Getting a handle on priorities

Chuck Tabor - Contributing columnist

Ever feel like you’re in a rat race and the rats are winning? And by more than a nose?

Or that you are like the old plate-spinner at the circus — just about the time you think you’ve got them all balanced, one falls off?

Do you ever struggle with keeping your life in focus and balanced, putting the major emphasis where it needs to be?

Or are you like I am, constantly struggling with keeping a proper perspective on life and putting high priority on the things that matter the most?

Last summer, 53-year-old Jeff Murphy was hiking in Yellowstone National Park when he disappeared. Park investigators found his body on June 9, where Murphy had fallen 500 feet from Turkey Pen Peak, after accidentally stepping into a chute.

But Murphy was not on just any hike. He was searching for a treasure box filled with gold and jewels worth up to $2 million, buried somewhere in the Rocky Mountains by an eccentric millionaire named Forrest Fenn.

Fenn, an art dealer and millionaire in his 80s, lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In his self-published memoir, Fenn included a poem that supposedly leads to the treasure he hid in the mountains.

“The ornate, Romanesque box is 10-by-10 inches and weighs about 40 pounds when loaded,” NPR’s John Burnett reported in 2016. “Fenn has only revealed that it is hidden in the Rocky Mountains, somewhere between Santa Fe and the Canadian border at an elevation above 5,000 feet. It’s not in a mine, a graveyard, or near a structure.”

The lure of that treasure – I don’t guess you could call it “buried treasure” – is powerful, and for many has become an all-encompassing pursuit and priority of life.

Since 2010, over 350,000 people, according to Fenn’s estimate, have gone hunting for this treasure. Murphy is the fourth man to die while searching for the chest.

Another example of priorities gone awry was published in Good Sports. Bob Thomas, the former Chicago Bears professional football player, tells about his senior year at Notre Dame: “A few weeks after we won the national championship, I went home for the weekend. I don’t remember how the subject came up, but I’ll never forget the looks my parents exchanged when I asked, `How’s Grandma doing?’

“There was an awkward pause. ‘What is it?’ I asked. Neither of my parents wanted to say anything. Finally, Dad responded softly, ‘Your grandma died.’

“‘When?’…..’Early November.’….’Nearly two months ago? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Dad looked at Mom. They were both obviously distressed by my reaction.

“It was during the season,” Dad said, “when you were really struggling with your kicking. You’d had a couple of rough games. We didn’t want to upset you with anything else. There was really nothing you could do here.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!’ As saddened as I was over this unexpected news, I was even more angry at my parents for their decision to keep it from me. How could they do that?”

“While sports always played a big role in our family, I never felt it was THE central focus around which life revolved. Both my parents would have said that faith, education, and family were all higher priorities.

“Looking back as a parent myself, I can understand and forgive. I still think my parents were wrong not to tell me. (They too feel it was a mistake.) But what seemed so unfathomable to me as a college senior, I now see as a powerful reminder of just how hard it is to keep sports in proper balance in our lives —- even when our lives are well-grounded on the firm foundation of good solid values.

“The Bible has much to say about proper priorities and balanced living, but when it comes to sports, many of us lose our equilibrium.”

You know, Bob Thomas was right! It really is easy to lose our balance, isn’t it?

Whether it is local high school athletics, our favorite college or professional teams, Monday Night Football, or some other sport (or even a hobby or other activity, like searching for a treasure chest!), it is very easy to allow that activity to become a central focus of our lives, to the exclusion of all others.

It is all too easy to put that football game, that hobby, that lodge or other club meeting, or even that all-to-elusive treasure hunt on a pedestal that dominates the sculpture halls of our lives, and causes us to make decisions that place urgency above importance, greed above discipline, success and accomplishment above relationships.

From his parents’ mistakes, Bob Thomas learned a valuable lesson, one that Jeff Murphy did not discover until it was too late, that the Scriptures are true when they say, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) We’re all searching for the treasure of true life and joy and love.

But there is a question that plagues us, isn’t there?

How does one go about “seeking first” God’s kingdom and His righteousness?

That is a process that begins by dedicating ourselves to spending time with God each and every day of our lives. That means we read and study the Bible, God’s eternal love letter to each one of us.

We glean its wisdom for today. Then we seek to obey what we discover in the Bible for that day! The second thing we must do is pray. Prayer is simply conversation with God. We talk with him, and read the Bible to see how he wants to answer us.

The ongoing process of daily prayer and Bible study will grow us into people who truly seek Him first.

Billy Graham once declared that you can tell what a person’s priorities in life are by checking two things: his calendar and his checkbook.

So where are YOUR priorities today?

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.

Chuck Tabor

Contributing columnist