A Time to Be Born, A Time to Die: Saying Goodbye To Lola
This blog was archived from November 13, 2015.
This past Sunday I was awoken to a call from Manila. My uncle let me know that my grandmother had passed away at 84. My heart sank and then immediately jumped to my throat. Instead of tears and angst I had to compose myself since my kids were already in my room as soon as I hung up the phone, and laughing and jumping on my bed. I have to get their breakfast started...I have to call my mom. I was much more concerned with my father and how he was doing. My mom told me that he had just found out the news and that within a couple of hours he had to preach at church. "Can't they find anyone else?" I asked him. "No, no he won't be able to find a replacement pastor at such short notice."
If my Dad could hold himself together to speak for 45 minutes to his church, the morning of his mother's death, I surely have it in me to go about my day and eventually grieve. It's Friday, I have yet to properly grieve and I'm keeping myself as busy as possible. I do plan on taking some time to myself, and soon. My folks just landed in Manila after a long 16 hour flight. This time last week they didn't know that within a week they would be on the other side of the ocean, ready for a funeral. Before they left, my dad emailed me his message on Sunday. I cried, finally. And I want to share this sermon with you, before the weekend rolls around. So much can change in a day, much can change in a season. We are so limited on time here on earth. Let's be kind, let's tell our loved ones we care. I wish I still had my grandmother around because there is just so much I want to say to her, I still have to hear the story of the war one more time to be able to recite it properly to my children. Missing you, enjoy dancing in Heaven with Lolo.
Written by Dad
Amelia, my five-year old granddaughter, had just enrolled in elementary school. Her teacher, who is in her sixties, shared a moment she had in class with Amelia’s mother. She reported that the little girl is excelling in school and is constantly making her laugh. In the month of October, the class was learning about the four seasons. As part of their assignment, her students had to write down the four seasons on a piece of paper. According to Amelia’s teacher, the story went something like this:
“Children,” says the teacher, “it is time to spell out the four seasons!” “Mrs. T,” Amelia asks, “how do you spell Bob?”
“B-O-B,” says the teacher.
After awhile Amelia asks, “Mrs. T, how do you spell Frankie?” “F-R-A-N-K-I-E,” says the teacher.
And not a moment too soon Amelia asks, “How do you spell Tommy?”
The teacher pauses and asks Amelia, “Why am I spelling out the names of all these guys for you?”
“You wanted me to name The Four Seasons,” says Amelia. “And I forgot the name of the last one. But I know there is a Frankie, Bob, and Tommy ...”
Her teacher immediately broke out into laughter. She asked Amelia’s mother, “How does a five-year old know about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons?”
In case you wondering, this iconic rock group—that came straight out of the sixties—had been reintroduced to this present generation through the Broadway play and 2014 musical film drama Jersey Boys.
When it comes to the subject of the seasons, a wise king named Solomon spelled it out long ago. He logged his thoughts in a journal that is now available for all to read. The Bible calls it the book Ecclesiastes. What on earth does Ecclesiastes mean? It means, “preacher,” or “one who address an assembly.” Solomon speaks about the seasons of life in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Let’s use our imagination for a moment. Let’s imagine that you had a wealthy uncle who pays you a surprise visit and gives you some good news. Being his favorite nephew or niece, he told you that he decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your bank account each day starting next Monday morning. That’s $864 a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks per year.
Then your generous uncle says that there’s only one condition. You must spend all the money that same day. No balance will be carried over to the next day. By the end of the day, the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use.
You’re all smiles. You can’t thank your wealthy uncle enough. Over the weekend you take the time to plan your daily spending strategy. You open your computer and start calculating: $864 times seven equals over $6,000 a week ... times fifty-two weeks. That’s almost $315,000 a year that is at your disposal to spend each day as you see fit. And you’re mindful that whatever money you don’t spend is lost at the end of the day.
Now let’s get real. Every morning, a certain Someone who loves you very much deposits 86,000 seconds into your bank of time. This converts to 1,440 minutes equaling twenty-four hours each day.
