Monthly Archives: June 2016

Invited to the celebration


Having enjoyed a relaxing picnic on the deck, we find such simple joy in listening to the birds pronounce their greetings on the day. What a privilege it is to be invited into the celebration of God’s goodness among his creation at Thayerapy Gardens, or any place you can get away from the daily grind. The simple joy of being quiet in this too busy world easily evades us. So many other demands beckon us to “get something done.” What if what needs getting done is the restoring of your noisy soul? Such joy and contentment comes only by intentional invitation, only by sacrificing some lesser thing on the altar of living in order to enjoy another more fully.

Would you think it strange to experience such beauty and peace in the battle cries of cancer? Or any other great burden that presses against your own life? It needn’t be strange. But it seldom comes by accident. Whether it is 60 seconds of relaxation breathing at your desk, a five-minute walk outside, a mini adventure of a back roads day trip, or an all out getaway vacation, the decision to introduce peace and quiet into an otherwise noisy day is yours – and mine – for the choosing.

It comes at the cost of so little and offers to you the treasures of the world to be still and wonder at the goodness of the life God has given you – this life, the new beginning this day offers, this moment, this very breath that satisfies your lungs and speaks such peace to your mind.

I wonder when we think ourselves too busy to rest, that we put ourselves in danger of being too busy to live. In my masters studies I discovered the difference between “wreckreation” and recreation. The former is the often exhausting outpouring of energies into pursuits that leave us wanting a real vacation when we’re done. Recreation, as God designed it, offers the opportunity to re-create, rebuild, restore, and recharge ourselves. It turns our inner focus to an outward view that expands our perspective. Maybe you’ve discovered this when you decided to “walk away” from a problem only to find the solution that evaded you now readily revealed.

It’s in such quietness of the mind that God invites us to draw near to him, to sit awhile on his deck and share in the goodness that he freely offers you. Jesus himself invites us: “Come to me all of you who are burdened and I will give you rest.”

There’s so much to do and to be accomplished in this short life. Perhaps one of the most important is to accept the invitation to the celebration of God’s goodness in you, and around you in others.



Learning to die – Learning to live

Learning to die is such a curious thing.

On the one hand it is so foreign, even distasteful to us, we are usually afraid to approach the subject. We’ve never been to this place before and suddenly, ready or not,  here we are. Fear of the unknown sets in like an ominous fog that swallows up everything it encompasses.

On the other hand, death is indeed a natural part of the circle of life.  And we have been to this place before, in fact many times.

We learned to die to our way of living in the womb to the completely unknown and foreign world of breathing air. I wonder what grief a baby faces when they make that most amazing and painful transition from darkness to light, from a world of moistness to dry air, from relative quiet to a cacophony  of noise, light, and multiple sensations.

We learned, each of us, to die from being a baby to becoming a young child, from laying on our backs to crawling to walking and running. We died to our pacifier, blankie, and baby bed to more intricate toys and the “big boy (or girl) bed.” From the delight of childhood to the angst of teenage life. We died to high school and graduated to college, and from college we graduated to the completely new life of work and marriage and families. And so we all face the “final” death and graduate to a new life.

Oh for sure, this “real” death, the end of all life as we know it is indeed something quite different from these other life transitions and it does bring on such a frightful array of emotions. At least with previous “graduations,” we had others to assure us it will be okay. We learned from their experiences as they recalled to us what it was like when they were there. Wouldn’t you have loved to visit with Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead?! “Tell us Lazarus, what was it like?”

We call dearth “the final event.” But death is not the end. It’s turning the page of one chapter to the beginning of the next and final chapter of the story of life. Like leaving school, it’s our graduation to an exciting new life of unimaginable wonder and joy.* And we do have someone to guide us and teach us to navigate this narrow and seemingly perilous path. Much more than our guide, Jesus delivers us through this amazing gateway to our wondrous new forever-joyful life that awaits us on the other side. We can believe and trust him because his promises are  always and faithfully true. And if in my clearly imperfect life I can trust him, so can you trust him to guide you as your Lord and Savior through this life and death to the life ever after.?

