Friday, December 27, 2013

Dealing with procrastination

Some people just have all the luck. They get up every morning, raring to go, and get straight to work on their long list of things-to-do (yeah, they're so awesomely dedicated they have an actual, written list, not one that's merely floating through brain matter). Then they go to work or school, put in the time there, quickly getting everything done (those people, you know, the ones doing their homework during lunch while you're hanging with the posse, or who work through their lunch so they don't have to stay late and finish that account). Afterwards, they come back home, and barely shed their backpack or briefcase before they're back to work on their to-do list from this morning, barely taking time out for dinner. By 8 pm, they've finished everything on that list, but instead of enjoying a quiet evening, reveling in the knowledge of their awesomeness, they start on tomorrow's list. Only to go to bed in about an hour and start the cycle all over again, never having a single doubt...

For most of us, it doesn't quite work that way. We wake up, and then hit the snooze button because our bed begs us not to leave it all alone. When we finally drag ourselves out of bed, we watch a bunch of YouTube videos before we head to classes or work (gotta keep up on the latest, right?). When we're there, we know we should get those four projects out of the way as soon as possible, or we could use the minutes before class starts to get that paper outlined, but we check our email or text our bff instead. When we get home, there's a mountain of things to get done, papers to write, phone calls to make...but we're so tired, we collapse in front of the TV and don't move except to grab a Hot Pocket from the freezer. And then we stagger to our computers to finally get some work done, only to reason that we really should check Facebook one more time, or Tweet that joke we heard during lunch...

Sound familiar? Except for the few mythical people out there who never doubt themselves, and always lunge towards the next thing on their expanding list, we've all been there. I was there just this morning (you too? Sorry I missed you), putting off an errand I had to run. And although some of us could be sloths of human beings (which if so, that's a whole different ball park right there, and you probably wouldn't have gotten this far if you were), many of us are just plain scared. Scared of doing it wrong. Scared of being told no. Scared of being a failure.

I've got good news and bad news for you. Bad news first: you're gonna fail. You're gonna mess up. You're gonna be told no. Good news: it doesn't make you a failure. It doesn't mean you're totally unworthy of love, or that you need to crawl to the nearest cave and lock yourself in for all eternity. It just means you're human. Congrats, we all are. In fact, if you don't totally blow it at least once in a while, that means there's something totally wrong with you (such as you're a pathological liar, or delusional). Just by glancing through the Bible, I bet you can come up with a list of people who failed in one way or another. Adam and Eve, for instance. God gave them one rule, not to eat from the tree, and yet they failed to keep it (and poor Eve failed to see that Satan tricked her) (Genesis 3:1-6). Yet God still loved them so much, even though He knew they were going to fail, that He already had a plan. God doesn't love you any less for failing. Your friends and family don't love you any less. That little voice telling you all these lies is Satan. He doesn't want you to win. He's always against you. Don't believe these lies.

But what can you do when he starts throwing those things at you? Pray. When you have something pressing to do, and you can't get yourself to work on it, just pray. Pray until you feel like you could tackle it (by the way, I mean like lie-on-your-face-and-do nothing-but-pray praying, not watch-TV or scan-texts praying). Talking to God is always going to be more helpful in overcoming the fear than checking out your ex's relationship status on Facebook or those funny cat videos. Then give it a go for five minutes. Tell yourself you can quit after those five minutes. Chances are you'll be so involved you'll work past the alarm, and that dreadful task won't seem so bad after all.

Father, thank You for always giving me the strength I need to get things done. Please help me when I don't feel like doing it. Help me not to be afraid of messing up. In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

What are some ways you deal with procrastination? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, November 29, 2013

What would you do if you had only days to live?

If you haven't seen it, I definitely recommend watching The Bucket List. You can read a summary of it here (warning, lots of spoilers). It's about two men who are diagnosed with cancer. Not knowing how long they have left, they go on a quest to complete a list of things they've always wanted to do, but never got around to (a bucket list).

