Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Regrets of the Dying"

This article is a summation of what I have advocated for years to my students, persons I have counseled regarding vocation, marriage, etc. We are so easily deluded by ourselves as to what is important. Don't be 70 and wonder if you "could have".  EGIt is used by permission.

"Regrets of the Dying" by Bronnie Ware

 For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Original Link: http://inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html

Bio: Bronnie Ware is a writer and songwriter from Australia who spent
several years caring for dying people in their homes. She has also
released a full-length book titled 'The Top Five Regrets of the Dying -
A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing'. It is a memoir of her own
life and how it was transformed through the regrets of the dying people
she cared for. For more information, please visit Bronnie's official
website at www.bronnieware.com or www.hayhouse.com.au.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Religion versus Reality

I am sorry for the way that much organized religion has tainted what is supposed to be the greatest joy. I have experienced the dark side of religion, probably more than most, with crosses burned in my yard, death threats to my family, and constant upheaval during my growing years due to the ignorance of church people. I have survived and my faith has survived the conflicts with ignorance, superficiality, prejudice, and heresy. All that aside, the Christian experience is a personal one.

I do not blame God for the ignorance of people. I do not blame religion for actions and evil perpetrated in its name. I understand that people make choices to live their lives within the goodness and grace of God or outside of it. The ability to delude ourselves into positions and actions that are totally incongruous to Christianity and perpetrate it in the name of Christianity is a product of the hubris that always ends in tragedy.

 There is no greater tragedy than when someone with God given gifts, called by God to his work, and willing to experience the joy of living in God's will is driven from the ultimate experience of joy by those who don't understand the faith they espouse. Scripture teaches that in the spiritual realm, nothing is as harshly judged as those who keep people from a relationship with God. Some say that "to do no harm" is the goal. I say to deprive one of the spiritual release and knowledge that comes from a personal relationship with God is the ultimate harm. Many save lives everyday in their vocation based in science and medicine. I try to save lives everyday in my vocation based in the spirit. Physical existence is not all there is to living. 

I want every person to know the joy that I have experienced in my faith. It has led me past the ignorance of the institutional religion, the ignorance of the folk religions practiced by those seeking the joy and peace that I have; but not recognizing its reality. I want the openness of Spirit that recognizes the value of real living in a personal relationship with the one who created us. I want to share the gifts that come from that relationship in music, writing, and social action. There can be no separation of the individual from that relationship once established. We become what we do. If what we do is not based on what we believe, then we will believe in what we do and justify it by our own delusion.

 I find no conflict between my faith and science. I embrace that which is empirically proven as that which God created and I am many times astounded at the simplicity and the complexity of it just as the simplicity and complexity of salvation astounds me. I also embrace that which God's creation represents - the relational nature of God and Humanity made in God's image.

I do not choose to only recognize the finite. It is just a clue to the infinite.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Lord, Happy Birthday Jesus!

During the Vietnam War, my father, Greg Presley, founder of A Voice For Today, was pastor of Main Street Baptist Church, Inverness, FL. The African American custodian had a son, Josh, who was killed in action and the father was notified just before Christmas. Josh's birthday was on Christmas. My Father was so moved by the man's mourning that he wrote this poem. It is timeless as we are once again at war. I hope you enjoy it. Copywritten material. Please do not copy without permission.

                    Merry Christmas, Lord.  “Happy birthday, Jesus,  This is old Tom, you remember me; I’m the one what rings the bell down at the church house.”

          “Lord, the lights are sure pretty this year, the courthouse looks a sight!”  “All up and down the streets, Lord, every pole is lit up to show it’s Christmas “.

“This Christmas aint like the others, Lord; the wife, she’s in the house cooking like always but it aint the same, Lord”.

          “Lord, I keep thinking about that Christmas 20 years ago; that was the year Josh came to live with the lady and me.  Baby Jesus, Josh was born on your birthday and we called him our Christmas gift from heaven.”

          “Christmas come and come and every year we’d get a bigger sock to hang up just for Josh.  We couldn’t buy much but we’d put an orange, some pecans and a play-pretty in it.   Lord, do you remember how his eyes lit up when he’d find his Christmas all laid out?  Those were sure enough fine Christmases, Lord, sure enough merry Christmases.”

