…and some days that gift is even better than others.  This is written as I return from a 3-day United Methodist Men’s conference in Nashville, TN.

site of the 10th UMM Gathering, July 2009

site of the 10th UMM Gathering, July 2009

Filled with Opportunities

Life is filled with opportunities just waiting for us.  But first you have to see them, then decide what to do with that opportunity, and finally, act on that decision.  With life so full of opportunities, sometimes that can be a challenge, but isn’t that great – to be able to have such choices?  So, many months ago, as a newly elected President of our local church’s men’s group, I saw this conference advertised and having never taken advantage of anything like it, decided to go (with Pam’s full support and encouragement – how blessed!), and took the step to act and register, make travel arrangements, etc. – stepping out into the unknown in this environment.

First blessing

Well what a blessing it turned out to be in so many ways.  First and foremost was the companionship at this conference with our pastor, John Doll, and his son, Mathew.  I can only pray that you are blessed with such a loving church leader in your own life.  We had so much time to share on so many levels, including a wonderful concert given by Pam’s favorite country singer, Vince Gill.

Vince Gill shared an intimate personal concert

Vince Gill shared an intimate personal concert

No Man Left Behind

Secondly, was an opportunity to learn about a methodology they were introducing to create an effective men’s ministry in the local church.  This was most powerful, built upon the widely successful “Man in the Mirror” book and process introduced ten years ago and now the foundation for “No Man Left Behind” movement that was the topic of several presentations at this conference.  I was moved to buy the course (which included the book of that name) and quickly found myself drawn into it, devouring each chapter every chance I got while on this trip.  The more I read, the more I (1) understood that this is exactly why God had moved me to come to this conference, providing as it did in this one topic an answer to our local church men’s need for a direction to reach out and involve our male members in this ministry, and (2) as I read the book I came to see that its basic principles could be effectively applied to many other non-church groups I work to lead also.  Its an exciting opportunity to try out and I look forward inthe days ahead to adapting it to those environments. More to come on that adventure . . .

Life is such a gift

Life is a Gift: Inspiration from the Son Departed

Life is a Gift: Inspiration from the Soon Departed

A third blessing to come out of this conference opportunity was to discover a wonderful book, Life is a Gift: Inspiration from the Soon Departed, the results of 104 interviews of patients in hospice care (read that as knowingly approaching their final day).  There were many wonderful breakout groups to select from and I had chosen this topic.  Imagine my pleasant surprise to find that our presenters were Bob and Judy Foster, with Bob being the President of beautiful Belmont University where this conference was being hosted in musictown, Nashville, TN.  What a fascinating couple who gave us their firsthand accounts of the interviews and how it impacted their own family lives.  I still marvel at the unique opportunity to spend 90 minutes with the President and his lovely wife this way, discussing such an interesting and inspiring subject, listening to the wisdom from these dying patients, still full of living life for the day they still had.  Needless to say, for those who know me, their book’s title was perfect and I ran right out to buy a copy to both read the fuller story and to get their autographs on that book.  God was working His wonders when only minutes later, across the campus after the workshop, I sat reading the book only to have Bob walk up and comment that I had done as I said I would, gone out and bought their book right away.  Of course our earlier conversation continued and I acted on this additional opportunity to get their autographs in my newly treasured book.  Having devoured much more of it since, I highly recommend you go and buy their book, $20 list, but on Amazon you can buy it for as little as under $3 (+ s/h).  I’ve already purchased several as gifts for friends, and I’m sure you might find yourself doing the same.

But don’t miss the point.  This is not a book to read and put down, reflecting on the beauty of the book itself.  Rather it is a collection of insights and advice to challenge each reader to take action in their lives today based on that shared wisdom, given as gifts “from the soon departed.”  Be prepared for the disappointment as so many in that workshop (including the presenters) felt when they asked questions beyond the scope of the very limited set used for this study and learned that those were the strict guidelines on the interview – no going beyond.  As Judy discovered herself when she had asked one interview patient if she could come back later to chat further, these were not follow-up opportunities, for when she came back, he had passed away, as was the case for all 104 interviewees.  Think about it!

And isn’t that what life is all about, today’s fleeting opportunities offered only for the moment, and once passed over, they seldom come back a second time in our busy lives.

Leaving us with questions

So, if you were in your final days, how would you answer their questions about life, seemingly such simple questions, yet the answers are complex to think through . . .

“What has brought you the greatest joy in your life?”  “… the greatest regret?”

“What one message would you give to the whole world on how to live life?”

“What was the most important thing you have done in life?”

“What are you most proud of?”

and my personal favorite,    “What comes next?”

. . . and your answers are ? ? ?