The Fragrance of Life

Have you ever taken a long walk through a beautiful garden? There is really something spectacular about it as you twist and turn through the cultivated landscape. The fragrances along the way fill your senses. Add the over the top scenery of the place and it only adds to an otherworldly experience. Most times, I hesitate to leave such a place.

As I walk through the garden of my life, each friendship adds a different fragrance to the atmosphere around me. Each is one of a kind, unique and can never be duplicated. This past month two of my friends have been transplanted from their earthly garden to their heavenly one and I will miss them both.

One was like a peony, sharing her fragrance with all around her. You couldn’t be in the same room and not notice her. She was beautiful and had a lovely disposition. She stood out with her sense of fashion and platinum blonde hair. Lest one think she was coddled throughout life, her personal history informs us of a different story. She was rejected by her family at seventeen for being a single unwed mother. She was put on a plane and shuttled to a different state to have her baby. Feeling unwelcome, she did not return home for decades. She remained where she had been sent and got an education. She became a nurse and social worker. She was compassionate and non-judgmental; always willing to hear someone’s story and extend a helping hand. She exuded the fragrance of empathy that all partook of in her presence.

The other was more retiring. She was an introvert and was content to stay in the background. Her fragrance was released as she quietly assisted others. Her fragrance was also born of difficulty. Her husband died unexpectedly and she was left with three young children. She returned to school to become an educator and never married again. She was creative and had a knack for decorating the events she attended. She was like a delicate Morning Glory. One would have to sit near her to catch her fragrance but it had a rich sweetness that only those who took time to listen to her would be able to enjoy. She exuded the fragrance of selflessness; a fragrance that is only found in the rarified atmosphere of humility.

As I continue to walk through life, I will miss their fragrance. Each meeting and event won’t be quite the same without the addition of their unique scents. The air will never smell as sweet again and I look forward to the time when I take my first breath of heavenly air. I know I will breathe their scent again and my life will once again be enriched by their presence.

Photo by Jill Wellington. Courtesy of PIxabay.

Good vs. Saved

“Good people don’t go to heaven, saved people do.” Skip Heitzig

Billions of people on earth are busy doing good works in order to get to heaven. They are doing things such as fasting, following religious traditions, giving alms, feeding the poor, going to church, etcetera. They are trying their hardest to be good enough so that when they die, they can go to heaven.

The problem with this approach is how do you know when you have done enough to get in? Do you think that God puts all of our good works on one side of the Celestial Scale and our bad deeds on the other side and then if the good ones outweigh the bad, we are admitted into heaven?

The problem with this kind of thinking is that our good works are not quantifiable. How much do we have to give in order to have really done a good work? Does showing up for church or at the local temple qualify as a good work? Do we get credit for being nice to our family or those who love us? Who’s keeping score and when do we know when we have done enough?

I spoke to a person a while back and we were talking about good works. He certainly had given more to the needy than most people and I’m sure he hoped that would count for something when he stands before the Lord. He was raised in church but somehow had forgotten about Jesus. So, I asked him, “If we can get to heaven by doing good works, why did Jesus have to come to earth to die for our sins?” He didn’t have an answer to that.

The answer to that question, is by way of inference, that of course we can’t get to heaven by our own good works. That is exactly why Jesus had to come to earth because none of us is good enough or can do enough good works to get into heaven. Someone had to pay the price for our sins in order to secure our way into heaven. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3: 16-17

Are you trying as hard as you can to be good enough for God? Are you doing good work after good work in order to be accepted by Him? Why don’t you take a step back and take a good hard look at Jesus. Can you see that He is the only One that can get you where you want to be when you die? Let me know if this is a new thought for you.

The Hellevator

Marco looked across the bay. He loved watching the ocean from his office window. Today, there was no fog and he felt like he could see forever. The blue of the Pacific Ocean was stunning as it glistened in the full sun. It was late Friday afternoon and he was calling it quits for the week. He turned around and looked at his office. He smiled as he saw all of the awards he had received throughout his career as a real estate broker. It had been quite a ride and he was still enjoying the thrill as each sale closed and his company received its commission.

Tomorrow was his 50th birthday and he and his family were going to spend the weekend at his parent’s winery in Napa. He loved his parents but had chosen not to stay in Napa and work with his dad and brothers. Growing grapes and making wine did not compare to the thrill of making thousands of dollars from just one real estate transaction.

