Category: The Inner Monk

Moments of Integrity

C.S. Lewis once said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one with watching.

Even returning your shopping cart.

It is amazing how something so small can have a ripple effect on others.

I was sitting in the the car at a grocery store while my wife went in to get a few things. I sat there watching what was going on around me to pass the time. A man with two children pushed his shopping cart to his vehicle parked in front of me. After he loaded his children and groceries into his truck he pushed his shopping cart to the side into the vacant parking spot next to him instead of returning it to the shopping cart return just two more feet away. Just two minutes after he left, another person pulled into the parking space where the cart was. The driver couldn’t see the cart and hit it with his vehicle. He stopped, got out and angrily push the cart back to its return. He stomped back to his vehicle and continued parking. He got out, glared at me and walked to the store.

Who knows how the one lone act of not returning the shopping cart may have had a domino effect on the moods of people affected by it. The man who hit the cart was now in a bad mood – or may have already been in a bad mood.

I thought about that for a moment. Something like that can affect so many others. What if that man went home and had road rage on the way home or fought with his wife when he got home. All because of that shopping cart.

We all like to get credit for our good deeds but sometimes the things that we don’t think people see have a deeper affect on others. It is never wrong to do the right thing, even if no one sees it. You will never know the impact you can have on someone’s life and not even know it. What if us doing the right thing ended up saving a life?

One day I was walking to the elevator in my building when the woman already on the elevator made no effort to hold the door for me. In frustration, I walked up to the doors as they were closing and said “That’s not niiiice!” I laugh about it but it was a moment that just a few seconds and a little effort would have been all that woman needed.

What kind of ripples are we creating?

I think we would all be surprised if we could see the things you and I have done ever so small acts or deeds which affected so many others without us knowing.

In Matthew 22 when Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, He said the first was to love God with all your heart, mind and soul He then said the second was to love your neighbor as yourself. When we read that we often think our “neighbor” means people in our own little circle of family or friends but it could also mean people we may never meet. In this world when people are so fixated on the screens on their smartphones, our influence reaches much further than the hundreds of friends on Facebook.

I’m always making the statement: “Why can’t people just do what they are supposed to do?” I mostly make this statement when I am behind the wheel and driving but I say this at other times too when the selfishness of others ripples into my own life. Can’t people just do the right thing?

Let us all try to do our part in having integrity. Yes, even something as small and seemingly insignificant as returning the shopping cart to the corral.

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What Will You Do With Today?

Today is all that we have
The present is now
The past is past
The future is not promised
Do what you should do today
Say what you should say today
You have the power to change someone’s day
Make it brighter for someone
Love the people you love
Remove the drama
It’s a waste of your day
Encourage someone
Lift them up
It’s not the job of angels
It’s your purpose, your destiny
Don’t expect religion to be the answer
You are the answer
There is nothing you can take with you
Only the effect you have on others you can leave behind
Don’t read the Bible
BE the Bible
Don’t GO to a church
BE the church
Don’t condemn people to hell
Tell them the good news
Stop with the politics
Love knows no party
Love isn’t blinded by color
Love covers it all
Don’t let the day end
Make someone’s day
What if it were their last?

 

Help Wanted: Be An Encourager

People need to be encouraged. This is something that everyone of us have the ability to do. You don’t need any special training to encourage someone. The challenge is in actually doing it.

We live in a world that is selfish and quick to anger. Examples of this appears in our news every day. Shootings, assaults and random acts of violence dominate the headlines. This world is in desperate need of some superheroes. The world need encouragers.

So how can we do this?

  • Look for ways to help someone in need. If it’s a hot day and you see a worker outside, give them a bottled water. If someone needs help, help them.
  • Smile. It’s amazing how just a smile can do so much good.
  • Treat people with respect. Be patient with the cashier or the person working behind the counter at a fast food restaurant. If they do something good, compliment them for it. We are too quick to complain but forget to compliment.
  • Treat someone. Buy an extra coffee for someone or something someone would appreciate. If you know someone likes a certain treat, surprise them with it.
  • Say “Thank You”. Don’t act like you are entitled. Be thankful.
  • Be a good listener. Some people just want someone who will listen to them and their stories. They also want someone they can trust who won’t spread gossip.
  • Tell people that you appreciate them. Don’t assume people know. Tell them.
  • Pay it forward. This has been a trend and a good way to encourage others.

