News and Tribune

June 12, 2014

MAY: Making things count

By TOM MAY
Local columnist

— There is a really unique thing about counting things. Counting makes time both stand still and go by quickly.

“Are we there yet?” Those words used to make my father cringe. My sister and I used to take turns saying them when we went on our family vacation. Often we would begin asking it before we got two blocks away from our house. Dad would just roll his eyes and shake his head.

To keep us occupied and quiet, he would have us count things. Trees. Mailboxes. Volkswagen Beetles. Different speed limit signs. Things that started with each letter of the alphabet.

But most often he had us looking for license plates. We counted how many we saw from each state. We counted how many states. We kept track of our counting on paper.

We didn’t ask questions when we were counting. OK, we asked how to spell “Massachusetts,” but I still ask that. When we were counting, we didn’t notice time. When we were counting, we didn’t notice the mundane things that were taking place around us — like how far we still had to go to get to our destination. The only thing we noticed were the license plates on cars.

Suddenly, we were stopping at a Shell station. We hopped out of the car and went inside to get a snack. Barbecue potato chips were always my choice. In a few minutes, we were sandwiched back into the station wagon, munching away. And we were counting again. We were seeing different states now. Why doesn’t Hawaii ever show up?

Soon there was a lunch stop, then another gasoline fill-up. And of course, more counting. When time didn’t matter, it passed quickly.

Today is the 50th day of our counting. The purpose of counting has been to make sure that we notice the important things along life’s way. The first two weeks we looked at important people, those who influence us and those who walk alongside us. We also looked at the road that we travel, and we saw things in the journey that come in pairs.  We have counted things that throw curves as we wander the path. Last week, we counted blessings.

In the Old Testament, the Jewish people counted the days after the Passover. Each day was considered a measure of time — an omer to be counted. An omer was an ancient Hebrew measure of grain that equaled a little more than 3 1/2 liters. The measured days following the Passover carried both a spiritual and a practical significance for the Israelites.

From a practical standpoint, those seven weeks were in the spring as the people were planting and growing their crops. While those days provided a time celebrating the anticipated bountiful harvest, it was also a somber time of reflection. Agricultural communities were dependent upon successful harvests. Changes in the weather patterns or a harsh weather event could spell disaster for the entire community. This was a precarious time when the farmer spent many hours in prayer for God’s blessing over the growing season.

The seven weeks also carried an important spiritual significance. Seven weeks after the first Passover, the people of Israel were camped at the base of Mount Sinai. It was here where God spoke directly to Moses and he received the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Law. The lives of the Israelites would never be the same because God spoke. They counted each word as important. They remembered the number of days they spent awaiting His words.

Look back on these last seven weeks. Can you believe that the time has passed so quickly? What things have you counted? Important events. Significant people. Special occasions. Have they brought some smiles to your face and heart? Have they challenged you to look at what things really are important? Have they readjusted your priorities?

Have they made you think that much of life is bigger than yourself? Are you able to see that even though life spins out of your control, something — or someone — seems to keep things in balance? Has it made you think about where you intended to be at this point in your life, what things you have accomplished, what still needs to be done?

Are we there yet? Don’t count on it.

— Tom May is the Minister of Discipleship at Eastside Christian Church in Jeffersonville. He is an adjunct instructor in the Communications Department at Indiana University Southeast. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com