If I Die Tomorrow…
July 8, 2010
If I die tomorrow, I will have no regrets. I have led a life that has been blessed so far beyond my wildest dreams that I find it hard to tell God how appreciative and grateful I am and how privileged I feel to have been chosen.
You will see the personal pronoun used far too many times but there is no other way to tell this story of how God has utterly changed and blessed my life. Using "I", "me", "my", etc. is necessary. Were I writing something else, there would be far fewer such words.
What you will read is the short story of an unlikely Christian. Or at least I thought I was unlikely. Now I have learned that no one is "unlikely". If murderers, adulterers, liars, cowards and betrayers (Moses, David, Abraham, Peter, for example) can become the very people whom God uses to enhance His kingdom, then I, no less than they, am not unlikely. God doesn't choose those who are equipped, He equips those whom He has chosen, perhaps to let everyone else know that no matter what they have done in their lives, God can and does restore and choose them to do great things.
I'm not suggesting that what I am doing is "great". I am merely saying that once again He chose a sinner to do His work. This essay is a thank-you note to God.
Ordinary Little Jewish Girl
My childhood was ordinary in some ways, not-so-ordinary in others, but all things considered, there are no searing traumas from childhood. My American-born Jewish parents, children of immigrants, were not particularly religious Jews. They did their best, gave me what they could, and with the exception of being a rather nerdy little girl who preferred microscopes to dolls, there are no unusual circumstances, nothing to embitter me. That is a blessing.
Bad Marriage, Good Marriage
After a miscarriage and a divorce in my early 20's, it was hard to deal with the failure. Since then, I learned that the first marriage was God's way of preparing me for what I never should settle for again. After dating for several years after my divorce, I met the man of my dreams, Jack Matthews, to whom I am still married. He has blessed me with unconditional love no matter how irritating I can get. He gets irritating, too. That he admits to it is another blessing. We have an excellent marriage, fulfilling in every way. I look forward to the rest of our lives together. It is yet another of God's blessings.
Children? Only If God Says So
That Jack and I are not regretful or feel that we have been somehow shortchanged by not having children is also a blessing. Many who want children cannot have them. We know God had in mind for us not to have children, for whatever His purposes. Again, He was right. We have never questioned not having had children and have never felt we suffered from it. That is another blessing.
Friendship, Teachers, People
I have had and still have friends whom I love and who love me. I've enjoyed the company of people from every social, cultural and economic stratum and find there to be little difference among them in what they want for their families and for themselves; people are people.
We have met new friends in our later years whom we enjoy tremendously, a great blessing. People come and go in our lives but we have been singularly blessed to have had wonderful friends then and now.
I've been blessed to have come to appreciate those people who are economically and culturally different from me. I've often found such people to be better teachers of life-lessons than those who have an abundance of material things. God has blessed me with many good teachers, especially since moving here to the South.
Working At What I Loved
I had a career teaching women how to teach fitness classes. I taught classes myself -- all kinds -- for more than 25 years. For the last 9 of those years, I owned a high-end designer fitness studio which I created and loved and staffed with outstanding teachers. Through those 9 years of running a small business at a loss (thanks to Jack's largesse and love), God taught me how to teach others. I loved those years -- they were a blessing. I learned what techniques work, and which do not, making mistakes along the way. Little did I know I was being prepared for teaching an entirely new kind of fitness later in life – spiritual fitness. God's blessings are everywhere and sometimes can be seen only in retrospect.
The Greatest Blessing
The major blessing of my life was my conversion -- being regenerated ("born again") from atheism into Christianity. It was a sudden and dramatic culmination of years of questioning, thinking, debating, studying. Being a Jew is a blessing, too. It allows me to straddle both Biblical Testaments with an appreciative eye toward both and a comprehensive broad-based approach to the meta-narrative, the single story that is Holy Scripture.
