Life is shorter than we think

I turned 33 yesterday. It’s honestly kind of shocking when I stop to think about it. I don’t feel 33, but then what is a 33-year-old supposed to feel like? When I was a kid, I thought 25 sounded so far away. But now? Well, just the other night, I was hanging out with a bunch of 25-year-olds, marveling at how young they all were. Where did the time go? And how does your perspective change so much in just 10 years?

If you’re not careful, your life will get away from you. If you aren’t paying attention, years will slip through your fingers. And then one day, you’ll wake up, and you’ve lived your entire life. It really does happen that way. So what can you do about it?

10Q7Y8YST0Today’s verses are Psalm 90:10-12.

Seventy years are given to us!
Some even live to eighty.
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
soon they disappear, and we fly away.
Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom.

If I remember correctly, this is one of the Psalms that Moses wrote. Yeah, burning bush, Ten Commandments, Let My People Go Moses. He wrote Psalms too. He also wrote the first five books in the Bible.

He understood this concept of how brief life is, and he lived a long time. What he also tells God is that even our best years still brim with sorrow and frustration. I can identify with that. It’s been a great year. I’m chasing my dream for real–for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t be happier. But I’ve had a lot of crap going on this year too. My goodness. It’s almost unreal the level of irritation and craziness I’ve had to put up with.

And then, just like that, life is over, and it’s time to go home. What do we get on earth anyway? 70 years? 80 years? Some get more. Some get less. But regardless how long you live, in comparison to eternity, it’s not a lot of time.

Life is short. It doesn’t feel short when we’re young. When we’re young, it feels like it’ll stretch out forever, and no one is immune. When I was in junior high, I really made a concerted effort to appreciate the time I had. I didn’t do a good enough job because I still ended up in high school way faster than I expected. I tried the same thing in high school, but it flew by even faster. And on and on it went until I realized just a few days ago that I’ve been out of college for 10 years. 10 years!

What the heck?

The point is don’t take your life for granted. You’re still here. You’re reading this. That means you’ve still got a job to do, so don’t just shove that fact to the side to think about later. You may not get later.

Live each day the best you can. Make the most of every moment with all your strength. When you’re looking for ways to bring glory to God in everything you do every moment of the day, you’ll find them. Don’t hold on to regrets either. Try to live a life that keeps you from having them, but when you do, let them go. They’re time wasters. Just like guilt. That doesn’t do anyone any good.

So let’s all wake up and get busy doing real work that really matters. Life is shorter than we think, and none of us have a lot of time left. So let’s make the most of it while we can.

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Snowflakes on the sleeve of my coat, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Each of us is but a breath

I got stuck in a snow drift Monday morning on my way to work. I backed my car out of my garage and THUD! I sank into a drift as tall as my knees and twice as wide as my 2012 Malibu. Backing out in the pitch black dark of morning is always an adventure, but getting stuck in the snow isn’t a new experience for me. With a little creative maneuvering and the deactivation of the car’s traction control, I escaped my snowy prison and got on the road.

But it didn’t take me long to realize that something wasn’t quite right. I got up to 40 miles per hour, and the steering wheel began to wobble. And what can you do in that situation? Well, a smart person would probably stop. But I decided to go a little faster and see if it went away. I pushed it up to 50, and–no. The wibble-wobble didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse.

To make a long story short, I pretty much decided that it had to be snow packed somewhere, and on the advice of my dad, I chose to go ahead and come into town for work. But the requirement was that I couldn’t drive over 50. That was the kicker. Driving 45 miles one way to work isn’t a very big deal when you can go 70 mph (*cough-cough-75-cough-cough*), but that same distance at a limit of 50? With crazy drivers zooming past you? PLUS, it was going to take me forever to get into work, which meant I would be later than I normally like to be.

If the day continued as it had started, it was going to be a horrible Monday.

But I pushed forward, with some encouraging words from my mom, and drove into Wichita with my hazard lights on, keeping my speed around 50 mph, wheels wobbling all the way. For the first ten minutes, I was stressed out and frustrated and irritated and grouchy. What a way to start my first full week in 2014! But then, I reminded myself that everything happens for a reason, and I turned on some praise music and enjoyed my extra-long drive into Wichita.

And guess what? No, I was still late. To make it to work on time after my fiasco of a morning would have required a TARDIS (wibbley-wobbley, timey-whimey?). But the morning drive did fly faster than I expected it to, and I guess that’s what made me think today about how fast time goes. I know I’ve posted about it before, but time really does go fast. Life really is short.

Snowflakes on the sleeve of my coat, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snowflakes on the sleeve of my coat, Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 39:5.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.

The Psalmist understood how short life is. I can’t remember if this was David or not. It probably was, considering how many Psalms he wrote. But whoever wrote it captured the concept of how fast time goes in beautiful words: “at best, each of us is but a breath.”

