Saturday, August 14, 2010

If Today were Your Last Day ... What?

So I have a second job at Starbucks. I read this magazine on an airplane a couple of months ago that featured Mike Rowe, and pretty much anything he tells me, I believe. He talked a lot about the value of work and the fact that many of us Americans expect to get through life without working too hard. Physical labor especially gets devalued in our minds as a lesser profession. 

I also read a supplemental article in the same magazine that talked about how sometimes a part-time job can really help blow off extra steam and clear your head for your full-time job -- my interpretation. Now I'm sure there are some cons, as well; such as it can make you feel more tired or as though you have no time for yourself. I always have those problems, however, and strangely enough, I don't think working two jobs has made it any more intense. Now I just have scheduled time that I get paid to hang out with some really cool people while cleaning stuff and making coffee. 

Today on my lunch break Michael and I started really dwelling on the fact that none of us knows our number of days. Our lives could end at any point. It could be something that we find out about ahead of time, or it could be sudden. Whether it's a terminal illness, an accident, the end of the world, or nuclear warfare, we know that we are not guaranteed a certain length of life. We wondered aloud together what we would do differently if we awoke each morning and said, "Thank you God for this day, potentially my last day. Let me live it as if it were my last chance to live"? We could think of priorities that would shift, and changes that we'd make in the way we spend our free time.

An important condition that I place on this question is that you can't change your circumstances at all. You can't change your job, your location, your friends -- you can't suddenly morph yourself into your dream life and do everything on your bucket list. You can't suddenly become immensely impressed with yourself. You only have one day, and you are who you are. Today. That's the only way to make it real.

So tonight I put it to my coworkers to answer this same question for me. One said that he would sell everything he has and give all his money to a homeless man. 

Another said that he would cut work and spend the day at home with his family talking about the things that really needed to be said. 

I asked them, wouldn't it be counterproductive to tell your loved ones that you're on your last day, because if they knew they'd be too stunned to really engage in the moment of pure honesty you'd be trying to create? They'd be all busy blubbering and worrying about the fact that they wouldn't see you again. Would the communication be as effective if they knew what was up?

I think if I had my way, I'd be the only one who knew and I would just change my outlook and my attitudes toward the people I met. 

It would be all about love. I would not want to send any negative messages to anyone. I would not waste my time on anything stupid or petty, or trying to entertain myself. None of that would be necessary anymore. It would be about sending positive, encouraging thoughts to everyone I met. I might have to be brutally honest with some people about how much I care about them. Some people whose approval I've long sought, I would find surprisingly easy to suddenly forget. I might spend quite a bit of time preparing my soul. I don't think I would be afraid. I would be nervous, but not afraid. 

It would be difficult to think about how many moments I have already wasted, but there would be no time left for regrets. I would only be available to seize the present day and move forward.

What would you do? How would your life change? Can you see your life changing if you start to incorporate the fact that this day could be your last day?

*I know this is not an original concept, but there are moments when the unoriginal suddenly hits home, and I guess I'm having one now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pray for Pakistan, and pray to stand firm in the faith

Check out this unbelievable video of a flood washing away this family's home. They are left standing in rushing waters. Pakistan has very limited aid coming and the monsoon is unrelenting.

This morning I am basking in luxuries like bottled drinks, warm bed, dry pillows, and alarm clock, a car to drive and place to be (it hasn't been washed away by flood waters). I am praying that I will be ready and will not falter in the faith when it becomes my turn to endure hardship, and that I will be a good steward of what I have been given at this time.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men"

My patio contains a few planters with flowers. I love flowers, whether they be in the ground, the planter, or the vase. I doubt I am the first girl who's said such a thing to you. I bet men love them too, but they don't want to admit it. How can your heart remain fully saddened when a bright spot of color is smiling on you? God could have made everything green and brown, or just gray, but He used colors and it's brilliant. So I dabble a little bit in the gardening, particularly this year of 2010. 

