Make your years count

Proper 15a – Sunday 14th August 2011
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

Despairwear from Despair IncI think I’ve mentioned the stellar work of Despair Inc on more than one occasion in this blog. For many years they’ve brought hopelessness my way with their wonderful philosophy and humour. I’ve just started following their twitter feed (@despairinc) and now get demotivated much more easily.

Because of Despair Inc I don’t often take much notice of those emails that always seem to be doing the rounds, emails with some trite message and belief – and they often have the tag at the bottom “I bet you don’t have the guts to forward this to all your address book contacts”.

However, this particular email message caught my eye recently:

Don’t just count your years, make your years count
What matters most in life is often viewed as peripheral to the things that we usually focus on. Passion takes a backseat to production, wellness to working, and balance to busyness. The old adage that “life is not a dress rehearsal” is so true and yet we act to the contrary by putting off what is truly important or indulging in things that are not.

On your birthday, stop focusing on your age and start meditating on your life at this exact moment. How can you make it better? During the next year, reshuffle your priorities. Spend more time with family and friends, take care of your body and health by eating well and exercising regularly, and offer to help others in need. Discover what matters most to you, and make your daily life into a true reflection of those ideas, beliefs, and attitudes.

Bungee jumpI think the Canaanite Woman had those words cellotaped to her fridge. What was her priority? Her family. Her families well-being. Helping those in need. She wasn’t taking no for answer. She had a greater understanding and grasp of God, a greater trust and confidence than most Christians muster in their whole lives. She deserved everything she got – the commendation of God and the healing touch of Jesus.

How can we become like the Canaanite Woman? Well, we can start by getting a grip, as George Osbourne said recently.

Yesterday, as I was enjoying a very pleasant barbecue with family and friends, the topic of conversation got round to different peoples list of “50 things to do before you die”. It was an amusing and eye-opening exchange. But afterwards I wondered how many people would achieve the things on their list.

It’s no good just wishing in life. We need to start achieving. We need to start prioritising. We need to start pushing. Just like the Canaanite Woman. She wasn’t fazed by the fact that Jesus ignored her or the disciples wanted to get rid of her. She shrugged off the put down of Jesus, and then came bouncing back with her own riposte, “…even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters’ table.” What a woman. What courage. What determination. What perseverance.

What comparable determination do we have? What motivates us? What do we want to achieve?

It’s time to take a piece of paper out and make a list of the things you want to achieve in the next 6 months. And don’t put:

  1. World Peace
  2. Cure for cancer
  3. Leicester City to win the Premiership

I did and didn’t get anywhere close.

car washTake small steps. Do things that are manageable. When did you last go to the cinema? When did you last watch the sun rise? Your neighbourhood scruffy – organise a tidy up. Your wardrobe looking a bit sad – go and buy a new shirt. Take friends or family out for a coffee, or a meal. Instead of spending the evening in front of the TV pop round and see a neighbour. Or offer to wash their car. Mow their lawn. Babysit their children. Walk their dog.

Set yourself a 6 or 12 month target. Learn a new language. Go to Salsa lessons. Write a book. Lose 7 pounds. Send a letter in with every birthday/Christmas card you send. Learn how to drive … a helicopter.

Live the gospel and let the gospel live in you. By thinking of the needs of others, by caring for those around you, by being generous and wholehearted you are more effective than 1000 sermons. “When you do it for the least of my brothers or sisters, you do it for me.”

I don’t want to hear Jesus saying those words to me. Well, I do. What I mean is, if Jesus says just one thing, I want him to say to me, “You are a child of great faith! What you want will be done for you.” (Matthew 15:28 GNB)

War and Peace by TolstoyI want to live a life of purpose and passion. I want to live for others. I want to live for myself. I want to live for God. Let’s do it!

Got to go. I’m off to write a book! Ask me in six months how it’s looking.

Happy days

About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
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