A Thousand Marbles

James writes so poignantly and powerfully, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.“ (James 4:14)

His words come as a solemn warning that no one has a single breath to waste. Every moment we’re given is precious and how we steward those moments mean more than we realize.

I shared a story this past weekend at the close of the message that impacted so many. I want to give it to you as a reminder of how precious each moment of life truly is.

One Thousand Marbles

Early one Saturday morning, a couple of weeks ago, I was walking toward my garage with a hot cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper tucked under my arm.

I climbed the stairs into the loft of my garage where I’ve got a cozy little office set up and against one wall ham radio equipment.

I took a sip of my coffee as the radio was warming up. Yeah this is an old one, has the tubes inside that need to heat up before this thing will get going.

As it’s warming up it starts humming so I plug in my speaker instead of my headphones and begin to turn the dial on the front to see if I can get a fix on a strong station.

I’m picking up the usual static and a few weak signals but all of a sudden this strong sounding voice and signal comes up. This guy has a great voice. The kind you would expect to be working in radio.

You could tell he was an older guy.

So he’s talking to someone and sharing his story of a thousand marbles. It caught my attention so I sat back, sipped on my coffee, and listened.

“Tom, it sure sounds like you’re a busy guy. You’re working 60 to 70 hours a week just to support your family. It’s really too bad that young people have to work that many hours just to get by.”

The older man continued, “I’m also very sorry to hear that you missed your daughter’s recital. But let me share a story that years ago helped me set some new priorities in my life.”

And so, this older man begins to explain his theory of a thousand marbles.

“You see, Tom. One day, many years ago, I sat down and did a little math.”

“The average person lives to be 75, give or take a few years.”

“So then I multiplied 75 by 52. 52 is the number of Saturdays you get in one year. The total came to 3900. Three thousand nine hundred Saturdays in an average lifetime; give or take.”

“Now hang in there with me, Tom! I’m getting to the point here.”

“I didn’t really get my head around this idea until I was 55 years old and by that time, Tom, I had lived through more than 2800 Saturdays.”

“Now, Tom, I’m guessing you’re not even close to 55 so you have a bunch more Saturdays to look forward to!”

“So getting back to my story. I figured out that if I lived to be 75 that meant that I have 20 years of Saturdays left to go or about 1000 more to enjoy.”

“This opened my eyes, Tom. I wanted to do something that would force me to focus and pay attention.”

“That afternoon, I went to a toy store in my area and bought all the marbles they had. I actually had to visit three toy stores until I had enough.”

“I brought all the marbles home and took them down into my basement where I had a room I could just sit down and relax. A place to be alone when I wanted some space.”

“I had a few large glass jars, like the ones you get when you buy pickles. I took one of those jars, sat down, and began counting marbles and putting them into this jar.”

“About 20 minutes later I had counted out 1000 marbles. I put the lid on the jar and sat back and just stared at the thing.”

“That’s all the Saturdays I got left.”

“Every Saturday since then, I’ve taken out one marble and thrown it away.”

“It became very apparent that time was running out and it was very important for me to prioritize my time. No one has forever, Tom.”

“Now before I go and take my lovely wife out for dinner I just wanted to add that this morning, I took the last marble out of that jar.”

“If I get to see next Saturday, well then, I’ll have been blessed with a little extra time.”

“We all could use a little more time, son. Think about it.”

“This is 75 year old Jack Parker signing off at K9GDI wishing you all a good morning.”

Nothing but silence as I sat there. You could have heard a pin drop.

I was going to go up on the garage roof this morning and work on my antenna but I decided to do something different.

So I went back into the house and walked upstairs and gave my wife a good morning kiss and said, “Get up sweetheart. Let’s grab the kids and go out for breakfast.”

She smiled at me and asked, “What’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing really. It’s been a while since we’ve spent a Saturday together.”

“And oh yeah, we need to stop by the toy store too. I need to get some marbles.”

We all have different levels of marbles in our proverbial jar. If you’re like me, you know you’ve taken out more than are left. Some of us have been blessed with more years than the average. On Sunday, an eighty year old told me, “Pastor, according to that story, I don’t have any marbles left.” Not true. God has blessed you with more. Treat each one as the gift that it is.  

None of us have a breath to waste. Invest them well!

Immeasurably More,


PS – Join us this Sunday for the conclusion of our series on the book of James.