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Make Every Day Count
By Max Lucado
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMake Every Day Count
This is going to be a great day! I thought, sitting on the beach listening to the waves and feeling the warm sun. I took a deep breath, leaned back in the beach chair, 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. Palm trees still swayed, 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.
Parents will argue.
Teachers will correct.
Bullies will taunt.
Friends will forget.
And lines. Oh, the lines. Missed goal lines, flubbed play lines, long lines, deadlines ...
Each day brings with it disappointments and demands. And what about those days of double shadows? Those days when hope is blasted by crisis? Days of hospitals and wheelchairs, sickness and sorrow. You wake up in the same scary neighborhood or abusive household. The failing report card is still folded in your pocket, the head of the dinner table still empty, the cemetery dirt still fresh. Who has a good day on these days?
Most don't ... but wait—couldn't we try? Doesn't even the worst of days deserve an opportunity? A shot. A tryout. An audition. A swing at the plate. Doesn't every day deserve a chance to count for something?
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. Saturdays are the days the Lord has made. Easter Sundays ... birthdays ... vacation days—these are the days the Lord has made. But "this is the day"?
"This is the day" includes every day. Breakup days, final exam days, moving days, being grounded 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 work. 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 make this day count anyway. You choose not to whine or worry or sleep it away but to 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 make the next day count too. It arrives with its hang-ups and bang-ups, bird drops and shirt stains, but for the most part, by golly, choosing to make your day matter works! So you do the same the next day and the next. Days become weeks. Weeks become months. Months become years of good days.
A few years ago, Nathan Burditt started with one decision one day to give one thing—one pretty cool thing—and is changing the days and lives of others, as well as his own.
Giving your time, a listening ear, a prayer, or even a PlayStation to someone else can result in a pretty good day—for you and that someone else. Before you know it, those pretty good days stack up to build pretty good years and a pretty good life.
An hour is too short, a year too long. Days are the bite-size portions of life, the God-designed segments of life management.
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 can't change, alter, or improve it. 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 make today heavy with yesterday's regrets or acidize it with tomorrow's troubles. But don't we tend to do just that?
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. We sabotage our day, lugging along yesterday's troubles, downloading tomorrow's struggles. We aren't making today truly count.
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)
ENT RUST 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. G-O-D
Make this day count. Fill it with God. Give the day a chance. And while you're at it, keep an eye out for the seagull with the silly grin.
Remember GOD: Grace. Oversight. Direction.
The next time you are stuck 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?
Now, reflect on your answers with these reminders:
Yesterday ... forgiven.
Tomorrow ... surrendered.
Today ... clarified.
Jesus' design for a good day makes perfect sense. His grace erases guilt. His oversight removes fear. His direction removes confusion.
Chapter TwoGratitude for Ungrateful Days
EXCERPTS FROM THE DIARY OF A DOG:
8:00 a.m. Oh boy, dog food—my favorite!
9:30 a.m. Oh boy, a car ride—my favorite!
9:40 a.m. Oh boy, a walk—my favorite!
10:30 a.m. Oh boy, another car ride—my favorite!
11:30 a.m. Oh boy, more dog food—my favorite!
12:00 p.m. Oh boy, the kids—my favorite!
1:00 p.m. Oh boy, the yard—my favorite!
4:00 p.m. Oh boy, the kids again—my favorite!
5:00 p.m. Oh boy, dog food again—my favorite!
5:30 p.m. Oh boy, Mom—my favorite!
6:00 p.m. Oh boy, playing ball—my favorite!
8:30 p.m. Oh boy, sleeping in my master's bed—my favorite!
EXCERPTS FROM THE DIARY OF A CAT:
Day 283 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I'm forced to eat dry cereal. I'm sustained by the hope of escape and the mild satisfaction I derive from ruining a few pieces of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant. I attempted to kill my captors this morning by weaving through their walking feet. Nearly succeeded. Must try this strategy at the top of the stairs. Seeking to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair. Must try this on their bed. To display my diabolical disposition, I decapitated a mouse and deposited the headless body on their kitchen floor. They only cooed and condescended, patting my head and calling me a "strong little kitty." Hmm—not working according to plan. During a gathering of their accomplices, they placed me in solitary confinement. I overheard that my confinement was due to my power of allergies. Must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.
