Offering Grace Before Eating

I was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan in a religious, Lutheran environment where it was Law One to offer grace before you even dared put any food or drink to your lips at mealtime.

 

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“Why do we have to thank God for our food?” I remember asking of my mother. After all, living on a small, mixed farm where we raised our own animals, grew our own grains that we consumed, why thank God for what we ate? In fact, I felt that if anyone deserved thanks for providing all the healthy and nutritious food, it should be my Dad, and my Mother for preparing it in a delicious manner that made it so fun to eat.

“Did Dad make the cow that offered her life so that you can enjoy roast beef you’re now eating?” my Mother asked as she poured a generous amount of beef gravy on my potatoes. “Who provides the rain that makes the potatoes and carrots grow? And even more important, who designed our earth with such perfection and beauty that makes it possible for us to live in abundance and health that we enjoy?”

“Hmm!” Well, that gave me something to think about … “But it was Dad—and, well—I—yes, even I helped in butchering the cow to prepare the meat, and I helped dig up the potatoes and carrots so that we’ll always have plenty to eat.” I countered. I still wasn’t fully satisfied with Mom’s answer as to why we should thank God when we, ourselves, did so much of the work in preparing our own food.

“Well, not all of the world is as beautiful as our farm is,” I thought I had her cornered on this one. “There are a lot of places on earth that are desert where nothing grows, and thousands of people have little or nothing to eat—some even starve to death! What about them? Should they thank God for having nothing?”

“O.k., time for some scripture study!” my Dad playfully poked his finger against my forehead. “Get your scriptures, and turn to Matthew, Chapter 25 and read, what’s called, The Parable of the Talents, and I want you to pay special attention to the servant who had been given the one talent.”

I started reading. “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents—”

“Never mind that verse,” Dad interjected. “Read the next verse.”

“Why?” I protested. “Sounds to me it’s what an angry God would do to someone He didn’t like, like the guy with only one talent. Punish him!”

“Read the next verse,” Dad repeated, not making a comment on my thought. “and see why God took that one talent from the man.”

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” That verse didn’t make sense to me at all! I still say it sounds like what a mean God would do—”

“There’s a word missing in that verse. I want you to read—and remember from now on—to read that verse by including that one missing word.” Dad read this time, “For unto every one that hath Gratitude [it] shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not Gratitude,[it] shall be taken away even that which he hath.

In that light, I suddenly I understood!  “You mean, because we say Grace at every meal, God gives us even more than we need? And the people who are starving, because they never bothered to give thanks, have nothing?”

Dad skewed his face, as if he didn’t quite agree with me. “In a few cases, this may be true. “But, most often, when we see poverty, it’s God’s way of allowing us, who live in abundance, to develop compassion in our hearts. And, since we’ve been given more than we need, we share that abundance with those who have not. Therefore, we can usually  be assured of having lots.”

I sighed. I’ll sure be glad when I grow up so that I can be as smart as my Dad and Mom. I still don’t fully understand this thing about gratitude—but then, I guess, that’s why we have the old saying, “live and learn.” That sure applies to me.

“Besides, it’s a grateful heart that is willing to share without hesitance,” my Mother continued, removing the empty dinner plate from in front of me and replacing it with a slice of warm apple pie—by the way, I’d like to add, apples that I, myself, picked from  our own apple tree in our back yard.

“That’s what’s so wrong in the world today,” Mother finished.  “People are greedy and angry and give no forethought as to the many things we should be grateful for. And, far too often, the more they complain, the worse it gets for them.”

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”   Zig Ziglar

 

 

Living a Meaningful Life

Some people die at age 25 but aren’t buried until they’re 75” –Benjamin Franklin

Destination: Earth!
Destination: Earth!

If you’re married and have small children, I know you’ve heard them complain, “Dad, I’m bored. There’s nothing to do!”

I can understand such feelings and comments coming from young children. After all, they’re still quite new to life on earth and depend heavily on their parents for almost everything, including instilling meaning and purpose into their lives, but it really is the problem when you hear adults complain that life is boring?

For me, even as a kid, I was seldom bored. My whole life has been an exciting adventure! I’m a senior-senior now, and know that soon it will be time for me to “return home.” But I’ll go with satisfaction, with no regrets or remorse, knowing that I’ve lived my life to the maximum without malice or harm to any of God’s creatures, including man.

I am blessed with a great imagination—maybe that’s why I love the craft of writing: writing allows me to creatively visit exotic places and do exotic things that normal finances or physical ability wouldn’t allow me to do. I’ve always been that way. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “keep busy at something. A busy person never has time to be unhappy.”

Sometimes, in my more serious moments, I wonder, “Why am I hear? Is there a purpose to my life?” In order to find an answer, I have to go back to the beginning … way back … pre-earth beginning. In my mind I envision myself being bored, living somewhere in the spirit world: a place we call home. My problem in this ‘home’ is, I’m bored, doing nothing all day but float around on clouds—at least, that’s how many of us envision life at ‘home’—or also referred to as heaven! To overcome my boredom, I visit my favorite spiritual Travel Agency. Actually, I suspect this guy’s my Soul, assigned to me as a Nanny by The Boss, while I playfully, and even irresponsibly, wander through creation until maturity. My Nanny can be a little blunt and abrupt at times, but then, there are times when my actions deserve such treatment. After all, I’m not the easiest guy in the world to get along with.

