Perspective. I love this picture from my recent trip to the central coast of California. It’s sort of an optical illusion, isn’t it? I mean, is the turtle really on a limb, in a grove of trees, perilously hanging who knows how far above the ground below?
There are times in my life when I feel like I am the one perilously hanging on a limb high above the ground without a safety net ~ feet dangling, nails gripping, ready to crash any moment. Recently I received a notice from our friendly taxing authority nicely requesting a tax return. Their request, nice as it was, included a deadline. I did all I could to meet the deadline, but I couldn’t reach our tax preparer to see if she had completed the return. I phoned. I faxed. I used snail mail. I emailed. Silence. The deadline date was quickly approaching and my grip on the limb was getting weak.
In addition to a tax deadline, we had plane tickets to go visit family and so it became even more important to get the return taken care of. I was losing sleep, worried about what would happen if we didn’t get the return filed ~ certainly there would be penalties. Would they also garnish our bank accounts? I spent a lot of time thinking about the problem, wondering if everything was okay with our tax preparer. What would we do if she were unable to prepare the return? Who could we trust to do it for us?
Finally the day had come ~ the next morning we would be flying out of town for over ten days, well past the deadline for our return to be filed and we still hadn’t heard a word from our tax preparer. I felt certain that the chance of getting another extension from the state was slim, but I didn’t have any choice but to try. With a knot in my stomach, I made the call.
Your call will be answered In approximately 17 minutes. If you would like to have a representative call you back, please leave your name and telephone number, the recorded message stated.
No, I thought, I better just wait and talk to a human being, no matter how long it takes.
Within a couple of minutes a pleasant sounding man answered the phone.
“Let’s see what we can do here,” he was so upbeat. I was so nervous. I rambled on about how I hadn’t heard from our preparer, how we were heading out of town to visit my mother-in-law who was celebrating her 86th birthday, how worried I was about getting this straightened out.
“Well,” he said, “no need to worry. Here, how about we give you a two month extension. That should give you enough time to get it in, don’t you think?” I was speechless! Two months was a gift of time I never expected!
“Now go on your trip and don’t worry.” I just couldn’t believe my ears. Then I decided to try calling our tax preparer one more time. Two rings and she answered the phone! Within an hour she emailed over a copy of our return for us to review on our trip.
Because of my limited view of the world, my perspective on the situation was narrow, negative and not right. I worried and wasted mental time and energy for nothing. It didn’t feel like nothing, it felt like I was barely hanging on a limb that hung high over the ground ready to crash any moment. But in reality, my limb was buoyed on water, gently being held afloat by the One who promises to meet my needs. You see, God’s perspective isn’t mine. When I have done all that I can do in a situation, and my perspective is limited, I need to trust the One who sees it all. Oh, and the turtle? He, too, was resting on a limb that was buoyed by water, but unlike me, he knew he was safe and so he didn’t have a care in the world.
Days. It’s that time of year. I reached the end of my calendar and it was time to get my new Zig Ziglar performance planner ready for the new year. I spent an hour writing the number of the day in the little boxes for the weekly and monthly views. I went through and marked out the major holidays. It felt weird to write in the year as “2013” and then I got to the end of the planner and found it included a thirteenth month to get you started on the next year ~ and so I wrote “2014”. 2014? I can barely grasp that 2012 is nothing more than a memory; it’s hard to imagine that one day I will be writing 2014 on checks ~ assuming we still use checks in 2014!
I love this time of year. I love thinking about a new year, a fresh start, new goals, revising my bucket list. There’s nothing like a fresh, clean calendar just waiting to be filled with things to do, goals, and plans. But as I pulled out my new calendar and numbered my days, I had a sobering thought. My days ARE numbered. There is no guarantee I will live to see the date so neatly written in the little box. Even as I reread the first paragraph of this post, I realize how presumptuous I am to say that one day I will be writing 2014 on checks; in fact, what I should have said was, one day I may do this or that. Recent events, both nationally and personally, have made this realization very clear to me. It’s a realization I hope I think about often in 2013, not to bring me down, but to remind me that every day is a gift and an opportunity.