Sometimes just a word of encouragement can change someone’s entire day. Encouragement is the most direct way you can impact someone’s life.  There are too many people that are quick to criticize.  There are people we all come in contact with that could use an uplifting word or deed.  We should look for opportunities to do good and build up, not tear someone down.

Being an encourager is not something super spiritual and you don’t have to wait on a sign from God to do it. It is never wrong to encourage someone to do good. When you encourage someone it will say much more than quoting a list of Bible verses.

The purpose of encouraging others isn’t to bring attention to ourselves. Sometimes doing something anonymously is the appropriate thing to do and sometimes the most fulfilling.

Do you know someone who needs some compassion today? Is there someone who would benefit from your words of encouragement? None of us know how long we have to make a difference in another person’s life. Make the most of the opportunities God gives you. When you are offering encouragement to others you are being God to them.

“Be an Encourager: When you encourage others, you boost their self-esteem, enhance their self-confidence, make them work harder, lift their spirits and make them successful in their endeavors. Encouragement goes straight to the heart and is always available. Be an encourager. Always.”   Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

IMHO…Death Is Not The End!

paradiseAsk anyone their opinion about life after death and you’re going to get a variety of answers to this question that has puzzled mankind since the beginning of time.

What happens when you die?  Is that the end?

Here are some theories about life after death:

  • According to some, life starts over immediately after death.  This belief is an explanation of feelings of deja vu we experience throughout our lifetime.
  • We move into a paranormal realm where we become ghosts or other spirits
  • Hindus believe in reincarnation and that we will be reincarnated 52 million times as a plant, animal, etc. before returning to human form.
  • One of six destinies awaits Buddhists when they die.  They may be reincarnated as gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, ghosts or sent to the realms of hells.  If you were a good person, chances are you will be reborn in one of the first three categories.
  • Some believe that when you are dead, you’re dead.  Period.
  • According to the movie Beetlejuice, when we die, we continue to live in the form of ghosts stuck in a parallel dimension from which only an iconoclast exorcist can free us.
  • Plato had a theory that after death our souls were judged.  Good souls were placed on islands of the blessed and bad souls were punished.
  • For the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, death was temporary.  This is why it was so important to them to properly preserve bodies by mummification so they could be in their best possible state for their second life.
  • If you believe the Stranger Things theory, the deceased aren’t truly dead.  Some of them simply go to “The Upside Down” which is a parallel universe from which you can communicate through light bulbs.
  • For about $300,000 your body can be preserved at an extremely low temperature to stop your cells from evolving until medicine finds a cure for your death and brings you back to life.
  • Quantum physicists believe that life creates the universe and not the opposite so when bodies die our consciousness continues to exist.
  • The egocentric theory is you are the only person who exists and the entire universe is your own imagination so when you die, the universe will no longer exist.

There are some wild theories out there.

I have read and heard opinions out there so allow me to add my own here.  I mean this is MY blog and I am free to express my own opinions about this.  If you don’t agree, that’s okay.  Don’t be mean about it.  You are entitled to your opinion too.

I have had years of Bible teaching throughout my life.  No, I do not hold a degree in theology but I am capable of making up my own mind and attempt to sort this out myself.  So, with that disclaimer, let’s take a look at my own view of death.

I have concluded that my own personal belief about death is based upon one of the most popular Bible verses.  John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If a person believes in Jesus Christ this verse guarantees us eternal life.  It isn’t a requirement that you have to be Baptist, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist or any other named religion.  As shocking as it may be to some, there isn’t a “Baptist Heaven” or a “Catholic Heaven” or “Church of God Heaven”.  This is a place is simply a place that Jesus has prepared for believers.

It is my belief that when we die, our soul separates from our physical bodies.  A believer goes immediately to be with Jesus in paradise.  That’s what Jesus told one of the thieves on the cross next to him when he said “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”   Paradise is a temporary heaven because, according to the Book of Revelation (which I am not even going to try to explain) tells us that there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth.  There’s a lot of other things that is supposed to happen but I’m just narrowing this to what happens when we die.

