Sister to Sister: Happy 95th…to Both!

Yesterday was my Dad’s 95th birthday. It is hard to believe that he lived in an era in which an automobile was a very rare sight in his community, but then traveled the world during World War Two in a ship called the San Saba. When he was a small lad, he disassembled a radio to try and find the “people” who were “talking in there”. Now he asks us how that tiny phone can possibly contain the answers to any and all questions we ask Siri. He owns the bell and a wooden desk from that one-room schoolhouse in Peaceburg, where he attended when he didn’t have to be in the fields picking cotton (or hiding under the cotton basket so he wouldn’t have to pick). But then he went on to be one of the first in his family, if not the first, to graduate from college. It’s hard to believe he grew up as one of eleven children, a sharecropper’s son, and now he is the single remaining person of that generation of family. He watched the world take flight, man travel to the moon, the building of interstates and infrastructures and internet, as well as the destruction of the Nazi Regime and the Soviet Union. Ironically, he served in a huge worldwide war against injustice in the 1940s while blinking his eyes in 1973 and opening them to the injustice that would take millions more lives than all of the wars in which the US has ever been involved. 

So I took my dad in the golf cart to the back of the barn on Saturday, where he thought he was going to see a new fire-pit, When all of his family shouted “Happy Birthday!” as we rounded that corner, he knew this party was all about him and he had lots of fun opening Alabama and Mayberry trivia books and clothes and blankets and collar extenders. He loved a hat that one of his nephews had made for him bearing the name and insignia of his U.S. navy ship all those years ago and a forty-eight star encased flag like the one under which he served our country. But the best surprise of the day was the news of the upcoming birth of his third great grandchild, Baby Nicholas! That was the best news for all of us. 

It’s profound. Really. Yet, it happens all the time. This 95-year-old grandfather seems so very far removed from that 95-day old baby undergoing gestation. So many years, history, trials, victories…just so much living between them. And yet, there is coming a day when they will both recall the tiny dot on a vast eternal timeline in which they both existed on planet earth, that place of preparation for what is real and never diminishes or passes. Then, it will surely seem so distant and fleeting—that dot on the eternal timeline (If one could even say “eternal” and “timeline” in one sentence)—that they, having been mortals in generations that touched briefly on earth, will seem to have existed even in the same relative moments of time. What is 95 years, anyway, on the timeline of God, to whom a thousand years is as a day? 

Of course, the oversimplification of the profundity is this: We’d better all be able to get our tiny focus out of the wars, the accomplishments, the education, and the advancements and look at time and triumphs through the eyes of our Maker. He knew about flight and WW2 and globalism and the internet when he called Noah to save a seed line for the Messiah. He knew about all of the passing productions of men when He called Abraham out of Ur. He knew he was moving a patriarch so that He could call all men through Jesus to Himself one day, where no invention or amount of progress can bring men even close to matching the perfection of heaven. The answer to that call is all that matters. It is what links the 95-year-old grandfather and the tiny baby in gestation for eternity. It is, when that baby one day puts-on our Lord, what will truly make them blood kin. It’s the blood of Jesus coursing through spiritual veins that makes us eternal family. 

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (II Peter 3:8)

It’s just profound.

Milestones

This cannot be happening to me already. Ten days ago I went to a university graduation and watched our son, Caleb, receive a Master’s degree. In five more days, I’ll go to a different campus and watch Hannah receive a Bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, I’m celebrating thirty years of marriage to an incredible, faithful and funny guy that I recently met while a student at FHU!…and that’s really how it seems. All of the dating, marriage, birthing, childrearing, moving around the southeast, traveling around the world, speaking, writing, and just living have been freeze-dried and condensed into a few short hit-and-run years and I have no clue where they have gone. I am going to find pieces of them one day in my family video collection and reminisce nostalgically if I ever have the time. My daughter, (who was born a few days ago) has fast-forwarded her life right before my eyes and will be walking, next Saturday, across the same stage where I walked to get my bachelor’s degree. She is finishing up her job as a Resident Assistant, just like I did. She has lots of the same professors as I and she walked the same halls. In fact, she walked some of the same halls as her grandmother and her great grandfather. And, in the grand scheme of the passage of time, she is just barely behind me in her travels across this planet and on to eternity. Our lives really are just little vapors that appear for a brief moment and then pass away, as the Holy Spirit phrased it through James.

The Spirit also said that because we know life’s brevity we ought to always live by the “if-the- Lord-wills” clause. All of the going, buying, selling and getting gain is contingent. It will one day come to an abrupt end. Journeys will be halted. Purchases will be left at the counter. Transactions will be incomplete. Checks in the mail will never reach their destinations. Life at it’s lengthiest is relatively brief. Briefer still will be many lives that are interrupted by the sound of a mighty trumpet and the unmistakable voice of the archangel. One day I really will look up and see a form descending in those billowy clouds that settle on the mountains around my house. The only question is whether I will see Jesus as an amazing and welcomed interruption from life or awaken to see Him from the sleep of the grave. But I will see Him and then I will feel my body, which seems more and more bound by gravity as the years pass, strangely begin to defy it and rise to meet my Savior. All of this is already scheduled in the mind of God. I don’t know exactly when, but I’m pretty sure, it will all transpire at a future date that will seem like just next week, given the rapidity with which my life elapses and the amazing fact that over half my vapor has likely vanished already (I AM fifty years old!).

The point is this: Every milestone should shout to me to live my life in readiness. Every diploma, every birthday, every contract, every anniversary, every deed, every birth certificate and every memorial service should sharpen my resolve to find Him in every ordinary day; to study the only letter I have from Him—the Holy Bible–, to communicate more from my house to Heaven—the permanent home of life–, to latch on to every golden chance to influence a loved one to live prepared–for the ends of these activities make up the tangible condensation-the only thing that will one day be left–of the vapor that is life.

Sometimes I want to trap the vapor. I just want to put a lid on my life and stop the escape of precious days because I am so incredibly blessed. I love my life. But then I think about it and I understand that the only reason I am so happy living here is because I have never seen heaven.

But very soon…

Go to now you who say, “Today or tomorrow, we will go into such a city and spend a year, engage in business and make a profit,” for you really don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow.

Life is just a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

But instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we’ll live and do this or that.”