The Sound of That Bird

Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Remember him before the light of the sun, moon, and stars is dim to your old eyes, and rain clouds continually darken your sky. Remember him before your legs—the guards of your house—start to tremble; and before your shoulders—the strong men—stoop. Remember him before your teeth—your few remaining servants—stop grinding; and before your eyes—the women looking through the windows—see dimly. Remember him before the door to life’s opportunities is closed and the sound of work fades. Now you rise at the first chirping of the birds, but then all their sounds will grow faint.  – Ecclesiastes 12:1-4

I hear a very loud bird chirping away each morning this week as I leave the house. He’s very excited to be awake and ready to catch that worm. Perhaps he’s searching for a date.

Time passes and there are opportunities now that won’t be here tomorrow.

Each night I put my head on the pillow and it seems I was just doing this a few minutes ago. I know that living isn’t passing by more quickly than it did in the past. What’s happening is I’m not as connected as I once was. Sitting in the dark theater not paying attention to the film and then suddenly the credits roll by. Time didn’t speed up. Disengagement made the present seem to pass by too fast.

In the West we are born into a culture that’s shaped to think about linear progress – moving forward, maybe a few steps backward. Standing still is really not an option.  When people find themselves stuck in neutral or pushed off the side of the road, it can cause a great deal of anxiety – this isn’t what’s supposed to happen, is it?

“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” 

― Franklin D. Roosevelt

I often wonder where I’m really going during this stage in my life?

Thinking about the progression of life, there are stages; childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age. I think each can also be subdivided as well.  I read a stage theory from a guy named Mark Manson. He doesn’t seem to have any academic credentials and likes to cuss a lot (maybe that draws attention?).  Anyway his four stages of life struck me as worth thinking about; (1) mimicry, (2) self-discovery, (3) commitment and then (4) legacy.

I wonder where I am right now?  Sometimes I feel like I’m caught in the middle. Does unfinished business in one stage keeping me from fully passing to the next? Do I really want to venture into a “legacy” period of life? Then I hear that bird calling out each morning. Make today count for something.

It’s not like my life isn’t filled with activity. I’m heading off rapidly in some direction each day (who knows if it’s the right way?). There’s always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to meet. Yet, when I think about it, I spend a lot of time drifting in circles.  My life seems busy, but it’s not always going anywhere. That’s a problem.

“Now that it’s all over, what did you really do yesterday that’s worth mentioning?” ― Coleman Cox

I used to have big goals that drove me onward into the future. These no longer exist. For many reasons, they disappeared. Having something meaningful to accomplish, no matter how distant, always pull me through the dreary here and now and produce an expectancy about tomorrow.

Focusing on others instead of yourself, that’s the right path to walk each day. My life ought to be something I can give and do for those around me. I’m losing too many days to the past and the future.

“The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream.” ― Khalil Gibran

That bird each morning reminds me that here and now matters. There is something to do today. I am to open my eyes and look for the opportunity to practice my faith, heal wounds, speak truth, give sacrificially, and turn my cheek if need be.

I heard a benediction at the end of worship a few weeks ago. It was written by our pastor (I think) and it struck me between the eyes because it seemed to provide some assurance to all of us who are in transition and wondering where we are supposed to be going/doing right now:

Wherever you go, God is sending you.
Wherever you are, God has put you there.
God has a purpose in your being right where you are.
Christ, who indwells you by the power of his Spirit,
wants to do something in and through you.
Believe this and go in his grace, his love, his power.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
                                                                              Amen

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Where Are You Heading These Days?

“Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.” Paul Theroux

I think I’ve decided that I like being there but I just don’t like the traveling part of the trip. Getting older is turning me into much more of an old fart every year. But journeys seem ever more important to me as years go by. As I progress down my own dirt road I realize how important it is to pay attention and how much has happened that I was just too inexperienced to notice.

“We shall never learn to feel and respect our real calling and destiny, unless we have taught ourselves to consider every thing as moonshine, compared with the education of the heart.” Sir Walter Scott

We are all traveling somewhere, somehow.

Friends have recently returned from a trip to Iceland – the pictures they posted were unbelievable. What a fantastic journey they took. Who would have thought all of that splendor in Iceland?

Another friend traveled for work to India, right after his visit to Iceland. What a contrast! He’s the world traveler from East Texas, chalking up incredible experiences in places most of us can’t even pronounce.

You’re traveling everyday, aren’t you? That automatic trip down the busy highway to work which lulls you into so many other thoughts.

What about those trips up and down the aisle at the grocery store? (or are you having it all delivered nowadays?)

My wife travels through each room in the house, two or three times every morning as she’s getting ready for the day. It’s like a Navajo fertility ritual. She’s done this for over thirty years. Doesn’t strike her as odd or bother her one bit.

Living in a giant city like Houston means that there are always new places to see – even though most of us get stuck in our same routine ruts.