As an atheist and non-practicing Jew married to a non-practicing Catholic at the time of my conversion, I brought no religious baggage to my new faith; I was a tabula rasa, a blank slate. God wrote His untainted, unchanged Word in my mind and heart from the very first day. Converting to Christianity is not something I'd have ordinarily chosen for myself. I felt much like ex-atheist Christian Apologist C.S. Lewis, who said he was "the most reluctant convert in all of England". But God chose me anyway. In hindsight, I can see He was right again. I thank Him that it is never too late for anyone to come to Christ.
I have never been so fulfilled and filled to overflowing with the presence of God and His tailor-made, detailed blessings. I brought nothing to His table. I was saved in spite of myself, not because of any good works or some smart decision I may have made in His direction. God's salvation in my life is sheer grace -- undeserved merit. I often ponder that so many cradle Christians, those born into Christianity, rarely examine how they got there or how they have been blessed by it. But I wasn't born into it and to be candid, am still quite staggered by it and by the fact that I sit here typing about my love for, and awe of, our holy and sovereign Trinitarian God and the absolute truths He offers. My search to fill the God-shaped hole ended almost 17 years ago. God not only blessed my present life and magnifies His blessings daily, but now I can see He has blessed my life on the other side of this earthly plane by readying a place for me. I have His Word on it, and so far, His Word is reliable, which in itself is a blessing.
After God taught me how to teach fitness classes, years later He chose me to teach Bible studies to women. He truly has a wonderful sense of humor; He takes a militant atheist Jew to teach Christianity and the Bible to women who have been Christians their entire lives. He chose me, of all the unlikely people. Life did a complete 180-degree turn. Amazing grace, indeed. Teaching Bible studies is a tremendous and wondrous blessing, one that keeps me in the Word constantly. It provides the path for me to live out God's purpose for my life. I'd not have known my life's purpose had not God chosen me to teach Bible studies. This is a too-wonderful blessing. I don't have enough words of thanksgiving for this.
Laughing Out Loud
God blessed me with a sense of humor. I find too many things hilariously and perversely funny, often to the embarrassment of myself and my friends. Laughter is love. God must love me very much to inject so much fun into my life.
I've not lacked financial security, even in my pre-Jack younger years when I had no money left over after the bills were paid. Today I have far more than I need. My plans for most of it are to give it away to a particular International Ministry for their stellar standards of Apologetics training, for their direct and indirect input into my personal spiritual growth and for their flawless stewardship. The rest we plan to donate to local individuals or groups in need. It's a blessing to be able to give, since most of my life I have been on the receiving end of myriad lavish material and non-material gifts. The most valuable of these gifts are the simple ones; personal cards or notes thanking me for things I had no idea I'd given. Giving is a blessing.
I have been healthy most of my life once past my stressful 20's and early 30's, and only now am beginning to feel my age at almost 69 with the usual creakiness and aches. Being able to exercise 5-6 times weekly (even though I abhor it) is a blessing; so many people would like to exercise but are disabled and cannot. After every exercise session, I thank God for allowing me to exercise.
Being Sick, Being Well
I've had only two major surgeries in my life. By contrast, so many people are sick all their lives, with one surgery or physical problem after another. After years of tests and thyroid problems and stress-related hospitalizations in my 20's and 30's, my health cleared up. I have not had a physical examination in ten years -- on purpose. I'm not so much rolling the dice as trusting God that I've got only the days He has allotted to me and not one extra. Doctors' offices, poking, prodding, needles, tests are not my style. It is possible that I could be developing a fatal disease at this moment, but if so, I would still consider my life to have been as complete and blessed as can possibly be. I am ready to meet my Lord tomorrow if that is the plan.
I can eat almost anything I like and usually do - too much at times, as my increasing waistline and rounded shape reveal. I have concluded that the old saying, "Exercise regularly, eat right, die anyway" is very apt and it still gives me the giggles. When my numbered days are over (Psalm 139:16) they will have been enjoyed. The last thing in the world I want is to be on my deathbed saying, "I wish I would have....." (fill in the blank). So I eat the fries and Reuben sandwiches. Blessed again.
