Starting Today

Starting Today

An ancient proverb says…

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is today.”

Looking back twenty years, it’s easy to see all the trees that should have been planted: Where we should have invested more and saved more; studied more, prayed more, laughed more; spent the day with the kids more and appreciated others more.

Just to name a few.

Today it’s easy to see all the trees we failed to plant back then. And it’s tempting to dwell on all the potentially good things that were left undone.

God, however, has forgotten them. Your sins of omission have been cast into the same sea of forgetfulness as all your other sins.

And so we must be about the business of planting trees today … starting today.

Paul said, “Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT)

Yesterday will never be any different than it was, but today’s pages are still blank.

Today is the day of salvation; today is the day to plant a tree.

It's All in the Dailies by Steve May

This memo, Starting Today, is taken from Steve’s book, It’s All in the Dailies.

say thanks

How Can I Say Thanks?

Centuries ago, William Law wrote:

“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world?

“It is not he prays most or fasts most, it is not he who lives most, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.”

In 1 Chronicles 16 David sings a hymn of thanksgiving. As I read these words, I think of the Andre Crouch song, My Tribute, which begins:

How can I say thanks for the things you’ve done for me?

This Song of David in 1 Chronicles 16 suggests some ways we can say “thank you” for God’s goodness — things that we, in the midst of keeping busy in the work of ministry, sometimes forget to do.

• Give him praise today. (v. 9) “Remind” him (and yourself) of all the wonderful things he’s done in your life.

• Make him part of your conversation today. (v. 24) The most compelling Christian I have ever known was a man who talked continuously about God — not about himself, not about his church, not about your sins and mine — but about the goodness of God. It was irresistible. No wonder his spiritual life was so dynamic, and no wonder he made such a difference in the lives of others.

• Give something back today. (v. 29) Though the idea of burnt offerings is obsolete, the idea of presenting an offering to God will never go out of date. Whatever we give back to him — our money, our time, our hearts, our lives — may seem so small, but they are pleasing to him.

What kind of offering can you give to him today? A good place to start: look for someone to serve.

These small steps begin to answer the question we would do well to ask each and every day: How can I say thanks?

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. (1 Chronicles 16:8)

Today’s post was updated from a previous post.

Put the Past Behind

Check the Date

Several weeks ago I decided to update my planner for the coming year, so I went to that big website everyone uses, made a quick search, clicked on the first result, and was this close to completing the purchase when I realized that something wasn’t quite right.

It was the date. This was a daily planner for the year 2021.

No wonder the price was good.

It made me wonder: Why would a merchant think there’s a market for a 2 year old planner?

Maybe the merchant knows us that well — and our inclination to dwell on days gone by.

Can you imagine purchasing this planner and filling each page with the items you could-have and should-have done back then? How futile would that be?

Actually, it’s not so hard to imagine, because we’re all somewhat inclined to do it…unless we make it our determined intention to do otherwise.

The Apostle Paul, who wasn’t exactly proud of his past, said this…

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

This must be the determined intention of each new day: To put the past behind and fully focus on what lies ahead.

God has a plan for your life in the coming year, and it won’t be found in a calendar long out of date. It will be found and can only be fully experienced in the day you’re facing this day, and in the days that lie ahead.

So let’s put the past behind us, just as God has exhorted his people to do…

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Before you invest your life in any day, check the date. Make sure it’s today.

C.S. Lewis: The first job each day.

C.S. Lewis: The First Job Each Day

C.S. LewisA good thought from C.S. Lewis to begin the New Year…

The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it.

It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.

And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

And so on, all day. (Taken from Letters of C.S. Lewis © 1966)

Jesus said…

A kernel of wheat of wheat must be planted in the soil. Unless it dies it will be alone — a single seed. But its death will produce many new kernel — a plentiful harvest of new lives. (John 12:24)

As we begin the New Year, we need to remember this principle: Each new day must begin with a death: our own, to self. We must do the hard work of putting aside the things we want, and set our minds on that which he wants.

From there comes the plentiful harvest.

The Power of a Clean Slate

The Power of a Clean Slate

In the movie Clean Slate, Dana Carvey plays a private detective involved in a murder investigation.