I am convinced the other household captives are flunkies, perhaps snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems naively happy to return. He is, no doubt, a half-wit. The bird speaks with the humans regularly. Must be an informant. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal cage, his safety is assured, but I can wait. It is only a matter of time.
The day of a dog. The day of a cat. One content, the other conniving. One at peace, the other at war. One grateful, the other grumpy. Same house. Same circumstances. Same master. Yet two entirely different attitudes.
Which diary reads more like yours? If your private thoughts were made public, how often would the phrase "Oh boy, my favorite" appear?
"Oh boy, sunup—my favorite!"
"Oh boy, breakfast—my favorite!"
"Oh boy, homework—my favorite!"
"Oh boy, chores—my favorite!"
"Oh boy, a trip to the dentist—my favorite!"
Well, not even a dog would relish a trip to the dentist. But wouldn't we like to relish more of our day? We can. Begin with God's grace. As we accept his forgiveness, our day of gripes and groans becomes a day of gratitude.
Matthew's day was lifted because of gratitude—not because of his own gratitude, but because someone else chose gratitude over a grudge.
Yes, gratitude can turn a day, a friendship, or a family tie around completely. Gratitude is born from grace. It's the way of the forgiven. It is so appropriate, in fact, that its absence surprises Jesus. We know this because of ten men he healed.
It happened that as he made his way toward Jerusalem, he crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" (Luke 17:11–13)
Lepers. A huddle of half-draped faces and bent bodies. Who could tell where one form stopped and the other began as they leaned against one another? But who else could they lean on?
Their appearance repulsed people: lumps on the cheeks, nose, lips, and forehead. Ulcerated vocal cords rendered their voices a raspy wheeze. Hairless eyebrows turned eyes into hollow stares. Muscles and tendons contracted until hands looked like claws. People avoided lepers.
But Christ had compassion on them. So when people stepped back from the ten lepers, the Master stepped forward. "'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' They went, and while still on their way, became clean" (17:14).
Wouldn't you have loved to witness the miracle? No therapy. No treatment. No medicine. Just one prayer to one man and POW! Complete healing. Gnarled hands straightening. Open sores closing. Energy pulsating through veins. Ten hoods thrown back and twenty crutches dropped. A mass of misery becomes a leaping, jumping celebration of health.
Can you imagine how the lepers felt? If you're in Christ, you can. What he did for the lepers physically, he has done for you spiritually.
Sin makes lepers of us all, turns us into spiritual corpses. To the Ephesian Christians, Paul wrote, "In the past your spiritual lives were dead because of your sins and the things you did wrong against God" (Ephesians 2:1 ICB). The thoughts of the unbeliever, Paul argued, "are worth nothing. ... They know nothing, because they refuse to listen. So they cannot have the life that God gives" (4:17–18 ICB).
Could it sound any gloomier? Dead in sin. Worthless in thought. Darkened in understanding. Separated from God.
Coroners give brighter reports. But Paul wasn't finished. Apart from Christ we are "without hope and without God" (Ephesians 2:12 NIV), "controlled by the sinful nature" (Romans 7:5 NIV), and slaves of Satan (2 Timothy 2:26). What Jesus saw in the lepers' bodies, he sees in the sinner's soul—utter devastation. But what he did for them, he does for the willing heart. "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions" (Ephesians 2:4&ndash5 NIV).
He closes the open sores of our heart and straightens the gnarled limbs of our inner being. He swaps sin rags for righteous robes. He still heals. And he still looks for gratitude.
When one of them saw that he was healed, he went back to Jesus, praising God in a loud voice. Then he bowed down at Jesus' feet and thanked him. (And this man was a Samaritan.) Jesus said, "Weren't ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is this Samaritan the only one who came back to thank God?" (Luke 17:15–18 NCV)
The returning leper caught the attention of Christ. So did the absence of the others. Don't miss the headline of this story: God notices the grateful heart. Why? Does he have an ego problem? No. But we do. Gratitude lifts our eyes off the things we lack so we might see the blessings we possess. Nothing blows the winter out of the day like the Caribbean breeze of thankfulness.
Major in the grace of God. When Paul sent Timothy off to spiritual university, he told him to major in the grace of God: "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:1 NKJV).
Do the same. Focus on the cross. It's so easy to be distracted—so easy to be ungrateful, to make the mistake of Scott Simpson's caddy.
Excerpted from Make Every Day Count 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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