Dedicated to the eternal spirit of David L Cerkas (1947-2016)
Admittedly, the vast majority of our life is unavoidably spent focusing inwardly, as we plan, perform, procrastinate and hopefully, pray. Reflection, however, can be an amazingly powerful and insightful activity to spur personal growth, if revisited on a frequent and regular basis; and if conducted in an authentic and candid fashion. It provides that “out of body” experience which enables us to see ourselves in the 3rd person, from the outside looking in.
“Just as you utilize and reference a map during a long trip; first, to plan your way and then, to monitor your travels toward your destination of choice, the “art” of reflection can serve as a life echo, if you will, a sounding board, which will, when attended, reveal much about who you are at this instant, as well as who you were yesterday, last year, as a child… and most importantly, who you are becoming and will be tomorrow, next year and ultimately, when your horizon meets the sky.”
To be sure, reflection has the potential to be painful, yet equally, it can be breathtaking, refreshing, satisfying and revealing; if we have the courage to send out that call and then, wait for the echoes of our life to speak to us and reveal who we truly are; at the spiritual level.
Reflection is a pervasive thing in our world. We keep track of the score in sports, our bank account, the gas in our vehicles, the clothes in our closets, the color of our hair. We are obsessed with constantly working to improve our (physical/mortal) self, while primarily paying lip service to our spiritual life and soul. Even more ironic, is the realization that our soul is eternal, whereas our human lives are temporary. One would think our priorities should be reversed, yes?
And this is precisely where reflection can aid us in correctly setting those priorities. Just keep in mind, it won’t always be pleasant because we are imperfect beings. However, we are immortal souls and reality founded in faith is the medicine we need to survive post-death. Yes, forever is a long, long, long time. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated it best, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”.
Take the time to plan for reflection in your life. It may seem unnecessary, perhaps even a bit dry, however, if it is, then so is your life. The benefits far outweigh the time spent. Your spiritual self will thank you; anxiety, worry and stress will flee your mind like leaves blowing in a strong fall wind. You will love yourself more, respect others more, know yourself better. Great medicine, if we will only be brave enough to take it.
Remember, Without Winter, there can be no Spring. Be well.
Although each of us is born of DNA, snippets of our parent’s tendencies and that red liquid coursing through our veins, we also create our environment with our thoughts, ideas and reactions that collectively comprise our experiences, personality and the essence of our individuality and being. Hidden in the depths of our sub-conscious, lie our fears, joys, loves and regrets, along with the complete set of our core values and beliefs.
Many of these “tucked away” emotions and navigational guideposts steer us on a day to day basis, yet we remain somewhat unaware of their subconscious influence upon our lives. And so it is with food, dress, relationships; and faith. And although the strongest of these morally magnetic influences is faith, as humans, we overwhelmingly have the most difficult time expressing, even sharing our museum of faith that is ordered and stored in our minds much like books in a library.
Yes, the magic of life itself remains hidden within our minds, along with everything that defines who we are, what we believe and why we behave, think and make decisions the way we do. Many times it is safety and security that convinces us to refrain from sharing our selves with others, while at other times it can be ego, pride and self-expression that pushes us to let others know equally defining aspects of ourselves.
“As music is encrypted upon a CD or stored on the hard drive within our computer, it is conspicuously silent and unknown unless played and shared with others. In essence, it does not exist unless it is shared. And in a parallel fashion, our faith, beliefs and Christianity remain largely unknown and non-existent, unless we make a concerted and deliberate effort to communicate and share them with others; through our words, through our Actions, and as witnessed by our lives”.
It is human nature to judge others by their looks, words, body language and behaviors, along with how they interact and relate to others. This tendency to judge is a largely, mutually occurring phenomenon, i.e., it is happening all the time and all around, and to us. It is as breathing; an involuntary response to ensure our survival.
And so it seems, in this day and age of global strife, we are being coerced into “survival mode” by external forces. Accordingly, we are being awakened to a degree by that little voice inside us that is screaming to protect ourselves, to protect others and to raise the veil of our faith, exposing it for the world to see, by our actions.
