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Time limit alters life views

Participants find that imagining living for only 30 days culls the trivial from the vital

By Pat Gee

LAST UPDATED: 2:25 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

If you knew you only had one month to live, what would you do differently?

Beginning May 1, more than 200 members of Hono-lulu Christian Church took on a "One Month to Live Challenge" and tried living as if their next 30 days were their last, focusing on the things that mattered the most. The exercise was inspired by a national best-seller, "One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life," and many participants testified to a marked difference in their attitudes and actions at last Sunday's service.

"We act as if we have unlimited time on Earth, but our time is limited. We need to savor the moments of our time and, with each day, see how precious life is — take the time to see your son play baseball, make amends with those you've had a broken relationship," the Rev. Russell Higa said.

"Often we don't fulfill our dreams because we lose focus, we get busy and we let others tell us what to do. Then when we're dying, we regret we didn't do what we wanted to do," he said.

Higa said he was amazed at the level of participation and depth of openness as members discussed how they would live their lives with renewed purpose. A majority of the church's 260 or so members signed up and invited another 25 friends or family members to join in, Higa said.

The book was written in 2008 by Kerry and Chris Shook, founders of Woodlands Church in Houston in 1993. Published by WaterBrook Press, it became a best-seller. Since then, members of more than 4,000 churches across the country have taken on the challenge, according to the authors' website,

Participants are asked to meditate daily on one chapter of the book, which has 30 chapters. They meet in small groups weekly to watch a directional DVD and discuss it. They are also guided by the pastor's Sunday messages on four main principles of the challenge: live passionately, love completely, learn humbly and leave boldly, Higa said.

Member Scott Sugai told the congregation that he was not giving his family life the priority he intended. Since the challenge began, he started looking at the simple, everyday things and began "enjoying the time a little more dearly, even if was just walking around the mall with my son," Sugai said. One day he and son Cody, 11, decided on a whim to walk on just the red flowers in the carpet pattern in Kahala Mall.

"Before this I would worry about what would people be thinking. But if I only had one month to live, who cares? He and I had a lot of fun," Sugai said. "I learned not to waste an opportunity to enjoy time with others. I now have a greater appreciation for each day God has given us, and for what I have versus what I want."

He also came to realize that the irritations in his life were there for the purpose of sanding down his rough edges and that "I'm probably someone else's sandpaper— I'm probably an irritant to someone else.

"It allowed me to step back when I found conversations heading towards a debate. It made me listen to what the person was saying and made it easier to communicate. It's OK for people to have different opinions, but then it becomes a working conversation."

Laurie Hirata, like other members, began spending more time with her elderly mother and became less critical. Kumi Macdonald, who organized the small group discussions, encouraged peacemaking between her husband and daughter instead of just letting a rift run its course as she usually would.

She said the challenge made her realize that "life is so precious and fragile," especially when she remembers how she spent so little time with her late father, whom she loved dearly but took for granted.

"My mom is still alive and I'm gonna do things different. I'm not going to make the same mistake with her," she said. "It (the challenge) changed me. My relationships are so much more precious with my husband and children. I hold them so much more dearly. We treat each other with a lot more kindness and respect, and try not to be as critical."

"The book really instilled in me: You many never get a second chance. … That's how I want to live my life — with no regrets," Hirata said.

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