The Difference a Day Makes

0d2d09c6-55ab-4c1a-8597-92c7f66d48db-large16x9_SheriffDeVolI sat down yesterday to read my Bible and journal before going out to spend the day with some friends.  I had plans of sitting down to write a blog post when I got back home.  That didn’t happen.  The plan was to write about how to make positive change in difficult relationships.  Even relationships that are thrust upon us with no choice of our own.  I might get back to that one later, but yesterday was not the day.

Shortly after getting home yesterday I noticed on my Facebook feed that there were a number of profile pics that had changed to a picture of the Kalkaska Sheriff’s Department badge on a black background with a blue line over it.  It was not the traditional black line over a badge, but I was pretty sure I knew what it meant right away, and I began praying for those I know in the Department as I scrolled through the feed looking for more information.

Before too long I had found a reference to my friend Abe DeVol, Kalkaska County Sheriff.  It hit like a sledgehammer.  I began looking at news outlets to see if I could figure out what happened, and eventually found a news story stating that Abe had died unexpectedly of natural causes.  I spent much of last night in a fog, thinking about my friend.  He was only 44 years old.  Just two years older than I am.  Much of last night was spent thinking and worrying about my own health and asking the question no one likes to ask, “What if it was me?”  “What if I went to work on Monday and didn’t come home?”

Just a couple months ago Abe and I spent some time talking and he shared with me how he struggled with the demands of the job and how it made it harder for him to be there for his wife and daughters.  He loved them all, and he did everything he could to make sure that they knew he put them first.  I was glad to see that over the last couple of weeks he was posting pictures of himself with his daughters out in the woods together enjoying his passion of hunting.  He was that kind of Dad. Heavily involved in sports, and always willing to brag about his three girls.

Sleep last night was a little rough with all the thoughts that kept waking me up.  “Have I prepared things for my family if I am gone?”  “Why didn’t I spend more time thinking about my health?” “Why didn’t I spend more time with them?”  “How much time do I have?”  “What am I supposed to do?”

This morning I sat down to open the Bible and my study plan dropped me in Matthew 6.  Near the end of the chapter there is a section that is marked off in my Bible.  It is a bold section heading that states:

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS

The last verse of Matthew 6 says:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

In light of Abe’s passing, this verse really spoke to me and the worries that I had been experiencing through the night.  As I read through it, I had three thoughts that came to mind.

  1. Don’t Worry About Tomorrow – This isn’t a pass that takes away all responsibility in life, but it is a reminder that tomorrow is going to come no matter what.  It might have some good in it, and it might have some bad in it.  Either way, I am going to be facing it with God.  I can make plans, but I need to remember that plans don’t always work out.  Even that great philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
  2. Tomorrow Is Coming… Quickly – There are so many things that are going on in our lives today.  It is a fast-paced world with technology, information overload, schedules, demands, responsibilities, and sometimes even some fun stuff too!  We need to make sure we are in the moment and not focusing too much on the past or the future.  Another great philosopher, Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  3. Today Is Enough for Today – At work I have been taking the time each morning to lay out my day.  I use an app called Trello to keep everything organized, and it has allowed me to attack my day more efficiently.  Part of that daily planning is to assess my progress during the day and see if the task is possible to complete.  It might not be possible to do it all in one day, but I can make a little progress and then jot a note for the next day and return to it then.  I find that doing this is allowing me to come home in a better mood at the end of the day, even if the day was a little rocky.  I am seeing an improvement, and I want to take this same discipline into other areas, arguably the more important areas of my life.

I don’t want to live a life of worry.  There are too many things that I will miss out on if I live that way.  I want to know that at the end of any given day I have had a good day.  I want days that leave my family feeling loved and fulfilled.  I want my wife to know how important she is to me.  I want her to know that she has been an encouraging force in my life that has kept me moving in times that I didn’t feel like I could go another step.  I want my kids to know that I am proud of them, love them, and that I cared enough to equip them with things they need to know for life.  I want them all to know that there was never a place I wanted to be more than with the three of them.

These are things that I believe Abe wanted his family to know as well.  I’m sure when he went to bed Friday night he didn’t know what Saturday held for him, but I know that if he could talk to us today, he would tell us that we never know when it is time to leave and we should take the time to be sure to take care of the important things like our families, our faith, and our friends while we still can.

I am thankful that as a child of Christ, I know my future is secure.  I have a home in heaven, and I know that I will see my family again one day.  That faith stands strong to carry me past the point of worry to a place where I can stand resolute in my belief that tomorrow will be okay no matter what comes.  I’m going to continue to do the smart things of trying to getting in shape, to make sure I teach my kids what they need to know, and to shower my wife with love, but I don’t need to worry about tomorrow.  God has my tomorrow in His hands, and He is much more capable of handling it well than I ever could be.

Relentless Living doesn’t mean I don’t care about my tomorrow, but it does mean that worrying about tomorrow need not keep me from living today.