When our soul separates from our physical bodies, we go to paradise.  Before we can fully enjoy paradise, we must spend time in an “in-between place” which Catholics refer to as purgatory.  It doesn’t matter how good of a person we are or how righteous we are, none of us are perfect and we all have issues that must be resolved before we can move on.  This in-between place allows us to resolve these issues.  For the religious folks out there, I’m not saying that sin is okay but we all have things that are imperfect about us.  In order to enter into a perfect place, these things have to be cleansed.  I think of it as TSA to get into paradise.  So if we have any unresolved issues we will be forced to deal with them at that time.  All who die in God’s grace are assured of their eternal salvation but still must undergo a purification.   I’m not really sure what goes on in the in-between place but I envision it as a video replay of things we need to resolve.  It could be a time of deep soul searching and confession.  How long we spend in the in-between place depends upon how long it takes us to resolve these issues.

Once we have passed through the in-between place, we then enter into the main population of paradise where we will be reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us.  I think this paradise is a place that is beyond any beauty that we have seen on Earth or could even imagine with our minds.  We will also have no concept of time.  There really won’t be any need for it.  Most people think of heaven as a place where people are floating on clouds playing harps.   Now that would be pretty boring don’t you think?  Some have said that we will have jobs or hobbies that we will enjoy doing.  I believe we will do things that we enjoy as well as being in the presence of the Lord.  I don’t think any of us can truly comprehend it.

So will we have bodies or floating around as spirit beings?

I have pondered on this a lot and I have mixed thinking about it.  Since the Bible talks about us being reunited with our physical bodies and resurrected when the Lord returns to the Earth, I’m thinking that when we die that it will be our souls in paradise and not some physical recreation of our bodies.  Our souls will recognize our loved ones but not necessarily the physical attributes that we remember such as the last time we saw them.  I also have no idea what a “soul” could possibly look like.  I don’t think it will be a like a ghostly existence but possibly some form.  Like I told you earlier, some of this stuff is a little hard to explain.  I’m not saying I’m right but no one really knows for sure.  Even the Bible can be a bit difficult to translate into something we can understand.

The other question I have had was if our loved ones can see what we are doing here on Earth.  Can they watch us?  How can they see what we are doing?

Most people think that when we die we become angels but that is false.  Angels are separate created beings.  None of us get wings or become angels who watch over those back on Earth.  I believe that God allows them to see what He wants them to see.  I don’t think they are looking down on us 24/7 because that would be a little creepy wouldn’t it?  I honestly don’t think they have time for that anyway.  I have a feeling that they do get updates on us.  Maybe it’s something like heavenly mail or newsflash about us.  I also think they are praying for us.  Maybe they have knowledge of what we are praying and what we are going through.  I really can’t give a definitive opinion on this.

So what about hell?  Do people go there?  Is there such a place?

I would have to think that people who are completely void of a conscious will go to a place of torment much like the rich man in the story of Lazarus.   Luke 16 says that in Hades he was in torment.  While this passage is a parable and not an actual experience, I think it gives a clear message on what happens to evil people.

This is all my own personal opinion.  I have no proof for or against what I have posted here.  We all have to make up our own minds.  I’m certainly not going to convince you.  We all have to figure it out for ourselves.  We are all shaped in our opinions based on something.  While mine is based mostly on Christian beliefs, others might base theirs on science or other spiritualist reasoning.

Whether you believe my version of life after death or not I urge you to think about it.  We’re all going to die sometime.  Figure it out for yourself.  Do some soul searching and ask yourself why you believe the way you believe?  For me, my opinion hinges upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He said:  “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and  believes in me will never die.”  (John 11:25-26).   I don’t think that’s too far-fetched compared to these other theories do you?   Sure, I might be wrong on certain details but I do not believe that death is the end.   Easter is one of my favorite times of the year where I experience the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It encourages me and gives me hope of eternal life.

This is my belief and I won’t apologize for it.   In the end, whatever happens will happen and I have absolutely no control over it.  Maybe that’s why we fear death.  We fear the unknown and we try to explain it with all of these beliefs.

For me, I choose faith.

 

 

What Are You Doing With Your Vapor?

You never think about how short life is until you experience death. We like to avoid the subject because it is uncomfortable for us to face. It is a depressing subject for sure but it is the painful reality of life. We all have 100% chance of dying. It is certain to happen, we just don’t know when it will happen.

The Bible says that “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14

A vapor. That’s our life.

The current life expectancy is 78.7 years in the United States. That number is far away when you are in your 20s or 30s but when you reach 50, that magic number comes into focus.

