Deathbed Priorities

LastHolidayI never understood those movies about a person who suddenly discovers they only have a year to live.  And they make a list of all the things they want to do, like take an African safari, or a dream vacation at a luxury European resort, drive a race car faster than they’ve ever gone, date a supermodel — trying to cram a lifetime of fun in the short time remaining.  Like that Tim McGraw song, “Live like you were dying”, where he went sky-diving, Rocky Mountain climbing, and went 2.7 seconds on bull named Fumanchu (although the rest of the lyrics have some redeeming qualities). To my mind, they all missed the target.  When you’re facing the next life, what do you care if you climbed Mt Everest?

Yesterday, my boss tells me he’s leading the company in the number of hours worked this month.  Of course he’s got a lot more responsibilities than I do, got a lot more invested and at stake in the company’s success.  In our conversation I throw out that old cliché about people on their deathbeds never look back wishing they’d worked more hours.  You have to balance work out with the rest of your life, find your priorities.  And that comment got me thinking about how I should be living my own life.  What are my “deathbed priorities”?

When I face God at the Judgment Seat, I want him to say that I’d completed the tasks he laid out for me.  I want to hear that “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  And that means I’d want to have cultivated a lot closer relationship with him now, here on earth, than I have.  I’d want to have listened more to those subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit to avoid those little traps I fall so easily into, to not say that one poisonous word of less-than-charitable gossip, to have said no to that second huge helping at the buffet, or to not have been so quick to say no to someone who could really have used my help at that inconvenient moment.

On the more human level, I’d want to have listened more to the ones I love.  I’d want to have been more interested, and expressed more love, spent more time with them, and less watching TV.  I’d want to have been more helpful to others instead of being too busy.  A little less focused on my needs, my goals, and been a little more self-sacrificing. I’d give up that grudge and forgive more quickly, more easily.  “Whoever wants to find his life must first lose it.”

I admit: I suck at this.  I’m self-absorbed much of the time, insensitive (and over-sensitive), and, okay I’ll say it, most times just plain lazy.

But for the sake of leading a worthwhile life, I want to focus more on some of those things I’d do if I had one month to live.  I’m going to give God a few more minutes a day of dedicated one-on-one time.  I’m going to pay more attention to my friends, listen more and be interested in their lives, their goals, and let them know they’re important to me.  Love God, love others.  One little bit at a time.

Just thought I’d put that out for consideration …

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)

Evolution and the Pulpit

Some friends were recently discussing evolution and creationism on an online community I participate in. Being a group of generally well-educated people, I was actually surprised at the number of them who dismissed evolution entirely and were devout believers in a young-earth.  This was apparently a pet peeve with a number of them because many had really done their homework on the topic.  I have to admit that after all my years in school, I still have no definite opinion one way or the other.  I certainly believe God created it all.  But I’m not willing to put limits on how he chose to do it. 

One of the posters expressed his shock that his conservative Baptist church actually embraced and taught evolution.  His words sent chills down my spine — but probably not for the reason you might guess.  I don’t like secularists teaching theology, and I don’t like preachers or laymen “teaching” science. It’s not a matter of separation of church and state or anything high-minded like that.  It’s simply a matter of expertise.  Growing up in a conservative church, I heard a tremendous load of garbage coming from Sunday School teachers and from the pulpit itself whenever the teachers stepped outside the domain of their authority (Scripture and doctrine) and ventured untrained into the sciences.  It was the blind leading the blind.  Or worse, the blind locking the doors on searchers of truth. Images of bishops debating Galileo flash across my mind.

There is a huge number of believers well schooled in the sciences out there, real Christian scientists, but the rest of us are just interested dilettants, hobbyists. It’s a fun topic to explore, to discuss the implications. In fact, it’s healthy to openly discuss and debate these ideas.  But can we agree that such discussions should never occur from the pulpit?  When people — when we — stand in that position, we assume the mantel of divine authority. And in such a position, I would hope we would stay within the realm of that authority: Scripture, sound doctrine and theology. Our role is to lead others to God, to instruct them in the things of God and help them grow.  Not try to debunk the latest scientific trends.  Teach Genesis, teach creation, teach the principles the God of the universe would have us learn from Genesis.  But if it’s not described there, then as teachers of others, let’s not jump into it.

Okay, that’s my rant for the day. Why should preachers or teachers lose their source of power and step into an area of impotency?  

But for the rest of us hobbyists outside the pulpit, let the discussions continue …


Lost Cricket

I found a cricket this morning, dead on my living room floor.  I was having my morning coffee, walking my daily route around the living room, dining room, kitchen, trying to wake up, talking to God.  It was in the shadows so I couldn’t make it out at first, just a dark spot on the carpet.  I thought it was a spider, so I flipped on the lights to get a better look.  The splayed, long jointed legs gave its identity away immediately.  It was just laying there, still, upside-down, immobile.  Between thoughts of how it got there and its odd drained-looking color, I walked to the kitchen to get a paper towel to dispose of its body.  Just to be sure, when I got back I flipped it upright.  Suddenly the legs started moving.  It didn’t jump away quickly like I thought it would; it was sluggish as though waking from a stupor.  “Sorry, lil’ buddy, but I can’t have you creeping around my house,” I apologized to it as I crushed it in the paper towel and disposed of the mess in the trash.  (Given another moment or two, I might have carried it out to the patio and freed it, but I wasn’t quite awake yet and grabbed it up too tightly.)
But there was something evocative about the image of that cricket laying there that stirred my thoughts.  Usually these little creatures are full of life, hopping around, chirping at the night sky.  But inside my house on its back, it was not only defenseless, it was useless. I imagined it probably had become exhausted trying to right itself, and just gave in to its fate.  In surrender, it was vulnerable and ineffective.   And the parallel of how we live our lives worked its way to the surface of my mind. That’s just like us when we’re out of our element, when we get distracted, flipped upside-down from our purpose and mission.  We become sluggish and immobilized, paralyzed and useless.  And easy to squash.

The scene emphasized to me the importance of finding our purpose, finding our place and function — the things God created us to be and to do.  And that we should be doing those things, not straying into areas we weren’t designed for, outside our natural element.  Otherwise we end up like this poor cricket, exhausted, stuck in an awkward position — and ultimately crushed and thrown out with the trash.

Lord, open our eyes to see how all the gifts and talents and desires you’ve given us fit together into the great puzzle of the life you’ve designed for us.  And give us the strength and courage to live that life boldy.