The End of Season 3

Posted: September 29th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Robyn and I began Season 1 of our life together on June 8, 1985 in Hammond, Louisiana.

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Because I was right out of college, we soon moved in with my parents while raising the funds needed to fund our ministry to college students back at Cornell where we’d met. I’m grateful my parents allowed us to stay with them, but it’s just not an ideal way to start off your married life together. The added wrinkle was discovering in December that Robyn was pregnant.

I remember thinking, “Oh Lord, surely we won’t be living here when the baby is born.”

Season 2 began the day we moved back to Ithaca, New York just before our first wedding anniversary. Our fund raising was complete! (Well, as complete as it can ever be when you’re in ministry.) We were on our own! For all of three months. During the last trimester of Robyn’s pregnancy. I have wonderful memories of that season. It was just a short one!

Season 3 began in the early morning of September 4, 1986, the day Rachel was born.

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A couple years later, we moved to Little Rock, Arkansas where three more kids were born.

Erica…

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Amy…

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Rob…

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And seven years ago, we made the move to Fayetteville, the home of the Arkansas Razorbacks. By that time, Rachel was already married to Richard. He serves in the Marine Corps.

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And a few years after the move to Fayetteville, we had another wedding. Erica married Ross, who serves in the Army.

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As season 3 began to wind down this year, we sent Rob off to the Navy.

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We welcomed our first grandchild, Wes.

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And grandchild #2, Tyler.

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That brings us to today, the official end of season 3 (29 years and 25 days), when we put Amy on a plane to move to Germany where she’ll be doing ministry on an Army base in southwest Germany for the next few years.

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And now, Robyn and I are “empty nest.” It’s a sad, joyful, hopeful, exciting, ready-for-whatever-God-has-next-for-us kind of day. It’s the start of Season 4!

Whichever season you find yourself in, live into it fully! Soak up every moment. Work or ministry, hobbies and nice things have their place, but as I reflect back on the first three seasons of life with Robyn…I don’t care about any of that. What I’ve accomplished at work or how many square feet our house is or how much money we have in the bank (not much!) aren’t what matter to me.

How about you?


14 Moments I Wish I Could Live Over

Posted: September 13th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Untitled design 6 300x225 14 Moments I Wish I Could Live OverOn the day before he died, I asked my dad if given the chance, what moment from his life he would live over. Without hesitation, he said, “The first time I kissed Sylvia.” Sylvia is my wonderful step-mom.

As my youngest daughter gets ready to move to Germany in a couple weeks and my other kids have already left home, I can’t help reflecting on the past 30+ years. So I was thinking about which moments from my life I’d live over again if given the chance.

I reserve the right to amend my list, but here are my top 14. It was going to be a top-10 list, but I kept adding to it. By the way, for those of you who are sticklers for details…if a moment is common to all of my children, then I only counted it as one moment. Hey, it’s my list, so I get to make the rules.

I’d love to see your top 10 (or 14) moments…or as many as you’d like to share. Leave a comment with your list. Here’s mine, in no particular order:

