March 21, 2012

Carpe Diem

It seems as if this year is off to a running start. Work, home projects, a wife who just started a new part-time job requiring lots of creativity, chauffeuring three daughters from one music lesson via the weekly Pathfinder meeting to the next Friday-night Bible Experience prep meeting—it feels as if I am constantly running out of time.
As I listen to friends and colleagues, I’m realizing that this seems to be a common theme in our lives and is replicated in our busy churches and their manifold ministries. There are so many good (and even more bad!) options—and so little time.
While driving home some weeks ago, I listened to a very engaging program on National Public Radio featuring Dr. Evan Lipson, a young oncologist from Johns Hopkins Hospital. In his line of work he deals with many terminally ill people suffering from all types of cancers. They are people like you and me, young and old, male and female, Black and White and all shades in between, rich and poor. However, they all have one thing in common: each has to deal with a devastating diagnosis that changes their life forever. When they walk out of Lipson’s office, life as they have known it has ended.
2012 1509 page6Many doctors have to be bearers of bad news, but as Lipson listened to his patients and saw how his patients dealt in different ways with devastating news, he began to record the stories of how they reacted. That’s how Seize the Days began.* Seize the Days honors cancer patients and the ways they have made their days meaningful; it showcases their courage in order to inspire others; and it provides an avenue that helps family honor the memory of their loved ones. As I listened to a number of their stories on the Web site, I felt inspired to “seize the days” in my own life.
Take the example of Annie the Mermaid (yes, that’s her official title on the Web site). Several years after having battled sarcoma Annie joined the Mermaids, a group of swimmers that raises funds for cancer research. Annie is in her late 50s and never spent much time in the water. And yet she decided to seize the days and make a difference. I swallowed hard as I listened to her telling the story of how she finished her first one-mile race with her family and friends screaming encouragement and willing her over the finishing line.
Or take the story of Leroy Sievers, a journalist and war correspondent who in 2005 began fighting a fierce battle against colon cancer. While ultimately losing that battle, his blog for NPR called “My Cancer” not only provided a way for him to work through the emotions of facing an unknown and powerful enemy, but also gave thousands of readers the courage to face their own fears.
To be sure, carpe diem (“seize the day”) is not the invention of Lipson. The phrase is attributed to the Roman poet Horace, who used it in one of his poems. However, carpe diem has a solidly biblical foundation. Do whatever you do with all your might (see Eccl. 9:10; 1 Sam. 10:7), put your heart into your life, live it to its full, and be a blessing to others.
Carpe diem hit me in my busyness. The stories that Lipson collected inspired me to relook at my priorities and make sure that first things truly remain first. I wonder what this would mean for us as a church body. Why don’t you send me an e-mail at [email protected] with your thoughts? And, please, “seize the days” and be a blessing.
* Check out for more information and even more inspiration. Note also the slight difference between Horace’s well-known phrase “seize the day” (singular) and the Seize the Days foundation.
Gerald Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published March 22, 2012.