The Measure of a Life

Image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4 NIV

Every spring they amaze me—these plants that come up in our garden on their own. They sprout from seeds left over from last year’s discarded tomatoes, squash or pumpkin, or a missed spud. One spring a nice, straight row of onions pushed through the yet untilled ground. The garden isn’t the only place surprise plants appear. They nudge their way through the hardened soil of my flower pots, too.

These self-sprouting plants are called “volunteers,” and gardeners know they can be hardier and produce better crops than plants intentionally seeded and cultivated.

I’d always thought of volunteers as people who donate their time to a cause they believe in, folks who step to the plate and fill a need and don’t ask for anything in return.

I thought of volunteers one Sunday on the way to church. Every week I’d bemoan the litter alongside the road, and grumble about the thoughtless people who tossed their garbage out the window. I was often tempted to take a day and pick up the trash myself. But I never did. 

Then one Sunday bags filled with litter lined the road, thanks to the volunteers who adopted this section of highway to keep it clean. I felt ashamed. Why don’t I join a group? I chided myself. Or grab a trash bag and a pair of disposable gloves, pick a section of road, and just go do it? 

It reminded me of the time my former pastor happened upon a man cleaning up a local walking trail on his own. When my pastor commended him for his unselfish spirit, the man said, “Thanks, but I sure could use some help!” So my pastor organized a group from our church and set up a couple of work days to maintain the trail. 

Volunteers. I think of the folks who donate their time to hospitals, personal care homes, local historical societies and libraries . . . (I’m sure you can think of many more.) 

I think of the local fire companies and the men and women who volunteer their time and energy to keep them running. They not only drop what they’re doing at any time of the day or night to fight a fire or respond to an accident, but they also must maintain and update equipment and raise funds. I am in awe of the dedication and commitment of these courageous men and women. 

Volunteers spend their time and talents to make a difference in the community, to better the world around them, without expecting anything in return.

“We seem to think our reward is fame or money,” says a quotation on my bulletin board. “But the true reward is the one you feel inside when somebody touches your heart.”

It’s time for me to put aside the excuses and find some place to volunteer. I don’t have to do it all, just pick one tiny corner of the world where my efforts, even an hour a week, can make someone else’s life a little bit better. 

Like Holocaust survivor and author Corrie ten Boom once said, “The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.”

Remind me, Lord, when I serve others, I serve You. Amen.

Read and reflect on Matthew 25:34–40.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. 

Where Choices Lead


If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. –James 1:5 NLT

When I met my husband at the end of January in 1973, I fell in love with those twinkling blue eyes and everything about him. A week later I knew he was the one.

But in March fear set in. I was still feeling the effects of a broken engagement six months earlier. My shattered heart hadn’t had enough time to mend.

“This is happening too fast,” I told him one Friday evening after our date. Then I slipped out of his car and out of his life.

For the next two days, an emotional wrestling match waged war in my heart. What if I was passing up the love of a lifetime? Deep down I knew someone like him might never come along again. But this was my chance to play the field. I was young, free, and independent.

Saturday evening I stayed home. Alone. Miserable.

We had a signal in those days before cell phones. If the living room light was on and the window shade was up, I wasn’t home. If the light was on and the shade down, I was.

I kept peeking through the drawn shade, hoping he’d stop by. I kept that light on and the shade down all night long. By Sunday evening, I made a choice. I grabbed my car keys and went looking for him.

Here we are, about to celebrate our forty-fifth anniversary. I shudder when I think of how close I came to losing him and missing out on the life we’ve had together.

Every choice we make carries with it consequences, some good and some not so good.

When I read the book of Ruth a few weeks ago, it struck me that this story that so beautifully shows the sovereignty and faithfulness of God, is a story of choices. Each of the four main characters had a choice to make. What they chose determined future joy or sorrow, rejoicing or regret.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, chose to step out of God’s will and not trust God to provide for him and his family’s needs. He moved his family to Moab, only 55 miles from his hometown of Bethlehem.

The result was disaster. He died in a foreign land, his sons married Moabite women, not women of the Hebrew faith. Then the sons died, leaving Naomi and her two pagan daughters-in-law without provision and protection.

Naomi chose to return to Bethlehem. Stepping back into God’s will led to more blessings than she could ever have dreamed of.

Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law, chose to remain with Naomi rather than return home to “her people and her gods.”

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay,” Ruth told her. “Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me” (Ruth 1:16–18).

Ruth’s choice of loyalty led to the love of a lifetime.

Boaz, Elimelech’s relative, chose to honor the law of levirate marriage and take Ruth as his wife. The result was hope for all mankind. The child they had, Obed, became the grandfather of David, whose line produced the Messiah.

The end result for all but Elimelech was joy.

Every choice we make has consequences. Asking God for helpfor wisdom, guidance, and directionwill lead to the right choice, if we choose to listen to Him.

What choices are you facing today?

 Help me, Lord, to choose the right priorities, the right people, the right places, and the right Provider—You. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ruth 1–4.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.