Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 – After looking at the way things are on this earth, here’s what I’ve decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that’s about it. That’s the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now. It’s useless to brood over how long we might live.

Gratitude Day 835

I cannot count the number of times I have said, “We call today ‘the present’ because each day is a gift.”

I believe those words. Encourage others to live those words. Have reminded folks at nearly every funeral that I have been involved in that today is a gift and we must treat it this way.

But saying those words and actually living them? Well, it is slightly different.

Until we are reminded once again just how precious life is. Each day. That our days should be considered special because each one is a present.

This reality came crashing into my life once again this week like a bull in a China shop. Wow, did this get my attention. Here’s how.

Carol and I have been friends over 20 years. When I was serving the first two churches I served as a pastor, she moved into a neighboring church. More mature and wiser than I was, I asked her to be my mentor. Over the years, we have had breakfast or lunch together so many times. We often tried to do it once a month but COVID but a halt to this. Carol retired from being a pastor, went back to serving churches. She did this a couple of times. She’s moved and lived with various children. She has been living her best life.

In the mix of serving different churches, she was the pastor that those two churches that were my first appointment at one point. One of her retirements was from those churches. A couple years ago, these two churches needed a pastor. In her late 70’s, Carol came out of retirement and has been serving those two little churches that are near and dear to Hubby Rick and my heart. Since moving this year, we have worshiped often with these folks. They feel like family to us.

A couple Fridays ago, Carol called me. She had been in the hospital that week. I had caught wind of this. She “thought” she could lead worship on Sunday. I firmly suggested that maybe a couple weeks off were in order and I was available. Should she serve while her health was precarious? Reluctantly, Carol agreed.

Carol’s health issues were a surprise. She has basically been very healthy her whole life. This is a woman who still walked regularly on her tread mill, did strength training and watched her diet. She has consulted with folks about how to keep her body working for her and God’s kingdom. Most people were shocked when it came out about 18 months ago that Carol was 80. She not only seemed much younger, she acted it.

In the last two weeks, Carols’ health has bounced up and down. She was moved twice to different hospitals, trying to seek out the best people and treatments for her challenges. During our last visit just a week ago, I asked about upcoming things at the churches. I had been taking care of the necessary things in consultation with her and felt it was time to look just a bit further out. “Can’t we want a few days and talk about it again?” she pleaded. End of conversation.  

With a card signed by the church folks tucked into my bag, I was on my way to the hospital Monday morning, making a couple stops along the way. I was not prepared when Carol’s daughter called and said she had just passed away. A pulmonary embolism (blot clot in the lung) had developed a few days earlier. The doctors had been treating and tracking this carefully. Unfortunately, it had moved.

While Carol’s daughter and I were on the phone, my thoughts were overwhelmed with the reality that today, the present, is a gift. One we cannot take for granted. One that is not always guaranteed. I was overwhelmed and saddened that I would not have another day with my dear friend.

Nor would her family. The folks at the churches that she served. For years, Carol has sent out a daily morning devotion. She had taken a break from these until she felt better. These folks would also want to know the sad news of her death.

Mark Twain once said, “I know that everyone dies, but I always thought an exception would be made in my case.”

Probably too many of us live each day assuming we might be exceptions as well. Or at least for now.

This year, I have been following a daily Bible reading plan. One of the verses from this week’s reading is this:

Friends – I do believe these words are true. When we are sad, discouraged, feeling in trouble, the Lord hears our voice. Our call for help reaches God’s ears.

The past few days, my call for help to God has been clear. Help Carol’s family and the folks from church. Her extended family and friends scattered across the states. The decisions that will need to be made about what happens next for these two churches. For anyone, anywhere who feels sad and in trouble and needs assurance that You, O God, are with them.

Sometimes, it is so easy to become weighted down by the icky stuff in our lives, communities and worlds. There is a lot out there. Yet, we desperately need the counterbalance of enjoying every special day. The little things that mean so much to us. That today is a present and I pray we enjoy the gift that it is.

May I encourage you to hug your loved ones a bit tighter today? Pick up the phone and call that person you have been wanting to chat with but keep putting off? Reconnect with the person who has been absent from your life too long? Today is a gift. May we truly accept the present we have been given.

For the gift of today, a present, I am grateful.

Blessings –


Loving God – Thank you for special people in our lives who teach us so much and encourage us endlessly. Be with those who are in trouble today. Assure us that you hear our prayers and know our voices. May we turn to You and each other when our hearts and souls are sad. May we also enjoy the present of today. Amen.

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