“I want to go on another holiday,” I tell my Soul. “A nice holiday this time, not like that plaque infested, volcanic lump of hot sand you sent me to last time!”

“Serves you right for being so egotistic and hot-headed! Hope you learned some manners while there,” he smirks, then takes me to his massive, almost endless vault of tourist and holiday files and pauses at the shelf titled “Best Spots” and begins searching … and searching … endless searching. I become impatient.

“Why don’t you digitize all these files?” I ask. “It would be a lot easier for you to find things.”

He doesn’t reply, but keeps searching. Finally, he stops, points his scrawny little index finger to some sparsely populated area on the outer fringe of the galaxy.

“There! Earth!” He exclaims. “Best planet in this galaxy, where I only send my best friends!”

“And I only want to be born to the best parents!” I demand another condition. “Not like that three-eyed toad with the long nose you ported me through on Java-Hava-Ho way back when I was still young and more trusting.”

At that remark, my soul laughs hysterically. I never heard him laugh that hard before.

“You think that was funny?” I got a little peeved. “I nearly committed suicide over that prank of yours!

“O.k., o.k., I admit, that was a bit of a joke I played on you that time,” he wipes the tears of laughter from his eyes. “But you shouldn’t be so gullible and think for yourself once in a while instead of having me do all your thinking for you.” Being satisfied that he found the best place for me, he closes the near endless rows of tourist information points and turns to me.

“Tell you what. To make up for it, I’ll port you through the best, most decent parents available on earth during this cycle.”

“Well … it better be good this time!” I hesitantly agree, pouting a little to show my disfavor for having ported me to some of those previous, more nasty places. “When do I leave?”

“You have to wait nine months. You can’t go sooner because you first have to make a few adjustments to your personality. Not my fault you still have problems with women!”

Nine months!” I exclaim. “I’ll get all mouldy if I have to live in those damp clouds for that long—”

“Nine months, no sooner!” my Soul insists. “Boss’s orders! Just because your royal stock doesn’t mean you can just go traipsing, willy-nilly, through the universe having a jolly old time without also learning a few things—and maturing in the process. You know you’re going to be a god yourself some day, so you better start taking that role seriously, and I’m offering you a chance, while on earth, to become more serious.”

“Creativity is allowing oneself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”  –  Scott Adams

Well, that wasn’t exactly a word-for-word conversation that I had with my Soul on that fateful day when plans were made to port me through to earth for another interesting holiday, but you get the idea that my time here has been, as I said earlier, quite an adventurous holiday! I’d sort of like to stay here a few more years, but I don’t know exactly when my “school year” will be over. My Soul—Nanny—wouldn’t reveal that info to me. “Depends on how well you behave yourself,” is all he muttered then pretended to dismiss me by turning his back to me. But I hope you get the idea from all this talk that, for all of us, much of our time on earth has been pre-planned, and we, ourselves, had a lot to say under what conditions we’d come here. I like to think of it like entering school here on earth. The School Board, your teacher, and all others involved in your education (angels, spirit guides) have a loving, pre-planned course laid out for you. It’s all to your best interest. However, how well you do, depends on you, personally!

Our time on earth can be a nightmare, or it can be an adventurous holiday like mine has been so far. Because of our royal status, we do, individually, have a lot of say if we wish to learn and mature or not. That’s always a choice open to us! I would just like to offer a final remember: we are of royal blood, and predestined to co-rule with our Father and Mother in an Infinite Universe.

Don’t screw it up!

Gratitude

Do you remember, as a kid, running up to your Dad and asking him to give you a portion of your allowance? With a smile, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a dollar and gave it to you. Quick as a bouncing rabbit, you took off to the store to meet friends who were already there waiting for you—

“Hey, didn’t you forget something?” Your Dad called after you before you even reached the door. You stopped in your tracks … Oh yes! You ran back to your Dad, gave him a big hug and said, “Thank you, Dad!” … Then you ran off to the store to meet with your friends.

That might have been your first lesson in learning gratitude.

