Lord, Teach Me to Number My Days

Yesterday, we had a normal text conversation with a really close friend of ours about the custody hearing of his daughter regarding her child. Then at 7:14 this morning my phone rang and I learned that this same friend and daughter were shot and killed by her ex-husband last evening.

Emotionally I’ve spent the day vacillating between shock, sorrow, anger, and indignation. This was a good friend and truly a fine caring man. He was a loving generous grandfather who gave himself in sacrificial ways to his family. He and his wife had hopes and dreams about their retirement years. There are many things I could say about Russ, but since you don’t know him I need to write about the personal reflections I cannot escape.

In the words of David, the great song writer, “Lord, teach us to number our days.” (Ps 90:12)  In my own words, “Lord, help me put today in perspective, by attending to the fact that each day is a sacred gift, a limited commodity. Help me live aware of the fact that I will never know how many days I have ahead of me.”

The truth is, in my entire life, all I ever have at my disposal is one day: today! Yesterday is a memory I can celebrate, treasure, learn from, etc. Tomorrow is a day I can plan for. But, the only day within my grasp, the only day where my purpose and priorities and values can be actively lived out, is today. In a tangible way, the real number of our days is ONE.

“Lord, teach us to number our days aright, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom, not drivenness. Drivenness would be the American way–run faster, do more, strive harder, live in a panic. On the contrary, embracing the reality that only one day lies within our grasp should lead us to depth, direction, and the de-cluttering of our lives.

I think this is one of the core messages of my life: the power of one day. When I live in the light of one day, it keeps me sensitive to the sacred nature of my own life and the people who populate it. It focuses my attention on the direction of my life and how I might lived connected to the Kingdom. It keeps me passionate about living in intimacy with Jesus as I seek to follow him. Today is the day when I get to live out my convictions, give my life away serving the potential of others, participate in the redemptive work of the Gospel. Today–every day–is pregnant and holy and fragile.

In all my life, I only have one day at my disposal. So, Lord, as I lean into the sorrow and loss of my friend, show me more about how I might live into the sacred trust of life called “today.”

———————-

p.s. I have touched on this theme of life as fragile and sacred before. Here are a links to some of those posts:

Life is Sacred:

http://aboutleading.com/2009/03/13/life-is-fragileand-sacred/

– Grieving and the Health of my Soul:

http://aboutleading.com/2009/10/07/grieving-and-the-health-of-my-soul/

– Life is Long and Fragile:

http://aboutleading.com/2008/03/20/life-is-longand-fragile/

Life is Fragile…and Sacred

When you are a child, you are typically oblivious to the dangers that surround you. When you are a teenager, you feel downright indestructible. As a young adult, it seems we are just too busy with a million irons in the fire to notice our own mortality. But somehow, as you get older you come to realize that life is fragile. This incredible bio-machine called the human body can be taken down in hundreds of ways.

Yet, when I recognize how fragile life is, I wake up to the fact that every day of life is a gift.

These days I find myself surrounded by people whom I love that are facing significant health battles. My Father-in-law is now under hospice care as his heart loses strength. My Uncle’s health has degenerated so he can no longer live on his own. My good friend and ministry partner with CRM recently discovered a cluster of tumors that will require extensive surgery. And, in less than a week, my son will have heart surgery to repair a condition that has had him on disability for six months.

My point in all this is not “woe-is-me.” Instead, it is champion the profound realization that at the core, our lives are truly fragile. We are miraculously fragile. And there is something about that fragile reality which makes today, which makes everyday, a sacred gift.

Unfortunately, I easily forget that day-to-day life is a gift. I get busy driving here, flying there, meeting with people, managing projects, working on some new scheme that is going to transform the world… and in the midst of it all I forget that I have no guarantees. I take my health, my strength, my life for granted.

So, today I want to say thank you to Jesse, Ken, Steve and Ryan. You are exceptional men whom God has used to shape my life. Today you remind me to hold my own life as a sacred trust. To take nothing for granted. To live boldly and with passionate focus.

In you I am reminded all over again that life is fragile, powerful, and mysterious. Today is a sacred trust to be held lightly and lived fully. It is a gift.

Book of the Year

Of all the books I read last year, Just Courage stands out as book of the year for me. It is inspiring, provocative, prophetic and although only 132 pages, it has gotten under my skin like no book I have read in a long time.  Here is a sample glimpse into Gary’s point:

“At the end of the day we thought our Christian life would be more than this—-somehow larger, more significant, more vivid, more glorious. But it’s not. Driving to church on Sunday feels a bit like Ground Hog Day, the movie where Bill Murray’s character is forced to pathetically relive exactly the same day over and over again.”
(p. 25-26)

“The idea that there is nothing beyond our personal spiritual development isn’t meant to be satisfying—-for our rescue is not the ultimate destination; it is the indispensible means by which God works out his plan to rescue the world.”  (p. 29)

Just Courage makes a powerful case for God’s call to his people to engage in the work of justice. And, not just for the redemptive impact on those struggling with injustice, but for how responding to this call is liberating for Christians as well.  “God specifically uses the work of justice as the pathway for liberating us from the Christian cul-de-sac of triviality and small fears.” (p. 39)

Haugen’s book fits on a larger page that God has been writing in my life. It is a call to all of us who follow Christ to move outside the walls of ecclesiastical safety and into the lives of people touched by the brokenness of our world. It is a call to follow Jesus in the world he was motivated to reach. It is an invitation to participate in the redemptive work that God is all about.

I could go on, but what I would love is for you to get a copy, read it, and drop me a note with your thoughts. Let’s have a dialog.  {Click the image of the book and go straight to Amazon to order it.}
[P.S. I’ll post thoughts on the two runner-up books in next week.]

the illusion of mentoring

Gandalf…Dumbledore…Yoda… fictional icons of wisdom and in the minds of many the epitome of the perfect mentors.  The only thing is, they aren’t real. They are part of the fiction that actually inhibits mentoring.

It seems that we are collectively waking up to the power of mentoring these days, however at the same time, behind this momentum at least two illusions sabotage access to mentoring for most people.

The first illusion is the romanticized notion that mentoring relationships should be dramatic experiences of breakthrough replete with fireworks in the sky and a soundtrack in the background. It is as if we expect mentoring to feel like semi-magical encounters with an all-knowing guru. However, real mentoring feels pretty mundane most of the time.

The second illusion actually discourages people who are in the game. Most days, the real experience of mentoring feels more like the simple exchange of friends over a cup of coffee than a lightning bolt of earth-shaking insight. At any given moment in a mentoring relationship, the conversations feel small, slow, incrementally laborious…anything but glamorous.

This second illusion is the subtle deceit which makes people doubt the value of the time they are spending together. It is the lie that these mundane and incremental conversations are unremarkable. The opposite is actually the truth. The remarkable impact of mentoring is not in the drama of a single moment, but in the cumulative impact of one person sharing their life and their experience with another over time.

The reality behind the illusions of mentoring, is that the small non-glamorous interactions between mentor and “mentoree” add up to life-changing influence over time. Operating under the radar, mentoring can actually change the world, one life at a time.

And that is my point. If you can let go of the grandiose guru-like or overly structured academic notions of mentoring, you will see that there are scores of people around you who might help you with the growth, challenges, or possibilities you are facing. Seek them out for a simple conversation where you learn from their insight and experience.

Let go of the fanciful notions of mentoring and you will discover that you have scores of life experience and insight that might serve people around you as well.

So…
Who could you share your life with?
And, who could help you with the things you face?