The Blessing of Laundry
I can do laundry. You may think that's an odd blessing but I have thought about this. I have legs that work, hands that work, eyes that see, clothing to launder, indoor plumbing, machines to do the laundering. Many people cannot walk or bend over to take the clothes out of the dryer, cannot use their hands to fold laundry, cannot see, have little clothing to wash, have no washing machines, dryers, indoor plumbing or clean water. Many have little time to wash clothes because they are working several jobs to make ends meet, and so they often wear dirty clothing because that is all they have. I am blessed. Even when I do laundry I glorify and thank God for the ability to do it at all.
We have traveled quite a bit in the early stages of our marriage and have seen other cultures and countries. We enjoyed lavish luxuries in accommodations, food, and travel methods. Many people have never left the neighborhoods where they grew up and some seem content to have it that way, which is fine. Being able to travel at all was a blessing and has provided many fond memories. Today, though, the blessing is not having to travel and not wanting to.
"The Food Fairy"
I love to cook and have enjoyed sharing my cooking with others at our table. I also love conducting what I like to call "Food Fairy" raids, delivering containers of the homemade Soup du Jour from the Matthews kitchen to neighbors. Being able to share the bounty of God's provision, and liking to cook are blessings.
We have found a couple of churches which alternately provide fellowship and spiritual food, blessings both, each in their own way.
Houses, Gardens, Wildlife
We have a magnificent formal but mountain-y garden, planted and tended by a wonderful husband and wife landscape team, who have blessed our lives with their expertise, their reliability and their artistic sense. Paying their monthly bills qualifies as a major blessing. Their work is a treat not just to our eyes but to the senses and spirits of those who visit us. God's Creation is in full display in our gardens. Some day, look inside a single tiny blossom of wild Mountain Laurel and you will see artistic symmetrical perfection you never realized was there. Jewel-like hummingbirds, magnificent hawks, bright blue Indigo Buntings, sparkling Gold Finches, Red-Breasted Crossbills, crimson Cardinals, color-splashed lacy butterflies and even less colorful creatures are everywhere. His artistry surrounds me and often leaves me breathless. I can die tomorrow knowing I have seen God's personal handiwork within steps of my front door. Four times I have held live hummingbirds in the palms of my cupped hands. Once is a blessing. Four times is a mathematical miracle. All survived the window-strikes. Praying over them and watching them fly away were blessings.
Peace in Lake Toxaway
Our Lake Toxaway home is the most peaceful of the homes we lived in. The view of the mountains and the lake provides pleasure for the eyes and a perfect atmosphere for study and contemplation. The view gives me inspiration for the spirit and tranquility for the soul. It gives Jack and I a deep appreciation for the magnificence of God's ever-changing Creation. Every day is a new love affair with God through what He has made. Sunrises are spectacular, moonrises equally so. Seeing them as God's creations makes them more than just lights in the sky; God said, "Let there be" these lights -- and they were. His very words spoke them into existence and they bless us, lighting the way.
Every family has their tragedies and stories. Mine was no different. It was a major family trauma 44 years ago when my older sister Deena and her two young children, Leah and Martin, died violently, and most would say prematurely. But God (there are those two words again, "But God...") has taught me that there is nothing beyond His control, nothing He cannot prevent if He wants to. Through this shocking and devastating event, I have learned to always tell people -- before they die -- that I love them. So I tell them often. Yes, I miss my sister, and thinking about her still hurts, but there is always in the back of my mind the knowledge that God probably spared her and the children a fate worse than what did happen. God would do that. It's what mercy is about. I have found blessings even in this event because through it I have come to drop my guard and love people instead of keeping them at arm's length. Do you take a risk when you love somebody? Yes. But without the risk, there is no love to share. Through this painful family event, I have also learned to understand God better; I know He has a plan for every life, every family, every incident. He will work His plan and His perfect Will even though we cannot understand His actions or lack of them at the time. This is a monumental blessing.
