Written by Russ Crosson, Chief Mission Officer and Sr. Partner
As we approach the end of another year, if you are like me, the pace of life seems to quicken. We are approaching the traditional and beloved Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and all the planning and events that go with them―turkey dinners, decorating the tree and house, making sure we have the right clothes for all of the gatherings, securing the perfect gifts, and so on. Our calendars fill up with school activities, church events, trips to see Christmas lights, holiday performances, and numerous other year-end “to-do’s.”
It is easy to run ahead and miss the very day we are in. At least, that is the case for me. I am a producer by nature and tend to run ‘hot’ most of the time. Lately, however, I have been convicted to remember that each day is a gift from the Lord. Yesterday is past, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow, so it is critical to focus on today and stay in the moment. Psalms 118:24 reminds us, “This is the day the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Below are some thoughts I have recently meditated on to help me stay in the moment versus running ahead.
- Live today. Stay present where I am. Be engaged, tuned in, and honor those I am in contact with today. It’s difficult to keep my mind from wandering to my ‘to-do’ list or what might be coming tomorrow or next week. Psalms 127:2 tells us, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” No net good comes from the artificial prolonging of the day at either end. Do what I can do today and trust God with what I cannot do. I should not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).
- Live with my eyes wide open. Live the day I am in with gusto and fully engaged. God has put each of us here for a purpose, and until we draw our last breath on earth, we need to stay in the game. Today’s world is full of distractions. We are constantly bombarded with headlines, digital notifications, and trying to keep boundaries between our personal lives and professional responsibilities. We need to have rest and downtime as part of our rhythm, but we are not to become slothful or lazy. Instead, we are called to be engaged and productive. Hebrews 12:1b instructs us to “…run with endurance the race that is set before us…”
- Chase what matters, not what doesn’t. Some of this accelerated pace occurs when I am easily distracted or become engaged in things that really do not matter. Does my house have to be decorated perfectly? Do I need to attend all of the parties? Does the outfit I choose for each gathering really matter? It would be helpful if I ran all my year-end commitments and decisions through a purpose grid. For Julie (my wife) and I, it is important to have a written purpose statement to guide our family decision making. Our purpose statement is to create an environment and maximize opportunities to enhance the development of a godly posterity. This framework helps us determine when to say “yes” or “no” to an opportunity or decision. We have found that this intentional guideline helps us slow down and stay in the moment. If you don’t have a family purpose statement, I would encourage you to develop one. It can help remind you to focus on what matters most.
- Place everything in God’s hands. Often, our inability to live in the moment results from worry (sometimes defined as assuming responsibility I am not meant to have) ―worrying about something in the past or something coming up next week or even next month. The antidote for my worry is to cast my anxiety onto the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and practice Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
- Maximize my one shot, one try, one go around in this life. You may have heard the line from C.T. Studd’s poem “One Life” that says, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” As I enter my eighth decade of life, this sentiment has become more and more real to me, and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 has taken on new meaning. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” I think this passage has applications to each of us regardless of our age. It can also help us stay in the moment by being disciplined and purposeful.
- Think about heaven and send treasurers ahead. If I live in the moment, then I am living with only two days on my calendar―today and Judgement Day. Therefore, I should focus my decision-making on storing up treasures in heaven where moth and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal (Matthew 6:19). Heavenly treasures are not shiny and tangible like earthly treasures. They are abstract and include obeying God, praying for and serving others, witnessing to the truth of God’s Word, and pursuing righteousness.
Our time on this earth is limited and finite. Live today with open eyes, focusing on people and staying engaged where you are. Don’t relish yesterday or run ahead to tomorrow. Realize the blessing that each moment of today is.
I hope these thoughts encourage you as you close out 2023 and look forward to 2024. But remember…don’t look too far forward. Stay in the moment and only chase what matters.
Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!
Many of these thoughts were inspired by the lyrics of Jerry Camp’s song “Keep Me in the Moment.”