          “Lord, do you remember when I got Josh that bicycle?  My, my!  I sure thought he’d wear himself plum out riding.  That was sure a fine Christmas, Lord”.

          “Then, there was that Christmas year before last; Josh was about through high school;   twelve years he’d been going.  He sure did look nice all dressed up for the Christmas party at the school.  You remember how good he looked, don’t you Lord?”
          Lord, do you remember last Christmas?  My, that Josh sure did look good in his soldier suit.  The Army made him walk with his head up and his chest out; proud like.  Oh, he was full of stories to tell his old daddy!  He’d really seen some sure enough wonders that his daddy had never even heard about.  That Josh, how he’d strut and march for his mama and me!”

          “Lord, it just aint the same, won’t ever be any more, I guess. It seems a shame, too, Lord.   Who are those people Josh was fighting with?  I don’t know any of them.  Who is it that’s giving all the trouble?”

          “Well, this is about the poorest Christmas me and the lady ever had here, because Josh aint here.  But Lord, I know your Christmas is gonna be about the best you ever had, because you’ve got Josh with you this Christmas.”

          “We sure miss him, Lord; it just aint the same any more.  Merry Christmas, Lord”.  “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”  “Merry Christmas, Josh.  AMEN”

It’s Christmas time again and we are at war.  We must take time out from our shopping and celebration to remember those young Americans who are fighting that we may soon have peace on Earth, Good will to all men!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How To Pray for the President

This Sermon was originally written by Greg Presley, Evangelist and founder of A Voice for Today Ministries. This version has been updated and edited by Earl Presley, A Voice For Today Ministries.

1 Timothy 2:1-7

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all--this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

SUBJECT:  A Prayer for Security

TEXT:  Psalm 72


          Paul's first letter to Timothy continues with an exhortation to pray. Paul is not speaking of perfunctory prayer but of fervent prayer: supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for everyone. . Paul exhorted them to pray for everyone, even the government that many experienced as oppressive. Paul's reason for praying for the government is not grounded in civic sentimentality, but rather in the need for peace so that the gospel might spread without hindrance. The Early Church Fathers understood this well and defended the need to pray for world leaders. Tertullian exhorted his audience to pray for their enemies and to beg for blessings for their persecutors
(Apology 31.1-2).

The remaining verses contain a theology of salvation, a reminder that Jesus came in the flesh, and another reminder that God's salvation is for all -- Jews and gentiles alike (Galatians 3:28). Chrysostom elaborated on Paul's instructions with these words: "Do not be afraid to pray for the Gentiles. God himself wills it. Fear only to pray against anyone. For that God does not will.”

Each year, it seems brings some new national crisis.
John Kennedy was killed in Dallas. 
          We were already involved in the affairs of Viet Nam. 
          I saw that situation become a full-fledged war under Lyndon Johnson.

          During the Johnson administration I saw the Civil Rights movement change America and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.
                    The Crosses are Burning on the Parsonage Lawn. 

          During this administration I saw the war against poverty lost.

          The Nixon Years scarred America. 
                    “Watergate” became the code name of the loss of confidence in                     the Presidency of the United States of America as an Institution. 
          Viet Nam still raged and our bravest young men continued to die.

          Jimmy Carter did little to restore confidence in the presidency.  He could not get his programs enacted by the Congress and his inability to get anything done further eroded the prestige of the nation’s highest office.  The
Iranian Hostage situation painted a dismal picture of America under siege.
          Ronald Reagan’s very strength brought us into crises in world affairs and foreign policy.  Out of this struggle has come the dismantling of Communism throughout the world but every victory has been a crisis.

          George Bush faced his greatest crisis in the sands of the desert of Kuwait.  War seemed imminent on Veteran’s Day, 1990. What a mess!
          The Exxon Valdez dumped millions of gallons of oil in a pristine bay of Alaska.
          Bill Clinton brought both prosperity and humiliation to America.  His intelligence and hubris brought economic growth and the world’s ridicule.
          George W Bush let faulty intelligence and a personal agenda lead us into a way that, at best, was a mistake.  We face the greatest Crisis in recent history in Afghanistan and Iraq. It remains to be seen what the result of this crisis will be.  We are at war with terror, whoever that is!  We are at war on many fronts. 
Now President Obama, is faced with war in Afghanistan, an economy nearing a fiscal cliff, natural disaster in the Northeast US, and unemployment still at 7.9%. In addition, there is the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  Our president, our country, and our community is in crisis!

