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« Quest for heroes | Main | Personal Jesus »

August 30, 2007

My Last Night on Earth, Again

Getting back from two weeks traveling around Africa, seeing beautiful countryside, meeting unusual people with unbelievable stories of forgiveness, can kind of make normal life seem, well, rather a little too normal. So last night, I was trying to remind myself of a few things I know, like this quote from Piper that I like so much:

"We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this. . . "

It's always a challenge to remember the urgency of what we were put here to do, and to try to keep the mindset of pushing out the borders of the kingdom everyday. So as I was reminding myself of some of these things, I took out a letter written by one of my favorite lyricists, Linford Detweiller of Over the Rhine. I printed his letter out several years ago and keep it tucked in my journal for just such occasions. You can read the full piece here, but here are just a few snippets that help me remember my time here is short and I need to spend it well for the Kingdom:

I am going to die.

These few words, if I embrace them, will tell me what I must do with this gift of too-large life I've been given. Oh, but it's so hard to hear. I have to practice.

I am going to die. I, am going to die.

All of us here on this sweet terrain are terminal. I hold these words close and I am free.

I'm thirty-five, so by the law of averages I figure my life is half over. Half of my life is virgin soil, untouched by any plow. Amazing. I was given a garden and I've only tilled up half of it. I was given a day, and the entire night remains intact, unlived. I was given a woman and she is only half undressed. The bottle of wine, half empty. The book, half written. . . .

Half over? And now life ups the ante and says, I am dimensional and careening and full of surprises. No man or woman knows me. No man or woman knows the day or the hour when the needle lifts from a particular spinning life, when the music ceases quite suddenly to play audibly. All quiet.

In other words, I can't say for sure that I've only travelled half the distance. I may be farther along and further in than I know. So to live a good day is to live that day as if it were my last. This key can unlock the double-bolted door of what it means to be truly alive. Or as my friend Jack is prone to say, It's our last night on earth. Again.

So yes, somedays I flounder and lay about in the mud like a hog on valium. And I don't know why some days are so hard to redeem, to cash in. God looks down and says, This one's on me son. Enjoy. It's the gift of a brand new day or night and you'd think I'd make love to this day and we'd ride off into the sunset together, and I'd lean over and say, I'll never forget you. Ever.

But maybe the day sits yawning out in the car while I'm standing in line at the bank with a fistfull of unpaid bills. Or the wistful new day walks in and her skin is glowing, she's lighting up the whole world and I'm thinking about filing my taxes, one of the cats just threw up, and the answering machine is full, blinking. The day wants to be swept off her feet and sometimes the best I can come up with is surfing the channels in some hotel room, half awake. Or maybe the day whispers, I came all this way for you, and it's a drive-thru for dinner?

But when I hold the given words close, which I do now increasingly, I become a student of life. I am given clues always now, and I try to listen. And the mundane begins to bleed together into a larger sense of purpose which I continue to discover. Somedays I choose wisely, the hours are my lovers and I am heartened. The rest of the time, I forgive myself and try to smile. I am going to die. But I'm also going to live for awhile.

Thanks, Linford. You probably had no idea when you wrote that back in 2000 that seven years later somebody would still be taking those words out and looking at them from time to time. The ancients understood that remembering death isn't morbid, it's healthy. It's the bleak backdrop that makes our lives gleam all the brighter, that reminds us to breathe it all in, to savor, and to spend the moments wisely.

How will you spend your last night on earth...(again)?

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Mark Larson

This is an excellent piece of work. It is a great reminder of the sense of urgency each of us as believers need to grasp. Our last day to spread His love could be today.

Years ago I learned from my mother a technique to make decisions. "Five years from now, or ten, what decision would you have rather made?" Five years from now would you have rather ignored the person in need or spent a little time or money and shared Jesus with them?

Today I am challenged to think much bigger. One hundred years from now what will my impact be? Will it wither away as I rot in my grave or will it flourish as the seeds I plant continue to grow long after I'm gone?

Thank you for this much needed reminder.

All for Him,
Mark Larson

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