And make no mistake, “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity” (Albert Einstein). Indeed, it is incumbent upon each of us to not only acknowledge our values, beliefs and faith, but moreover, to have the courage and character to defend them when under scrutiny or worse, attack. Take the risk, remain focused and Play the Tune, people, albeit at times a bittersweet symphony, lest we wither away into non-existence.
I’ve wondered many times when I was a child, what life would be like when I was an adult; a husband; a father. My imagination would conjure up visions of a burly man, physically fit, yet understanding, compassionate and loving. I would shudder at the thought of the tremendous responsibility of marriage, and even more, of fatherhood. The mere thought of this “serious” future that awaited me would quickly bring me back to reality; the reality of an eight-year-old boy at the precipice of manhood, or so I thought.
My journey was far from over, yet I have always been able to visualize it, almost touch it. Growing up in a small town afforded much of the quality of life that people today cherish and search for when raising a family. Surely, it lacked in cultural variety and experience, yet it grounded me in a forged way that would serve me well in my life ahead.
“Like most other boys growing up in the 60’s, there was beer, a bit of cursing, plenty of outdoor sports, bikes to ride, movies to see and girls to gawk. And these things were indeed memorable, yet in my family, one thing trumped them all and that was Church on Sunday.”
At the time, even being an altar boy, I missed much of the essence of what having faith is all about. Perhaps it was mired in the overtures of the Catholic Church financial bulletins, where your family name was used as a club by disclosing your contributions. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the procedure, rigidity and absence of emotion by the clergy. Perhaps it was a victim of an emphasis on Catholicism and not of Jesus Christ and the Bible. But it was there to be discovered, experienced and revered, nonetheless.
I’ve always been one to pray, heavily in times of “need”, but also in times of blessing, bounty and benefit. And even though every child, adult and Catholic saw the same crucifix and Jesus, my Jesus was special because He spoke and listened to me.
In all my years, I’ve yet to be disappointed, angered or spiteful by my Jesus Christ. For even though my prayers weren’t always answered in MY timeframe, I accepted whatever response I received from my Jesus Christ, because I knew he was Almighty, Omnipotent and Kind. That faith, attitude or core value system has saved my life many times; from preventing me from making mistakes, to my physical safety to being the recipient of good things happening to me as a result of my “choices”.
You see, each of us must find our own path, one bridled in our own sense of morality, and bounded by God’s grace. A path only limited by our imagination. I simply can’t imagine living a worthwhile life without the guidance, feedback and love of God. I know not everyone shares that same belief, and that is ok, for the essence of our being is that of choice. To a degree, we create our own future by the choices we make. And for me, what better resource could one have, than Jesus Christ as your mentor, friend, Master and Creator?
As it was for me and as it will continue, when in doubt, I’ll follow the Son. It’s a highly personal matter and it will remain that way. Be well and choose wisely. God Bless you.
Over the past several years, there has been an increasingly vocal “voice” across the web and in the media regarding the importance of the United States Constitution, specifically, the Second Amendment. For those unfamiliar with the Constitution, the Second Amendment represents the Right of American citizens to “Keep and Bear Arms” and likewise, protect your physical body from injury and/or violence.
“In much the same fashion, and in light of similar attacks upon Christianity, I offer that there is also a Second Amendment of the Soul, which acknowledges that every human being has the Right to ‘Keep and Bear Faith’ in an unencumbered fashion, and to protect their Spiritual Body against a Tyrannical Government, Society and Evil forces.”
Throughout time, Christianity has been persecuted by others, out of hate, jealousy, contempt or fear. People are largely uncomfortable addressing subjects and issues they can not touch, directly see or explain. Faith is a very personal subject and indeed, many do not even possess a complete awareness of their own beliefs about it.
Yet, as difficult as it is to contemplate faith, eternal life, and an omnipotent God, it is likewise critically important for all of us to come to grips with it at a personal level. Self-awareness refines and strengthens our core values and beliefs and subsequently, reflects in our thoughts, actions and behaviors with and toward others.
Some of us prefer to deal with faith in a “concealed carry” fashion, holding it ever so closely within our hearts and resisting, even avoiding discussion or dialogue about it with others. And for many others, we willfully choose to “open carry” our faith for all to see.
Regardless, however, of the method we manage our faith, one thing is certain; each of us has the God-given right to believe and practice whatever faith we choose/commit our lives to witness, so long as doing that does not harm others or adversely impact the world around us.
