One Less Candle

A walk through my neighborhood gifted me with a man’s profound wisdom packaged in a simple statement–

“It’s a spring day in the winter of my life,” said my elderly neighbor while raising his American flag early one April morning.

His words revealed great depth; he recognized the brevity of his life.  Unfair to most, this man had age as his reminder to seize the day.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case; we often stumble through life expecting that we have an approximate amount of time to live.

We fail to believe that we could leave this world before we accomplish our goals; our time seems to replenish itself as each year passes.  Proverbs 27:1 states, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring”; yet, most of us live as if tomorrow will never run out.  Tomorrow we will forgive, tomorrow we will make that call, tomorrow we will play with the kids.  It’s not as if we don’t want to do those things, it’s just that life is too busy to get to them now, so we believe.  It’s easy to imagine all that we will do tomorrow since it is always in surplus.

Tomorrow we will become who God intended, just one more day until—

What remains of our chapter when tomorrow never comes?

If we read our lives as novels, why is it that we assume that our pages never run out?  For now, we are too busy focusing on our to-do lists.  From morning until night, we rush through our minutes as if we are in a marathon.  Another day, another dollar; another year, and the kids get taller.  Winter tiptoes into spring, and spring leaps to summer; summer crawls to fall and fall sprints to winter.  If we could see our time diminishing like sand in an hourglass, would we change how we live each day?

Would we literally stop and smell the roses?  Would we even notice them?

Somehow, in the abundance of time, we can’t seem to decipher the meaningful moments from the frantic pace.  Our days become a blur of monotonous repetition of meaninglessness.  Perhaps, we shouldn’t increase our birthday candles with age.  Wouldn’t it be more realistic if we were given 76 candles at birth only to watch them decrease as the years passed?  Would we make living more meaningful knowing that our time was running out?  Would we exchange our to-do lists for our to-be lists:  to be thankful, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be real in the midst of daily chaos?

Living the abundant life does not mean abandoning the ones that we already have.  Instead, it is an intentional pursuit of seeing God in what appears as the ordinary, the insignificant busyness of our lives.  Deciding to celebrate the little moments throughout the day is the beginning of a meaningful life.  Instead of rushing through traffic, we see the sunrise appearing in the morning sky.  In place of watching shattered lives on television, we ride bikes with our children.  We trade gossip with friends for conversations with Jesus.  We live each day intentionally breathing, thinking, praying.  We don’t stop life as we know it; we pursue it as it ought to be.  We live as if there is no tomorrow, yet believing that there is.

Friend, are you appreciating your surroundings as you race through life?  Is your heart prompting you to notice something or someone, but you keep telling yourself, “tomorrow?”  If today was your last day on this side of eternity, would you leave any area of your life in regret?  If so, now is the time to do it, not tomorrow–nowWill you choose to live before you die?

Let us pray Psalm 39:4-5,

“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!” Selah             (Selah means to stop and consider)

Blessings! –Michelle

Is Your American Dream Worth The Cost?

What’s so great about Gatsby?  Really?!

For those of you who have already read this classic in high school, you may feel a sense of nostalgia as your teenager anxiously awaits its release this summer.  Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the mysterious Jay Gatsby, will reawaken us to a man who chases his American dreams.  A boy whose life held great potential, Jay Gatsby as an adult lies, steals, and cheats his way to worldly success.  It is in reaching his dreams that he experiences what the Bible refers to as Chasing the Wind. 

Yet, when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” —Ecclesiastes 2:11

Gatsby reached his American dream, and then he was viciously consumed by it.  Defined through the world’s lens as a success, Gatsby was a miserable shell of a man, completely devoid of true happiness.  The Bible describes Gatsby’s 5 wind-chasing areas, “idols” that may come between us and God in Ecclesiastes:

  1. Chasing the Wind of Materialism
  2. Chasing the Wind of Selfish Ambition
  3. Chasing the Wind of Beauty
  4. Chasing the Wind of Worldly Wisdom
  5. Chasing the Wind of Pleasure

Like Gatsby, we are a nation of wind chasers.  We buy today’s wants with tomorrow’s paycheck.  From 700 billion dollar bailout plans to monthly credit card statements, we create a life that reflects Proverbs 22:7– the borrower is a slave to his lender. We own the latest gadgets, we drive the nicest cars, and we sleep in overbought houses.  Our garages are small; our attics are tight; our storage units are packed.  In the midst of our grasping for more, Jesus reminds us that “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” –Matthew 11:30  Living life according to our wants will never fulfill what He wants for us.  We will never experience the fullness of our life’s plan if we continue denying that our stuff is the evidence of our wind-chasing hearts.

Wind chasers are nearsighted.  We see the temporal instead of the eternal.  We reach for the momentary pleasure regardless of the future consequences.  Sometimes it takes the eternal vision of another to give us perspective for pursuing meaningful lives.

My grandmother had eternal vision with only a day left to live.

During a routine checkup, Gammy was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of sixty-seven.  Always busy and bustling with energy, she approached the remaining year of her life with reflection and wisdom.

I visited at her bedside the day before she died.  Propping herself against her pillows to give the illusion of strength, she reached for my hand and offered a rare and eternal treasure:  a dying woman’s advice on how to live.  “If I could live my life over again,” she smiled, “I wouldn’t have cared about so many things that stole my peace.  It’s easy to see what’s important when you get to the end of your life.  If only I would have slowed down, worked less, bought less.  I would have taken more walks, back when I could walk.  I would have spent less time inside watching television and more time outside reading beneath trees.”

She continued, “I didn’t need to take big vacations to spend time with my friends.  I would have had more vacations in my backyard with everyone over just laughing, catching up, spending time together.  My sickness has brought the greatest of family reunions right here in this bedroom.  I remember making such a fuss over needing my house cleaned before visitors came over.  When your minutes are numbered, you’re just thankful that you have visitors, regardless of how the house looks.”

With great remorse, yet attempting to leave me some insight on living, she declared, “Oh, how I would have spent more time living for Jesus!  Faith is everything that l have right now as I look toward death.  Live your life for Christ!  You will be here where I am someday, at the end of your life.  Trust me, I still have a hard time believing I’m here.  You will look back over your years and wonder what God is going to say about how you lived it.”  She paused momentarily having a sudden epiphany, “I’m about to meet Him face to face!  I am about to meet the very God from the Bible, the Jesus who died on the cross for me!”

My grandmother closed her eyes that night and never opened them again on this side of eternity.  I can only imagine her reaction when she saw Jesus.  Gammy’s final words to me was the ultimate fulfillment of her life’s purpose.  It was not in her character to reveal her inner thoughts, but on that particular visit, God led her to do just that.  I believe that her message to me is God’s message to you.

As The Great Gatsby ends, the narrator writes,  “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eluded us then, but that’s no matter  —tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther….And one fine morning—-”

(I must add)…..   we will wake up in the face of God! 

We must be certain that what we are running after is God’s plan; otherwise, it’s just chasing the wind!

Friend, Are you chasing the wind?  If so, will you choose today to stop?  You are only a choice away from changing the direction of your life.  Will you commit today to living your best life, the one that Christ died for you to have?  It’s the only way to avoid a lifetime of regret.

Blessings! –Michelle