Most people would agree that living a long life, with good health, would be desirable. Personally, I would love to be able to see my kids and grandkids grow-up. Also, living in future times, to see what it brings, seems interesting. Meeting people who have already lived long lives is inspiring. Well, the other day, I met the oldest person ever. 107! She was born in 1909. It boggles my mind to think of all the changes in her lifetime. I have met thousands of people in my 20 years of nursing, but she was the oldest. She is from on of my favorite generations, (see my blog post on generations), and she definitely fit the stereotype of a tough cookie. Of course I had to ask her, “what is your secret to living so long?”
Her answer “having daily conversations with God, not just prayer, but a conversation.” Wow. Has this woman cracked the code to the fountain of youth? Maybe. Just maybe, daily conversations with God, steer our life for clean and holy living. Keeping us away from toxic substances like alcohol, drugs and smoking. Possibly talking to God lowers your stress level, lowering cortisol. Could conversations with God make us happier and give us more drive to live? Is God the answer?
I don’t know. But I do know that knowing God will make your life superior, giving you joy and peace so when your life does end, you won’t question whether you got gypped by a short life. I do know that having a God-focused life will give you a purpose, so your life, no matter how long, will have meaning. I do know, that having a relationship with God will make you grateful for every single day of life you are given.
So, how do you have conversations with God? I know this is different for everyone but it is letting God into your thoughts. It is letting Him guide your decision making process. For example, if you are driving and start to get frustrated at traffic, but then your take a breath and are filled with peace and just patience. This is the way of God telling you to chill out. Another example, when you have a decision to make, you talk to God, either out loud or in your head, and wait for answers. His answers come in many ways, and at His time. Sometimes through opening doors and closing others, sometimes through other people, and sometimes you just get a feeling of overwhelming confirmation. You also know when you are going against God’s will because you get a feeling of angst mixed with disappointment.
For non believers, this sounds like craziness, I know. How can you possibly have a relationship with someone you never met? How can you rely on feelings and assume they are answers for God? How can the creator of the universe care about your daily life? Once again, I don’t have all the answers. I do know that faith and trusting God will put your heart in place where it will make sense. The bible puts it perfectly in Jeremiah 33:3, Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
Something else to think about, how is your life going so far without God? The fact that you have read this post this far makes me think you might need some answers and help. People are great at pretending to be happy, yet they are miserable inside. Yes, you can “fake life till you make it”, but you are missing out on all the peace and grace that a relationship with God offers. Not to mention eternal life in Heaven, also a perk.
So, think about what the 107-year-old had to say…
Questions or comments?
The other night I actually had nothing to do. The kids were with my husband, the laundry was done, the house was clean and I had done my running for the week. Hmmm, I’ll rent a movie. So off to Redbox I go and I find a movie that looks intriguing, The Sea of Trees. Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts, must be good. (A 2015 film directed by Gus Van Sant). I am biased to movies that make you think, man vs. himself kind of movies, and The Sea of Trees was all about that.
**Spoiler alert** If you want to see the movie first, go rent it now.
There are so many themes to this movie, but I am going to talk about the most powerful and that is the atheist turned believer.
The movie starts with a solemn looking Matthew McConaughey, Arthur Brennan, getting on a plane to Tokyo, with a one way ticket bought the night before, and no luggage. He gets to Tokyo and rides in a cab. You see him go into a forest, the Aokigahara Forest, in his business clothes and trench coat. There are message boards going into the forest saying “Your life is a precious gift from your parents.” He sees the body of a dead girl and keeps walking. He sits down at a tree and very deliberately takes a sip of water, opens a prescription bottle and starts taking the circular blue pills, one by one. Headache, you think?
The movie unfolds and you come to find out he is there to commit suicide. In fact his wife said, in a flashback, “find a nice place to die” as her biggest fear was dying in a hospital. You see him Googling for a nice place to die and the Aokigahara Forest comes up because it is known to be a suicide haven. But why would this nice professional man want to kill himself? Well, through a series of flashbacks you discover that he and his wife did not have a great relationship. She was a functional alcoholic who despised that he was brilliant yet taught at a college for little money. He had cheated on her, and never got to really know her. They berated each other in public, it was painfully awkward.
