The Woman and the Fork

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things ‘in order,’ she contacted
 her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. 

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. 

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

‘There’s one more thing,’ she said excitedly.. 

’What’s that?’ came the Pastor’s reply? 

’This is very important,’ the young woman continued. ‘I want to be buried with a fork in my
 Right hand.’ 

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. 

That surprises you, doesn’t it?’ the young woman asked. 

’Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,’ said the Pastor. 

The young woman explained. ‘My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part
, because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!’

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.’ 

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, ‘What’s with the fork?’ And over and over he smiled. 

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about
 the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. 

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

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Positive Attitudes

A lot can be said about having a positive attitude. There is a woman I know that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a biopsy and “some lymph nodes removed” on Monday and came to work on Wednesday. She told me that she had too much to do. Several years later, she was diagnosed with colon cancer in March that year. She told her doctor to schedule the procedure right away because she has an annual trip she takes in September and wasn’t going to miss it. The doctor tried to temper her optimism but she told him that she’d been making that trip for over 20 years and wasn’t going to miss it. She made the trip that year and is still with us today more than five years later. I’m not suggesting that you can will away your troubles but having a positive attitude can certainly make a big difference in how it affects your day to day personality. When Lisa and I used to golf together (yes, used to), she was always saying something positive to me following a bad shot. If I hit my ball into the sand, she’d say, “at least it didn’t go into the water”. If I hit it into the water she’d say, “at least it isn’t in the sand”. I failed to see at that time that she was displaying the best positive attitude possible; we were together enjoying the beautiful weather. Zig Ziglar once said “you cant get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” Face each day with the right mindset and you’ll enjoy the best life has to offer.

“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:15

The difficulty here is knowing whether you were sent or not. We are commanded to “go and make disciples of all men and nations”. I’d suggest that this single verse tells us that we are sent. Bringing good news can come in many forms, passing out water to the homeless on hot days, distributing flyers about upcoming church events, witnessing to the lost and having a positive outlook on life are just a few forms. The good news of being positive can simply be found in the contagiousness of a positive attitude. People can look to you as the example of positive thinking and modeling the way of the Lord, so that when they finally come to realize where your strength is from, you will have the courage to profess your faith openly. When people ask about it, you can tell them you have no fear or worry because of our savior Jesus Christ. Choosing to live with Jesus is reason enough to be positive.

What are your gifts?

This week noted the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous, “I Have a Dream Speech.” One of the awesome benefits of being an elected official is that you are exposed to a wide range of experiences and information. Each year, various groups in our West Valley celebrate MLK Day with some type of program and they invite their elected officials. This year we attended a program hosted by a group in an Active Adult Community who call themselves “Just Folks”. They bring in young African American high school and college kids to speak about what Martin Luther King Jr. means to them. In a printed litany, they quoted from a sermon he delivered on August 11, 1957.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’ An individual has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Every person must decide at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

We have all benefited from the deeds and sacrifices of those before us. They left a mark for us and now it is our responsibility to make contributions for the greater good. The freedoms we enjoy, the privileges we have as free citizens have all come at cost to someone. Have you ever thought about the legacy that you will leave? We might not be in the national spotlight but we can always make a difference right where we are.

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” – Proverbs 11:25

God has given us all great talents, not for our own benefit but for the benefit of others. God never wanted us to be selfish or alone; He wanted us in fellowship with each other. If we have talents, God has given us enough to share. If you Google “Spiritual Gifts” you will find a number of resources to help you determine what gifts you have and how you can use them. Once you know how God has gifted you, you can start sharing them with others. Living the example of Jesus is pleasing to God and will make a difference in someone’s life. Sure, a difference for one person might not seem like a big deal but what if that person goes on to make a difference for 1000 people and then one of them goes on to make a difference for millions. Like dropping a rock in the water, the single act can send waves that are immeasurable.

