Make Each Day Count

August 14th, 2012

Pioneer Memorial, Morrisburg, ON
Not too long ago, on our way back from a wedding in Montreal, we decided to do the unusual thing and get off the fastest, most boring way from point A to point B, and slow down a bit and enjoy the journey. More often than not, the opportunity to enjoy the journey is snatched away because of the incessant urgency to arrive at point B. But once in a while, life trumps everything else, particularly when it is just me and Sheewee in the car together.

So, after we had left Montreal and travelled past Cornwall, we jumped off the 401 and made our way over to historic Highway 2, which follows the shores of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Lake Ontario. Not long after getting onto Highway 2, we saw a sign for Upper Canada Village. Now I have heard about Upper Canada Village all my life, but I’ve never been to it. In fact, I didn’t even know where it was, so the discovery was one of the surprises you encounter when you make it a point to enjoy the journey.

We stopped for a while to look around. Just outside of the village is an outdoor area surrounded by walls bearing the name, “Pioneer Memorial” (see the photo). As I walked into the area, I saw that the interior of the walls were embedded with old tombstones. Old tombstones and I get along REAL well. So I spent a few minutes going through the memorial. Each wall had a different cemetery name on it and most of the gravestones went from the late 1700’s to the 1860’s and beyond.

I wondered why all these tombstones had found their way into the walls of this memorial. After a bit of research, I found out that in the 1950’s there was a building project to improve the St. Lawrence Seaway which included flooding an area that would submerge eight different villages. They are now called, “the Lost Villages.” Prior to flooding, most of the people were relocated to the new planned communities of Long Sault and Ingleside, so the gravestones embedded in the walls of this memorial were some of the more prominent names from those lost villages.
It was strange to think that all of these tombstones were moved out of communities, out of the places where people lived and died, because they are now under the waters of the St. Lawrence. Still I am thankful some of them were rescued as a testimony to these village and the people who lived, loved, worked, played, struggled and died in them. As I stood there looking at all these stones I couldn’t help but think that even death is temporary and it can and will be disturbed. Paul tells us as much: “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye . . . the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Now that’s the ultimate relocation!

As I read the names and the details on the stones, a pattern started to emerge. I noticed that those who died in the 1860’s, or earlier, had an unusual detail on their stones. Like the stone I have included as an inset in the photo (click on the photo to enlarge it), Mary Eleanor, we are told, not only died on January 17, 1859, she also lived to be 36 years, 11 months, and 1 day. Time and time again I saw this same pattern of not only marking the date of someone’s death, but also marking precisely, the years, months and days that someone lived.

Today we just mark the year of birth and the year of death. We reference point A and point B, but back then it was common to focus on the life rather than the birth. Not a month or a day was missed in recording how precious was the life being honoured.

Think about how much more money it would have cost a family, who most likely were struggling financially, to add the phrase “and 1 day” to Mary’s stone. What is 1 day? What does one day matter? Why waste money when you pay by the letter?

The only answer I can come up with is that life was such a challenge and such an adventure to those who first came to the land as pioneers that even one day was worth noting and celebrating. Clearly life was treasured as a precious commodity and each day a loved one lived mattered.

Something tells me that Mary Eleanor, who lived 36 years, 11 months and 1 day, probably had a much more difficult journey than most of us do today, but it also seems to me that she probably had a greater appreciation for the joy in the journey. I imagine that she probably concentrated more on the journey of a day then a journey of a lifetime. Her goals were likely much more simple and practical and lived much more in the moment. It may even be that she experienced more in her 36 years, 11 months, and 1 day than most of us do today–even if we live to be a hundred!

As I write this I am on the second day of my holidays. I still have the better part of a few weeks left and thus far I have not started to think about all the stuff I have to do when I get back. At present I am just thinking of all the stuff I have to do before Sheila gets home!

Now, I can’t guarantee those thoughts won’t kick in somewhere in the last week of my vacation, but I am going to do all I can to live each day of my holidays with a sense of gratitude and adventure. Life is too precious to live it on the expressways. No one every meets God on the expressways, at least in a good way! I’d much rather spend time with Jesus, learning from Him, growing in Him and serving Him on the scenic route: where life is really lived and where lives blend and intertwine so that even one day together needs to be remembered and recorded for all to see.

Pastor-Eye-Zzed– “First of 2012″

January 3rd, 2012

First of 2012

How would you like to go from being last to being first?

For Christians that is kind of a tricky question because Jesus messes with our minds on this subject. We know that Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last.” (Mark 9:35). So before we answer the first and last question, we need to know: are you talking about going from last to first in the sense that since I am last, I will be first? Or are you saying that if I say I want to be first, then that will make me last? Are we talking about a hard and fast first here? Is this a legit first? Well, stop overthinking it would ya? Christians, sheesh! It is a simple question: How would you like to go from being last to being first?

Last week Samoa went from being last to first by skipping Friday. For Samoans, Friday December 30th never happened. They went to sleep on Thursday evening and woke up on Saturday morning—all without the aid of Frat party!

They just decided it was time to jump the International Date Line and so they went from those who would have been last, to those who were first to celebrate 2012. The decision was made so they could be more in tune with Asia, Australia and New Zealand, who are their closest trading partners as well as the countries many Samoans find themselves working in. It all makes sense.

Still, the choice wasn’t easy to agree on since Samoa is known to be the last inhabited place to see the sunset in the world, which makes for quite a tourist tagline. Well, now they are the first to see the sunset, oh well! Maybe it will bring a boom on retiree tourist. Maybe their new tagline could be: “Get sunset over with so you can go to bed!”?

More interesting still is that American Samoa remains on the other side of the date line so you could theoretically, stay within the Samoan Islands and have two birthdays and two anniversaries in the same year! I am starting to feel like I am in an episode of Star Trek!

Still what fascinates me about this entire story is that the Samoans just decided to skip a day. For one week in their history they had no Friday. That started me thinking: what if we had the power to skip a day when we wanted? Let’s say each of us got one day a year that we could just skip, would you use it? How would you use it?

I guess the problem with this kind of question is that you would have to have the gift of foreknowledge to use the skip-a-day to your advantage. I mean you would have to know what the next day had in store for you, before you would really want to take advantage of the opportunity to skip it, right? What would happen if you skipped the day you got a raise, or won the lottery or the day you were going to be proposed to? What if you skipped the day that was the last day of life for one of your loved ones?

I think it would be a much better deal to be able to have a do-over-day rather than a skip-a-day. I would be all for the day of the do over! Still, I am not sure that I would have the wisdom to pick the best day to do the do over since I tend to have too many of those from which to choose.

When it is all said and done, having Jesus as my Lord and Saviour gives me more than enough do-overs already! I don’t want to skip a day or do a day over because, ultimately, even the worst days are days that I learn something important about myself and the sustaining, forgiving, refreshing power of living in relationship with Christ!

OK, but what about the first and last question? Would I like to go from being last to being first? Maybe I am getting a bit older and wiser, but being first just doesn’t matter to me as much as it used to and neither does being last. Sometimes I pick being last because with being last comes perspective and my busy, fast-paced life often lacks perspective. If I had more perspective I would have less days that I wished I could do over.

This year, instead of trying to be first, or even trying to just not be last, why not try having some perspective? Why not try to better connect with those you are closest too, like the Samoans have? Why not reflect before you react? How about, at least a few times this year, purposely being last because you have consciously decided to put others first?

Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
(Philippians 2:3-5, MSG)


I’ve been writing observational/devotional material since I started my own website way back in the days of hamster-powered computers (1996). I love writing because it makes me walk through life looking for God’s fingerprints. –Grant