I live in a free country, the greatest country on earth. Unless God sees fit to change our freedom and liberty, I will have lived and died in the only truly free place on earth, the land of the free, built on Judeo-Christian foundations. I love this country and have been blessed to have been born here. I pray I die while it remains free and that God will be merciful to her rather than just – because we have turned away from God as a nation, God could very well do likewise to America. I pray He will not, but if He does, at no time will He have been unjust.
I can read. And read, and read….God has given me a voracious appetite to learn more about Him and about His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is how I spend many of my waking hours, reading God's Holy Word (and extra-biblical Christian materials). Days are spent joyfully studying and learning the deeper things of God's mind and character, of His holiness and His mercy, of His justice and His compassion, of how He wants us to live. He has taught me that in Him, there is no injustice. Most of all I have learned that I am forgiven of all my sins and that God has removed the guilt from those sins as well. I have a new heart, a renewed mind, a love for the Lord and a love for His other children, though I may not like them or agree with their lifestyles or politics. I have read about prayer and although it took a while, have been blessed with learning how to pray easily and with great supplication. The results of prayer are staggering in their effectiveness. This is a blessing beyond comprehension.
A New Day
Every day is new. No day passes when I cannot and do not learn something new. It is a blessing to understand that by God's standards, I know nothing. The blessing comes in knowing there is always more to learn. It is a journey and a process I wish never to end. On my deathbed I pray I will learn something new. Maybe it will be a funny joke or a deep revelation. God blessed me with a teachable spirit and an inquisitive mind. What a joy to have the mental faculties to learn new things! How terrible it would be to think there is nothing more to learn.
Peace With God
I am peaceful. Knowing that God controls all things and is utterly sovereign, even over man's will should He choose to override it, gives me a security and a burdenless peace. I know I don't have to measure up to anything or anyone because I cannot. God has set the Gold Standard no one can measure up to. That standard is His own holiness and perfection, so I have only to follow Christ where He leads, watching my own sanctification process as though from outside. I learned that my good works didn't save me or anyone else. That includes my "decision for Christ"; it wasn't mine, although at the time I believed it was. It was God's choosing me, not the other way around. Talk about a blessing! Am I a sinner? Yes, everyone is. But I no longer have the heart of a sinner and when I sin, I despise it and immediately repent of it and attempt to repair it. Sin is the exception, not a lifestyle. It is a blessing to know the difference.
Spiritual Satiety and Holiness
There is nothing I feel lacking in my spirit. While I am relatively certain others think I do lack certain things they would like to see me acquire, their opinions no longer affect me. Only God's judgment matters. People do not define me. God defines me, so I happily and joyfully take my lead from Him through total surrender to His will, my own obedience, prayer and the reading of Scripture. My best will never be good enough to satisfy God's holiness, but He loves me anyway. Right there you know how merciful He is. I love Him and try to please Him. These are blessings of stellar magnitude.
If I die tomorrow, I will die in peace knowing that in my own power, I did my pathetic best, but in the strength of the Holy Spirit's power in me, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Counting my blessings is an endless process, but the blessings keep coming. I'll keep counting.
My gratitude knows no bounds. Appreciate what God has done for you, even if you are not immediately aware of exactly what He has done. He is good. He is perfect. He loves you. Hold His hand and the world will change colors. If you don't know your purpose in life, ask God. He will tell you.
If I Die Tomorrow
If I die tomorrow, God will have finished with me and I will have completed His purpose for my life. That is how He set it up. What greater blessing can there be?
Lord, there are no words of gratitude to match the blessings you have showered on this unworthy life. My prayer is that I never lose sight of your blessings and will somehow be able to get others to do likewise. I thank you endlessly and in advance for victories you will give me over sin and evil, disease and heartbreak, confusion and anger. I pray for others who don't yet know you and those who know you only slightly. Thank you, Lord, for reaching down into this world and intervening to save me. I know you have your reasons and I will spend what is left of my life in gratitude and in the purpose for which you have made me. Amen.