Saturday, July 25, 2009

Quit Procrastinating Tomorrow

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"Fiddle deedee, I'll worry about that tomorrow." Scarlett O’Hara, the heroine in Gone With the Wind, made a habit of shoving a lot onto the next calendar day, and she has plenty of modern companions, including me.

Procrastination is putting off a project until a later date, especially habitually doing so. Delaying decisions, avoiding messy projects or putting off confrontations is as common as sunsets. But wait. Help is available!

Hypnotists claim they can de-procrastinate dawdlers. The Japanese developed psychological strategies for dealing with the hesitant. Books and DVDs offer self-help, but they still need to be bought and read and watched. That’ll probably happen tomorrow, too.

Support groups exist for stallers. If I attended such a meeting, I imagine the warm welcome, as reformed procrastinators offer help, “Hello, my name is Cathy, and I’m a procrastinator.”

Written centuries ago, Solomon’s advice is still relevant today, “Whatever you hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). The same verse in The Message is, “Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily!”

Our natural world goes through seasons of growth, disposal, and rest each year. These cycles keep our environment tidy and functional, and order would dissolve and chaos would reign if any season skipped its timeslot.

Most of us have experienced the sheer joy of completing a dreaded project. It may have been laundering the Saint Bernard or cleaning out the fridge, but a carefree spirit cloaks shoulders when any overdue project is done.

Today, I plan to change a bad habit. I will spend 30 minutes each day sorting through old paperwork until the stack is diminished. Most will not even have to be stored, but will go into the recycle bin or shredder.

Trying to change one bad habit at a time is a good thing. My husband loves to tease about too much personal change by saying, “I don’t want to be too perfect—got to leave room for a little improvement.”

Closet cleaning, e-mail reading, house painting, eating healthy, exercising — are any of those on tomorrow’s list? Fred Brooks observed, “How does a project get to be a year behind schedule? One day at a time.”

I’m truly hoping and praying to do better in all my tomorrows. What about you? “At a steady rate, we procrastinate. I’ve only this to say—if tomorrow ever gets here, it’ll be a busy day!”

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fire in a Green Tree

June Book Winners: Congratulations to the Adys in Oregon.

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Moses investigated, and he saw green vegetation on fire, but it wasn’t consumed by the intense heat. He stepped closer, and his eyes hadn’t deceived him.

Scorching tongues of fire flickered in the low branches of a bush, yet the leaves shone verdant green, and then “God called to him from within the bush. ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses, said, ‘Here I am.’” (Exodus 3:4).

In some ways, Moses witnessed a mini-version of what would happen to him over the next few decades. God’s consuming passion for rescuing the Israelites from Egypt included finding a leader to negotiate with Pharaoh. God intended to engage Moses and fire him up -- at the age of 80!

Moses grew up in Egypt, but at the age of 40 he hastily left because he took the life of a harsh Egyptian taskmaster. The next forty years he tended sheep in a wilderness, a place where the harsh conditions sandpapered his heart, got it ready for service.

When God made the call from the hot flames, perhaps Moses had considered retiring his shepherd’s staff to prop his feet on a rock footstool and listen to the latest Bedouin tunes. But God designated another path.

Was Moses past his prime, God didn’t think so. Part of Moses’ job description was to represent God in Pharaoh’s court. Eventually, because of a holy fire kindled in Moses’ heart, he pleaded God’s case against enslavement.

In Reg Cox and Rick Brown’s superb book, The Xodus Files ~ following God in an alien land, they compare Moses and Israel’s journey to this generation of Christians. In File number 4 (chapter 4) they say, “It’s one thing to catch a glimpse of God’s mission. It’s another to be awakened to the possibility that he wants to use you.”

That possibility ignited in Moses. God knows about fickle human hearts, but when Moses heard from God, he said, “Here I am.” Because Moses followed through with God’s call millions were rescued.

God, in majesty and power, drew the Hebrew people into a renewed covenant relationship. After living in bondage for over 400 years, Israel was happy to escape from slavery, but they weren’t necessarily running to God. Later, God explained how he wooed them. “I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus 19:4).

Inexperience, old age, young age -- God still knows how to ignite fires in green trees. Authors Cox and Brown say that God’s goal is to communicate his love to all people. “He will craft a mountain, shape a seashore or erect a cross if that’s what it takes to get our attention and alter our eternity.”

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tapioca-Who Knew?

June Book Winners: Congratulations to the Addys in Oregon.

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This week I made tapioca pudding—my husband’s favorite dessert. The pudding is certainly easy enough to make, with the convenience of boxed granules and a microwave.

If you look at the ingredient label on real tapioca, not the pearled version derived from potato starch, you will see two words: cooked tapioca. There's a reason the comforting word "cooked" appears, because uncooked tapioca is poisonous.

"Tapioca" is a word of South American Indian origin. The name applies to a food derived from the root of bitter cassava. According to Latin American tradition, a Spanish explorer, heard from the natives about the highly poisonous sap of the cassava plant. Later, lost in the jungles of Brazil, the suffering man preferred a quick death to one of fever and starvation, so he boiled cassava roots for his last meal.

Instead of dying, he lived to tell the world how this pleasant, digestible food saved his life. The application of heat removed the poison from the sap. The cassava plant is widely known as "yucca" or "manioc." Fortunately, something poisonous changed into a benefit.

One scripture I often hear spoken as a comfort to troubled people is Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him . . .." Over the centuries, this verse has proven to be true on several levels. One of the good things God works for his children is aiding them to become like Jesus, with genuine love for God and neighbors. This is most likely the greatest promise connected with this scripture.

For many, this promise of good coming out of all things has been a rescue, the floating plank from a shipwreck. Drowning Christians have climbed up on this promise and waited to see what good would come from their experienced misfortune.

Or others have clung to the plank for the rest of their lives and in their judgement never saw the promise of good come from personal disasters. But the glitch is human eyes, scanning a very short time frame. God sees from Eden to end and knows the best timing for "good" things to happen.

Sometimes, it's not in his immediate plan for us to glimpse the turn-around. But our human nature, often accompanied by plenty of misery, asks when and how will this "good" arrive? But our most important work is to believe the Promise Maker.

Every day God is dishing out hope. Today, may be your day. Somehow, he may be turning a poison in your world into a life-support.