Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Life Well-Lived

It was timing that couldn't have been arranged by the best event planner. After a weekend of baby dedications at church, the memorial service of my great-grandmother was held. She was 93 and until the end was quick-witted, kind-hearted and full of love. To celebrate the start of life, and the end of life on subsequent days was bound to create some lessons. And in God's providence it did.

My great-grandmother, while great to me, was probably not great in the eyes of the world. She lived a "small" life, by that I mean her impact was limited to a relatively small circle of family and friends. Her passing will not be noted in the news or on the pages of People magazine. She did the task that was set before her, serving her family, raising six kids, and loving the following generations, but outside of these rather "routine" duties, she never achieved great things. Biographies will probably never be written about her, and yet for those of us whom she touched, our lives will be better for it.

My great-grandmother was an unconventional product of her time, because unlike many of her counterparts she worked outside of the home. My great-grandfather had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and so my great-grandmother helped provide for the family through being a nurse. When I think about the difficulties my generation faces with "work/life balance" I wonder how my great-grandmother did it without the use of the Internet, ATM cards, or laundry services. She was amazing woman for all that she accomplished on this Earth even if monuments will never be built to acknowledge it.

And while my great-grandmother was great for these, and many other reasons, the one that stands out to me the most is the legacy she left. She had six kids, and from them many more grandkids, great-grandkids, and one great-great grandkid. The significant thing is that in the generations she left behind there are professors of faith and repentance in Christ. My great-grandmother may not have been the most evangelical person in the world, but you can't help believe that she must have been a person of prayer, for each generation that follows is a part of the heritage of faith that she left. Her accomplishments may not prompt the creation of monuments of brick and stone, but the monuments of generations of believers will stand great in the kingdom of heaven. Each one of our houses that the Lord is preparing for us, is a testament to the faith that Daisy Irene Newell shared with her children, and that they shared with the generations after. And these monuments will last a lot longer than Mount Rushmore.

Baby dedications celebrate the beginning of life and the hope and prayers of parents that their children will, as DL Moody wished, "be great in the kingdom of heaven." Celebrating the end of my great grandmother's life demonstrated what this looked like on the other end for she sought not only to do great things on this Earth, but strove to ensure that her legacy wouldn't diminish once life here ended. And that's a life truly well-lived.


Significant Differences

When the dissolution of a marriage is announced, it's not uncommon for the stated reason to be "irreconcilable differences." In fact, this has seemed to become a catch phrase for any decision on the couple's part to abandon the effort to save their marriage. How many of the differences truly are irreconcilable is hard to say. It seems that many could be resolved if each partner was willing to let go of their pride instead of their marriage. Significant differences happen, but it's probably less often the case than divorce papers would make us believe.

What's true in marriage, is also true in other relationships. Rarely are we unable to resolve differences with one another if maintaining the relationship instead of our ego is the goal. However, as Christians, we are called to maintain some significant differences from those who haven't put their faith in Christ. These differences can sometimes serve as the basis for irreconciliation. When we have to choose between relationships and Christ, we must choose Christ every time. However, in order for this decision to mean anything the differences we claim must be tangible and concrete. In other words, our non-Christian friends should be able to tell what these differences are, and understand why our lives must not be lived in parallel with theirs.

Which brings me to the point of this little discourse. Sometimes, the differences we claim are indistinguishable to the world around us. A local Christian radio station has been playing Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving. They position this format change as "Christmas music with a difference." However, a few dial turns up the radio there is another, secular station playing Christmas music and I would venture to say that if the listeners didn't know which station the radio was tuned to, they wouldn't be able to tell from the music. The exact same songs about Santa, reindeers and snowmen are played on each, just as songs about angels, shepherds and the birth of the babe are featured. Whatever the difference is between the two stations, it must not have anything to do with the content and in a format where content is king, it seems that's the only difference that could truly be significant.

If Christians are going to claim a difference from the world, it would be good if they were clear about what those differences are. If our lives (and our music) are the same as others, what's the point of calling it Christian? When we are placing Christ's name on something, let's hope that we are doing so on that which glorifies Him. And that is always going to create a significant difference.


Better Things Ahead: December 2008

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