milestone / mīlˌstōn / noun
- a stone set up beside a road to mark the distance from or to a particular place.
- an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.
It’s interesting to note that the word “milestone” was first used to identify a stone marker that indicated just how far one had traveled. It was positioned prominently on a roadside to let travelers know how far along they were on their journey, or how far they had yet to go. Interestingly enough, that stone did not just mark off the distance; eventually it also became a marker of time. That’s because the average person walked at only 2 miles per hour, a runner traveled four to six miles an hour, those on horseback traveled 10 miles per hour and a stagecoach, pulled by a team of horses, could cover 15 miles in an hour. Thus, the faster people traveled the less distance really mattered. What took an hour to walk, took only 12 minutes on a stagecoach or 6 minutes on a train. Distance actually became irrelevant as the time it took to cover it continued to shrink.
Consider the 3200 mile trip from the east to the west coast of America. It once took four months by wagon train. When the railroads came, that time shrank to about fourteen days. In a car, I covered that same distance in 72 hours. The average flight in a modern jet takes about 6 1/2 hours, and the “Blackbird” spy plane flew it a number of years back in just under 3 hours. Finally, the space shuttle astronauts traversed that same distance in six minutes. The miles have remained the same, but the time it takes to cover them has changed dramatically. That change has been so great that we rarely think about measuring distance in anything but time.
When you think about it, this radical shift in how we view our travel through life is really quite appropriate. At this point in mans history, time really has great significance. This is because of the fact that all of us are locked into it, and there is no escape. Every moment of every day that passes by, brings us that much closer to when our time on this earth is over. There is no avoiding it, and it matters not how hard we work, or how fast we live, the clock just keeps ticking away. Ultimately, birth and death are the two real milestones that mark off every life. It begins, it ends and there are a multitude of choices and details that happen in between which impact the lives of others.
Tomorrow I will celebrate my 61st birthday. I am pondering the significance of that big day. I am also pondering my mother, who gave birth to me on that day, because she is also preparing for her big day as well. On my day I’ll be one year older, and one year away from collecting social security. I guess that’s another milestone in American culture we look forward to. We have paid into the system for years, and now it’s time for payback. However, on mom’s day, her social security will end. This is because she will be going home to be with the Lord, and that… well, that’s the final milestone in every culture.
The bottom line in that event is that we either greet it with overflowing joy, and glorious expectation, or we face it with terrifying resistance, and a fear of the unknown. The choice is totally up to each of us, and it all hangs on what we have done with the roadmap God gave us. If we followed and believe the truth, Jesus is our guide, and the destination is certain. If we refused to follow His perfect guidance, the outcome is still just as certain, but the final destination is VERY different. I am blessed in that my mother has lived a full, happy life, and has been looking forward to seeing both her husband, and her Savior, for quite sometime.
The milestones placed on those old dusty roads reminded all who saw them of where they were, and more importantly, where they were going. These were transition points that were reached, and once crossed, there was no going back. They called out to every passenger about where they had just been, and pointed them forward to where they were finally going to end up. It was a stark reality that gripped them along the journey in different ways as they bumped along the dust filled roads. In many ways life, and death, both unfold exactly the same way.
At this very moment my mother, who is just a few days shy of 98, is on that last leg her life road. She has been a wonderful woman of peace, prayer and encouragement, and she is about to cross her final milestone. She is in “transition” right now, getting ready to slip over and greet her husband, and her Lord, who saved them both. I have to be honest, this is something I am thrilled about, and dreading at the same time. Thrilled because her tired, old body is about to be laid aside, and her spiritual body will soon fly out of it to reveal all it’s glory. However, I dread that event as well because the one who has prayed, encouraged and always been there for me will be there no more. That is a very hard, and emotional pill that will soon have to be swallowed.
As mom moves from this world to the next I am forced to take the time to consider my own milestones. These marked off significant things in my journey. A few really stand out because they made major changes in my personal vision and life direction. Which ones arrested my attention? Well, there was my salvation, my marriage to my beautiful wife Esther, the birth of my sons and my call to ministry. Others, sadly, I flew right by with thoughtless impatience. In my headlong rush to accomplish some vision, I failed to pause when I should have to really enjoy the life I was living with those who loved me. I was so busy, trying to do things, that I lost the real reason for why I was doing them in the first place!
What about you? Are you so rushed in living that you have missed the joy of life? Are things, goals and your current vision so important that you have failed to nurture and treasure the people around you? Have you actually missed the beauty of the places that surround you? Time is slipping by at an ever-increasing rate, and it’s up to you how each day is spent. Let me encourage you to slow down, smell the roses and invest yourself in what’s really important. First comes your relationship with God, then comes family, then friends and finally business.
Not many hours from now my mother will close her eyes, breathe her last breath, slip from her earthly body and fly into heaven. When she does, it will be with no regrets and the blessing of all who ever knew her. She invested her life wisely and we are all the beneficiaries of that great treasure. Will you be able to say the same? Will you leave this earthly realm with a legacy of blessing and joy? Perhaps those who know you will simply be glad you are finally gone. Let me say that now is the time to re-evaluate your life. Even if it’s been less than exemplary, there is still time to change. Remember, as long as you have breath it’s never too late!
Do what Jennie Emmons did for so many, as she cooked them a meal or handed them a cookie. She invested her time and her love of cooking in others so she could speak to them about her love of Jesus. Take a moment right now to talk to God. Give Him your life, surrender your plans and open your heart. Let Him in, so He can open heaven when it’s your time, and do the same for you! I know Jennie will be there… will you?
For Jennie Maria Emmons, who did more than just share the Gospel, she lived it!
(10 minutes after I posted this mom peacefully slipped away in her asleep and woke up in the arms of Jesus!)
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