How do we enjoy life? Each Day Totally We do not know how long we have to live, so we should live every day with gusto. Oh, how sweet the light of day, And how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour, Remembering that there will also be many dark days And that most of what comes your way is smoke. — Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 (The Message) I love the sunshine. I love to see the sun peeking through the window when I get up in the morning. From the rising of the sun to its going down the Lord’s name is to be praised. — Psalm 113:3 (NKJV) That is the theme behind the hymn “When Morning Gilds the Skies.” There are many, many stanzas, but here are a few: When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries: May Jesus Christ be praised! Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair: May Jesus Christ be praised! When you begin the day, O never fail to say, May Jesus Christ be praised! And at your work rejoice, to sing with heart and voice, May Jesus Christ be praised! Sing, suns and stars of space, sing, ye that see His face, Sing, Jesus Christ be praised! God’s whole creation o’er, for aye and evermore Shall Jesus Christ be praised! We praise God because it is right, because it is appropriate, and because it is commanded. But praising God also has a radical effect on us. I dare you to begin the next seven days with intense, heartfelt praise and worship. Read a praise psalm each day, and reflect on a thoughtful hymn like the one above. Then watch the effect on your day. Enjoy Your Youth Thoroughly Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity. — Ecclesiastes 11:9-10 Sixteen-year-olds want to be eighteen, and eighteen-year-olds can’t wait to be twenty-one. Somewhere along the way that process starts to reverse itself. We ought to be telling our kids to enjoy themselves. Youth has many advantages: less responsibility, lots of energy, many good friends, and boatloads of opportunity. While young people face many challenges and difficulties today, it is also true that life tends to become harder and heavier as we grow older. Solomon counsels us to rejoice in our youth. But there is a warning. Sow joyfully, but sow healthy seeds and not wild oats. Youth is no excuse for exploits that do not honor Him. If I were a young person, I would look at my life as a bowl of premium chocolate ice cream. I would savor every bite. I would take a moment to thank God before digging in and be grateful that He designed this treat to melt so delightfully on the tongue. If I were a new parent, I would let my kids be kids. I would not want them to grow up too quickly, and when they stumble along the learning path, I would gently help them up and show them how to walk upright. Kids have lots of energy and crazy imaginations, but I would see God’s joy in that rather than shushing them and imposing unnatural restraint on their natural vitality. Express Your Faith Thoughtfully Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”: While the sun and the light, The moon and the stars, Are not darkened, And the clouds do not return after the rain. — Ecclesiastes 12:1-2 I think of Solomon, sitting in the courtyard of the palace and watching the children romp beneath the trees. A teenager sits at the king’s feet. Solomon is struck by how fast she is growing up. He can already see the patronizing look in the eyes of this young girl before him. He says, “Now is the very time to draw near to your God. The longer you wait, the less you will desire Him, and the more elusive He will prove to be. Now is the time when you will make the pivotal decisions on which your whole future will turn. Please don’t make them without your Lord.” Get with God. Get with Him daily as you spend time together. Get with Him through His Word. Get with Him in service and with His other children. Get with Him and honor Him. It is traditional for kids to be criticized by ex-kids. Grumpy old [former kid] Martin Luther: “The young people of today are utterly dissolute and disorderly.” Plato, [philosopher and past child,] agreed. “The youth are rebellious, pleasure-seeking, and irresponsible. They have no respect for their elders.” Socrates, [a one-time juvenile, sniped], “Children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and love chatter.” The next time you think the “modern generation” is going from bad to worse, remember that God always has a rich handful of teenage heroes ready to change the world. Joseph the dreamer Daniel in Babylon David the giant killer and the virgin Mary As a teenager, Charles Spurgeon preached to great crowds, but when they referred to his youthfulness, he replied, “Never mind my age. Think of the Lord Jesus Christ and His preciousness.” Let us encourage our young people and pray for them. Embrace Your Aging Thankfully In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim; When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low. Also they are afraid of height, And of terrors in the way; When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets. Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well. Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All is vanity.” — Ecclesiastes 12:3-8 Life can only be enjoyed day by day, bite by bite. Finally we learn to embrace the aging process thankfully. Solomon keeps a heavy subject light — and downright funny. Isn’t that just what we need when we fret about fresh wrinkles? We need to take ourselves a little less seriously. We need a good laugh. Solomon gives us a poetic picture of getting older. Let’s work our way through this passage looking at the phrases he chooses: The day when the keepers of the house tremble. Those are your arms and hands. As we get older, they begin to shake and tremble more. And the strong men bow down. Knees and shoulders grow weaker, more frail as we age, bending and bowing and slumping. When the grinders cease because they are few. What are “grinders”? Your teeth, of course! We can be thankful for improved dental care, but we still lose a tooth every now and then. And those that look through the windows grow dim. Are you getting the idea? No one had spectacles in Solomon’s time; they had to live with blurry vision. When the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low. We can’t hear the old street sounds or the mills grinding away. When one rises up at the sound of a bird. Teenagers can sleep until noon, but that is a skill we lose as we age. We old-timers are up with the chickens. And all the daughters of music are brought low. Your voice starts to quiver and weaken. You don’t sing as loudly or clearly as you once did. When the almond tree blossoms. Your hair puts forth white shoots! Rather than informing your spouse you have spotted another gray hair, why not say, “Nice almond tree, honey!” The grasshopper is a burden. By summer’s end, grasshoppers lose their hop. They are more like “grass-limpers.” And desire fails. You can work this one out for yourself. (Hint: there are several lines of pharmaceuticals to help.) For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. This is referring to the unavoidable funeral and funeral procession. Solomon goes on in verse 6 to give us four images of what it is like to die. It’s like a silver cord that loosens and falls away. It’s like a golden bowl that plummets to the floor and crashes. It’s like a pitcher shattered at the fountain. It’s like a wheel broken at the well. Fallen. Crashed. Shattered. Broken. These are all images of lost beauty. Together their picture is heartbreaking. Then again, Art Linkletter once said that it is better to be over the hill than under it. Whatever life is for us, wherever we find ourselves in age or stage, every moment is a gift of God — brightly wrapped, waiting to be opened, admired, and delighted in. The bittersweet nature of loss makes the present more precious; knowing that the silver cord will one day slip away, we cherish it all the more while it is in our hands. We must not spend too much time brooding over life’s transience, for that defeats the very purpose. The time is to be used, to be invested in joy and meaning. That includes today. Go ye therefore and have fun!