Thoughts on Meinke’s “Advice to My Son”

The trick is, to live your days
as if each one may be your last
(for they go fast, and young men lose their lives
in strange and unimaginable ways)
but at the same time, plan long range
(for they go slow; if you survive
the shattered windshield and the bursting shell
you will arrive
at our approximation here below
of heaven or hell).

–Peter Meinke, Advice to My Son (excerpt)

I first read the poem quoted above fall semester of last school year. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it quickly became one of my favorite poems. Probably in part it is because I have an affinity for the practical, and the advice offered is certainly good. I also have an strong appreciation for the written word as an art form, but I have read many well-written poems that did not capture my attention as much as this one. I even wrote a paper on this poem, using it to illustrate lessons for emergency service workers.

However, despite my fascination with this poem, all too often I forget to live my life in the way it suggests. Perhaps that is why I like it so much, because it always reminds me to concentrate on the important things. Some times I get too focused on the “plan[ning] long range,” and I forget about simply enjoying the day that I have. I worry about plans, and job opportunities, and paying off school debt, and miss the sun rising up over the desert mountains, casting streaks of pink, purple, and orange across the sky. And sometimes I do the opposite: I focus on my immediate struggles, challenges, and tests, and forget to look at the big picture to see how God is using them to bring me to a better place.

Every time I recite this poem to myself, it reminds me that I need a level of balance in my life. Do you have any favorite poems that you find speak to you in a special way? If so, I’d love to hear what ones and why. Leave a comment, and maybe I will discover the next addition to my favorite poem list.

I first read the poem quoted above fall semester of last school year. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it quickly became one of my favorite poems. Probably in part it is because I have an affinity for the practical, and the advice offered is certainly good. I also have an strong appreciation for the written word as an art form, but I have read many well-written poems that did not capture my attention as much as this one. I even wrote a paper on this poem, using it to illustrate lessons for emergency service workers.

However, despite my fascination with this poem, all too often I forget to live my life in the way it suggests. Perhaps that is why I like it so much, because it always reminds me to concentrate on the important things. Some times I get too focused on the “plan[ning] long range,” and I forget about simply enjoying the day that I have. I worry about plans, and job opportunities, and paying off school debt, and miss the sun rising up over the desert mountains, casting streaks of pink, purple, and orange across the sky. And sometimes I do the opposite: I focus on my immediate struggles, challenges, and tests, and forget to look at the big picture to see how God is using them to bring me to a better place. 

Every time I recite this poem to myself, it reminds me that I need a level of balance in my life. Do you have any favorite poems that you find speak to you in a special way? If so, I’d love to hear what ones and why. Leave a comment, and maybe I will discover the next addition to my favorite poem list.

The Stars

Have you ever really looked at the stars? Sometimes they are miles away up in the sky, far beyond reach. On other nights they are close, so close that if you reach your arm out and stretch, they are just beyond your grasp–taunting you just outside your reach. But sometimes, once in a very great while, they come down close enough that anyone could grab one.

Most people however, are too busy to waste time watching the stars–and so they never know that they are within reach. Men and women wander to and fro, thinking they are attending important matters, totally oblivious to the rare chance presenting itself to them.

And so they miss it.

But somewhere, someone–usually a young child or old person far past the prime of life–is looking. And when they see a star within reach they reach out, and grasp hold of it, and never let go.

One day, the stars will be within reach; the only question is, will we grab one, or will we be too busy to notice? 

Rumble Strips and Greatness

The greatest man is he who chooses the right with the most invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptation from within and without; who bears the heavest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance on truth, on virtue, and on God is most unfaltering.

–Seneca the Younger

Sometimes we go through rough patches. This last week has been an especially rough ride for me. Perhaps I’ve been going over rumble strips in the road–maybe God is warning me that I need to slow down, stop, look both ways and perhaps turn. I don’t know. What I do know is that I have not borne all of my burdens cheerfully, nor have I always been calm in the storm, and my reliance on God has needed a little propping up now and again. 

Today I awoke to hear a beautiful choral rendition of The Prayer of the Children. I had to listen to it again–it was God speaking to me. I have been worried that the engine block or head might be cracked on my truck, but there are children who are having their heads blown off. I have been frustrated at having to disassemble my engine and hopefully reassemble it while keeping up with an already demanding schedule of both working full time and being a full time student, but I haven’t been thankful enough that my four hours of sleep a night are spent on a mattress in a warm house. Instead of being thankful that my mattress is soft, I’ve thought about the fact that I pulled it out of the trash. Instead of being thankful that my house is warm, I’ve asked my roommates to turn down the heat to help lower our gas bill. And while I have been extremely grateful for the many friends that have given of their time to help me this past week, what have I done this week to pass the blessing on?

Sometimes we all need to slow down, stop, and look both ways.

Sometimes we all need to forget about our problems by investing in someone else’s. 

I don’t know whether or not I will be able to fix my truck. I don’t know whether I will be able to go back home for Christmas. I don’t know what plans God may have for me in this situation. I don’t know. But I do know that I am ready to listen. I am ready to slow down, to stop, to look both ways, and to listen. I think that’s the first step.