Now you need to remember that the same condition applies, because our Almighty God gives you this specific amount of time to spend each day. Not a single second is saved up for the next day. There aren’t any extra hours in a twenty-four hour day. From sunrise to sunset, you have been given an exact amount of time. Every second is accounted for. Lillian Dickson said, “Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once.”
In September 1964, the Rolling Stones released their version of the song, Time Is On My Side, in the United States. It became their first Top 10 hit in America. They sang this song in the time of their youth. Truly, at that time, time was on their side. But it was only a matter of time before time mattered to them.
Today, the Rolling Stones aren’t as young as they used to be. Time has caught up to them. Way back in 1989 the band came out with a major comeback album entitled Steel Wheels. Rumor has it that they’re working on another comeback album called Steel Wheelchairs.2 This new release includes some of the bands song hits of yesteryear. Here are some of the contrasting makeovers:
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction—(I Can’t Get No) Circulation Gimme Shelter—Gimme A Tax Shelter Jumpin’ Jack Flash—Limpin’ Jack Flash You Can’t Always Get What You Want—You Can’t Always Chew What You Want Brown Sugar—Brown Splenda Start Me Up—Help Me Up!
This year alone, I remember how the winter was winding down. Then spring suddenly turned up and it was allergy season once again. Before we knew it, we eased into summer as things heated up without a hitch. Now fall is upon us and the year is almost over. As we take inventory of this brief period of time, we are acutely aware that we have taken this trip through time together. Why? It is because we all share the same amount of time. It doesn’t matter whether you are flat broke or filthy rich, whether you are young or old, single or married, employed or jobless, a toddler in the nursery or the President of the United States—we have exactly the same amount of time.
Think of how much “time” is factored into the fabric of our conversation each day. Here’s a brief list of lines you’re probably familiar with:
What time does the service start? Have you got the time? How much time will it take? Don’t waste my time.
It’s that time of the year. It’s time to go. I was seven, when I received my first timepiece for Christmas. It was a Hopalong Cassidy wristwatch. Ever since then, I was never without a watch. As time marched on, I continued to wear either a Japan made or Swiss made watch. In time, I offered to give my son one of my watches. He respectfully declined the offer. When I asked him how he tells time these days, he pulls his iPhone from his back pocket. In this life, time is of the essence. From the sundial and hourglass of the past, to the present day digital and cesium fountain atomic clock, we are never without time nor do we ever fail to ask, “What time is it?”
A man had been driving all night long. By morning he was still far from his destination. He decided to stop at the next city and park somewhere quiet so he could get an hour or two of sleep. As luck would have it, the quiet place he chose happened to be on one of the city’s major jogging routes.
No sooner had he settled back to snooze there was a knock on his car window. He looked out and saw a jogger running in place. Annoyed at the interruption, the man said, “Yes?”
“Excuse me, sir,” the jogger said, “do you have the time?”
The man looked at the car clock and answered, “8:15.”
The jogger said thanks and left.
The man settled back again, and was just dozing off when there was another knock on the car window and another jogger.
“Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?” “8:25!”
The jogger said thanks and left.
Now the man could see other joggers passing by and he knew it was only a matter of time before another one would disturb his sleep. To avoid the problem, he got out a pen and paper and posted a great big sign in his car window saying, “I DO NOT KNOW THE TIME!”
Once again he settled back to sleep. Just as he was dozing off there was another knock on the car window. “Sir, sir? It’s 8:45!”
Let’s talk about time for a minute. For starters, what is it? Though we may talk about time on a daily basis, check on it throughout the day, or even make jokes about it, time escapes us when we least expect it.
I came across the best definition for time: “The duration of one’s life—the hours and days which a person has at his disposal.”3 Whether we are wide awake or fast asleep, whether we are wasting our lives or making it count, whether we are staring at the sky or watching the clock, time is constantly at our disposal as its duration in our life continues unabated.