Marco walked out the door of his office and headed for the elevator. As he started to reach for the button, everything went black and he collapsed on the floor. He woke up as his spirit left his body and traveled upwards. In a few moments, he was in a room filled with light and millions of books. He looked around and saw what he believed were two angels. They looked at him and then turned and opened a gigantic door. A being filled with light entered and when his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Not only was this person filled with light, he could feel love emanating from his every pore. He could see the scars on his hands and feet and he knew instantly who he was. This was Jesus, the Son of God that his parents had taught him about when he was little.

Marco could do nothing else but fall on his face and worship Him. Jesus came forward and lifted him up. As He touched Marco, love filled Marco’s being. He knew he was loved completely at that moment. A flash of fear coursed through Marco’s mind. What was he doing here? Had he died? What about his life? As those thoughts went through his mind, Marco began to see his life pass before him.

He saw the things he had done as a child and as a teenager. He saw his rejection of God in his college years and his obsession with money and his career in his twenties, thirties and forties. His life looked oh so shallow and self-centered. Had he done any good? He saw how he loved his wife and kids and how his company contributed every year to the homeless shelter near his office. He wondered, was that enough to get him into heaven?

No words were spoken as Jesus looked into the Book of Life that one of the angels held in his hand. He searched for Marco’s name but could not find it. “I’m sorry Marco. I created you to spend eternity with me, but you rejected every advance I made to offer you my love.” Marco then saw the hundreds of times that Jesus had protected him and spoken to him in a still small voice. He watched himself ignore those moments as he hurried on about his life, anxious to cut another deal and make another great commission.

Jesus turned and left the room. One of the angels pointed to the Hellevator and Marco knew that he was going to have to take it and live in a Christless eternity. He began weeping as he was escorted to the Hellevator. The door opened and he saw a demon waiting to take him to Hell. He tried to back up but a force just kept drawing him forward into the Hellevator. He started screaming, “No, No, I am so sorry.” He heard his voice echo off the walls in the Hellevator and the demon smile a wicked smile. Just as the door began to close, everything went dark again.

“One, Two, Clear.” A bolt of electricity shocked his heart. His heart began to beat and he heard, “He’s back. Let’s get him down the elevator and to SF General.” He could feel them lift him onto the gurney and he heard the elevator door open as they rushed him inside. In just a few moments, he was on the street and they were loading him into the ambulance. Someone was talking to him, “We’ve got ya buddy, just hang on. You’re going to be okay.”

Marco felt the weight of his body and knew he was back in it. His chest hurt and he felt weak, so weak he could hardly talk. He looked up at the paramedic and whispered, “Thank you.” He then looked up through the roof of the ambulance into heaven, “Thank you Jesus, for a second chance. I won’t let you down.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17.

Image by Gerd Altman. Courtesy of Pixabay

Torn Between Two Countries

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Photo by Benji Mellish on Pexels.com

I was born the child of parents from two different countries. My father met my mother while he was overseas in the service. She was Italian and her family lived in Milan. They were married and returned to the States to live. From the time I was little, I would hear stories about Italy and have letters read to me from my Italian family. I would look at the pictures they sent and long to meet them. 

Growing up, I never quite felt at home in the States. There seemed to be a part of me that was longing for another country, another family, another culture. When I got older my father decided I should go to Italy and get to know my Italian family.

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I began learning the language, made arrangements to go to school over there and flew to Milan. I met my family and spent several months with them. It was an experience I will never forget. They showered me with love and took me around to different cities and taught me about the history and culture of the country. Even though I loved my new family, the people and that country, there was a part of me that still didn’t quite fit in there completely. 

Eventually, I moved back to the States and married. I still kept in touch with my family in Italy and my heart was always torn between the two countries. I had people I loved in two different places and for better or worse I was now part of two different cultures. Since that time, I have never completely fit in the country I am living in because there are always people I love and want to be near living elsewhere.

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Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

During this time I became a Christian so I began learning about another culture. I read the Bible and began to experience an entirely different kind of  life. I heard about a place where there was no violence, murder, or crime of any kind. I learned of a place where peace reigned because God reigned there. Again, my heart became divided. There were people I loved here on Earth, but I longed to be with my Heavenly Father in Heaven. There was a better place to live and more and more my heart longed to be there.

So again, I am torn between two countries, two cultures, two peoples, two places. There are people I love here on Earth but I hate the crime, division and the lack of love people have for one another. I long for that place where people will treat each other kindly and where love will reign supreme. 

I know that I am not alone. Most people sense that there is something not right here on the earth. We look around and know instinctively that there is not supposed to be hunger, thirst, disease, war, poverty, greed and all the other kinds of evil there is here. We were made for something different and we all have a deep longing for a better place, a better life. 

What about you? Are you torn between two countries also? Do you long for a better life and a better place? It’s available to you, all you have to do is ask for it.

“Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 42 – 43.