Ok, back to the forest with Arthur sitting by a tree taking pills, he sees this Japanese man, Takumi Nakamura, struggling to walk and he goes over to help him. The man tells him he is lost and cannot find his way out. He must go back to his wife and child. He too was there to commit suicide, as his wrists were cut, (bandaged by our leading man). He states he didn’t want to die, he just didn’t want to live. This man is the distraction that stops Arthur from taking pills and together the men attempt to find a way out. We also learn that Arthur’s wife is dead. She had a brain tumor but died in an ambulance transfer ride. There are struggles, it’s cold, no water, multiple injuries. Then their conversation turns spiritual.
Takumi says “You believe in God.”
“Why would you think that?” Arthur
“Because you are American…if God is not waiting for you on the other side who is?” -Takumi
“I am a scientist. God is more our creation then we are his.” Arthur
“There are answers for God in science.” -Takumi
“There are answers for everything in science.” Arthur
Takumi goes onto say that this forest is like purgatory, for lost souls, trying to get out, and when one does escape, an orchid blooms.
After a weeping session at the fire pit, Arthur confesses he is so sorry for never getting to know his wife and for treating her so bad. The guilt of being a bad husband is what is causing him to kill himself. He regrets not knowing what her favorite book, color and season were. They fall asleep and wake up during dawn with the Japanese man half dead and Arthur leaving to find the way out (with the help of a walkie-talkie found). He promises to come back and get him. Arthur is found by the forest rangers, almost dead, and is brought to a local hospital, where he is treated medically and gets interviewed by a psychiatrist. Arthur is insistent authorities go find Takumi. They tell Arthur that they have checked the entrance cameras to the park and that no man entered matching Takumi’s description. Nor can they find a man by that name. The rangers even searched the forest and never found his body.
Arthur is discharged from the hospital and heads straight back to the forest to find his Japanese friend. He uses string and crumpled paper to find his way back, kind of like Hansel and Gretel, a side story, but his wife’s favorite book. He finds the spot where he left Takumi and lifts the coat to and see an orchid blooming, and no sign of any body. He takes the orchid with him and heads back to America, with a new-found happiness.
Back in America, Arthur is tutoring a student when the student sees some Japanese word’s Arthur has written, the names of Takumi’s wife and daughter. “Yellow winter”, the student says, revealing that he can speak Japanese. Arthur realizes that Takumi’s wife and daughter’s names were actually his wife’s favorite color and season. He smiles. He now can sense that his whole experience in the forest was a spiritual awakening, not explained by science. And such and experience could only be orchestrated by God himself.
Ok, serious doctrinal issues here, I realize this. But the underlying story is great. Atheist (scientist) man goes into the forest to kill himself. He gets sidetracked by a Japanese man, (who was possibly his dead wife’s soul), who seems to ask all the right questions and leaves clues to the atheist’s questions. Atheist survives and is renewed with hope. He sees that his near death experience and survival in the forest was by the grace of God. He also finds happiness in knowing his wife soul is no longer lost, as evidence by the blooming orchid.
Waaabamm! Go God! The message this movie sends to the atheist is simple. Not believing in God doesn’t change the power God has over you and in your life. At any given moment, God can present himself to you so you no longer can deny his existence. You may be sitting there (in a forest), when you are sidetracked (by a japanese man), knocked off course (lost and injured in a sea of trees), saved by the grace of God (Japanese forest rangers), and then have answered questions and happiness that you never imagined (yellow, winter). God is all-powerful and all-knowing. Whether or not you belive in Him, does not change the power he has over you.
For example, in the book of Acts in the bible, Saul, later to become the Apostle Paul, was on his way to Demascus, when he was literally blinded by a bright light and the voice of the Resurrected Lord. Saul at the time was very anti-Christ and was persecuting Christians. Saul was blind for three days and when a man named Ananias prayed over him he could see again. He changed his name to Paul and became the greatest Christian missionary of that age, contributing to much of the New Testament in the Bible.
Personally, I was knocked off my course by God as well. I wouldn’t say I was an atheist, but I thought it was a bunch of fairy tales. I was doing life miserably when one day while visiting a pre-school, it hit me, God hit me. I finally understood and my heart was changed. That was 7 years ago, and my life has never been the same.
Even though The Sea of Trees got horrible reviews, I think it was an interesting story with a deep message for non-believers. What do you think?
Hurricane Matthew just passed and where I live, we were going to be a direct hit. People were panicking because this was a cat 4 hurricane with up to 140 mph winds. Winds at that speeds leave total devastation. Roofs gone, trees down, flying debris along with flooding and power outages. News casters called “this storm a monster that will kill you.” One crazed new person even said “you and your children will die.” Images of house being destroyed by past storms also got shown on TV. All while children watch and wonder, what is all this mean to me?
