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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It All Goes Back In The Box

The death of my father made me think about how short life is and with that how do I make the most of that finite resource. The thought of time being limited tends to make you hurry up. In fact most people today are obsessed with hurry. That’s why so called “fast food” restaurants are on every corner. That’s why we all have cell phones, texting, and, e-mail, because we insist on instant communication. We can’t wait for anything anymore. We have invented these things to save us time, but it is never fast enough for us, and as it gets faster we just do it more and really have less time. So why are we in such a hurry?

Often we are in a hurry because we are working hard to get more or better things. We are consumed with getting the latest phone, computer, car, or a bigger house. We strive to get the better Internet service and the cable TV with 700 channels so we can have thousands of choices, yet we are too busy when the show we want to see is on so we record it and try to watch it when we have the time. And often we never have the time. And when we do get the next, better, or bigger thing it does not keep us content for long because there is always a newer, better, or bigger one. So because of this we continue to hurry and hurry to strive to get to the next goal, but never reach that place of contentment and many of us are too hurried and busy to do the things that are of true value. We make excuses like “once I get to a good place” or “when things slow down”. The problem is that all the stuff we are trying to obtain really has no lasting value. In fact when you are on you death bed, will it matter if it is in a big house or a little one? Will it matter what kind of car is out in the garage? Will it matter if you have 20 pairs of cool shoes in the closet? Will that so called standard of living really matter? And what happens is we just have to work harder and take more time to to maintain it. And all it does is put us in a chain gang of our own making. Volunteered Slavery

So what will matter in the end? I have never heard of a person on his death bed saying he wished he has spent LESS time with his children, spouse, or friends. But we as a society we get so busy that we don’t make these things a priority. If you wait to do what is important in life until you have the time, you will never have an important life.  Hurry is the great enemy of a spiritual life. You can’t love in a hurry. Jesus always had a lot of things to do but he was never in a hurry. In fact he always stopped and took the time to reach out with compassion for others. Jesus talked in Luke 12:13-21 about those who were busy in life trying to obtain abundant possessions. Jesus calls those types fools. FOOLS! The word Jesus uses to describe the people who forget that life could end tomorrow and that when it does those possessions will have no meaning or value.

When I was thinking of my dad’s life I thought what kind of lasting memorial is there for him, and what will there be for me. About 10 years ago a short little guy I called “Jesus Freak” named George stopped what he was doing and took the time to pray for a man who was depressed because it looked as if he and his wife would never be able to have children. He was in the middle of doing his work, but he noticed a man in sorrow, and stopped to ask what has got you down. And then he took the time to pray for that mans needs. That man was me, and a little latter my wife found she was pregnant and the conception date was when George prayed for me. Soon I was a father, and soon after that George died. George was a meek little man who drove a beat up van that said "Jesus Loves You" on it.  He wore old jeans some beat up boots and a bandanna around his head as he sweated installing wood floors (a carpenter). I went to George’s memorial thinking not many would show up for this little insignificant man. But when I got to the church on a Wednesday afternoon during work hours, the parking lot was full and cars were parked down the street. I found the church packed with standing room only, all to say goodbye to this meek poor little unassuming man. I thought that George and I had a special and rare relationship because of how he had cared for me, and changed my life forever. But what I found was it was only rare from my perspective, in fact it was an everyday thing for George. The pastor gave the microphone to people to let them express how George had impacted their lives and people lined up around the room, and for hours I heard the stories just like mine of how George took the time to love, care, and reach out. Many of the people had come to know Jesus and their lives were changed forever because of George’s acts of kindness, and I was one of them.

So how are you spending your time? Are you too busy to notice others who are in need? Are you focusing on that phone call, or that computer, and your work, while your child watches TV alone? Are you busy texting but rarely talk to the people you love face to face. Jesus says in Luke 12 that he is a FOOL who lays up treasures for himself and that where your treasure is there your heart will be also. And I think that your time is your greatest treasure, and how you spend it shows what you love. Nothing says love to a child louder than TIME.

So there is George’s lifeless body in a casket, and there is my dad’s ashes in a “box” so what is left? What is left is how they impacted those who continue on, but for them the game is over. So do you play the game forgetting the most important thing, that simple fact that for every person the game ends, and we never know when or how soon? John Ortberg a well known pastor once gave a sermon called “It All Goes Back In The Box” and in it he makes an analogy to life being like a Monopoly game. We strive to acquire to win the game but in the end acquiring has little value because “It All Goes Back In The Box”. Even the physical matter that makes up our bodies is just on loan to us and it too literally just goes back in the box. Here is a link to hear that great John Ortberg message that teaches this better than I ever could.
It All Goes Back In The Box
What is typical of God is that while I was pondering this my Pastor (Jeremy Peters) taught this message on Fathers day that deals with many of the same things, but just comes at it from a different angle. So if you have the time give this a listen to hear the 10 things that will make you a father that has a life that makes lasting impact. http://ccachurch.org/media.php?pageID=53

To show you more of how short this time can be.  As many of you know my father passed away on may 21st, since then my aunt (my mothers twin sister) has had a massive stroke leaving her paralyzed, and then my oldest sister has been diagnosed with an aggressive type of cancer.  For every one the game will end, we just don't know how long or shot a time we have.  Please be praying for my aunt, my sister, my mother, and my family as we go through these difficult times in our lives.  Thanks!