God knows the number of my days here and I am very thankful I don’t. The Mayans sure didn’t. But I do know that my calendar does have an end date ~ every person born has an end date. In Southern California, where I live, there was a radio talk show host I used to listen to in the afternoons. When you listen to someone on the radio on a regular basis you begin to feel like you know them ~ you’re familiar with their quirky words, their laugh, their opinions. That’s how I felt about Frank Pastore. And then one day, a little over a month ago, I tuned in to hear an unfamiliar voice in Frank’s place. Frank had been in a serious motorcycle accident and lay in a coma in the hospital. I could hardly believe it. Sure, everyone who listened to Frank knew that he rode a motorcycle; but he was so vibrant, still so young, doing God’s work and influencing people in his world. How could this happen?
We prayed for him, my family and all his many listeners, family and friends. We prayed that God would heal him so that he could continue to be a part of our world and continue to spread the good news about God’s plan for His creation. But it wasn’t meant to be and December 17th was Frank’s last day here. God knew the exact number of Frank’s days.
Amazingly, Frank spoke of the dangers of riding his motorcycle on the air the very day he would suffer his deadly accident. You can read his testimony here and listen to his prophetic words here (scroll down to see the link). If you listen to this clip from his show, you will know that Frank’s concern wasn’t about his physical death, because he got it. He understood that his days here were numbered. And he didn’t seem at all concerned about spiritual death either, because he knew with all assurance that he was going to be with his Lord and Savior when his time here was done. His concern was for the souls of others, those who didn’t have a Savior to bridge the gap between an imperfect human being and a perfect, holy Creator.
Last time I checked, no one I know had an expiration date stamped on them. But don’t be mistaken, though we don’t know the time, we all have an end date. There’s a country song that says “I wish that you would live like you are dying…” Well, guess what? You are dying! I am dying! Will this realization cause you to live differently in 2013? Will it cause you to think about your priorities? And most importantly, will it give you reason to think about the relationship of your own soul with its Creator? I pray it does and, if you are interested, I would love to introduce you to my Savior. Frank knew Him. Zig Ziglar knew Him. In fact, you may have heard about Him ~ we celebrated His birthday on December 25th!
A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. Job 14:4-6
“Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.” Psalm 39:3-5
Clothes. At my age, clothes are a good thing, as opposed to being naked. I’m just saying. But sometimes clothes can be a real nuisance. We are 6 days away from a big event, a real celebration, a once in a lifetime occurrence, if I can be so presumptuous. Our daughter is getting married. I have been excited and looking forward to this day for a long time, but I hadn’t really taken seriously my role as the MOB (mother of the bride). Oh, I remember early on the comments of friends:
“Oh, you’re going to be the mother of the bride! That’s a big deal! Make sure you look good ~ don’t want to reflect badly on your daughter!”
“You know her fiancee is going to look at you to see what he is in for 30 years down the road…”
“Don’t skimp on your dress! This is a one time event, you want to look good!”
“I spent $500 on my dress and didn’t blink an eye!”
Oh sure, I heard them, I nodded in agreement while secretly thinking about all the other things I had to do on that day. And days went by. And people would ask.
“Did you get your dress yet?”
“Have you gotten your dress yet?”
“Got a dress?”
“What dress did you get?”
Pretty soon I got the idea that I was supposed to be getting a dress ~ and it must be a big deal because everyone kept asking. Silly me, I thought this was supposed to be all about the bride and not the MOB.
Unlike many women, I am not a big shopper. God didn’t give me that gene. Every once in a while, maybe twice a year, I will get the urge. I will make an all day event out of it. When I get going, I really embrace the process. But in between, well, not so much. So this dress shopping thing was not something I was particularly looking forward to. Plus, I was always waiting for those certain number of pounds to just fall off so I would look spectacular in said dress. Let’s just say the poundage falling off was wishful thinking and the day had come to get the dress.
It was a magical day, spent with my B2B (bride to be daughter) and with her amazing style, we found the dress. The one that made me look as though the pounds, at least some of them, had fallen off. And the proper undergarments with the right amount of Spandex would take care of the rest.
“Have you gotten your dress yet?”
“YES I HAVE!” Did I just shout? Sorry, just so excited.