A breath. A vapor, like it says in James. A wisp of fog, a puff of smoke, here for a little while and then it’s gone. Compared to eternity, our 70, 80, 90, 100 years on Earth are nothing. Less than nothing. No more substantial than a cloud brushing the summit of Pike’s Peak.

So what does it matter if your schedule falls apart? What does it matter that you need to spend another 15 minutes getting to work when you hadn’t planned on it? Granted, if you’re an hourly employee, that’s different. If you have a responsibility to be on time, then be on time, but at the end of the day, life happens. And the more upset you get about it, the less likely you are to appreciate the time you still have.

Be responsible, of course, but be sensible. Recognize truly how short life is, and be thankful for the time you have. This world isn’t our home, no, but it’s where we live now. God put us here for a reason, and He allows things into our lives for a reason. We may never know why, but He does. That’s what matters.

So whatever goes wrong in your life today, don’t freak out. Don’t get frustrated. Remember your life is just a breath. Make the most of what you have, and when things don’t go the way you want, just chill. Try to see the bright side. If you can’t find something good to say about God, you’re not paying close enough attention.

Ornament with my brother's print on it, Haven, KS

Life is too short to waste

Life is short, if you think about it. When you’re young, it seems like it’s going to stretch out forever. I remember thinking 30 was ancient when I was a child, that by the time I was that old I would surely have the answers to everything. Well, 30 has come and gone, not by much, but I’m the first to say that the more I’ve learned in life, the fewer answers I have.

It feels like 2013 has been a year of really dreadful news, yet I am so thankful to be able to continue believing that God is good, all the time, especially when life isn’t. But there are days when I long for home. There are days when I am so tired of this broken world and all the trouble it throws at people I love.

But one thing I have learned in life is that if we are still here, God has a reason for it. We have a purpose, and it’s our responsibility as Christ-followers to make the most of the time we have.

Ornament with my brother's print on it, Haven, KS

Ornament with my brother’s print on it, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 90:12.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
    so that we may grow in wisdom.

I learned this verse as a child in a different translation, which is a little more specific. That version asks God to teach us “to number our days” or to count our days. What good does that do, you might wonder? I used to. I used to wonder what good that did, to count our days, because we didn’t know how many we had.

But I think that’s the point. Nobody knows how much time they have. It doesn’t matter if you’re old or young or what country you come from or even what religious system you follow. That won’t change how many days you have left to live. There was one really notable example in the Bible, in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, where God prolonged King Hezekiah’s life (Isaiah 38:4-6) by 15 years. But that’s not normal. God doesn’t do that every time you turn around.

Generally speaking, when it’s the end of our lives on earth, it’s the end. And I’m not reneging on what I posted last Monday about looking forward to eternity. I still believe that with all my heart, that we need to be looking forward to the life to come more than we embrace this life. But with so many other aspects of the Christian walk, we have to find the balance between yearning to go home and living life here.

Don’t ever take this life for granted. Not ever. Every morning you wake up is a gift. You didn’t have to wake up today. Many people didn’t. And you’re not promised tomorrow; nobody is. So if you walk out your door today thinking that this life you’re living is something you’ve earned or something that just happened, you’re wrong. And you’re blind.

Every day is a gift, and it’s a gift from God. He’s the one who gives your lungs the strength to keep breathing. He’s the one who gives your brain the ability to keep thinking. Every good thing in our lives is from Him, and it is our responsibility to be good stewards of those gifts.

I’m still learning this. There are days when I waste time. There are days when I focus on myself. There are days when I only care about me and I ignore what He wants me to do. But the one thing I hope I never do is forget who gave me my life. He gave it to me for a reason, with a purpose, and He has me here for some reason. I don’t always know what it is, but He knows. And that’s enough for me.

Time goes so fast. I was talking about it with a lady at the grocery store yesterday. I don’t usually do that, but she was chatty. So I chatted back. (I rarely initiate, but I’ll always reciprocate like the good little introvert I am.) We got to talking about kids, and I never pass up an opportunity to talk about Baby Hoo, who just turned an astonishing six months old last week. I can’t believe that. Wasn’t it yesterday I was standing at Wesley Hospital, staring at her all wrapped up in blankets she couldn’t wait to get out of? Now she’s sitting up and holding her own bottle and making duck lips when she eats mashed-up mango.

Blink, and it’s gone. And if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss it. You have today. You might have tomorrow. That’s what it means to number your days. And when you can look at life like that, you’ll have wisdom, real wisdom, because you’ll understand how short life is. Don’t waste it.

A mullberry tree and the yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What difference can a puff of smoke make?

