This is the day the Lord has made; let’s rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Today is my birthday. Now wait. That isn’t a hint for a gift. It isn’t an invitation for a bunch of comments. It is a statement of fact—and fascination. You see, 67 years ago I was born. I don’t say that because I remember, I say it because I am here…now. I am amazed that over six and one-half decades have come and gone since Leslie, my mama, said to Alston, my daddy, “It’s time.” She had already done this birthing thing seven times so I suppose it was just another day at the office by then.
Since the day I was born, I have been alive 24,473 days. That means that 24,473 days the sun came up in the morning and went to bed at night. It means 24,473 times God faithfully gave me a wakeup call. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is the one that says this is the day that the Lord has made, so we should find joy in it and be glad for the opportunity. 24,473 times. 24,473 love notes from God that He thinks life should go on.
Now there are a bunch of those days that I don’t remember. In fact, these days I don’t remember what happened yesterday. I find some humor that as a pastor I have to think about what I spoke about last week. Sometimes it just slips my mind. Oh course, the good news is that most people can’t remember what I said either. One day all I will need is one sermon. Together we will just hit the replay button. But that day is not today.
Today I am so filled with gratitude with the incredible journey that God has allowed to play out in my life. Not every day has been that good. I mean, the days I woke up with the stomach flu didn’t make the top 1,000. But it has been a great journey. My childhood, or at least the part I remember, often causes me to smile. The more I think of my Mama and Daddy, the more I appreciate them. They were pretty ordinary folks but at the same time they were just extraordinary.
I think about the night in 1974 when I walked into that church in Valdosta, Georgia and saw “the girl” and I am grateful. I have shared 44 of my 67 years with her and boy am I glad I decided to go to that church that night. Our journey has been and is one adventure after another. I’m hoping God decides to let us grow really old together—its gonna be a hoot for sure. Throw in the mix the kids (including the ones who stole our daughter’s hearts) and the grandkids and, well, it is awesome. Perfect? No. But who said life has to be perfect to be amazing?
And, then there are the everyday people I have met and bumped into, especially as a teacher/pastor. If life was a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream and people were the toppings, it would be one fantastic, multi-flavored, rainbow colored sundae. You know those things kids love to sprinkle on ice cream—all the different colors and flavors mixed together? Well, that’s life and that’s people and that’s what makes it wonderfully unique. Yep, it’s been a good ride.
It seems that life is like a really long stint in school. Someone said all they needed to learn they learned in kindergarten. I think that really is life—one big, long day in kindergarten—learning, playing, living—with a few skinned knees along the way. I know this and yet I am still learning this. Life is not a destination—it is a journey. There is not some magic place we are going to arrive at one day and feel all warm and fuzzy and complete—well, unless you count heaven. No, the joy of life is the journey.
There it is. That is why we need to wake up every day, thank God for another love note, another opportunity to make an impact and be impacted. That is why every day, regardless of how it plays out, is a gift. The hard days are opportunities to learn those hard, but very valuable, lessons. The good days when things just go amazingly well are like recess—or lunch. The trick is learning to be grateful for both, because both are valuable.
At any rate—I’m grateful that at t-minus nine months Alston and Leslie decided one more couldn’t hurt. I’m grateful that they decided I was a keeper—even if the table was a little full. And if it isn’t your birthday today, go ahead and celebrate anyway. Today is God’s decision that life should go on. Today is His way of saying I love you. Today, regardless of the circumstances, is an opportunity to believe that He is good, that He is faithful and that He can be trusted. It is just one more opportunity to believe, “He’s got this.”