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GREAT DAY EVERY DAYNAVIGATING LIFE'S CHALLENGES with PROMISE and PURPOSE
By Max Lucado
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE
Sand soft to the feet, breeze cool on the skin. An apron of Pacific turquoise precedes one of deeper blue. Waves lap and slap. Birds whistle and coo. Islands loom on the horizon. Palm trees sway against the sky.
I found myself relishing the morning as I was writing this book. What easier way to have a great day every day, I mused, than starting it right here? I leaned back into a beach chair, interlaced my fingers behind my head, and closed my eyes.
That's when a bird chose my chest for target practice. No warning. No sirens. No "Bombs away!" Just plop.
I looked up just in time to see a seagull giving high feathers to his bird buddies on the branch. Yuck. I poured water on my shirt three times. I moved to a chair away from the trees. I did all I could to regain the magic of the morning, but I couldn't get my mind off the bird flyby.
It should have been easy. Waves still rolled. Clouds still floated. The ocean lost no blue; the sand lost no white. Islands still beckoned, and wind still whispered. But I couldn't quit thinking about the seagull grenade.
Birds have a way of messing things up, don't they? Count on it: into every day a bird will plop.
Traffic will snarl.
Airports will close.
Friends will forget.
Spouses will complain.
And lines. Oh, the lines. Deadlines, long lines, receding hairlines, luggage-losing airlines, nauseating pickup lines, wrinkle lines, unemployment lines, and those ever-elusive bottom lines.
And what of those days of double shadows? Those days when hope is Hindenberged by crisis? You never leave the hospital bed or wheelchair. You wake up and bed down in the same prison cell or war zone. The cemetery dirt is still fresh, the pink slip still folded in your pocket, the other side of the bed still empty ... who has a good day on these days?
Most don't ... but couldn't we try? Such days warrant an opportunity. A shot. A tryout. An audition. A swing at the plate. Doesn't every day deserve a chance to be a good day?
After all, "this is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24 NKJV). The first word in the verse leaves us scratching our heads. "This is the day the Lord has made"? Perhaps holidays are the days the Lord has made. Wedding days are the days the Lord has made. Easter Sundays ... super-sale Saturdays ... vacation days ... the first days of hunting season—these are the days the Lord has made. But "this is the day"?
"This is the day" includes every day. Divorce days, final-exam days, surgery days, tax days. Sending-your-first-born-off-to-college days.
That last one sucked the starch out of my shirt. Surprisingly so. We packed Jenna's stuff, loaded up her car, and left life as we'd known it for eighteen years. A chapter was closing. One less plate on the table, voice in the house, and child beneath the roof. The day was necessary. The day was planned. But the day undid me.
I was a mess. I drove away from the gas station with the nozzle still in my tank, yanking the hose right off the pump. Got lost in a one-intersection town. We drove; I moped. We unpacked; I swallowed throat lumps. We filled the dorm room; I plotted to kidnap my own daughter and take her home where she belongs. Did someone store my chest in dry ice? Then I saw the verse. Some angel had tacked it to a dormitory bulletin board.
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
I stopped, stared, and let the words sink in. God made this day, ordained this hard hour, designed the details of this wrenching moment. He isn't on holiday. He still holds the conductor's baton, sits in the cockpit, and occupies the universe's only throne. Each day emerges from God's drawing room. Including this one.
So I decided to give the day a chance, change my view, and imitate the resolve of the psalmist: "I will rejoice and be glad in it."
Oops, another word we'd like to edit: in. Perhaps we could swap it for after? We'll be glad after the day. Or through. We'll be glad to get through the day. Over would suffice. I'll rejoice when this day is over.
But rejoice in it? God invites us to. As Paul rejoiced in prison; David wrote psalms in the wilderness; Jonah prayed in the fish belly; Paul and Silas sang in jail; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego remained resolute in the fiery furnace; John saw heaven in his exile; and Jesus prayed in his garden of pain ... Could we rejoice smack-dab in the midst of this day?
Imagine the difference if we could.
Suppose neck deep in a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," you resolve to give it a chance. You choose not to drink or work or worry it away but give it a fair shake. You trust more. Stress less. Amplify gratitude. Mute grumbling. And what do you know? Before long the day is done and surprisingly decent.
So decent, in fact, that you resolve to give the next day the same fighting chance. It arrives with its hang-ups and bang-ups, bird drops and shirt stains, but by and large, by golly, giving the day a chance works! You do the same the next day and the next. Days become a week. Weeks become months. Months become years of good days.
