by : JL Earlywine

Last month's edition of Footprints and Monuments was about living your life going Mach3 with your hair on fire. Learning from the past, but passionately waiting for tomorrow to get here. The featured person, Richie, recently came to a goal setting seminar that I was leading. Last month you learned that Richie was setting twenty-year goals even though six weeks prior he had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. It saddens me to have to write that Richie died just a few days ago.

Vowing to not let his life, and death, be in vain this month's edition of F&M is about priorities. Possibly in a way you have never thought about priorities. I once heard a story (summarized here for the sake of time) about a teacher that held up a completely empty two-gallon jar in front of his class. He began to fill the jar with large rocks. When the jar was full to the top he asked his class if it was full. They all responded with a unified, "Yes!"

He then told them that they were mistaken and pulled out a bucket of much smaller rocks and began to pour them in to the jar. He again asked them if the jar was full. The students being a little bit wiser didn't know how to answer. Some thought yes, others no, and some not sure.

He then pulled out a final bucket full of sand and began to pour it in to the jar. He poured, and then he shook the jar good, and then poured some more until the jar was full to the brim. Finally he asked his students if the jar was full. Most responded affirmatively, "Yes!" He then told them they were right.

The moral of this story is: large rocks must go in the jar first. The same is true of our priorities. Our "big rocks" must come first or they will never make onto our calendars, to-do lists, or prayer lists. The question is, "What should our big rocks be?"

With many rocks to choose from, it is my opinion that there are four that need to go into the jars of our lives first. They are, listed in order, our faith, family, faithfulness, and fun. I understand that there are many more rocks to choose from. For instance, friends, finances, future, and frustrations are important - but we must keep our priorities in line if we are going to end our lives looking back saying, "Well done."

Our faith needs to be our first big rock. It is God who saves us from eternal death, becomes our best friend during the lonely times of our lives, heals us when doctors give us no hope, and allows peace to rest over us when our lives become chaotic.

Our family must fall in line second, not our careers. There has never been a person on his or her deathbed that wished that he had spent more time working and building his career. Most, if not all, wish that they had spent more time cultivating their family relationships. This was the wish of my friend Richie, something that he tried to do after he was diagnosed with the brain tumor that eventually took his life.

The word faithfulness is not often used in our American culture. The definition of faithfulness here is: Being there (being faithful). Many parents make decision and choices that result in being too busy to "be there" when their child scores the winning touchdown or sings their first solo. Business people routinely make promises that they can't possibly keep, and marriage vows are broken everyday in our country. God does call us to be faithful, faithful to Him and to others.

Fun is the last big rock in our jars. It is my opinion that many live their lives in a ho-hum routine; working, cooking, cleaning, sleeping, and doing it all over again the next day. I challenge you to spice up your life a bit by adding times to just have fun to your schedule. Do something that you don't ordinarily get to do. For instance, after the family has retired for the evening, grab a good book and head for a hot, steamy bath (guys this works great for us too).

The little things (small rocks and sand) in our lives are important too. Our friendships make life much more rewarding. When you can help that new widow get from today to tomorrow without shedding a tear you know you have been a friend. Our finances are also important. God tells us in His Word to provide for our family and our future. He also tells us to be content with what we have. If we focus more on what God wants for our lives and not what we want then our future will turn out just right.

The last little rock or sand in our jar are our frustrations, these are the small things that seem to keep us from focusing on the more important things. There are times when we must "sweat the small stuff," but we must keep our priorities in perspective.

I hope that you will take a close look at your life's jar and the rocks that go in first. And, like last month, I challenge you to live like you are going to die tomorrow, while at the same time like you are going to live forever.

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