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)
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.
There is a term in business that serves as a “how to” approach to problem solving and it focuses on the difference between a desired state and current state. In other words, this is the vision of where we want to be versus where we are. It is appropriately called a “Gap Analysis” and it defines and measures the gap between present reality and a desired future reality.
One might wonder, “What does a Gap Analysis have to do with being a Christian?” At face value, perhaps not much. If you view and contrast, however, the vision of humanity and life that Jesus aspires each of us to achieve in the Bible versus our reality as sinners struggling to behave Christ-like; amazingly, a Gap Analysis approach may be very apropos.
Part of the struggle to live as a Christian, walking in Jesus’s path, is being able to visualize and encapsulate our thoughts, actions and behaviors in a way that emulates the “rules” of God as Jesus lived. At the foundation of Christianity lie the “Ten Commandments”. Let’s begin by labeling them as the desired or future state. Aligning our lives with this desired state constitutes compliance and fulfills the requirements of Christianity, albeit a perfect existence, virtually impossible to achieve as we are imperfect by definition.
As the Golden Gate Bridge was created (constructed) in 1937, it served one monumental and macroscopic purpose, to bridge the gap between San Francisco and Marin County in California. Prior to its existence, traveling 4,200 ft over water to reach a destination (desired state) may have been considered impossible to achieve; much like living the perfect Christian life in accordance to the Bible.
And much like the Golden Gate Bridge transforms a perceived impossibility into reality, Christians can benefit from this example to effectively move toward the desired state (living in accordance to the Ten Commandments as defined in the Bible). This can be accomplished by adopting a perspective of maintaining focus on the end-goal or destination, and not becoming overwhelmed or preoccupied with other things, while progressing toward it.
We are many times distracted in life by seemingly monumental issues and goals, that when placed in proper perspective, are in reality, insignificant. Issues like technology, social norms, leisure, peer pressure, group-think, etc. which over time, unguarded, become false gods in and of themselves.
“The bridge that can effectively transform this perceived impossibility into reality for Christians, is realistically, a collective set of practices that work together to create the necessary synergy to overcome hurdles, face failure, recognize success and realize Christian principles. As the Golden Gate bridge is constructed of many materials, each serving a specific function, the Everyday Christian must likewise employ several approaches to yield the desired state.”
Integral to this end are Prayer, Reflection, Forgiveness, Humility, Kindness, Obedience, Respect, Discipline, Faith and above all, Love. As the Gospel of Thomas indicates, “the Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty.”
A life of humble, authentic and sincere means can easily become a more significant presence and example of Christianity, than one of importance, recognition, fame and financial means. It is always intent that is paramount as opposed to method. What matters most is what dwells within your heart. Indeed, these are the “Living Years”. Be well.
In the whispers of majestic White Pine trees as brisk gusts of wind caress their soft needles, one can hear the breath of a baby, the admonition of an elder, and even the sails of a schooner on the open sea. Indeed, we utilize our imagination in many ways, yet when presented situations like this, rarely do we explain what we hear as imaginary.
Our senses translate and perceive what we hear as Real, moreover, as Meaningful. When one believes there are no coincidences in life, such as this writer, many occurrences and experiences in life hold special, specific or significant meaning and can be associated with events of our past, symbols of our future and warnings of potential danger ahead.
Imagine, then, what one might hear if my soul could speak! It may tell of faded memories of family who’ve passed on, or fears of my childhood, or the dreams of a righteous father for his children. Without question, however, my soul would speak of Truth, of Gratitude, of Humility and Perseverance of Faith. And it would definitely speak of the Glory of God and the unimaginable beauty, peace and love of something known only as heaven.
My soul, you see, is my conscience that guides my thoughts and actions, that inner voice that
reminds me of the “right” things to do. It is my “true north” as I travel through life, it is the supportive embrace that comforts me in times of need. Most importantly, it is my Voice to the world by my actions, interactions, intentions, hopes and dreams. It defines me to others and protects me as I journey toward eternity.
“My soul is the essence of Who I am, how I think, what I believe and the “rules” I follow as I grow throughout my earthly life and existence. It is my reference point for every thought I create, my cookbook for this recipe called humanity. As you’ve undoubtedly read and heard many times, my soul is my Alpha and Omega, my personal universe. And ultimately, my soul is what remains when my physical vessel can pulse no more.”
I believe the soul is inextricably connected to our physical bodies until that moment of separation that occurs throughout the death process. The soul is pure energy that is encapsulated within our bodies and then peels away and vaporizes into yet another form of energy as our spirit lives on at death.
