Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Making Our Days Count

TITLE: Making Our Days Count
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 13 July 2010

MAIN POINT: We do not need to scramble for emergency only during emergency moments. We can cultivate an 'Emergency-mode' attitude even during non-Emergency times.
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps 90:12)
As I was driving one morning, I can hear a fire-engine on the other side of the road. With its sirens blaring away, motorists can easily hear its emergency sound as far as 10-15 blocks away. By law, when the engine sirens are hailing, all vehicles on all sides of the road have to slow down and stop to allow safe passage for the emergency vehicle. The driver of the vehicle has the privilege to travel anywhere regardless of the directional signs on the roads. Only after the fire-engine has passed a distance, can regular vehicles continue their way. Any motorist who obstructs the public servants can be punished with a hefty fine.

A few seconds later, a second fire-engine appeared. I stopped again.

This time, I cannot help but observe how most ordinary humans bother to stop only when there is an emergency. I think about our busyness in life. I think about how we rush all day long, always doing something. I think about our discomfort whenever we are not doing anything. I think about life.


I think about the late Dr Randy Pausch, who was diagnosed with cancer back in 2006. With this knowledge, suddenly there was a major change in terms of his life priorities. He started to spend more time with his family, rather than more time lecturing to his students. Instead of remaining in Pittsburg where his University is located, he moved back to Virginia to be closer to his wife’s family. Instead of preparing more lectures around his specialty of Computer Science, he consolidated all of his dreams into one final lecture entitled, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” This last lecture of his became a YouTube sensation. His book, The Last Lecture, which was published later, also became a New York Times bestseller. Toward his last days, Randy was admitted to a hospice and not long after, he died on July 25th, 2008.

Emergencies come in many different forms. The most common is health related. It could be a friend or family who has been diagnosed with cancer or a debilitating disease. When this happens, it is normal to see family and friends rallying around this person to support and help provide as much comfort and assurance as possible. The logic is that, since this person’s days are numbered, we should all prioritize our time and resources according to ensure he gets his best share of life for the remaining days ahead.

Another kind of emergency is related to our jobs. It can be a career change or a layoff. It can also be a huge shift of responsibilities given or a lengthy overseas project that affects the family. I remember how my family comes together for a grand family meal, the day before I fly off for an overseas assignment. If tomorrow is simply another ordinary day, each individual will have his or her own programs in place. However, knowing that the father is not going to be around for weeks, even months, that alone is sufficient reason to gather together for one last meal before the long absence.

Sometimes I ask. How do we know that we are going to be alive tomorrow? How do we know that our friend or loved one is going to be around next week? Anything can happen. Anything can happen anytime. Why then do we live our lives as if we assume things are going to be normal day in and day out?

My take on relationships is that we should never wait for something to happen in order to get things done. In this sense, we should not wait for Mr CANCER to strike, before we start to arrange for the long-awaited coffee chat with our friend. We should not wait for a Ms TRAGEDY to strike, before we have lunch with a beloved brother or a sister. Neither should we depend on Mr DEATH to inflict us with guilt that makes us regret by saying:
  • “I wish I have made that phone call to Jim.”
  • “If only I have sought out her forgiveness before she died.”
  • “Turn back the clock! I have promised to bake little Madeline a cake just last week.”
  • “I wish I have not spent more time with my work, and have prioritized my relationships.”
  • “I wish I have used my time yesterday to share an email of encouragement or affirmation with Adam before he died.”

Life is mysterious. Once a heart stops beating, that life is gone forever. If the heart is about to stop beating, we tend to want to maximize the time. The trouble is, when a person’s days are numbered, there is only so much that anybody can do for him or her. If that is the case, isn’t that a reminder for all of us to start by NOT taking one another for granted? Begin by giving thanks for each other’s existence, and for one another’s relationships. Treasure our affiliations wisely, to live ‘emergency-mode’ in a non-emergency situation. By this, I mean learning to adopt an appreciative attitude, that is non-dependent on a life-changing event or circumstance. Say to our friends and loved ones:
  • “I appreciate you very much.”
  • “Thank you for being my friend, and for sticking with me.”
  • “I love you very much.”
  • “I want to affirm you for having done your best.”
  • “I want to share my blessings with you, to help you become a better person.”
  • “May I encourage you by saying that you are precious.”

We do not need emergencies in order to say any of the above. We do not need Mr CANCER, Ms TRAGEDY or Mr DEATH to open our warmth and compassion like a can opener to a sealed tin can. We do not need disasters to dictate our abilities to use our time to appreciate others. All we need is a heart that is aware that life is short, and we ought to live it as fruitfully as possible.


Last Sunday, I preached a rather somber sermon. It is about “Making Our Days Count,” where I shared about our need to learn to live our lives as if we are counting down our days on this earth. In it, I suggested three ways in which we can make our days count. I called it the ABC way.

A = Account for what we have (steward our resources wisely)
Remember that God has given what we need right now. If we spend time just learning to account for what we have, we will hardly have time to worry about what we do NOT have.

B = Bless Others Using What we have (share our blessings generously)
The secret of life is learning to share what we have. This is something that motivates me as I write my SabbathWalk commentaries each week. I am not wealthy, but I love to share my learning and experience with you. In the process, it is my prayer that my writings can bless you all each week. This I do so freely.

C = Count Our Blessings (simplicity of heart)
It does not take a lot from us just to bless another person. Simple faith is often more profound. A simple act of kindness can trigger a lot of good around us. There is a story of Dr William Stidler, who decides one day to write a note of encouragement to people who have made a difference in his life. One of them is his school teacher, who first introduced him to love literature. The reply came back:

“My dear Willie: I am an old lady in my eighties. I am ill and I cannot leave my room. Your letter came like a ray of bright sun, illuminating my dark day and my even darker life. You will be interested to know that, after fifty years of teaching, yours was the first letter of thanks I ever received from a former student. You lifted the clouds for me.”

We never know how an innocent little note of thanks can lift any clouds of gloom from another. Why not begin today by encouraging someone who have been a part of your life? Perhaps, as we live our lives by numbering them well, we can influence others to do the same. The best way to incorporate good living is with good faith in Christ. There is no better way to live than to declare that it is no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me.
"To live in such a way that wins others to Christ, that expresses Christ's love and my love to others - and to do my best to live in a state of forgiveness and strong faith - is excellent preparation for the grief that may come in my life. To live this way is not only the best way to face and to prepare for the inevitability of grief; it is the best way to live!" (Zig Ziglar, Confessions of a Grieving Christian, Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2004, p244)

Thought: Do we want to press the emergency stop button ourselves, or do we want to wait for an external circumstance (like terminal cancer, tragedy) to push it for us?


Copyright by SabbathWalk. This devotional is sent to you free of charge. If you feel blessed or ministered to by SabbathWalk weekly devotionals, feel free to forward to friends, or to invite them to subscribe online at http://blog.sabbathwalk.org . You can also send me an email at cyap@sabbathwalk.org for comments or enquiries.

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