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Don’t Save the Best for Last

by Mark Gregston

Luke 12:34 says this, for where your treasure is there your heart will be also. And probably my practical application of that would be this, put your treasure where your heart is. During the last few years of my mom’s life, she’s been gone almost eight years, she struggled with poly cystic kidney disease. It’s the same disease that I have. Same one that my grandfather had, same one that my aunt had and the same one that my daughter has. So, it’s a genetic thing that we pass around a little bit. So that’s why I eat the way I do and I don’t take any meds that would harm my kidneys in any way. 

One of the things that my doctor said is to have a glass of wine every night. I never liked wine. And then I was diagnosed, and I started drinking wine. So, I just want to tell you that at the beginning, kind of a spoiler alert: I’m going to tell you a wine story here. It is about a buddy of mine that has really changed my life. She always used to say, time goes fast and it even goes faster the older that you get. Now that I’m in my sixties I can now comprehend what she was trying to tell me. I mean, it seems like I’m filling my 30-day prescriptions every day. 60 seconds seems like 30. It feels like Christmas is every other month. And it feels like I’m getting my six-month cleaning of my teeth done every other week. Life is speeding up and before you know it, that old body of yours will begin to weather and age will remind you of your limitations. 

You may be wondering this, where did all the time go? The relentless marching on of the aging process will come at you like medical issues and gray hair and wrinkles and failing eyesight and droopy skin and loss of hearing. Somehow, we find ourselves embracing the frailty of life. And the promise of it one day ending can change who you are. How you’re perceived and the impact that you’ll have on others. Everything that you own will one day be given away all your accumulations, your money, your collections. Men, you hear that all your collections will be given away: your clothes, your memorabilia, all of it will be given away to families and friends. 

 After my mom died, we moved my dad into a retirement village because he’s just said, Hey, this house is getting kind of quiet. We could all tell that the silence was taking a toll on him and would eventually drive him crazy. 

As we moved him into a new place, we moved out all the belongings he and my mom had acquired through their 62 years of marriage. My dad stated that all he needed to move to his new place was a couple of pieces of furniture, his clothes, his computer, and a pot to fix food in. Perhaps the loss of a spouse makes you realize how frivolous things are. 

He was reeling from his own grief and the prospect of now living life on his own in a new place with strangers around him was getting to him a little bit. In one sense, who cared about all the doilies and knickknacks that my mom had collected for years? My brother Bruce and sister Lisa and I talked about what we wanted from each of my parents. Surprisingly, we didn’t want much and still the thought of giving it all away or selling it to others felt tough to process. I mean, I’ve grown up watching my parents collect things and have things and seeing that nobody wanted it was somewhat hard. And so, I too grieved the loss of my mom and the change that was happening within our family, now that she was gone. Because of that, I rented a trailer, and I brought a ton of stuff home back to Texas. A few months later, we had a garage sale and gave away much of my mom’s history to people. She never knew families. She never met strangers from other countries even if she had never visited them. Then it hit me. The collection of all the stuff in our lives is just that, it’s stuff. 

So, I asked my kids what they wanted of mine when I died, and my daughter couldn’t think of anything. My son told me he wanted my guns and a few pair of boots. And I remember saying, is that all you want? And he answered. Yep. That’s about it. In 1974, I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had just completed a year of going to the university of Arkansas and had transferred to Oklahoma State University. Then I moved back to Tulsa University in 1974 after I had just lost all my belongings in a tornado that came through Tulsa. There was something about that which taught me about the value of things and my son’s comments about what he wanted from my belongings showed me what holds true value. 

It isn’t all the stuff that I’ve been collecting all my life, any more than what my mom gathered during hers and the most valuable things in life. It isn’t things at all. It is the relationships. People form, during their time on earth, the pursuit of this stuff, things I mean, is frivolous compared to the pursuit of relationships. 

The pursuit of relationships is fundamental to God’s plan for us all. And I believe God desires us to invest our time and our resources and our efforts in relationships. So, here’s my first piece of advice. Give it away. Give your time, your resources, and your efforts to those around you. In particular, give it to your kids and grandkids while they have the time to appreciate it and you have your health to enjoy giving it. Now, I’m one of those guys that believes in taking care of yourself financially. As I said, I went to the University of Tulsa where I got my degree in finance. I embrace the statement that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, said a couple of centuries ago: earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can

I’m a firm believer in financial security, especially as you enter retirement. But I’m one that’s probably more about sharing things and there is nothing more rewarding or more impactful than sharing with your family. And so, for all you grandparents that are out there, if you’re listening to this Proverbs 13:22 says that, a good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children. I’m convinced of this, but I’m also convinced this verse isn’t just talking about leaving money. I believe it’s also about leaving a legacy, an heirloom, a tradition, a heritage. Something that lasts in the souls of your grandkids.  

You know, if you picked up by now, your kids’ teen years and your grandkids teen years are the time when you can have the greatest influence when they need it the most. You can leave a valuable inheritance while you’re still alive in the form of memorable events that are magnificent and meaningful. So, I encourage you to look for opportunities to experience life together with your kids and your grandkids. Especially during those teen years find experiences that will give you memories to share photos to post opportunities. Life on life involvement. Take time to laugh together and make chances to build deeper relationships through. 

