What Are Your Priorities?

What really matters to you?

Recently, I came across a list I made quite a few years ago of things I wanted to do in the future. Of the nearly fifty things I listed, five no longer apply. Several could be condensed into the same item. Some are probably unrealistic. Unfortunately, I have completed only two. Even with making allowances for why or why not something could or could not have happened, I am not proud of my “track” record.

I saw a challenge on Facebook just the other day that asked if you could give advice that you have learned over time – in two words – what words would you use? I’ve not yet reduced my words to two, but they amount to the same thought:  I would encourage a person to TRY even if he or she doesn’t succeed, and to keep on trying…facing fears…accepting the challenges that life presents. 

One of my fears is that of failing. By not even trying something new, certainly, I avoid the crushing feeling of defeat. However, by avoiding these things, I also don’t discover new abilities, talents, or loves, and I now realize I have deprived myself of these things. Sometimes, conquering a fear helps us to grow. It can make us feel stronger and more confident.

I’ve looked at that old list a number of times now. I began a “bucket” list a few years ago, too. As I consider what things are most important to me today, I’m finding that I now have different goals. It is becoming increasingly more important to be happy with the wayI am living my life, as opposed to how many items I can check off a list.

Sometimes being a friend takes priority over completing a particular errand or attending a special event. Other times, those “things” just aren’t that important in the grand scheme when, for instance, a loved one’s health is failing due to serious illness.

Life is so short! In the time I have left on this earth, I want my existence to really count for something. I have always wanted to make a difference. That feeling has grown over the years. Today, there is much yet to be done, but my new list will have different qualities to it. Today, a trip to New York City is no longer a “priority” that absolutely must happen in my life. Instead, I find myself looking outward, hoping to see a way to make a difference in the quality of someone else’s life. To whatever challenges that way of living directs my life, I am now ready to say “Bring it on!”

What is most important to you today?

Blessings Long Distance

If it was not a miracle, I recently was blessed to witness God’s great mercy at work.

The man had been in tears, looking remorseful, regretful, devastated. His father had just had a heart attack and was not doing well. Since the man was in prison, he could not go to his father’s bedside. He obviously had a need that was yet not fulfilled.

The following week, he told us that his father was alert, and in hospice care, and that he had had an opportunity to talk with his father. That night there was an obvious difference in him. He was smiling, and he seemed far more at ease. The burden that he had obviously been carrying the week before had lightened, perhaps even disappeared. It was good to see.

The next week we learned that the man’s father had died. Our prisoner friend was beaming. He told us his story. Throughout his prison term, he had maintained contact with his home church. The man who currently operated the sound system at his church was a friend. That friend, had retrieved recordings of musical pieces our prisoner had made at this church before he came to prison. These were the musical selections that were then played at his father’s funeral.

It didn’t stop there. Any monetary memorial gifts that would be received were going to be used to donate religious books to the son’s prison. Our friend was beaming, and filled with peace. He was no longer tormented, had had closure, and had even had “a part” in the funeral service.

What a mighty demonstration of God’s power and love!

A Different Kind of Courage

In the last several weeks I have been reminded, time and again, of just how fortunate I am. I say this not to brag, but to give credit where credit is due.

How does a person escape his fate when, as a child, his family is separated, and he is moved from foster home to foster home, and made to work in the cotton fields? How does a person overcome growing up in a violent ghetto where gunshots are common sounds, food is scarce, and crime rampant? Let us not forget about alcoholic parents who have their own miseries, or the marks they leave upon their children (physical OR emotional) as their children cope with feelings of low self-worth.  Divorce, too, leaves its mark on the dynamics of a family. I believe, when that happens, no single family member is ever the same again.

The individuals I know who have survived the kind of circumstances I’ve just described are strong people. They have courage and strength beyond anything I can ever imagine having. Some are in prison, some were in prison. Some never went to the kind of prison with guards and barbed wire, but they, nevertheless, fought the confines of inner struggles and they emerged victorious.

Yes, it is fortunate for me that I did not have to encounter adverse circumstances such as these. I have lived a relatively protected life, and while there have been times when I was out of work, or didn’t have much money, or struggled to like the people with whom I worked, I had it “easy” by comparison. So, why was I so blessed, and why did others struggle to such lengths? I do not have the answer.

I am certain of something else, though. Each and every person who has survived monumental challenges such as those described above, needs to also realize that he or she is blessed…and strong…and courageous. Those folks are survivors. They both deserve and have my admiration. My only answer today is that perhaps I got to see the “easy” side of life so that I could honor those who have struggled.

And I do. I hope that you, too, will honor the survivors in your life. Don’t just think it – tell them you admire them! For it is only through them, that we truly learn the meaning of what it is to be strong and courageous.