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What do you plan to do with your extra 24 hours this month? Oh.  You didn’t know about that extra time did you?

2012 is a Leap Year with 366 days instead of 365 and that extra day is awarded to us this month.  You know the song:

30 days has September,
April, June and November
All the rest have 31
February’s great with 28
Leap Year February’s fine with 29

So what are you going to do with that extra day this month?

In reality most of us won’t think about it – unless we happened to be born in a leap year on February 29.  Imagine only having your birthday on Leap Years.  That is just once every four years!  Not fair. I’ve heard that those folks celebrate their birthday on the last day of February every year regardless. But the chances of being born on a day that doesn’t come around every so often are pretty slim … unless you mark your birthday on a Jewish calendar.

Leo Rosten once said “Jewish people are just like everyone else only more so.” That may explain why the Hebrew calendar doesn’t have one leap year day every four years – it has an entire leap month seven times for every nineteen years!  On each of those seven years we just double up on the month of Adar.

If you find all of this somewhat confusing my advice is, don’t get lost in the weeds of the lunar and solar calculations and algorithms.  It’s all just to ensure that our calendars stay current with the changing seasons.  Those seasons are tied to the workings of astronomy and seem to have a nasty habit of drifting away from our efforts to keep them aligned to our calendar days; hence the need to make a few mid-course corrections along the way.

Such “mid-course corrections” make a very good metaphor.  Maybe you remember the lyrics to that Rolling Stones song: “time, time, time,  is on my side, yes it is.”  Most of us tend to live like that is the gospel truth but it’s not.  Reality is more like the Steve Miller song: “Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future.” 

None of us were born with an expiration date on our birth certificate.  We can pretend that our lives will be endless but they are not and every now and then it is a good idea to take stock, to see if we are drifting off course from the appropriate seasons and, if we are, to make a few mid-course corrections.

The Bible gives us some words of encouragement about taking stock in this way. Moses prayed, ” So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)  The idea of numbering our days has several different nuances.  The Hebrew word, “manah,” literally means to count but can also be translated to weigh.

It is good to keep track of time because in this life it is a limited commodity.  Calendars are useful even if they need adjusting from time to time.  God gave us a calendar when He rested on the Sabbath and made every seventh day holy.  He added other festivals for Israel along the way to mark seasons as well as special redemptive events when He entered into our time and space. 

We do well to number our days, to pay attention to the passing of time, to plan our lives in accordance with these milestone events.  They remind us of our responsibilities to God as well as our dependence upon Him for our very lives.  They also teach us the importance of being connected to a wider community of people, those we know and love as well as those we only share a little in common with.  Days are the building blocks of a well-ordered life and we are much better off if we commit to numbering them, planning them and paying renewed attention to them.  Moses tells us that when we do so we “gain a heart of wisdom”? – something we all need. It is that heart of wisdom that causes us to pause and readjust our attitude if we find ourselves going off course. And there is plenty of “gravitational pull” to drag us off course.

The apostle Paul is even more direct on this point: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)  The admonition to redeem the time is actually an encouragement to “buy up the present opportunity.” 

We cannot ignore the seasons and circumstances of life.  We are living in challenging and yes, evil times.  We can choose to turn off the news of the day and pretend there are no wars, no suffering and that the only reality is the seemingly endless string of distractions that fill our heads, numbing us to life’s realities. But that, Paul tells us, is foolish.  Those distractions are temporary, as is this life.

If we really do gain a heart of wisdom then we will be tuned into our surroundings and we will use our days to look for every opportunity God gives us, turning each one to His best advantage, not missing out on what He may have in store for us.  That kind of mental and spiritual attentiveness is pleasing to God and beneficial to us.

So let’s look before we leap.  Of course leap years don’t give us one more day than what God has already allotted to us but, it can become an reminder to check our need for a mid-course correction, a reorientation of our lives toward the Lord and His sovereign plan for our lives.  Let’s remember that we live only by Him and we live best only when we live for Him.  When we do that, we will not only gain another day, we will gain a renewed life of love and service that will lead us to an eternity, unlimited by time and unfettered by regrets over what we did with our time when it truly mattered.

If you want to hear more from David Brickner on numbering our days, read this article that originally appeared in our print newsletter