Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Time, Precious Time.

Losing a loved one is one of those things that everyone reacts to differently. Each one of us experiences it and grieves differently.

My sister and I came home last Friday evening. We knew that this would most likely be my Grandpa's last weekend alive. When we came, he was unresponsive.  On Sunday, at around 11:20 a.m., my Grandpa, Dalton Mansel, lost his battle to cancer and went to be with God.

We spent most of the weekend at his bedside. We talked and reminisced with family. We cried and laughed. We held his hand. We gave him morphine and other medications to keep him comfortable. Saturday night, my sister and I sang hymns to him, such as “Farther Along” and “Amazing Grace”. I don’t know if he could hear them, but I know that if he did happen to hear them, he would have loved it. I know he enjoyed listening to us sing in church whenever we came for a visit.

The moment he passed Sunday morning was a surreal one. I had woken up at around 9:00 a.m., and had had eaten breakfast and talked some with my Aunt Gail. That morning was a blur up until the moment he passed. We kept constant vigil, as his breathing became more shallow. Then, I saw it. He breathed his last. It has been difficult for me to process this moment. It has left me with all kinds of emotions I didn’t, and still don't entirely know what to do with.

It was humbling. Oh, how feeble we are. Oh, how quickly something like a tumor can take the breath from our lips. We try not to think that one day we are going to die. Especially as young people, we don’t want to think about it.  You get a different perspective when you are there with a loved one until the moment they pass.

My Grandpa and my Grandma (who died five years earlier) got it. They knew that life is temporary, and what it’s really about. It’s about God. My Grandpa was a minister for some years, and helped to spread God’s word. Later, he was an elder, and taught bible classes. My Grandma Carolyn served and gave her all in everything that she did.  My other Grandfather, Russell Butcher, loved God with all his heart. He was so loving and kind, and spread that love to everyone he came in contact with. I can never repay them for the love they showed me, and the example they set.

What are we doing with the precious time that God has given to us? Our lives are so short. It’s been said before, I will say it again: we can die anytime. Anywhere. Jesus could come back at any moment. Are we ready for the moment our heart stops or when we hear that trumpet blast? We don’t know when either of these things will occur. We must be ready.

How much time do we spend complaining, when we could be on our knees in prayer or doing something to change it? How often do we walk past someone who needs help and could use a little love? How often do we say, “I’ll pray later.” Or, “I’ll read my bible later.” And it never gets done? Why are we so negligent when it comes to things that actually matter? These things matter so much more.

The bible says, “…yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14.)

It also says, “Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away. But concerning that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the son, but the Father only.” (Matt. 24:35-36.)

If there is anything that I have been reminded of the past few weeks, it’s this: Life is short, and uncertain. What are we doing with our time? I want to be a hard worker for the Lord until the end. What about you? Will you give Him your all?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sharing our Blessings

The saying, “Better eat your food. There are children starving in Africa!” had always puzzled me.  I often questioned what starving children in Africa had to do with whether  I ate the food on my plate or not.  Today it occurred to me what that saying means. It was one of those humbling "AHA"  moments.

I found myself in Freed-Hardeman University’s Premiere eatery of cuisine, Gano. (Okay, so ‘premiere’ is a stretch-a huge one.) Their food isn’t amazing, but some days are better than others. One section in Gano serves international food. I  am a big fan of Asian cuisine. On days that they have it, I usually get some just to see how it is. Normally, they do it pretty well.

Yesterday they had sweet and sour chicken. When I sat down to eat it at dinner, I studied it for a moment.  The thought crossed through my mind that I would hate to waste this if it didn’t taste that great. I took one bite, and, it tasted pretty good.

But then I began to question my own thought of throwing the food away if it was bad.

It is amazing how much we take for granted in our country. Our food is no exception. If something tastes bad to us, we can just throw it out. We have the liberty to do that if we want. We have options, and choices. We can eat pretty much anything we desire. There is an unlimited supply of food in our nation. 

I have never, ever gone without food in my life. Granted, there have been times growing up where we ate off of soups, or beans and rice for a few days to save money. But never did we go without. I have never experienced a night where there wasn’t food on my table of some kind.

It hit me that the saying about the "starving Children in Africa" is about being thankful. People who are starving elsewhere in the world would give anything to have the food we are wasting.

Let’s face it; as a nation, we are so wasteful and ungrateful. We have so much that we don’t even know what to do with. The majority of people in our nation are able to buy so much food. When we cook, we often have stuff leftover to eat. Often, the leftover food goes untouched and ends up going bad and never gets eaten.

 We have so much more than most people in the world could even ask for! Pretty much everyone has electricity. We have running water. Access to medical care should we need it. We have things to keep us entertained-books, movies, music, and television galore! Most of us have more clothes than we know what to do with. We have a great military that protects us.

All the “good things” in life we have come to expect, and  feel  entitled to are not permanent. Nothing in this world is permanent. Are we focusing on what actually matters? Do we realize just how lucky and blessed we are? Why do you think so many people are trying to come here right now?

So many Christians, Jews, as well as Muslims are seeking refuge in Europe or even here. ISIS is threatening and murdering innocent people and their families. People in Mexico are trying to bring their children here because the government has become so corrupt. People in Africa are still suffering from various illnesses and starvation. The world is suffering. Many of us are so focused on our own small-potato problems to care or try to help in some kind of way. We mostly focus our prayers on self or on local issues. What about the rest of the world?

When will we stop being selfish and use our blessings to benefit those who need it? God never meant for us keep our blessings to ourselves. If we have blessings, we are supposed to share them with others.

Jesus means for us to share our blessings and to love others indiscriminately. We can use all the excuses in the world not to not help the needy. But, in the end, they are still just empty excuses that pale in comparison to what God has commanded us to do.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

I also remember Jesus’ chilling words in Matt. 25:41-46: “Then he will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and His angels. 
For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 
Then they also will answer saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? 
Then He will answer them saying, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
How often do we spend our lives sitting in worship talking and singing about helping the world? Then, for some reason when someone in our world is suffering, we ignore it or turn up our noses.

We think things like...
We don’t want them in our country. 
We don’t want them around us. 
We don’t want to help those that won’t help themselves. 

Again, this is pure selfishness, and not in line with  God's commandments.

Truth is, God told us to love others and help them. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people I have heard of being led to Christ because of LOVE shown to them by Christians. What about the people in the world we are so skeptical to help? When we help others, we open up opportunities to share the Gospel with them as God has commanded us to do.

 When we choose to love them, it opens up doors for them, and us. I’m tired of not spreading my blessings around to those who need it. I want to reach out to others in love and help them and not worry about their background. Jesus did that, no matter their background, race, religion, or monetary situation. Why don’t we do it too?