Today is my birthday! I have counted a lot of them since the day I arrived at the Barber Hospital in Butler, Alabama on that September day long ago. Rather than how many years I have counted, it is important how many of them I have made count.

A prayer of Moses (Psalm 90) suggests that the life span of a human being is “no longer than a dream. We are like weeds that sprout in the morning, that grow and burst into bloom, then dry up and die in the evening.” He suggested that even if we live 70 or 80 years “life is soon over, and we are gone.”  Then he asks God to “teach us to number our days.”

Words are tools that help us communicate clearly and choosing the right word is extremely important. When others are speaking we need to listen carefully to their words.

There is a television commercial that touts the advantages of a particular “energy drink.” The spokesperson points to a stack of papers and says, “We surveyed 3500 doctors and 71% said they would recommend an energy drink to their healthy patients who used energy drinks.”

The implication is that almost three-fourths of the physicians that were surveyed endorsed the use of the particular product the commercial was promoting. However, the use of the word “an” suggests that other similar products might be equal to the one being pitched by this advertisement. Of course, there are also other qualifiers in this brief statement that can clouds the results of the survey and the way they are presented is deceiving.

The psalmist could have requested God to help us remember our years. There is certainly value in reflecting on our experiences. The prayer could have been to encourage us to commemorate the passing of one year after another. Or it could have been admonition to celebrate each year of life. All of these are fitting and appropriate.

I believe the psalmist carefully selected “number” when he spoke of the years of our life. “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry” (Proverbs 25:11, The Message). Number was the “right” word. You can reflect, commemorate, and celebrate just because you have survived but to number is to suggest that we intentionally give meaning and significance to life. The reminder is to live wisely and well.

In Meredith Wilson’s play The Music Man “professor Harold Hill tries to get Marian the librarian to go out with him. She repeatedly refuses. One day he asks her to meet him by the foot bridge over the stream in the park but again she resists. “Maybe tomorrow,’ she says. Professor replies, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering.”

I hope to be around for a few more years but more importantly I want to make whatever time I have here on earth to have meaning and purpose. I want to follow God’s guidance and invest myself in things that matter. I intend to number my days no matter how many more I count.

Jamie Jenkins