I confess, I haven't thought out my own bucket list yet. Pretty much my list as of right now has two items: become a best-selling author and travel the world (hey you’ve got to dream big). But the movie did get me thinking: what would I want to make sure I got to do before I die? What would I do if I found out I only had months to live?

The problem, though, is that none of us are guaranteed even the next five minutes. We could be walking from our living room to our kitchen and have our house collapse on us (very unlikely unless you live in a condemned house, but it still could happen). In James 4:13-15, we read that life is like "a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (NKJV). Think of when you walk outside on a really cold day, and you breathe out. Your breath forms a little fog, but within seconds it's gone. Or think about the steam that rises from a cup of tea or hot chocolate. You can see it for a little bit, and then it quickly dissipates into the air. That's what James is talking about. Life is like that breath on a cold day, that steam from a warm cup: here one second, gone the next, brief. What are we doing right now, with the time God has given us? Are we using it wisely, living life to the fullest? Or are we frittering it away?

I'm not saying you shouldn't plan for the future. Most likely we'll all going to live beyond the next five minutes. Most of us will probably still be moving right along 40, 50, 60, even 70 years from now. But don't plan for the future so much that you neglect to live in the present. The future may never come. All your daydreams of that perfect house or gorgeous wedding might never happen. But what can you do now? What things do you want to do, but you're holding back on because you think you'll have time later, or you're afraid to do them now? Fear's a dirty little trick Satan likes to use to get us to push things off. Complacency is another. He tells us we'll always have time to get it done, time to start that blog, call that friend, go on that missions trip. But we don't. We might never get another chance.

You've probably heard the saying Carpe Diem before, meaning seize the day. Although it's original meaning was quite different than how we use it today, it's come to mean enjoy life to the fullest, because you never know when it's going to be taken from you. Me being the Latin geek I am, I like to add a word: Carpe Diem Dei. Seize the day for God. Live each day of this life you were given to the fullest glory of God that you can. God only gives us one life to live, and we have no guarantee of how long we'll have. What can you do to bring Him the most glory with yours?

Father, thank You for giving me a life to live. Help me remember that the moments are fleeting, and help me make each one count for eternity. Give me Your strength and peace this day. Amen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cracked Pots

There's an old story about two pots, one cracked, and one without any flaws. If you want to read the whole story, check it out here, but I'll just summarize it.

Basically, there's a water bearer, who carries two pots of water to her lady's house every day. One is cracked, and the other is whole. The one with the crack in it only delivers half a pot of water to the house, whereas the whole pot, of course, brings a whole pot of water. This goes on for some time, with the whole pot proud of its awesomeness, whereas the cracked pot is getting sadder and sadder. One day, it apologizes to the water bearer for not being able to carry a full pot’s worth of water. The water bearer asks the pot to notice the beautiful flowers along the path. There are only flowers on the cracked pot's side. Knowing full well the pot's flaws, she had planted flower seeds along the path, and now she can pick those beautiful flowers for her lady's table.[1]

We fit perfectly with this story because, let's face it, we're all cracked pots. All of us have flaws, imperfections, things which are less than perfect. The Apostle Paul wasn’t exempt: he had weaknesses too. Writing about the “thorn in my flesh” he was given, he says how he asked God three times to take away this weakness from him (2 Corinthians 12:7-8, NIV). But God refused, telling him that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God knows about each and every one of our weaknesses, whether part of our sinful human nature, or specifically put upon us by the enemy to torment us. And just like Paul, He uses each one of them to portray His power through us. Just like those flowers, something beautiful and amazing can come out of our flaws through His power. After all, when we know we can’t do it through our own strength, we realize how desperately we need to rely on God for His. It’s when we realize how weak we are that we can become truly strong in Him (2 Corinthians 12:10). Instead of dwelling on our flaws in misery, let’s rely on His power to use them for His glory.

Father, thank You for loving me even with my flaws. Help me to remember that through Your power I am made strong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

[1] Summarized from