Filling in the Blanks

For as long as I can remember, since I was a kid, I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities that a blank sheet of paper represents.

I used color pencils to draw autumn scenes (in my own non-artistic way) with trees aflame with red, orange and yellow leaves ringing fields of corn and hay bales. Somewhere in yard in front of the two-story frame house was a picket fence and along the border of the property stood a split rail fence.

Later, after I was afflicted with golf, I designed golf holes, paying special attention to strategy, the intended line of play and the hazards that intruded on it and added a few risk-and-reward shot opportunities.

Today, I stack used sheets face down and have a ready arsenal of blank sheets when I need them to compose “to do” lists, reconcile bank statements or just to doodle.

Every day of our lives is essentially a blank sheet. Instead of measuring 8 ½ by 11 inches, each blank sheet lasts 24 hours. There is of course work to do, appointments to keep, showers to take, TV to watch, meals to eat and so on, but a substantial amount of “unencumbered” time is left over, time that we’re free to fill up – or not.

How we fill that void and what we fill it with has a great deal to do with how we’ll be remembered when we fill the last sheet of the tablet of our lives.

Life is so much about attitude. It’s incredible how much of a difference it makes. For example: I have to go to work, or I get to go to work. Too many “have to’s” and too few “get to’s” and we’ll find ourselves imprisoned us in a melancholy of our own making.

There are always some things we can’t control. But one thing we maintain complete control over is how we deal with them when they come.

No one can steal our joy, but we can – and too often do – surrender it.

The poems of Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) reinforce the importance of “staying in the moment” to have any chance of finding peace and contentment in this life. Annie didn’t know much of either in her life. Her mother died when she was 3, her childhood was difficult, she was crippled with arthritis at an early age and lived in or near poverty most of her life.

That didn’t prevent her from writing some of most inspiring of Christian poems. “One Day at a Time” is one of my favorites. It reminds us that our lives are not one big blank easel that we are charged with filling. Instead, they are a tablet full of blank pages that we fill … one day at a time.

One day at a time, with its failures and fears,
With its hurts and mistakes, with its weakness and tears,
With its portion of pain and its burden of care;
One day at a time we must meet and must bear.

One day at a time to be patient and strong,
To be calm under trial and sweet under wrong;
Then its toiling shall pass and its sorrow shall cease;
It shall darken and die, and the night shall bring peace.

One day at a time – but the day is so long,
And the heart is not brave, and the soul is not strong,
O Thou pitiful Christ, be Thou near all the way;
Give courage and patience and strength for the day.

Swift cometh His answer, so clear and so sweet;
“Yea, I will be with thee, thy troubles to meet;
I will not forget thee, nor fail thee, nor grieve;
I will not forsake thee; I never will leave.”

Not yesterday’s load we are called on to bear,
Nor the morrow’s uncertain and shadowy care;
Why should we look forward or back with dismay?
Our needs, as our mercies, are but for the day.

One day at a time, and the day is His day;
He hath numbered its hours, though they haste or delay.
His grace is sufficient; we walk not alone;
As the day, so the strength that He giveth His own.

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