writing is how i contemplate. reflect. think through things. that’s why i stopped to write tonight.
this morning, i heard the news that a friend of mine died of a heart attack in his home last night. his home with his wife and 3 young daughters. he had riden 35 miles on his bike earlier yesterday – something that is common for him. he loves to ride his bike. even broke his shoulder on it a while back because he flew off after he hit a cat. we could not help but tease him about that. the cat did not make it. in Mark’s style, he just laughed right along with us. always thankful to simply be with the people he loved.
i think that’s what hurts the most. how he loved people and served them and poured into them – especially his girls. and now he is gone.
i am being reminded a lot lately how much life is out of our control. in the men’s group that i drink coffee and read the Bible with every Wednesday morning, we are currently reading through Ecclestiastes. you can’t help but read that and be bluntly reminded about the fact that life is so out of our hands.
and then recently, last Wednesday, i had neck surgery. 2 herniated disks removed, replaced with cadavar bones, and held in place with titanium plates and screws. talk about life being out of your control. you don’t wish for surgery, period. you don’t wish for pain that doesn’t stop because your spinal nerve is being compressed. you do wish it would stop. and so, insert titanium.
and then Mark.
we weren’t best friends. however, i think i am like a lot of people. you felt like a close friend to Mark whether you were or not. he was such a true friend to everyone. so warm. so genuine. so brilliant. so discerning. so willing to speak encouragement or challenge into your life, whatever was necessary.
we were working on a project together. dreaming of new ways to encourage and equip leaders to go and be the church in their specific context and then lead others to do the same. it was his passion, outside of his family. his passions and suggestions will mean so much as we move forward with that dream. his friendship meant more.
he was like a brother of sorts to me, simply because of how he loved my Dad and worked so closely with him. they spoke almost daily.
you know – he was 41 years old. you don’t really understand why he’s gone. he was in his prime. had 3 daughters to give away. leaves a now-confused wife. a wife with lots of hope, but who hurts. it has to hurt. it sucks. she goes to bed tonight and he will never lay down beside her there again.
i just tucked my son in bed. i could not help it. i told him what i thought were the 2 most important things in life – to listen to God and to love people, giving everything you have to both. he smiled at me and repeated it.
i am not trying to be all sappy here. promise. i just hurt. and writing is how i express myself best. how i contemplate.
the bottom line is always the same. it’s the same old message every time someone passes away, every time another tornado ravages a town, every time life suddenly turns. ENJOY LIFE. QUIT CHASING IT AND ENJOY IT. we aren’t as invincible as we think we are. and we give all we have to things that don’t last, to things that other people could do probably better than we can.
the author of Ecclesiastes said it well enough to make the cut and show up in the Bible. Here’s how he phrases it in chapter 9:
“Well, I took all this in and thought it through, inside and out. Here’s what I understood: The good, the wise, and all that they do are in God’s hands – but, day by day, whether it’s love or hate they’re dealing with, they don’t know.”
“Anything’s possible. It’s one fate for everybody – righteous and wicked, good people and bad people, the nice and the nasty, worshipers and non-worshipers, committed and uncommitted…”
“[So] Seize life! Eat bread with gusto, drink wine with a robust heart. Oh yes – God takes pleasure in your pleasure! Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift. It’s all you get in exchange for the hard of work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it, for there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think in the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.” (The Message)