  1. The night I met my wife, Robyn, in August of 1984. Three months later, on the night we started dating, I knew we’d get married. It would be fun to relive our meeting and know that night she was going to be my wife.
  2. The meeting at Willard Straight Hall (the student union) at Cornell in which someone explained the gospel to me and I placed my faith in Jesus. My eternal destiny changed in that moment.
  3. Beating North Bergen High School, 12-0, in the first game of my senior year. I don’t think expectations were very high for us as a team, but we finished the year 7-1-1. I wouldn’t want to relive the game against Jackson, our only loss and the one that kept us out of the playoffs.
  4. The births of each of my children.
  5. A snow day. Either as a kid or when my kids were little. Nothing better than anticipating a snowstorm and then hearing that schools are closed.
  6. Any time my dad and I drove across Route 70 from Brick, New Jersey to Philadelphia to see the Phillies play. The trip usually included a stop at Olga’s Diner.
  7. Any late afternoon, summer day by the pool in my backyard or at the beach when I was a kid.
  8. A Saturday afternoon as a family at the Otter Creek pool in the late ’90′s.
  9. Playing stickball in the street with my friends before any of us were old enough to drive. We’d play for hours and usually only stopped when it was too dark to see.
  10. Road trips I’ve taken with each of my daughters.
  11. The night last fall when my son and I watched the Razorbacks beat LSU at Razorback Stadium. It was cold and windy, but we were bundled up and enjoyed watching a great game together.
  12. Almost any moment during the fall or holiday season when my kids were little: going to the State Fair or pumpkin patch, loading up the van and driving to Louisiana for Thanksgiving, cutting down our Christmas tree or watching their reactions on Christmas morning.
  13. Going to Disney World as an 11-year-old and staying at the Contemporary Resort. The monorail running through the lobby was magical to me. It’s what got me interested in the hospitality industry.
  14. A weekend get away at a mountain-top home Robyn and I took in October of 2013 OR our 25th anniversary stay at a B&B in Eureka Springs. Both were amazing! Sorry, no details.

What’s interesting to me is that none of these are about work or money. Of course, money is required to do some of those things, but money or material possessions aren’t the focal point. It’s about relationships.

What about you? What’s on your list? Share yours in the comments.


We’re at War

Posted: September 11th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

As I write this, it’s 9:34 a.m. on Friday, September 11, 2015. Fourteen years ago at this time, both towers had already collapsed, Flight 77 had hit the Pentagon and Flight 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania.

I was in Loveland, Colorado for a meeting with a publisher. We soon learned air travel had been suspended, so there’d be no flying home that day. We made the decision to keep our rental car and drive home to Arkansas.

I was numb. I’d grown up sixty miles south of New York City. The World Trade Center buildings were a familiar landmark on the drive to my grandmother’s house. And now they were gone. As were almost three thousand people.

I realized we were now a country at war. My children would grow up “at war.” I just didn’t realize how profoundly that would effect my family.

My oldest daughter is married to a Marine. He’s been deployed multiple times and now serves as a recruiter. My second daughter is married to a soldier. He has also seen combat. My third daughter will move to Germany in three weeks to do ministry at an American Air Force Base. My son is in the Navy in a role I can’t speak about. To say I’m proud of my children and their spouses doesn’t come close.

I wish we weren’t at war though. I wish my children (and now grandchildren) were growing up in a time of peace. I wish they all lived in the same town with us. I wish…

Reality though is different.

We’re at war. As a country. And as followers of Jesus.

Your marriage and family are being played out on a battlefield. The enemy is unseen and the fight takes place in the spiritual realm, but it doesn’t make it any less real.

We have an enemy. He will seek to deceive you, discourage you, distract you and tempt you. He is the “father of lies.” His will is to “steal, kill and destroy.”

To avoid becoming casualties, we must be filled with God’s Spirit and armed with the truth.

Several years ago, I put together a 40-day devotional to help arm us with truth, so we don’t fall victim to the lies and temptations around us. If you’d like a copy of “I Believe God: a 40-day adventure”, then click here. The price is $1.99, but I have it set up so you can set your own price. If money is tight, then feel free to make it $0.00.


Family Reunion

Posted: January 30th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a family reunion. I think the last one was about twenty-five years ago. Since both of my parents have passed away, I haven’t done a very good job of staying in touch with my extended family.

My mom’s side of the family is spread out now. My dad’s side of the family is mostly in Pennsylvania. Robyn and I have lived in Arkansas for the past twenty-five years, which has made it difficult to visit family or attend reunions.

Two of my children, Rachel and Erica, are already married and live far enough away that we don’t see them very often. My daughter, Amy, is about to graduate from college and is most likely headed to Europe to serve with Young Life for a few years. And my son will soon be enlisting in the Navy. It’s not like I’ll never see my children again, but it’s not the same as when they were little.

A number of years ago, it occurred to me that up until a child graduates from high school, you see him or her almost every day of their life. But after they graduate, there are many more days you will not see them for the rest of their life. At least that’s been the case for me. After high school, I went off to college and spent very little time in my hometown after that.