That being said, it’s time for a reality check. While the hours and days are at our disposal, this duration of time is completely irretrievable. You can never repeat it or relive it. You can’t travel back to your past in a time machine—like Marty McFly in Back to the Future—and change the outcome of your destiny. While time travels alongside our lives, it is wrapped up in eternity.
Will time ever end or will it be around forever after? Since the clock is a human invention that measures time, it’s a physical device that will expire in the end of days. The planets that were cast into space by the Creator continue to be the most perfect chronometer that has ever been created in the whole universe. But when those planets stop—time stops. So time, as we know it, is temporary. And that means we need to invest this brief gift of time wisely and find ways to enjoy it while it is still ours to spend. As he stood before the Giver of time, Moses prayed, “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.”
Like his ancestor Moses, Solomon pulled to the side of life’s road to take stock of time. He stopped long enough to jot down his God-given wisdom in his journal. Let’s read the closing comments of Solomon in the second chapter:
There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
What comes from the hand of God? According to Solomon, the best you can do with your life is to have your fill of food, wash down your favorite drink, and find the time to enjoy life in the midst of the daily grind. All these things are God-given. And if we attempt to enjoy these things apart from God, it will all come apart. Why? It is because the One who gives us all these good things also provides us with the proper perspective to enjoy them. To feast or to fast in a world without God makes no sense. What good are these things without having a sense of seeing it handed to us from God? Without God, enjoying these things would be pointless, but with God they become purposeful. We find reason to enjoy what God supplies and produces in our lives throughout the seasons.
Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from an intimate relationship with Jesus, we won’t enjoy the purposeful and productive fruit of life. In Christ, we will be empowered to enjoy everything.
Solomon sticks to those last two verses long enough to ponder a person’s ability of not being able to enjoy the things that make up life apart from its Maker. He breaks life down into measurable blocks of time. And he labels them as “seasons” that matter to every human being under heaven. So this ancient sojourner who is just passing through time starts off by saying:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
Solomon follows this opening line with fourteen contrasting seasons of life. Each season represents an appointed time. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough of a list to prevent people from saying, “Been there ... done that.” But I am certain that some of you are about to engage in some of these seasons. Some are presently caught up in the struggle of some specific season. While others have already entered, engaged, and endured a number of these seasons. Be that as it may, there are priceless lessons to draw from each life experience.
Solomon, the Preacher, will be our trail guide as we take the time to walk through each of these contrasting seasons together. Who better to dig deep into the depth of the human experience than Solomon, widely regarded as the wisest man in the world? Lets hear what the preacher heart has to say about each season. As the Spirit of God illuminates the trail ahead, a trail littered with the stuff of life, let us trust in His leading and unlearn what Solomon has learned in regard to what is the essence of life in light of eternity.
It’s seven o’clock Sunday morning and I’m sitting before my desktop computer. I am scheduled to preach this sermon at our 10:45am worship service. I find myself in an unusual situation since I was unable to conclude this portion of the sermon. As I pray for the Spirit’s guidance my phone rings. It’s my sister Karel calling me long distance from Bakersfield, California. She relays some news that shatters the silence of the morning. Our dear mother, who is 84 years old, had just passed away early this morning at 3:44am.
As my sister fills me in on the details of her death, I am staring at the last page of my sermon with a verse that is printed in bold letters staring right back at me: A time to be born, and a time to die. While she speaks of the sad news, the Spirit speaks to my heart. It is time to experience another contrasting season of birth and death. There is a sense of suddenness about this season. It comes upon you expectedly. It’s not the kind of season that we want to welcome with open arms. But like an unwanted guest, it makes its unannounced appearance and it’s not going away any time soon. The season rudely interrupts our busy schedules and summons us to deal with life and death right now. This is not a detour in our journey, but a reality that we will face in a head on collision. And so I enter this season that will hold another life lesson in the human experience. †††
A Season For Everything—Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 Copyright © November 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Photo above taken in 1961 for Women's Magazine in Manila, Philippines. My father is the kid on my grandfather's shoulders. This photo has me smiling ear to ear seeing a perfect mix of my own son, Sebastian, between my father and grandfather. Life goes on, love continues.