Just a Vapor in the Wind

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Once again we were recently reminded of the fragility of life and of the uncertainty of days as we said goodbye to another legend long before their three score and ten years were up. We have witnessed an alarming number of deaths just this year of those we were not expecting who seemed to be immortal just by virtue of their contributions that were woven into our mainstream lives.  These are just a few who are gone too early:

Prince, age 57; Chyna, age 46; Gary Shandling, age 67; Joey Feek, age 41; Vanity, age 57; Glen Frey, age 67; David Bowie, age 69; Natalie Cole, age 65.

The most recent mortality tables for the U.S. puts the average life expectancy at 78.8 years and yet we hear daily of tragedies of the not-so-popular people killed by violent acts, auto accidents or heath related issues that never get close to their allotted seventy years of life. As a fifty-four year old man with a few health issues, I am paying attention and considering the fact that I may live to see eighty or I may die on the golf course before I reach sixty.  No one knows for sure save God.

Where do we believers get the three score and ten years idea from?  The Psalmist David says in Psalm 90:10 that “our days may come to three score and ten, or fourscore for some”, score representing twenty years.  But he adds that “the best of them (years) are but trouble and sorrow for they quickly pass and we fly away”.  The older I get the more I can testify as to how quickly the years have gone by.  Through social media I keep in touch with many of my childhood and school friends and I am confounded as to how we can be discussing our grandkids. Time indeed flies.

There was a very popular song written by Kansas called Dust in the Wind which captures this essence.  The first line says “I close my eyes, only for a moment and the moment’s gone.”.  How true.  The author of this song was Kerry Livgren, a Christian who took this right out of the Word.  We read the following in James 4:14:

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”.

Some argue that our days are predestined and that nothing we do can take from or add to the years of our life.  While it may be true that God knows our life expectancy, there are verses left for us that indicate we can play a role in our life span. In 1 Kings we are told that “if we walk in obedience and keep his commands we will be given long life”. and again in Exodus 20, we should honor our father and mother so that we may live long”. The mystery of all mysteries is the shortened lives of those we view as righteous. We are simply called to a life of humility and obedience and service as we await. There is a parable in the New Testament about 5 wise virgins and 5 foolish virgins waiting for the groom to come for them. The wise virgins, not knowing for sure how long they may wait were smart enough to buy enough oil for their lamps should the wait be extended.  The foolish virgins, thinking they had more than enough time found that their lamps burned out too soon and they missed the groom when he came because they had to leave and buy more oil at the wrong time. There is a lesson for us here.  We can’t assume the time we have because of our own false sense of immortality-we can’t wait until tomorrow to be reconciled to God through Christ because we are only in our twenties, thirties or fifties.

So what should my response be when I read of unexpected deaths and consider my own pending mortality?  First I should rest in the knowledge that this life, although it is all I know with my human understanding, is but a short precursor to my REAL life which starts when I begin eternity with my savior, Christ.  We are reminded in the Word that we are just aliens here on this earth waiting for our eternal home. Second, this realization should compel me to make every moment of every day count for something bigger than me.  My kids need to know how much I love them.  They also need to be aware of my faith and my desire that they too be reconciled to Christ while there is time to do so, not knowing for sure what tomorrow brings. Third, I need to find joy in life even when life seems to be amused at my constant struggles.  This is a hard one for me as there are times when I feel like the poor mole in the arcade game Whack a Mole; every time I pop my head up someone is waiting there with a hammer to knock me back down. On these days I must find comfort in uplifting music, charitable work, leisurely activities-anything to keep me occupied so as not to dwell on current circumstances. This chapter may not be going the way I would have written it, but I still know how the story ends-I have to find peace in that knowledge.

The point is simple-look around, read the news, consider your own close circle of friends and acknowledge that no one is guaranteed another day, that no amount of fame or fortune will buy you another minute and that in a split second you or those close to you may be gone from this life. Embrace your mortality and use it as exhortation to live every moment to the fullest and leave no regrets.  Try to find happiness during deep times of sorrow and be conscious off those around you who need your encouragement and your love so they too can overcome their trials.  If the wind blows out your candle, light a bigger one. Be a friend, a mentor, and a road sign that leads to Christ in all you do, say and yes, post. Live life abundantly as to overflow onto others and go out with a bang!  At least that’s my ultimate plan.

