Monday, October 19, 2009

The Gift of Today

“Stacy, I need you to fast forward this part.”

The request came from a four year old. He and his older brother were watching a movie we had checked out from our local library earlier that morning. Even though both boys had seen this movie several times before, it had still made its way into our book bag and now, into their DVD player.

“Why, honey?” I asked. “Is this part upsetting to you?”

“No. I just don’t want to watch this part. It’s boring. I want to hurry up and look at the funny part.”

“Well, you can’t hurry up!” His six year old brother now jumped into our conversation. “You have to go through the part you don’t like so you can get to the funny part. It’s all part of the movie and that’s just the way it is.”

I never cease to be amazed at the simple, yet profound words of wisdom commonly spoken by children. Countless times, my heart has been pricked and my thoughts sparked by their keen observations and raw honesty.

Ohhhh kaaaaaaaaaaay,” the younger brother replied. “I’ll look at the TV, but I’m not really going to watch it!”

And so it is with life. How many times have you and I wished we could simply hit the fast forward button and speed through a time in our life that wasn’t exactly pleasing to us? How many times have you and I looked at life, but not really lived it? If the truth be told, most of us, whether we realize it or not, are inevitably living our life in fast forward.

“What?” You say. “Not me.” I hate to burst your bubble, but does T.G.I.F. ring a bell? Thank God it’s Friday? I thought so. If you are like me, there have probably been numerous times in your own life when you have climbed out of bed Monday morning already thinking about the upcoming weekend. If I can just make it through the week, then I can enjoy the weekend. Sadly, five whole days – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – are passed over in an effort to hurry through the part we don’t like in hopes of getting to the part we do. Before we know it, our entire life has passed before us or worse yet, passed us by.

Every single day is a unique and precious gift from God. Just like a snowflake or the prints on your thumb, no two days are alike. We only get one chance to live this day. In the light of that great revelation, isn't it absolutely bizarre that we don't choose to be more selective and more intentional about the way we spend each moment God has so graciously given to us?

Sure, we both have obligations, such as work and family responsibilities, that may dictate to some degree how our 24 hours of time are spent, but ultimately, you and I are the only ones in control of our day. It is you and I who have been given the final say as to whether we will spend this never-to-be-lived-again moment of time

happy or miserable,
thankful or complaining,
giving or taking,
doing or watching,
enjoying or enduring,
living or going through the motions.

The choice is ours and ours alone.

“But wait,” you say. “That’s not true. You don’t know how demanding and difficult my boss can be. You don’t know the pressure I’m under financially. You don’t know about my illness. You haven’t seen my to-do list. You just don’t know what I am going through.”

You’re right. I don’t. But I do know this. When the sun sets this evening, our today will vanish only to become yet another one of our yesterdays. It will be over, never to be lived again.

Life passes all too quickly. Each day begins and ends before we have barely had time to make its acquaintance. Shouldn't we choose to live every single moment of today, regardless of whether the moment is good or bad, happy or sad? Why should we long to hit the fast forward button, when one day, we will inevitably long to press rewind and live moments of our life all over again? Time is ticking. Let's start making the most of this precious gift and truly start living!

This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

True Refreshment

A few months ago, after a long day at work, I couldn't wait to get home, trade my shoes for a pair of flip flops, and step out into the shade and relaxation waiting for me on our back patio. Each afternoon, I would unwind from work by sitting outside, sipping on a cool drink and taking in the beauty of our yard. Imagine my surprise, when I drew back the blinds and reached for the handle of our sliding glass door, only to find sunlight flooding not only our backyard, but every single inch of our patio. How could this be? What had happened to our shady backyard?

Evidently, while I had been slaving away at work, someone else had been slaving away pruning the trees in the yard that backs up to ours. The huge cottonwood that had once provided shade for both our yard and our patio, now barely made any shade at all. The heat from the sun was intense and so was my disappointment.

While the tree was most certainly in need of a “haircut”, I questioned the timing. Now?! In the middle of July? Now?! When shade was in hot demand? Now?! When each afternoon, I counted on the long branches of this tree to provide me with a cool oasis in the midst of the southwestern desert heat! NO! This was all wrong. How could this tree let me down like this? I needed it to stand up tall and be a tree!!! I needed some shade to kick back and relax in! As I stood there looking out my sliding glass door, covered from head to toe by the sunlight now streaming in, God used this moment to illuminate my own life and speak to my heart.

Everywhere we look and every place we go, we find people in need of a spiritual oasis. The struggles, trials and heartaches that often accompany life can be relentless at times, beating down on us until we are weak, dehydrated and desperately in need of a time of refreshment. God created you and me to be an umbrella of His love to those in need. Our prayers, our words of encouragement, our helping hands or listening ears can help to shield a hurting heart from the heat of life. Just like I counted on the cottonwood tree to be there for me, people in our lives are counting on us.

How many times have I disappointed others by failing to provide them with the “shade” they are so desperately counting on? How many times have I taken care of my own needs without giving any thought to the timing or the subsequent consequences of my actions in the lives of those around me? How many people have come to me hoping to find shelter from the heat of the battles in their lives only to be disappointed with my lack of interest, lack of compassion and lack of support? As I slowly closed the blinds, I realized God was doing some pruning of his own… in my heart.

Maybe God was calling me to stand up and be the child of God He had created me to be. Maybe, instead of going out into my backyard, God was challenging me to step out my front door and into the lives of those around me. Maybe God was desperatley trying to open my heart to the simple truth found in Proverbs 11:25, NLT:

“those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed”

Maybe, my finding shade wasn’t nearly as important as my giving it away to others.