Just one thing first.

I’m guessing that eighty percent of the people reading this email can ignore what I’m about to say. But just in case you are one of the special twenty percent, I invite you to read a little.

When I made my list of projects a few minutes ago, writing this note to you was at the top. And then I went to fill my coffee cup. I looked at the box of Nancy’s homemade granola. I sat in my computer chair and looked at the screen. I tried to figure out why I got that email from UPS Choice when I knew I hadn’t ordered anything. I opened Mailchimp to write and thought about learning more about who had recently subscribed and unsubscribed.

All on my way to writing a note to you about the danger of the statement, “just this one thing first.”

There are a million options of things to do first before we do the thing at the top of our list. And some of us try to do some of those million things. “I’m doing that, but I just need to do this first.”

It’s not even procrastination. Or that’s what we say. It’s efficiency: “I can do it on my way.”

But every time we do something else first, what we think is first is not.

Lent is about choosing. We are choosing to do or not do. We are preferring relationship with God to our self. And each time we try to do something else first, we risk getting lost.

  • “I’ll fast after this bite.”
  • “I’ll rest after these two projects.”
  • “I’ll write after I read these three things.”
  • “I’ll stop worrying after I worry about this relationship.”

Near the end of his life, a leader named Joshua looked at the people he had led. He told them that after he was gone, they could choose what god they wished to serve. “But,” he said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Service to God and others starts with what we do first.

Especially for those of us in the twenty percent.

Have a great week. Starting with what you do first.

And may I make one more suggestion? Start whatever is first with, “Hi God. May we work on this together?”

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

2 thoughts on “Just one thing first.

  1. Thank you for your post today. Here’s my feedback. Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves of the value of repentance. The austerity of the Lenten season was seen as similar to how people in the Old Testament fasted and repented in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3).

However, over the centuries Lenten observances have developed a much more “sacramental” value. Many Catholics believe that giving something up for Lent is a way to attain God’s blessing. But the Bible teaches that grace cannot be earned; grace is “the gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). If a Christian wishes to observe Lent, he is free to do so. The key is to focus on repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God everyday. Lent should not be a time of boasting of one’s sacrifice or trying to earn God’s favor or increasing His love. God’s love for us could not be any greater than it already is. Just my thoughts.

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    1. Actually, many people inside and outside churches live as though our actions will somehow make God bless us, that there is a give up and get something formula.

      I wonder whether, even beyond the focus on repentance and consecration, we are invited to focus on Jesus and then, in response, to act. I’m not sure how that order differs. And I’m working on what that looks like in actual living.

      But your point is true and compelling:
      Jesus died, for love of us,
      when we in sin were seated.
      But we ignore, that unearned love
      and so we live defeated

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