Monday, January 14, 2013


As I push up against the 50 years-on-the- planet door and ready myself to walk through it I am reminded of Moses' exhortation to "number your days that you might gain a heart of wisdom". Was he talking about the actual, exact number of our days, like knowing when your birthday is- I don't think he was since I met some pretty wise widows in Ethiopia who didn't even know the exact year they were born- or to know that are days are fleeting, learn from the days you've had, enjoy the day you are having and be ready when your days here are no  more? I think more of the latter.

So, after a half of a century one would hope that there was some pretty serious wisdom packed away; some wisdom to give back to others, some encouragement to bless others with and some humility and excitement to learn and grow more if God should bless us with more days.

What can I pass on to you that might be worth the time to read here?

Mentioning Ethiopia reminds me of a saying they seem to say often as they sit in mud and grass huts with no health care plans, no running water, no steady income and no certainty of what tomorrow will bring except hardship and hard work. "God is good. All the time". 

We often look at the spring, summer and harvest times of our lives as the times when God is good, but God is good and faithful in winter as well. We have no idea how severe the winter will be but we know for sure that spring is coming and it makes us appreciate them all the more. If life were always a bountiful harvest then we would quickly grow proud and think we didn't need God to provide, but it's these times of lack that drive us to our knees as we acknowledge that we really DON'T have it all figured out.

It's interesting how often people think that they are an island unto themselves and that they are fine that way. It's sad to think how many times I have thought this and the older I get the more thankful I am to have friends who have loved me for a long time; in spite of me.

Moving by yourself is hard. Fixing your wiring when you don't know what you're doing is risky. Working on your computer when you're not a computer guy is not wise. Changing your first flat alongside the road in the pouring rain is dangerous. Being in the hospital without people to come visit is lonely. God made us for relationships and friends who stick around are slow in coming and difficult to keep and precious to have.

If you're an expert in one of the above categories, or any other category for that matter, there will always be others around you who welcome your expertise.

Teresa tells me that I have a tire changing ministry. I really don't know how many times I have stopped to help someone put on their spare; once a tire guy- always a tire guy. For me, it's easy. For someone's mom alongside the road, on Thanksgiving trying to get to see her grand-babies, well, not so much. 

I've been blessed to help others and have been blessed in return by having someone help me when I had no idea what to do. Sure, I could have figured it out if I took the next month off and read the manual everyday, but there's something about an expert that is comforting.

This seems like a lost "art" and I believe it's lost because of self-focus rather than focusing on what others may be needing at any given moment. Whether it's a party where the kids are sitting at the table while the adults are looking for a chair and finally crinkle themselves to the floor so they have a table in their lap, or a word of encouragement as small as "You look nice today. Did you change your hair? Whatever you did, you look great". Those things, truthfully and selflessly done go a long way in making others day brighter. The crazy part is how little it costs on our part to give so much to others. Encouragement has a great ROI.

As one who would like the furniture to be moved once a week, a new hair color on my wife at about the same interval, new hair styles, plants in the garden, fresh flowers on the table, a different perfume for every day of the week and the list goes on and on, I find myself cherishing routine more these days. Maybe that's because I've had so much change the past few years. Will that change any time soon? Nope. The only thing that doesn't change is that there will be change.

It's hard for me to imagine still doing the same job as I did 15 years ago. It's hard for me to think that some people live in the same house for 50 years, or the same town their entire lives. But even for those people there is lots of change and change is good. It also makes us realize our dependency on God. Nothing will remain the exact same no matter how hard we try to hold it in place; we don't have that much control. Embrace the coming change.

Not too many years ago I heard a graduating senior say that "I am going to go into the real estate business and retire at 30". As far as I know he never made it into that industry and he's well on his way to 30 and if he is going to retire he had better hurry because I don't even think he's had a fulltime job yet.

In our pride we think we can dial it all down, work hard and control our own destiny by being smarter, faster or better than the next person, when in actuality we could be in the right place at the right time and God could open our eyes to something really beneficial to society and we can make a fortune and then lose it all 2 years later. We can be smart with our money and lose it all and try to give it all away and never accomplish it because God keeps adding to it. Stop freaking out because we're not in control of really much of anything.

