Your Life is Now

Building on my prior blog concerning the too early passing of my Dad, I am motivated to make every day count. All too soon it will come to pass. In a previous blog I mentioned a great man who I had the pleasure to work with during my one year of coaching college football, Ed Agresta. He has a saying, “Don’t count the days …make the days count.”

On a recent getaway weekend in St. Michael’s Maryland, my wife and I spent some time in the museums as that area is rich in history, especially around the War of 1812. In one of the museums I was looking at an Elementary School class photo taken in the early 1900s. It struck me that for this dozen or so 10-year old students their direct contributions were history, their time had come and gone.

Teddy Roosevelt has a well-known quote, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We must keep in mind that ‘what you have’ and ‘where you are’ changes over time but doing ‘what you can’ is universal. Over the years, certain capabilities of mine have change and not always for the better. For example, physically I can’t do what I could 30 years ago. A weekend of yardwork now requires a few more rest periods. No matter, I still need to make the most of my capabilities; to get value out of my life whatever the situation.

This concept was at the heart of several character lessons I did with the High School football team. I emphasized being present in the moment and where their feet were; to focus on the journey and be attentive to the situation at hand. I still have the note my College Coach gave me before the Lafayette – Lehigh game in 1981 that said “Carpe Diem” – seize the day. He knew this was the biggest game we would play that year and maybe in our college career. He wanted us focused.

The title of this blog post comes from the song by John Mellencamp “Your Life Is Now.” The line, “Your father’s days are lost to you. This is your time here to do what you will do,” resonated with me the first time I heard it. Readers of this blog and my book know that I find inspiration in song lyrics. I have a play list of songs to encourage me during work, workouts, walking/hiking, doing the dishes, whenever the mood strikes. Dozens of those songs deal with making the most of life. To highlight a few:

– This is It by Kenny Loggins – “the moment is now.” Kenny finished this song in response to his ailing father being discouraged and having doubts. It became in his words, “A life song.”

– I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack – “And when the time comes for you to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” The great songwriter, Bill Withers, (“Lean on Me”) acknowledges how profound these lyrics are.

– Sandman by America – “Funny I’ve been there, and you’ve been here and we ain’t found the time to have that beer.” I have taken that line to heart as I travel the country on business, making the effort to have that beer – with whom I can, when I can. I have had dinner with one close High School friend in the five places he has lived since college. He keeps moving and I keep finding him.

Toby Keith wrote a song called “Don’t Let the Old Man In.” He wrote it based on a conversation with Clint Eastwood. Toby asked Clint how he planned to celebrate his 88th birthday and Eastwood said he was going to shoot his movie. So, Toby asked the filmmaker what keeps him going. Eastwood answered, “I just get up every day and don’t let the old man in.” When most people his age are counting days, Clint is making each day count.

As I was pulling together my thoughts for this blog, I was watching, maybe for the 50th time, the movie Castaway. I had never paid close attention to one of Tom Hank’s lines late in the movie when he realizes where his life is at that point, “I know what I have do now, I gotta keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise and who knows what the tide could bring.” Under any circumstance, moving forward is required of us all.

As a collector of quotes since high school I have welcomed the inspiration they bring to me. On this subject, Abraham Lincoln said, “Leave nothing for tomorrow which can be done today.” In a fraternity ballroom around 1980 I was involved in one of those ‘college-age’ deep philosophical debates when the lyrical line “Life is time we can’t borrow, so don’t let today get lost in tomorrow” came to my mind (I include myself in my own quote collection). If we make the most of today, that builds a better tomorrow. As Oprah Winfrey said, “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”

“When you don’t know what to do next, cast out fear and seek light for the next step. Trust God for guidance in small increments; and if you can’t see what lies dimly in the distance, do what lies clearly at hand” is a quote from Isobel Kuhn, a Canadian Christian missionary to the Lisu people of Yunnan Province, China in the early 1900’s. A shy and reserved girl, Isobel became a gifted Bible teacher; compelled by the love of Christ for lost souls, she abandoned health, comfort, safety, social prestige, even “normal” family life for what she trusted was God’s will for her. Fifty years after the death of Isobel Kuhn, Christianity has thrived in the Salween River valley where the Lisu people live in China. Christianity thriving in China is almost unheard of.

St. Augustine was a well-traveled man schooled in philosophy and rhetoric. Yet he was called to Hippo, a city of little importance and unknown for any literary or academic achievement. For over thirty years, he preached to congregations that had little appreciation for his intellect. Augustine died in the fear that the barbarians were about to enter Hippo and his life’s work could go up in flames. However, he knew there was a divine purpose and God was using him in ways that he could not fully appreciate. What once appeared as an insignificant ministry became the backdrop for the most productive life of any theologian in the Western world. Today, people are still reading his papers, letters, and sermons.

Jesus’ ministry was a little over 3 years. A limited time to accomplish what He needed to do. Yet Scripture has Him taking extra time when needed (prayer time), making time for interruption (the bleeding woman, children coming to Him) and diverting His plan as needed (to be a guest of Zacchaeus). Jesus knew how to take timely breaks to replenish His soul. He was the master of balance.

It is our choice to do what we will do at this time. Make the days count. There is a divine purpose at work. Let God use us in ways we cannot fully appreciate. Your time is now.

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