You see, I’ve witnessed first hand and experienced so many occurrences and situations that I simply could not logically explain, other than being the direct result of some divine intervention, whether a guardian angel’s influence or perhaps the actual embrace of God upon my life. Experiences that resonate of goodness and godliness, that indelibly mark my soul as witness and testimony to the “Truth”.
So, in the whispers of majestic White Pine trees as brisk gusts of wind caress their soft needles, listen attentively and you will hear the drama, joy and deliverance of your life, and perhaps others lives. And make no mistake, it is anything but your imagination at work, but rather, the voices of angels and divine feedback from numerous dimensions of magnitude above what we know as human life.
In those moments of truth, make sure you search for the essence of your being, the path you are travelling and the destination at which your physical life will ultimately arrive. I ask that age-old and classic, yet oh so relevant of questions….. WHO ARE YOU?
There is no doubt that many of us have witnessed evil in our lifetimes. Evil is so hideous, in fact, it leaves long-lasting memories, perhaps better called nightmares, with anyone that has experienced its realm.
Like being “broke”, however, in the financial sense, evil really does not exist as an entity. It is what remains when Truth and Light are removed. More aptly, evil is a vacuum, it is the unwanted, unattractive filth that remains in the absence of God.
When a person is in financial straits, we say he/she is broke. In reality, however, being broke is the vacuum that is created when one loses their financial wealth.
“And so it is with darkness. Darkness is not anything tangible that you can touch, measure or quantify. What we experience as darkness is merely and simply, the absence of light. Darkness can assume many different forms in life; it can be violence, it can be hopelessness, it can be fear and despair. At its foundation, the common denominator that defines darkness and enables it to be experienced, is the absence of God”.
Similarly, light can manifest itself in people in many ways. Light can be reflected by the words a person speaks, the facial gestures that indicate compassion (smile, caring, joy, empathy; yes, even tears), the behaviors that demonstrate and witness the goodness, humility, peace and forgiveness of God. Notably, the presence of God is evidenced by Love. Where there is love, there is God.
Light is fueled by noble, positive and caring thoughts, actions and attitude/demeanor. Each of us creates Positive Energy by choice. It’s all about “intent”. It’s how we choose to think, act and importantly, react. Each of us is responsible for our actions. Each of us is likewise accountable for those actions.
Without ever really knowing it, we have become conditioned since birth to associate evil with darkness. Fears of going down into the dark basement; anxiety of walking alone down a dimly or eerily lit block at dusk; frantically searching for a flashlight or candle when the power goes out at home. Whether these examples truly reflect evil is not the point, the point is that darkness creates fear as darkness equates with evil.
Now then, how does one go about confronting something that really does not exist? Easy! Evil (darkness) is confronted and vanished by Light (positive thoughts and actions, optimism, morally-based behavior, decisions and intent). Core values steeped in moral and ethical behavior, worked over time into the creation of habits; the anticipation of positive events in life that directly impact each of us; gratitude, humility and faith for the good things when they do occur. This is the foundation of Light and Truth. It it the Invitation for God to enter our soul and enrich us as human beings, it is our fate; if we so choose it.
As complex as reality and the human condition have become, when we wade through the murky water of life and relationships, it all boils down to the fundamental concept of Darkness and Light. How wise is God to have chosen this simple yet effective metaphor to illustrate who He is and what He desires for each of us?
One thing that is paramount in life is that details matter, down to the most minute and up to the most obvious. To walk in the Light, we must be ever so vigilant to take notice and deliberately choose all our thoughts, words, actions, relationships, behaviors, etc., so that they align, support and yield the results we intend, for ourselves and for those we influence.
There is indeed a real sense of responsibility, accountability and impact each of us must accept as Christians. Being a Christian is not analogous to a light switch, where we consciously turn it on and off. Like life itself, breathing and our heart beat; it must be continuous for it to work as intended.
In the future, make sure to remember that every little thought, decision, action, intention and influence we create is like that small ripple in the water that is created when a stone is tossed into a lake; from the point of entry, a small wave begins and travels outward forever, impacting everything in its path. Let’s make each of those interactions we create with others, positive and well-intended.
With absolute certainty, those actions, like the boomerang, inevitably return to us in due time. Remember, All Things Must Pass. Be well.
Ah yes, Truth. It is, in all reality, the most elusive word, concept and most coveted item in the universe, only second to Love. And invisible as it may seem, you can recognize it in the tears of a baby, the facial expressions and wrinkles of an elderly person, indeed, in the smile and glow of a newly married couple.