I will confess that it hasn't gone 100% well. I have killed at least 3 potted plant varieties with 2 roommates as my witness. Part of this has come from my lack of knowledge of how much sunlight I get on my patio (I am usually at work when the sun is out). Mostly it is because I don't give my plants enough water or attention. They could also use other things that I spare them, such as fertilizer or insect repellent. Still, I have managed to keep some of my plants alive, including (but not limited to) a selection of 3 plants that I combined together in a beautiful clay pot to sit by my front door. I have always wanted to try creating my own combination for a pot and it worked very well on my first try.

Yesterday evening I arrived home from a weekend out of town for a wedding. All my plants look dismally close to death. I really don't know if they can recover from this one. I spent about 30 minutes outside, dodging some wasps, lopping off branches and yellow leaves and popping dead blossoms off their stalks. Then I drenched every one in water and walked away, knowing that their sorry state has much less to do with a weekend of neglect than it does to do with consistent daily forgetfulness or just plain procrastination to care for my flowers in the way they require to be able to thrive.

I thought then of Jesus, and the fact that He knows what His poor flowers are enduring under my stewardship. He hears their sighs and the drop of each crumbling leaf or crinkled petal. When I planted, I think I fancied myself getting closer to His heart for enjoying taking care of His creatures. Unfortunately, too often that imaginary connection becomes a nuisance rather than a joy, and I am inside collapsed on the couch watching strange and unedifying shows on TLC. So that's been my reality. It probably takes about 5-7 minutes to water the flowers, yet I don't, and I pile on the guilt as my flowers and good intentions dry out and die around me. I should just give up and say I'm not a gardener, right? 

And as an intelligent reader, I'm sure you can gather this tendency is permeating other far more crucial areas of my life in far more devastating ways.

Jesus struggled with the nature of His calling in a garden, as well. His struggle had very little to do with the garden itself and whether or not He should quit trying to take care of it. Jesus had the power to speak to the plants and give them life or make them wither. Instead, Jesus pursued His Father's heart to understand if He should really go to the cross for sinners. Jesus' aim while on earth was to plant a very different kind of garden, comprised of souls who would bloom in the Kingdom of Heaven. There was no doubt of His love for us all at the moment, just a doubt if the cross (and all the suffering included) really was the only way to save us and secure our roots in that Heavenly Garden. I would look for a way out, too. I would've run away, for as much as I like to frame myself "McFearless." My plants would've dried out and blown away.

If you read the Gospel accounts, you will find that Jesus received virtually no support from his friends (who found the garden a comfy place to drift off into sleep rather than prayer -- these guys remind me so much of myself it's scary), but He did receive an angel from heaven who strengthened Him (Luke 22:43). There is no recorded answer of yes or no from God. Just encouragement to stay the course. Jesus was doing the right thing. He did not falter when the accusations and the weapons began to land their Holy Target.

Just to think of Him today, praying in that garden, and asking me to consider the lilies of the field, gives me encouragement not to give up. I will not give up on my garden, though I may need to bury a few casualties. I will not give up on my place in life: working, learning, waiting. I will not give up on myself, or think that because I fail repeatedly I am not growing closer to the heart of Christ. Every time I fail, I glory in His perfection. Every time I am weak, I marvel at His strength. And I know that He held to His course for me, and for the people I love.

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well." (Matt 6:28-33)

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I've decided to join the Gratitude Community of Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience.

  1. my Father who forgives my failure to tend the flowers.
  2. my Brother who went to the death for me.
  3. health insurance.
  4. a strong, healthy body.
  5. two jobs full of fun, vibrant coworkers.
  6. my plans for my life falling through all over the place, to my benefit.
  7. words.
  8. Scriptures. 
  9. home away from home and family away from family in the form of a friend named Michael who would work for me on his day off so I can stay home and rest my aching throat.
  10. flowers.
  11. Coconut the cat.
  12. a car that can get me to other states, like Little Rock, Arkansas this past weekend.
  13. the privilege of witnessing the wedding celebration of Stacey and Justin Breezeel!
  14. a long weekend off work before 6 days in a row. 
  15. the peace of knowing that Jesus is helping me unfold the mystery of discovering my true calling in life.
holy experience