LIFE ISN'T JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES
As long as we live, we will experience life’s stinging pain of loss, disappointment, and frustration. Moments in time when one feels captive to a difficult circumstance causes one to emotionally drudge along and drag through each dismal day. Life becomes boring doing the same thing the same way. What is the point? What is life all about? Then you have the other side of a doom and gloom life which is the pleasures of sprawling out on a sunny beach gazing at the ocean as its waves rush in then surge back out again, sipping your favorite cold drink and eating your favorite food while swishing your toes around in the hot gritty sand. Why is life up one minute and down the next minute with resounding boom? Why can’t life be “it’s all good” all the time.
I believe there are two opposing forces hovering over our lives. One is difficult times and the other is easy times. As most often happens, the difficult time helps us learn the value of the easy time. Yet, we never appreciate the difficult times until they end. We appreciate going through rough times after the storm is over, not while it is blowing winds of destruction and raining down chaos in our lives. But we grow, learn, and build faith during difficult times. Learning and growing is a necessary part of life. It seems as we grow older, in order for maturity to blossom, we need difficult times and easy times in some combination for learning, spiritual growth, or maturity. The old adage: “You learn from your mistakes” is true. We can’t see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when we don’t even see the rainbow while we are going through a difficult time. It can be quite painful and it hurts! But nonetheless, the pot of gold is there.
Quincy Jones (a famous American music producer, musician, singer, and film producer), after surviving a serious brain aneurism on one side of his brain, expressed how happy he was to get the good news that he would live. However, the good news was followed by the bad news that he had another brain aneurism ready to blow on the opposite side of his brain. After surviving a second brush with death, it was very enlightening to hear that he attributed this experience as “nature’s way of getting your attention to make you live life, really live it and dig down for values that really mean something.”
LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE
There are probably hundreds of ways individuals define “best life.” The definition is personal and unique to the person. Whatever you believe the best life is—be about living it. The short period we live on earth is miniscule in comparison to the size of a grain of sand on the beach when measured against eternity. What is your best life? Some may believe it is material gain such as wealth or economic status. Some believe it is achieving a high social status or job. But bear with me, if you will, on how I define living your best life.
God’s Word states that it’s not what unclean thing man eats that defiles Him, but what He says and thinks that defiles Him (Mathew 15:11-20). Simply put, it is not what goes into your mouth but what comes out of your mouth that makes you unclean or evil. It is obvious in scripture that God does not see us by how we appear. His eyes peer directly into our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). His Word demonstrates what we should strive to achieve in the spirit. After saying all this, then are we to believe our spiritual being is of utmost importance to God and to us? Can we say spiritually we must live our best life? We know it is possible for a man to say one thing, but in his heart or spirit he really believes the opposite.
Are you living your best life? Aretha Franklin’s transitioning sparked this blog. Here is a woman who sang at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral and at Barack Obama’s inauguration. She witnessed one man die with a dream that another man fulfilled. Symbolic of her life, many people didn’t know she was not only a preacher’s daughter, but an activist volunteering to post bail for Angela Davis. She was a humanitarian, a warrior for social justice, and encouraged voter registration. She graced many generations with songs that will live long into the future. She was more than fur coats, fancy clothes, and glamour. Her life was dedicated to civil rights and forward-thinking. She never forgot where she came from. She lived her best life.
Clark Gable once gave his Oscar award to a fan because the fan so admired the appearance of the award. He felt it wasn’t having the award that matter but achieving the award. This is the essence of living your best life. I have always been conscious of my life and how I affect others—especially my children. As a wife, mother, and grandmother, I hope the image I project is one of integrity, caring, giving, and love because that is what I feel in my heart. This is my spirit. This is what I present to my Heavenly Father each day. Examine my heart, Lord. Every moment of my life I desire to be pleasing in His sight. This is living my best life.
DO YOU KNOW GOD?
How can you know for sure that you know God? This question woke me one night. Why that question? It is one that I never think about, yet at that moment I realized its importance. The scriptures imply that if you want to serve God, you must be willing to make sacrifices to serve God. It made me question myself—have I sacrificed all to serve God? This is I believe God’s litmus test. Do you have an intimate relationship with God?
We are to intimately know God. This doesn’t mean running down to Goodwill with all your possessions or donating all your money to charity. It means to totally surrender your spirit (will), body, and soul to follow, obey, and serve Him first and foremost. If so, we yield to His tug on our hearts and perform in all sincerity to meet another’s need. Easy? No. But you start desiring a closer relation with God the more you are persuaded to “know” God. God is a gentle and caring father who would not burden His children but feed them the milk of His word and as they grow in the Spirit offer them meat. He draws those that seek Him and will nurture the relationship to fullness. Eventually you will virtually feel or realize a spiritual closeness to God. It is God drawing us and us responding.