Yes, God created us with an immensely strong desire experience life and we naturally grieve losing all we have known, all we’ve seen, heard, touched, tasted, and experienced. Of course we grieve being separated if even temporarily from those we love and cherish. We grieve the loss of physical and emotional comfort, the joy of being strong and being able to choose the many options the menu of life offers.

And yet our truly one great hope is in achieving the prize of our highest dreams, to graduate to heaven, our forever home of peace and joy.

It’s in embracing this choice of learning to die that we truly learn to live well.

*Footnote: I speak here of the transition from death to a wonderful and eternal life of “no more sorrow and no more pain that is freely offered by Jesus to any who follow him. There is, we are clearly told in God’s Word, the BIble, another death that leads to eternal pain and suffering and the lonely and forever separation from God and everyone we ever loved. Jesus says the choice is ours. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. I Am the resurrection and the life.” While I respect the right of each person to make their own choice, I sincerely invite you to give Jesus a chance to be real in your life.

Choose well, my friend. Choose Jesus.

My Pledge


When I was young, we began each school day by standing up straight with right hand over our hearts, and eyes fixed on our country’s flag, proclaiming together,

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

More than a mere ritual, this pledge has profound meaning that brings us together. It is a quick and to the point affirmation of who we are and our chosen loyalties:

“I pledge allegiance…” – I, an individual responsible for making informed choices, take a stand and make this solemn life oath.

“to the flag…” – The emblem of freedom, whose broad stripes and bright stars represent the commitment and sacrifice needed to preserve it.

“of the United States of America…” – United, not divided, separate in autonomy but bound together in common benefit of its citizens.

“and to the Republic for which it stands…” – A sovereign country which gives power to duly elected officials to represent the people according to the law which is based on the country’s constitution.

“one nation under God…” – A nation of people, if not submitted to the absolute authority of God in it’s legislation, justice, and executive oversight, would become simply and tragically, “One nation gone under.”

“indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” – Indivisible even in consideration of diverse heritages and personal preferences, where all lives matter precisely because of the overriding protection of liberty and justice for all people.

Our present version of The Pledge was passed by congress on Flag Day, June 14, 1954, and introduced to the nation by President Eisenhower who then stated,

“From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house, the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty…. In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

It seems the Pledge of Allegiance has fallen out of favor in recent years, challenged on many fronts by groups who want to remove the reference to God or the idea of a unified oath by such a diverse population. But as recently as last year, New Jersey Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman ruled that “…the Pledge of Allegiance does not violate the rights of those who don’t believe in God and does not have to be removed from the patriotic message.” he added, “As a matter of historical tradition, the words ‘under God’ can no more be expunged from the national consciousness than the words ‘In God We Trust’ from every coin in the land, than the words ‘so help me God’ from every presidential oath since 1789, or than the prayer that has opened every congressional session of legislative business since 1787.”

I suppose the fight to remove the focus on God from the pledge will continue, just as there will also always be a remnant who will hold faithful to it regardless of future legislation. And so likewise might our religious rights, though guaranteed by our founding fathers, come under increasing attack.

I wonder what would happen if millions of Christians would begin each day with a solemn pledge of allegiance, not just to country, but to their one and only living God. Imagine a land where we put differences aside and unite together as one to proclaim God’s greatness and goodness and sovereignty.

What would happen if just you and I not only pledge allegiance but actually surrender everything to God each morning and throughout the day, submitting even our goals and ambitions to his will, not our own? What if we stood up, committed to walked a straight path each day, with hearts and eyes and agendas fixed firmly on Jesus, the Author of our faith, anticipating his very next prompting in our lives? Can you imagine the transformation that would come from such devotion? Can you picture a day surrendered to such a pledge?

