First I was given this advice: “Live as if today were the last day of your life.”
Then I was told: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
So am I supposed to live my life as if today were the last day of my life or the first day of the rest of my life?
Right now I’m just trying to be present in the moment.
Jacque and I are on our summer break hanging out in a lazy little surf town. And this week I have heard the call of some work that I need to give some attention to in order for Cypress to crank things up come the fall big push. I have also felt the pull of some unfinished business that is waiting on me to wrap things up. I have been deliberately ignoring both this week. Jacque and I have this week, just this week, for the two of us. Then it’s family, friends and a trip to Springs of Hope Kenya where we will join Molly in tackling a long to-do list. So I made a commitment this week to just be present for whatever moment we are in…and Jacque gets to decide what moments we are in. So it’s been a week of beach walks, bike rides, movie watching, book reading, gardening, cooking sessions, crossword puzzles and street parties. (Jacque calls it “chill-laxing”) And what makes it great is that I am doing it all with Jacque. And speaking of Jacque…she just asked me to be present for a trip to the grocery store for tonight’s culinary delight we will be preparing together in the kitchen.
So I’m off to be present…this living for today stuff could become habit forming.
I come from a long line of womanizing, angry, and drunken men.
What a heritage to claim huh? So sad but so true. What is not sad for me, is that in his mid-twenties my dad made a conscious decision that enough was enough. He looked around him at the trajectory of the lives of the men in his family tree and realized he didn’t want their story to become his story…and what’s more, he wanted to raise his son to become a man different than the generations of men that came before him. My dad will tell you straight up he knew he needed a power greater than himself to pull off a life transformation like that…and that power came from being a follower of Jesus.
Of all the things my dad has done for me, this is one of the top gifts he gave me…he broke a cycle of pain and destruction that had enchained my family for way, way too long.
So it’s Father’s Day and what do you get for a man who broke a generational cycle like that and set you up to win? I’ve decided to get him a broken chain. Yep, a broken chain to symbolize the generational chain he broke with a little help from his Lord. (Thanks Dad. And by the way your daughter-in law Jacque, and our kids Sarah, Jonathan, Michael and Bethany say thanks as well. Oh and so does my son-in-law Marq and grand-daughters Adrianne and Lillian. And I suspect future in-laws and grand-children will also appreciate what you have done.) He gave us a new and better story to live and we are not just living it…we are passing it on until one day it can be said we come from a long line of faithful, pleasant, and temperate men.
Someday I am going to start my own business.
Someday I am going to get back in shape.
Someday I am going to read that book.
Someday I am going to make a difference with my life.
Someday I am going to finish my education.
The problem with someday is that someday becomes another someday which becomes another someday which becomes…
You see there are only seven days in a week and “someday” is not one of them. What are you waiting for? All you have is today. You have no guarantee of someday. So why not decide that someday is today?
Consider this your nudge.
So yesterday I offered the first of three lessons from my recent time in Haiti that I am reflecting on now that I am home.
The first is this: I lead an over-privileged life for which I am often under-grateful. Read on for the next two:
2. It is in giving you receive
I headed into Haiti because there were some things I thought I was to give. Things like: some mentoring with a young Pastor; coaching and strategic planning with church leaders; advancing a water purification project; taking a micro-financing concept to the next level and a teaching to deliver in a church worship service.
And I did give all that…but I must confess the people there gave me far more than I had to offer them. They freely gave me of their joy…a joy that was infectious and so un-attached to circumstances. They gave me of their faith…a faith that fully expects God to come through with what they need to get through the day – literally what they need to get through the day. And they gave me the wonderful gift of community…a place where I was given love, acceptance, and appreciation in spades. I came home (in the words of my wife) spent, scruffy and “stanky”…but oh so full of peace and joy and contentment.
Was it worth missing a flight and having to drive 9 hours over bone-jarring roads? Was it worth trying to sleep through steamy tropical summer nights with no A.C.? Was it worth rising with the sun and then going non-stop until dark-thirty? Was it worth a steady diet of rice, beans and either goat or fish that arrive on your plate – whole and stare at you as you dig in? Yep…it was a bargain. In the words of Jesus: “Give, and it will be given to you”.
3. I can do more
In a Sunday church service while I was there, our partners honored me with a plaque to say thanks for all Cypress Meadows has done for them. A very kind and unexpected acknowledgement. An additional honoring came from a group of college students I met up with along the way who are interning at a mission for the summer. They enquired as to why I was in Haiti. So I spoke of the school, the water filtration systems, the chicken farm, the micro-loan project and they had a hard time wrapping their minds around how a church that averages 500 people on any given Sunday could pull all this off. And it must have struck a chord with them for they began giving me the “rock-star” treatment…but oddly rather than feeling like a “rock-star” I was a little humbled and haunted. Because I know the truth…and the truth is I could do more, a lot more.
I’ve just spent the last five days and four nights in St. Louis du Nord, Haiti.
The time spent there is still being processed…but there are three things I will be ruminating on in the days to come.
I will mention one today and then a couple more tomorrow:
1. I lead an over-privileged life for which I am often under-grateful
- The average Haitian has a daily caloric intake of about 1,500 (1,300 is considered minimal for life) – I was able to help a young boy who was in tears, doubled over in hunger pains after not eating for a couple of days. There are days I think I must throw away more food than he will have to eat.
- More than 60% of Haitians do not have access to clean drinking water – I am embarrassed to think of how much water I literally pour down the drain. On a positive note, I was delighted to meet with 100 families that Cypress has put a water filtration system in their homes and hear that for the first time in their lives they have potable water. Yea God!
- 80% of Haitian homes have a per capita annual income of less than $100 – because of the generosity of some Cypress people I was able to help a Haitian woman start a micro-enterprise and I met with church leaders, with whom we are partnering, to offer micro-loans so other entrepreneurs can have the same opportunity. Additionally, I lugged three suitcases… each packed to the gills with 50 pounds of new and like-new clothes to give away- thanks again to the wonderful people of Cypress. What knocked the wind out of me is the realization that if I tracked the money I squander on junk…I probably could, instead be doubling the annual income of people living in abject poverty.
- Four out of five Haitians are illiterate and no single church can educate the whole county, but we can do our part…I got to visit the school where 300 of the 400 students get an education because they are sponsored by Cypress Meadowers. This is the ticket out of abject poverty for those fortunate enough to get an education, especially for girls and young women, and it is working in St Louis du Nord!