Thursday, July 10, 2014

Finishing Well

This photo jumped out at me from the Facebook app on my iPad this week.Three generations of the Dyar family stood smiling in this beautiful outdoor setting.  Linda's cousin, Joyce, and her husband, Monty were a young couple I married "a few years ago" in Mingo County, WV.

In this photo the family had gathered to celebrate Monty and Joyce's 40th wedding anniversary. I smiled when I remembered that ceremony on that hot Summer afternoon when I was blessed to unite that pretty young West Virginia girl and the handsome young United States Marine from Purvis, Mississippi at a little white frame church in Sprigg, WV.

Then it hit me.

Their FORTIETH anniversary?

How could that be possible?

I remember back in the 60's when my Grandmother and Grandfather celebrated their 40th in Logan Co. WV. I remember marveling at how old they were, and how long they had been husband and wife,. 40 years!
And now I was faced with the reality that it had been 40 years since I had tied the knot for Monty and Joyce.  And further more they were not the first couple I had married, there had been several before them.

Surely I couldn't be that old - could I?

The reality is, however, that indeed I am that old.  After all, Linda and I observed our 43rd anniversary last month.  Even though I honestly don't feel any older than I did 30 years ago (except for the issues with my right foot which has been surgically diminished twice in the past 3 months), I am older than I often realize. Truth of the matter is that I am only 14 months away from Medicare!  That is a shocking reality.

It's one that I am reminded of every morning by the stranger who peers back at me from the mirror. That can't possibly be me - but alas, the truth bears witness in:
  • the lines, wrinkles and creases in the face, silently speak volumes...
  • the white hairs that now dominate my once black beard bear witness...
  • the ever increasing area of bare scalp where thick curly hair once flourished tells the story...
All serve to remind me that time passes on - it sneaks up on us, and soon we realize the true brevity of our lives.The Bible is full of reminders of how quickly our years pass.
  • Job 7: 6  "My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle..."
  • Psalm 90:5-6 "... In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers."
  • Psalm 90; 9-10  "... we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away..."
  • 1 Peter 1:24  “...All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man[a] as the flower of the grass. The grass withers,And its flower falls away..."
  • James 4:14  "... For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."  
Now, that being said, please understand that I am NOT planning my funeral services just yet.  With the recent passing of my 87 year old father, and other aforementioned reminders, I am just stating the fact that for each of us, time is marching on and there is no turning back the clock.

When I was a boy growing up on Gallaher Street in southeast Huntington, WV back in the 50's, there were several multigenerational families in our neighborhood.  Often there was a grandfather living in the home with a family, or next door to them.  The elderly men in the family were usually known as "Old Man (so and so)".  It wasn't a term used disrespectfully, but rather, one of honor and affection.  On our street alone we had "Old Men" Black, Midkiff, Dick, Osborne, and Adkins.

After Dad's funeral service last week, it hit me that I am now the patriarch of our Adkins clan. Suddenly (it seems) I am now "Old Man Adkins".  I'm the old guy with 44 years in pastoral ministry (longest in ministry in our association).  I'm the old guy with grandchildren in High School.  I'm the old guy who has lived on my street longer than anyone else except a couple who are in their late 80's.  I'm the guy who realizes that I don't have nearly as many years left as I have seen pass.

I'm not ready to lie down and die.  After all, I am a 10 year survivor of "incurable" fourth stage colon cancer that had permeated my liver and was in several lymph nodes when discovered.  

I'm not ready to quit.  I hope to remain in active ministry at least 6 or 7 more years, if God gives me the health to do so.

So what shall I do?

According to psalmist I need to be aware of my status and follow this sage advice, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

My prayer is that I might finish well.

I can look back over the years that have slipped up on me unawares and see times of victory.  I can also see time of defeat.  But the saddest thing I see are missed opportunities, seasons of complacency, and lack of a sense of urgency.  That's why I want to "Redeem the time".  I can't get any of it back, but I can surely be resolved to make the most of the days, months and years that God may still have reserved for my time of service to him.

Like Paul of old, who wrote in Philippians 3:10-14, I want my resolve to be as follows:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Old Man Adkins is making that commitment today.

My Dad was fond of an old country style gospel song that contained these words:

"Time has made a change in the old home place.
Time has made a change in each smiling face.
And I know my friends can plainly see,
Time has made a change in me."

My prayer, as I head down the home stretch, is that the change my friends may see in me, would not be the limp in my walk, the stoop of my shoulders, the wrinkles in my brow and the balding gray hairs of my head. I pray that the change they see in me will be the commitment to finish well.
The commitment to follow Jesus more closely and magnify him in my life.
The commitment to be about my Father's business and advance the cause of God's Kingdom until He calls me home.

Will you join me?

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