  1. Wine, women and song. Live for today for tomorrow we die. That's my credo. And it's served me pretty well up until now.

    "It's Beefsteak when I'm hungry, rye whiskey when I'm dry. Greenbacks when I'm hard up, heaven when I die"

    "Oh, those pretty women... I wish they were mine. Cause when the bottle's empty, lord it sure ain't worth a dime".

  2. Well good luck on that, seems self serving, and in the end void of purpose. As as King Solomon said when he tried that credo vanity, vanity, all is vanity. For me I want my life to be more than about the party, did that until I was 40 and it eventually felt empty and a bore. Oh and as for "heaven when you die" That might not be the path for that. But there is a bit of the kingdom of heaven to experience before you die too, just saying.

  3. I retired a few years ago, and quickly found out how unimportant my career was. Nobody really misses you, and you're quickly replaced. I've since got the chance to move closer to my kids. now my wife and I spend our time taking care of our grandkids.This is way more satisfying than anything I did when I was working.Family is the most important thing.

    Bob W.

  4. Even family is unimportant. Just think of it... less than 100 years after you're dead and there's nobody left alive who even knew you. It's just like you were never even born. Live for today. It's your life and you've only got one of them.

  5. AZ, I enjoyed your latest post. It really does make you stop to think and take stock in what is important in your life. A good man's deeds will last a lifetime.
    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.


  6. Are you for real? Family is unimportant? Ever heard of Abraham, Sarah, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Elisha, David, Solomon, Ruth, Paul, John, Mary, etc. I guess there is nobody left in your small perspective that knows them, thousands of years after they are dead. If family is unimportant to you then you are truly leading an unimportant life. There is a choice, but you can't see it.

  7. Thank Mitch. Glad it helped you take stock. Actually a good mans deeds can impact eternity, and bless generations to come.

  8. To the guy who thinks family in unimportant. Do us all a favor and don't reproduce until you change your attitude on that one. BJ

  9. Hi AZ, my condolences for your loss and for the sorrows your family is enduring. It all sounds very difficult. I very much appreciated the sentiment of "It All Goes Back in the Box" and I try to live knowing that time is precious and we should be thankful for what we have and not work too hard to acquire what is, in the end, unimportant. Time with family, love, laughter, and friendship...those are the things that matter to all of us and, too often, we take for granted.

    Thank you for the reminder. My thoughts are with you and your family.


  10. AZ...thanks for the wake-up call and the kick inthe ass. My daughter was downstairs watching TV while I was DLing tunes. I'm heading down now and I'll be back when she's asleep!

  11. Ivan, Warwick, EnglandJune 27, 2011 at 3:26 AM

    a most poignant piece , the sentiment is truly a fine one. I myself have no thoughts along the religious lines , but I do have a peace of sorts , and my faith is in the world around me. I don't have much, I do not strive for the latest "must, have" item, I love music of all kinds and have a good set of sound equipment to listen to it with........but my system is old , and I'm happy with that, I have not the means to renew , but probably wouldn't anyway. I never was fashion concious and have been happily chugging along for a lot of years without the latest trends. I understand the over-filling of life with things you will never get around to using (I have more music than I could ever hear in the time I have left.but I can choose what I play !) , it matters not what "important" thing I happen to be doing, I still love to just stop , take my chair and a cup of tea out into the garden and listen to the chatter of a family of magpies, clicks, whistles and barks , communicating with each other............. or a Blackbird singing it's heart out from the tallest tree............ that's my church, the world around me ........ my three children I love dearly, and they reciprocate......... and my first grandchild , a girl , has recently popped up to be part of my life..I love it. My own father was a botanist, teacher, and cyclist , and I celebrate my life through him too, he was the garden of which I was and still am just flower, nurtured by him to be who I am. ......I live simply and cheaply , but I am happy , and I try to pass that on , sharing my being with the world around me, right up until I too go back in the box. Thank you for making me once more aware of who I am and that I am not alone !

  12. Greetings AZ,

    Thank you for your bold stand on this. We all try too hard for things that don't matter. I'm the father of two boys and my life is arranged around being with my wife and them. Yes, I'm even the PTA president -- unusual for a guy! So I agree with making family the central focus.

    On a musical note, I enjoy your blog - it helps to provide a soundtrack for my commutes in and out of work and other times.

    Keep your arms around what sounds like a precious family that you have and, as Lyle Lovett once sang, gather up the last of the family reserve and love them.

    All the best,