I got to spend some time with one of my closest friends yesterday. We’re both busy, so we don’t often get to actually sit down and just talk. So it was really nice, encouraging, refreshing. And in the course of our conversation, we discussed that we had known each other for seven years. Seven years!! That doesn’t seem possible. Because I would swear it was just yesterday we were on the OSU campus watching the Third Day/David Crowder Band contest and meeting for the first time.

And that got me think about how many other milestones have come and gone this year. My family moved to Wichita in July 1991; that was 22 years ago. We moved to the farm over Labor Day 1994; that was 19 years ago. We performed our first Judgement house in 2000; that was 13 years ago. The silly little kids I taught in Bible class on Wednesday nights are married now. The crazy teenagers from my drama team are married and some have children now. My fellow survivors from the class of 2001 have established families and careers around the US and even the world.

The list can go on and on, but the question is always the same. Where have all the years gone? How can time be moving so rapidly?

A mullberry tree and the yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A mulberry tree and the yard light on a foggy morning at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is James 4:14.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

I’ve always tried to appreciate the things I have when I have them, and I’ve always tried to be mindful of time. Growing up, everyone always told me how fast time goes, and I thought I’d done a pretty good job of it. I tried to make the most of every second. I didn’t waste time yearning and wishing to be older but did the best I could at the age I was.

But I don’t think you really appreciate how fast life flies until you’ve lived enough to look back on it. You can understand and believe that life goes fast when you’re 10 or 11, but you can’t really grasp how rapidly time can slip through your fingers until you’re 20 or 30 and you watch the children you knew as infants stepping up in leadership roles.

Our lives are nothing in the grand scale of eternity. They’re less than nothing. This translation compares our lives to morning fog, but I’m not sure if it’s really the clearest way to describe them. The Amplified Version says they’re “a puff of smoke.” Fog tends to hang around a little while, but smoke? Not so much. It’s here a moment and then it’s gone. What do we have? 80 years? 90 years? Maybe more. If you think about how many years have passed since the beginning of time (10,000 at the most), 80 or 90 years is nothing. But even 10,000 years fades in comparison to eternity. Eternity is timeless. You can’t even compare it.

I’ll be 31 this year. That blows me away. I have a hard time even writing it down because I remember thinking that 30 sounded old. But I can tell you that 30 years have gone by quicker than a camera flash.

So with our brief lives as small and insignificant as they are, what’s the point? So we make it to 100, so what? What difference does it make in comparison to eternity, or even in comparison to the 10,000 years of history that have already passed? Does it even matter?

I think deep inside all of us want to matter. We want to know that we’ve left a legacy, that when our time is done, people will still be touched. I’m pretty sure that’s too tall an order for any human being. But that’s one of many things that’s awesome about following God. God cares about small, insignificant things like me. Our lives, brief as they are, matter to Him. And the beauty of it all is that a life lived for Him, no matter if it’s 20 years or 30 years or 80 years or more, isn’t insignificant. God is a God who takes what is insignificant and uses it to do great big things–like helping other people generations and generations after our time is gone. That’s not something you can accomplish on your own.

So don’t despair that time is fleeting, but remember that our time is limited. And so are we. But if you’re a Christ-follower, the time you have is a gift, and you choose to use it in a way that God can grow. A puff of smoke isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference in the world, but a puff of smoke in God’s hands can become something more. Because God has a history of taking small, insignificant things and making them last forever.

Sunrise on Christmas Eve 2011

Being intentional in 2012 . . . because 2013 will get here sooner than I think.

I used to think I appreciated time. I thought I really understood how fast it went, and I thought I had grasped the appropriate level of intentionality that I needed to live my life by. And I did this at a young age so I would be able to make the most of the life I had been given.
 
I was wrong.
 
Time goes so much faster than any of us think. It’s cliché, but it’s true. It doesn’t feel like a year has gone by. It doesn’t feel like it should be 2012. But it is. And it got here so quickly.
 
Time moves so fast. With motion no one can stop and with decisiveness no one can fight. We all try to fight time, but we can’t. And when we waste it, it’s gone.
Sunrise on Christmas Eve 2011

Sunrise on Christmas Eve 2011 - Haven, KS

 
There is only so much we can accomplish in the brief time we are alive. Granted, I believe we are all here to accomplish something, or God wouldn’t have left us here. But I think we really need to understand how short and fast life is. Because if we truly understood, we wouldn’t be sitting around waiting for something to happen. We’d get up and do something instead.
 
And that’s my goal for this year (one of the many). I still think I need to wait on some things because those things are up to God, but on the rest of my life, the areas where I’ve just been dragging my feet, I have to stop. Because life is short.
 
Today’s verse is Psalm 90:12.
 
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
      so that we may grow in wisdom.
 
