Monthly Archives: June 2016

Questions for God

If you had one question that you would like God to answer what would that question be?    My hospice Social Worker posed this question to me this week and I must admit that I did not have an answer.   She did, and told me what her question would be .   I will respect her privacy and not reveal it,  but it was a good question.

I was reminded of a patient I had as a hospice chaplain.   This patient (who I will call “Chuck”) was experiencing the ravishes of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).   The disease had struck him at a young age in his late thirties’  and had moved rather quickly in his case.     He had lost all movement ability except his head and was confined to a nursing home.  He was bitter about his life.   On one of my visits I remember him saying “Chaplain,  when I die and see God, I have just one question I want to ask.   I asked him what his question would be and he replied with a single word:   WHY?

Like many people do, Chuck was blaming God for his disease.    How often people blame God for the bad things that happen to them but fail to thank God for the good things in their life!   I myself do not think that a God of love who wants relationship with his children would cause harm to them.  Instead I believe in a God who weeps with us when disease and harm befalls us and encourages us and is there giving us strength to deal with the pain that is our lot as humans beings.  And I think that scripture backs me up in both the Old and New Testaments that God is a God of love and forgiveness:

For example:Read Psalm 27 and 34.   Read Isaiah 35:3-10    Read Matthew 11:28-30    Read II Corinthians 4:16 -5:2.  Read Revelation 21:1-4

I haven’t decided what my question will be.   What is your question?   I would love for you to share it with me and with those who follow this blog.

 

What is important?

What is important?    In the busy lives that we live we are flooded with things we need to do.   Often we are overwhelmed by all these claims on our time and energy.   I am discovering  that there is nothing like facing end of life that  inspires us to sort out these claims and prioritize them as to which are important.     I have found by experience that many different criteria may be used to sort out what is important.    Let me share a few of the criteria that  I have found to be helpful as guidelines, not just at end of life, but throughout life. I  try  to place ”  Relationshipw with loved  ones” in top priority.     The following questions may stimulate your thinking about this priority.

If you should die tomorrow do those closest to you know how much you love them?   Have you told them daily and shown by your actions that you love them?  Those of us who have been married a long time may have began taking our spouses for granted and are not saying “I love you” or showing our love for them.    Our spouses may be feeling unloved and unappreciated.   Tell them every day something that you appreciate about  them  and  and be sure to tell them they are loved.  Make sure your actions match your words.   The same is true of  our children.   I have a son and daughter that are middle aged now.   I never hang up the phone from talking to them that I do not close the conversation “Love you much!!”  There are a large number of kids in this world who feel unloved and unappreciated.   I have spent my life trying to insure that my children always feel loved and appreciated.  I’m sure I haven’t always  been successful but I try!

A second area of priority involves communicating things that only we know about to our loved ones.  We wh0 have lost loved ones know that there are many times when we have questions that only those who have passed could answer and the answer went to the grave with them.  

Although we can’t anticipate all of their questions, we can take some steps that may be helpful.   Here are several ideas that might be helpful.   

1,   Write your autobiography.  I have worked on mine several years and had to speed it up as I’m not sure how much time I have left.  Since I have trouble typing, my son helped me finish it by recording it on his cellphone and then transcribing it on the computer.   Not only is this a present you can give your children and grandchildren, it is a gift you can give yourself as you look at the fulness of the life you have led. 

  2.  Journal.  Since I retired from teaching in 1994 I have kept a journal and have added an entry almost every day.   I have filled almost 47 spiral notebooks with my journal.    Not only will it tell much about my life for those who I leave behind, but it has been a way to get down my feelings and understanding of myself.    I typically write in it every morning right after I arise and am having my first cup of  coffee.

3.  Financial and Business records.    As much as possible, we need to make sure our loved ones understand our finances and are able to take them over after we are gone.    It’s best we do it wherever we are in our lives as we have no guarantees we will have time to do so.   