Others are going to say mean things, do stupid or hurtful things, think about themselves before they think of you, spend their money on themselves first, be insensitive and often rude and act as if nothing happened. That's life. Get used to it early because it's going to happen.

But when it does happen that is not an open door for us to become cynical, return the "favor", pout for weeks, months or years, go around telling everyone what they have done to wreck our lives because frankly, not that many people really cares what others have done to us and no one wants to hang out with a whiney complainer.

People are going to let us down and it's going to happen often and that should not be the hinge on what makes our life enjoyable or not. It's not our deal and we will not have to answer for what others are doing.

Unmet expectations are the starting point of a nasty, downhill, slippery slope. As I just wrote, others are going to throw us under the proverbial bus pretty frequently and the best way to get over it is not to be bitter but rather to get better.

The sooner we can move along, be happy in what we are blessed with, know that in the end God will make all things right; the sooner that happens, the better our lives will be.

I had someone tell me that they had just wasted almost an entire year by dwelling on what someone else had done to them. The other person shouldn't have done it but who was the biggest loser here? The one who lost the year. The time is never coming back so move along, take the higher road, stay off the slippery path of spilled milk and be the person God called you to be in the moment. Easier to write than do, but it's what we are supposed to  do.

"I can't do that", "It's too hard for me", "I can't talk to people", "I have to have sugar and bread with every meal", "I tried that once and it doesn't work", "I don't like to exercise" and a host of other "reasons" why whatever it is won't work for someone. The reality is it is often that it's not that the person can't do it but that they won't. They won't change even if they know that the change wil be hard and very good for THEM. 

The percentage of people who are paying for a gym membership who go just 1x per month is 11%. That means that 89% of the people in America are paying $20-60 a month for something they have really quit doing. Eating healthy would probably be close to the same number. Reading a good book, the same. Working on personal development in all sorts of ways is a scrapyard of wounded and broken-down dreams and goals. Be one of the 11% not a quitter.

The statement has been made, "there is a God shaped hole in every one of us" and often the problem is people are trying to fill it with everything but Him. Much like if someone thought that I was called to be a computer programmer and they were trying to get me hired for a position to sit behind a computer 8 hours a day without talking and interacting with people would lead to a lot of frustration on my part, so to is the pursuit of trying to fill our lives with something to replace God.

Whether it's sports, cooking classes, kids or grand-kids, spouses, vacations, jobs or titles, friends or extended family; it doesn't matter what you put in the slot that God is supposed to go in- if it's not Him then we will feel empty.

I follow a doctor online and one of the things I really like about him is that he is not afraid to change his mind. What I mean by that is he will say things like "I used to think that a certain percentage of protein was best for a healthy diet but after further review and studying more facts I have changed it to this percentage." This shows humility, growth and wisdom.

We should be learning as we go and guess what; when I was 20 I didn't know nearly as much as I know now. I thought I had lots of things figured out and I have had to change my mind about lots of things and even people. People I thought were like XX turned out to be completely opposite of what I thought them to be. Wise people are willing to change their minds. Proud people won't. 

I'd like to add a few words from people much wiser than I.

My grand-son's namesake said "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And a guy with a strange name said this- 
"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer's;
    he makes me tread on my high places."

And the wisest man who ever lived said, "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

I hope this has been an encouragement to you; that this finds you loving where God has you right now, that you are not becoming bitter, that you are growing in all areas of your life, that you are being a friend to others and accepting help and encouragement from them, that you are not quitting what you need to finish, that you are not having lots of expectations for others and that you are filling your life with all that God intended to be there, especially Him.


SKH said...

50 seems so far away, but it looks good on you. The half-century of accumulated wisdom was a good read. Thanks for putting it up for our blessing.

Chuck Weinberg said...

50 will come way faster than you think and by the time you get here you'll be way ahead of me and that's the awesome part- watching others grow.
You are very welcome. Gotta keep doing it for my own soul's good.