All 3 of my kids reached differently to the upcoming warnings. My oldest at 12 was like, ok whatever, we will deal. I think she felt safe. My middle child, got upset, crying and worrying. What if the roof blows off? My youngest is 8 and he thought it was going to be an awesome party. Lots of sights and sounds and no school. So, they all had to be talked to individually and at their level.
I addressed their concerns. What if the roof blows off? Well, then we stay in a safe room until the storm passes and then we fix our house up. And mommy gets to redecorate!! Can I get Chip and Joanna please! I explained that we have insurance and that anything is replaceable or fixable. It would be a lot of work but as long as everyone was safe, that’s all that mattered.
I also made sure they knew that God was in control of the storm. He made the wind blow and determined its course. There was nothing we could do to stop it or change it. It was smart for us to prepare for it, but God was in control. I also talked about how God is in control of our everyday life, even with out a storm. He gives and takes away. Once you give you life to Christ, he is the pilot. Yes, we have to live wisely and make good choices but so very much is out of our control. Just like a hurricane.
When you know God, you know that whatever happens, it’s going to be ok. Illness, death, destruction. It’s ok. God has your back. There is no need to worry. He will give you peace. Not saying there will not be sadness or struggles, but beyond that there is peace and joy because you are a child of God. This life shall pass, but eternity is forever. I know this doesn’t make much sense to non-believers, but trust me, the peace is undeniable.
So, when tragedy strikes, talk to your kids. Listen to their fears. Share with them God’s love and protection. Then I reassure them, it’s going to be ok.
Those of us that have kids, know that worrying about our kids health is always in the back of our head. Is that cough getting to bad, do I take them to the doctor? Does that ankle look fractured? Is that mole normal? It never really ends. I am sharing this story about a friend’s daughter to remind us how fragile life and health are and to not take any of it for granted.
My kids are competitive swimmers. Like really competitive. So when we go to big meets, we have come to know other good swimmers families and have become friends with them. Even going out to eat after meets and hanging out. Which is kind of unusual when you think about it, they are the competition. But they also understand and respect all the woes of being really good and that creates a bond.
So at the last meet, I start talking to a mom friend about life, how’s it going and what not, when I immediately notice that something is wrong. She is off somehow. She looks stressed, lost and even medicated. She mentions that they are under a lot of stress, so I don’t say anything and think maybe they are getting a divorce.
I go on my merry way, cheering for my kids, wanting them to do well. I am in awe of how hard they work and how it has payed off. But still, I wonder what is going on with the other mom. Later on that night, I run into her again. She starts to tell me about her stress. She tells me that her older daughter who swims was having knee pain. She assumed it was breaststrokers knee but she took her for an MRI just to make sure. Well, it wasn’t breaststrokers knee, it was cancer. Osteosarcoma. Later to be confirmed by biopsy. Parents worst nightmare.
I immediately hug my friend and share my feelings of utter disbelief and sadness. I don’t know what else to say. How could this beautiful healthy 13-year-old girl have bone cancer? She begins to tell me that they are harvesting her eggs and soon she was starting chemo, radiation and then surgery. Wow. And 5 minutes ago I was worried about my kid dropping time. Now, I am just filled with sadness, guilt and fear.
I am sad because I know how this mom’s heart is breaking. She will have to see her daughter suffer. The family is going to be on an up and down rollercoaster for years. The “perfect life” just left. I feel guilty because I take for granted my kids health and really my own health all the time. So what if they don’t win the 50 freestyle, they are alive and well, aren’t they? My husband and I have been able to complete several marathons; do we know how lucky we are? Some people cannot walk. I feel fear because I know at anytime we too could get debilitating news about one of our children. This is the worst. I want nothing more than for my kids to be healthy and happy, but I realize this is just a want, not a reality.
Because of my relationship with God, I know nothing takes him by surprise. I know he loves the girl with cancer. In fact he loves all of us. He gave us life and can take it away. We have to respect God as Creator and Lord. All things happen for His purpose and glory.
Yes, it’s terrible. Yes, it’s sad. But, it will bring good. Her story is not over. In fact, it has already changed me. Be grateful for all that you have. Don’t take your health for granted. Love your kids. Love others. Pray for others that are suffering. Know and love God, for He is the only one that can bring true peace and understanding.