As I write this, there is an awful lot on my mind. I just recently returned from a full month in the Middle East where we are working with refugees from various war-torn countries. While I was there, as I did in my previous trips to this region, I visited and listened to the horrific stories of many families as they shared what happened to them that caused them to flee, what they endured on the journey and the struggles they are facing now in their refugee status. They also shared about the family and friends they lost along the way.
Soon after I returned home, I received a phone call from the wife a dear friend who was suddenly taken ill and was afraid he had cancer. They wanted me to come pray with them when I got home. Two weeks ago, I preached his funeral and now am helping his family sort through all his 'hidden treasures' of unfinished projects. He lived just 15 days after being diagnosed.
Two days ago, I received another phone call from the son of another dear friend who had found out while I was overseas that he had pancreatic cancer. His son called to tell me that Doctors had just told them that the most recent blood tests showed that he now also has leukemia, and short of a miracle, does not have long to live. The next day I visited this friend in the hospital where he is receiving very aggressive treatments to try to give him more time. Yesterday, I helped his son go through his dad's cattle to figure out what needed to be done until they found out if the treatments would be effective.
I am also currently keeping tabs on the daughter of other close friends who was recently diagnosed and is undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Their daughter is only 29. She is the same age as, and is a good friend of my own daughter.
Another friend contacted me and asked for prayer for a 21 month old child who was recently admitted to the hospital for pneumonia, just to be diagnosed with stage 4 lung and liver cancer. I can only imagine the fear and anguish that his parents are dealing with.
You must be wondering why I am bringing up all these gloom and doom stories. Well, that brings me back to what I have been thinking about--and if handled correctly will actually help us all avoid a lot of regret and gloom and doom in the future.
When I reflect on the stories of most every refugee I visited, the discussions I had with those here at home who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses, and especially those who are at risk of losing their children (whether it be to kidnapping or death), there is one thing they all have in common: they all just want to live!!
I have met with numerous refugee families in their homes (tents or one room structures) and at end of our conversations, I always ask them "what are your dreams and how can I tell your story?" So far, after three trips, without exception, their first response has unanimously been: "We just want to live!" They have great needs. They live in great uncertainty and danger, but ultimately, they just want to live and they want their wives and children to be safe and to have a reasonable hope that they will be safe, alive and together tomorrow, without being overwhelmed by terror.
When I visit with those here at home who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses or situations, I hear the same sentiments. Their thoughts are no longer focused on their jobs, their hobbies, their money, their cows, buying that next 40 acres, or even how clean their house is. Their only desire is to live so that they can spend more time with the ones they love and so they can spend the rest of their life doing the things that are the most important!
I have found throughout the years that most everyone who has come face to face with their mortality has things that are not like they want to leave them, especially relationships. There are words that have gone unsaid and there are words that have been said that need to be forgiven. There are always things they wanted to do with their families and closest friends that they never got around to. There are also beautiful sunsets, sunrises, full-moons, oceans, mountains, and walks through the woods and pastures that they have for so long taken for granted that they now want the opportunity to experience again--this time with a renewed appreciation.
Most importantly, most everyone has things in their relationship with the Lord that are not right and that they sincerely want more time to make right! We always intended to be actively involved in the Lord's work. We always intended to spend more time with God and in His Word. We intended to share Christ with more of our family, friends and co-workers. We always planned on facing eternity knowing that they our lives have made a difference in this world and in the Kingdom. All these things we intended to do but never got around to--but, if we just have more time, from this moment on--we will!
The truth is, we are all terminal! Our time left on this earth is short no matter how young we are and no matter what other plans we have made. Jesus warned each of us to be ready at any moment in Luke 12 when He said: "You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
I normally do not find it necessarily helpful to me personally to quote country music lyrics, but this song by Tim McGraw (though I would like to add to it) at least makes my point. How would your life look differently if you decided from this moment on, to "Live Like You Were Dying"?
He said: "I was in my early forties, with a lot of life before me, and a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays, talkin' 'bout the options, and talkin' 'bout sweet time."
I asked him: "When it sank in that this might really be the real end, how's it hit you when you get that kind of news? Man, what'd you do? "He said: "I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said: "Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.
"He said: "I was finally the husband that most of the time I wasn't, and I became a friend a friend would like to have. And all of a sudden, going fishin'--wasn't such an imposition, and I went three times that year I lost my dad. Well, I finally read the Good Book, and took a good, long, hard look at what I'd do if I could do it all again: And then: I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper , and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said: "Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying; Like tomorrow was a gift, and you've got eternity to think about what you'd do with it, what could you do with it, what did I do with it? what would I do with it? Skydiving, I went Rocky mountain climbing, I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I watched an eagle as it was flying"
And he said: "Someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying, to live like you were dying to live like you were dying"
We have that chance now, but we may never have it again! I have heard it said: "The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone." But, I have also heard it said: "The man who removes a mountain, begins by carrying away small stones!" We cannot change our past, but we can decide how we are going to live out our future--no matter how long that future is! Live like you are dying!