I think it’s good and healthy to establish a new life, independent of parents. That’s especially important when a child gets married. Being overly bonded to parents is not a recipe for a healthy marriage.

And yet, I do hope Robyn and I can live near our children some day. I want to know them and enjoy a relationship with them as adults. I want to know my grandchildren when they come along. And if I live long enough, I’d like to meet my great-grandchildren.

And that brings me to something I am beginning to pray. My prayer is that Robyn and I would be able to have a family reunion some day with all of our descendents and their spouses. I did a little math…if our four children were to each have just two children of their own and then those eight children got married and had two children each…after ten generations there would be over 8,000 of us.

I want all 8,000+ to come into a relationship with Jesus, to walk with Him and serve Him and to raise the next generation to do the same. And one day when we’re all living in heaven, I want to have a family reunion. I want to meet my great-great-great-great-great granddaughter…and her husband…and their children. I want to meet all of my descendents and their spouses. And for that matter, I’d like to meet those from whom I descended. Have you ever stopped to consider that all of us have descended from Noah and his wife? In that sense, we’re all related.

By the way, don’t think of a heavenly family reunion as floating around in the clouds as spirits. That’s not a biblical view of heaven. Read Genesis 1 and 2. Then read Revelation 21 and 22. Heaven will be on earth one day. Sure, the earth is a messed up place now, but it won’t always be this way. God is going to restore it to His original design. He’s going to make it new again, the way it was supposed to be before sin entered the picture.

Heaven will be on earth, where we’ll live together with God. We’ll work. We’ll play. We’ll eat and drink. We’ll learn and explore and discover. We’ll worship God. And we’ll live in relationship with each other.

I’d love to take a walk with one of my daughters and her daughter and her daughter and her daughter…

I’d love to grab a football and throw it with my son and his son and his son and his son…

I hope we get to have a family reunion in a meadow with a hill nearby so Robyn and I can walk to the top of it, look out over our descendents and rejoice at how greatly God blessed us.

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My family...many years ago...


Holiday Nostalgia

Posted: November 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments »

I’m a sentimental, nostalgic person to begin with, but the holiday season takes it to a whole new level. I spend a lot of “think-time” in the past. I think about friends and experiences together and I treasure memories of family times, football games and Christmas mornings.

As I write this, it’s just after 10:00 a.m. central time on Thanksgiving Day. So in New Jersey it’s just after 11:00 a.m., which means that 33 years ago at this time on Thanksgiving Day, my last high school football game had just kicked off against Toms River North. I forget the final score, but we won to end the season 7-1-1, which unfortunately was not good enough to make the playoffs.

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Speaking of the playoffs, we’d anticipated Fayetteville (where we live now) would still be in the playoffs this week, so we would not be able to go anywhere for Thanksgiving. For the past two seasons, my son has had practice on Thanksgiving morning. Fayetteville lost in the first round though, so it’ll be just four of us this year.

For many years when our kids were younger, we traveled to Louisiana to be with my wife’s family. I loved checking the kids out of school early and then piling everyone into the van for the eight hour trip to Hammond on that Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Many of those years also included, Ivy, our beagle. She died earlier this year though, so this will be the first Thanksgiving without her in 14 years.

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We did break tradition in 1999 to travel to Colorado to help a friend administrate a conference he was leading at Keystone Resort. It was our one and only ski vacation as a family. Some of us picked up skiing a little quicker than others. I won’t say who struggled the whole time.

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Because I’m so sentimental, I have a difficult time throwing things away. I hold onto old t-shirts and ticket stubs. I keep newspapers that covered important events like elections and 9-11. And in 2000, I started a tradition of cutting off a section of the trunk of our Christmas tree to save.

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I not only save t-shirts and newspapers–I also save emails. This morning, I was going through some old ones. I don’t mean emails from a few months ago; I’m talking about emails from eight or nine years ago. I found some my daughter had written during her freshman year in college and forwarded them to her. I found another one where I’d recorded some of the questions my son asked me on August 9, 2004–just a few weeks before he turned nine. Here are a few of them:

“How can God always be there if nobody born Him?”