Sacrifices are the spiritual baby steps leading to the great big throne of God or knowing God. Will you love and serve Him no matter what trials are in your life? Will you love and serve Him if He doesn’t remove the trials? Will it be confirmed in your heart that you love God? I think the most difficult time to trust God is when a loved one dies. Death has a way of shredding your insides, resulting in feelings of helplessness, of being let down, and feeling incapable of being happy about serving God. It is an unbearable sacrifice, but you must make the sacrifice. Death is a natural occurring event of life. We will all experience the pain of loss. Every step of life has a tendency to cause us to leave something behind and press on to the new or future. The difficulty is letting go of the past, a person, money, and most things you love or are not accustomed to living without. Your possessions are never more precious than knowing and following God.
Personally, I am more aware than ever that everything I have and all that I am belong to God. My money and health; my husband and my children and grandchildren; and all of my family belong to Him who is the giver of it all. We are all vulnerable to trials and His will. Hence we can say, to know Him is to yield to His will.
CHANGE THE WORLD
I have often heard people state that losing a child is the worse pain or loss imaginable. I question the truth of this statement.
How does one measure pain or loss? How deep is your love? How attached are you to a person or thing? Similar to Newton’s Cradle theory of conservation of energy, the first ball strikes and the last ball strikes back with almost the exact same momentum. In other words, I believe energy, or in this case, emotional pain, is felt the same as its corresponding love. It is impossible to measure love, death, or pain without knowing the measure of love invested in the person or object that died.
I prefer not to believe that my pain is greater than another’s. Did I suffer more pain because I lost four sons or one son? Or, did a woman who lost her mother suffer less than I who lost children? An even worse judgement—is a mother’s pain not worthy because her child died in the process of committing a crime than the mother whose child died worshipping in church? All these scenarios are immeasurable. We must avoid measuring loss from a death or quantifying a life’s worthiness.
Emotional pain is relative to individual circumstances. Really only God knows. Everyone has a human right to express emotional pain from any loss without justification or comparison. We should avoid characterizing, minimizing, or maximizing one’s feelings. Death is final. To never see and touch again something you loved is tantamount.
In a world where there is so much turmoil, as human beings we all should pause to give respect and have empathy for those who died and for those who are suffering their loss. It doesn’t matter who or what they were or how they lived or died, show sincere sympathy. Stay sensitive in an insensitive world, stay mindful in a world without conscience, love the unlovely, confront anger with kindness, be slow to anger and quick to love, stay hopeful in a hopeless situation, and always pray even if you don’t believe things will change.
PRAYING THE VIOLENCE AWAY
June is a celebratory month. It is a month of reflection and having fun. It is a time of thanking God for sunny weather, vacations, weddings, graduations, and so much more. Graduating from high school is a major milestone marking another chapter of one’s life which includes making tough decisions for the future—will it be college, trade school, or technical school in your future? This has been a trying time for our teens. Some of the classmates or teachers they journeyed through high school with won’t be there because of the recent gun violence in our most precious and safe place—school.
The surviving students, parents, and families need your prayers. Who would have ever imagined that a day that should be so festive and exciting instead is filled with sadness and emptiness. Some of our children will never be the same. Tragedy struck and left an indelible impression on their young, tender minds. They are forever tarnished by gun violence. The radiance of graduation became a cloud of gloom hovering all over the nation as we reflect on those gone too soon. What can we do to cover the pain of those horrific events or repair what is shattered in our society?
Stop, think, and be mindful of something we can all do: pray. It takes little effort. Try this:
Heavenly Father, ease the torment that is afflicting our youth. Heavenly Father, renew minds and restore the innocence of life. Heavenly Father, lay your merciful hands on all that see no end to an unforeseen and unknowing tunnel of life. Heavenly Father, open our eyes and unplug our ears so that we can experience the beauty of all creation. Heavenly Father, teach us to respect life and not take pleasure in tearing each other down. We are Your children, created in Your image. Heavenly Father, restore safety and peace in the land, but most of all fill our empty hearts with deep and lasting love for our fellow man.
This is the month to honor mothers. A mother’s heart is a strong and enduring vessel of love, understanding, and forgiveness always prepared to serve her children. Mom is a protective mama bear for her offspring from birth until death. Celebrate your mother as the wonderful person she is on Mother’s Day. Do something unique that expresses how special she is to you. A mother is a delicate flower that expresses her inner beauty in so many ways. When you are in pain, your mom feels your pain. She is an emotional, calm spirit that feels sick when you are sick and overjoyed when you are happy; she shares your feelings. She is an angel spreading her wings over your life—guarding, supporting, and celebrating your successes. She has ample strength and power to spread love and care among many children. What an excellent gift God has given to us.
Mothers should never be overlooked, or what she provides taken for granted. Honor her for the nights she was awakened to sit at your side and nurse you tirelessly back to health when you were sick. She kept you looking your very best; just think how many heads of hair she had to comb, little bodies to bathe, many loads of laundry to wash, and countless delicious meals to prepare. And, she did these things lovingly and willingly.
Remember, you have been blessed to have your mom from the moment she held you proudly within her own body until birth, and throughout the time she delicately cared for and protected you from infancy to where you are now. We should all pause to thank God daily for His enduring and consistent expression of love that He has bestowed through our loving mothers.