The problem is that he has anterograde amnesia and is unable to remember any details of his life from the day before. So each day, as he wakes up, he listens to a cassette tape reminding him of who he is and why he is here. This habit helps him, ultimately, to put away the bad guy and win the heart of his true love. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

Just like Carvey’s character, sometimes it’s easy to forget day-after-day just who the real “you” is.

It’s not a bad idea to pick up his habit — to begin each day with a reminder of who you are and why you are here.

It’s a reminder that you don’t get from a cassette tape machine. You get it from the Word….

Who are you, then?

A child of God.
A friend of Jesus.
A new creation.
Whole and complete.

And that’s just the beginning.

Each new day is a clean slate, another chance to live the life God called you to live, to be the person he called you to be.

Forget yesterday. Remind yourself today of who you are in Christ, and who Christ is in you.

Let this be your identity. Let this determine who you are and what you do.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)

This memo is taken from Steve’s book, It’s All in the Dailies.

Psalm 62

In Silence

Bernard Baruch said, “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

This is true not only in the workplace, it’s true in the spiritual life, too.

Many think that prayer consists only of talking to God, but there is more to it. The most transformational part of prayer is the time spent in silence, listening.

In silence, we learn.  As a friend once said to me, “Silence is not empty. It’s full of answers.”

Maybe this is why King David said. “My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1 NASB)

The first step to take when you get in God’s presence is be still.

The second step is to be still some more.

Then you begin to listen. Then you begin to hear from him.

And then you begin to experience his powerful presence.

The best thing? You can take it with you all day.

This memo is taken from Steve’s book, It’s All in the Dailies.


If I Had It To Do All Over Again

In his book Aspire, author Kevin Hall talks about Gerald Bell, a professor at University of North Carolina who conducted a survey studying the lives of 4000 retired executives.

One of the questions he asked was: If you could live your life over again, what you do differently?

Their top response, Hall writes, ranked far ahead of all the others. It was: I should taken charge of my life and set my goals earlier.

(By the way, in case you’re interested, the other answers in the survey were:

2) Taken better care of my health.
3) Managed money better.
4) Spent more time with family.
5) Spent more time on personal development.
6) Had more fun.
7) Planned my career better.
8) Given more back.

Also by the way, Gerald Bell co-wrote the best-selling book with Dean Smith called The Carolina Way, about UNC basketball.)

Back to the survey. What can it teach us?

Maybe one of the eight most common responses resonates with you. Or maybe you’ve got your own number one answer.  Either way, it’s not to late to correct your course.

You can start taking better care of your health today.

Or giving back more.

Or putting greater focus on those who are closest to you.

Or taking charge of the life in which God has made you a steward.

No point in waiting until after retirement to identify your life’s greatest should-have … unless, of course, you’re already retired — and then there’s no point in waiting one more day to begin living each day according to what matters most.

One more by-the-way: This phrase, If I Had It To Do All Over Again, is best summarized in this song by Dallas Holm.

Just Don’t Leave Me

In his teaching series on the Biblical tradition of lament, Michael Card tells a story about his friend, Alec, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a collision with a drunk driver in the 1990s.

In his quest to understand the why of it all, Alec struggled through seasons of doubt and confusion, sometimes shaking his fist in anger, other times attempting to bargain for a miracle.

He also spent much time pouring out his heart before God and praying the psalms of lament.

Later, Alec told Michael about a life-changing experience that had taken place.

One afternoon, in the midst of his prayers, he began to experience the presence of Christ in a profound and powerful way.

Of course, Alec already knew (in a theological sense) that Christ is present always in our lives, but this time he experienced Christ’s presence like never before. He could feel it. Jesus was there, in the room, by his side.

Alec said that in response to this experience of the nearness of Christ, his prayer became: “You don’t have to heal me. Just don’t leave me.

This is the nature of lament. Sometimes circumstances don’t work out the way that we want, but we discover that God is present in the midst of our suffering… and his presence is more meaningful than any change of circumstances ever could be.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:5)

Maybe You’re the Only One

Some time ago I was praying for someone I’ve known for many years, someone who’s going through a difficult phase these days.

