The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Watching clouds when you’ve got a job to do

I put unpleasant things off. Don’t you? If I have a task to do that I know isn’t going to be fun, I tend to avoid it until it’s absolutely necessary. That’s one reason why I schedule dentist visits six months in advance, so when the appointment comes around, I have to go.

It’s easy to avoid conflict. It’s easy to put uncomfortable tasks off. I reason with myself that now isn’t the best time anyway. I’ve got too many other things going on, and I’ll take care of it when life slows down a little. But God has something to say about that mindset.

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ecclesiastes 11:4.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Usually it’s not a good idea to pick single verses out of Ecclesiastes. It’s one of those books where context is especially important, but this verse is self explanatory. Procrastinators never get anything done. And they look for excuses to keep putting things off.

Can you imagine a farmer waiting for perfect weather to plant a field? In Kansas, that just never happens. We only have perfect weather when we don’t need it. The important times of years, planting and harvest times, it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. But the farmers here make it work in spite of the weather. And that’s the mindset we need to attack life with.

Our lives will never be perfect. There will always be something wrong. Maybe it’s a job or a relationship. Maybe it’s financial trouble or health issues. Whatever is going wrong in your life isn’t significant reason to avoid doing the right thing. If you can’t do the right thing when life sucks, you won’t do the right thing when life is better.

That begs the question, what is the right thing? Like always, the answer is what’s in the Bible. What does God say? God tells us what He expects from us. He has shown us how to live our lives. The example He set for us, and the examples other godly men and women have set for us, led us to live lives that aren’t always fun. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. Sometimes we have to take a stand against friends and family and loved ones, and sometimes that will make us the bad guys in their eyes. But what is right is right.

Don’t run away from the right thing. Don’t run away from doing what God has told you to do. You know what God says. And if you don’t, pick up a Bible and start reading. He’ll talk to you soon enough.

But whatever you do, don’t wait. Don’t sit around making promises to do what God has told you to do when life gets better. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll make the right decision when things aren’t so stressful or when you’ve cleaned up all your messes. You’ll never get there. Life is messy, and you can’t even begin to start cleaning it up until you bring it to God anyway.

If you don’t know what to do, keep waiting. God will show you. He’ll make it obvious. Believe me, He’s not that subtle. You’ll know what you’re supposed to do when the time comes. And until the time comes, just keep living life the way He says.

But if you know what God wants you to do, why are you waiting? Why are you sitting there? Do it. I know it’s scary. But your life isn’t going to work until you take the next step and do what God says. Stop putting it off. Stop making excuses. Stop watching the clouds. You’ve got a job to do.

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The kitchen counter at Safe Haven Farm after a week (or two or three), Haven, KS

Facing anxieties like ripping off a band-aid

I am a procrastinator, at least when it comes to things I don’t want to do. If it’s something I’m passionate about, I’ll jump up and do it right away, with zeal! But if it’s something I don’t really have interest in doing anyway? Well, it can wait until later. After all, I don’t really need it right now, do I? It’s not important, right?

Wrong. It may not be important now, but it will be important later. And later, when you have run out of time to do a good job on it, you’ll be wishing for the time you wasted back again.

Why is it so easy to procrastinate? I know I’m not the only one out there, and it confuses me. Because I’m a rational person. Some might even call me a wise person. But still–even though I know the consequences–I would often rather face the consequences and do what I want instead of doing what I should do.

It irritates me. But I guess it doesn’t irritate me enough to change. Take my dishes for example (please, take them). If you’ve been reading my posts for a long time, you’ll remember a few other times that I’ve posted about my amazing, alarming stacks of dishes that pile up. It’s not that I don’t like doing dishes. It’s just that there are other more important things to spend my time on. Dirty dishes don’t bother me. They only bother me when I know people are coming over and I know a countertop overflowing with dirty dishes will make me look irresponsible. Then I care about my dishes, and then I spring into action. Of course, it takes ten times longer than it would have if I just did them earlier.

The kitchen counter at Safe Haven Farm after a week (or two or three), Haven, KS

The kitchen counter at Safe Haven Farm after a week (or two or three), Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 12:11.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Living a disciplined life isn’t easy, and there never seems to be an end to it. Because the moment you conquer one aspect of your life and bring it under control, another area seems to let go. Living a disciplined life feels like trying to hold on to sand. The more you grab, the more keeps slipping through your fingers. You bring one area of your life under control, but when you let go of it to seize another area, you lose your grip.

The trick is finding the balancing point, where you are able to live and live well according to how God would want. But you won’t get there overnight. And the journey isn’t easy. And I can guarantee you’ll never get there if you procrastinate.

