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Lord, Teach Us to Fully Live Our Lives

November 14, 2020

In these days of anxiety and uncertainty, I sadly have to remind myself to slow down, breathe deeply, and simply Be Still in God’s presence. 

On Saturday, November 7th, we were in Mobile for the burial of a good friend of ours who had died on Halloween. Paul Crane was known to many as a center and linebacker who won national recognition in High School Football (All-State honors), College Football (he played for the Alabama Crimson Tide, along with Joe Namath,  as a member of two National Championship teams), and Professional Football (Superbowl III with the New York Jets and again with his teammate and lifelong friend, Joe Namath).

He was an incredible football player but to be honest, he wasn’t just a football player. He was a genuine gentleman, good neighbor (he lived on the same street that Denise did for nearly 30 years in Mobile), and a mentor to so many people on the playing field and in life. The last time we saw Paul, we were sitting on his front porch with his wife as Trick-or-Treaters came to the house. Sadly, Paul succumbed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain condition associated with repeated blows to the head. 

As we stood in the back at the gravesite, a lot of thoughts and memories were flooding through our minds and hearts. I heard an expression years ago at a funeral and have used it myself many times. When you look at a gravestone, you see the date of birth and the date of death engraved on the stone. While those are significant days, what really matters is how you lived in the dash. Paul was reminding me that it is important to live each day fully. Even when life gets challenging and the burden gets heavy, my yoke is shared with Jesus, the Good Shepherd. As the psalmist reminds me: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)  

The readings for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost have helped me to explore the concept of living in the dash in a new way. Psalm 90:1-12 has a lot to say to the person who is willing to sit with the passage. At first glance, the flow moves from the Lord being our dwelling place in all generations to the reminder that humankind will return to dust and our lives are a speck in the divine timeline. The Psalmist focuses on the divine wrath and the fact that we are laid bare, sins and all, before God; our years come to an end like a sigh. At this point, the reader could understandably fall into the pit of despair and hopelessness. Where is the hope? The turning point for me is in verse 12 – So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. Teach us to count our days is the turning point in the Psalm as the closing verses are upbeat as the Psalmist shares the desire for hope, compassion, and divine love. 

When I turned to the reading from Matthew 25:14-30 I was reminded of past sermons where I focused on stewardship and how we use the gifts of God that are given to us. In the parable, Jesus told the story of a man entrusting his property to three of his slaves. As I read the parable again, a new thought occurred to me. Each of the slaves had been given talents (which were the equivalent of more than fifteen years wages for a laborer) to keep watch over. One slave was given five talents which he took to the marketplace and doubled the amount. The slave who was given two talents went to the marketplace and doubled the amount. The third slave buried the one talent he had been given and didn’t make any money. Harsh judgment fell upon the third slave as he was cast into the outer darkness. 

So, what does this have to do with living in the dash? I believe it actually speaks a great deal to the question. The Psalmist and the parable of Jesus have something in common. Realizing that life is short and the fact that we don’t know the number of our days; we have a choice to make. What will we do with the time we are given? This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Each day we are given an opportunity to live our lives fully and completely. A patient of mine years ago who was slowly dying from cancer welcomed me into her hospital room with a joy and zeal that was amazing. She knew her days were numbered but she was making a conscious decision that day to embrace life anyway. The talents in the parable could just as easily represent life itself. What do we do with the life we are given? Do we walk boldly in faith or do we hide under the covers, refusing to live? The woman in the hospital room chose to walk boldly in faith. Other patients chose not to do that, and their lives and they were the poorer for it.

In his book Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton shared this prayer. My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (p. 79)

May each one of us, dear reader, find the way to live fully in the dash.

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One Comment
  1. Thank you!

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