Monday, March 7, 2011

Dahlonega or Disney World

Early yesterday I committed the day to working on marketing my book, When God Comes Near. Just before lunch a friend called, and said, "Drop everything and meet me on the golf course." The weather was stupendous for early March and for ten minutes I battled the choice - work or or play. Before I wandered from my plan, I quickly called her back and said, "I have committed to only book work today. I know you understand. Have a blast." She did understand, being in the professional world herself she knows when work must come first.
Saying "yes" to my commitment seemed to ignite a fire within and move me through the day with lightning speed. Calls were made. Books were delivered and checks were picked up. Parking places opened up and lines were short. The rest of the day was like someone was three steps ahead of me, paving a trail, making my tasks swift and productive. I came home and prepared more books for shipping, wrote some letters and acknowledgements, clearing the stack on my desk. It was seven o'clock before I realized people might be wanting dinner.
What is it that motivates us in our work? What is it that makes us feel we have purpose in our tasks? And how can get distracted with many good things and never get our most important job done? I'll tell you how. We simply want it all and think because we are smart we can do it all. We want to turn left when we should be turning right. We want to grab all the little special events and forget the big project that is ours alone to complete. Have you thought what yours might be?
Here's an example. When our children were in preschool, 1st and 3rd grade we took them to Disney World. Mike and I made the reservations in advance, planned this as a surprise, packed their suitcases and picked them up at the end of the school day. To say the least, they were excited. I still get excited just remembering. They began to guess where in the world might we be taking them and named all the fun places they liked to go. They thought maybe we were going to their grandmother's in KY. They thought maybe we were going camping. We said we were going someplace really fun - like Dahlonega, a small town north of Atlanta where we would go on day trips and pan for gold, hike, and get some fudge or a caramel apple. We laughed at all their enthusiastic guesses and promised it would be the best ever. After the initial flurry of excitement we settled in for the long drive down I-75 to the Florida state line. Once there, Megan and Owen began to notice the billboards and finally squealed, "We're going to Disney World! We're going to Disney World!" Blair, on the other hand, began to cry and between sobs said, "But I wanted to go to Dahlonega!"
Mike and I looked at each other, struck with the passion of our preschooler, and yet somehow thinking the joke was on us. Here we had saved our money, made reservations for a trip every child (and parent) dreams of, driven hundreds of miles and all little Blair wanted was to go up the road a few miles to pan for gold. Thank goodness for a wiser and more worldly older brother and sister who quickly educated Blair on the joys and benefits of Disney World - Dumbo, Mickey and Donald Duck, Cinderella, and the Pirates of the Caribbean. Blair's world suddenly opened to new possibilities and soon she too was pointing and cheering every time a billboard would draw us closer.
Some days are Dahlonega days. They are great days, full of commitments, meetings, chores, gardening and family time. Dahlonega days are the routine days of life. And sometimes you find a little nugget of gold in a day's panning. But if you don't, well, you then reward yourself with some fudge for the ride home. You return again and again with the same expectations and contentment for a somewhat ordinary destination. Day in, day out. Nothing special, but enough to see you through.
Some days are Disney days when you feel you have walked directly into the "Magic Kingdom!" You have committed and planned ahead and charted your course. You stick to your plan and your purpose seems so clear. Although there is much to do, you feel confident. You are alert with anticipation and sometimes just have to snicker at the "not-so-coincidental coincidences" that come your way. And at the end of the day you marvel at what has been accomplished.
We all want more Disney days. But oh, is it ever costly. We have to be organized and diligent. We have to say "no" to lots of days in Dahlonega in order to save up for the big payback, the big day when our efforts have been fruitful and the wait has been worth every minute of perseverance. I must return to the question posed earlier: what is the project that is yours alone to complete? What steps are you taking to transform every day into days of wonder, discovery and purpose for a greater good?
This week Christians will begin again the 40-day journey to the cross. It is a time of denial and introspection. It is not idle. Jesus not only said to his disciples, "Deny yourself." He also said to "take up your cross and follow me." That means the "project that is yours alone to complete" must be lifted and carried toward HIs Eternal Kingdom. There is nothing magical about it. It's real and it's forever.