In October and November, I mark two significant events in my life. One is a birthday, still a welcome celebration though I am heading headlong toward 60. The other is an ordination anniversary, on Reformation Day; this year it’s number thirty-two. A relaxing vacation weekend gave me time and energy to reflect on what I’ve learned over these years.

As you have come to expect in these pages, the lessons are simple ones. Maybe that’s a lesson in itself, since anyone who knew me back when will tell you there was little about me or my way of acting and speaking that was simple. I hope it’s the years and the experiences those have brought that have uncomplicated me a bit.

So, here goes with #1: show up. How many of us live in the past or the future and are not really present for today? We may be physically present, but our minds and our hearts are light years away, dwelling on some regret or an as yet unfulfilled dream. So we miss what’s here for us in this moment, right now. Like the sunset I didn’t see because I was trying to figure out the icons on the remote for our heater in our vacation cabin. Every moment holds possibilities. Indeed, some scientists even tell us that every choice spins off a new universe. So we need to be present, show up fully and joyfully, in this moment, this day, this place if we are to take advantage of what our bountiful God wants to give us.

#2: be alert. We spent a great deal of time on the back deck of our rented mountain cabin looking out over the valley below. No, watching would be a better word. We wanted to see whatever came our way, and knew that in that environment, we might well witness something extraordinary. Our vigilance was rewarded the last day, as we scanned the valley and the sky one more time before leaving. First we heard the distinctive cry. Then we saw them: two eagles, soaring on the wind! Incredible! To see eagles in the wild! We both said “Now we can leave. What can top that?” A marvelous experience, given because we simply had our eyes open and expected wonder to wander our way.

Finally, #3: be prepared. We had already packed the binoculars when the eagles flew by. I ran out to the car and got a pair, in time to see the great birds. But why had I not simply kept the glasses nearby? If something wondrous and awesome may come our way at any moment, then doesn’t it make sense to be prepared with the education, the tools, the perspective to fully enter in without hesitation or having to scramble to get what we need, only to find the opportunity gone? Like pilots ready to mount the cockpit on the Klaxon’s blare, firefighters in the station house on call to battle a blaze, we too can be ready. The Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus  (“always ready”) is also a good one for life.

Show up. Be alert. Be prepared. May God give us grace so to live!

© 2009 Tom Cheatham