Just for Today

By Linda Tancs

For tomorrow I cannot pray. Cover me with thy shadow just for today.—St. Therese of Lisieux

There is a Dear Abby column that has often inaugurated each new year called Just For Today. It’s a list of things you can try to do, even if it’s just for today: things like being optimistic, living in the moment, taking care of your health, taking action, being agreeable, being happy and improving your mind. Try it. Start your own list of affirmations, beginning each one with “just for today.”

That column is the perfect reminder that it’s the moment that counts, just as the Bible instructs. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34). Who knows what tomorrow will bring (James 4:14)? Jesus taught His followers to ask for their “daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). It’s a matter of trusting Him, one day at a time.

If you focus on today, then before you know it, you’ll have many todays behind you and be well on your way to developing better habits, but you need to look at what is—and move from there. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift—that’s why we call it ‘the present’.”

Living the Life You’ve Imagined

By Linda Tancs

Are you living the life you’ve imagined? If not, why? Is it lack of courage—or encouragement? First Thessalonians 5:11 exhorts us to encourage each other and build each other up. Let’s face it, though; it’s easy to play it safe. But as the expression goes: no guts, no glory. Take a look at the excuses you use to keep from realizing your dreams. I’m too old (or young)I don’t like riskMy family would never approve. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough influence. It’s all been done before. I’m not that talented. What excuses do you make? We all have hopes and aspirations. The next time you contemplate yours, be very conscious of the excuses that creep into your thoughts. Chances are, you haven’t given them much thought or even accepted them as excuses because they’ve become so much a part of your daily thought process. Or you may have “inherited” one or more of your favorite excuses from a potentially well-intentioned friend or family member. However, excuses derive their power from you—and only you. God’s Word gives you the power to banish them. As Ephesians 4:23 says, renew your attitude.

Renewal requires you to challenge your excuses. Sure, many folks will say, “It’s not an excuse; it’s actually a fact.” Take, for example, I’m too old. How can you be sure of the truth of this statement? Like a detective, seek the evidence that bears it out. In other words, be sure to separate facts from feelings. Do your homework. How many others with aspirations like yours accomplished their goals at the same age—or even older? In New Jersey, a 96-year-old woman obtained her high school diploma. Look for stories on your topic on the internet, in business journals, blogs, social networks and so on. Only after you’ve exhausted your fact-finding mission and found no evidence to refute your excuse should you even think about accepting it as a cold, hard fact. If that’s the case, then consider whether your statement is really more a reflection of your own lack of desire to accomplish something. Are you striving towards your own dream or trying to achieve something for someone else?

There’s no need to waste time with excuses based on someone else’s agenda or your own actual (rather than conjured) limitations. In all other cases, continue to think big and look for inspiration. Remove the word can’t from your vocabulary (Philippians 4:13). As the writer Frank Scully once remarked, “Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”

The Road to Transformation

By Linda Tancs

In the movie Eat Pray Love Julia Roberts’ character remarks that ruin is the road to transformation. The remark was sparked by a tour of an ancient Roman ruin, but its deeper meaning is related to failures in life as the film’s story line indicates. It’s a compelling statement, and oftentimes we do think of transformation in the context of some failure that preceded it. But why focus on failure? I prefer Thomas Edison’s famous positioning statement: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Those “10,000 ways” are success stories, don’t you think? Every time we discover a way that doesn’t work, we’re that much closer to finding a way that does work—and learning a whole lot about ourselves in the process. The point is that transformation isn’t an event, it’s a process.

That process occurs by the grace of God, one baby step at a time. By testing the waters, we discern His will (Romans 12:2). Regardless of how long the road is, He that began a work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The Bible is packed with examples of people who were utterly transformed, Jesus’s death of course being the ultimate illustration of transformative, redemptive meaning. Think, too, of the apostles, ordinary men who became great leaders and kingdom builders. And Paul, the persecutor-turned-evangelist. David evolved from shepherd boy to a king. Remember Moses, Gideon, Ruth, Habakkuk. Their minds and hearts were all renewed in God’s Word in countless ways, bringing peace, joy and strength in times of triumph and adversity.

Think about what God has taught you from your “10,000 ways.” Would you have learned as much without Him?

From Nothing to Something

By Linda Tancs

How much faith would it take to move a mountain? According to Matthew 17:20, that which amounts to the size of a mustard seed will do. Given that a mustard seed ranges from approximately 0.039 to 0.079 inches in diameter, God asks very little of us in the faith department.

Our faith journey is a lot like the life cycle in the production of a mustard plant: germination, leaf development, stem elongation, inflorescence emergence, flowering, fruit development, ripening and senescence. Of course, we often get stuck at the planting stage. We doubt that germination will ever occur or, if it does, it might not be to our liking. We plant thought or word seeds that undermine our progress and impair the trust relationship we seek to have with God. Seeds need fertile soil to grow, the right conditions to manifest. It’s no accident that Jesus used a seed to make His point. And it’s more than just the concept of growth happening in a dark place. Arguably, the seed is the most powerful symbol on earth. What could be stronger than a seed? It pushes through the toughest elements—rocks, stones, piles of mulch—and yet is unthwarted in its mission to germinate.

Are you determined to nurture seeds of faith? Faith is strengthened by understanding God’s Word. Consider the parable of the sower that Matthew recounts in chapter 13. A seed sown along the path is akin to the Word of God that is not understood by the listener; it’s easily manipulated by the devil. A seed falling on rocky ground is the Word left unpracticed by the listener. It takes no root and is easily forsaken when trouble comes. A seed falling among thorns is the Word choked by worldly concerns and thus unable to bear fruit. The Word that is heard and understood is like a seed sown in fertile soil that yields a good harvest. So using our plant analogy, you’re more likely to flower and ripen if you don’t get choked by thorns. What are the thorns in your life? Do you trust God to bring you to victory?

Now back to that mustard plant. Which stage of the life cycle are you in? How did you get there? Where do you need to go next? Make it to the harvest (senescence) by renewing your mind daily with His Word.

The Only Way Out is Through

By Linda Tancs

British swallows spend their winter in South Africa after having traveled south through western France, across the Pyrenees, down eastern Spain into Morocco and then across the Sahara.

As often happens with life, we can learn many things by taking a look at the natural world. So what does the swallows’ journey show? In a nutshell, it’s that the only way out is through. The birds’ seasonal migration illustrates perseverance. They don’t avoid the route; they accept it—or risk their lot by staying put under conditions that foster the migration in the first place.

Humans, on the other hand, are hard-wired for shortcuts. It takes many forms. We call it the path of least resistance, the easy way out. It affects mental reasoning and even physical performance (think of all those keyboard shortcuts). What route in life are you avoiding, or attempting to short circuit? Maybe it’s a new business plan to replace the failing one. Or a new career trajectory to make better use of your skills and interests. Perhaps it’s a relocation or improved parent/child relationships.

Did Moses find a “workaround” to avoid leading the Israelites through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15-22)? Did Joshua abandon the conquest of Canaan, which took years to complete (Joshua 11:18)?

Timing is everything. Getting through, rather than just getting by, takes patience. Even the swallows don’t fly non-stop. They pause to rest. It’s a matter of patient endurance, summed up nicely by John Greenleaf Whittier, a 19th century American poet, in his poem Don’t Quit:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is strange with its twists and turns

As every one of us sometimes learns

And many a failure comes about

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow—

You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out—

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you never can tell just how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far;

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit—

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Now get through it. What’s waiting for you on the other side?