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.