You don’t have to imagine. Today on Flag Day, you can choose to begin this day and every day with your own pledge to be wholly and holy owned by the Lord of all nations, now and forever, on earth…as it will be in heaven.


Secret of the Stairs

We might imagine our life as a sequence of stairs,  like climbing the mountain of God.

Each stair Includes a riser and a platform. We have to take action to ascend and step up the riser and onto the next platform of our life. Once on the platform of the next step, we are filled with new insight and understanding that changes how we view things. It’s like the difference between peering through the trees to see a marvelous landscape and rising above the trees for a better view.

But each step also requires action, leaving a place of comfort to a new level.  If we get stuck on one step, becoming too comfortable with our lot in life, we will not move forward/upward. Our view will remain the same, and a deeper and more fulfilling understanding will not be ours to claim…unless we step up.

What causes us to get stuck?

  • Contentment. Being satisfied with lesser things. CS Lewis observed we become  “too easily pleased” and so content with ordinary life that we lose sight of the extraordinary. “Content to make mud pies in the street when could be enjoying a vacation at the seashore.”
  • Attachment. We have such attachment to earthly things and endearing hobbies, we have no time for meaningful relationships. We like our little treasures but who in the end of their time really wishes more of them?
  • A small world view. We see life with blinders that shut out the rest of the world. With our vision restricted to our family and close friends, we fail to see others in whose hands God has carefully placed some of the pieces if our own life puzzle.
  • A small view of God. Is he a small and distant God unrelated to your life story or is he the powerful and loving main character? Is he a God of anticipated hope who delights in  bringing blessings to your every new day? Or do you find him a hard taskmaster you’d rather ignore?
  • A lack of heavenly vision and aspiration. Being so earthly minded we become of little heavenly good. Keeping the vision of heaven alive opens our eyes to our earthly purpose. We realize that in changing the world for just one person we change the world entire.

What are we to do if we find ourselves stuck in the stairway of life?

Ask God to search our heart, to reveal to us what is always true and forever good. Remove the veil from things of little value that only waste our life.

Seek God’s Word – Listen to how he speaks to you, nudges you, and guides you with his truth and grace. Discover the real purpose for your life and the power to live passionately and victoriously despite your present circumstance. Be who you were meant to be

Give Jesus a chance to speak healing to your wounded soul and peace to your anxious heart.

Look for opportunities in your normal (or chaotic) day to worship him, celebrate his goodness, give thanks, and be intentional in blessing to others.

Reevaluate your priorities and life goals while there is still time. One of the saddest sentences in the world begins with the words. “I should have.” Live life large and generously.

One  wants to save as big a pile of money as they can with a treasure hoard of comforting memories; the other wants to give as much away as possible, living a life of faith and love that really counts. It’s the same with our time and energies.  Who wins in the end?

The stairway of life continues, calling us ever upward. Just how beautiful of a view do you want to have?


Where there’s a will there’s a way

Certainly, you’re familiar with this phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

It speaks to the power of our will and intellect to persevere in trouble, to carry on , press forward, forge a way around an obstacle, go the distance, stay the course, stand firm, and to determinedly leave no stone left unturned in our quest for the discovery and achievement of our highest goals.

It’s called “free will” because God allows us to exercise this gift in the manner of our own choosing. I Wonder, does the idea of free will amaze or confound you, or both? Imagine the leader of an army suiting you up and equipping you for warfare and then saying, “You can fight for me or fight for the enemy…it’s your choice.” Or try to conjure up the image of a businessman who hires employees and tells them they are free to work for and give trade secrets to the competition. Imagine a major league ball pitcher who deliberately throws away a pitch allowing the other team to score the winning run. Absurd, isn’t it? It seems to us that giving us free will would be a horrible strategy to waging war, building a business, or winning the game.