So what can we do about it? Not much really but when our time comes it comes. There are two things that we can do. We can make our “vapor” an influence while it exists and we can also plan for what comes next.

Let’s look at the present. What are we doing with our vapor now? Are we using the gifts and talents we have been given? We all have something that we can do to make the world around us better. We all have a calling. It may be our jobs, our hobbies or just being a good person that can impact the lives of others around us. We shouldn’t waste it. If you don’t feel like you have done much or look back and lament over the wasted time behind you, start today and focus on what you should be doing with your vapor.

The best way we can influence people is be kind and help others. The world has a serious shortage in kind people. Don’t believe me? Get out in traffic. That will settle it pretty quickly. People are so impatient and selfish. It can be quite demoralizing. Being kind to others doesn’t require a college degree or even religion. Just treat people right and have some integrity. This is something that will impact people more than any charity we could do. Kindness is contagious. This is how we can make our vapor effective while it lasts.

We must also decide what is going to happen next. Life after death. Some people deny anything happens after death. They think when you die then that’s it. The end.

While there is no absolute proof that there is life after death, we can’t ignore the feeling that there has to be more than this. Death can’t be the end. How we live our life depends a lot on what we believe about death.

So what happens when we die? No one really knows for sure but the Bible tells us that when we leave our body, our soul goes to be with the Lord until the resurrection of believers when the spirit will be reunited with the body. Yeah I know this is a leap for most people to believe and I’m not sure I can properly explain the Biblical view of what happens when we die but a life after death transition isn’t something we can comprehend.

There are many beliefs on what happens s after death but it is hard to deny that something does indeed happen to our soul. It is up to you to decide for yourself. I choose to believe in what the Bible says. It is my personal conviction that Jesus Christ was God’s only son who was sent to earth to become a sacrifice for my sins and my belief in him is a promise that I will have eternal life. I’m not forcing you to believe it but you will need to decide it at some point.

78.7

That’s what we have.

Maybe more. Maybe less.

What are we going to do with it?

He’s Finally My Daddy

I am watching my daddy die.

I haven’t called him daddy for a long time. For most of my adult life, our relationship has been strained and estranged for long periods of time.

Yet here I sit by his bedside watching him fade away to the heaven he has preached so much about in his sermons and believed in for many years. Some have called it “slipping into eternity” or going into the “presence of the Lord.” Whatever you want to call it, he’s almost there.

You think a lot about “the other side” when you are sitting here watching someone die. Some people don’t believe. I can see how hard it is to believe it but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. There are many Christian beliefs about what happens when we die. Some think you immediately go to heaven, others think you go to an in-between place and some think we fall into a “soul sleep” until the return of Jesus Christ as prophesied in the Book of Revelation.

As far as things on this side goes, dad and I have resolved our issues. Neither one of us can make up for the lost years between us but things are settled. At this point the petty differences we had before doesn’t really matter much now.

I now declare that our relationship resolved.

We are both winners. It was never a competition. It was a prideful standoff for way too many years.

We all make hard decisions in life. It’s easy when we are young and can blame decisions on our parents but when are adults and make the hard choices, it’s all on us. I was forced to make some of those hard choices which significantly impacted our relationship. That’s what happens sometimes in life. You don’t always get the Norman Rockwell painting. Many times you get the dysfunctions that would be too difficult for even Dr. Phil to resolve. You have to make choices that allow you to live your own live. It is sad, but these choices can hurt people and cause divisions.

I won’t sugar coat it, my dad was strict. He was a pentecostal preacher and that led to a lot of conflict between us. Whenever he said I was going to get a whipping there was no parole. It was gonna happen. Of course today, he would be accused of abuse but it was a different time then. That’s all he knew. I’m not excusing it or condoning it. I’m just explaining it. I seem to think I turned okay in spite of it. We all do our best. It’s easy to be a critic.

As the breath of life gets harder and harder for him, I sit here understanding this man more now. Over the past few days we have had the father-son moments that never happened between us. He was never the mushy type who talked about feelings. Death tends to force it out of our pride.

Dad was a preacher for over 40 years for a church organization which was very much a cult of people who mistreated him and church leaders betrayed him. The only reason he left this church group is that church leaders ignored improprieties and because of his integrity, it forced him out. The so-called leader whimped out and caved into pressure. Now that person is the leader of the cult group. How pathetic. Because of this, my dad had to find another way to support himself and my mom. Even though this church burned him badly, he still held onto their ridiculous teachings to the very end.

