You Can’t Run Out of Time

EE Hale

The graduating seniors—all 34 of us—were asked to choose a quote for our senior page in the yearbook. This being 1977, quotes from rock bands like Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead were popular, but I was always the odd duck in my class. I chose the above quote from Edward Everett Hale, author of the famous short story “The Man Without a Country.”

At that time, I really had no idea what I would do with my life, but I wanted to be of service somehow. I considered becoming a nurse, a special education teacher, some kind of missionary. I felt certain I was here for a reason and God wanted me to do something. Whatever it was, I would find it and, by his grace, I would do it.

Now, more than 40 years on, I have to ask myself: Have I done it?

~~~

Certainly, I’d like to think I’ve done something worthwhile through my work as an inspirational writer, and yet the word that occurs to me most often as I reflect back over my career is failure. Sometimes it settles in quietly, sitting in lowercase letters on my shoulder and whispering of should-have-dones. Other times it storms in and thunders aloud in all caps, with exclamation points following like flashes of lightning.

Either way, I don’t like it. I don’t like feeling as though I haven’t accomplished the tasks I set out to do.

~~~

Recently, I was having one of those down days. That’s what happens when I turn away from living my life as a love story with God, when I choose instead to listen to that cultural chorus that sings high praises to the vocational curriculum vitae. Success and accomplishments are the primary factors when it comes to calculating human worth.

So there I was, looking back over 40 years and trying to measure my life from the worldly perspective. Things did not look good. I had never striven for greatness, but I had desired to do something good—you know, there was always that deep human desire to make a difference. I had managed a few things on my to-do list, but the good I wanted to do seemed somehow mostly left undone.

It’s a deeply troubling feeling, especially considering the fact that—eventually—a person runs out of time.

~~~

In that state of mind, I picked up one of the books I was reading, Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I had just been chatting on Facebook with a few people about how there always seems to be a right time to read a particular book—that is, God brings the book to us when we need it or might most appreciate it. This was one of those times.

Two brief passages stood out to me:

“Christ’s mission was to reclaim and set free not only the earth’s inhabitants, but the earth itself. He came not only to redeem mankind as individuals, but also as nations and cultures, and to redeem not only the work of his own hands…, but also the work of his creatures’ hands….” (1) (Emphasis mine.)

“Moses prayed, ‘Establish the work of our hands’ (Psalm 90:17). The Hebrew word translated ‘establish’….means ‘make permanent.” So Moses was asking God to give permanence to what he did with his hands.” (2)

~~~

It was as though God put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You think you’re running out of time, but you don’t realize you have eternity too. Besides, what I accomplish in and through you isn’t ultimately up to you; it’s up to Me, and I will fulfill My purpose for you” (Psalm 138:8).

I don’t fully understand what all this means, but I’m beginning to understand this: I’m not limited by the time restrains of this world. I’m not expected to complete my tasks in 70-some years and then go on to a place of eternal rest and be done with it all. The work I do here will somehow carry over into eternity, a place of further work, greater work, perfect work, deeply satisfying work that is most satisfying in the fact that it doesn’t glorify us but the God who made us.

~~~

The idea of God redeeming and eternally establishing the work of my hands changes everything for me. It lifts a huge burden from my shoulders, and allows me to look forward with hope. All that God wants to accomplish—through me and through all believers—will be accomplished in the unbounded stretches of forever.

In God’s Kingdom, it isn’t success or failure that matter. What matters is faithfulness and love.

This is the thought I want to leave with you today: Cease striving. Stop measuring yourself against impossible worldly standards. Instead, love God, remain faithful, and he will establish the work of your hands.

~~~

(1) Randy Alcorn, Heaven, Wheaton IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, p. 97.

(2) Ibid, p. 128.

Yearbook page Senior page, Sanford School, Class of ’77

**Congratulations 2020 Graduates!**

Amazing Moments of God’s Love

Divine Moments The world is full of stories about God’s love, with new stories unfolding every day. The Lord wants these stories to be told so that believers may be encouraged, unbelievers challenged, and so that he himself may be glorified. Some years ago, novelist Yvonne Lehman started collecting true stories into what is now known as the “Moments” books. These are a chance for you to share YOUR story too. An invitation from Yvonne…

One evening after a day of participating in a writers conference, several of us gathered in the hotel lobby to visit and chat. One woman told a story that had us all gasping with amazement at how God showed up in a fascinating, almost unbelievable way. Others began sharing their stories. Some were sweet, some humorous, others serious, but all were about experiencing God’s presence in unexpected ways.

