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, November 29, 2006

Giving Thanks

First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have given me much support during this past year. I had a very nice Thanksgiving with my family and friends. Again, I am amazed that I am still here. But I thank you and the Lord.

I have been writing another icon. This icon makes me look at Christ as He is hanging on the cross. As I see his face, it looks very peaceful as He has already given up his spirit to the Father.

In a reading from "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers" an Abba, who is considered very holy to his disciples is at the point of death. Here is an account of his passing.

It was said of Abba Sisoes that when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, "Look, Abba Anthony (St. Anthony the Great) is coming." A little later he said, "Look, the choir of prophets is coming." Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, "Look, the choir of apostles is coming." His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men asked him, "With whom are you speaking, Father?" He said, "Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance." The old men said to him, "You have no need to do penance, Father." But the old man said to them, "Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet."

This was a man who spent 72 years on St. Anthony's mountain living a life of prayer and asceticism. Let us continue.

Now they all knew that he was perfect. Once more his countenance suddenly became like the sun and they were all filled with fear. He said to them, "Look, the Lord is coming and he's saying, "Bring me the vessel from the desert." Then there was a flash of lightening and all the house was filled with a sweet odour.

What a beautiful way to meet the Lord. As I sat in our little Adoration Chapel on Thanksgiving Day, I said to the Lord, "If I can't be here next year, then I hope I can be with You."

I think He would like all of us to feel this way.

Blessed are You Lord, now and forever.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Prayer For Healing

Last night I had the most awesome experience. I went to a meeting of the St. Joseph’s Prayer Ministry here in our Parish and during our group prayer, Sister Mary Matthew who leads the group brought out a relic of the True Cross, which she has inside of a beautiful crucifix.

She spoke of the many healings she has seen when people were prayed over with this relic, specifically those with cancer. As I sat there listening, I knew this was meant for me to hear. I started to feel like something was going to happen. Just then one of the other women in the group looked at me and said, “I’ll bet you would like this to happen for you.” I said, “I certainly would.”

So Sister Matthew handed me the crucifix with the relic inside and I held it to the area of my body where the cancer is. I felt warmth from the crucifix and the tears rolled down my face. Then, the other group leader said to Sister, “This is very powerful, do you feel it.” Sister responded, “Yes, I do.” So they both stood up and came over and prayed for a complete healing and a deep peace for me. Sister also made it very clear that healings take place in the Lord’s perfect timing.

I want to emphasize that none of this was planned. I have been to several of these meetings and this was the first time that I know of, that the relic of the True Cross was shown to the group.

Of course, time will tell exactly what the Lord has in mind. But I’ve got to say this was so unexpected. I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity. God has so many surprise gifts for us. This was truly one of them.

Thank you all for your prayers for me. I would like to stay here for a while longer if I can. Let’s see what the Lord does.

Today I will begin a new icon, and which one does it happen to be...The Crucifixion.

May God’s will be done in all of our lives.

Monday, November 13, 2006

God's Gift of His Saints

I recently watched the movie “Therese” and I was reminded of an incident that happened about a year and a half ago, which I would like to share with you. My reason for sharing this is to bring to light how real the saints are and to encourage our belief in the afterlife.

In December of 2004 my favorite aunt Lea died after suffering several strokes over four years. I wondered where her soul was. I found a novena to St. Terese, the Little Flower in my Pieta book and decided to pray this prayer for nine days. It is not my usual practice to pray novenas. In fact, I really don’t remember ever praying any except maybe when I was in elementary school. But it seemed like a good thing to do.

The prayer itself is simple and very beautiful. It goes like this:

St. Therese, the Little Flower,
Please pick me a rose
From the heavenly garden
And send it to me
With a message of love
Ask God to grant me the favor
I thee implore
And tell Him I will love Him
Each day more and more

So I asked her to send me a rose when my aunt was in heaven and left it at that.

In February I was invited to become part of a prayer ministry in the parish. This involved going to 20 classes, one a week, and learning how to pray with people. I had been very involved in this type of prayer ministry back in the 1980’s for about 10 years, so it was all very familiar to me.