It’s been said that the moods of a lifetime are often found in the all but forgotten experiences of adolescents. I know this to be true after listening to thousands of teens share about their unforgettable experiences that shaped their lives and determine their destinies. But many times, I’ve wondered what it would have been like to have a heart full of memories and experiences with my parents and my grandparents. I’ve speculated at what I could have done earlier in my life. If someone had given me $5,000 when I get married and how that would have helped me in so many different ways. I’ve pondered what it would have been like to have grandparents to give me something that was dear to them. Something passed on that meant something to them. 

I wonder what messages I would have gotten if a grandparent had given me advice or taken the time to help in some fashion or show me example of what it was like to value relationships and to know how to give. You know, today, my four grandkids challenge me to think about whether I’m doing those very things. The times I wondered what I would have received have now been transformed into thinking about whether I’m giving and changing the world of those around me, with my time and resources and efforts. It’s how a parent has influence. It’s how you change the life of those people that you come in contact with. 

So, here’s my second piece of advice that I would tell you. Don’t wait, don’t save the best for last. You might just miss it. You know, I wish I could do something to dedicate a story to a dear friend of mine named David Meuth. I met David when he brought his daughter to come live with us and we immediately hit it off. 

He was an anesthesiologist. He lived in Tampa, Florida with his beautiful wife. He was just one of those guys that you love being around and everybody would have to lie through their teeth to come up with anything negative about him. We hit it off. The moment we met his, his winsome personality was just a joy to be around and his love for his family was so attractive. 

His common sense was welcome. Wisdom, wrapped in his warm sense of humor. We laughed and we laughed a lot together. David knew that I loved wine and that I started drinking wine when I found out that I had a kidney disease. So, we shared bottles of specialty wines throughout the years. We figured out the deep, hidden issues of life and God and the souls of men over glasses of fine wine. We had the kind of deep discussions I don’t have with many. 

His life was the busy hospital life of an anesthesiologist and mine was the founder of Heartlight a place for struggling teens. He called me one afternoon and told me he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. As he described it, this was the Parkinson’s that wasn’t the shaky kind, but over time would deteriorate the organs in his body. He shared that most people with his diagnosis didn’t live more than five or six years. He was going to have to retire at age 52 and he planned to move to this little Island called Anna Maria Island right outside of Tampa. There he would face the challenges of his remaining years with Parkinson’s. I kept up with him over the phone and received updates on his condition over the years. 

I decided that I needed to spend more and more time with him. And so, in my travels and doing seminars and conferences around the country, I’d always make sure that I would stop by and reroute myself to go through Tampa. Rent a car, go see him and Anna Marie Island, and spend a couple of days watching movies, talking, catching up, crying together, and laughing together. 

 I committed to doing that every couple of months and I’d try to travel to see them on the tail end of these speaking engagements or make a stopover on the way home. When the first time I got there to see him with Amy, I took him this beautiful $300 box of Opus wine to be used for a special occasion. 

So, he tucked it away in his wine stash and at that point in his Parkinson’s journey, we always pulled out bottles, not designated for special occasions and enjoyed them over deep discussions. We also watched movies and continued to laugh and laugh more until our bellies hurt.  

It was amazing to watch how Parkinson’s took more and more of a toll on my dear friend and on one of the trips to see him, he said, Hey, let’s take out one of those bottles I’ve been saving for a special occasion and have that tonight. And he let me know that he had a 1960 port. It was a bottle that was 55 years old and was his Cadillac of wines. He spent most of his adult life wanting to drink it. I felt privileged to be the recipient of this special occasion. His hands had gotten to a point where he couldn’t move them very much at all he couldn’t even open the bottle. And he said, Mark, why don’t you do the honors? And so, as I opened the bottle, and I began to pour out the wine.  

We were both quick to notice that the wine had gone bad. It had basically turned to mush. The look of disappointment on his face is one that I’ll never forget. All the hope he held onto for so many years of enjoying that special bottle of wine was now dashed. Then he said, Hey, I’ve got a 1968 Bordeaux, French I’ve been saving. I opened it up and much to our surprise again it had gone bad. After opening a few more of these “special occasion” bottles of wine that had also gone bad, David began to realize that what he’d been saving for was all in vain. I asked David if we could just open up the bottle that I brought him months ago, the Opus that I gave him for a special occasion. 

He relented and we both enjoyed. And that night as I lay awake at their home, which was quickly becoming my bedroom, I kept thinking over and over what lesson there was to be learned from what just happened. And this is what I concluded: Don’t save for that special occasion because the special occasion is today. 

You know the fact that we were both together that day was occasion enough to enjoy the very best. And so, I committed to do this: anytime someone comes to my home and we share wine I’m going to pull out the very best and most expensive bottle of wine that I have and serve that. I’m not going to wait for any special occasion because that special occasion is now, this very moment. 

Catch what I’m saying. Don’t wait, your kids and your grandkids need you right now. Time passes too quickly to not take advantage of the present that is today. Don’t wait until you’re no longer busy. That will never happen. Don’t wait until that special occasion. It is happening around you every day. Don’t wait until you can afford it because you can’t afford not to. 

Don’t wait until you can find the time because it passes way too quickly. And don’t miss the opportunity to be involved in your kids and your grandkids teen years, because it will be gone too soon. You know what? You will never be appreciated more or have a greater impact at any other time than this special occasion. That is before you today. So, give it away. Don’t wait. And put your treasure where your heart is.  

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.