In June of 1998, Bill Morgan had a heart attack and died.
For fourteen minutes.
The doctors were able to resuscitate him although he remained in a coma for more than two weeks until the day he suddenly sat up in bed. His recovery was considered a medical miracle.
A year later he bought an instant scratch ticket and won a $30,000 car.
In the clamour over his incredible luck, a news station asked him to re-enact the moment he won the car. Bill obliged by returning to the same store to purchase and scratch another ticket while the cameras watched. The new ticket was worth $250,000.
Unfortunately things haven’t gone as well in the years since. Morgan has lost two close family members, his sister has been ill for an extended time. He was forced to leave his job because of chronic arthritis and the heart issues have been an ongoing impediment.
But Bill Morgan’s story is much more interesting than his name. Not because of his improbable string of luck but because of how he chooses to live in its aftermath.
“Every day I get up and put on my shoes, and even if I’m not real well I have a shuffle down the road and smell the roses, look at the sun and think about how lucky I am.” ¹
So there it is. Do you know why I told you that story?
Wait … I can tell by that confused look on your face that you don’t have any idea. Okay let me say it a different way through a heartfelt New Year’s blessing.
“May you have a happy and blessed 2022 and may you always remember that birds poop on statues.”
I hope that clears things up.
There is a television series Cheryl and I have been binge watching since Christmas and I’ve noticed a recurring opening scene where the camera pans past a statue which stands in the town square. The statue is a likeness of an important founding member of the community.
Unfortunately nobody actually knows who the important statue guy was and all town records were destroyed in a fire back in the ’50s. Worse, each time we view his life-size likeness we notice that it is weather-worn and dappled with white droppings from above.
That visual reminds me of a reality of life. No matter how hard we work or how important we try to be, the monuments we build will someday matter about as much as that seagull target in the park.
Or as Bill Morgan discovered, there are more important things in life than what we accomplish or accumulate.
I’m not existential or despairing about the meaning of life, I simply want to remind us all that what is physical is temporary but what is unseen is lasting. Your job, your house, your strength, your accomplishments will only last as long as you do. On the other hand love, kindness, wisdom, generosity (and hate) have the potential to generate ripples far beyond your place and time.
That is what is unfortunate about angst-filled christians who fret about church statistics or brood about covid restrictions or obsess about ministry projects. They might be worthwhile activities but they are temporary monuments, nothing more. In fact, our religious ‘statues’ are usually more about ourselves than they are about God. And as I have already said, birds poop on statues.
I recently saw something new in Jesus’ extended conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. It comes as a result of her assumption that they have separate religious destinations.
“… believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem . . . Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – NIV
Think about those words. Jesus wasn’t just talking about ancient middle eastern religious groups, he was talking about us! Jesus was emphasizing that God’s presence doesn’t show up in the physical monuments we build but flows through hearts that welcome the intangibles of Spirit and Truth. Wherever they are.
If God only inhabits spirit and truth, how should that affect how we invest ourselves in 2022?
fewer statues, more planting
My sister posted a cartoon on Facebook by Spanish artist J.M. Nieto (thank you, Sandra for sourcing this). It was an inspired picture of two cartoon characters walking into the new year. One asks problematic questions, the other has soothing answers.
Aren’t you terrified of what 2022 could be like? Everything is so messed up.
I think it will bring flowers.
Because I’m planting flowers.
This is your reminder that the statues we build have a short life span but the goodness we do is an investment in eternity. Let’s live 2022 by putting less energy into temporary statues and more into planting the things that bless the world.
Because remember … birds poop on statues.
~ ~ ~
¹ August, 2020 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8622591/Lotto-winner-Bill-Morgan-won-250-000-car-COMA.html