          We need a great president!  I am not qualified to sit in judgment of any of the presidents I have mentioned--each one has had to survive their own crises.  I am qualified, however, and authorized--even called--to lead you to become involved in salvaging the confidence lost in the presidency and our country. 
I call you to prayer!  As Paul exhorts Timothy to pray for Ceasar, I hope to persuade you to pray for the President of the United States and our country believing that praying for him will make him a better president. 

Reasons for failing to pray for the president:
(1) A lack of concern for the presence of God in our Government,
(2) An inability to express to God what we really feel about the president.
(3) Divisive nature of our two party system.
(4) Racism

I hope that we, by looking to an ancient prayer for a King of Israel, will be able to voice our desires to God for the nation and recognize that the success of our president must be among our greatest desires.

The prayer I have chosen is the seventy-second Psalm. 

TEXT (Psalm 72) for the coronation of Solomon

A Psalm for Solomon.

1  Give the king thy judgments, O God,
and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
2  He shall judge thy people with righteousness,
and thy poor with judgment.
3  The mountains shall bring peace to the people,
and the little hills, by righteousness.
4  He shall judge the poor of the people,
he shall save the children of the needy,
and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5  They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure,
throughout all generations.
6  He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass:
as showers that water the earth.
7  In his days shall the righteous flourish;
and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
8  He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Zech. 9.10
9  They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him;
and his enemies shall lick the dust.
10  The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents:
the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
11  Yea, all kings shall fall down before him:
all nations shall serve him.
12  For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth;
the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
13  He shall spare the poor and needy,
and shall save the souls of the needy.
14  He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence:
and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
15  And he shall live,
and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba:
prayer also shall be made for him continually;
and daily shall he be praised.
16  There shall be a handful of corn in the earth
upon the top of the mountains;
the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon:
and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
17  His name shall endure for ever:
his name shall be continued as long as the sun:
and men shall be blessed in him:
all nations shall call him blessed.
18  Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who only doeth wondrous things.
19  And blessed be his glorious name for ever:
and let the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen, and Amen.
20  The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.        

This Psalm may be the work of a poet who read it at the coronation, much as the poem by Sandburg was read at the inauguration of John Kennedy in 1960.  The poet has offered a prayer for the king that states to the king as well as to God, the needs and the wishes of the people.  As we pray for our President, we must pray in a way that will present our national and personal need, our physical need.  We must pray believing that God can answer our prayer through the president.  Let us pray for the security that America and its President symbolizes to us and to the world.

          The king of Israel was to the people both the symbol and vehicle of God’s Justice, Righteousness, and peace.  It is not surprising that the poet asks God to give to the king of His divine justice and his righteousness so the people will be judged fairly.  To pray that the leader will be just and compassionate is to pray that he will be an ideal king.  It is a prayer for moral security for the people.

          Israel’s prosperity and happiness depended upon the righteousness of her kings.  Josiah’s reform in 621 B.C. was the beginning of a period of prosperity.

          The ideal president will be both the symbol and vehicle of the righteous principles which assure the security of the people of America.  Our president must be the symbol of moral security and should bring to his office justice and compassion.

          As we pray for the president, let us as God to give to him of His divine justice and His divine compassion so that we may enjoy divine peace in America!

          Moral security will include equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, creed, or social standing.  The black American looks to the president of a life of equal rights and opportunity.  The Jewish American looks to the president for a life of freedom from fear.  The poor American looks to the president for a life of freedom from want.   All America looks to the president for moral security.  We must pray that the president will be enabled to provide that moral security


          The King of Israel was the government.  The longer the king lived, the more stable the social structure of Israel became.  The classes became more clearly defined.  The religious parties were stabilized.  A citizen of Israel felt more secure in the reign that lasted.  The poet prayed for a long and beneficent reign for his king, “May he be like the rain that falls on mown grass…”  The poet’s prayer was that all society would benefit from the just and righteous reign of Israel’s king.

