Of all the hilarious, touching, genius, and weird scenes the late Robin Williams left behind on the big screen, the one that resonates most profoundly with me is his depiction of teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society. Determined to draw his pupils out of their malaise, he memorably urged them in a spectral whisper, “carpe diem”— seize the day. And in a burst of determined energy, Williams’s character strode boldly atop desks, reciting Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” and urging his students to get more out of poetry—and out of life.
We all need our “O Captain! My Captain!” moments, don’t we? Because it is so dangerously easy to let life simply happen to us. Rather than seizing the day, we’re the ones being seized by demands, responsibilities, and roles placed upon us. Rather than living to the , we may just be trying to get by. Rather than living out of purpose and a sense of mission, we find we’re pulled along by the tide of each day with no clear sense of direction.
Need a desktop wake up call? Want to more fully seize God’s good gift of each day, each opportunity, each relationship? Consider these seven ways to live more intentionally.
1. Discern your calling. How are you uniquely gifted? What are your passions and interests? How has God led you this far in life and where might he be pointing you? How can your daily work—either outside of or within the home—align with passions, interests, and abilities God has given you? Consider the insights Julie Pierce provides in “Becoming Who You Are” to more clearly see—and walk within—the path God’s got marked out for you.
2. Look beyond yourself. We live in a world full of needs, wrongs, pain, and injustice. You can “seize the day” by making a difference in the lives of others. In “Choosing Justice,” Bethany Hoang provides compelling principles from Scripture and specific life-application ideas to help you be intentional about .
3. Prioritize your family. Feel busy and pulled in multiple directions? As a mom and leader in full-time ministry, Jo Saxton knows a thing or two about busyness. In “Balancing Ministry and Family,” she’s honest about the challenges—but she also urges us to embrace family life with a sense of mission. What could it look like for you to be purposeful about both your ministry to others and your family relationships? Choose to live with a grounded sense of mission when it comes to our family.
4. Bridge the gaps (generational gaps, that is). It’s easy to surround ourselves with friends just like us, but in “Unexpected Friendships,” Sherry Surratt reminds us of the blessing that comes from purposefully building intergenerational friendships. Will you invest in getting to know someone older or younger than yourself? Will you determine to overcome the hurdles, to push past small talk, and really get to know another woman? This living-on-purpose choice will enrich your life in surprising ways.
5. Invest in yourself. Our culture urges us to live with a me, me, me mentality. In reaction to this sort of narcissism, it’s easy for Christians to let the pendulum swing the other direction—far, far away from . But, Beth Hobson encourages us, it’s good to live fully, deeply, and richly now. In “Dating Myself,” Beth keys in on a common experience for single women: a mindset of waiting for a guy to treat them special and invest in them. Instead, Beth urges readers to “date yourself”—to take initiative when it comes to treating yourself well, doing special things, and not waiting for Mr. Right to really live right now.
6. Pay attention. There will always be days when life just seems to happen to you. But in the midst of seasons like that, you can still make small choices to be more fully present and attentive to the gifts God has for you in each day. When to-do lists loom and circumstances threaten to steal your joy, intentionally choose to step away from technology, take a breather from all the demands, and live more attentively.
7. Choose his courts. Each day is rich with opportunities to invest in others, to carve out a sense of calling, to enjoy the good gifts of this life. But among all of those good things, never forget the very best: “A single day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere!” (Psalm 84:10). Quiet your mind, still your heart, and focus on God’s beautiful and faithful presence. Worship him in silence—or with loud singing, or through your faithful work, or in the simplicity of earnest study.
Choose God to set the course and captain your life. Love fully, live purposefully, and listen to the whisper of his Spirit for the very best ways to seize the day.
O Captain! My Captain!
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