Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time-Out, Time-Out, TIME-OUT!

Wouldn't it be good if we could stop the clock? Just like they do in sporting events, as the clock is running down, we could simply call for a time-out. I know we can stop or slow down, but the clock never stops. It just keeps ticking and tocking. The 24 hours you get in a day, the 8760 hours you get in a year, just keeps ticking away, never slowing down. Before long the 8760 hours have long passed and we stand around wondering how the time flew by.

If you're like me, you need at least 48 hours in a day. Even with that, of course we still wouldn't get everything done on our to-do list. We would manage to still load up our day with way too much to do. We would try to cram 72 hours worth of tasks into those 48 hours. And in doing so, we would be even more exhausted at the end of the day. Somehow, I think in God's infinite wisdom, He knew just how long to make a day. He knew that 24 hours was all we needed. Any more than that would be more than we were created to handle.

Still in those 24 hours, there are those moments when a time-out would come in handy. A moment when the clock stops and we sit to take a breather and regroup. As great as that would be, we don't get any. The clock just keeps rolling....tick, tick, tick, tick. If you manage to live to be 90, you'll have just under 789,000 hours. I know that seems like a lot, but if you're like me, I'm quickly approaching the half-way mark and man did those first 300,000+ hours fly by. Regardless of where you find yourself on the journey, the fact remains that at the moment you were born the clock began and it hasn't stopped since.

While we all have different life-spans, the truth is we all get the same amount of time in each day. 24 hours. That's it. No more, no less. And once its gone, its gone. We all have lists a mile long of things that need to get done and at the end of the day its still a mile long. Since, time-outs are not an option, then good time management is a premium. Sitting down and doing a survey of what's truly important is a must. Let's face it, we all have things on that to-do list that in the grand scheme of things is of little importance. Regrets are the product or sacrificing the important things for the unimportant. You know as well as I do, that although we may get through most of our to-do list in a given day, if it was at the expense of what is really important there's little satisfaction in the end.

Of course, I try to live life with God's kingdom in my sights. I attempt to value what He values. I try desperately to keep focussed on what is eternal rather than on what is temporal. Trust me, I don't always get it right. That being said, getting it right is my goal. I just know that when its all said in done, at the end of the day those things that are eternal are the things that truly matter. One thing I know that is eternal is relationships. Afterall, that's all we take with us when we leave this earth. Our relationship with our Creator and our relationship with one another.

For me, putting work aside for a time of one-on-one with my sons is much more rewarding than getting the job done right now. Staying up taking in a football game with my son is more satisfying than trying to get a few more work related tasks done before bed. Choosing to take a day to spend with my family each week while I could easily spend the day working, is life-giving. Taking an evening each week to go on a date with my wife is priceless. Hanging out with friends and family, building relationships and doing life together is more rewarding than sitting in front of the tube, or surfing the internet, or getting that last task done on my list.

What I'm trying to say is that in the end when those 789,000 hours have been spent, I want to make sure that the majority of them were spent on the things that truly matter. I know there are things that must be done. I know there are jobs that need our attention. I know there are only 24 hours in a day. But, I hope you'll agree that if we fail to do the truly important things on that to-do list, at the end of those 789,000 hours we'll face some pretty hefty regrets.

I am writing this because, for me, this week has been one that has been filled with way too many tasks. Yes, I've been trying to cram 2 weeks into one. In my attempt to get all the things done that I need to get done, there have been some important ones that have taken a back seat. Remember, I said I don't always get this thing right. Yesterday my oldest son kept asking me to play with him. When I say kept asking me, I mean he asked me alot. But, I had work to do. A lot of work to do. At least 48 hours of work to do yesterday. Finally, he found me exhausted sitting on the couch at the end of the day. He comes up to me and asks one last time, "Daddy, will you play with me?" Up the stairs I stumble to take him on in Madden Football. Thank God it wasn't real football, as I don't think I would have lasted 5 minutes. And thanks Mom, for letting us stay up a few minutes past bed time.

I did a lot yesterday, but the thing that I most remember is that moment when I'm driving for the game winning score and Peyton Manning throws a pick-6 with less than a minute to go. Yep, his Patriots beat my Colts. I just know that of all the to-do's on my list yesterday, that was number one. I know for him, he'll not remember anything else I did yesterday.

It's true I'm tired and it's true I have a lot to do today. But at some point, the list gets put on hold as I have some truly important things to attend to. And as you know, the clock is ticking and there are no time-outs.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Closer Look Reveals Something Else

This past week, our family had an adventure. While eating lunch, from out of nowhere there crawled what first appeared to be a mouse. My 7-year-old was the first to spot the rodent and began warning his little brother. After the initial scattering, we all stopped to take a look at this "mouse" as it strolled across the living room floor as if it was scared of nothing. I thought it odd that it was out in the middle of the day in a brightly lit room, with activity going on. I was convinced the thing was carrying rabies or something as it's behavior seemed so odd.

In order to save my family, I immediately went into "He-man" mode and trapped it in an area where he had only two ways of escape. I then fetched two mouse traps from the garage, and set them in his path and waited for that "pop" that would let me know my rodent removal process was complete. I waited, and waited, and waited. No "pop." Apparently this was a wise mouse. I then carefully observed what was going on. The mouse would walk right up to the trap, sniff it and make his way around it. Now, I had loaded the trap with cheese as well as peanut butter. If this mouse was uninterested in that, then apparently my diagnoses was correct....we had a rabies infected mouse in our house.

Since the intruder was not taking the bait, I would have to resort to plan B. I ran to the garage and picked up my weapon and came back to the scene ready to protect my family. Telling everyone to stay back, I ran to the battle with garden hoe in hand determined to take this enemy out. I was using the garden hoe not because I intended on chopping its head off, but because when trying to kill something with a blow to the head it covered a large rectangular area. After several attempts, I finally managed to immobilize the rodent and then carefully escorted the dead creature outside.

