The Measure of a Day


On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan,as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

 – Luke 10:25-27, NIV –

I measure days all wrong sometimes.

I like to be productive, useful, and successful–all very good, God-honoring things to be. The trouble comes when I start to think that one particular kind of productivity outweighs the others.

Countable things, particularly.

I like to lay out those responsibilities on a piece of paper, turn them into a to-do list, and check my way through the day. It’s very satisfying to make those check marks. So satisfying, in fact, that I can forget that there are other ways of measuring the success of a life.

When I get to a day when nothing seems to get checked off the list, it is easy to feel like a failure. To a girl who is tempted to measure her worth by her productivity, a list without checkmarks is a sure sign of inadequacy.

When my performance-driven soul gets tied up in knots about all the “important stuff” that hasn’t been finished, I have to remember.

Sometimes I tell it to myself. Other times, someone takes my hand and reminds me why I’m on this earth. Sure, Jesus tells us to do our work well. But what is our main work? What am I here for, after all?

To make sure my to-do lists are perfectly marked off, every day? Primarily to dust the furniture, exercise, clock time at my job?

Or to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength…and love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:29-31)?

Some of the things on my list are important. They are even necessary to loving God with all of myself (Colossians 3:23). But do I really believe that, at the end of the day, they are the most vital parts of my life?

I don’t think I really believe that.

It’s possible to get so caught up in my to-do lists that I forget that the people around me are way more important than my agenda.

When I get discouraged about how little I’ve accomplished some days, I need to take a step back for a better look. Have I taken the time to look someone in the eyes while they tell me something important to them? Have I given out hugs and kisses, told the “old, old story” once again?  With my life, have I painted a living picture of the grace that I’ve been given? Have I loved, with all my heart and soul, mind and strength?

If so, my day has been undoubtedly full and rich and complete.

“Some think love can be measured by the amount of butterflies in their tummy. Others think love can be measured in bunches of flowers, or by using the words ‘for ever.’ But love can only truly be measured by actions. It can be a small thing, such as peeling an orange for a person you love because you know they don’t like doing it.”
— Marian Keyes —

There is something so compelling about a life centered around love of God and neighbor. Maybe it is the step out of “life” into “life abundant.”

I will probably always make to-do lists. God has given me jobs to do each day, and the little insistent voices of these lists help me remember my responsibilities.

But, when I get to the end of the day and inevitably find some piece of work that still needs to be done, I can set aside my notepad and pen and embrace the living to be found outside the neatly checked boxes.

I think I’ll call it “living outside the box.”

Or, better yet…

Loving outside the box.

“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.”
― Bessie Anderson Stanley




Why I Can’t Rescue You


“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

– Vance Havner –

They say an eagle will push her chick from the nest to teach it flight,

But I see you plummeting with no downy back in sight

To bear up underneath you, to catch you before gravity overwhelms.

Your face stills, dry of laughter as desert bones,

Your hands lay unmoved in your lap. I know

That there must be something to do, some way to break in.

Jagged incisor-tooth mountains of fear taunt you,

And I grab up a stick to keep them at bay, wondering who

Else would come to rescue if I don’t.

Your closet holds monsters I can’t see, monsters of memory

And deeper scars than routine life reveals, and heavy mysteries

That bow your soul, stoop your shoulders.

You walk a moon-basked road lined with hidden pain that leaps

Upon you every chance it can, creeps

Upon you, leaves you breathless again.

They say an eagle catches the chick she made to fall…

But I am not an eagle, I find, not at all.

Too few feathers, and can’t fly myself.

I tried to be your desert fount and found not joy enough

To irrigate the desolation of a true-thirsty soul. Not enough.

My joy ran dry in trying it.

I shook my stick at the mountains, and they bit

Back with all their craggy wrath, and I never before knew it–

How feeble a stick is against a face of stone.

I brought out a candle to shine into your closet of fears,

And found there dark that swallowed all my mustered light in tears,

So my light wasn’t light enough.

And your moon-bright path of anguish lurking is a path barred

To all but one. Yourself, the scarred,

Must walk it alone.

This is why I can’t rescue you.

My wings, joy-fount, my stick too,

Stub of candle, company…all not enough.

So maybe I’ve been sent for this instead,

To play John and shout out the Lamb’s coming tread

Upon the dry sands of your soul.

To tell you the Eagles are coming before very long,

That the plummet ends in feathered wing, not from

An untimely meeting with the ground.

To run ahead and call out to you the coming end of desert,

Proclaim a day free from burning sun, a coming rest

Where joy will spring unhindered from a truer Fount.

I searched and found a surer Mountain-Slayer than my stick,

A Mountain-Layer, Molder, Engraver, to whom they are toothpicks,

With hands strong-tender enough to hold the fears at bay, and hold you.

I’ll come to you and blush color in praise, like a dawning sky

Crowns the rising of day’s king as he lifts his gold eye on high,

For a Light comes, light enough for every darkest closet you have.

And your lonely road–pain-wracked, thorn-tangled way?

He that molded the soft moon molded, too, that dark way

And meets you there, He who, too, is the Scarred.

This is why I cannot rescue you, be your savior, make it all right and good,

But maybe every sad thing, after all, is coming untrue, and would

You let me walk into believing it with you?

“I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
    Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
    the maker of heaven and earth.”

– Psalm 12:1-2, CEB –