But as we all know (though often argue against), God’s ways ARE higher than ours. His economy is different from ours. It fits in with his paradoxical view of the first being last and finding strength in weakness. He could have made us to be worship robots who were obliged to obey his every command. Maybe you’ve sometimes asked him to do to just that. “Take away my selfish thoughts or this persistent sin and MAKE me wholly yours, O Lord!” Instead he gives us the choice to go his way or our own. Whether it’s in choosing a president or choosing the bed where we lie down, God lets us “have it our way” if we insist on that course of action.

And what an incredible gift that is! The gift of free will also allows me the power to see things differently and rise above my circumstances. It gives me a new perspective. I didn’t get to choose whether or not cancer came to my door, but I do get to choose how I respond to it. You have the same choice. See a problem or see an opportunity,  not only to accomplish something or persevere through a tough situation. More than that, every problem is an opportunity to trust God.

We can choose to trust God or ignore him, follow his proven ways or venture off on our own prideful paths, find peace in all circumstances or choose to live in turmoil and anxiety. We can choose our own destiny including where we spend eternity and how much victory we want to experience in this life. We make hundreds of choices every single day that either affirm our faith in God and the good will he freely offers or to deny God’s purposeful and benevolent involvement in our lives – to “have it my way” or follow The Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Choose wisely, my friend. Give Jesus a chance to shape your will to look like his.

Are you a leader or a follower?

Excellent blog by Kristian Mansfield.

Are you a leader, or a follower?

Leadership is the art of persuasion, the act of motivating people to do more than they ever thought possible in pursuit of a greater good. It has nothing to do with your title, authority or seniority.

You’re not a leader just because you have people reporting to you. You also don’t suddenly become a leader once you reach a certain level. A true leader influences others to achieve their best. Leadership is about social influence and how people react to their influences, not the power of a job title. If your actions inspire others to do more and be more, then you are a leader.

To find out if you are a leader of a follower, answer these questions honestly.

Are you willing to learn?

Leaders, while confident, are not afraid to admit when they don’t know something, and they’re willing to learn from anyone who can teach them, whether that person is a subordinate or a superior. Followers are too busy trying to prove they’re competent to learn anything from anyone else.

Do you go above and beyond?

Followers often do their jobs, and that’s it. No matter how good they may be at those jobs, it rarely occurs to them to go beyond their basic functions. Leaders see their job descriptions as to where the job starts. Leaders see their real role as adding value to the great good, and they add it whenever and wherever they see an opportunity.

Are you humble?

Followers are always chasing glory, always shouting THEIR successes. Leaders are humble, they are the first to thank and acknowledge people for helping the team succeed. They don’t allow any authority they may have to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. They don’t hesitate to jump in and do the work nobody else wants to do, and they won’t ask anyone to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

Are you open to change?

Followers are content with how things are, they fear change. Leaders see opportunity in change. Because leaders want constant improvement, they’re never afraid to ask, “What’s next?”

Are you decisive?

Followers don’t like to act, out of fear that they’ll do the wrong thing. Leaders aren’t afraid to make a decision, even when they’re not sure if it’s the right one. They’d rather make a decision and be wrong than suffer from the idea they are indecisive.

Do you accept Responsibility?

When mistakes are made, followers will blame other people or other things. Leaders are the opposite, they quickly accept accountability for their actions. They don’t worry that admitting that they are wrong might make them look bad, because they know that blaming someone else, will make them look worse.

Are you confident?

Followers see the talents and accomplishments of other people as a threat. Leaders see those same talents and accomplishments as an asset. They want to make things better, and they’ll be open to help anywhere they can find it. Leaders are true team players. They aren’t afraid to admit that they need other people to succeed and to make them strong where they are weak.

Are you unflappable?

Followers often let obstacles and mishaps throw them off course. When something goes wrong, they crumble. Leaders anticipate obstacles and love the challenge. They know that even the best plans can run into problems, so they take problems in their stride and ride the task to completion.

Are you passionate?