Such was this writer’s privilege to witness this past weekend, as an eldest son was married to his high school sweetheart. There was an avalanche of Truth, Love, Honesty, Sincerity and Commitment; and it was good and welcomed. It was refreshing and emboldening, it was humbling and peaceful. It was grace and beauty in full force. Dare I say, it was Angelic.
As the groom’s father, I had the distinctive privilege and task to create “the talk” to be presented/delivered at the reception, shortly after dinner commences. The “talk” to express deeply seated emotions of caring and love, heartfelt advice for that elusive “Happily Ever After”, and bits of interjected humor to prevent a flood of tears from dispensing from those in attendance, and me (even though it happened anyway).
In contemplating the theme, duration, flow and context of this “talk”, I had to boil down and distill the essence of what would be my most important message for my son and his new bride. And, manage to spew forth wisdom, humor, integrity and wit; all in about five minutes or less. No pressure, right?
Well, I’d like to share with you that “talk”, not only because it causes tears to well up inside me every time I read it, but moreover, because I believe it is an incredibly important message for everyone to hear and contemplate as each of us regularly reviews our own lives and relationships.
Father of the Groom
Brandon and Courtney, I called these words, “Wisdom of an Old Fart”, because listening to me sometimes stinks and I seem to hang around forever, so let me just tell you. I’ve condensed your more than quarter century of life to one page. And Yes, I know it’s really on more than one page, but you earn and need that LARGER font when you become an “Old Fart”.
And, I’ve always been a “Big Picture” guy, so here are some Big Picture thoughts…
Brandon and Courtney, when I look at the two of you today, as a father and now, father-in-law, I’m overjoyed and excited beyond imagination; because I see two Souls, but only one Heart.
Brandon, I want to tell you today that about 10 years ago I seriously considered selling you… on the notion that Life is something to be protected & cherished above all else. But I did not, because in Truth, Life is something to be Experienced, Shared, and Given Up; in exchange for Compassion, Humility, Understanding and Love. Did I mention Humility? So Brandon, soften the edges a bit and allow yourself to enjoy every moment of your life with Courtney. I’m proud to see the man you’ve become.
Courtney, I want to tell you today that as much as a Marriage is valued and worth, it is my 2nd Priority in life. Number one is and has always been, my Faith, because without faith and the Presence of God in my life, I am nothing, and therefore, my Marriage is nothing. So, Keep the Faith, and by that I mean, be patient with Brandon. I’m overjoyed to welcome you into our family.
Brandon & Courtney, Happiness and Peace also come in behind Fulfillment... Fulfillment of Dreams, Fulfillment of Hope, Fulfillment of Obligation & Commitment; to God, to yourself, and most importantly, to each other. Love is Not something to be wished for, or upon someone… Rather, it is Cultivated and Sought; It is Offered and Grown.
Reality tells us that each of us is imperfect and we all know we don’t live in a perfect world… yet as Parents, that is precisely what we wish for our children, because we Love you more than we love Life itself.
Faith tells us that each of us are unique as children of God and we hope that our children grow up to live our values, yet as imperfect parents, we tell and teach you, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Bottom line, just know we Love you.
Brandon and Courtney, I’m here to tell you that today… at this moment, you may well be experiencing life’s best, and my only wish is that you realize and embrace it, demonstrate gratitude for it, and work with all your heart and souls to earn the right to hang on to it.
And speaking about children, all I can say is to let them live to at least sixteen before selling them… on the notion that Life is something to be Experienced, Shared, and Given Up; in exchange for Compassion, Humility, Understanding and Love. Did I say Humility?
Lastly; I want to share two words with you… Compromise and Tolerance. These words, if lived by you, will take you far in your relationship and Marriage; but always, they must be preceded and accompanied by FAITH and LOVE. And it’s worked for Kathy and me for 37 years.
Brandon & Courtney, may God Bless you as you begin your Married Life together. You really have no idea how much you are loved.
So, Let’s Raise our glasses in a TOAST! To Brandon & Courtney, two Souls with one Heart, forever in Love.
And now, it’s time for this Old Fart to sit down.
In the Big Picture, we truly need to be regularly reminded of life’s fleeting presence, the delicate balance between love and friendship, the incredibly important need for responsibility and integrity in all facets of life. And, most critically, the role and fragility of Love.
Love is indeed a precious Melody. Let each of us sing it from the very fabric of our being and let it flow from our hearts and souls. Be well.