“Is there a lot of blood when an elephant is born?”

“Can anything be perfectly smooth?”

“Would you rather have a rifle or a shotgun? Why?”

“What time do I have to go to bed?”

I also found a document I’d written 24 days after my dad passed away in 2005. I wanted to capture some of the moments in his final days and also honor the man who shaped me more than anyone else on earth. This picture is from the last Christmas we had together before he died a few months later.

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So where am I going with all this? Well, no deep thoughts today. Just enjoy this holiday season with those you love. Try to look past the annoyances and unmet expectations. Remember that we’re all broken, all in need of grace, all deserving of a second chance. Treasure every moment you have with your family. Take lots of pictures. And build some memories…they’ll become the glue that keeps you bonded together in the future.

This post has already been long enough, but if you’re interested in what I wrote about my dad back in April of 2005, here it is…

In the spring of 2005, a man who changed the world passed away. Through the course of his life, he influenced countless lives – touching both the great and the small in the eyes of the world. Political and business leaders attended his memorial service, as did those who knew him well and those who hardly knew him. I’m one who knew him well. He was my dad, Robert Stutts.

He was diagnosed with acute leukemia in September 2004. Six months later, on March 23, 2005 – he passed quietly into eternity. That was 24 days ago. It feels more like 24 months ago or 24 minutes ago. I dreamed about him last night. I told him he was wonderful. He told me I had a tender heart. So did he. He used to say, “I love you Greggy”, when we were getting off the phone. No one else calls me “Greggy”.

Yes, my dad changed the world. He changed my world. What makes that most remarkable to me is that he had no one to pattern his life after. He had no model. He didn’t have parenting books to reference. Of course, my dad wouldn’t have read them anyway. He liked to read the newspaper, but that was about it. Somehow though, my dad altered the course of history with his life.

My dad once described his own father as “a mean man”. Anyone who knew my dad, knew that he was anything but mean. He was the kind of person who loved to help people. Need a job? He’d help you get one. Need a ride to a cancer hospital in Manhattan? He’d take you. His son wants to go to an Ivy League university? No problem. He said if I got in, he’d pay for it – and he did.

My dad made it to almost every football game I ever played – from 4th grade through college. His own father never saw him play a single down. His father never saw his son return an interception 38 yards for a touchdown in 1954 in his first college game. His father never watched as his son played most of his senior year of high school with Novocain shot into his thigh to deaden the pain. Yet I don’t think it ever even occurred to my dad to not be there for my games – even when it meant driving hundreds of miles to Ithaca, New York or West Point.

My dad was born and raised in Mifflintown – a little town nestled in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. He graduated from high school in 1950 and joined the Navy just a few days after the Korean War began. While in the Navy, he served on three different aircraft carriers – the Roosevelt, the Coral Sea, and the Midway. He was a radio operator. He once did top-secret work in the Black Sea – intercepting radio traffic of Soviet aircraft and submarines.

After leaving the Navy, he went to college. His father never really liked him, but going to college sealed it. My dad was the first in his family to go to college and leave home. That was interpreted as “being too good” for them. Telling his father that he was a Republican didn’t help much either. His father was a life-long Democrat.

When my dad learned that his father was in the hospital and was dying, he drove from New York to Pennsylvania to see him. When he walked into the hospital room, his father looked at him and said, “What are you doing here?” Given that type of relationship with his own father, how did this man turn it all around?

Six weeks ago, it became clear that God was not going to answer our prayers for my dad’s healing. I made plans to visit him and help care for him. I arrived in New Jersey on March 17, six days before he died. Fortunately, he still had enough energy in the first couple days I was there to get his haircut, go grocery shopping, and have lunch together at the Corner Post Diner. I don’t remember much of what we talked about – just being with my dad was enough. He ordered scrapple for lunch that day. (For those unfamiliar with scrapple, suffice it to say it’s a Pennsylvania Dutch item made from corn meal, spices and pork – boiled, made into a loaf and then pan-fried. Covered with breakfast syrup – it’s delicious!)

