In this life there are many things to prepare for, but the most important is for our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. I will take you with me, should you want to come along, on my personal journey to the door which will lead to eternity, through which every soul must pass. Where the angel of death waits to ask the all important question, "Are you prepared for the Kingdom?"

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Location: Anacortes, Washington, United States

Two years ago I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was one of the fortunate ones who survived surgery along with chemo/radiation treatments. Recently, it was discovered that the cancer had returned and although I am again on chemotherapy, in all probability I have perhaps one more year to live. During these last months I would like to share what I have learned about the most important thing we'll ever do in this life and that is, prepare for the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Eternal Life

Whenever I would think about eternal life, I would think in terms of life after death. But eternal life is not only life after death it is here and now.

A friend and I were having a conversation sometime ago and we were discussing how we live. He said to me that I lived a life of self-denial because I was expecting to have eternal life after I died. I said to him, no, I can have it right now. But the only way to have this eternal life is by following those people who claimed to have found it, whose lives were living proof that they had.

When someone is living a virtuous life it's hard not to notice. They are a light shining in a world full of darkness. They have found eternal life.

And what is a virtuous life? For those of us living in the world, Saint John Climacus has this to say:

"Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another person's domestic happiness, and be content with what your own spouse can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven."

Unless we are saints, which I for one am not, all of these things he describes for us are going to require some form of self-denial. The human will wants to please itself and follows the emotion of the moment, whether positive or negative, if it is not trained to do otherwise. Negative emotions never lead to a good place and positive emotions aren't necessarily good either if they lead to excessive self-gratification. So denying the will in these areas is essential. The saints became saints because they practiced self-denial. They knew the value of remaining faithful to God's will and by doing this experienced the incredible love of God. They discovered eternal life and so can we.

Christ says, "Enter through the narrow gate." This is not an easy choice, but it's the only choice in my opinion to true happiness and peace. I have chosen a certain way of life and I am now experiencing the fruits of that choice. In my current condition I should be devastated, but instead I can live peacefully. I am content with life and see things in a whole new light. The passions that once controlled my life are gone and have been replaced by a peace that the world cannot give.

A bit of self-denial is a small price to pay for the divine blessings that flow from a generous and compassionate God. It is my way of saying I believe in Christ and in the One who sent Him.

"For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:40

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Will of God

There are a lot of questions these days about what exactly the Will of God is. You will get different answers from different people, especially people from different churches. Some will say that the Will of God is for all to be saved. I agree. Others will say that the Will of God is for us to live a good life. I agree, but what exactly does that mean?

Again, different people have different opinions. Some will say God wants all of us to live a life of prosperity having all that we need all of the time. I agree, but not in a materialistic way. I agree that God wants us to prosper spiritually, but spiritual prosperity is a product of self-denial and if we do this, we will have all that we need all of the time.

Having all the material things in life is not necessarily the Will of God. Jesus makes it quite clear how dangerous this is when He says, "You cannot serve God and money." It is dangerous in the sense that as human beings we become easily attached to things, creating a detachment from God. When we come to the hour of death, what will we be able to take with us? The more we are attached to in this life, the harder it will be to let go and trust our souls to God.

I would like to share something about a life that teaches one to slowly detach from the things in this life which we have been taught are so important. A life that brings true inner peace, not just a desire for external peace. This takes inner work on the soul, which will be all that we have at the end of this external life.

Think about all the external comforts that your body would like to have, then realize that you are not going to have a body after you die. How does that make you feel? If this makes you uncomfortable, and it should, then it would be wise to start thinking about living differently.

One of the early Church Fathers says that as the eye is to the body, so is the mind to the soul.

Whatever we put into our minds will stay with our souls. So we need to become very aware of what we are feeding our souls. For when the body dies, and it will, the soul will take with it all that we have fed it. And if through our eyes we feed our minds what is only gratifying to the body, then we will be left with our cravings but nothing to satisfy them with, for the body will be gone.

Let me give you some examples of what I perceive Hell to be. In light of what I've just described, let's say you're a gambler. I worked in the casino business for several years, so I know this first hand. I personally am not a gambler, but in watching people I could see how their entire being was focused on nothing but the next bet. The hard core gambler is not really there to win, they are there to fill the craving, to get the fix. So now the hour of death comes, the body is dead and the soul continues to God, but God can't offer the dice table or the blackjack game. So what do you think is going to happen now? We have now a soul with cravings and no place to satisfy them. Ask any gambler if this wouldn't be Hell! There is no big casino in the sky!