Followers are trapped in the daily grind. They go to work and complete their tasks so that they can go home at the end of the day and resume their real lives. Leaders love what they do and see their work as an important part of life. Their job isn’t just what they do; it’s an important part of who they are.

Do you focus on titles?

Followers care a lot about titles, both their own and those of the people they work with. They’re very conscious of who outranks whom. Leaders, on the other hand, focus on what each individual brings to the table, regardless of what’s printed on a business card.

So, are you a follower or a leader?

You can have the title and position without being a leader. You may have worked for someone who fits that description. And you probably have colleagues who serve in leadership roles without a title.

Leadership and followership are mindsets. They’re completely different ways of looking at the world. One is reactive, and the other is proactive. One is pessimistic; the other is optimistic. Where one sees a to-do list, the other sees possibilities.

So don’t wait for the title. Leadership isn’t something that anyone can give you, you have to earn it and claim it for yourself.




Sepsis of the heart

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali recently died of septic shock, a blood infection that sweeps through the body with relentless destruction. Made increasingly more vulnerable to the infection by his Parkinson’s disease, the great fighter was left with no immune resources for winning the final fight of his life.

I know something about this. My own AML (Leukemia) weakened my own immune system to the point I contracted sepsis in the hospital last fall. As the infection spread quickly through my body, my breathing was compromised, my pulse skyrocketed and my blood pressure dropped to life threatening levels. A couple of days in ICU with strong antibiotics and a massive intravenous fluid replacement schedule righted the situation and slowly I started the road to something that  started to look like recovery.

With sepsis, what begins as a seeming less innocuous bug bite, sinus infection, or blood infection, quickly progresses through out the body like an F5 hurricane that leads to pneumonia, organ failure, and eventually the entire collapse of the body’s ability to sustain itself. More than a quarter million people die of sepsis every year in the USA (the most common cause of deaths in hospitals) and thousands more are left with debilitating effects of the condition. Even the greatest fighter of all time cannot withstand the crushing blows of this opponent.

It’s frightening to say the least, particularly amongst those with compromised immune systems.

It seems to me there is also a type of “spiritual sepsis” that threatens dire circumstances for even those whose physical health is “ship-shape.” What are the symptoms of spiritual sepsis? It starts as a minor condition. It begins with a sort of spiritual malaise, nothing serious, just a general dissatisfaction and lack of inclination to pray or even think about God. Often, it’s treated with an inoculation of busy activities. Keeping busy seems to take one’s mind off the woes of the heart. When that doesn’t work one might turn to other substances for relief – food, or the lack of eating, drinking or pain killers that numb us to the pain inside.

But unless sepsis is treated both immediately and intensely it quickly grows to consume one’s entire life. Before long, nothing spiritually related seems appealing, not church, not bible reading, not prayer, and certainly not accountable relationships with other believers. Isolation only further complicates the problem. Loneliness quickly leads to despair and hope slips away like the shadows of a setting sun.

Left unattended, the condition leads us to actually become enemies of the cross. “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.”  (Philippine 3:19) “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Romans 1:24) Like physical sepsis, spiritual sepsis starts to tame on the robe of hopelessness and despair, buttoned up with the emotional pain of a meaningless and unsatisfied life.

But there IS hope. There is one who can revive us from sepsis shock of the spirit. It’s not found in a pill or intravenous solutions, not in busy activities or accomplishments, and certainly not in running away from God, hiding our head under the sofa cushions like a two-year old who thinks their parent cannot see them. Your hope for revival, and mine, comes only from the continual infusion of the hope and joy of Jesus flowing through our veins and every single aspect of our lives.

Are you feeling more and more sleepy? Do things of God seem to drain you of your daily energy?

“Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.”  (Ephesians 5:14)

Even if it seems your life is slipping away from a septic infection, with Jesus you can say,” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.…” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)


Missed oportunities

We were traveling down a road in a town we hadn’t visited before. Marcia drives most of the times these days while I try to navigate. Head down, following the GPS directions, I told her to turn LEFT at a place we should have turned RIGHT.  We missed the turn. Even though I had the sense we should have turned right, we kept going the way the device told me to go.  Usually the GPS works fine, but in this case, the lookup address was incorrect and the result was a delayed arrival. After stopping and asking for directions, we came to the spot where we missed the turn and – looking up – saw the small sign clearly showing the direction we should have turned in the first place.

It’s often like that, isn’t it? We get busy with our head down, focused on our personal agenda or to-do list we miss the clear signs that point us in the right direction. Persisting in the conviction that we must be right, we continue to go our own way rather than stopping to ask for directions from someone who knows better or at least has a better perspective.

Whether in navigating a driving route, running a business, raising a family, or living life in general, we need to know where we are going and how to get there. In addition we need to be diligent to keep focused so we don’t miss the signs and be willing to ask for direction if needed.

I read about a study conducted in Great Britain that concluded that on average, men drive 276 more miles per year than needed simply because they won’t stop to ask for directions, contributing to the missed opportunity of $3,100 lifetime fuel savings. I think you could buy a once-in-a-lifetime vacation for that amount of money. And then, think of the amount of wasted time, frustration, energy. While the study was of men’s driving habits “across the pond,” I suspect it applies to both men and women all over the world in how we miss opportunities clearly presented before us every day.

Recently, a very dear friend and I were observing how easy it is to get so busy we don’t pay adequate attention to even the important people in our lives. I think “keeping busy” is one of the devil’s cleverest schemes to distract our focus on what is really important in life. We fill our lives to the brim, leaving little if any margin to be concerned about others or even the direction our own life is taking. Nose to the grindstone and blinders on our eyes, we rush through our lives, missing the opportunities to share the important things of life with people we love and care about. Sometimes, we even get so busy with “ministry” that we can lose sight of the precious opportunities right before our eyes. Our conversations (if we have them at all) are easily focused on the weather, sports, hobbies, our common complaints.  I wonder, if you were to take the bucket of conversations you’ve had with friends and strangers over the last week and poured out into special vases just those conversations that were truly meaningful and encouraged others, how many bouquets of flowers could you nourish? Looking back, I can see missed opportunities in my own life  that compel me to live my remaining days differently.

There are so many opportunities we shouldn’t want to miss:

  • Sharing someone else’s “hidden” burden
  • Confessing the concerns of your own heavy heart
  • Neglecting to say “I love you,” “I forgive you,” “Please forgive me; I was wrong,” or “Thank you”
  • Encouraging and guiding someone who has lost their way or their passion for living
  • Building positive relationships with young people
  • Being too embarrassed or busy to share your reason for living – your faith

God, save me from being “too busy” that I forget to look up and see your majesty and goodness. Give me eyes that let me see others as you see them, full of compassion and hope and love. Help me to be intentional about loving them now, while time remains.



Where you get “the good stuff?”

Have you ever noticed that when we stop complaining about every little thing that irritates or disappoints us, we start to become aware of all the good that remains in our lives? From where does all that goodness come?

If you’ve studied hard and worked hard you might be right in receiving congratulations for a job well done – and maybe a better job or promotion!

If you’ve persevered under heavy trial and come out of the storm alive, you might receive credit for your disciplined and conscientious approach to the situation.

If your kids turn out great you might take a bow for having raised them well and taught them the truly important lessons of life.

If you’re able to enjoy an abundance of wealth in your life, you might credit hard work and talent.

If you remain healthy and vibrant as you age you might testify to your healthy diet and exercise regime.

And you’d be right. Hard work and perseverance, following a path designed for success, and faithfulness to what is good and true tends to produce good things. But how is it we have the power to produce such goodness? Where do we get that goodness in the first place?

I complimented a young lady on her compassionate heart that led her to rescue a baby bird from its distress. Though grateful, she embarrassingly shrugged off the compliment. I reminded her that the compliment for her was sincere and that it was at the same time a compliment to God for the tender heart he had given her.

