CLEF Newsletter - May 2019
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:16-17).
In March Debbie and I visited the cemetery where our infant son, my parents, grandparents and an uncle are buried. Since I buried most of them, I also wrote the epitaphs on their headstones. On my maternal grandfather’s is the inscription “A man of God, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” That quite aptly describes his life. His is a remarkable and beautiful story, and one without the space here to tell it justly, only that he lived his life well. On his own from age nine, his hope and trust was always in the God of his father, also a very godly man, and he grew to be a successful businessman. His life was not without great sorrow and loss, from circumstances he had no control over. But he never lost sight of the God he knew was ever leading him forward. He never felt the victim, but always looked out for and cared for those around him. In the 24 years I knew him, I never heard him complain, and joy and laughter was his calling card. It’s why people loved being around him, and why he was always looked to in crisis. He lost his first born son to battle in WWII as a B-17 pilot over Europe, and carried that sorrow with the trust of seeing him again one day. Many other adversities followed, but he never lost his stride, or his love of family and people.
As I contemplated his life once again, I returned to the same image of him, as I always do. His joy and laughter. When Grampa was around, everything was good. We were affirmed, admired, encouraged, and we laughed. Love oozed out of every pour of his being. How does one attain to such a constant state? How did my grandfather sustain such a positive outlook, in spite of the desolation of war (he was also a corpsman in France during WWI), and the many challenges he faced in life with his family and business?
Eleanor Roosevelt, a First Lady of the deepest character, once said “Happiness is not a goal. It is a by-product of a life well lived.” Last month I also attended the memorial service for a man similar to my grandfather. At 83, he had served in the Navy and married his Jr. High sweetheart, raised three children and celebrated over sixty years with her. Retiring in ’09 from the aerospace and defense industry, he’d amassed another nine grand and eleven great grandchildren. What was recalled about him repeatedly was his infectious joy, smile and generosity. The day before he died, he attended his regular men’s accountability group, and stated “It might be 55 years for you, but it might just be five days for me. We will all see the Lord face-to-face one day, and that makes it all the more urgent to spend the time with Him face-to-face every single day!”
These two great men amassed a great wealth in their lifetimes. That is, the kind of wealth that not only stays with you forever, but enhances the heart and spirit of everyone who ever knew you with the inspiration of what really matters in life. Someone else said “real wealth is when no one can afford to buy your character.” Real character is what emanates from a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith, faith in a God Who transforms us by His Spirit in ways we cannot on our own. When we lose sight of, or perhaps never really look into and experience, the redeeming love and freedom of God’s Truth that releases us from the bondage of a corrupt and insecure nature, fear gains a foothold, contentment is lost, we tend to grow inward and the importance of people is minimized. But trusting instead in the God of all goodness Who pursues our heart, He formulates within us a heart for people, which also generates good character. Someone also said “Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” Knowing a God Who never leaves or forsakes, Who’s lovingkindness is everlasting, and Who longs to be gracious and waits on High to have compassion, frees me to express that to all others. What I receive back is joy… joy from a life that becomes enlarged, enhanced and enduring.
Author Diane Ackerman (One Hundred Names For Love) wrote “I don’t want to live to the end of my life only to find that I have lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” The width of anything is the measure of what it can contain, and we choose through life by every thought and action what will broaden or narrow the length of our years. And in that sphere of options are often the little things, simple acts of kindness and consideration that not only expand our heart, but the heart and soul of their receiver. Norman Cousins, American author, and a healer through laughter, wrote “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we are alive.” The walking dead actually exist. The Joy of God’s Character animating our life amplifies the potential of the years we’re given. As Abraham Lincoln said and showed, “in the end it’s not the years in a life, but the life in the years.”
Back in that cemetery I also ponder an unmarked gravesite next to my parents. It belongs to me. It’s where I will one day, sooner now than later, be buried and there will be a headstone there, on the ground, marking my name as the one who lies under it. But there will also be an epitaph; some short, poignant perhaps statement that will sort of sum up my life. It really does come down to just a thought. I hope I finish well, large and full. How about…“No White Space.” Fill it up!
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a workman who need not be ashamed, handling accurately the Word of Truth” (2:15). “A life, if well lived, is long enough.” -Seneca
- Watch your thoughts, they lead to attitudes; watch your attitudes, they lead to words; watch your actions, they lead to habits; watch you habits, they form your character, watch your character, it determines your destiny.
- Good character is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece, by thought, choice, courage and determina-tion/John Luther
- Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you will look back and realize they were the big things…