Planning for a tomorrow that won’t happen

Yesterday was a historic day in geekdom. If you’re familiar with the Back to the Future movies, you might remember that yesterday marked the day that Doc Brown and Marty McFly visited in the future–October 21, 2015. If you go back and watch Back to the Future II, it’s really hilarious where people in the 1980s thought we’d be.

Flying cars. Hover boards. Self-adjusting clothing. Rehydration machines. And a whole host of other technological advancements. Granted, many of those things exist, but they aren’t available for common usage yet.

I’m a big fan of science fiction, because I like to imagine the possibilities. It’s fun to think about what could be tomorrow or what might be next year. But nobody knows what the future actually holds, so we really shouldn’t be too surprised if our plans don’t always work out.

road-street-desert-industryToday’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

This is a good verse for me at this stage in my life. I’m in a place where I’m not guaranteed a paycheck, so I’m tempted to worry about where my provision will come from. I’m working in an industry that is solely dependent on opinion. Working as a creative writer (novelist, copywriting, etc.) is a subjective field. That means people don’t have to even have a reason why they don’t like your work; they just might not like it. But that’s scary.

Movies like the Back to the Future trilogy envisioned a world where all these impossible things were suddenly made possible through technology. And we’re well on our way to achieving those things in the actual 2015, but most of their predictions were wrong. I mean, granted, they got a few things right … like Star Wars VII and the Cubs in the playoffs. 😉

But the point is that tomorrow is unknown. We can guess. We can plan. We can schedule. But in the end, we have no power over tomorrow. It’s not something that we can control or predict. That’s why it’s so important to trust God.

God knows tomorrow. He knows the day after tomorrow too. And the day after that and the day after that. Everything that’s coming, He already knows about. So when we go through tough stuff in our lives today, it’s a fair chance that He’s simply helping us get ready for what’s happening tomorrow.

It’s okay to plan. It’s okay to be ready. But don’t live for tomorrow. If you do, you’ll miss out on what God has for you today. It’s tempting. Believe me. I want to look ahead. I want to spend all my time planning and figuring out the best way to do stuff, but my plans rarely work out. And that means I’ve spent all my time and energy today planning for a tomorrow that won’t actually happen.

So the next time you feel yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole of attempting to predict the future, put the brakes on. That’s a pit you don’t want to dig. So make a few notes if you must, and then focus your attention on what you can do today. You only get one today, and then it’s gone. So don’t waste it.

Only God knows the future. And He’ll let us know what we need to know about it when we need to know, but not before.

Who has time to wonder?

When was the last time you stopped and took a moment to marvel at who God is? No? How about the last time you stopped and took a moment to just be amazed at what He’s done for you in your life? Yeah, me neither. It’s been a while. Not because I’m ungrateful or because I’m overly self-centered. I’m just busy, and I think it’s better to spend my time wisely doing the things that God has told me to do with myself while I have the time and energy to do them.

But is our life supposed to be hustle and bustle all the time? Are we supposed to be constantly on the go? Never stopping to breathe, to think, to praise, or to just be?

I struggle with this. Even when I’m supposed to be doing something fun and relaxing, I’m still thinking about how I can leverage the situation so that I’m still time efficient. Like recently when I went to the zoo with my three Forever Sisters and the Unsinkable Hoochild. I was looking forward to hanging out with them, to catching up, to being together with them, but I was also using it to get my daily two miles into the schedule so that I could get straight to work when I got home later. Nothing wrong with multi-tasking, right?

Well, as per usual, the Hoochild taught me a very important lesson that day. This kid teaches me something every time I see her, and that day was no different. She was so excited to see the sheep. This kid loves sheep. She laughs and jumps and claps her hands whenever she sees them.

Do I like sheep? No freakin’ way. I’ve had way too many experiences with sheep in my life to ever go to the zoo to see them. But I love going to the zoo to watch Hoochild see them because she finds joy in things that my grown-up attitude no longer appreciates.

Hoochild wondering at the tigers at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Hoochild wondering at the tigers at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This is one of those passages that makes me cringe every time I read it. More often than not, I’m Martha. I’m the one running around trying to do too much all at once. And, please don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a time and place for that. We need the people who will work hard and get things done. But there’s also a time to sit still and wonder at Jesus, and as adults–especially Christian adults–I think we lose that.

Jesus Himself said it. There’s only one thing worth being concerned about, and Mary figured it out. Mary was sitting at His feet, listening to Jesus and marveling.

