A decade or two ago we developed the habit of decorating our home for Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving. The thought was simple – the season gets very busy, comes with its own particular pressures, and we sincerely enjoy the decorations. By doing it right away on that ‘free day’ we addressed all three of those concerns. We called it “thinking ahead.” This year, with age slowing us down just a bit, Monica – thinking ahead – had us start decorating the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Since it is likely that sometime in 2021 the pandemic will be declared over, now might be the time for us to start thinking ahead … the time to start asking ourselves questions like, “What positive changes will I make in my life because of 2020?” or “What are some of the most important First Things I will do when this is all over?” And, since lists tend to lose their value when simply tucked away in a drawer, taking some foundational steps toward doing these things is invaluable … an essential part of thinking ahead.
This week I finalized our worship services through Epiphany and wrote out my sermon themes up to Ash Wednesday. Today I hope to develop the service template that will take us to Transfiguration Sunday, while thoughts about Lent are dancing around in the back of my head. I have found that this thinking ahead greatly reduces my stress and enhances our teamwork in many ways.
Of course, it does not always work. After writing Thursday’s Thirsts on Thursday mornings for years, I have recently started the habit of writing 50% or more of it on Wednesday afternoon. It did wonders for stress reduction with my 8:15 a.m. deadline. But yesterday afternoon I didn’t get around to it, and then there was CHRISTMAS CAR-oling in the evening … and then I left my laptop – all packed up and sitting outside the church office – right there overnight! All I can say is, “ouch!” … even with the best of intentions I failed.
How good it is to know that our God never fails … and that he is always thinking ahead. In the upper room on the night he was betrayed Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also.” (John 14.2-3) That is thinking ahead … and a sure promise we can depend upon. On Judgement Day the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25.34) These words beg the question, “How long ago did Jesus start thinking ahead about your life – your future – and taking the foundational steps to ensure his plans?”
The answer, quite simply, is “before the creation of the cosmos!” Now, if this is true, what does it mean when he says, “For I know the plans I have for you – plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”? (Jeremiah 29.11) To me it means that – even during a pandemic – I can depend on what he goes on to say through that prophet … “You will call to me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you.” (Jeremiah 29.12-14)
There is no reason for fear – our Savior has our future planned. We can live courageously – even when we add pressure to our lives in thoughtless mistakes or failing to think ahead … Oh, my look at the time! It is 8:05!! My mind is pushing the panic button … but my Spirit is wondering what God has planned for this altered morning. I better stop right now … but I hope this has gotten you to be thinking ahead, and, more importantly, how you can trust God in his thinking ahead for you.