Family Stories.   Pass on family stories to your children and grandchildren whenever you get a chance.    All families have stories about their past.   My son is staying with us since I went on hospice, and I am passing family stories on to him and also to my wife as they pop into my head.   Make sure they are stories about your early life and about their grandparents and aunts and uncles.

A third area  in setting priorities is to ask yourself the question:   If I choose to do this how will my doing this affect others for good or evil?    In other words—How will my actions make a difference in the lives that will be impacted by them?  And will the impact be positive or negative?    Here the choice will be easy—if the action taken  will have a positive impact on others it  should have higher priority, if negative it shouldn’t be done, if it is neutral in its impact it is low priority.

Ask also what difference the action will have on your own life.   For example,   “Will I regret it later if I don’t do this?”  Will I feel guilty?  Will I feel good if I do it?    

Acting according to our priorities is very important.   If we have not set priorities then we tend to react to “grease the wheel that squeaks the loudest”  and that is not a good guide.   The demands on our time and energy that are the most vocal may not be the most important, but too often those are the demands we succumb to if we have not thought about what is important and have no priorities for choosing.  When this happens we often have guilt and regrets for the rest of our lives.     What our your priorities?

Forgiveness

When I was a Hospice Chaplain, I was trained to use this list of  5 phrases to help patients deal  with end of life issues,  They are:  (1) “I forgive you”…(2) “Please forgive me”….  (3) “Thank you”….  (4) “I love you”….   (5)  “Goodbye”  The first two are the most important in my experience.   Many times I have seen patients who “hang on to life” and suffer until issues involving them are worked out.

As I am approaching end of life I am paying attention to all of them and feel that I have accomplished most of them.

I’m passing them on to you for two reasons:   (1)  You don’t have to wait until a terminal illness to be aware of the importance of these things in your relationship with loved ones.   If you or a loved one dies suddenly  due to an accident you will not have a chance to express them and deal with them—-so do it now.   (2) Because I feel the first two that deal with forgiveness  are extremely important for everyone.

Forgiveness is the foundation of all relationships.   Without love and the forgiveness that grows out of it enduring  relationships with God or with our fellow human beings is impossible. If we do not feel that God forgives us we cannot forgive ourselves, and if we cannot forgive ourselves it it is impossible to forgive others.

Both Old and New Testaments from Genesis to Revelation are narratives of God’s forgiveness.  Adam and Eve are guilty of eating the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God told them they would die for doing.   Yet God, while driving them out of the Garden did not kill them but fashioned clothes to cover their nakedness.   Even Cain, who killed his brother Abel was protected from being slain wherever he went by the “mark of Cain.”  In Revelation the last and final words are that God will create a new heaven and earth and that sorrow and suffering and death shall be no more and in this new Jerusalem where God rules “they will be my people and I will be their God.”  Both Jeremiah and Isaiah contain similar prophetic  words.  (read Jeremiah 31.)

God is a God of love who seeks relationship with God’s creation.   God’s actions prove that to do so there must be forgiveness.    Without  God’s forgiveness for all of us who are broken and lost, there would be no relationship.

If you truly believe God forgives us for the many times when we have done the wrong thing instead of the right thing; that we have hurt rather than healed; that we have lied rather than told the truth; that we have been selfish rather than caring; that we have disregarded our neighbor rather than loved our neighbor; that we have held a grudge instead of forgiving those who hurt us.    If God can forgive you with all the thing only you know about and still love you—-then you can forgive yourself and then be able to forgive others who have hurt you and restore relationships that have turned sour because of grudges held.

Read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.  The son hurt his father deeply when he collected what would be his inheritance before his father died and spent it foolishly.   When the son came back in rags planning to beg to be his father’s hired hand he was welcomed by his father with a new robe and with a feast and dancing after his father ran out onto the road and greeted him with open arms as he was returning home,  This is a picture of what God’s forgiveness is like, Jesus told his disciples.

Part of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples was:   “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.    Forgiveness is important.    Ask yourself if there is someone you need to ask for forgiveness or that you hold a grudge against and needs to hear your forgiveness.  Don’t wait—tomorrow may be too late!!