Planning

Do you start your workweek with a plan? How about the workday? Planning for some people is very easy while others struggle to get out the front door on time each day. We can plan for something as short-term as the morning or for the long-term when dealing with a strategic plan or long-range workplans. Whichever you are doing, a plan always starts with the end in mind. What is it you want to do or accomplish? Some call that the vision but the end is simply knowing what you are planning for. The best analogy is taking a car trip. We start by knowing where we want to go and then we look for routes to get us there. Along the way we look for cities or towns where we can stop for fuel or grab something to eat and for longer trips, we look for somewhere to stop for the night and make reservations. Whether you are doing long or short range planning, the process is virtually the same. Write down the goal or end and workout a route to get there. Whether you are doing some personal growth planning or directing the work of a team, route the course to get to the end. Write down your goal and the steps (course) to get there. Share it with members of your work-team or for those personal goals; share them with close friends to make it more meaningful and to get support from those who might help along the way. Consider them your “reservations” for points along the way. You will need support to achieve your goals and a good plan will make the path that you take a little more direct.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

I have written before about God’s plan for us. If we let God direct our lives, we cannot fail and we will glorify Him. It sounds like we’d be using God as our Google Maps and letting Him pick the path for us. While it sounds easier that way, its not what God wants for us. He wants us to enjoy our lives, love our neighbors and most of all, He wants us to be faithful to Him – Commit to the Lord. If we work with the goal of being faithful to God in Heaven, doing what He commands, sharing the good news of a savior in Jesus Christ, how can we go off course? God loves us and has rewarded our faithfulness by sending His Son to die for our sins so that we may live with Him in Glory for all of eternity. The irony in that is there is no end. Our lives here on earth will end, so we must make plans to Glorify God in whatever we do. At work, be honest, work hard, be obedient and support those around you. In your life you can bring Glory to God through regular worship, bible study, Christian fellowship and supporting your fellow man. When your walk in life is in step with God’s, your plans will succeed because your goals are the same – sharing eternity with each other.

Outlook for 2013

We are starting a new year with the fiscal cliff being pushed a little farther up the hill. For some of us, this is a sign to be optimistic. Others will simply delay their dreams until something more certain happens. How have these past few years been for you? Tough is my guess. If you think about it, you have been provided for in some way. Sure, your hours at work have been cut or there’s been no overtime to supply the extra buffer of cash you counted on but you have still been provided for. It’s hard to think positively about 2013 when the past few years have been such a struggle. Think about what makes you happy at home and at work and focus on those things. Many people have “re-invented” themselves these past few years when a job loss or change forced it. What do you want  to do? Is there something that you’ve always dreamed of doing? Now may be the time to do it. The world that we knew has changed and doors are being opened for people in a lot of unusual ways, they just don’t see it. If you are in a position of leadership, you should be finding ways to open doors for your people. As a subordinate, you should seek opportunities to expand your experiences by offering to help your boss with their projects. If you feel “stuck” in your job with no hope, look outside of your current position for a new future. They say it’s always easier to find a job when you have one. If you are without one or are “underemployed”, follow your passion! One small opportunity can turn into a bigger one if you are enjoying your life in the sunshine instead of under the dark clouds.

“…God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

So many people think that they are in control of their destiny and that if THEY don’t do things it won’t happen. As Jesus would say “Those Fools!” God has said throughout the bible that He has the plans and that they are not for us to know. He also promises to meet all of our needs as He does here. Paul reminds the Philippians that God will meet their needs. What God doesn’t promise is that he’ll meet the needs that WE desire. We have to remember that what we need to sustain us here in this life is NOT the same as what we need to sustain ourselves for eternity. Paul reminds the Philippians (and us) that we need the riches of Christ Jesus, our savior. God wants us to be happy in this life and he wants us to keep our focus on Him, not our happiness. If you are down about the upcoming year, send your cares to God through prayer. He didn’t finish His work when He raised Jesus from death; He was just sending us a message about where to focus our lives. Live to His glory and He will meet all of your needs.