I find it ironic that we have to be taught the brevity of life. No one can convince you that life is short until you realize it yourself. No one can make you live an intentional life. That’s up to you. And unfortunately, it’s something you have to learn for yourself.
 
Life is short.
 
And I have a lot to do. So I’m going to get busy. And not just being busy for busyness. That was 2011. And 2011 is over and done. 2012 will be different, and 2013 is only a year away (if the world doesn’t end on December 21, that is). I’m going to get busy being intentional with my time and my efforts and my gifts because I’m not going to live here forever and as long as I’m alive I want to focus on what really matters — and that’s reaching out to people with the truth (believers and non-believers) that Christ is the only way to have a relationship with God and that God is everything we need.
 
I’m not old. But I have learned how short life is. And I have witnessed first hand how fast time flies. So I want to make the most of the life God has given me the best way I know I how, and I’m going to trust that He’ll take care of the details. That’s what He does, after all.
 
So Happy New Year, everyone. May 2012 bring joy and peace, even if it doesn’t bring happiness or smooth sailing. And let’s all get busy and focus on the things that matter because sooner than we think, the things that matter will be all we have. And everything we think is important will fade away.

What really matters

Sometimes it is difficult for me to distinguish the difference between my life and my actions. It’s very easy to get caught up in thinking that you are what you do, and it’s even easier to label people (yourself and others) by your job description or by your talents or by your accomplishments. Tony is a lawyer. Sarah is a dancer. Jake is the winner of the race.

I think we label people because we can’t see inside them. So it’s easier to identify people by putting labels on them, either to help us distinguish them from the crowd or to keep them safe in a box where they won’t threaten us. Either way, people are far more than how their labels describe them. We usually just can’t see it.

Every individual’s life is precious. There’s no denying or disputing that. Every person is unique and special and God sacrificed His most precious blood to save us.

Conversely, our actions are repeatable. Our accomplishments can be bested. Our job descriptions change, sometimes like the wind. And our talents aren’t really that unique, if you think about. Any “new” talent anyone has probably isn’t truly new; it just hasn’t been seen before.

I got to thinking about this when I read today’s verse of the day.

Acts 20:24

24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

I find this interesting because Paul (who is speaking) was a pretty important guy. He was educated. He was intelligent. He was a Jew among Jews, which at the time meant he was pretty special. But none of those things mattered to him after he started following Jesus. I’m sure Paul accomplished a lot in his life, but the only thing that mattered to him after he started following Jesus was telling other people about Him.

This really made me wonder about the worth of my own actions.

My life, as in who I am inside, is precious to God. I get that. But what about my actions? What about the things I have done that haven’t been for Him?

Anything I have done only for myself really has no bearing on God. The things I do for myself are small and insignificant because they only benefit me — and most of the time I don’t know if it’s an actual benefit or not.

But the things I have done for God, not matter how small they start out, they usually end up ballooning until hundreds of people are blessed or encouraged. And most of the time, I never intended to accomplish anything like that. I just knew I needed to do what God had called me to do, and I did it. I had no idea how He would use it.

There’s an old hymn (I think it’s a hymn) called “Little is Much When God Is in It” and I think that’s very true.

We only have a limited time on Earth. Compared to eternity, it’s not even substantial enough to classify. The Bible just calls it a vapor, a puff of smoke. One moment here, the next moment gone. So in that limited time, what are we going to accomplish? What talent are we going to pursue? What job are we going to do? And what is the point?

Paul felt like his accomplished life would be worth nothing if it weren’t directed at doing God’s work, at finishing the task that had been appointed to him by God. I agree with that. And I agree with it in the perspective of my own life. The things that I have done for myself won’t last. But the things I’ve done for others in God’s name? That’s a whole different ball game.

I know many Newtonian Laws passed out of vogue with the advent of Einstien’s Theory of Relativity and the craziness of Quantum Physics but as far as I can tell, every action still has an opposite and equal reaction. What we do on Earth effects what our lives will be like in eternity. Our choices on Earth directly effect our lives in eternity. I don’t want to say that Earth is the proving grounds of Heaven, but it kind of is. If you can choose to live your life for Christ while you are mired in the darkness of this world, if you can see past the temporariness that is life on Earth and realize that what is coming after Earth is so much better, if you can live for eternity now while you’re dying with every breath — heaven will be a rewarding place.

I know my life is precious. But my actions are useless, futile, and small until I do them for God.

C.T. Studd wrote a poem that I think pretty much sums up what Paul was saying:

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

In the grand scheme of life, our actions will either make us greater on earth or bring us greater reward in heaven (which usually means we are made more humble on earth). The next promotion won’t last. The next “new” talent will fade into obscurity. The next accomplishment will pass as soon as someone does something better or greater. But the things you do for Christ remain and will be remembered forever, if not by people then by God Himself. And that is what really matters.