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What Dying Taught Me about Living

What Dying Taught Me about Living

One minute, Mark Russell was refereeing a high school football game. The next minute, he was. . .gone.

There was no warning. He had no time to yell out for help. Suddenly everything just went black.

I sat in the stands, watching in horror, as someone I’ve known since childhood crumpled over on the sideline, gray and lifeless. A cardiac nurse, who happened to be standing nearby, began CPR. Players, coaches and the other refs hit their knees. The game announcer prayed for Mark over the loud speaker. An eerie silence fell over the crowd as we watched the nurse and EMT techs work feverishly to restart Mark’s heart.

Finally, after two tremendous, body-wrenching shocks with a defibrillator, Mark suddenly gasped, drawing in a deep, life-saving breath as his heart began to beat again. As they put him on a gurney, he gave an appreciative thumbs-up to the crowd.

Everyone cheered. People hugged each other. It was as if he came back to life right before our eyes. Sighs of relief, coupled with tears, echoed through the stands.

Later that night, a blockage was removed from Mark’s artery at the hospital. I went to see him the next morning. He was pretty amazed at what had happened. “Had there not been people who were willing to help me and a defibrillator nearby, I probably wouldn’t have made it,” Mark said.

A few months later, I met with Mark in a coffee shop to talk about his near-death experience.

I was nervous. I feared that my questions might cause Mark to relive that terrifying night all over again, but he was refreshingly open and honest. Gratitude for life radiated from his face. “I don’t mind sharing about my experience,” Mark said. “I want to use it for good.”

His positive attitude gave me the courage to ask him something I really needed to know.

“What did dying teach you about living?"

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/zeljkosantrac

Living Ready

Living Ready

Mark thought about it for a few minutes as the busy coffee shop hummed. The cappuccino machine gurgled with steam. A baby started to cry. I began to fidget awkwardly, thinking, maybe that question was a little too personal.

Finally, he said, “I learned to live ready.”

“You mean you learned to live ready with your Maker? Right?” I asked.

“No.” Mark said.“I’ve been ready with my Maker for years and my faith in Him is strong. I learned that I have to also live ready with people.

"The night I dropped dead, I wasn’t ready. There were some things I needed to make right, and a few apologies to give, but mostly, I needed to thank a lot of people who have contributed to my life.

"Living ready means telling friends and family that I love them. It means voicing my admiration, instead of being silent. It means cheering others on. I don’t know why I didn’t express these things more often. Dying taught me that in order to live fully, I’ve got to live ready with both God and people.”

I sat there, totally in awe, realizing it was just what I needed to hear—probably, it’s something we all need to hear. To live ready with our Maker and with people.

But how? Let's consider the following ideas.

Photocredit: ©Thinkstock

How to Live Ready with Your Maker:

How to Live Ready with Your Maker:

1. Accept the gift of salvation.

Receive salvation by placing your faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). God offers every believer forgiveness of sin, everlasting life and a place in His family (Eph. 2:19). Isn’t that really good news? Live ready with your Maker by accepting His gracious gift.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).

2. Seek after God.

Spend time in the presence of God each day. This will nourish and strengthen your soul, like nothing else can. It will empower you to live and love differently. I know. Seeking God (as a practice) changed my entire life. I wrote about the incredible blessing I found in my book, Seeking a Familiar Face. God promises us:

“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed” (Jer. 29:12-14 MSG).

3. Live a life of love.

Love is more than just a feeling; it must be lived out on a daily basis. Love God by honoring Him in all you do. Love the Lord by obeying Him (even when it’s difficult). Express your love in praise and in prayer. Love God by loving His children well. The Bible calls believers to live a lifestyle of love:

“And love means living the way God commanded us to live, that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love” (2 John 1:6).

4. Expect to meet Him.

Photographers often capture the “first look” between a bride and a groom because it’s such a meaningful moment. One day, you will see the Lord face to face too, for you are His bride. Try to picture that first look. How will you feel? What might it be like? Expecting to meet Him in the future will inspire you to live ready now.

“In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face to face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now” (1 Cor. 13:12 TLB).

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How to Live Ready with People:

How to Live Ready with People:

1. Just do it: write, visit or call.

Take the time to make that visit you’ve been putting off. Reach out to someone in your neighborhood who needs a friend. Invite someone you haven’t seen in a while over for coffee. Send a kind note or an encouraging text. Don’t just think about it—do it. Live ready by living connected to other people.

“We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things. We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming” (Hebrews 10:24-25 GW).

2. Help others carry their load.

You don’t have to look very hard to find someone who is straining under a heavy load. Many are just trying to get by—be quick to help them. Babysit. Help a neighbor move. Cheer a friend on. Don’t let people you love bear their burdens alone. Remember, Christ is glorified every time you help someone else. Live ready by lending a hand.The Bible encourages us to:

“Help carry one another's burdens, and in this way you will obey the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2 GNT).

3. Don’t lose your cool.

Sure, people do dumb things. They often make frustrating mistakes. But so do you and I. Remember that when you lose your cool, you lose. Don’t expect people to be perfect—expect them to make mistakes. This will make offending you harder and being around you easier. Live ready with people by loosening up.

“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Col. 3:12-13 NLT).

4. Say “I love you,” often.

Honestly, telling others that you love them can feel awkward. But I’ve learned that people really need to know (and to hear) that they’re loved. Don’t leave your loved ones in doubt. Let them know how you feel by saying “I love you,” out loud and often. Then live up to your words by being thoughtful and kind.

“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others” (Jn. 13:34-35 VOICE).

5. Live generously with open hands and an open heart.

Living generously is more than just giving money. It also means sharing your heart, time and talents. Someone needs what only you can give.Take inventory—you may be surprised at how much you have to share—and then use your gifts to serve. Fulfilling the needs of others will fulfill you.

“Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God’s blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors…” (Deut. 15:10-11 MSG).

After meeting with Mark that day, I walked away from the coffee shop with a spring in my step and a full heart. He reminded me how precious this life is—and how brief. He taught me something valuable: to live ready with both God and people.

Possibly, today could be my (and your) last opportunity to do so. 

“Now is the best time to start living ready,” Mark said. “You don’t have to drop dead to learn this lesson. Start today.”

Photo Credit: ©Thinkstock

May Patterson has been writing and teaching Bible study classes for years. Last year she released her first book, “Seeking a Familiar Face.” Now, she has just released its companion Bible studyworkbook. May trained in small group dynamics for over ten years with Bible Study Fellowship, serving as a leader for four years. She has written for various magazines including Focus on the Family, Upper Room Magazine and iBelieve, and is a sought-after public speaker. May is married to her dear friend, Mike, and they have three grown children. She loves to tell stories, laugh, and talk about the adventure of seeking God. Read more from May by visiting: http://www.maypatterson.com.

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