If God is saying don't get attached to things, then we need to start listening. Attachment to anything is the first step toward addiction.

Another example, emotional attachment. I am personally very familiar with this one. I was always of the opinion that if two people just loved each other enough life would be paradise. I think most women think this way. So we attach ourselves to a man, marry him and discover that things are not going as we had hoped. So we become emotionally unhappy and truly believe if this person would just love me, I would be happy again.

Well, here's the problem with that way of thinking. We become attached to an idea which we have now projected onto another person, so now we've become attached to that person. But that person is just as imperfect as we are so the craving for emotional fulfillment cannot be met. The truth is, no person is capable of filling this role. It's not possible because we're not perfect. When I finally came to understand this, I was able to find peace within myself.

I was able to live alone without craving another person to be there to fulfill my emotional needs because my emotional needs were no longer addictions. Through a different way of life I was able to find the way of detachment. If I hadn't made the decision to take this path, I would still be a slave to that passion and would now be terrified at the thought of death. I would be grasping for that emotional comfort and be trapped in its web, unable to hear the voice of God trying to penetrate through the torment of my emotional thoughts that would be filling my mind. And after death, this would be emotional Hell.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that our lives need to take a turn away from things that would create attachment. The Will of God is for all to live lives free from attachment to the things of this world. Why? Because even the world itself will pass away someday, but more importantly because we will pass from it first. Through Christ He has shown us the way to do this.

God is interested in our personal welfare in that He provides what we need. But what He is most interested in is our soul, because that is what will come back to Him.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Father's Day

In my room I have a beautiful photo of a sunset which was taken here in Washington and given to me as a Christmas present. I've always liked having this hung on a wall near my bed so that it's the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. It reminds me of God the Father.

So on this Father's Day, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the Heavenly Father. What do we know of Him? What Christ says is that He and the Father are one, if we see Him, we see the Father. So in reading the life of Christ in the Scriptures, we can get a glimpse of the Father.

He also says that it is the Father's pleasure to give us the Heavenly Kingdom. May we all be prepared to receive it when He calls us to Himself.

The following Psalm tells of the great love the Heavenly Father has for us and the response that He rightly deserves from all of his creation, especially from us who through Christ have become worthy to call him Father.

My soul give thanks to the Lord,
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings.

It is He who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with love and compassion,
who fills your life with good things,
renewing your youth like an eagle's.

The Lord does deeds of justice,
gives judgment for all who are oppressed.

The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
He does not treat us according to our sins
nor repay us according to our faults.

For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him.
As far as east is from the west
so far does He remove our sins.

As a father has compassion on his sons,
the Lord has pity on those who fear him;
for He knows of what we are made,
He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass;
he flowers like the flower of the field;
the wind blows and he is gone
and his place never sees him again.

But the love of the Lord is everlasting
upon those who hold him in fear;
his justice reaches out to children's children
when they keep his covenant in truth,
when they keep his will in their mind.

The Lord has set his sway in heaven
and his kingdom is ruling over all.
Give thanks to the Lord, all his angels,
mighty in power, fulfilling his word,
who heed the voice of his word.

Give thanks to the Lord, all his hosts,
his servants who do his will.
Give thanks the Lord, all his works,
in every place where he rules.
My soul give thanks to the Lord!

Psalm 102/103

Thank you Heavenly Father, may your Name be glorified forever!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Leave No Stone Unturned

The early Church Fathers tell us to search ourselves interiorly in order to become aware of our faults and failings. This we do for a number of reasons. One especially is to acknowledge our unworthiness before God. Quite a difference from what modern day psychology would teach.

In these days of self-appreciation, self-help and the I am a good person mentality, we have lost our sense of unworthiness. We've lost what is called a conscience. I was quite content to put my conscience on hold for several years. In this way, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, however I wanted and didn't need to feel any guilt. I could rationalize away pretty much everything I did. But somewhere in the back of my mind there was this uncomfortable feeling. I was never totally guiltless.

What I didn't realize was that this conscience that I had stuffed under years of self-indulgence was trying to tell me something. It was trying to warn me of the approaching disasters I would soon be encountering because of my careless behavior.