Gathering around the "mouse" with my two boys in order to get a good look at it, I discovered that this rodent looked different than any mouse I had ever seen. You couldn't really see any eyes or ears on him. His feet and nose looked odd as well. I came to the conclusion that this rodent was not a mouse, but a mole. Our yard has been littered with mole tunnels all summer and I guess with all the rain that we had, the mole was flushed out and somehow made its way into our house. Suddenly, all the odd behavior I had witnessed made perfect sense. He didn't act like a mouse because he wasn't a mouse. Although at first glance, it appeared to be a mouse, a close look discovered that our initial assessment was an error.

As we journey through life, how many times do we do the same thing in our assessment of people. Think about it. How often do we peer at them from a distance and judge them or size them up? I dare say, we do it way too much. We stand at arms length unwilling to truly get to know someone because that first glance has revealed to us all we really want to know about them. There is not a human on this planet who can truly be known from a distance. We may assume we know them, but in my experience, the truth about a person can only be known through relationship. I've stood at a distance from people judging their behavior and actions only to find out the "whys" of their behavior after a closer look. Perhaps it's wounds from the past, internal fears, habits they can't conquer, or a host of other things. The truth is we all walk through life and behave the way we do because of something internal. Judging others from a distance will always result in us failing in our true assessment. As a matter of fact, refusing to take a deep look at ourselves will result in the same. But, that's another topic altogether. Just like me and the mole, I was convinced it was a mouse, but after a close look determined that I was completely wrong.

You can choose to stand at a distance and size up every person you meet. And in doing so, you'll miss so much. I've never seen a mole close up like I did the other day. I've seen pictures of them, but never a real one. I could have simply killed it and dumped it outside and assumed that my initial determination was correct. It was only after I chose to get a close look that I was able to see things I have never seen before. When we choose to get close to people, we will always see more clearly the things that we can not see at a distance. However, I think its imperative that we approach people just a little differently than I did the mole. I'm just thinking we should leave the garden hoe in the garage.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Came Home With Thousands In My Car

A couple weeks ago, I spent the day at the beach with my family. We had a blast building a sand castle, collecting shells, and playing in the water. The weather was great and the beach was empty, making for some wonderful family time. As we got ready to leave, we were faced with the dilemma that every beach goer faces...sand! Trying hard to bring home as little of the beach as we possibly could, we wiped, we washed, and we tried every creative way we could to get as much sand off of us as was humanly possible. Satisfied that we had exhausted every possible way known to man to remove the sand, we loaded up. When I looked at the floor board under my feet, I noticed that apparently all of my attempts to rid myself of the sand were pretty much failures. There was sand everywhere. What's crazy is when I got home it seemed like that sand had multiplied over the course of our travel time. I've since had the car cleaned, but I'm pretty sure some remnants remain.

Now, if you've ever been to the beach, I'm sure you can relate. It is absolutely impossible to go to the beach and hangout for a few hours and get back into the car without bringing some sand with you. While we were in Galveston, I noticed just across the the street from the beach some landscaping guys with their high powered blowers trying to clean a parking lot. Sand was flying everywhere. I thought to myself, what a futile fight. I'm pretty sure you can go to Galveston and not even visit the actual beach and still somehow come home with sand in your hair, and in your car. Everywhere you look and everywhere you go in a beach town like that, there's sand. As you walk on the beach and look there is literally miles and miles of sand.

My recent experience with all that sand reminds me of a verse in Genesis where God is making a promise to Abraham. In Genesis 22:17, God tells Abraham that He is going to multiply his descendants as the sand that is on the seashore. Reading that with this beach experience fresh in my mind, makes me step back and say, "Are you kidding me?" "That's amazing!" God, is telling Abraham, who is now over 100 years old, that through his one son Isaac, the number of his descendants will one day rival the amount of sand on the seashore. Now, I'm not sure if God is speaking of all seashores combined or one in particular, but I'm thinking either will do.

God is telling Abraham that his descendants will be innumerable. While at the beach we played in the sand. We picked up handfuls of sand. We built a castle out of sand. I buried my feet in the sand. Just the amount of sand that we personally encountered would take lifetimes to count if we separated every single grain of sand. And to think that those grains of sand represent Abraham's descendants is pretty amazing. What's equally amazing to me is the fact that from the beginning of time, God's enemy, the devil has tried to thwart God's plan and this sand is a constant reminder of what an utter failure he is. God's promise to Abraham is to this day continuing to be fulfilled and nothing the devil can do can prevent that from happening.

Isaac was a miracle baby. And from that moment until now and on into the future, God's promises are true. God will not come up short concerning anything He has promised. Without going into some deep theological dissertation here, I understand Scripture to declare that through Christ, I have become the spiritual seed of Abraham. That being said, I can't help but think one of those grains of sand represent me. As I sit here thinking about that, its a bit mind boggling. Thousands of years before I was ever born, when God promised Abraham that his descendants would be like the sand on the seashore, He was including me in that count. He was including my friends and family members. Those of us who represent the seed of Abraham, are all a part of God fulfilling His promise. Not sure about you, but when I think about it that way, I am so glad God is One who keeps His promises.

I'm not sure how many grains of sand we came home with following our adventure at the beach. I'm sure it was thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. While our Chevy Trailblazer normally rides 6 comfortably, I can't help but picture the thousands that fit in it that day. I'm wondering who all rode home with us that day. Was it saints of old, or perhaps some who are yet to come? Whoever they represented, one thing is for certain, there are literally billions more out there, for our God is a God who keeps His promises.