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.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blessed Be Your Name

Two years ago, after undergoing some intense cancer fighting treatment, I spent most of the time either lying in my bed or lying downstairs on the couch watching my son play mindless video games. Since I had very little mental capacity for comprehending what was going on around me, these games served as good distractions from my then horrible condition.

Since I couldn’t sleep well at night, we would stay up watching television until midnight or so watching endless programs on the Food Channel. I should explain that at that time I was unable to eat. It was everything I could do to drink water. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells as well as many other cells, so consequently I had no sense of taste, since the cells in my mouth were dead. Any food I would try to eat tasted like dirt. Imagine putting something in your mouth and feeling only the texture of it. That’s what it was like. So I would watch food programs and pray that I would someday be able to taste food again.

Then one day a strange thing happened to me. I had been off treatment for about a month and I started to taste a little again. It took about another month or so, but my taste buds returned and now they were enhanced so that everything I ate tasted so much better than I could ever remember.

So why am I talking about this? Well, I guess this is what my life with God is all about. My soul, like the cells in my mouth, was dead. I had killed it by consuming the deadly poison of my own self-destructive ways. But once I realized that I didn’t have to keep taking that poison and stopped, it wasn’t too long before I started to experience a new and enhanced life. Everything was and is so much better now. God has made everything new.So much so that even in the face of death, I can rejoice in his love.

There’s a song by Matt Redman called “Blessed Be Your Name” taken from Job 1:21. May God grant me the grace to sing these words when my darkness closes in.

Blessed be Your name in the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name when I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s “all as it should be”
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord; Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord; Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Friday, July 21, 2006

Abandon All

As I sit here at Mt. Tabor Monastery in Northern California contemplating the works of the Lord in my life, it is clear that He is all good and all knowing. I have long waited for things to develop to the point where I could just let it all go and let Him take care of it.

In the past, there were the times when I just let Him take me where He wanted. But there were also the years when I went astray, choosing my own way instead of his. This did not work. I found myself in places where I experienced true hell. I also found that by choosing to take care of things myself I would somehow hurt others in the process.

I am reminded of how God will make us aware of all that He wants for us as well as how to accomplish it. It could be as simple as letting Him take my day and allowing myself to just trust in what He will do with it. If there are simple decisions to make, then I can either make them myself or take a chance and let Him make them for me. This might sound a little impractical, but if we consciously choose to try this method we will see and experience the results as not coming from ourselves, but from God.

Getting to the point where we can actually trust enough to do this takes time and effort. Nothing is easy when it comes to trusting in something we cannot see. However, if we can learn to do this then we can learn just how real God is. How will we ever be able to truly believe if we haven’t learned how to let Him reveal Himself? There is no other way but to abandon ourselves to Him, to learn to listen to his voice.

And just how do we do this? I can only tell you what I have learned in my own life. It is helpful to have a general rule to follow. For example, my morning prayers include praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, some spiritual readings, the Divine Office of Matins and the Divine Liturgy. Waking up early enough to do this is much easier now. It wasn’t always like this though. It’s taken a while to get here. Making this daily commitment will strengthen your spiritual life.

In visiting the monastery I was shown how to pray in a specific manner. This is what I follow now. Learning how to pray was the first step for me. I have also come to clearly understand the importance of silence. I cannot stress this enough. For it is through silence that we come to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. We must learn how to center ourselves and quiet our minds. I have learned to do this by praying the Jesus Prayer.

I realize that perhaps most people have not had the opportunity to visit a monastery and experience this type of prayer. However, I would like to encourage you to do so if you can. A monastery is a place where you can experience God in a way that can change your whole life. He will reveal Himself in a new way. You will learn the meaning of true Christianity as Christ wanted us to experience it. He says come and spend some time with me, away from the distractions of the world and I will show you how to listen to my words and how to trust your life to Me.

In my opinion this is the safest way of learning how to abandon yourself to God. For me it was the key to finding the Kingdom of Heaven and the means of learning how to get there. I don’t know if we can really find this anywhere else. What I learn here, I take back home with me. I’ve had to choose to put this life into practice, but it has been a priceless gift.

So for those of you who want more, for those of you who believe in a life other than what you experience in day to day living, I encourage you to take a step toward eternity and visit a monastery. It is there that you will find Christ as the disciples found Him. It is there that He will bring you to Himself in a way you never imagined. You will learn how to live in the world without being of it, as a true disciple of Christ.

I believe the light of Christ shines brightly within us when we find the way to abandon all.

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
For you are God my Savior.

Psalm 24/25

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Time for a Rest

I will be taking a trip to northern California for a couple of weeks to my favorite place, Mt. Tabor Monastery. I will start up more blog posts when I return. Please pray for me, I will also pray for all of you.