One Minute Past Midnight

2021-12-31 One Minute Until MidnightThere is something sobering about getting a couple phone call messages, texts and emails from your favorite doctor concerned with your latest lab results, especially on December 30, so close to the year’s end.  Sobering, but not frightening, as it may be for those who do not have hope in Jesus.  I know where I am going and I know the One who knows the way. (John 14:1-4)

All six of my strokes since 1999 have been ischemic (clot) strokes, meaning my body likes to throw coagulated blood at my brain.  But getting a lab result that suddenly and without warning shows one’s ‘blood-thinning’ medication makes you at significant risk of a hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke is cause for concern.  No changes in diet, no alterations in activities, no travels to strange lands (like Norway 😉), no deviations in sleep nor major stresses; so why the drastic change in medical results that two weeks ago were fine?

Suddenly my mortality faces me like an impressive off-season Halloween costume, trying to scare me by telling me I could have died this week if a significant blow had struck me, or I had fallen with just a simple trip on the sidewalk.  But the Spectre does not alarm me; death has lost its victory; the grave has lost its sting because my life is hidden in Jesus, the Christ, and nothing will happen to me that my loving Lord does not allow for my good, even it the event is to take me Home. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

So as 2021 comes to its finale, I consider the New Year’s Resolution I made in 1969 at 18 years old and have faithfully kept every New Year: “Resolved, I will never make another New Year’s Resolution!”

This is not to suggest that we should not look back at the fading year and evaluate what we could or should have done differently.  Nor does it mean that we should not plan some improvements and developments in the approaching New Year.  However, as noted on , most resolutions do not make it to January 31!  And none of us has any guarantee of tomorrow, much less the whole year ahead.  Whether one runs like James Fixx or manages one’s food with self-control like Ang, there are no warranties we can claim any more than righteous Job.

Thus, I encourage you at this changing of the days to consider your life: its value, its impact on others, its final destination.  And walk in fear of The God Who Is, one who loves you more than we can grasp in this life, and who has revealed Himself most clearly in the God-Man, Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Then you will not fear when the clock turns to midnight, just because one minute after midnight you could find yourself in His arms and in His kingdom in Heaven.

2021-12-31 One Minute Past Midnight

Happy New Year to all who are reading this, and with all my heart I hope to meet you someday around the Throne of God to praise Him together.

yours and His,
c.a.

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A Prayer of Moses, the man of God; Psalm 90

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of Adam!”
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

The Game of Life

The Game Of Life
How long does the game of Life last?  Siri says it lasts for one and a half hours for three players, or two hours for four players.  But that is just the Milton-Bradley board game.  Lots of fun but little consequence.  When the game is over, you just go to bed and play again the next day or whenever you want.

Marriage of Heaven and HellNot so the real game of life.  According to Scripture one has roughly 70 to 80 years to get it right, give or take, depending on your genes and your health practices (Psalm 90:10).  In The Great Divorce, one of C.S.Lewis’ most famous short novels, we get a picture of some folks who are given a “second chance” so to speak to change their fate.  This book is his answer to Blake’s famous Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  In it Blake argues that God is both good and evil and contains these “contraries” and that “God” only exists as an invention of man.  There is no real “evil,” but only undeveloped reason and everyone has good and bad in them, thus Heaven and Hell are “married” in our minds and behavior.  If we simply adjust or refine our behavior we can turn evil into good without rejecting any part of that evil that we wish to keep.

the-great-divorceAs Lewis says, “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish, but their rescue is being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right, but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point; never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it . . . If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest souvenir of Hell” (or Earth).

In effect, if Satan, or Lucifer, that first “bearer of light,” could repent of his error, God’s love is so amazingly gracious and forgiving that even he would find mercy at God’s hands.  The problem is that Lucifer has so hardened his view of God that he will not accept, cannot accept, that God is the Creator and supreme over the created.  The same could become true of us as we grow older in this world.  Every day we are either growing closer to God or slipping further away.  Even Tom Hanks said, “We are still in the position of waking up and having a choice. Do I make the world better today somehow, or do I not bother?”  Not exactly a paragon of theological understanding, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

For us to grow closer to God, sometimes we must backtrack over the past and allow God or others to correct us and head us onto a way that will draw us closer to Him.  The pain of finding out that we have been going the wrong way does not get less the longer we stay on a path away from the Source of Light and Life.   The farther we stray, the darker the way becomes; the less healthy we become; the more difficult changing directions becomes.  Sometimes the choices we make cannot be undone, but these choices just make the path back to God harder and more painful.  Trust me, I know.

We do not have an eternity to make the decisions that will determine eternity.  We have “70 years, or 80, if our strength endures.”  (Psalm 90:9-10) That is time enough for us to form our habits of thought, to make our decisions of life, to shape our spirits to be either ready for The God Who Is There to make us into what He created us to be, or to calcify our hearts so that we cannot hear His calling any more than Lucifer’s deaf ears; to make our spirits so small and shadowy that the slightest beam of light will pierce us through and leave us in the Shadows forever. People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27

Turns out it is not a game at all.  It is real life and the stakes are very high.  Borrowing from another game, we have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card from Jesus (), but it will only be good as long as we are alive here on Earth.  And the choices we make take us ever down another path, each step leading to another.

“Nearly they stood who fall;
Themselves as they look back
See always in the track
The one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve
Of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve
Might have been saved.

“Nearly they fell who stand,
And with cold after fear
Look back to see how near
They grazed the sirens’ land.
Wondering what subtle fate,
By threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great
Should thus entwine.

“Therefore oh, man, have fear
Lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue
The road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth border
Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
Denies return.”
the Guide in Pilgrim’s Regress
C.S.Lewis