 

 

 

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Time-Our Most Precious Commodity

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The text read “So how would you feel about going to Indy the weekend of Oct. 17th?”. It came from my youngest son. The timing wasn’t good.  I had just returned from a trip to Indy two weeks prior and was preparing for a business trip to Dallas. “I have two tix to Notre Dame USC in South Bend”. “I’ll buy your plane ticket”. It was clear that my son was anxious for me to spend the weekend with him and take in a great game.  How could I say no to that?  To say it was a great weekend would be the grandest of understatements!  We had the best time visiting friends and family, catching the game and being on the road, just the two of us.  Had I not made time for this weekend, I would have regretted it for years to come.

We spoke about jobs, women, future plans, tattoos and kicked back a beverage or three.  It was a reminder to me of what great sons I have, not that I had much to do with it. To pass myself off as the model father would be dishonest. While I took advantage of this opportunity to spend time with my son, there were too many times that I didn’t. We have made some great memories along the way-I just wonder how many memories were left unmade because I didn’t  make time. How many such moments did I not experience because I was too busy. It’s shameful and regrettable. And sadly, once the moments have passed, they can’t be recaptured.

We live in a world that spins as a hectic pace. Whether you are chasing a career, remodeling a house or even a fixture at your local church, our time gets divided by the things we choose to prioritize. I can’t make that event because it’s my poker night, or I will miss your birthday party because I’m singing at church. Don’t misunderstand me-there are things in each of our lives that we do as eternal investments, but in doing so many times we miss the chance to invest in the here and now-our adult children ever maturing or our grandchildren who remind us, if we pay attention, of just how precious and fleeting time is whether we are in the moment or not. Time passes at the same pace for all of us but some are much better at recognizing Kodak opportunities.  None of us are guaranteed a certain quota of time-it’s as if we are in a constant game of musical chairs, wondering when it’s our time for the music to stop and to find ourselves the odd man out for additional time, left to face eternity with no more opportunities to create memories for those we leave behind.

As I write this I just turned fifty-four years old.  As I look back on my life so far, the best memories I have are not of the things I had, the cars I drove or the salaries I made. The best times were when I was with people I loved just doing life together-Christmases, vacations, walks on the beach, making snow women with the kids on the block, playing monster at the playground with the grandkids-riding roller coasters with the boys-the things that will keep me company when I am old and alone. I don’t want any more regrets of time wasted, of memories lost at the expense of something so temporal to even remember. But how many of us have made the same mistakes in the name of chasing the dream. That, sadly, I have been very good at.

In the New Testament Jesus reminds us how foolish it is to say tomorrow we are going here or there and make this amount of profit, etc, when in fact we don’t have any assurance that we will be around in the near future.  It is certainly not in error to plan for your future or make plans for events or activities, but to do so in arrogance as if we have all the time in the world and not taking advantage of today is a mistake Christ didn’t want us to make. As always, His words are true for us on numerous levels if we will but listen.

This week is the twentieth year anniversary of the film back to the Future about time travel.  While the movie was entertaining, it certainly was far from realty.  What we wouldn’t give to go back in time and make better decisions, eliminate events that weren’t so important after all and replace them with those we didn’t take advantage of. But time has only one direction, forward. We can make time that that is still before us but none of us can substitute for the time that has already passed. The weekend I spent with my son will be one I’ll always remember and will serve to further remind me that whether taking in a road trip for football, or spending the afternoon on the golf course or sipping a beer at a NASCAR race, time spent with my kids is never wasted. The same may be said of siblings, spouses and close friends. When we leave this earth it won’t be the toys we acquired, the titles we held or the degrees we earned that will be remembered, it will be the moments, the toasts, the laughs and a few tears.  These are the real things that make up life. These are the things I want to spend the balance of my time pursuing. A plaque on the wall is nice; a Notre Dame ticket stub or a golf score card is priceless.