Our government does not depend upon one man.  Ours is a government of laws, not of men.  This was demonstrated in the way the presidency was passed to Lyndon Johnson when John Kennedy died.  This was demonstrated when the presidency passed to Gerald Ford when Nixon resigned.  Each time a new president is elected and takes office and the torch is passed, the government continues--it is a government of laws!

          Our prayer for the president is that he will be able to maintain in effect those laws which give us social security.


The psalmist impresses upon the king that a reign of justice and righteousness will bring international influence.  This is not a plea for world conquest; it is a prayer that the entire world will benefit from his just rule.  There were those nomads in the desert of Israel and Judea who would not be ruled by anyone and there were kings of remote areas who paid homage to no other king. The poet prayed that these unruled ones would be influenced and would accept the king’s rule. 

          The office of the President of the United States of America has enjoyed a history of prestige among nations since the days of George Washington.  In recent times, the office has been that of World Leader.  As the symbol of America and the vehicle of international policy to the world, the presidency is the symbol and vehicle of international security to us in America.  Pray for our president that his prestige and esteem will permeate all the world and that all men everywhere will benefit from the justice and righteousness of America.


          The psalmist prays that the king may prosper and this prosperity may come in the form of life, gold, prayers, and fame.  But verse 16 indicates his real desire for the nation:  that there be prosperity in the land.  He asks for much grain and many men.  It appears that this means much food and good health among the people so they will be able to multiply.

Television News commentators and analysts give the impression that our economy is on the verge of collapse.  Food prices have increased, to be sure, and inflation is still, with us but, nevertheless, we are the world’s most prosperous nation.  The problems of the economy must be solved by the joint efforts of the president and congress.  The adversarial relationship between the two has always been counterproductive and in the recent budget struggles it has been disgraceful and crippling.
          There must be a non-partisan, pro-America approach to solving our economic problems.  Problems which will become much worse as the war in Afghanistan drains our coffers.  It may be that if we pray that this president will be able to provide economic security--that the poor, the needy, the aged, the oppressed, the hungry, the unwanted will all enjoy an unknown era of security from want--he may be able to overcome the opposition of congress and institute programs which will bring prosperity to the land.


          We cannot stress the need to pray for the president too much.  A prayer for him is a prayer for security:  moral security, social security, international security, and economic security. Christians believe that the security we seek can only come from God.  We must ask God to give to our leaders the wisdom which will cause them to be just and compassionate.  We must ask God to give them health so that this will be a strong and beneficent administration.   We must ask God to lead our leaders so that our president can lead in world affairs.  We must ask God to give them economic programs which will bring us prosperity. 

          We believe that God wants us to have all these blessings.  We believe that our government is responsible, to a great extent, for providing these blessings.  The message is that we should expect that God can bless us through our government--through our president.

          Once, in a large church in Texas, the deacons and elders met to plan a strategy which would force the resignation of the pastor.  Rumors had persisted that some irregularities existed in his ministry.  Most of the diaconate were in favor of the action but one deacon was hesitant, “You know, I can’t really want to fire this man.  You see, I just realized that I have never prayed for him or his ministry.  Why don’t we try praying for him and see if that improves his ministry?”  It did!  That pastor led that church for many years and was considered by his parishioners and by his associates to be one of the truly great ministers of the last century.

It may be that our prayers really will improve a president.  I believe that they will.  The president serves by our pleasure, but according to God’s pleasure.  Our prayer for security shall not fall on deaf ears.  God will bless and our days shall be long upon this land which God has given us. 

          O Lord, our Heavenly Father, you have given us freedom in this great land.  You have created us a bit lower than deity, you see and know all things and nothing is hid from you.  We come to you for our president, chosen to lead us.  Lord, we are a people who deserve nothing because of our intrinsic worth but by the grace shown to us by you have inherited a nation greatest among nations.  May our nation continue to be great and may our president lead us to even greater days.

          To this end, Lord, we ask that we be forgiven of our sins and cleansed from unrighteousness and that our nation’s government be likewise forgiven and cleansed.  Give the president strength and wisdom, O Lord, make him your servant so that we will be secure.  Amen.