Enjoy these Melodies of Love:
As life is lived, we have been truly privileged to experience the gamut of beauty, emotion, happiness, contentment, fulfillment, peace, love; and equally sadness, darkness, anxiety, anguish, violence, turbulence, perhaps even abandonment and punishment. Yet, at both ends of the spectrum, we are vastly better human beings as a result.
Life, if nothing else, is preparation for our continuing journey. It is a learning experience, an opportunity to share ourselves with others and to receive love from others. IT HAS PURPOSE.
Everything in life has a purpose. It is profoundly our responsibility and obligation to search for the truth and purpose of our individual being. It is our nature to pursue spiritual understanding and comprehension. It is boldly, our destiny.
Why is it then, that we spend perhaps 95% or more of our daily breaths on things that, in the larger canvas of consciousness, are meaningless? Have we become mere creatures of habit, unintelligent amoeba in the biology of our environment? Are we simply going through the motions?
We hear time after time after time again, from people on their deathbed, how they wished they had done all these other things (in life); not wishing what they would not have done… they receive or experience that clarity of purpose, albeit and ironically, a bit too late.
“For men to cry, to admit defeat, to nurture and demonstrate their innermost emotions and feelings to and with others; that my friends, is to live. To acknowledge our weaknesses, joy in our strengths, and commit with our entire being to seek improvement and understanding. Society has all but taken control of our sense of what is and is not acceptable in behavior, and worse, in thought!”
And what if the End of the World is today? Have you and I earned salvation? Have we atoned for our transgressions against God and our fellow human beings? Is our life review a documentary or a horror story? Will the judgment we receive be a just one?
Indeed, let us seriously and deliberately decide to live life with purpose, get serious about our faith and seek to understand, serve others and through the process, learn more about ourselves in an eternal perspective or context. We seriously need to become better planners.
Look not to your habits, but to your Heart as a SILO (Sacrifice, Intent, Love, Obedience). Refuse to become a “test case” for a lobotomy experiment. Create a robust, meaningful and experiential existence… and then, share it with everyone you know. Because, you and I are worth it. Be well.
Open your mind, heed the words, lest not judge what we know not. Only that it will BE.
There are many dimensions to consider when defining a characterization of what is involved in being a Christian. Constructs including God, redemption, salvation, sin, miracles, angels, demons, heaven, hell, faith, rebirth, penance, sacraments, resurrection; and prayer. As an understatement, your personal relationship with God is as unique as you are! Accordingly, it follows that how you communicate with God is also unique as well as what you call and how you define Prayer. Likewise, it will be endlessly amazing and special.
“As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it is with prayer. Surely, one can open a Webster’s Dictionary to obtain the standard or commonly accepted description of it, however, like our minds, personality and spirit, prayer means something different, amazing and boundless to each of us.”
Intended to provoke thought and introspection, below is a short list of how one could describe or capture the essence of what prayer represents. This list is by no means all-inclusive, but rather, fertilizer of sorts to help you internalize its meaning:
- Ultimate Conversation with God
- Unwritten Contract with God
- Open-Ended Invitation to God to consume our Heart and Mind
- Unsolicited Plea for Help, Healing, Outcome, Redemption, Forgiveness
- Direct Dialogue with God
- Unfocused Expression of Gratitude
- Offering of Repentance
- Manifestation of Spiritual Resonance
- Checklist of Mortal/Physical Needs or Desires
- Intercession of Divine Nature on your or another person’s behalf
- Alignment of Present with Future
- Fusion of Thought, Intent, Desire, Need and Projection
- Introspective Reflection of our Personal Reality and Timeline
- Affirmation of Belief, Faith and Expectation
- Revelation of Self, Sin, Intent and Benevolence
- Transforming Progression in the Process of Spiritual Maturity
- Offering of Contrition
- Targeted Projection of Self and Energy
Without stating the obvious, prayer simply can not be confined to an entry in the dictionary. It is equally and simultaneously, broad and specific in context as it applies or is used by each human being.
“The most essential aspect, however, is that prayer is an awe-inspiring and Powerful construct. To a degree, it defines our individual spirits as our fingerprint defines our bodies, yet it cannot be seen by the eye, but only touched by the heart.”
As Christians, we must acknowledge the power of prayer and leverage it to advocate benevolence in the world, use it to empower healing, to eradicate pain and promote alignment of spirit and our mortal lives. The outcome will be inner peace, harmony and the courage to live your life to its potential. Similarly, prayer shatters the fear of death and prepares one for eternal salvation. I pray for the redemption of every soul on earth, knowing there is no limit to the grace, mercy and healing of God’s presence in everyone’s life. Be well.