Do you have time in your busy life to think about where you’re going on the inside? In all your travels, exotic and mundane, would you say that on the inside you’re experiencing progress – forward motion?

Put me on trial and examine me, O Eternal One! Search me through and through—from my deepest longings to every thought that crosses my mind. -Psalm 26:2

  1. When you talk to people, are you reciting the same script, over and over? You don’t sound like a broken record do you? Is it time for you to move on to some new ways of talking to people, especially people you love?
  2. Has your daily routine become thoughtless? Are you in automatic pilot most of the time? Do you look back and think about actions you should have taken, words you wished you’d said, time you’d taken to shut up and listen? Maybe there’s nothing wrong with you other than you’re not paying attention to the steps you take each day. The cool word today is being “Mindful” – or you could just stop and smell the roses more often. Your desk is always going to be on fire isn’t it?
  3. Haven’t you taken a trip in the car with several people and noticed how quickly everyone reaches for their device and tunes out of the immediate experience? Maybe that could be a metaphor for so many other aspects of life. Is your device that you’re clutching for dear life causing you to miss the train – the people, conversations and moment that are right in front of you? Any good trip takes some work; planning, packing, travel, waiting, etc.  Being with others usually takes work too. Being plugged into a device is so much easier isn’t it?

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” Hermann Hesse Continue reading “Where Are You Heading These Days?”

God is Good All the Time

 

God is Good, All the Time…All the Time,God is Good

We say this with our pastor when we gather to worship every Sunday. It’s an important reminder. It doesn’t matter what kind of situation everyone right then is experiencing – we come together and say with one voice, God is good, all the time…all the time, God is good. 

When things are going according to plan, this is always easy to say. It’s almost automatic. Even when there’s a bump or two in the road, we all grin and bear it and repeat with a little more determination and a twinge of hope.

But when the wheels have come off the wagon, it won’t stop raining, and bad news is delivered like an Amazon Prime order…is God still good? Or is it just something that’s said to make us feel good, like a cute and clever card in the mail?

When I think about my own life’s journey I see significant decisions along the road that have helped me when sea billows roll, to keep holding on to my faith and be less distracted by the storm. By the way, these are certainly not once in a lifetime choices – but forks in the road I face all the time. Choosing gets easier as I keep walking in faith.

I have to turn away from thinking that God is my faithful employee who is responsible for keeping my life ordered in all the ways I hope.

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.  – John 3:30

This is John the Baptist, pointing to Jesus and telling his own disciples that he is not the Messiah, he is only a groomsman. John realized his place because he understood where his cousin (Jesus) had really come from – heaven.

God is good all the time not because he faithfully follows my directions but because I am coming to understand that what I want matters less and less. Until I can let go of my own fear and desires I won’t be able to think about God’s will and see things eternally.

He is taking my life away from me and exchanging it for Himself. God is good and better than anything I could ever imagine for myself.

My thinking about who God is must change – He isn’t a good luck charm. 

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.  – Romans 12:2 (The Voice)

What a terrible feeling to realize that I have been trying to use God like an emergency medication each time I have a bad spell. Am I really just keeping him in the medicine cabinet? Have I reduced him to an amulet hanging about my neck?

All of the time God is good because He is transforming the way I think about Him. He has a path for me to walk in and it is the right way. Once my ways of thinking begin to change – so will the ways I see reality.

All too often God is an emergency switch that I pull only when I smell the smoke.

So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day. You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on.  – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Voice)

I’ve got a real problem if I believe that God is good only when it looks as if he has saved the day. My definition of “saving the day” is so short-sighted. Too often I believe that God is only located behind that “break glass in case of emergency” boundary. The reason that God is good all the time is because my perception is changing – I’m trying, more and more, to look at what lasts forever.

All the time, God is good, is forever.

 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
– Horatio Spafford

Just Three Things

I saw this again the other day….

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world; someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.

I think I’ve seen it three times in the past few months. It keeps popping up. It must resonate with me for some reason.

  1. Who do you love right this minute? Ever made a list before? Are you certain to tell them, over and over again, before it’s too late?
  2. What is it that you’re doing these days that really matters most to you? To others? To the bigger picture?
  3. Where are your hopes and dreams? Not buried out in the backyard anymore! Are they right in front of you, inspiring you to take one more step? Have they been stolen by the Wicked Witch?

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.  Proverbs 4:23

That means what you’re thinking, how you really feel, and all those pesky worries that keep eating away at your resolve. Guard your mind, your spirit, your smile, your friendships, your prayers (remember to pray for your enemies), your idle thoughts and your past that’s been washed away. Guard your heart from what’s not true. Guard your today from what can’t be changed and what hasn’t even happened yet. Guard what’s real from all the overblown imagination that plays havoc with your dreams and interactions.

Find something eternal to rest your hopes upon, keep yourself busy doing things that really matter and then love people (no matter what you get back).

“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles.” – Charlie Chaplin

(I think this template is hard to read, what do you think?)