I would like you to consider, just for a moment, what your conscience is saying to you. You may think, as I did, that it really doesn't matter. That my guilt is related to my childhood, past experiences or associations created by unwanted circumstances. However, I'm afraid I was terribly wrong. Although my life experiences do make up who I am as a human being, they should not dictate who I am. If I continue to blame others for my problems, I will never become the person I am created to be. If I continue to look back on my childhood and believe that every bad thing that happened to me has now resulted in my unhappiness, then I am doomed.

This is not at all what we are here for. I guess I never really believed that life could be such a waste. I chose to waste my life. I chose to self-indulge. I chose to think that I was in control and that I could be self-sufficient. Have you noticed how many times I've used the word self? But isn't it true. It's all about the self, the human self that can never be satisfied. Self-appreciation, self-help, self-indulgence, self-gratification, self, self, self! Me, me, me! And this is the result of burying the conscience. It was only when I dug up my conscience and began to examine my life that I was able to see what had gone wrong.

It may be a hard thing to accept, but the truth is that all the self-help books in the world aren't going to change your life. It's an endless circle that goes nowhere because there's nowhere to go. If you want to think you're a good person, then start digging up your conscience that you've put away because you didn't like being told what to do. Think about it. The only reason we wouldn't like advice is because it doesn't fit into our selfish agendas. The conscience doesn't care about our agendas, it simply tells us what we need to do to become the person we were created to be.

In this process we must be sure to leave no stone unturned. Everything we've ever done is going to be before us either here in this life or at death. Now you may not want to believe that but I'm here to tell you that some things are true whether we believe them or not. Personally, I'd like to know now while I still have an opportunity to say I'm sorry to those that I've offended and most importantly to the One that patiently waited for me to return after watching me turn away. I am truly unworthy to stand in His presence, but in sincerely acknowledging my unworthiness, He makes me worthy because He is love in it's truest form. He is Divine Love and He makes all things new.

To Him be glory both now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen

Saturday, June 10, 2006


This week was a very special one. My youngest son Mark graduated from High School and there were various programs throughout the week to attend. One of these was a choir concert in which the Jazz and Concert choirs performed. Mark was in both.

At the end of the program some awards were given out to students who had been selected by their peers for outstanding performance, most improved and things like that. The final award was the "Departmental Award for Music" given by the instructor to a student of her choice. Her introduction was beautiful as she described this student as someone she could always depend on and trust. Her greatest compliment however, was when she described this student as a person of integrity and she would miss him very much. She then named my son, Mark Richcreek as the recipient of this award.

I cannot tell you how proud I was as I watched him receive this award. To hear my son called a person of integrity is by far the highest compliment I could ever want for him. His name is now engraved in a high school plaque which remains in the glass case for all future students to see.

This brought to mind something that maybe we should consider. God is very much interested in how we live this life of ours. When we come to the completion of this life, our graduation in a sense, will He see us as people of integrity? Will our names be engraved in His Book of Life for all eternity?

I believe that there is nothing more important than to be a person of integrity. This is what Christ has taught us. To love one another as He has loved us. The Master who shows us how to live in the fullness of integrity is calling us to follow in his footsteps. How fortunate we are if we listen and follow for this is the road to the Kingdom of God.

A person of integrity is a righteous person, one who is right with God. The following describes the desires of the righteous person and God's response. It is taken from "The Prologue from Ochrid" by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic.

The righteous desires a pure conscience, right thought, peace, compassion, love, truth, righteousness and meekness. And God grants these to him while he is still here on earth. The righteous desires the Kingdom of God, Paradise, the company of the angels and saints, the vision of the face of God in immortal life, and God grants all these to him when he calls him to Himself.

Oh, how just God is towards the wicked, and how gracious He is towards the righteous! That which the wicked fears shall come upon him, and that which the righteous fears will God keep far from him. What does the righteous fear? Only sin. And God keeps sin far from the righteous and sets his feet on the way of virtue; and God guards the righteous from evil spirits, the sowers of sin, and, by His grace, sows a harvest of virtue in his heart.

O all-seeing Lord, keep us from the ways of the wicked, from the gain of the wicked and from the fear of the wicked! Help our faltering hearts to be strengthened in that which is pleasing to you, that which will in the end conquer and reign when all other things are given over to corruption and forgetfullness. To you be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Let us prepare for the Kingdom by becoming people of integrity.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Stay on the Path

One of the hardest things I've ever done was make the decision not to go back to my old way of life. I struggled long and hard to combat the ways that I had followed for so long. The world had it's grip and was not going to let go so easily.