Hoochild turned two this week. Two whole years old, and I just can’t believe it. It was just yesterday that I saw her for the first time when she was less than 12 hours old. It was just yesterday her mama made me hold her while I was sitting in my cubicle at work, and I was terrified I would drop her. Wasn’t that just yesterday?

Hoochild's adorable uncle many, many moons ago

Hoochild’s adorable uncle many, many moons ago

But then yesterday Hoochild’s uncle was four years old, sitting on the plastic slide in the old church’s playroom, narrating Dave and the Giant Pickle verbatim while I minded him during a ministry banquet. That was yesterday too, right? Wrong. That was like 17 years ago, and today Hoochild’s uncle is getting married. He also graduated from college this year.

My goodness. Where does the time go?

When you’re young, you listen to your elders talk about the rapid passing of time, and you think it can’t possibly go that fast. You can’t go to bed one morning when you’re 14 and wake up and be 30. That just doesn’t happen. I can testify, friends, it really does happen. It’s happened to me. And I thought I was being careful about it too.

When I think back over my life, how much time have I spent on useless things? How many hours have I wasted worrying about people and relationships and events and things that God had already taken care of–things I ultimately had no control over anyway? Maybe I thought worrying and twiddling my thumbs would be productive, but it never was. Wouldn’t all that time have been better spent in wonder at Jesus? Wouldn’t those days of frustration and anger or irritation been better if instead of giving in to my anxieties, I spent them in amazement at God’s grace?

Hoochild marvels at sheep. And maybe I don’t like sheep much, but I can marvel at my first conscious breath in the morning. I can wonder at the stars in the sky and that even amidst all their numbers, God still knows my name. I can stand in awe of the fact that God is a God of brilliance and creativity and that He made a world of infinite complexity for me to enjoy. That’s time well spent, Christians. Because you can worry and fret and stew and sulk all you want, but you won’t gain anything. But if you spend your time in wonder at God, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of who He is and just how much He loves you.

Who has time to wonder? Maybe the better question is: Who has time for anything else?

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.


Barn swallow nest on the front porch at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What if

Do you ever get scared? It doesn’t have to even be about something scary–just scared in general. Of the unknown? Of trusting someone with something valuable to you? Of making the wrong decision?

I wish I could say I didn’t. I wish I could say I fearlessly charge into life without a thought about what could go wrong, but that’s not true. I’m just really talented at living in denial. I can convince myself that everything is fine, and I push forward, even though I know it really isn’t. Now maybe that’s good on some counts. Maybe it’s bad on others. And maybe some fear is justified. Regardless, fear is something we all deal with, irrational or not.

To a certain extent, fear is good for us. If we’re never afraid, we never have to embrace real courage. And if we never have to embrace real courage, we never grow. But I really believe the majority of the fears we face are things that we shouldn’t waste time or effort fearing.

Barn swallow nest on the front porch at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Barn swallow nest on the front porch at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalms 118:6.

The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?

Wouldn’t you agree that the things frightening you the most in life start with “What if?” What if I lose someone I love? What if I lose my job? What if my friends don’t like me anymore? What if people get the wrong idea about me? What if–what if–what if!

I can “what-if” myself to death. I can fabricate terrifying circumstances out of nothing. I can work myself into a frenzy about a single statement from someone I barely know and can, in mere moments, have myself convinced that he/she despises me–when they really haven’t even paid any attention to me at all.

I can think of the worst-case scenario and multiply it by a factor of impossible. I can run myself into the ground planning and preparing for the apocalypse and still lose sleep at night because there’s bound to be something I forgot.

Anyone hear me? Anybody else get this? Surely I’m not the only one.

Yes, planning for the future is wise, but you can’t let your plans rule your life. You can’t let your assumptions about the unknown determine the decisions you’re going to make. Yes, be ready, but don’t live your life in fear of what if.

Make the decisions you need to make. Do the best you can with the information you have. Be diligent about the details; don’t slack off out of laziness. Do your best. And let it go.

God has it. You get that, right? I’m talking to myself here. God has this. He’s got everything under control, and nothing is going to happen that will catch Him off guard. Those people who have appeared in your life? The ones who mean so much to you, the ones you trust? God brought them along to help you.

Stop worrying. Stop being afraid. Stop letting fear make your decisions for you. Stand up to it. When fear starts whispering lies in your head, shut it out. Even better, shut it down. Fight fear with faith. If your faith is grounded in Christ, fear has no power over you. The only power fear has in the life of a Christian is the power we give it. So decide now that fear won’t gain an inch of ground in the battle of your life.

God doesn’t work through fear. Fear isn’t a very effective motivational tool. God works through love, and that’s a lot more powerful than fear any day.

