Teach Us to Number Our Days|
V&K Emilio - Mike Frisbie
A Death Sentence
In 2005 we had to face the question of what we would do if given only six months to live. Have you ever thought about your own death? It can be a shocking "dose of reality."
My 54 year old cousin, Mike, was diagnosed with brain cancer and died within six months of his diagnosis in March of 2005. But, his experience of how he answered that question and how he met death in a very deliberate manner is enlightening. We can all learn from it.
He was a Fighter
Mike's life was anything but ordinary. It wasn't always desirable, either. Mike was a fighter and a heart breaker. Whether in the streets of Southern California's inner-cities or in the logging towns and bars of Southern Oregon, Mike was perfectly comfortable hustling pool or setting up "marks" to fight, just for the fun of it.
With his rugged good looks and forceful humor - not to mention his powerful frame - Mike could charm you one minute and terrify you the next with only a "look." He was, on the one hand, totally predictable. Yet, he was always full of surprises. He was anything but tame.
His Unusual Bible-Reading Hobby
One of Mike's surprises was that from the time he was a young boy until his death he read the Bible as a hobby. Drunk or sober, Mike could talk Scripture and doctrine. In fact, he could hold his own with most seminary graduates. For much of his life Mike knew the truth. But, he did not always live the truth. He was painfully aware of this.
At age 49 Mike surprised us all by deciding to go to Southern Oregon University to get a degree in bio-chemistry. During those five years we spent a lot of time with him. I would discuss the family history we shared, some of which was painful. We longed to build new relations with family here in Southern Oregon to replace the ones we had lost.
Mike encouraged us to do that. Ken and Mike would talk chemistry, science, and theology. They would spend "all-nighters" listening to and discussing Chuck Missler's tapes about physics and creation. It was never dull around Mike. In many ways he was brilliant. Mike taught me to always try to back-up anything I said with at least three, relevant points.
Shadows of Life
We had intense conversations about human DNA and the role it played in God's handiwork. We discussed cloning versus resurrection - a resurrection that will be accompanied by memory and personality with super bodies capable of moving through hyper dimensions. We talked about this strange "digital-simulation" we call "life," according to many physicists. This life is truly but a shadow of things to come (Col. 2:17). Yet, it has eternal purpose and consequences.
A Degree in Life
In late 2004 Mike completed his degree. Then he decided to go back to Southern California to try and rebuild his life and his relationships with his children who were now grown and independent. It was his one final attempt to make-up for lost opportunity.
It was at that time Mike's death sentence was handed down to him. God was calling him home. During his crazy life, Mike had tempted death and even cheated death, but not this time. He knew he was stuck with this sentence.
A Life Worth Living
Mike told us he knew he was finished. But, then he became very deliberate about how and to what purpose he would live his life with the time left to him. This is what I want to focus on briefly.
Our cousin knew he had to concentrate on his relationship with God. There wasn't anything more important to him with so little time left. For some of that he flew to Oregon to spend some time with us and our Christian cousins who live in Grants Pass.
God, A Bible&Family
Then, Mike flew home to move closer to his kids and a sister and brother. He took the time to re-introduce himself to his sons, even though he had seldom seen them, and to face the pain of their distance and self involvement. But, we think he did the right things. He tried to get his priorities right and decided upon the following:
2. the Word
Finally, he chose to die in his daughter's home, surrounded by Christians. Those who experienced Mike's death up-close and personal, who touched, smelled and tasted his life and death, will never be the same. (See you in Heaven, Mike).
Teach us to Number Our Days
Mike, in his death struggle, was trying to make the most of his time in a valiant effort to complete his life. In many ways Mike was trying to make-up for lost time. Heroic? Maybe. Yet, there is the emptiness and sense of loss that Ken and I feel because we did not get to know him sooner.
There is sadness mixed with joy. There is also hope and expectation of reunification in the world to come. Of that we have no doubt. But, as much as we are tempted to glamorize Mike's life and focus on the victories, we cannot escape the reality of so many lost opportunities for a life and stewardship that might have been. It is this that he would wish to teach us:
"So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12, NKJV).
Make Each Moment Count
Each of us has been given opportunity right now. If you're a Boomer like us, you are in the best and most powerful position of your life to accomplish those things which have eternal consequences. The enemy, however, would have you think that your most powerful days are over. That is a lie! Focus on what you can do right now. Forget the past. Move on and work with what God has given to you today.
…"but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB).
Here is a new rule: Forget Psychology's siren-call to dwell on your past. If you still dwell on our "idealism" of the sixties and seventies, get over it! Our real purpose in life is upon us, right here, right now. Press on.
Pillows of Indifference
The time and place God has given us to fight His battles is not a place of physical wars with swords or guns that kill the body. Instead, our battles are spiritual wars of self-indulgence, deception, apathy, despair, and internal loneliness.
Our enemy seeks to smother us slowly with soft pillows of indifference. In this way, the enemy is more difficult to see. Few survive this war. Fewer still survive it unscathed. This is true no matter where you live. The knowledge that we have opportunity and responsibilities to our Lord by using wisely the time given us, has been burning deep inside of us as of late.
We are Running Out of Time
"Lord, make me to know my end.
And what is the measure of my days,
that I may know how frail I am.
Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths
and my age is as nothing before You.
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.
Surely every man walks about like a Shadow.
Surely they busy themselves in vain.
He heaps up riches,
and does not know who will gather them."
Psalm 39:4-6 NKJV
Teach us to Number Our Days
"So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90: 12 NKJV
Is it All Over?
Were Mike's efforts in school and his accomplishments wasted? Were his desires to reunite with his family too late? Is it all over? After all, the world teaches us we only go around once on this earth so grab whatever you can today.
A famous theologian, Professor Randy Alcorn, teaches that for the Christian nothing is wasted - not our unfulfilled desires or longings to succeed. "We're presuming that our present Earth, bodies, culture, relationships, and lives are superior to those of the New Earth."
"What are we thinking?"
The New Earth
Alcorn continues, "I believe the New Earth will offer us opportunities we wished for but never had. God's original plan was that human beings would live happy and fulfilling lives on Earth. If our current lives are our only chances at that, God's plan has been thwarted…But God is not unjust, and this is not our only chance at life on Earth. The doctrine of the New Earth clearly demonstrates that."
"Luke tells us: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven' (Luke 6:20-23)."
Where will Heaven be? In a parallel passage Jesus says, (editor's note - and read carefully): 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:3-5).'
Alcorn points out that Heaven is on the New Earth! The New Earth is the setting for rewarding and compensating us for hardships and trials in our present lives. "Are you living with the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams? Did you never get to finish building that boat or painting that picture or writing that book - or reading that pile of books? Good news. On the New Earth you will have a second chance to do what you dreamed of doing - and far more besides" (Heaven 2004, 431-433).
For the Christian, life is celebration and no effort is wasted!
Beam me up, Lord! I'm ready for the New Jerusalem! (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
After working as a fireman and logger, Mike Frisbie received his degree in Bio Chemistry from Oregon State University in 2004. He went home to be with the Lord in March of 2005.
Valorie received her M.A. in History from U.C.L.A. She looks forward to being reunited with her cousin Mike in that gorgeous parallel universe we call "Heaven."
Alcorn, Randy. 2004. Heaven. Carol Stream, ILL: Tyndale.