In such a fashion good lives are built. One good day at a time.
An hour is too short, a year too long. Days are the bite-size portions of life, the God-designed segments of life management.
Eighty-four thousand heartbeats.
One thousand four hundred and forty minutes.
A complete rotation of the earth.
A circle of the sundial.
Two dozen flips of the hourglass.
Both a sunrise and a sunset.
A brand-spanking-new, unsoiled, untouched, uncharted, and unused day!
A gift of twenty-four unlived, unexplored hours.
And if you can stack one good day on another and another, you will link together a good life.
But here's what you need to keep in mind.
You no longer have yesterday. It slipped away as you slept. It is gone. You'll more easily retrieve a puff of smoke. You can't change, alter, or improve it. Sorry, no mulligans allowed. Hourglass sand won't flow upward. The second hand of the clock refuses to tick backward. The monthly calendar reads left to right, not right to left. You no longer have yesterday.
You do not yet have tomorrow. Unless you accelerate the orbit of the earth or convince the sun to rise twice before it sets once, you can't live tomorrow today. You can't spend tomorrow's money, celebrate tomorrow's achievements, or resolve tomorrow's riddles. You have only today. This is the day the Lord has made.
Live in it. You must be present to win. Don't heavy today with yesterday's regrets or acidize it with tomorrow's troubles. But don't we tend to do so?
We do to our day what I did to a bike ride. My friend and I went on an extended hill-country trek. A few minutes into the trip I began to tire. Within a half hour my thighs ached and my lungs heaved like a beached whale. I could scarcely pump the pedals. I'm no Tour de France contender, but neither am I a newcomer, yet I felt like one. After forty-five minutes I had to dismount and catch my breath. That's when my partner spotted the problem. Both rear brakes were rubbing my back tire! Rubber grips contested every pedal stroke. The ride was destined to be a tough one.
Don't we do the same? Guilt presses on one side. Dread drags the other. No wonder we weary so. We sabotage our day, wiring it for disaster, lugging along yesterday's troubles, downloading tomorrow's struggles. Remorse over the past, anxiety over the future. We aren't giving the day a chance.
How can we? What can we do? Here's my proposal: consult Jesus. The Ancient of Days has something to say about our days. He doesn't use the term day very often in Scripture. But the few times he does use it provide a delightful formula for upgrading each of ours to blue-ribbon status.
Saturate your day in his grace.
"I tell you in solemn truth," replied Jesus, "that this very day you shall be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43 WEY)
Entrust your day to his oversight.
"Give us day by day our daily bread." (Luke 11:3 NKJV)
Accept his direction.
"If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me." (Luke 9:23 CEV)
Grace. Oversight. Direction.
Fill your day with God. Give the day a chance. Choose to make it great. And while you are at it, keep an eye out for the seagull with the silly grin.
The next time you are mired in a bad day, check your outlook with these three questions:
1. What do I feel guilty about?
2. What am I worried about?
3. What am I about?
Reflect on your answers with these reminders: Yesterday ... forgiven.
Tomorrow ... surrendered.
Today ... clarified.
Jesus' design for a good day makes such sense. His grace erases guilt. His oversight removes fear. His direction removes confusion.
Chapter TwoMERCY FOR SHAME-FILLED DAYS
What the thief sees. Dirty walls and a dingy floor. Rationed sunlight squeezing through cracks. The prison cell is shadowed. His day, more so. Rats scurry through corner holes. He'd do the same if he could.
What the thief hears. Soldiers' feet shuffling. A prison door clanging. A guard with the compassion of a black widow spider: "Get up! Your time has come."
What the thief sees. Defiant faces lining a cobbled path. Men spitting in disgust, women turning in derision. As the thief crests the top of the hill, a soldier yanks him down. Another presses his forearm against a beam and braces it with a knee. He sees the soldier reach for the mallet and spike.
What the thief hears. Pounding. Pounding hammer. Pounding head. Pounding heart. Soldiers grunt as they lift the cross. The base thuds as it falls into the hole.
What the thief feels. Pain. Breathtaking, pulse-stopping pain. Every fiber on fire.
What the thief hears. Groans. Guttural moans. Death. Nothing but. His own. Death. Golgotha plays it like a minor chord. No lullaby of hope. No sonnet of life. Just the harsh chords of death.
Pain. Death. He sees them; he hears them. But then the thief sees and hears something else: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34 NKJV).
A flute lilts on a battlefield. A rain cloud blocks the desert sun. A rose blossoms on death ridge.
Jesus prays on a Roman cross.