Three days later, the rest of my family arrived to see my dad. Everyone knew this would be the last visit with him. I later learned that he was concerned with what he’d wear when the kids saw him. He felt bad that he couldn’t look better for them. Because of his enlarged spleen and the fluid build-up in his abdomen, he could only wear pajama pants. Because of the fluid build-up in his calves and feet, he could only wear slippers.

The kids got to hug him and spend some time with him, but just a few hours later, his energy level dropped and he had to go to bed. Just an hour later, he became very ill and was rushed to the hospital. Robyn, my wife, and I stayed with him until 2:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning when the decision was made to admit him to the oncology floor.

One of the most heart-breaking moments in this entire process took place at around 1:00 a.m. that morning. We were still waiting for the results of the blood tests to come back from the lab. I explained to my dad why we were waiting and that it would be another hour until we knew the results. A couple minutes later, in a child-like, innocent voice, he said, “So I’m going home?”

That was the first time I felt like we’d reversed roles. I was now acting as his dad, explaining that he’d probably be admitted that night when all he wanted was to go home and sleep in his own bed. That would never happen.

After getting some sleep, we all returned to the hospital on Tuesday morning to visit with him. He was very, very weak and uncomfortable. He spent the entire day sitting on the edge of the bed – mostly staring at the floor, at times speaking softly to us. There were also times that he wanted to be alone.

My dad loved his family greatly, but he was also wired to like order and quiet. His grandchildren were a delight to him, but they also created some chaos when they were around. His preference toward the end was that people not be “hoovering” over him. That’s why he also did not want an open casket or a viewing after his death.

Of course he never really understood that the correct word was “hovering”. He did have a way of butchering the English language. I’m sure he was convinced until the day he died that he had a “prostrate” gland somewhere.

I asked him at one point on Tuesday when just Robyn and I were in the room if he could relive just one moment from his life, what it would be. He thought for a moment and said, “The first time I hugged and kissed Sylvia.”

He and Sylvia were so happy together. He loved being married to her. There’s a great picture of them in the limousine after the wedding ceremony in 1999. He looks like a kid on Christmas morning. His smile lit up the limo.

Sadly, his marriage to my mom did not always produce that kind of smile – certainly not in the last 15 years of their marriage. My mom died in 1997. She’d been sick for a long time – probably with some type of cancer. She just never told anyone – not even my dad. There was a lot she never told him. There was a lot she never told anyone.

Only after her death did my dad share with me some of the things in my mom’s past – things that put her life in context for me. There was a painful break-up with a boyfriend in college. My dad thought she never got over him. My brother died just hours after being born in 1963. Mom never saw him – never held him. She had an abortion a year later.

She never recovered from those painful events. Her capacity for intimacy and closeness was severely diminished. For 35 years, my dad was faithful to a woman who had very little to offer him in return. It makes his death that much more sad to me. He’d finally found a wife who could return his love, but their marriage was cut short after five years.

I watched his thoughts on the day before he died begin to transition from his life on earth to the life that awaited him in heaven. At one point, he said, “If Jesus came to me and said, ‘My son, you have two days left. The first day is devoted to Me to do whatever I ask. On the second day, you may do whatever you want.’”

My dad continued, “On the first day, I would do whatever God wanted. On the second day, I would take Sylvia to dinner.” He just wanted the simple things that had become impossible. I assured him that taking your wife to dinner was also devoted to God.

I also told him my sister, Terri, was on her way from North Carolina to see him. She would arrive around midnight. At 10:00 p.m., my dad was given a small dose of morphine to help him sleep, but at 10:30, he still refused to lie down. It only became clear to me later what was happening. He turned to Sylvia and said, “Why would I lie down if you’re still here?” I believe he knew there wasn’t much time left and if he went to sleep he might never wake up.

