Live your life on purpose . . .

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Time Passages

Recently, I got news that yet another high school classmate had passed away.  These days, more and more of my former childhood acquaintances aren't showing up at reunions.  Years go by without a word from some of these folks.  And some are gone forever.  When we lose touch with a piece of our past, oftentimes it's too late to catch up.  The hands on the clock are insensitive to our need to slow down and reconnect with the people who once mattered to us.  Time is oblivious to our cries for more hours in the day, more years to our lives.

Al Stewart recorded a song called "Time Passages" many years ago. I was thinking of these lyrics as I wrote this essay:

Well I'm not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don't last
Well it's just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages
There's something back here that you left behind…
Though I'm not trying to sound nostalgic, it’s true that time passes quickly and life is short in retrospect. When we're young, we tend to think our life will last forever, and that nothing bad will ever happen to us. When we get older, we see that just isn't true. On the surface, people can appear successful, popular, and wealthy. That’s why we’re so surprised when their lives take a turn and they end up losing all we thought they had. Oftentimes, perceptions of others are colored by our own immaturity and the pursuit of "things that don't last". Have you ever thought of someone you once knew, and then filed them away in your mind, frozen in time as a figure in a wax museum? Later on, you might’ve been shocked to find that that person didn’t match your image of them. This can be a delightful discovery, or a total disappointment. I’ve come to believe that, either lots of people undergo great transformations in life -- or perhaps they never were who we thought them to be in the first place (or maybe it’s both!).

Recently, I've gotten reacquainted with some former classmates, and I've discovered many to be compassionate, hardworking, faithful individuals. Those I'd decided were out of my league in high school -- belonging to a different "caste system" than I -- turned out to be some of the most real and down-to-earth people I now know. I didn't think I had much in common with them at that time in my life, but now I see that they're just people like me who struggle with family matters, health conditions, and economic security. We are on a more even plane these days, as we really get to know each other in a way we couldn't have before. That's a blessing that I hope you get to experience in your life as well. Take a moment to reconnect with those from your former days, but don't put it off for too long. We never know how many days remain for any of us.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Having an Attitude of Gratitude

It's that time of year again when we reflect on the many things for which we are most thankful. Traditionally, we gather at the table with family and friends to enjoy a meal together and, hopefully, to express appreciation for the bounty in our lives. Although I don't object to such practice, why must we be prompted by a holiday -- a mere date on our calendars -- to voice our gratitude? Shouldn't this be a daily part of our life, this giving thanks for all we have, for all we are? In the busyness of living, it's sometimes hard to find the time to contemplate the beauty of our world and the gift of our very existence. But the truth is, no matter what hardships may come our way, we are all loved by our Creator and called into fellowship with one another. This is universal, and this is something for which we can all be grateful. Starting at this point and then continuing to make an effort to find one or more blessings each day can become a habit. Pretty soon, this simple exercise may develop into an attitude of gratitude. You may notice that your heart is lighter, your relationships better, and your overall health is much improved. All this from simply choosing to be thankful.

So what comes to mind when you are counting your blessings? A safe and comfortable place to live and work? The company of others who care about you? Specific freedoms you enjoy? Whatever it is that most appreciate, begin to make a conscious effort to express gratitude for it every day. Let others know that you love them, share your blessings with as many people as you can, and try as best as you can to live in contentment with what you have been given in life. If it helps, you might want to consider keeping a journal of sorts where you can record your thanks. Periodically reviewing what you have written down might even lift your spirits during difficult times and help you to focus on something positive.

Whatever you decide, begin now. Don't let another Thanksgiving go by without making a permanent change in being more mindful of the love, goodness, and providence in your life. You will find that, once you begin, there are more blessings in your life than you will be able to count!