But now I needed shoes. And undergarments. And jewelry. And something to wear for the rehearsal dinner. The dress I wore to the bridal shower? Oh come on! Even I know that won’t work ~ everyone has already seen it! And something to wear to the BBQ for out of town guests. And shoes for the rehearsal dinner outfit. And jewelry. And shoes for the BBQ. And jewelry.
“Mom, your bag weighs 49 pounds!”
“Oh, that’s close, isn’t it? Okay, how about I put some of my stuff in a carry on? Josh, your bag feels half empty! Dude, take advantage of every inch! Gosh!”
My son just shakes his head and walks away. My girlfriend comes to pick us up to take us to the airport. I am feebly trying to explain why I, alone, by myself, have to check one bag while the men each manage with a carry on. And then further explain about the overflow in another carry on.
She understands and we commiserate. Hey, I am the MOB. I am going to an out of town wedding….for my daughter! It’s understandable. Justifiable. It’s a wedding celebration ~ we want to look good. Then she said it.
“Boy, I am so glad we don’t have to worry about what we will wear to the Lamb’s feast. The wedding of the Lamb and His church!”
Ahhh….perspective. Simplicity. Grace. Acceptance. Love. A robe white as snow, pure, exquisite and bought with a price. MOB dress….$250. Jewelry…$20. Shoes…..$15. Salvation by the blood of Jesus…PRICELESS! What are you going to wear on judgement day?
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-14
Sunrise. I woke up facing the window in my daughter’s bedroom. Her condo is up on the 5th floor and my eyes fluttered open to see townhomes in the distance and treetops with a halo of sunshine. I am a West Coast girl who treasures a spectacular sunset in the west and so I thought of how special it was that now, being on the East Coast, I was able to see the sunrise in the east. In my sleepy haze, I thought, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. In the past I have been known to confuse myself and get that backwards at times, but let’s just keep that between us. And then it occurred to me – the sun doesn’t rise or set at all. Didn’t Galileo show us that the earth was not the center of the universe? The sun is stationary, the same, unmoving and it is we, tiny earthlings, who revolve around it. And yet we say, “What time is sunrise today?” “Let’s go watch the sunset!” I can hear you now, “Well, what are we supposed to say, huh??” Don’t know. And I am not going to get all astronomical on you, because I don’t have the intelligence for that. But wouldn’t it seem that in the 400 plus years since we first realized that the earth revolves around the sun, we could have come up with a more accurate statement than “the sun rises in the east and sets in the west”? Haven’t we evolved beyond that?
Perhaps not. Because, if we are being honest, it really is all about us, isn’t it? It’s our nature to believe that the world revolves around us, as we once believed the sun revolved around the earth. I like to think that I have matured beyond being a two year old, but sometimes I wonder. How often do my thoughts go this way (please read with emotion with emphasis on the italicized words): That person offended me. I got my feelings hurt. That sales clerk took forever to take my order. Isn’t anyone going to come over and help me? My husband doesn’t understand me. My family doesn’t appreciate me. I’m worth more than that. What about my dreams? Why do I have to wait? And that could be just one day – maybe even one hour.
A friend of mine recently went to a Tobie Keith concert and he said he really loved one of his songs entitled, I Wanna Talk About Me. Oh, I know the song, and since he mentioned it about a week or so ago, I can’t get it out of my head.
I wanna talk about talk about me, I wanna talk about I, I wanna talk about number one, oh my, me, my, What I think, what I know, what I like, what I want, what I see….you get the idea.
If you get a chance, look up the lyrics. They are very funny, in an “ouch” kind of way. Am I that self-focused? Is it really all about me? I know I should be others focused; am I not doing a good job with that? After all, my own pastor, Rick Warren, said “It’s not about me” in the opening line of his book, The Purpose Driven Life. But the author of life has said it so much better.
Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
How I wish that I could say I lived this verse consistently every minute of every day. One call to my husband will reveal that is not the case. Life is a process. This is one of my favorite things to say, and as I get older I realize it is a never-ending refining process. So for today, I will try to be more others focused. I will try to remember that the sun does not revolve around the earth. The Son is constant – the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. That the world does not revolve around me. That instead, my world should revolve around the Son. How about you?