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Racine, WI 53405

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Commitment to Life

How good, how lovely it is to eat and drink
and find satisfaction in everything we do under the sun
during the few days of life God gives us -
to embrace everything that comes to us!
Regardless of how much wealth or possessions God gives us,
we're also given the ability to find joy in what we have,
to accept whatever happens to us,
and find fulfillment in our work -
this is God's gift to us.
If we embrace whatever comes,
we never need to brood over the shortness of life,
for God will keep our hearts filled with joy.
                        Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (The Inclusive Bible)

 
Truly, I love this scripture from Ecclesiastes that calls us to LIVE life, to embrace everything that comes to us and not to waste time brooding because things don’t happen the way we want or because life ends up being so short. I find that literally every day I remind myself how good it is to be alive. Every day I remind myself to find enjoyment in even the smallest things, to find satisfaction with what I do have, worry about what I don’t have. It is all too easy to get caught up in the stress and worry and busyness of the daily grind. What do I have to get done? What do I need to do for my dad, my wife, my kids, our community? What am I going to make for dinner? Are my kids doing ok?

Every morning when I walk I have to consciously remember to drink in the fresh air, to marvel at nature, to be grateful for a healthy body that allows me to walk the dog. I visit with my dad and see him struggling to find meaning and purpose and I internally remind myself that every moment is precious, that I shouldn’t waste opportunities.

When Julie was trying to decide whether to go back to school or not the big question was how we would afford it. There was no way we could live the way we had been when she was working in corporate. But, as Ecclesiastes says, it doesn’t matter how much money or possessions we have or don’t have, we’re still given the ability to be happy, to enjoy each day. I told Julie we’d be fine and that it didn’t matter if we couldn’t do some things we wanted or buy the things we wanted, we’d still have each other, and our friends and family, and our beautiful house and yard. Life will still be good. She’s always wished she could have gone into accounting after high school, and now she can finally fulfill that dream. She still has a chance to fly.

That was the lesson that Joyce Rupp learned from her mother: to fly while you still have wings. Live life enthusiastically and do as much as you can for as long as possible, even while learning to meet the changes gracefully, with “a faith-filled acceptance and confident serenity.”

This is not just the lesson of old age, this is the lesson for every age. Make a commitment to life, and every precious second of it.

As the years go by, things are always changing. Mary Engelbreit created a picture of a little girl with a stick over her shoulder and a bandana tied to it. She stands at a crossroads. The sign for one direction says “Your Life” and the sign pointing the other way says, “No longer an option.”

There may be things we can no longer do, but sitting at the crossroads staring at the signs isn’t a great option. It takes faith, courage, curiosity, determination, resilience and a willingness to risk to take the path marked "Your Life." It also requires letting go of the things that keep us from flying: fear, perceived lack of time, money, talent, laziness, depression, grief, worry, and any one of a number of other things.

Sometimes even one comment from someone can completely derail us. My friend Chris tells a story about being a teenager and wanting to go into marine biology. Her dad said, “What are you going to do with that?” And that was effectively the end of that dream. Forty years later she still remembers that moment vividly. Her advice: Make a commitment not to be that person. And make a commitment not to be derailed by that person.

Rachel Remen tells a story about her mother turning eighty. For her birthday she wanted to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty. She’d lived in New York since she was five and clearly remembered her first view of lady Liberty when she had sailed into the harbor from Russia. All these years she had never climbed to the top and she wanted to now. Never mind that her mother had a severe heart condition, that there were 342 stairs, and that it would take all day. Her daughter could have been the wet blanket, the one to rain on her parade. Instead they took her nitroglycerin and allowed all day. They climbed 3-4 steps at a time, resting in between. It took six hours, but they made it. Fly while you still have wings!

Ludwig van Beethoven was one of the greatest composers in history. Few people are born with the kind of musical genius with which he was gifted. And yet at the same time he also had perhaps the worst health problem that could happen to any musician he was losing his hearing. At the age of 31 he confessed to friends that he was severely frightened of becoming deaf, increasingly he was struggling to give life to the music that was in his head and he became very depressed. He didn’t know how to go on and so withdrew for a time to a small Austrian town where he even considered suicide. How could he live having all this amazing music welling up inside him and yet never being able to hear it?  But something happened in his time away and roughly a year later he wrote a letter to his brothers, Carl and Johann, in which he “confesses his despair at the unfairness of life and at the relentless advance of his deafness, a journey he doesn’t want to live through. But then the letter becomes a testament to the music coursing through him. And with an inexplicably willful surrender, he vows to overcome and persevere, to ride his gift as far as time and will allow. He never sent the letter, but kept it hidden for the rest of his life. It was discovered after his death at the age of 52. Still, he threw himself into his music for the next 20 years, creating nearly a hundred pieces of music. Perhaps his most famous composition, the Ninth Symphony with its “Ode to Joy” was composed when he was completely deaf. 

He had a choice to make… give up, or live life as best he could for as long as he could.

What have you done in the last week to live life? How have you spread your wings? What has filled you up? It doesn’t have to be as crazy as climbing the Statue of Liberty or composing a symphony. It can be as simple as marveling at the beauty and intricacy of a flower, or a child’s tiny fingers, or feeling the beauty of a piece of music to the depths of your soul.

My friend Glenna has two young grandchildren and takes care of them on a regular basis when their parents are working. She said they were eating lunch one day and listening to Disney music when one particular song came on and her granddaughter declared, “I’m going to dance!” So, they all put their lunch on hold and danced around the kitchen.

This is what it means to have a commitment to life and living. Carpe diem! Seize the day!

Love & Light!

Kaye