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Archive for September, 2007

I made it … I survived! I am 40.

It hasn’t been all that painful. I actually feel pretty excited about the “second half” of my life.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to 80, but I’ll give it a shot and see what happens.

The highlight of this momentous mile mark came during a surprise gathering my wife put together. I was told when and where to arrive, but nothing else. As I walked up to the location, I was welcomed by a crowd of people who have been a huge part of my story since moving to Middle Tennessee seven years ago, none of whom I knew before our move. Some I’ve known from the very beginning … others I met in the last year, but all have been a rich part of my experience.

The great gifts my wife gave me that evening were love (expressed by the presence of people I love deeply) and perspective. She put together a slideshow that spanned my life. She secured letters from distant places written by some of my closest friends. She invited those who were present to share impromptu thoughts with me. It was encouraging, overwhelming and sobering to take in the significance of all these relationships. I suppose it was what someone might experience if they were to attend their own funeral. I heard what mattered most to people who have been in relationship with me. I wonder if we ought to do stuff like this for each other with greater regularity … a reminder of what really matters most.

I left that evening reminded … how we choose to live really does impact the people around us, something very easy to forget. I make plenty of mistakes, but people seem to pay the most attention to the overall direction of our lives. The listening I’ve done has been as meaningful as the talking. Striving earnestly to know and walk with God encourages folks more than supposedly “arriving” at some man-made destination of holiness. Lasting friendship is as much about grace-filled resilience as anything.

Like George Bailey at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, I feel like “the richest man in town” – blessed to be in relationship with such incredible people. I’m grateful to my wife for so great a labor of love. I look forward to continuing this journey with an amazing community of broken yet hopeful people.

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40

First post … the pressure is unbearable! OK, not really, but I am feeling a little bit of angst about “putting it out there”. What will readers think? How will I come across? Will I be misunderstood? I want to do this “right” – whatever “right” is. I know … self-absorbed! I’m working on it. I’m sure there are a few blogateers who can relate.

So, on with it. I’m turning 40 in a couple of weeks. My kids think I’m olllllllllllllllddddddddd. To those in the twightlight years of life, I’m a punk. I guess I’m saying, it seems a little relative, all a matter of perspective! I do wonder why 40 is such a “magic” number … why not 43? Or why don’t people decorate their homes and offices in black and sing a durge when someone is turning 38? My sweet wife has been trying to get me to say I’m forty long before the day arrives! I’m not giving in! I’m ALMOST 40! 

A question I’m asking during this very reflective moment of my life has to do with contentment. More specifically, what does it look like for me or anyone else to be passionately wild about life while being content with our lot in life? In my younger days (that sounds hilarious to me), most of my thoughts, goals, ambitions, etc. drifted mostly toward “the NEXT thing.” I was tempted to view my lot in life as getting through the NOW to get on to the NEXT.

I set my sights on the NEXT for so long, I became conditioned to orient my life around the NEXT instead of the NOW. In highschool, the NEXT was college. In college, the NEXT was my first job. In my first job, it was the NEXT position. After getting a little experience, seminary was NEXT. After that … church planting.

So now the church is planted and I’m not planning on going anywhere. So what’s NEXT if it isn’t another place, position, possession? Maybe it’s a promise. “There is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Tim 6:6). Maybe the gain Paul mentioned to Timothy is a string of days simply devoted to God – who knows how long – that are full of purpose because of the redemptive good God will bring about in our lives and the lives of those we engage along the way.

Biblical contentment, it seems, has a backbone, a resiliance that rises above circumstances. A content person doesn’t cease striving altogether. He or she simply strives for the things that matter most (to whom is another blog for another day). Eugene Peterson says it this way in his translation The Message, “A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.”

For the next 40, the NEXT is really the NOW stretched out a few decades. Move’s I make in the future will likely have less to do with geography and more to do with my heart and the expression of my gifts in the plot of space I’m inhabiting. I often return to words King David penned a long while back to help me keep perspective … “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; He holds my lot (NOW & NEXT). The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (PS 16:5-6) That statement helps me keep the NEXT from robbing the NOW of all it is intended to be.

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