Sunday, November 24, 2013

I shall have bird feeders

Psalm 108:6 (NIV)

Save us and help us with your right hand,
   that those you love may be delivered.
When I am an old man, I shall have bird feeders. And a big aquarium. I will take a photography class at the community college, and I will go on long walks every day the weather permits.

The children will come visit us for holidays and, most importantly, their birthdays. We will dote on our grandchildren and always keep on hand the foods their parents won’t. We will drive to see the great sights of America — the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, the Golden Gate Bridge. I will choose a favorite restaurant where everyone on the staff knows me so well they just wave when I walk in the door and five minutes later my lunch comes to the table.

I could keep going for a while here. This tends to be the sort of thing I ponder when jamming my thumb in a fussy infant’s mouth long after the sun has set. But I’ll stop for two reasons. One, Jenny Joseph covered the ground expertly with her poem “Warning,” the first line of which is “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple.” And two, I’ve been made all too aware recently, again, of just how fragile and fleeting life can be.

It would be easy enough to run through a laundry list of tragedies large and small to further illustrate the point, and I’d scarcely have to go back more than a week, or even outside my family and close friends. But I could write something similar seemingly every week. Tragedy is all around — the sudden loss of life or health or security are constant, though the individuals and families so stricken are chosen at random.

The takeaway lesson is simple: none of us are promised anything in this life. Every day we have is a precious blessing that ought to be cherished and lived in gratitude. And as sure as I express that sentiment I have to admit how routinely I fall short of that ideal, arguing with the kids about getting into the car so we’re only five minutes late to church, fretting over a glitch in the DVR or grumbling because I gazed into a refrigerator full of food and couldn’t decide what to eat. I know better, but that knowledge can be fleeting at any moment.

Still, the future is not mine to decide. So when I think about my bird feeders and my aquarium and my photography class, I realize it’s about as real to me as playing second base for the Cubs or filing columns for the Chicago Tribune. If I’m blessed enough to one day celebrate a holiday surrounded by wife and our boys and their children, hopefully I’ll be fully aware of the source of that blessing and appropriately grateful.

But more importantly, I have to live every day between now and then in thankfulness for the chance to simply wake up and move about the planet. Some days are rich with joys, others laden with sorrows. And most of them lie somewhere in between, not too high and not too low, but spectacular gifts nonetheless, each and every one of them. To God alone be the glory.

A prayer for November 24:

Lord, thank you for everything I have, for each breath, each day I get to be surrounded by my family, each chance to look into my children’s eyes and make sure they know how much I love them. Help me as I strive to remember the precious nature of life, to take nothing for granted and to live in gratitude for the blessings of this life and the promises of things to come. Tell me what I need to hear and show me the path you would have me walk, and may the things I do and say bring you praise. Amen.

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I didn't get into the specifics in this post; however, if you are so inclined as to click for more information, I offer this link to the clearinghouse for tornado relief in Washington, Ill., and this page about a scholarship fund for the family of our dear friends who last Sunday suffered an unexpected loss.

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