For me, it’s convincing myself that acting immediately is better than acting later. That requires a change of thinking. But how do you do that? I’m still trying to work it out, but I can tell you that my main reason for procrastination is anxiety.

When I’m facing a challenge that seems completely out of my control, the last thing I want to do is jump in with both feet, especially if I’m on my own. No, I back off and let everything settle. I let myself calm down, first, because jumping in unprepared rattles me, and I can’t recover when I’m challenged. But once I’ve backed off, it’s much easier to keep backing off. It’s much easier to find something more important (or more urgent) to focus on instead of doing what I should be doing, and I rationalize it telling myself that I’m not ready or that I’m not qualified enough.

Lies. Lies that spring from anxiety and insecurity. None of which comes from God .

Facing challenges is so much better if you treat them like a band-aid. Don’t just pick at it. Rip it off. Get it over with. The sooner you get over the pain, the sooner you can get on with life. And if we could look at our uncomfortable life situations that way too, I think we’d all be a lot happier and a lot less stressed. Because that’s ultimately what procrastination leads to. Stress, stress, and more stress, and eventually a poor job done because you didn’t give yourself enough time to do a good job.

Learn to be disciplined enough to shut out those anxious lying whispers when you’re faced with a challenge that scares you. No, don’t be foolish. Don’t just jump into something that you can’t handle. But don’t run away from it either, especially if it’s something you have to do, for work or for ministry or whatever.

Discipline is hard work, but if you can learn it, if you can live with it, if you can figure out a way to integrate it into your life, life itself will get a lot better, and you’ll reap the rewards of it.

So how do you do it? Well, it starts with knowing what the right thing to do is. Know what you’re supposed to do and then choose to do it. It’s that simple.

No. Not easy. It will take time and sacrifice and dedication and commitment. But the choice to act is ultimately simple, and the satisfaction you’ll feel once you’re finished will be worth it.

So why are you wavering between choosing to act or choosing to retreat? You know what you’re supposed to do. So do it.

Now.

A cow in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Don’t wait for tomorrow

Procrastinators of the world, unite tomorrow! Have you heard that phrase? I saw it in a meme or something some time ago, and it made me laugh. I hate to admit this, but I’ve got a procrastinating streak in me. Not a wide one. But it’s there. And the busier I get and the more I have to accomplish, the stronger the urge to shove it all off and do something unrelated becomes. It’s not that I’m lazy; I think I just get to the point that I have so much to process, it’s easier to live in denial until the last minute.

But is that a wise way to live? No. I don’t even have to read the Bible to know that a lifestyle of procrastination isn’t healthy. It’s detrimental to your mental health and, in some instances, your physical health too.

But what does the Bible have to say about it?

A cow in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A cow in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ephesians 5:15-17.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

What is the hallmark of a procrastinator? I said it above. Living in denial. A procrastinator can ignore the deadlines and responsibilities weighing them down and waste time on something completely unreleated. Why? Because they don’t want to think.

That’s what I do. When I have too much going on, I don’t want to think about it. Thinking about everything I have to do is overwhelming, and it’s easier not to face it. At least, it’s easier not to face it at the beginning. In the end, I’m wishing I’d started thinking about it sooner.

You guys realize that the times we’re living in truly are evil, don’t you? Maybe that sounds harsh, but what is the definition of evil? In the Bible, it’s everything that goes against God. There’s no distinction between “just bad” and “pure evil.” Evil is the absence of perfection.

We live in evil days. So when you get the chance to do something for God that might make a difference in the world, why do we hesitate? Why do we put it off?

I tend toward procrastination, especially when I’m busy or when I’m sure the issue isn’t important or that my interference won’t matter. But what do I know? I had the opportunity to interfere in a situation last week, and I decided not to. Why? Well, just being honest here, I didn’t want to mess with it. I have so many other things going on, I didn’t feel like investing the time on this one issue would be worth it.

I’m not going to go into details, but a situation that developed as a result of this issue blew up last week. Now, I’m still not convinced that I could have changed anything, but at least I would have the peace of mind knowing I had tried to help stop it. As it is, I have to live with the fact that I knew about a problem and didn’t do anything to prevent it. As it is, I’ll never know if I could have helped or not.

That’s the price of procrastination. You miss opportunities. You lose the chance to make a difference. Can you always make a difference? Of course not. But isn’t it better to try and fail than to spend the rest of your life wondering?

