Connect for…?

Yesterday, I did something crazy, outlandish and downright disturbing.  For the first time in ages, I watched the news.  And not just the local news, but good old-fashioned, fear mongering, big broadcast, major network news.

I’ve read a few headlines here and there the past few days about the latest in Washington politics: the Russians, the big news with Rob Kardashian and I thought, well, I probably need a little education.
Huge mistake!
What is wrong with the world, people?  Y’all, we’ve gone crazy.  I mean, pure, undeniably, legit crazy.  You don’t believe me?  Just read the headlines.
There are several important things out there that we should all pay attention to, but mixed in between are things like the naked pictures that celebrity A sent to celebrity B.  And, the latest tweets from our nation’s leader.
Now, I’m not here to judge so please don’t take this out of context, but y’all, aren’t we smarter than this?  Have we really gotten to the point that we accept this behavior?  Are we really going to stand for Twitter wars from the most powerful people on the planet?  Have we lost all self control and dignity?  I’m not making a political statement here, but for goodness sake, just stop it already!!!
As I sat there filling my mind full of this garbage, I couldn’t help but think of a message by Andy Stanley that stopped me in my tracks a few months ago.
The sermon series is entitled “Pack Your Bags” and is a series of messages to help prepare us for the next season of life and the transitions ahead.  This particular message is entitled “Praying Ahead”.  Now, if you’re not a Christian please don’t stop reading and listen to the message anyway.  I promise this is a beneficial life lesson for everyone.  And, if you’re a teenager or young adult, lean in, buckle up, and pay attention.  The choices you make between the ages of 16 and about 30ish will shape your entire life.  Choose carefully.
So, how do we do that – make wise choices?  Doesn’t seem that hard, really.  Well, until you see really smart people make really dumb decisions and you wonder “didn’t they see this coming?”.
Or, maybe you’re the smart one who made really dumb decisions over and over again.
You look back and think:
Why?
Why did I do that?
Why did I send that message?
Why did put all those things on a credit card?
Why are all my relationships broken?
Why?
Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but, when I think back through many of the dumb decisions I’ve made throughout the years, I was simply living my life as if today were the only day.
Andy Stanley describes this as living life unconnected.  Like the decisions we make today will not impact our tomorrow.  Now, I believe there is some truth to the old Garth Brooks song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes”.  We should love, forgive, and extend grace to others like we may never get another chance – there’s no question about that.  But, in reality, many of our day-to-day decisions often don’t appear that powerful – like the money we spend, the relationships we choose, and the habits we form.  But, living life as if this principle does not exist will lead you down roads you’d rather not take.  Ultimately, finding that decisions made today become the past but, also, show up in the future.
This is not only his or my opinion but a biblical principle as well.
Proverbs 27:12 tells us “The prudent (or wise) see danger and take refuge, but the simple (naïve) keep going and pay the penalty.
In other words, the prudent or wise understand that life is connected.  One day impacts the next.  They see danger in making decisions as if this principle does not exist and take refuge or shelter.  But, the simple, naïve, and, in some translations, gullible or stupid keep going and pay the penalty.
Let me give you an example from my own life.
When I got out of graduate school I had about $25,000 of student loan debt.  I recently paid that debt in full and almost cried as I sent the last payment.  Now the truth is that I could have paid this off years ago.  Last year I decide to buckled down and stop this debt nonsense.  I started Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey.  Y’all I’m a little embarrassed to tell you this but, when I started this process in September 2016, approximately 20% of my income was going to paying debt.  Not paying “extra” on my debt either.  Just paying it.  Now this doesn’t count my mortgage, daycare, food expenses, utilities, gas, etc.  This is plain old debt.  The car payment, a credit card, furniture I didn’t need but WANTED, and those old student loans.  Why?  Because over the past 10 years I made decision, after decision, after decision that lead me to this point.
I bought the shoes.
I bought the clothes.
I bought the furniture and the car.
I signed my name, ignored the warning, gave away peace, kept going, and lived with the debt.  Sure, I could pay all my bills but this debt held me hostage.  I couldn’t always give to others the way I wanted.  I was constantly worried about all the “what-if’s” in life.  I was paying the penalty and carrying something I was never meant to carry.
Prior to climbing my way out of this debt, I would sit and wonder why things never changed.  I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to make more money, because clearly that would be the answer, right?  Wrong!!!  No amount of money would fix this problem because it didn’t matter how much money I made.  The problem was in the way that I spent it.
So, how did I not see this coming?  How did I not stop it sooner?  Well, we all see what we want to see, right?  We hear what we want to hear.  We justify, we press on and we pay the penalty.
But, the prudent or the wise are willing to see what they desperately don’t want to see.  They see the debt and it’s power.  They see the red flags in the relationship.  They see the unhealthy habits and addictions.  They see the danger and take refuge.
Thankfully, through many warnings, I got my act together and I’m very close to experiencing no debt.  But, how do we make sure that we continue to make wise decisions and avoid the penalty?  Well, Andy Stanley took this verse in Proverbs and made it into a prayer:
“Heavenly Father,
help us to see trouble coming long before it gets here.  Then, give us the wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it”.

This is my prayer for you, our leaders, Rob Kardashian and me.  That we would see the danger, take refuge, avoid the penalty and live life connected.  And, if by chance someone out there has access to the aforementioned Twitter account – well, if you could just turn it off – that’d be great!
~Mary Ann
Andy Stanley, “Praying Ahead”:

http://northpoint.org/messages/pack-your-bags/praying-ahead/#.WWvPhTh1nb4.email

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