In June we had our final meeting and one of the members, a man named Michael, brought various holy cards with relics for everyone. As I was looking at them he came up to me with a white card in his hand and said, “Laura, this is for you from St. Therese.” I took it from him and saw that it had a rose on it, blessed by her relic. I knew immediately that she had answered my prayer. I started to cry. He said to me, “I know how you feel.” I shared with him my prayer novena to St. Therese back in December and how she had just told me that my aunt was in heaven.

He also shared with me that he had prayed to her while in Lebanon and the very next day someone came to him and said, “This is for you from St. Therese.” It was a rose blessed by her relic, which he brought back to the United States where he had a very sick daughter. She was blessed with the rose and she recovered.

The saints are very important to us here on earth. They are here to help us and it is to our benefit to ask for their help. They are a sign to us from God that there is indeed an afterlife.

I try to read everyday from “The Prologue of Ochrid” about the lives of at least two or three saints. And after each I say this little prayer to them:

Please pray to God and the most holy Theotokos
And intercede before the throne of Christ
For the salvation of my soul
May I have the honor and privilege
Of making your friendship
In the Kingdom of Heaven

May God continue to bless us with his Saints.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Do We Really Believe?

I went to a funeral Mass yesterday for the brother of one of the nuns in the Parish who died unexpectedly last week. I was a little apprehensive about going, for obvious reasons, but mostly because I hadn’t been to a funeral Mass since last February when my uncle died unexpectedly.

It seems there have been lots of unexpected deaths recently, or could it be that I’m just perceiving them as such. Certainly they are unexpected to those that are suddenly faced with the loss of their loved one. But I suppose that death shouldn’t be unexpected, but expected. It’s the timing that takes us by surprise.

My father died 25 years ago at the age of 68, quite unexpectedly. He had a massive heart attack that didn’t kill him immediately, but did enough damage that the rest of his body could not function. When I was called to come to the hospital, I somehow knew he would not survive. I perceived it in my spirit and simply watched as the doctors tried to revive him and finally had to let nature take its course. It was his time to go. The Lord had other plans for him.

Over the last 25 years I’ve visited his grave only three times. He is buried in Southern California. On all of those visits I had the same thought. He is not here. Why are you standing here looking at the ground? There was just this feeling of emptiness. He was not there. Funny, but it just now occurred to me that the myrrh bearing women received the same message from the angel sitting at the empty tomb of the Lord! What a message that was and still is!

As I sat at the funeral Mass yesterday, I had the same thought. This man is not here. He has passed into the next life. I don’t know exactly where he is, but he is not here. Logically, this is an obvious statement. But what is the real message here?

Fr. Abbot has said that a funeral service is an opportunity for those who are present to look at the reality of death and to seriously reflect on it. I believe he is right. Look at that casket and realize, that will be me someday. My body will be taken away and placed in the grave. The question to ask ourselves is, “Where will my soul be?”

We know what Jesus Himself has said about death and the afterlife. Just before raising Lazarus from the dead He said to his sister Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me though he die, yet shall he live.” John 11:25

So what is it that we believe? Do we believe that our soul will never die? And if so, then where will it go after death of the body? If Christ Himself has made it clear to us that believing in Him is necessary to have life after death, then maybe we need to answer these questions. How do we perceive death? Do we believe in personal accountability before God? Do we believe in Christ? Can we answer as Martha did when the Lord asked her “Do you believe this?” Can we say, “Yes Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” John 11:27

If we can answer the Lord in this way, then we have His promise of eternal life.
And His promises are true.

I will leave you with a final thought taken from a homily by St. Nikolai Velimirovic where he calls us to honest confrontation of our love for God.

“When shall I come and appear before God? Here is the irresistible yearning of true love for God. Shame on all who say that they believe in God, and love God, while the very thought of death – of leaving this world – drives them wild with fear.”

O Lord our God, holy, mighty and living – the Source of holiness, the Source of strength, the Source of life – illumine us and warm us with love for Thee.

Prologue of Ochrid