I thought of the praise song, “Our God Is an Awesome God,” in which the words are repeated over and over. I’ve often wanted to say, “Go further. Don’t just repeat the words. Tell me the stories of your being amazed by God’s love.”

That’s what we were doing that evening. We were joyful, talking loudly, laughing, loving. Sharing those special times of our lives became a time of praise. Others joined us to hear the stories and share their own. The realization was that we all have awesome and amazing stories to share but we don’t always take time or have the opportunity to share them. I commented that “somebody” should put these stories in a book.

~~~

Two months later, Grace Publisher Terri Kalfas called me and said she was interested in that book I mentioned.

Book? I mentioned a book to Terri Kalfas? I questioned and she reminded me of that night when we had talked about God showing up in unexpected, miraculous ways.

But… I was a novelist. I didn’t write non-fiction other than an occasional article or devotion, and really didn’t care to. I hadn’t intended that “somebody” should be me. But I could at least contact people through email addresses, loops, Facebook, etc. … for Terri.

~~~

I was… amazed. Responses were immediate and so inspiring. Some of the authors were established, professional writers. Others were those in the midst of their writing journey. Several were not writers at all, but people who learned about what we were doing and they had a story to tell. Instead of trying to divide royalties between 50 authors, the decision was made to donate the royalties to Samaritan’s Purse. That compilation became an amazing book, Divine Moments.

Since that venture went so well, Terri suggested we try a book of Christmas stories. Although my preference was still fiction, I’d really been touched by these true stories, so I said, “Sure.” The second book became Christmas Moments. These ranged from light to serious, Santa to Jesus, disappointment to understanding, entertaining to edifying.

Then I was ready to return to fiction writing. But… my daughter, Lori, was asked to teach a Sunday school class. The first topic was Words of Jesus. She asked if I’d sit in and help if needed since I work with words. During the class session, members related times when someone’s words hurt or encouraged them.

Lori looked at me and said, “Mom, there’s your next Moments book.” What else can you do when your daughter is on a spiritual journey? Spoken Moments became the third one.

~~~

Though I had always preferred writing fiction, I was learning the value and great impact of non-fiction. The stories in these Moments books were changing lives – for readers and for the writers. Writers were thinking about the ways God had worked in their lives, the strength and weaknesses of their faith and the lessons learned. Beginning writers were gaining a by-line. Non-writers had a voice.

Each Moments book has been followed by another…and another…and another…each one on a different topic. For every book, I write an introduction and share my own articles on the theme of that particular book. God has taught me to remember how he worked in my life in so many different ways and know that my story may lead someone to him, or strengthen their faith.

More than what God was doing for me personally, he was showing me how he poured out his love on others. One author came to my Novel Retreat and gave her testimony of her family not listening to her talk about Jesus, but one of them read her article, shared it with others, and eventually her entire family became followers of Jesus. Others have written of hardships, loss, blaming God, turning from the faith, and how the love of God taught them lessons, was present in the difficulties, proved he had not abandoned them.  Amazing, how God uses the hardships and successes of others to show the world he is here, he does love us, and he never abandons us.

~~~

We now have 15 books in the Moments series, and more on the way. Since the first book, the authors have been excited to receive no payment for their donation of an article. Well, let me correct that. They receive no monetary payment. They’re experiencing the opportunity to share with others what God does in their lives and they witness about their faith. By donating our royalties to Samaritan’s Purse, we’re part of a ministry that cares for the physical and spiritual welfare of people throughout the world.

It’s amazing to discover the truth of the words of Jesus: “It’s more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35). Sharing our stories of God’s love brings a sense of peace and joy.

Yvonne Lehman  Yvonne Lehman

Yvonne invites you to send an article (or prayer or poem that fit the theme) for one of the upcoming Moments books. Please send them to yvonnelehman3@gmail.com.