My dad was never a slacker. At many of the churches he had to work a secular job in addition to pastoring a church. He never had a college degree but he was always very intelligent and often figured things out for himself. The church seriously limited his talents and abilities.

I never followed in my dad’s footsteps. I asked him about that recently. It never bothered him because he said that being a minister wasn’t hereditary, it is a calling from God. I see too many who follow their father’s into the ministry as if they were continuing the family business. I’m glad my dad never felt slighted about me not becoming a preacher.

For the first time in my life, my daddy needs me. I am here without any hesitation.

I don’t recall him ever telling me that he was proud of me but that’s okay. He doesn’t have to. I resolved that issue many years ago and I don’t need that affirmation.

At this moment, none of that matters. Death humbles us all.

How Do You Pray For A Healing?

One of the most difficult things in life is when someone we love needs a miracle of healing. When they receive a bad report from the doctor it hits us in the gut and we feel helpless.

Our prayers go to another level.

Right now as I type this post I am sitting by my dad’s bedside watching him struggle with breathing and hearing the negative reports with each doctor that comes in the room to check on him. It doesn’t look good.

Praying for a healing is one of the most difficult prayers to pray because we want our loved one to be healed and recover. That’s natural we want that. We don’t want to see someone in pain or suffering.

I have seen preachers on television who claim that if you have enough faith that people would be healed. They almost guarantee it. Of course your chances improve if you “sow a seed” into their ministry. It also makes me furious to hear some preachers making claims of people who have been healed because they prayed for them. I tend to believe they embellish those claims for their own reasons.

Can I share something with you rather bluntly? It doesn’t matter how much faith you have. If God doesn’t want to heal for some reason, the person is going to die. There’s not a damn thing we can do about it either. (I warned you it was going to be blunt). I have seen people rally all of their Facebook friends to pray but the number of people praying doesn’t guarantee it either. God doesn’t heal someone based on popular votes.

So what does? Is there anything we can possibly do to convince God to heal someone?

No.

I don’t have 7 easy steps or a magic prayer you can recite.

So is there a right way to pray for a healing?

Repent of sins

Yeah, I know we don’t like to hear that. It’s not a popular subject. We have become too prideful to admit it but we ALL sin sometimes. Yes, even the perfect ones out there. Prayers won’t get off the ground if we refuse to repent of our sins. Sin hinders our prayers. There is simply no way around this one. People might debate it but when you get to the desperate stage you will realize this step needs to be done.

Confession

Let it all out. Tell God how you feel. Don’t get hung up on trying to use the right words. There aren’t any magical words. Just speak from your heart. If you have no words or don’t know what to say just be quiet or cry. God understands the tears more than we realize. This isn’t the time to pray “standing in church” prayers with eloquent words.

Be Thankful

Thank God for prayers He has answered in the past. Remind God of what He has done. It’s not that HE forgets but we do it to remind ourselves. Too many times when God answers our prayer we are happy for a short time and then we move onto the next thing and the thrill of that answered prayer fades away.

God’s Will Be Done

I hate this one but it’s totally necessary because we have to admit that God is ultimately in control regardless of our faith or number of people praying. It is very difficult to resign to God’s will because we do badly want His will to be what we want. We don’t understand it.

As I sit here and watch my dad struggle, it’s hard to even pray about this. I have reminded God of all the sacrifices my dad has made in the ministry. The churches he has pastored and the sacrifices he has made. I guess I’m doing it as if Dad has some bank account stored which such be enough to convince God to heal.him. I resign to the fact that God doesn’t work that way. I’m sure dad’s sacrifices mean something but not any additional leverage for a healing.

Honestly sometimes I don’t even know how to pray. I feel weak and completely ineffective. When you are in a situation like this you just don’t know much of anything. This kind of thing humbles you because you realize you are helpless and have absolutely no control of it. That’s pretty scary and frustrating.

The Bible has many examples of healing and how we can lay hands on the sick and they shall recover but what happens if they don’t? What do we do with that? I am convinced that the reason God doesn’t heal is that people praying with take the credit for it. That misses the whole point as to why God heals people.

Do I believe God can heal? Yes, absolutely. Will He? I honestly don’t know. I will pray until something happens. That’s all I can do.

God can heal and I’m praying that He will but I have the courage to handle it if He doesn’t.