I kissed him goodnight and told him I’d see him in the morning. I learned from my sister the next morning that when she arrived at midnight that he was sitting up on the edge of the bed. It wouldn’t surprise me if he sat up soon after we left him at 10:30 – willing himself to stay awake through the morphine, through the fatigue, through the discomfort, through the final hours of his life, so that he could see his daughter one last time. That’s the kind of man he was. She had 30 minutes with him and left.

The last words my dad ever spoke came on Wednesday morning soon after we arrived at the hospital. By this time, his breathing was labored and he’d slipped into a coma. The oncologist encouraged us to say our good-byes to him even though he was no longer conscious. Sylvia entered his room and said, “Robert, I love you.” He opened his eyes briefly, looked at her and was able to get out, “I love you.”

That was 24 days ago. Today is a day my dad would have loved – warm, sunny – a day to walk on the boardwalk, plant a garden, or just run errands. I heard a song on the radio earlier. It made me want to call my dad just to talk – talk to the man who changed my world. I wish I could hear him say just one more time, “I love you, Greggy.”


One Day Left To Live

Posted: August 18th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

While shaving this morning, I sliced off part of my chin. At least that’s what it looked like judging from the amount of blood. I don’t remember ever having to actually use a band-aid before to stop the bleeding after shaving.

This incident reminded me of my dad. He died in 2005 from leukemia. Because of the disease, his blood wouldn’t clot as it should have, so even small cuts were a problem.

About a week before he died, I had to take him to the emergency room for a cut on his shoulder. He told the doctor he got it when he bumped into a door frame. We think he got it when he fell in the bathroom, but he was too embarrassed to admit it.

My dad got very sick the following week and was admitted to the hospital. We were told he only had a couple days left at that point. On the day before he died, he said some things I’ll never forget.

“I never really got to know the grandkids,” he said.

My dad and step-mom lived in New Jersey. I lived in Arkansas with my family. Over a thousand miles separated us, so we only saw each other a couple times a year. He regretted not seeing his grandchildren more often.

Later, I asked my dad what one moment from his life he’d live over if he could. Without hesitation, he said, “The first time I kissed Sylvia.” Sylvia is my step-mom. At the time he died, they’d been married about 5 1/2 years. Those were 5 1/2 very happy years for my dad!

With less than a day left to live, my dad’s desires were very simple ones. At one point, he said that if God gave him two more days to live–one day for whatever he wanted and one day for whatever God wanted, he said for his day, he’d take Sylvia out to dinner. He knew though he’d never leave the hospital room he was in.

The night before he went into the hospital, we were all sitting around the living room drawing questions written on slips of paper. The question I drew asked what one event from history would you like to have witnessed. I said I would like to have been there the morning Jesus came back to life.

In the hospital that day, my dad mentioned my answer and said, “That really is the most important thing.”

The resurrection and family. Those were the things on my dad’s mind when he knew he only had a very short time left. No mention of work or money or hobbies or television or football or anything else.

Relationships. With Jesus and others.

Whatever is going on in your life today, don’t lose sight of what’s most important. We believe God when we place the highest value on what He does.

In the midst of whatever trial you’re facing today, keep your eyes on Jesus. Seek Him. Drop the distractions that won’t matter in the end.

Is there a relationship with a family member or friend you’ve put on the back burner? Maybe you’ve been so overwhelmed by your circumstances that you’ve felt like you have nothing to give to anyone else. Will you trust God for the strength to reach out? To your spouse? Your children? A parent? A friend or co-worker?

Someone needs you today.

That day in the hospital was my dad’s next to last one on earth. Early that evening, he was given something to help him sleep. It should have put him to sleep, but it didn’t.

He must have fought to stay awake because my sister had not yet arrived from North Carolina. He wanted to see her for the final time. When she arrived around midnight, she found him sitting on the side of the bed. Waiting.

After they spent a little time together, my sister left. At some point in the night, my dad tried to get out of bed. He fell and lapsed into a coma. He died the next afternoon.

When there’s very little time left, what’s most important becomes much more clear.

You and I really don’t know how much time we have left.

Do we?