“Gratitude turns what you have into enough” — anonymous

Your second lesson in gratitude may have come when you attended Sunday School and learned that Jesus also preached the power and importance of giving gratitude in the example of His Parable of the Talents: “For unto every one that hath [gratitude] shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not [gratitude] shall be taken away even that which he hath.” – Matthew 25:29

But, as we grew up and became lost in a material world of self-gain, we forgot these lessons. Here’s an example of what I mean: we all love honey. We know that millions of busy little bees work all summer to store up their winter’s supply of honey, so what do we do? We steal it from them! Mind you, I’m not saying that this practice of … uh … ‘helping ourselves’ to the bee’s honey is wrong; not even morally wrong. Creation is so designed that every creature, be it human, animal, reptile, insect, bird, plant or tree, are both preyed upon, and/or are prey to something else in Nature. However, the truth is that all these amenities we ‘take’ for granted (pun intended), including life itself, are gifts from a divine Parent and showing gratitude goes a long way in ensuring the continuation of these gifts. Still staying on the topic of our honeybees, here’s a bad example of selfishness, with a lack of gratitude.

we’ve all read news articles of how farmers are (in some cases, quite indiscriminately) using poisonous chemicals on their grain crops for weed control, but in the process, destroying the bee population, threatening to wipe them out completely. Are we concerned? Some of us are, but it still seems, with our politicians, money talks louder than concern for the survival of the bee. Gratitude for the honeybee’s contribution to our welfare isn’t even on the table!

Are we ever going to be held accountable for our lack of gratitude for all the wonderful things we enjoy on this planet? Go back to your youth when you asked your Dad for some allowance. What would have happened if you stubbornly, and consistently refused to thank him for your allowance?

Methodist minister, John Wesley, said: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all he times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can!” That’s being grateful! Don’t be like the servant, in Matthew, who had “even what he had” taken from him for lack of giving gratitude!

“What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to god.”

My Body, My Temple

My Body, My Temple

I had an interesting—well, maybe I should call it an unusual experience last Friday when I visited my doctor at our local medical clinic. Now, remember, I said Friday! The waiting room was nearly empty of patients! By itself, the near-empty clinic wouldn’t be so unusual, except that, on the other hand, Mondays the clinic attendance is just the opposite: it’s packed with patients waiting to see their doctor. This is not an isolated incident, either: it happens almost every weekend! Now, consider that the rest of the week attendance at our clinic is quite normal, so why is the clinic near-empty on Fridays? Could it be that more people get sick on Monday than they do on Friday? Mph! (shrug) Maybe to a small degree—could be an activity change on the weekend, compared to the week days that may influence how sick or healthy a person is on Monday, but surely not to this degree … and so common!

That got me thinking. Could it be that some people, who normally do get sick on Friday, hold off seeing the doctor until Monday so as not to take a chance on ruining their weekend? If that should be the case, how sick are they in the first place? Another question: if our health system would cost us every time we went to see a doctor, how many visits would we skip?

I suspect that far too many of us take advantage of the “free” part of our health care, and forget, or just don’t care, that many of these less serious health problems just clog up our health services and hinder access to patients with more serious health issues.

I think we fail to understand that our so-called “free” health care system isn’t all that free. It may be free at the moment, for the patient seeking help in the doctor’s office, but, in reality, the taxpayer—that includes you—end up footing that bill. An article in the National Post states, “The Canadian Institute for Health Information believes Canada spent approximately $228 billion on health care in 2016. That’s 11.1 percent of Canada’s entire GDP and $6,299 for every Canadian resident.”[i] You see, our health care is not free! Just think of all the consumer goods and services that that money could be better spent on it were not earmarked for taxes.

I sometimes feel that some public attitude seems to be, who cares? It’s not my responsibilityI just want whatever is free. But, now that I have that issue off my mind, I think that this problem of social unconcern for how much we cost the medical system has a deeper root: lack of concern for ourselves! And this should be a bigger worry for us.

Unless you’re one of those people who believe our origin was in sea slime, that we live for an x-number of years, then return to the earth to become worm food, you have to accept that we are very much a part of eternity, and our bodies were “given” to us for a reason: we are here for a reason other than material self-gratification.

Everyone has serious moments in their life and has asked, “who am I?” and why am I here?” And if you are at all serious about what happens in your life, decency and morals have to be part of that concern. Without standards of responsibleness to both ourselves and to society, how long would we exist? And, even more important, what do we owe to ourselves to take care of our bodies? The Buddha is reported to have said, “Your body is precious. It is your vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.[ii] Just like any craftsman knows, upon graduation from Tech (born into this world from a previous existence), he’s given a precious tool box (body) and commanded to “Go boldly forth” and become a god unto his own right.

Yes, by all means, listen to the advice of others—especially experts in their field—but the final decision must by yours!

Your self-consciousness is you: it is eternal, and it’s that which evolves. Your body is your tool box and the tools contained within your tool box are your five senses.

Yes, there is abundant evidence out there that, in the final analysis, the welfare of your body—this would include your health and other material goods—and morally—is your responsibility. Your opinion or conclusions may differ from that of the advice you’ve been given by others, but remember, in the final analysis, place your opinion above others, and act upon your opinion!

Of course, the big kicker here, that many fail accepting responsibility for, is, if it turns out to be an opinion in error, then be mature enough to accept the lesson that experience has taught you, and the Kingdom of Heaven is yours!

A final addendum: if there is such a thing as a hell in the ‘After-life”—or even in one’s latter part of this life—it will be that dreadful self-judging moment when we realize what we could have done, and been, while on earth, but stubbornly refused the challenge a loving God offered!