The Perilous P-Word! (Diet for Dreamers)

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We seldom consider all of its potential consequences, and yet, it’s a bad habit that frequently results in loss and regret. In certain areas of life it’s considered socially unacceptable behavior. The Bible admonishes us to avoid it, because it has the ability to ruin relationships, destroy career opportunities, and rob us of success. In fact, it’s the silent killer of dreams. Were the Surgeon General to issue a statement regarding this habit, it would read “Warning: _________ may be hazardous to your goals.”

What are we hinting at? Something we intended to discuss before, but which, for various reasons (excuses?), we put on a back burner. Shall we explore this bad habit now … or perhaps wait for a better time? Later? Or now? Or should we just think about it for awhile? Maybe even sleep on it.

We won’t make you wait. The horrible habit we’re alluding to, the thief of dreams, is … and we can hardly bring ourselves to type it … the ugly P-word … PRocRAsTiNAtIOn!!

In his novel David Copperfield, Charles Dickens wrote, “Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” But the habit of procrastinating can rob us of far more than our time. True, when we put things off, we’re gambling with life’s greatest commodity, time — the “currency of dreams” — but the worst aspect of procrastination is often the unforeseen consequences of our actions … er, inactions.

When we have lots to accomplish or deadlines to meet, putting things off till tomorrow can result in last minute mad dashes to finish projects, needless stress, poor quality in our work, and sometimes the complete failure to get the job done. In Strategies for Success in Career Development (2007), Karen Lamb writes, “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

People procrastinate for a variety of reasons: to indulge in laziness; to avoid a difficult task; or simply because they’re counting on having more time. Regarding the last reason, time has an uncanny way of running out on us, and “life” often interferes with our best laid plans. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson in high school. Remember those late Sunday nights spent cramming for an exam? Nevertheless, people have a natural tendency to postpone — even the inevitable. Some even joke, “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow.”

Scooby Doo: “Mystery? Ret’s rolve it rater.”

Tomorrow, by its very definition, never comes. To quote song lyrics from the Musical Annie, it’s “always a day away.” At some point, though, we do reach the end of the line. We look back on the goals we failed to achieve, the unfulfilled dreams, the still broken relationships we intended to mend. We say things like: “I was planning to visit…”; or “I was going to make more time for….”; or “I intended to take care of that….” But planning and intending to do something only count as excuses. We’ve all heard the expression, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Like any bad habit, putting things off only leads to further procrastination. And, like any bad habit, procrastination can destroy relationships. That’s why God admonishes us NOT to put off resolving disagreements or making restitution. Ephesians 4:26 states, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry….” (NLT)  In other words, don’t put off addressing an issue or repairing a relationship until tomorrow, because tomorrow might never come.

Abraham Lincoln wrote, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Do you have a goal to achieve, a task to perform, a relationship to mend, or a problem to address? Start now. Do you want to pursue a dream? Start today. Don’t let the bad habit of procrastination steal your time and opportunities. Your future — and all your tomorrows — begin today. So don’t  delay.

“Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT)

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Vinegar and Oil (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Decades ago, writers described the United States as a great melting pot of peoples and cultures, blended together to form something extraordinary. Later, we all realized the U.S. is actually more like a big salad bowl: our diverse cultures and backgrounds come together — and mix well — but these things still retain their identity and individuality. Imagine crispy croutons, cherry tomatoes and baby spinach leaves: they taste great together, but you can still pick out a crouton, hold it up to the light and … it’s still a crouton.

The same can be said of our favorite salad dressing, too. We keep a cruet of vinegar and olive oil (plus some seasonings) on the kitchen counter, and it serves to remind us of an interesting truth about the followers of Christ. Jesus prayed to His Father in Heaven, “I’m not asking you to take [My followers] out of the world, but to keep them safe…. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (John 17:15-16 NLT) Now, to a non-believer this sounds a little insane, but we believe it. We believe that those who have accepted Christ are now His people. This “fact” has nothing to do with circumstances or anything we can see. We take this on faith.

We also take from this Bible verse the idea that “we’re in this world, but we’re not of this world” — meaning that we take part in society, playing an active role in everything, including government, but our connection is tenuous; we’ve become different (in a good way) and we’re to remain separate. In other words, like the diverse cultures in our  American “salad bowl,” we’re not to lose our identity in Christ.

We’re like the olive oil in the cruet. A hardy shake and we mix right in with the vinegar, but we never blend to the point that we lose our identity. Leave the cruet on the table for about 15 seconds and you’ll see the oil quickly separates from the vinegar. Within a minute you’ll have two distinct layers of liquid. Now, the reason we represent the oil is a no-brainer: once we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us — and throughout the Bible the Holy Spirit is represented by olive oil!

And the vinegar isn’t a total misrepresentation of the world: our society, its people and culture; and the prevailing philosophy. Life in this world gets a bit acidic at times, and hence, people often tend to have a sour attitude and outlook. Acidic and sour … like vinegar. And guess what? We need to be a part of this. When we come together with non-believers, we can make an excellent “dressing” that contributes greatly to the “salad” of ideas and cultures. But it takes an active and constant “mixing” on our part. We need to work to periodically shake things up! If we don’t, we’ll just settle out. And then we’ll be useless as a salad dressing.

Any non-believer reading this may be wondering, does the “oil” think it’s better than the “vinegar”? Not at all. The oil is actually here for the vinegar; and there can be no delicious collaboration without the vinegar. Plus, God reminds us that our salvation and association with God is nothing to boast in: “For by Grace you have been saved through faith. …It is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Hello, OIL? Please remember, “…There but for the grace of God, go I. (Being a famous quotation attributed to the Christian martyr John Bradford).

Hello, VINEGAR? Do you mind if we work together to make this great salad taste even better?

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