Twelve Ways to Live in 2016

 

jump-for-joyThe older I get the faster time seems to fly by each year. Why is this? Is it my accumulation of years and experience, the constant changes in technology and communication, the fact that my children are becoming grandparents, the growing awareness of my mortality, or perhaps all of the above? Perhaps you feel it too.

Because the years seem to whiz by more quickly, and because I know my three score and ten has already passed, I think more seriously each New Year about what’s important. Fully aware that any year could be my last, I want more keenly than ever to live well and to concentrate on those things in life that count. Today during my prayer time I suddenly became clear-minded about it, and with that the following list flowed from my mind, heart, and fingers. This is how I am going to live each day as far as it in my power to do so.

  1. Live each day as though death is imminent. Rather than morbid, this is a wonderful motivator to jettison time-wasting attitudes, like comparisons, and focus on what is eternal.
  2. Live close to God. I have determined to read the Bible every day no matter what. If I’m not careful the day gets away and this is the best way I can learn more about God and how He wants me to spend my life. I also will make prayer more of a priority, because “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16).
  3. Love my wife and family. Tell them over and over that I love them.
  4. Get out of debt. For the last couple of decades Karon and I have worked on this. We want to live within our means, downsize, and get rid of clutter. We are working to give away everything we haven’t used in a few years. We want to empty the garage, the china cupboards, and bookcases. Reduce. Simplify. It’s liberating.
  5. Be sure our affairs are in order and that those who need to know have passwords, combinations, and account numbers. Prepare our will. When Karon’s Mother died she had done all of these things. She even had an envelope in her top desk drawer with $250 cash in it to help with immediate arrangements. It was so helpful! Both spouses need to know how to manage, do taxes, and find insurance information.
  6. Mend any broken relationships. I forgive everyone for everything. There is absolutely no benefit whatsoever to holding grudges or not talking to the people who love me. Let it go! Make the call. Tomorrow may be too late.
  7. Take care of my body to the best of my ability. Watch your diet. Exercise and stretch as I can.
  8. Be at peace in this weary and war-torn world. I will not fret about anything, my family, my health, or the world situation. Instead, I daily will pray the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.[1]
  9. Enjoy each moment. Live in the present.
  10. Cultivate a more grateful heart. Give God all things with thanksgiving. Praise is always the best course of action.
  11. Do the right thing. Be generous.
  12. Stop criticizing. Look for the best in this world and in other people. The world doesn’t need to be made over in my image.

 

[1]

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

 

Not so Normal Night

Great thoughts to help you keep Christmas central from my daughter, Jodi.

u.b.healthy

Ordinary People — Extraordinary Plan

The Christmas message is about a bunch of ordinary people involved in an extraordinary story. Sometimes I think it is easy for us to read the story of Jesus’ birth and imagine that the other characters in the story were set apart and different in some way, or we just don’t think about them at all. Well, I’d like to focus in for a moment on the shepherds.

If you were arranging the arrival of a king, would you be sure and notify a bunch of dusty, ordinary guys who care for stinky sheep? And not just send them a text message, but send a choir of angels? Well, God thought it was a great idea. One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story is thinking about what that night was like for the shepherds. “That night some shepherds were in the fields outside…

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I Will Take Care of You

In earlier blogs I have talked about my pain from a degenerating spine. Surgery in October of 2014 promised relief which did not materialize. More recent tests have revealed multiple issues and my surgeon has declined further surgery at this point. For the last year I have managed pretty well with pain medicine and even enjoyed a trip to Florida for our fiftieth wedding anniversary. In recent days, however, new pain episodes have occurred which impeded walking. Fortunately this pain has been temporary and passed in a day or so.

These episodes have made me think. If you’re like me, you usually jump to the worst scenario. Will I have to use a wheelchair? Will I be able to walk? Will we have to sell the house? The fact that my mother spent the last twenty years of her life in a wheelchair lurks darkly in the back of my mind.

My wife, Karon, is always super helpful at times like this to keep me level-headed. She is good at balancing compassion with level-headedness, and and so I am going to return to the doctors and see about additional spinal injections. Yet I wonder…

God speaks

light streaming through forestA couple of days ago I went into the bathroom late afternoon for medicine. My hamstrings were aching terribly and the new pain was on my mind. Out of the blue God spoke: “David, I will take care of you.” I have learned to recognize these rare moments when God intervenes with a word for me, but these unexpected words of comfort were clear and incontrovertible. They were not whispered but almost shouted into my ear.

I don’t know if you believe in things like this, but I do. I am immensely grateful for such undeserved moments. Why the Creator of the Universe should care about me, much less communicate His care, is inexplicable. But God wasn’t done yet…

Quite often I waken in the night from troubling dreams. I think perhaps that my medication makes them more intense. These dreams are all similar: in every one I am in an exasperating situation, like showing up to preach a funeral only to discover I don’t know any of the people there, including the deceased. At times I am traveling and get lost in a large foreign airport teeming with strangers, or I arrive to speak at a convention, step to the podium, and discover the notes I brought are blank paper. My entire career involved preaching and traveling and perhaps my subconscious mind is processing years of unspoken fears. Occasionally I have enlisted prayer support from my wife and children when the dreams become darker and scarier.

God’s gift

Just one night after God’s message to me, “I will take care of you,” I had a vivid, brilliant, and completely different kind of dream. I found myself in an extensive building with soaring ceilings and beautiful appointments. An ingenious blending of indoors and outdoors gave the impression of timeless wonder. Wide corridors lined with planters and fountains opened into spacious rooms filled with light and peace. Everywhere there was a sense of tranquility, holiness, and safety. Beautiful, ethereal music somehow interpreted what I was looking at.

Tall windows looked out onto breathtaking views. Behind three churchlike windows tall trees in the bronze of autumn color stood majestically. They were backlit with the light of dawn. A gentle breeze drifted through their branches and leaves floated quietly down, spiraling, twisting, hovering, and sinking. The slightest tinkle of wind chimes could be heard in the distance.

Behind a wall of the palest aquamarine glass was a huge aquarium in whose transparent waters floated exotic fish and coral fans swaying in the warm current. There was no sound, but the movement of the fish and the corals seemed to produce their own music.

Hallways and alcoves were covered with iridescent mosaics that shimmered in hues of pale green, blue, and mother of pearl. High windows slanted light and shadows into the rooms and hallways where benches offered a many places to sit in contemplation.

There were many people present who met me with warm smiles and kindness; but no one intruded into my thoughts or interrupted my observation. I felt almost as though I were in a large hotel where the muffled sounds of conversation mixed with the clinking of silverware and china in a nearby restaurant. It was a holy and indescribably beautiful sanctuary that went on forever without effort, maintenance, or care. There was no hurry. There were no expectations. No lost notes. No pain. Only wonderful beauty, light, peace, and uninterrupted serenity.

As I awoke from this dream I again heard God’s voice, “I will take care of you.” I am not sure whether, for this blissful moment, God gave me a vision of heaven, that unimaginably beautiful place where death, fear, pain, and tears will be banished. Maybe God created this vision of the things I love, the world that feeds my soul, and beauty that transcends pain in order to let me know that the desires of my heart are important to him. But I know this, I am not alone and the One who redeemed me also cares for me now and forever.

I know something else. God cares for you, also. He will speak into your life and your pain if you will listen for him. Have you noted that in Scripture, whenever an angel came to someone, the first words were, “fear not?” This is God’s first and deepest desire for you. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3).

He will take care of you.