Don’t plan. Prepare

I’m built for the second chair. That’s the associate, the person that helps accomplish the vision, that makes sure the room is ready, that helps the stories be told, that translates. I love this calling. But I have a hard time planning, at least in the way that people who run their own companies and lives talk about planning. We hear about goals, about strategies, about personal visions. We read about building disruptions, independence. But some of us are rooted in interdependence.

Just before Christmas, my friend Becky told me, “I think you plan completely differently than most accepted definitions. It’s more like you prepare than that you plan.” 

That statement gave me great clarity. Preparing is about being ready for what might come, for what could come. It’s about building capacity. It’s about building a heart that has the resources to respond to the needs of others. It’s about leaving space around the edges so there is room for the unexpected.

Here are four things preparing includes:

Ezra is a great example, a person who committed to study, obey, and teach. He ended up leading a major spiritual renewal.  Being a disciple is being committed to preparing. A disciple is about learning.  A disciple of Jesus is learning to obey what Jesus said to do.

20 thoughts on “Don’t plan. Prepare

  1. Joanna Paterson

    Oh! That was quite a bright light bulb 🙂 I had been wondering why I don’t have any dreams or plans, why when I look for them they’re not there. What you have written here makes so much sense for me (and for what I know of you).

    Thank you. I think maybe I can think more peacefully about how to approach 2012 now.


  2. Rich Dixon

    When I finished my epic ride I started a list of WHAT DID I LEARN? One prominent item:

    “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken. Great preparation is the key to flexibility.”

    I don’t think this means we shouldn’t have big dreams. It DEFINITELY means we shouldn’t write our plans in ink, because God just possibly maybe might have a better idea.

    I’m thinking that there’s a lot of confusion about words like vision, dream, strategy, prepare, plan. We tend to use them interchangeably, to our peril. Other thoughts?


    1. Jon Swanson

      When I came to Grabill, our senior pastor said “The vision, mission, objective, purpose, goal, and point of this ministry are all the same. They are summed up in two simple words: *changed lives*.” After years of working in organizations that built strategic plans and vision statements and purpose statements that no one could ever remember, I loved this simplicity.

      I think, Rich, that the idea of a big dream is a wonderful thing. It can drive and inspire. It can get us to a place where we are taking actions we never thought possible, that we are helping people in ways that we never imagine.

      I can’t get there. But that’s me and the way I’m built. I have my passion, but that’s different. For me, I think, every time I sit down to fashion a dream it ends up being selfish in some way. So I have to stick with my passion statement.

      Rich, your understanding of flexibility in the context of being directed by God in unexpected ways is huge. The way your approached your ride and the flexing about names and your commitment to the simple 40 miles a day and your openness to sponsors all provide a model for how a dream can have impact.


  3. Robert Hruzek

    This resonates with me, too, Jon. I’ve never been one to write resolutions; they are ‘way too limiting. But preparation is a good way to describe how I’ve operated over the years. Thanks for the insight, Bubba!


  4. Cheryl Hyatt Smith

    Becky and Jon, thank you. (She’s a smart one, isn’t she?)

    Just this morning I was journaling about not being able to see the forest for the trees, longing for vision. Really, crying out to God, and what I heard was simply, prepare. Weird? I don’t think so!

    One of my words for this year is courage (or maybe courageous, I can’t decide what part of speech to use). Another is steward. I’m not sure how this fits in with prepare, except there’s a thought brewing in my mind. Maybe I’ll have to brew a cup of coffee, or go do some ironing to allow for some right brain thinking…


  5. Rich Dixon

    Jon–I agree with you about the wasted effort in organizations that create their mission, vision, whatever. Your key insight is here: “For me, I think, every time I sit down to fashion a dream it ends up being selfish in some way.”

    My bike ride felt different…it was a dream that chose me. I didn’t set out to fashion anything, and I really wanted to resist and avoid it.

    Maybe it comes back to something you say a lot. Maybe the key is less talk and less activity and more listening…and then being willing to act when you feel certain it’s not YOUR thing.

    That sounds all spooky and spiritual like God wrote it on stone tablets or something. I wish I could explain it better.


  6. Rich Dixon

    You’ve got me thinking.

    I suspect that your church’s mission/vision/whatever isn’t simply “changed lives.” There’s an implied direction to the desired change, right? Maybe it’s not important to formally write the words, but if you began trying to change people into athiests I’ll bet someone would object. 🙂

    I feel a blog post coming on.


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