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LATER
But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:4

There was a time when later meant later, i.e. later on, later today or later in the future. However, in today’s nomenclature the word has morphed into a casual greeting for goodbye. Because later has lost its meaning, people are not inclined to respond to its directive to wait. Not waiting until later has consequences. Serious ones when driving while talking on the phone and texting. For some who do not wait until later to talk or text, later may never come.

This era of advanced technology allows people to communicate quickly. The equipment we have available at our finger tips and in the palms of our hands is mindboggling. Fast equipment coupled with an accelerated desire to know is a dangerous combination when operating a car, bicycle, boat or truck. As humans, we may think we have it all under control and can multi-task to maneuver a car and simultaneously talk or text. We cannot. One blink away from the road can hinder reaction time; it could be the second necessary for attention to react to a situation to prevent a crash. Seconds of distracted driving can result in years of grieving.

Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol have long been road concerns. Now talking and texting are part of the mix. Many a parent, grandparent, sibling, wife, husband, daughter, son, and friend grieve deeply over loss of life due to decisions that impaired judgment and took life away too soon. Tears of sorrow, acute anger, a sense of waste, and a dripping reminder of what might been, accompany persons who bear the grief of losses that could have been prevented if someone would have waited until later.

Sometimes a dramatic wake up call because of a close call gives people a second chance. Sometimes not. For all of our high tech achievements, accidents due to human negligence are real. The cost paid in human resources, medicine, and finances are great. However, all of these combined do not come close to the toll taken in the hearts of grievers. Love always pays the highest price.

Jesus proves this. He suffered deeply for people when He went to Calvary. He took the sins of people on Himself, sins which include hasty and foolish decisions that inflict pain. Only Jesus understands the arduous pain of a mother who will not see her son graduate because he got behind the wheel intoxicated, the granddaughter who texted her favorite song to a friend and missed out on the music of her life, and the salesman who ran a red light to make an appointment and killed a mother because he was too engrossed in the sale on his mind and the phone in his hand. Distractions—silly or serious—can end life. Be it on the roadway and waterways or in hearts, minds, and spirits. Only faith in Jesus can bring resurrection hope to those who trudge through grief because later was ignored.

God has shed much grace on us to live in a land where technology abounds along with the freedom to use it. He dispatches His angels more often than we realize to protect travels and guide us as we go to and fro. However, we bear a responsibility as new or seasoned drivers to be smart with phones in cars. This is our responsibility to God, to ourselves, and to others—strangers and kin—to preserve and protect life. Every person on the road is a soul God sees, and is a person with a life-plan the Lord has prepared. Staying off the phone—at every age—extends all life-plans.

One day in church worship I was seated near a grandfather and his young grandson. At the time to give the offering, we were waiting for the ushers to come around and I heard the little boy ask his grandfather Is it almost over? His grandfather replied Almost. I leaned over to the granddad and said that is equivalent to Are we there yet? We laughed. The boy was so quiet and well behaved one would not even know he was there. He had been observing and absorbing the steadiness of his grandfather and it had taken root. Even though he was thinking about church service being over, the boy quietly waited until it was. Sometimes God uses children to remind adults to Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

A hurried and harried citizenry is wise to consider the value of patience. Whether it is a glimpse of an obedient child in worship or an Olympic athlete exercising precise moves in an event for high marks, we all win when patience is exercised and better character is formed. Scripture informs us that patience will do its perfect work but that we must let it, by giving ourselves over to it and giving God room to perfect our character. When patience performs its perfect work, we are told we want nothing, i.e. another chance to put the phone down on the road. God has an Eternity planned for those who are in Christ but while on earth God wants us to see what other growth and blessings He has in store. To see His plans we have to wait until later. To let the phone calls and texts wait until later when driving is done, is to allow those plans to come into view. Your plans and the plans of others. Let us bring later back into vogue—and wait.

Father, You give to humans the ability to make advancements in technology. Thank You, Lord, for everything You give for communication that betters our personal and marketplace connections. Help us, Lord, to be patient and smart when it counts the most—in protecting life for ourselves and others by using technology in safe and undistracted places. May this bring glory to You and be a witness for others, young and old alike. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

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Final Hugs and Finish Lines

Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and set down at the right hand of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

A runner awoke on the morning of the Boston Marathon with his mind focused on the race ahead. Not only was he a racer but also a husband and father. Much physical and psychological training went into his preparation for the marathon. When the big day arrived, thoughts were on completing the arduous run. He ran the race and crossed the finish line. What this man did not know is that soon after, terrorists would set off bombs at the finish line that would kill his young son, maim his daughter, and critically injure his wife. The final hugs he knew before and after the race were celebratory. Now, the most grueling race of this man’s life was about to begin: The race to survive.

Surviving a devastating loss is not accomplished alone. Many of us have faced sorrows and tragedies in our lives—or we will. Life finds each one of us coping with some kind of pain and loss in one season or another. Directly we meet with sorrow or indirectly when we enter into the grief of someone else and walk the path of grief. Surviving a loss and working through grief can be among the greatest accomplishments a life can know for it begs tremendous concentration, energy, physical strain, and forgiveness. Such requirements are only met via the help of others who through their ability to give, help each one of us to endure that which we must in order to survive loss and keeping on living and loving.

Simple activities cannot be considered ordinary or endless. The routine hug in the morning when parting from children or loved ones, the spontaneous outing for ice cream on a week night, leaving work on time to make it home for dinner for no other reason than to be there, are indelible and cumulative activities. They do not get the focus of birthdays and graduations but they rank high in memory making and fusing hearts for strong relationships. When time is taken for the final hugs in the morning and at night before going to sleep, that time may be the last. We never know.

The finish line that we run toward is the line that marks off the end of life. For some, that line is very far down the road. For some, such as a little boy cheering in the stands for his runner-hero dad, that line was closer than anyone imagined. More than that father could ever know, that final hug with his son would serve as a catalyst for him to finish the race of life; to strive to finish well i.e. with hope and encouragement for others. The Bible encourages us that throughout our lives we have a great cloud of witnesses watching over us to cheer us on. That means we are being cheered on in times of victory such as finishing races and also when we trudge through times of grief. In God’s continuum, He counts all the days of living as part of the race. He wants us to endure. We are already victorious through Jesus, the One who endured the cross to atone for our sins and give us hope. We look to Jesus for proof that we can go on by His example and strength.

Jesus finished His course. He made it through life’s sufferings. For us. He wants you and me to stay in the race of life; some days with footing strong, some days weak, but still moving forward. The Lord wants us to survive this life, for our sake and for those persons looking on in the bleachers that line the skies as well as those of earth where others watch and bear witness to our continuing strides—no matter what. Jesus died for us so that we could keep on running the race of life. He has seen to it that we can indeed make it to the finish line for He is right beside us and serves as our steady companion. And when we do reach the end of life, we may be tired and tried but we are certain to fall into the arms of Jesus, who by His powerful embrace will dissolve all human weakness and escort us into the light and endless joys of Eternity.

Lord, You are the One who knows completely the sorrows we suffer. You promised to be with us always and carry us through difficult times. Thank You, Lord, for Your strength and touch that upholds and heals us. Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of daily activities burgeoning with life and love. May we never take our interactions with others for granted as You guide us on the narrow path to run our races and finish well. All this is asked in the governing power and Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.