We can come up with all kinds of reasons and excuses for why it's ok to continue living in the ways of the world. But Christ says, "No one who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom." Once we start on this path we cannot turn back. There is no compromising. It's all or nothing.

I can tell you from personal experience that all the beauty of the body can be gone in a matter of weeks. I used to spend a lot of time making sure everything about me was close to perfection. I worked out at the health club, ate healthy, wore nice clothes and fine jewelry and spent at least $100.00 a month just on my hair and nails. I did all the things that the world says are necessary for living up to the image of a beautiful person. Yet within a month after starting chemotherapy treatments I was down to 79 lbs and looked like I should be on a poster for feed the hungry. When my beautiful hair started to fall out, I just went to a hair salon and asked them to cut it all off. I cried as I watched it fall to the floor.

If this isn't a dose of reality, I don't know what is. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.
It will all go! Don't think for a second that we can hold on to any of it. The reality is, we are not in control of our physical lives. I had never been sick in my life. There is absolutely no reason for me to have a terminal illness at this age. Yet, it is my destiny, so to speak. The Lord handed me a chalice that said cancer and asked me to drink of it.

I am reminded of Christ's words before his own Passion, "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify thy name."

We all have our cups waiting for us. We can drink them willingly or we can fight to hold on to our worldly lives. But the Lord also has something to say about that. He says, "He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." We cannot keep this temporal life. It's going to end someday. How often do we really think about this truth? How many times do we need to hear this before we finally start to believe it? If we want to keep our lives, we must chose to stay on the path. The road is narrow that leads to eternal life, but if we chose this road we won't need to be concerned with losing the superficial life that we've created for ourselves.

The Lord is kind and merciful and He will not leave us to drink our cup of suffering alone. The entrance to the Kingdom is through death and He has encountered and trampled death. He has prepared the way and shown us the path of life. Let's stay on the path that leads to the Kingdom.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Getting Right with God

I was thinking the other day about how I found the path that I'm on today and what made me turn from a life of self-gratification to one of self denial.

It was pretty simple really. One day I suddenly found that just about everything that I thought was important for my life and my future was gone. I had no job, no marriage, no future prospects for either and worst of all, no faith. What I did have were my two teenage sons, both of whom just a few months before had undergone tremendous conversion experiences, one in the Catholic Church and the other in the Foursquare Church. Both were now completely dedicated to God.

It became obvious to me that they had learned how to pray for conversions for others, especially those in their family and I was next on the list. This however, was not the first time I had met the Lord in a profound way. But this time would surely be the last.

I will never forget the night I fell on my knees and bowed down before Him and acknowledged my horribly selfish behavior over the years and how I had offended Him over and over again. It was then that I knew this would be my last opportunity to get right with God. If I didn't get my life on the right path now, I never would. So I humbly begged forgiveness and asked one thing of God, not that I deserved anything, but I asked Him not to leave me alone. And because He is the very source of loving kindness and compassion, He took pity on me and granted my request. He took me away to a place where I would learn, in time, what I needed to do to get right with God.

I learned that the acquisition of grace (God's favor) is obtained through repentance and the keeping of God's commandments. This is the first step and a very difficult one. But for those whose commitment to the Lord is sincere, this will lead to total freedom. These ten commandments of God, which I used to view as restrictive rules, are the very things that lead to our freedom.

When I was breaking every commandment, I was in total bondage to my selfish passions and consequently paid a huge price emotionally and psychologically for this mistake. But as Fr. Abbot Joseph once said to me, the Lord prefers a passionate person to an indifferent one. He can work with a passionate person by transforming the vices into virtues if we allow Him to take us through the process of purification. He can do little with a person who is indifferent, who doesn't care.

So let this be an encouragement to those who seem to have endless battles with the passions. The Lord will transform them if we let Him, if we are willing to fight for the purification of our soul. He will clothe us in the virtuous garments we will need to enter the Kingdom. For as Christ says, we must be properly dressed to enter the banquet of the great King. These virtues are the only things we can take with us at death. The soul must be prepared and ready.

May God grant us the desire and the wisdom to fall before Him in sincere sorrow, with tears of repentance and a contrite heart, acknowledging our offenses so that with the Psalmist we can say:

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness
In your compassion blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offenses truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.
Against you, you alone have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge.
O see, in guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may thrill.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit.

Give me again the joy of your salvation;
With a spirit of fervour sustain me,
that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me God, my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.
O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

Psalm 50/51