Limited Lifetime Guarantee

Timex made my first wristwatch. On TV, John Cameron Swayze assured the audience, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” According to the ads, the watches survived water skiing, skydiving, earthquakes, volcanos, nuclear meltdowns, and supernovas.

The watches also came with a “limited lifetime warranty.” The “limited” modifier always puzzled me. No doubt this was the legal department’s aim.

If the lifetime in question was MINE, then I could expect my Timex to last all my mortal life. Its reassuring “tick, tick, tick” would be the last sound I heard on earth. However, this meant that the Timex Corporation had calculated my life expectancy!

Maybe the guarantee referred to the product’s lifetime; but how long is a watch supposed to last? How many human years equals a wristwatch year? Perhaps when a Timex dies after ten years, mourners say, “Well, it lived a long and full life.”

Regardless, I never put the Timex’ guarantee to its lifetime test. No warranty covers a boy’s carelessness. Somewhere between home, school, and church, the watch lost itself. It may be ticking away in some hidden spot.

Other than death and taxes, life comes with few guarantees. Life does not even promise us tomorrow. Each day is a precious gift of time.

On any given day, we receive 86,400 seconds to be spent in service to God and others. The Lord calls us to be wise stewards of evert moment. Like a misplaced watch, wasted time can never be regained. Therefore, let us echo the Psalmist’s prayer to God, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

This is the day the Lord has made. Don’t waste time: rejoice and be glad in it! You’ll be glad that you did—I guarantee it.

The Last Day of School

During childhood, I loved the last days of school. The final week celebrated the best elements of education without the needless distractions of books, lessons, or tests! Students spent the hours helping teachers prepare classrooms for summer break.

The boys carried armloads of textbooks to the storage closet. We embraced the manual labor as a badge of honor. After delivering the dusty tomes, we roamed the halls before reluctantly returning to class.

The girls washed the chalkboards and stripped the bulletin boards. All of us joined in dumping the year’s debris from our desks. Then we scrubbed the desktops until they gleamed.

Teachers sent the most trustworthy children outside unsupervised to clean the chalk erasers. We banged the felt pads against the building and scrubbed them on a wire box. Clouds of white powder filled the air. No doubt a future Surgeon General will determine that chalk dust caused many of my generation’s ills!

The cafeteria closed early for its annual degreasing, so the school provided grab-bag lunches with mysterious contents. In the days before peanut allergies, they often served peanut butter and honey blended sandwiches—a terrible defilement of the traditional peanut butter and jelly classic.

 When the last bell of the last class of the last day sounded, we erupted from the classrooms like escaping POWs. Whoops of joy resounded down the hallways—some from students and the rest from teachers! Bursting through the exits, we exalted in our newfound freedom.

An endless summer stretched before us, enchanted with magical promise. Who knew what new adventures awaited us? Anything and everything were possible. Life stretched before us filled with limitless potential.

Sometimes I imagine that the final day of my life will feel like the last day of school.

35th Anniversary

On May 17, 1986, Tracy and I said “I do.” Next week we will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary.

I vividly recall our first date. When Tracy answered the door, her beauty left me breathless. I thought, “Why are YOU going out with ME?” Thankfully, I possessed enough sense never to ask!

May 17, 1986

The first date led to a second and a third as days turned into weeks and months. The following Christmas I popped THE Question. She amazed me by saying, “Yes.”

Our wedding day remains a blur in my memory. However, I remember the weight of the sacred vows: “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.” Other than the death-parting thing, we’ve done them all.

We quickly discovered that a wedding is a day, but a marriage is a lifetime. The statement sounds like a cliché; however, clichés are born from simple truths. Couples that endure fulfill their vows faithfully one day at a time.

Tracy has seen me at my best and worst, and she has loved me still. I always felt accepted for who I was but challenged to become who I could be. Her gracious love transformed me into a better husband, son, father, pastor, and child of God.

Most love letters remain private, and rightfully so. On the occasion of our 35th Anniversary, however, I wanted to publicly share how God has richly blessed me through my wife, Tracy Proctor Burch.  

I love you.


A Mother’s Day Prayer

This Sunday, May 9, our nation will observe Mother’s Day. The holiday began in May 1907 at Saint Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. A Methodist laywoman, Anna Jarvis, organized the service to honor her mother.

In 1912, the Methodist Episcopal Church adopted the observation on a denominational level. Two years later, President Woodrow Wilson designated the second Sunday of May as a national day to honor mothers.

Church and country created the holiday with the best of intentions. However, the annual observance is a pastoral minefield, filled with unexploded ordinance. Over the years, I often have used The Book of Worship’s poignant prayer for the day.

For our mothers, who have given us life and love,

That we may show them reverence and love,

We pray to the Lord.

For mothers who have lost a child through death,

That their faith may give them hope,

And their family and friends support and console them,

We pray to the Lord.

For women, though without children of their own,

Who like mothers have nurtured and cared for us,

We pray to the Lord.  

For mothers, who have been unable to be a source of strength,

Who have not responded to their children

And have not sustained their families,

We pray to the Lord.

Loving God, as a mother gives life and nourishment to her children,

So you watch over your Church.

Bless these women, that they may be strengthened as Christian mothers.

Let the example of their faith and love shine forth.

Grant that we, their sons and daughters,

May honor them always with a spirit of profound respect.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.