Here is how the thief reacts. Mockery. "Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him" (Matthew 27:44 NKJV).
Having been hurt, the thief hurts. Having been wounded, he wounds. Even Skull Hill has a pecking order, and this thief refuses the bottom rung. He joins the jeerers who are saying: "He saved others—he can't save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross.... He did claim to be God's Son, didn't he?" (Matthew 27:42–43).
But Jesus refuses to retaliate. The thief sees, for the first time that day (for the first time in how many days?), kindness. Not darting glances or snarling lips, but patient forbearance.
The thief softens. He stops mocking Christ and then attempts to stop the mocking of Christ. "We deserve this, but not him," he confesses to the crook on the other cross. "He did nothing to deserve this" (Luke 23:41). The thief senses he's close to a man heaven-bound and requests a recommendation: "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom" (23:42).
And Jesus, who made and makes an eternal life out of inviting illegal immigrants into his Oval Office, issues this graced-renched reply: "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
And the bad day of the bad man is met with the gracious gift of a mercy-giving God.
What does the thief see now? He sees a son entrust his mother to a friend and honor a friend with his mother (John 19:26–27). He sees the God who wrote the book on grace. The God who coaxed Adam and Eve out of the bushes, murderous Moses out of the desert. The God who made a place for David, though David made a move on Bathsheba. The God who didn't give up on Elijah, though Elijah gave up on God. This is what the thief sees.
What does he hear? He hears what fugitive Moses heard in the desert, depressed Elijah heard in the wilderness, adulterous David heard after Bathsheba. He hears what ...
a fickle Peter heard after the rooster crowed, the storm-tossed disciples heard after the wind stopped, the cheating woman heard after the men left, the oft-married Samaritan woman heard before the disciples came, the hardheaded and hard-hearted Saul would hear after the light shone, the paralytic heard when his friends lowered him through the roof, the blind man heard when Jesus found him on the street, the disciples would soon hear from Jesus on the beach early one morning.
He hears the official language of Christ: grace. Undeserved. Unexpected. Grace. "Today you will join me in paradise" (Luke 23:43).
Paradise. The intermediate heaven. The home of the righteous until the return of Christ. The Tree of Life is there. Saints are there. God is there. And now the thief, who began the day in a Roman jail, will be there.
With Jesus. No back-door entrance. No late-night arrival. Paradise knows neither night nor second-class citizens. The thief enters the gate on Jesus' red carpet.
Today. Immediately. No Purgatory purging. No Hades rehab. Grace comes like a golden sunrise, illuminating the thief 's dark day. Execution hill becomes a mount of transfiguration.
Perhaps you could use some of the same. Yesterday's mistakes play the role of the Roman death squad: they escort you up the calvary of shame. Faces of the past line the trail. Voices declare your crimes as you pass:
You neglected your father and me!
You let the habit rob your youth!
You promised you'd come back!
You're soon nailed to the cross of your mistakes. Dumb mistakes. What do you see? Death. What do you feel? Shame. What do you hear?
Ah, this is the question. What do you hear? Can you hear Jesus above the accusers? He promises, "Today you will join me in paradise."
Today. This day. In the stink of it, the throes of it, Jesus makes a miracle out of it. When others nail you to the cross of your past, he swings open the door to your future. Paradise. Jesus treats your shame-filled days with grace.
He'll take your guilt if you'll ask him. All he awaits is your request. The words of the thief will do. "We deserve this, but not him—he did nothing ..."
We are wrong. He is right.
We sin. He is the Savior.
We need grace. Jesus can give it.
So ask him, "Remember me when you enter your kingdom."
And when you do, the one who spoke then will speak again. "Today you will join me in paradise."
Next time your day goes south, here is what you do. Steep yourself in the grace of God. Saturate your day in his love. Marinate your mind in his mercy. He has settled your accounts, paid your debt. "Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross" (1 Peter 2:24 NCV).
When you lose your temper with your child, Christ intervenes: "I paid for that." When you tell a lie and all of heaven groans, your Savior speaks up: "My death covered that sin." As you lust, gloat, covet, or judge, Jesus stands before the tribunal of heaven and points to the blood-streaked cross. "I've already made provision. I've taken away the sins of the world."
What a gift he has given you. You've won the greatest lottery in the history of humanity, and you didn't even pay for the ticket! Your soul is secure, your salvation guaranteed. Your name is written in the only book that matters. You're only a few sand grains in the hourglass from a tearless, graveless, painless existence. What more do you need?
Excerpted from GREAT DAY EVERY DAY by Max Lucado Copyright © 2012 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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