Whatever talent or special ability to work and persevere, build or achieve ultimately comes from the one who created us and endowed us with those special abilities and characteristics. Ultimately, if it’s good, it comes from God. What  continually stuns me is how God chooses to work through you and me, imperfect people that we are, to be the vessels of his love. He blesses us so we can bless others which in turn brings blessing back to us. It’s like the old song, “Love is something that if you give it away, you end up having more.”

Blessings always travel two-way streets.

So if God blesses you to bless others and that in turn blesses you again, does it stop there? Or does the blessing return to God who spoke the blessing in the first place? The old benediction, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow,” reminds me not only of the source of all my blessings, but also the completing act of the cycle of blessing which is praise.

It takes a disciplined mindset and attentive eye to see blessing and goodness in the middle of a bad situation. But when you do, don’t you want to share it with someone else and also thank the one who revealed it to you?

Whether your experience is large or small, if you experience the blessing of laughter, hidden joy, persevering faith, abundant resources, or simple beauty, turn that blessing back into praise of the one who revealed it to you. Return the blessing to God. And then watch that praise lift your own day and mold your heart and life into one of great satisfaction…ultimately satisfaction in God who created you and revealed all “the good stuff” in your life.


The Four Things That Matter Most

As young children, when taunted by some unkind person with hurtful words, we’d often reply, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!”

But it was a lie.

Words do hurt. And they have lasting effect. Once spoken they are difficult if not impossible to take back. Said in haste, careless disregard, or anger, they create barriers and distance us each living in their own sort of prison.

The good news is that the opposite is also true. While negative words and phrases stick with us, so do positive uplifting ones.  Expressions that esteem and express humility, concern, affection, and love have power to tear down walls and bring people in closer harmony with each other. How often God prompts us to:

  • Love one another
  • Encourage one another
  • Spur one another on
  • Live at peace with one another

While needed to help us navigate all the difficult paths of life, perhaps there is a no more poignant time for this as when we are dying. It is then that nearly everyone comes to realize is that when all is said and done, what matters are harmonious relationships. Dr. Ira Byock shares in the book, The Four Things That Matter Most, there are four phrases that carry enormous power for emotional wellness and spiritual healing – for living and ending life well. They are simply:

  • Please forgive me.
  • I forgive you.
  • Thank you.
  • I love you.

Four simple phrases that should never be left unsaid. But commonly withheld, they continue to hold us captive to our sense of past wrongs and hurts. Shared humbly and freely, they release immense power to restore and transform relationships. Like a healing balm to an infected wound, they restore what was broken. They remind us that living with integrity and grace matter more than the pride of being right, worldly accomplishments, or fame. They speak affirmation to life. How we all need the encouragement of these simple phrases.

We might be tempted to think forgiveness is not needed. We say to ourselves, “After all they were wrong” or we think bringing up an old offense will only fester the old wound. We resist asking forgiveness because it requires humility, and the setting aside of our “right to be right.” We falsely think that withholding forgiveness punishes the other person when in reality it’s a poison we drink ourselves. How that is especially true when we refuse to forgive ourselves!

We think people don’t need to be thanked. After all, they’re paid to do a good job. It’s an expectation of life that shouldn’t require expressions of appreciation. In fact, saying ‘Thank you” does more than recognize someone. It speaks value to what they do and who they are as a person. It affirms their contribution to life and communicates respect. We might assume someone knows our appreciation and love. But actually saying, “I love you” and expressing it through sacrificial and loving actions makes it certain.

We never know when this moment  will be the last opportunity we have to forgive and ask forgiveness, to thank someone and tell them “I love you.” As you reflect on the relationships of your own life, are there awkward silences about uncomfortable issues that separate you from others and keep you both from being truly well? What are the words that have been left unsaid for too long and need to be spoken? Isn’t now is the time to speak the words that matter most, and to make it the daily pattern of your life?