Protection of our faith, at all costs, is an unalienable right, and must be treated as such. Faith defines much more than the book we read, the worship location we attend and the behaviors we choose to exhibit. Faith encompasses our very reason for existence, our foundational values as human beings and our being into the future; as in eternal life.
Personally, both the (physical) constitutional Second Amendment and the (spiritual) Second Amendment of the Soul represent my most empirical philosophy of life and accordingly, receive my utmost attention regarding my life and how I choose to live it in this world.
As Alexander Hamilton so succinctly stated, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”. I prefer to stand and determine my own future in this world, guided by God, while preparing for the next life, following my faith as a Christian.
Bottom line, Government and Faith are Inextricably Intertwined… And logic dictates that the basis of Law must be Morality… and the basis of Morality is Faith in God’s Law.
From childhood and on throughout our lives, we develop and maintain the mindset that life and death are mutually exclusive states. I’m here to tell you that they not only coexist, yet further, simultaneously exist in each of us.
“The moment we are born, we begin dying and the only thing we control is to what extent we live while we are breathing. Death has this context of inevitable finality about it, yet it is exclusively a result of not knowing anything about it; or worse, being unwilling to learn its nature and invite it into our lives, so we can better prepare for it.”
Each of us have friends, family, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, and yes, pets, that have ceased to live, yet are vibrantly alive in our memories. We create this righteous attitude of sorrow for their death, yet in reality, the sorrow we create is selfishly directed at OUR loss, not theirs.
Likewise, we are very good at identifying the right things to say to our loved ones, but only AFTER they cease to live, as we know it. The challenge, you see, is to identify these right things to say, and then say them, to these special lives, while they are still breathing!
And life goes on, with new life being created and existing life exiting this place we call our world. Beings coming and going, sometimes intersecting with others, at other times, traveling alone; much like molecules bumping into each other in a chemistry beaker.
And as random and insignificant as life sometimes appears to us, it is truly, so very special, so magnificent and such a gift that it behooves us to celebrate it with every breath we take in, lest it be our last.
The world today contains so many distractions, from life, from our spirit and soul, from each other and from God. Yes, at times we need that bolt of lightning to remind us of our priorities. Consider this article that little nudge to refocus your priority list, rekindle that spark and zest for living, remember to smile and greet everyone you encounter with goodwill, and lastly, to revive your gratitude for the gift of life you are enjoying as you read this.
Yes, much like the tracks that we know with certainty are parallel, we equally know as life embraces death, the tracks converge and eventually intersect, transporting our spirit into eternity, anxiously reconnecting with all those vibrant memories which then become our new reality.
You see, we’ve got it all wrong. Death is but a door, a transformation of energy and a portal to our future. It is not to be feared, but importantly, prepared for and anticipated. Until then, live with passion and practice compassion for others; live your conscience and Look for the Good. I’ll be watching.
Indeed, it would be a cruel joke if God created us in His image, and then somehow, failed to provide us with the things we truly need to live a prosperous life as a Christian. And the truth of the matter is that each of us has what we need (note: not want) to experience an exceedingly rich and joyful life, if we choose to follow Christ‘s teaching; to avoid sin and love others without reservation.
“Perhaps by design to illustrate and test the construct of faith, God included many resources for us to enjoy. Yet, as our free will would have it, we at times, enjoy too much, obsess too much and exclude what matters too much; to the point we lose focus on what is good, what has been provided and what enriches our soul.”
There are numerous tasks each of us must not only perform, but rather, master, if we are to realize our potential as beautiful and uniquely special children of God. Among the critical few are to identify and develop self-awareness, core values, faith, discipline, compassion, respect and humility.
Collectively, these tasks prepare us to love one another, which is the ultimate end-game of our existence. And make no mistake, we have everything we need in this life to reach that goal, to fulfill our destiny.
It is our use of choice that solely determines the path we pursue, and the extent we realize our future. And a wise choice is to use prayer to seek God’s wisdom, grace and guidance to reveal answers that will lead us into eternity.
The enlightened choice is the one we make when it aligns with God’s will, plan and future. And we possess all the worldly resources necessary to meet His expectations. If only we choose to use what we need and avoid what we don’t. Choose wisely.