Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Gift of Life

The Beatitudes in Old Dutch: Ghent Museum of Fine Arts
Jesus in the beatitudes calls us to do “surprising” things: to live by spiritual rather than material values; to attach ourselves to the things of God.

What does that mean concretely?

If you do something for someone else for no other reason than to bring joy to people’s lives, if you put yourself second for the needs of another, do the “right” thing when conventional wisdom is to do the “smart” thing, forgive someone for wrongs done to you and move forward, stop and spend even just a moment thinking about all the good in your life and find yourself feeling a sense of gratitude, diffuse someone's anger, bridge a chasm between you and another, bring a positive perspective, endure a “funny look” from someone because you took a stand based on what was morally and ethically right: blessed are you.

In the blessings you give, you are blessed.

Every one of us is mortal.  Now, when was the last time you stopped to think about your life?  The fact of death should make us think about what we will do and how we will live.

Most people get no warning.  But if your doctor gives a time-frame, and you think about living and dying, you have the benefit of getting your affairs in order and the opportunity of bidding farewell to those you love. With that, we quickly sort out the important things from the not so important.

There's an ancient wisdom that says God sends each person into this life with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow.

Someone asked hospice nurses, “When people are dying, what do they talk about?”  The nurses said that people who are dying often speak to them about how they wish they had lived differently.  For example,

I wish I had spent more time with the people I love.
I wish I had made spirituality more of a priority.
I wish I hadn't spent so much time working.
I wish I had been a better spouse.
I wish I had discovered my purpose earlier.
I wish I had quit my job and found something I really enjoyed doing.
I wish I hadn't spent so much time chasing the wrong things.

These were the regrets of people finishing their time on this earth.  Each contains a powerful lesson for living.

The point is this:  It's healthy to think about mortality from time to time.  It puts things in perspective and reminds us what truly matters.  It may compel us to re-order our priorities and live a life of the beatitudes.  The goal is not gloom and doom, but rather to focus on our deeply held values, to celebrate the joy and purpose of the gift of life.  And that gift is important for people of all ages and stages to celebrate.

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