She’s  now accepting articles about:

Coronavirus (thoughts, even prayers or poems are all right too)

Can, Sir! Moments (primarily about cancer but may be any experience in which one determines, “With the Lord’s help, I can do this, or get through this.”)

Christmas Moments 2020 – (Santa, Jesus, light, serious)

Broken Moments (humorous or serious)

Lost Moments (humorous or serious)

Grandma’s Cookie Jar (warm, cozy articles about grandma, or a stereotypical grandmotherly feeling)

Beckie’s Story: From Blindness to Greater Vision

At the age of 33, Beckie Horter began to lose her sight. As her vision narrowed and the world grew darker, the Lord opened her eyes…and her heart…to His love for her. Here is Beckie’s story…

glasses-1246611_1920 Twenty years ago, my life changed radically. The diagnosis of a blinding retina disease put a stop to life as I knew it. Plans for the future got iced. I grappled with the impossible realization that over time my central vision would be erased bit by bit. First one eye, then the other. My condition would progress slowly, but predictably, and always with the threat of total blindness. I was 33 years old.

As I struggled to come to terms with vision loss, practical matters took precedence. Obviously I could no longer continue my job proofreading the newspaper; the pace was too hectic. I stopped driving a car, and ouch! That hurt. Daily matters like reading my mail and quick stops at the grocery store became arduous tasks.

~~~

About that time, my sister hosted a birthday party for my mother. I looked across the room where my big family was gathered, and I couldn’t tell who was who. I felt sick as I contemplated my blurry future.

I started to wonder…

Why had God allowed this to happen? Was I being punished? What type of future could I have as a legally blind person?

~~~

The grieving process set in. From denial to bargaining; anger to depression, and then back again, my emotions ricocheted. Peace eluded me. The final step—acceptance— came after much wrestling with God.

One morning as I searched the Scriptures for answers, I read Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (NIV).

The verse leapt off the page! Surely this was written just for me. Although King David penned the words centuries ago, they fell fresh on my heart that day at the dining room table.

The words “brokenhearted and crushed in spirit” perfectly described my mood. But there was good news, too. The Lord was close, and He would save me.

~~~

Up until this point, my relationship with God was based on head knowledge alone. I had graduated from a Christian college. I believed. I had always believed, but now I knew more was necessary. God was calling me deeper.

I had come to the end of myself, and doctors provided no hope. My fear of going deeper with the Lord dissolved as I felt the words of Scripture tear down walls built over a lifetime.

The Holy Spirit moved in. The Bible came alive as never before. I realized God wasn’t mad at me or punishing me. The entire planet was under a curse. Our bodies included. Death was inevitable, but God was in the midst of the broken. He felt the pain and entered into it.

A crazy thought took root in my brain: Maybe I can do this blindness thing with God’s help. For the first time in years, a ray of hope poked through the gloom. A future seemed possible.

~~~

I prayed in earnest, and God brought committed Christian women into my life. I heard three simple words: “Jesus loves you,” and they no longer felt like a cliché. I found a Bible-believing church and got baptized. The pastor’s wife asked me to speak at a women’s gathering. There an older saint specifically prayed for writing opportunities to open up for me. A short time later, a shy friend said she felt led by God to tell me about a ministry seeking proofreaders for devotions. I applied and got the position.

These days I sit in front of a large screen television monitor, which doubles as a computer screen. I have published many articles. I have proofread many devotions and continue on my writing journey—albeit slowly.

Over the past fuzzy years of walking with God, I have learned that His love is far different than a Hollywood script. It is so much deeper and more surprising than the turn of a man-made plot.

Like a messy bird’s nest I recently discovered above my desk outside the window and under a metal awning, God’s love is uniquely formed for my situation. It’s personal.

Sometimes I marvel that twenty years have passed since my diagnosis. I remember how long and difficult the days were at first. I remember saying, “I can’t live like this.”

Although my physical sight is now worse than before, my spiritual vision is 20/20. When I look down on the bird’s nest as I stand on a chair beside my desk, I don’t see a mess. Instead, I see four fragile blue eggs huddled close. I watch the mother bird coming and going, carefully tending her clutch. I see new life about to burst forth, and I smile at the irony of God placing this nest where only I can see it.

Beckie Horter Beckie Horter