From Bill Gray:

In 2005, I wrote and posted the article below on the Sheffield High School Class of 1955 50th Reunion web site.  And, in 2010, I posted it on our Bill & Dory Gray Christian Ministries Blog site.   Coming upon it today, it seems appropriate to share with all my Friends – for we all are in a season of our lives.

For some of my youthful Friends, it is still Spring.  For others, maybe Summer is in full bloom.  Or you may find yourself enjoying a relaxing Fall with the cool breezes, awesome colors of nature all around, maybe frequent strolls on the beach hand in hand with your life-mate.

But, Winter is coming and we all must be sure we are prepared for this rewarding season of our lives.  With those thoughts, please allow me to share these thoughts with you.

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THE SEASONS OF OUR LIVES

When we think of the seasons:
Spring – Summer – Autumn – Winter
We can relate these to seasons of our lives.


However, I probably have a somewhat different perspective on that association than many people.  My wife, Dory, often asks me, 
“When are you going to grow up?”  And, I always reply, “God willing – never.”

Spring is when the young buds begin to sprout, tender and fragile.  But, nurtured and loved, those young buds soon burst into a beautiful, colorful life of joy.  That was us, the Class of 55, in the early 1950s at Sheffield High School – young, full of life, bursting out in youthful enthusiasm, ready to take on life with all our being.

Yes, I see Spring as a time when the new warmth puts life into our spirits and a spring into our steps.  Spring fever is not a myth; it is that time of year when we want to feel, to experience, to enjoy, to burst forth.

I recall a Spring day in 1953, sitting beneath that large old Oak tree on the lawn at Sheffield High School, feeling the sun warming my soul.  My friend, Roy Green, joined me under the tree and was also afflicted by Spring fever.  One of us suggested that a swim in the Tennessee River was a much better way to spend such a beautiful day, than sitting in stuffy classrooms.  So, off we go in Roy’s car, park on Montgomery Avenue, then with inner tube in hand, we walked down to Whippoorwill Hollowon the Sheffield side of the Tennessee River.  What a glorious day for a swim.
 
Being in high spirits, the decision to swim the river was a natural.  On the first leg of the swim, from the Sheffield side to the Florence side, I paddled the inner tube while Roy swam.  Then, on the return trip, I swam as Roy paddled in the inner tube.

Everything was fine until I was about thirty yards from the small cove where we had to go ashore at Whippoorwill Hollow.  All of a sudden, no matter how hard I swam, I could not move.  The river currents were too strong.  Looking up, I saw that tiny cove, that narrow beach, and everything beyond that was just sheer cliff.   If I could not swim into that small cove, I would be swept downstream where I would not be able to get out of the river.  I can only say that it must have been God who brought me ashore; for it was not my strength nor my swimming abilities.  Even then, God was there for me, although I did not know Him at that time.

Yet, Roy and I were in the Spring of life.  Small problems such as that possibility of drowning easily pass and are forgotten.   The next day, we were back at Sheffield High without a thought of what could have happened. That is one of the symptoms of youth; the inability to learn from experience.

The Summer of our lives.  We were all building careers, building families, running the race – not always sure where it was taking us.  We were in full bloom.  Watch out world, here we come!

I don’t know if, in the 1960s, you saw Anthony Newley’s Broadway play “Stop The World, I Want To Get Off.”  But, I was fortunate enough to see the original when it was a new hit on Broadway.  And I will never forget it.  Newley’s character in this play was initially a young street lad in London, out to woo, win, and seduce all the girls.  He meets a young lady named Evie, the daughter of a leader of industry.  Seeing his golden opportunity, he marries Evie and goes to work for his father-in-law’s company.

The play was sort of a comedy; yet it really made you think about life.  It was a comedy, yet it gave a better perspective on life than most dramas ever could.  Newley’s character, throughout the play was dressed in a mime costume; but this did not detract from the message.  Periodically, as life’s pressures would build too high, Newley would walk to the edge of the stage, look at the audience, and announce in a high pitched voice, “Stop the world. I want to get off!”  Haven’t we all felt that way many times?

Now, it was time for Dad to retire and Son-in-Law to take over the family business.  Newley’s character was exceedingly successful in growing the company into an international giant.  In the meantime, Evie kept having babies – until at one time, he tells her, “If only all of our plants were as productive as you!”

Newley’s character becomes a world leader in industry; rubbing shoulders with world leaders, presidents, prime ministers, the top of the world.  And, as he traveled around the world, he continued to meet and woo women in every country.  In the play, each female conquest in the various countries was always played by the same girl who played his wife, Evie – which lent an ironic twist to his affairs.  He was looking all over the world for love; yet, each time he found it, it looked just like Evie.   Life is often that way.

Then, came the Autumn of their lives.  He and Evie retire to a rich resort island, lived the life of luxury.  Then Evie dies.  That is when he walked out to center stage, and with a pathetic, defeated look.  In spite of the vast material wealth he had gained, you knew his life was empty.  That is when he sang the beautiful song “What Kind Of Fool Am I?” 

WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I?
Words & Music by Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newly

What kind of fool am I, who never fell in love?
It seems that I’m the only one that I have been thinking of.
What kind of man is this? An empty shell,
A lonely cell in which an empty heart must dwell.

What kind of lips are these, that lied with ev’ry kiss,
That whispered empty words of love, and left me alone like this?
Why can’t I fall in love, like any other man,
And maybe then I’ll know what kind of fool I am.

What kind of clown am I? What do I know of life?
Why can’t I cast away this mask of play and live my life?
Why can’t I fall in love, like any other man,
And maybe then I’ll know what kind of fool I am.


Although it was in the 1960s when I saw this play during its Broadway debut, and later saw it in Hollywood with Joel Grey playing the lead – I have never forgotten the impact this play, and especially this song, had on me.

I knew that the good life I was living in California and in my travels – the exciting career, the night life, and the parties – were just like Newley’s character in “Stop The World.”  Playing the clown and never finding true value in life.

However, God stepped in.  Actually, He had a beautiful Filipina lady named Dory step in, under His guidance.  And my life has never been the same since.  Praise the Lord!

Now, we are all in the Autumn of life – and to me, this is an exciting time.  Gone is the youthful, mindless Spring of life; gone is the hot, often disastrous Summer of life.  And now, we can walk in the cool shade of the Autumn of our lives.  We can actually take the time to stop, to see, and to smell the roses; we can stare in awe at God’s gorgeous display of colors as we watch the flowers bloom, the trees become many colors.  Life is in full display all around us.

And, because it is Autumn, it is cool and pleasant to walk among and enjoy all of His wonders.  We are in the best season of our lives.  And I pray that you are enjoying your Autumn.  For that is His plan, laid out from time eternal, that you will have an exciting, exhilarating, wonderful Autumn of life.

Winter will come.  But I know that you have given thought to that and have realized that Winter need not be an ending.  It can be the beginning of a new, eternal season with Him. Winter is not a season to fear – if you have stored up your treasures with Him.  Have you done this?

If not, don’t you think it is time to really consider your relationship with Jesus Christ?  For He is your promise of an eternal season.   Don’t allow your Autumn to turn to Winter, without being sure of your relationship with Him.

It is never too late – unless you allow Winter to take you before you truly know Jesus.   If you are not absolutely sure that you have that saving relationship with Him, that you have His assurance of your salvation – then, I urge you, no, I beg you – take the time to seek and find Him now, today.

 

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