Whatever God is telling you to do, do it today. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t wait until you feel ready. Just do it. Do it now because you’re not promised another day. You woke up breathing for a reason today; maybe this is your last chance to really do something great for God, whether it’s helping someone carry in groceries or just smiling at a stranger in the store. Maybe that doesn’t sound great to you, but the person you helped probably feels differently.

Put off procrastination. If you have the chance to do something good in these evil days, make the most of it. Seize the opportunity before you miss it. Either that or spend tomorrow wondering and regretting what might have been if you had.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Dawdling

The English language fascinates me. It’s a melting pot, a strange concoction of so many different languages and influences. But I imagine it’s a nightmare to try to translate from and into. I’ve worked with enough people who speak different languages (Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, German, etc.) to grasp that. English, and especially American English, is broad and indolent and verbose; American English likes the sound of its own voice. But even so, it’s a fun language to learn about because the more you learn about English, the more you learn about other languages.

Granted, I’m a word nerd. But today’s verse made me think of a word that I really haven’t heard used much recently. The word I thought of is dawdle.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Did anyone else hear, “Don’t dawdle!” in this verse? Or was that just me? Maybe it was just me because, again, I’m thinking this word has fallen out of common usage.

I looked it up on dictionary.com, and the word actually started into common usage around 1775, probably based on the word “daddle” which started in 1656 and meant to walk unsteadily. The thought is that the daw bird influenced the word because of its reputation of being sluggish and silly. And that’s what dawdle means. To waste time. Being sluggish. Being idle. Lingering for no purpose other than to linger. It’s the kind of word I used to think only stiff and proper nannies used when telling unruly children to get busy.

The thing about dawdling is that it’s purposeless. It’s a waste.

And what I see in this verse today is that God isn’t dawdling. He’s waiting. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between waiting and wasting time, but the way you can tell is that one has a purpose and the other doesn’t. Waiting means there’s a plan in action and you’re just anticipating when it’s your turn to jump in; dawdling, wasting time, is knowing the plan but refusing to jump in even when it’s your turn.

God isn’t dawdling. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He’s waiting to come back for us because He wants to give everyone the opportunity to make a choice. He’s waiting because there are still some people who are dawdling.

By that same token, it’s a good idea to think your decision through, though. Don’t make snap judgments ever. I truly believe that many people decide to follow Christ on a whim. It’s easy to say; it’s much more difficult to live. And if that decision wasn’t truly a decision made with both heart and head in tandem, it’s not real. It has to be a commitment, not just a statement. Unfortunately, I think people who don’t believe are confused by those of us who do when we tout the Christian life as easy.

Yes, there are aspects of it that are easy, but it’s not an easy life. Not by a long shot. It’s a life full of joy and gratitude and contentment and wonder and awe at what God can do. But it’s a life of sorrow too because we are constantly surrounded by darkness and contempt and foolishness–and there are days when holding up “This Little Light of Mine” makes my arm really tired. And those are the days that we need to be honest with people about.

So it’s good to think about your choices. But dawdling over choices can get you in trouble. We are a culture of procrastinators, and that would be all right if we had all the time in the world. But we don’t. You need to make sure you understand what you’re changing your mind to, but don’t dawdle about it. Know your choices. Make your choice. Don’t waste time because it’s rapidly running out.

And that works the same in life. We can linger and loiter over choices all day long, but all you’re doing is wasting time. And if God doesn’t dawdle, we shouldn’t either.

So check your heart. Are you wasting time on a decision you need to make? Are you waiting for God to show you what you need to know to make that decision? If you are, that’s between you and Him. But if you already know what you’re supposed to do, do it. Don’t dawdle.

Wheat nearly ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Harvest doesn’t wait

Autumn is the time of year where part of me just wants to collapse with a cup of tea and a good book under a blanket and do nothing but read all day long. Or I want to be outside taking long walks and not being overwhelmed with my pollen allergies. There’s something about the fall that makes me want to chill out constantly. Unfortunately, the fall is the time of year when I get the busiest. I’m always running, but in fall I run crazy.

And I don’t know about you guys, but the more I have to do, the more tempted I am not to do any of it. I have a lazy streak. Anyone who’s ever been to my house and seen my crazy load of dishes waiting to be done realizes that. I’ve actually got dishes waiting to be done today, although I’m going to do my best to get them done tonight.

It’s easy to put things off, but it’s a bad habit to get into. And some things in life really can’t wait, the harvest being among them. If you don’t harvest your crops when they’re ready, you’ll lose them. And that’s something you can’t get back.

Wheat nearly ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat nearly ready for harvest at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 20:4.

Those too lazy to plow in the right season
    will have no food at the harvest.

The Bible has so many examples of why we should get our work done while we have time it’s hard to pick one. And I’m sure everyone has a story about a time when they had an opportunity to accomplish something and didn’t and the chance never came up again. But most recently, I experienced something that made me think about procrastination.

Folks who follow this blog know I live in Kansas, state of unpredictability and ridiculous wind speeds. I had a friend out visiting recently, and I have been working on broadening her horizons as a geek. So we’ve been watching a lot of nerdy movies. Anyway, as we were watching a movie, I heard something unusual.

The wind.

Here’s the thing. To be in my 100-year-old farmhouse’s basement and be able to hear the wind outside is rare. This old place is so solid the wind has to be blowing at 70 miles per hour before I can hear it, and we couldn’t just hear the wind. We could feel it. The whole house shook like a freight train had struck it. For a moment, we dashed up to the main level, but the windows were rattling so violently that I thought they would shatter. So we retreated to the basement. We checked the storm channel briefly, and (of course) the only little circle of pink in the entire storm front was parked right over my house.

Fortunately, it didn’t last long, and the majority of the damage was to my outbuildings like my barns and my chicken coop (60 years old and blown eight inches off its foundation). But as we finished up our movie, my friend remembered that she had something she needed to do for work. And it required internet access. I thought there would be no problem. Well … hurricane force winds tend to wreak havoc with internet radio dishes bolted onto the roof of a house, and I had no internet.

It’s amazing how much you take little things like internet connectivity for granted. I had come to rely on my internet connection for nearly everything, and not having it was crippling. Not to mention my poor friend needed a way to accomplish something for work, and with my internet down, she was out of luck. (Fortunately, we determined that a 3G Kindle will run Joomla. So she was actually able to get her work done on my Kindle, of all things.)

But the point is this: How many times do we put things off because we assume we will be able to do them later? I do this all the time. I shove responsibilities to the side because I think I can accomplish them at a later date, but then–surprise! Life happens. Things get in the way. My plans don’t work out the way I expected, and before I know it, I’ve lost the opportunity to get it done.

Sometimes it’s with unimportant things. Other times, it’s with important things. And we don’t always have a piece of technology around (like a 3G Kindle) to eke out a solution. Really, we don’t have the time to waste. It’s not always fun (actually, it’s rarely fun) to do work first, but it’s better. And somehow, you end up with more time after you do what you’re supposed to do than you would have had if you skipped it. I don’t know if any of you have experienced that, but I have. Yet it’s still difficult to remind myself of that.

If we do the things we’re supposed to do first before we play, God blesses our time. It’s like He makes us more productive. I’ve seen it happen too many times for it to be coincidental, but I still seem to have trouble remembering it when it comes to doing my dishes.

So if you’re putting something off (dishes or otherwise), I encourage you to do it now. Don’t wait until it’s convenient. Just do it. Because you’re not in charge of your life. Maybe you think you are, but you’re just fooling yourself. Whether you’ve given your life to Christ or not, you aren’t the commander of the cosmos; God is.

Do what needs doing today. You might not get a chance tomorrow. And if you miss the chance, you might not ever get it back.

Wheat close up - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Small problems don’t stay that way

Small problems are annoying. I’ve blogged on this before, but I’m a big picture person. Not a detail person. Details drive me up the wall, and I tend to ignore them for as long as possible. So on Monday afternoon on my way home from work when I stopped to get gas, it was unusual that I noticed a detail about my car. It was sitting somewhat crooked. As I filled up with gas, I reset the odometer in my car so I can eagerly check my miles per gallon, and the computer in my car told me that my left rear tire was about 10 pounds low.

Of course, no one in Wichita has free air anymore. So $.75 and a dust stain on my dress pants later, I had all of my tires are pressure, and I was driving home. The tire hold the air just fine all the way home. No big deal. Got home. Sort of slept (not really; I think I’ve forgotten how) and went back into work the next day. The tire was low but not desperately. Even so, I decided to make an appointment with my local dealership to have it checked out.

So yesterday morning, I took my beloved car into the dealer. And surprise surprise, I had a rather large nail pierced right through the sidewall. To make a long story short, I had to buy a new tire.

And I spent a good half hour pondering exactly how a rusty square nail could cost me $150.

Wheat close up - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat close up – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 13:31-32.

Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

This verse is a positive verse, but I’m going to take a negative spin with it. Jesus used the illustration of a mustard seed to demonstrate how God can take something small and do something awesome with it, turning it into something great.

Well … you know that can work a different way.

Things that start off small can eventually become big, whether they’re good things or bad things. A nail in a tire is a bad thing, but if you leave it alone and don’t fix it, it can lead to a blow out … which can lead to deaths … possibly even more than one.

Can a petty, rusty square nail really cause someone to die?

If you don’t fix the problem before it becomes unfixable, yes.

Seeds are pretty spectacular little things. They’re so tiny, but after you plant them and take care of them, they become such big things. Trees or wheat crops that feed millions. The law of sowing and harvesting is incredible!

A virus is a spectacular little thing too, but even though it’s tiny–microscopic even–all it has to do is start multiplying, and pretty soon that tiny little microscopic annoyance has become something huge and out of control that can do a lot of damage.

I guess my thought this morning is that we have so many opportunities in life to fix problems before they grow beyond our means to control, but so many times we choose to let them go. We convince ourselves that the problem isn’t that big of a deal or that it will all work itself out. Well, yes, it probably will, but if you would take the initiative to fix it before it spirals out of control, maybe you can reduce the damage.

Everything is a seed. Everything you say, everything you do, everything you think. You’re planting seeds every day, and one day you’re going to watch your crops grow into something much bigger than what you planted. So if you planted something that’s too big for you to control, you need to take steps to control it before it starts controlling you.

It’s like that nail in my tire. I didn’t have to get it fixed. I could have just kept filling the tire up with air and waiting for it to deflate. But eventually that tire would have blown.

Most problems can be fixed while they’re still small. No, it’s not fun. Fixing problems is never fun, especially when it’s your fault. But it’s better to suffer a little and fix the problem while you can before it grows beyond your capabilities.

Believe me when I say if you wait until it’s too late, the suffering is far far worse.

How much time do you have left to look?

What is alluring in the concept of procrastination? Why does it seem so much better to do something tomorrow instead of today? The “grass is greener on the other side” concept makes more sense to me. So why is it so easy to procrastinate?

At least with the “grass is greener” concept, you are actively doing something. You’re feeling jealous. And even if what you’re accomplishing is negative, at least you’re accomplishing something. But procrastinating? What does procrastinating accomplish? Wasting time?

In my case, procrastination usually rears its head when I’m too busy and I have too much work to do. I have too many projects to know which one is the one I should work on, so if I give into procrastination I don’t work on any of them. I have too many novels or short stories to write, so I don’t write any of them. Recently, procrastination has been really easy for me.

But the problem with procrastination is that even though you stop working, time keeps moving. Time isn’t on our side, fellow procrastinators, and one more day that passes with us doing nothing is one less day we have to get our work done. And when our deadline hits, we’ll be out of luck and there will be no more time to waste.

In that case, you have two choices — you can either scramble around a few hours before and do a crappy job. Or you can give up.

Now, I usually end up scrambling around and producing a half-decent piece of work which is why I can procrastinate so long . . . because only I know how much time I really wasted in its production (the guilt from things like this really cured me of the vast amount of my procrastination issues before I got out of college).

But some deadlines you can’t extend. And some responsibilities have a definite time limit. And there is no scrambling around to get it done at the last minute.

Today’s verse is Isaiah 55:6.

6 Seek the Lord while you can find him.
      Call on him now while he is near.

When it comes to our relationship with God, we should never procrastinate, but it’s just as easy to do it as it is with anything else. Maybe it’s because humans are wired to think that tomorrow will come like it always has.

But no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Shoot, we’re not even guaranteed today. I could get in my car to drive to work in ten minutes and hit a loose cow in the road and be killed. Someone driving in front of me could lose something off the back of their truck, like they did in June 2008, and I could go flying off an overpass and die. 

The point is, no one knows what today holds for us. And no one can be 100 percent certain that we will even see tomorrow. So why are we so confident that we have enough time to procrastinate? How can we procrastinate when we don’t even know what our deadline is?

The deal is this, I personally believe that as long as we’re alive on earth, if you seek the Lord, you will find Him. I don’t think God ever gives up on people. I don’t think there is ever someone who is too far away to come back. There are no examples in Scripture of turning anyone away who is genuinely seeking. 

The problem is, how much time do you have left to seek? Because if your life ends and you’re not right with God, you won’t be able to find Him anymore no matter how hard you look.

This even applies to those of us who already believe. We should still seek God in our lives after we have decided to believe in Christ. But even as believers, we have a limited amount of time on Earth and if we seek only the things of the world, what good will we accomplish for God while we’re here? And then, even when we get to heaven and even though God will be near to us, we will no longer have opportunity to serve Him where it matters.

I don’t know how much time I have. But whatever time I have, I need to make the most of by being focused on the things that matter and seeking God with everything I have. Because even though procrastination is easy, it’s never the right thing to do. And nothing worth achieving was ever easy.