His faith, if it exists, exists just barely. He hasn’t been involved in a church or Christian fellowship for years. He told me that he no longer sees the point in praying.

As I prayed for him on this day, the thought crossed my mind: I just might be the only one.

His family is not Christian; there are no prayers coming from that direction. Certainly no one in his current circle of friends would be inclined to pray for him, either.

Who else, then, is there? Maybe me, and no one else.

Needless to say, this gave my prayers a greater perspective, from a polite ritual to an urgent imperative.

Have you considered that there might be people in your life for whom no one else is praying?

If you’re not sure, here’s what you can do: Pray for each person on your list as if you’re the only one who is praying for them.

And urge those in your fellowship group to do the same.

Pray as if you’re the only person praying.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18 HCSB)

Moments of Grace

Moments of Grace

Joshua BellIn January 2007 the Washington Post conducted an experiment: What would happen if a world class musician performed elegant classical music on a priceless instrument in the Metro station of a major American city?

The city was Washington D.C.

The musician was Joshua Bell, who can earn upwards of $50,000 for an evening’s performance.

The instrument was a 300 year-old Stradivarius valued at $3.5 million.

The music included the works of Bach and other masters.

The experiment was captured on hidden camera.

So, what happened? How did people respond?

During Mr. Bell’s 45 minute performance, 1097 people passed by. 27 dropped spare change into his open violin case, for a total of $35. And seven of them stopped what they were doing to listen for at least one minute.

The other 1070 people hurried past, oblivious, uninterested, unmoved.

This experiment might offer hope to pastors and teachers who find themselves frustrated at the lack of response their timeless message too often receives.

But we must also ask ourselves: how many times a day does we do the same thing?

How many times do we encounter truth, beauty, and excellence, without giving it a second look? How many messages of hope do we ignore? How many demonstrations of grace do we disregard? How many divine appointments do we overlook?

Ezra wrote these words:

But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. (Ezra 9:8)

Let’s make an effort to recognize — and fully experience — those brief moments of grace God sends our way.

There were be at least few today. Will you see it?

Working With a Net

Golden Gate Bridge netWhen the Golden Gate bridge was being built in San Francisco, a number of workers lost their lives by falling from precariously high positions.

As a result, the work proceeded slowly until someone hit on the idea of building a net under the construction area so that when a workman fell, he would not fall to his death but would be caught by the net.

A giant safety net was developed at a cost of $100,000 — big money back then. It was the first time something like this was used at a construction site.

With the security of the net below them, men were able to move about at a faster pace because they knew that if they fell their lives would be spared.

With the security of the net below them, they could work without the dread of uncertainty.

We may not be able to see the net below us, but it’s there.

Our security comes from a loving, all-powerful God who protects us every step of the way. David said…

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:8)

The Top Story of the Day

The Monday Memo usually offers an idea about how to begin the day or begin the week. Today’s memo is a suggestion for the end of the day.

In The 360° Leader, John Maxwell talks about a strategy he uses for managing his life. Each day as he looks at his schedule, he asks himself, “What is the main event of the day?”

In other words, he asks what is the one thing planned for the day that he cannot afford to give less than his best. It’s certainly a good habit.

Here’s another good habit: Late each evening, before the sandman visits, take a few moments to evaluate the most significant events of the day.

BEN FRANKLIN’S QUESTIONS. Along these lines, it was Benjamin Franklin’s habit to ask himself two questions everyday.

In the morning he would ask: “What good shall I do today?”

In the evening he would ask: “What good have I done today?”

THE TOP STORY. Imagine this: If your life was a newspaper, which of today’s events would have made the front page? And what would be the headline?

Choosing the top story of the day isn’t as easy as it sounds, because our days can be a blur, spent scrambling from one non-newsworthy event to the next.

But if you know the story will be reported at the end of the day, it just might help you stay focused on what matters most during the daylight hours.

Some days, the headline might might be that you finished a long overdue project. Or that you spent time with your family. Or you served others in a meaningful capacity.

Planning your day is a crucial step to success. Evaluating your days — looking back at what God accomplished through you today — is another crucial step.

I encourage you: get in the habit of identifying the top story of the day, every day.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 92:12)