That thing you’re scared of? Give it over. And if you have to let it go for good, remember that this story isn’t about you. The more you give up your life, the more life you’ll have.

Photo of SEA-TAC airport's security line (not mine), Seattle, WA

How God used TSA to remind me not to worry

I’ve been traveling for the past week, first to Seattle for an executive writing conference and then to Chicago for a regional meeting for my company. It’s been a crazy week of high stress, even though I’ve been doing my level best not to be stressed out. But travel is stressful, especially for a control freak, because there’s so much about airplane travel that you can’t control. The biggest stress factor is getting through security.

Getting through security in Wichita, Kansas, isn’t difficult. Maybe it takes 10 minutes. Maybe 15 on a bad day. But people in Wichita think 15 people is a line, sort of like we think we have traffic. If you’ve never tried to get through security in a major international airport, you won’t understand. But if you’ve travelled at all, you can identify with the photo I put up for today’s blog. I didn’t take it, and it actually doesn’t even demonstrate how busy the Seattle airport was on the day I was there. But you get the idea.

I came around the corner and saw the line in front of me and thought: “There’s no way on Earth I’m going to get through this in less than two hours.” And that’s how much time I had before my flight started boarding. Immediately, I knew I was going to miss my flight. It was going to be a nightmare. And I told myself that I should have been more demanding of the shuttle driver that he stop dawdling and get us to the airport when he’d told me he would, instead of stopping to pick up random passengers and then not dropping me off at my gate until the very last. But no, I had to be nice and sit in my seat and just take it. And what did I get for it? I was going to be late.

I was so irritated at myself. And then, I heard this little nagging voice at the back of my head. It said, “Stop being silly and pray about it.” Ever had one of those moments? When you know you should pray about something but you hesitate because you feel like a moron that you hadn’t thought of it sooner? Yeah. That was me. Moron. So I prayed (quite ashamed of myself) that God would help me somehow–miraculously–make it to my flight on time. I even texted my mom.

Then, something miraculous happened.

Just after I asked Mom to pray, I got to the little kiosk where the security dude was checking IDs. He checked mine and then inexplicably waved me to a different line than anyone else. At first, I thought something was wrong. I thought I was in trouble or I had done something I shouldn’t have. And then I saw the signs that read TSA Pre-Check. It’s a new initiative that they’re starting up apparently, and in this expedited line I didn’t have to take off my shoes, my belt, my jacket, or my hat. I didn’t have to pull out my laptop, my tablet, my phone, or any other electronics. And I didn’t have to pull out my little bag of cosmetics. I just got to throw everything on the belt and walk through the scanner, and I was done.

I texted my mom at 3:14 p.m. and asked her to pray and guess what? In a mere 12 minutes, I was through. Completely through security with no problems, no hangups, no delays, and no trouble. By all rights, I should have been in that security line for the next hour and a half easy. But somehow my boarding pass had been marked as approved for TSA Pre-Check, something the airline did without my knowledge (and only on that flight and none of the others).

I made my flight with time to spare. And I sat at my gate sipping a coffee and kicking myself, today’s verse circling my brain.

Photo of SEA-TAC airport's security line (not mine), Seattle, WA
Photo of SEA-TAC airport’s security line (not mine), Seattle, WA

Today’s verse Philippians 4:6.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

I’ve posted on this verse before, and I took up a lot of time with the story in the introduction. So I’m not going to belabor a point. I just needed to remember this. I need to remember this every day. Shoot, I need to remember it every hour.

There are so many things in my life that I want to worry about. There are so many things in my life that I want to be in control of. There are so many things in my life that I think I need to fix. The plain and simple truth is that I’m powerless to really do anything at all, and I need to fully rely on God for every step I take, every breath I breathe.

My first reaction at the length of that security line was to worry. Tell me, exactly what good did worrying about the length of that line do? Nothing. It stressed me out. It upset me. It frustrated me. I had no control over it and no way to take control. My only option would be to push through the line and ask people to move out of the way so I could get through, as if my flight was more important than theirs. Yeah, not the best witness ever.

I guess what I’m trying to get at this morning is that God already had it sorted out. I just didn’t know it. And it took TSA to help me remember that when I’m facing a challenge that I can’t control, sometimes you just need to keep moving forward and trust that it will work for the best. I was in the right place. I had done everything I could (while keeping my testimony intact) to get there on time. I just had to let God take care of the rest. And He did.

So, next time you need something, ask God for it. Don’t worry about it. Tell God about it and let Him handle it. It’s easier to say it than to do it, but whenever He works something out, it’s a lot better than when we try to go our own way.