Our little town is a different place today without Abe in it.  He will be missed greatly, and I know that there are a lot of people here who are better for having known him.  He knew the importance of making a difference in his community, and that is something we all need to remember to do.  Please remember to keep his family in your prayers.

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A Parable…of Sorts

custom-paulownia-casket-fullThere is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.

– Ecclesiastes 5:13-15

As I read these verses the other night, a story took shape in my mind.  I pictured a man who had determined that he was going to be a good provider for his family.  A man determined to give his children all of the best things in life.  So, the man did the honorable thing – he worked.

I  pictured this man getting up hours before the sun came up in the morning, going to work at a job that asked much of him, and he was willing to give.  He was doing it for his family.  At the end of that work day he went to a second job and worked until late in the evening, coming home to collapse into his bed.  He was tired, but this was for his family.

As time went on, the work week spread over into the weekend.  He missed vacations, birthday parties, and music recitals, but this too was for his family.  The kids were growing, but he had a plan, and even though he hurt so badly every time he saw his family look at him sadly after he told them he could not join them, it was for his family.

Over the years, the money he earned grew, and it grew significantly.  His plan was beginning to come together.  He could see the end of the journey had had begun all those years ago.  He was almost there.  Then it happened… The big opportunity arrived.

A friend came to him with an investment opportunity that was guaranteed to double his money, and that was a significant amount.  If this went as planned, he could actually quit working and spend the rest of his life just living off interest and leaving a very comfortable life for his kids when he finally passed away as an old man.  He went all in.

Things looked good for awhile, the business was slow to start, but there was still hope.  Then he started feeling ill.  A trip to the doctor revealed the worst news, and he was given two months.

Deciding he would spend his remaining time giving his family their every desire, he went to cash out on his investment. Tragically, he found out that there was nothing left.  His partner had taken his money and invested in in several other businesses, and it was gone.  He was left with nothing, and eight weeks later, he was gone.

At the funeral, his 16 year old son stood up to speak of his father.  He approached to platform, and stopped to look at his father lying there in the casket.  After a few moments, he stepped to the podium and began to speak.

“I wish I could tell you that I know the man lying here today.  I wish I could tell you of all the fun times we had.  I wish I could tell you about vacations, camping trips, birthday parties, and tickle fights on the living room rug.  I wish I could tell you about his favorite song, his favorite food, or about his favorite book, movie, or his first car.”

“I wish I could tell you all of those things and more.  I wish I could tell you how much he loved us.  Tell you about the hugs, the laughter, the smiles, and the warmth of a life with him.  There are so many things I wish I could tell you about this man, but there is a problem.  I don’t know him well enough to tell you these things.”

“As I grew up, Mom always told us how much he loved us.  She knew his plan to make enough to retire before I graduated high school so he could do all sorts of stuff with me and the rest of my family.  She told me all about the money he was saving so I would have a good start.  She told me how it was his way of showing me he loved me.”

“So, now I stand here beside the casket of a man I barely knew.  Friends and family have helped us put this funeral together because we didn’t have enough money to do it on our own.  My college dreams are starting to fade away as I look at my younger siblings that are going to need me to step up and help support them.  The plan he had for me is gone.”

“So, what do I have to say today?  Why did I get up here?  Was it to make you all feel sorry for me? No.  I wanted to point out a tragedy that took place in the life of my father.  Here was a man with the noblest of intentions.  He wanted to give us so much, but in the end, he left this world unable to do that.  He had two dreams.  He wanted to spend time with us and give us an inheritance.”

“I wish I could feel anger about this, but in the end, I feel pity.  He came into this world with nothing, he worked to build wealth at the cost of knowing those he loved, and he left this world with nothing.  All I can say that he really left me is a desire to do things better.”

Maybe these verses mean something a little different.  Maybe I am off my rocker and had a sandwich that was just a little too spicy that day.  I’m not sure what put that little story in my head, but I wanted to share it.

I’m glad that I had a Dad that was there for me.  He worked long days, shift work, and sometimes weekends to make the money that was needed to keep us going, but he was there for us too.  He showed me the value of being there for your kids, and I hope I am doing a good job being there for my kids too.

There have been opportunities for me to take jobs that might have been great financial decisions, but I have always had this thought in my head that the money only does so much for you if you can’t be with the ones that you love.

God speaks so much about money in His Word, and I’m pretty sure it is because He knew we would have such a problem with it. Part of Relentless Growth is looking at the wisdom of the Bible as it speaks to our financial picture, our family responsibilities, and the fact that the money belongs to God anyway.  We are just stewards.

So, at the end of the day, all you dads out there, keep working.  Your children need to see your drive and your determination to provide for the family.  It is a character trait they will thank you for, but be there for them too.  They need both.  It is sad when they don’t have one or the other, but it is grievous when they get neither.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong