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What Matters

I have to keep a careful eye on the difference between urgent things and important things. If I allow the urgent things to dominate my day, I will never do what is truly important and will always feel dissatisfied. — Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak


We live in a culture that’s hooked on urgent things. The ‘news’ is a rapidly changing kaleidoscope of breaking or imminent disasters, briefly obsessed over and soon forgotten.  (Who thinks or speaks about the earthquake in Haiti now? Surely the damage done there has not been fully healed. What about the East African famine?) The advertisements between news segments urge us to rush out and upgrade now, be the first to try it, don’t miss it. Christians and preppers are not immune to this compulsive urgency. Our worship life can become shallow as we chase trends in an attempt to stay ‘relevant’, or narrow and fearful as we try to predict the End Times. Our preparation can devolve into a frantic attempt to prepare some response to each new rumor of possible disaster.

We’re called to step back from this vortex of urgent things and consider what’s really important. We are called to pay attention to our family life before it reaches crisis points, to build trust, teach character, build on each other’s strengths and deal gently with each other’s weaknesses. We’re called to the necessary but unglamorous work of building and planting and pruning and cooking and mending, the work that holds our lives together but doesn’t get much attention. We’re called to be present to our neighbors in their small struggles, losses and triumphs, to learn from them when we can and help them when we can, to build networks of trust and love. We’re called to the vital and unspectacular work of prayer, holding the world up to God, with God, a labor of love that goes on forever, beyond the bounds of urgency and time.

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