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In or Out?

Life can be lived fully - don't you agree? If you are like some I know, you might just be 'squandering away' a little of life each and every day, though. In fact, we all probably do a little 'squandering' without really being aware we are 'losing out' on something that could be really, really big in the end! There are certainly times when we are gung-ho about seeking all life has to show us, while there are others when we'd just as soon "check-out" for a while and resume this whole thing called life just a little later on when things calm down a little - the theme song lyrics of 2020. It is only natural to be "all in" sometimes, and then pull back a little at others - we are not gonna always be giving life our 100%, right? Sometimes we just need to escape - but we don't want to miss out on things just because we did! I wonder if there has been some important stuff we missed out on when we are "checked-out" a little this week, or even last?

So, my dear friends, listen carefully; those who embrace these my ways are most blessed. Mark a life of discipline and live wisely; don’t squander your precious life. Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work. When you find me, you find life, real life, to say nothing of God’s good pleasure. (Proverbs 8:32-35)

King Solomon puts forward some advice for living well. Foremost we have to be in a position of hearing. I guess the first thing that probably goes when we are "checked out" is  our willingness to REALLY listen. We hear the words, but are they really making any connection with us? Not always. I have been "checked out" for a moment in a staff meeting or two, only to find out I missed some announcement of a change that was occurring or some special honor someone would receive. I "heard" what was said, but it did not make a "connection" so that I held onto it! I was listening, but I wasn't really hearing! God deals with this a lot in each of us - we listen, but do we really hear what he is saying? When "hearing" happens, there is connection. Maybe this is why Solomon begins with us being in a position of hearing!

Second, we have to "mark a life of discipline" - whatever does that mean? It means we take the instructions we are given and we act upon them. It isn't some mystical process - just obedience, plain and simple. The problem we face is in setting ourselves up to miss out on the disciplined life. In other words, if we aren't first in a place of hearing what God says, we won't be inclined to live by his instructions - because we won't really be "listening" to hear what he teaches! When we know to do something, then choose not to do, James says this is "sin". It is knowing what mark we are to aim toward, then choosing to fly in a different direction that God is after in each of us! "Checked out" people don't hit the mark! So, if you find yourself aimless, you might just ask if you are really embracing the instructions God has given. His ways are not aimless - they are directed and sure. Third, we can't go about "squandering" what we are given. We are given grace - how we handle it determines how much impact it is really making in our lives. If someone gives you a gift of $100, and you have not had more than two nickels to your name for quite some time, how would you "embrace" this gift? Some will go "hog wild", spending it so frivolously that it would be gone in under a day. They'd look back and see a few things they might hold onto as a "memory" of the gift, but it would be gone for the most part. Others who have learned the value of the gift might just put it away, making consistent withdrawals from it to meet the ongoing needs they will have along the way. I think God likes the idea of "frequent withdrawals" more than the "scattering to the wind" kind of approach. When we are "marking a life of discipline", we are learning to be consistent. Obedience comes in fits and spurts at first, but in time, practiced enough, it becomes a pattern. Grace becomes a lifestyle, not a "spending spree"!

Fourth, we need to learn the value of alertness. I can be awake, but being alert is a totally separate process! My eyes are open, my eyes are even moving and keeping up with the events around me, but when the moment comes, how I respond to the "thing" that seems to fly at me out of nowhere is evidence of my "alertness". Alertness speaks of focus or attention. Solomon is focusing on our attention gap - because when we are attentive, we are nimble and quick to respond. God's greatest delight is to find us alert - not just awake! We have to be ready to respond, not just with the first thing that comes to mind, but in a well-ordered way. When we begin with hearing, it is natural we will be ready to respond well. We won't miss stuff because we are "all in"! "Checked out" is a choice - determining to live "all in" is equally a choice. Just sayin!

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