Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do the Next Thing

When I began seminary, by far the biggest obstacle standing in the way of my actually getting a Masters degree was Greek. I learned the alphabet and its sounds the summer before my classes started, as per the advice of my wise husband. So that put me one week ahead of the rest of the class. But once that week was over, I was to barely survive the frantic pace we determinedly set as we raced through the whole of Greek grammar and vocabulary in four very short months. Every Tuesday and Thursday night (the nights before Greek class), you could find me at my desk, tears of fear and frustration falling on my enormous stack of vocabulary cards. Childbirth was nothing compared to learning Greek that first semester.

One thing that did help me was a CD included with the Greek textbook. It was created by the textbook author, William Mounce. On it he would reteach the chapter for the poor slobs like me who needed lots of repetition after class. The CD also contained a helpful hint which served to encourage me greatly. Mounce labeled the lack of comprehension we might be experiencing as the “Greek Fog.” He assured us that as long as we understood what was covered two lessons back, it was OK to be in a “fog” on the current material. That was great news to me, because I lived in the “Greek Fog” zone.

My husband gave me the other great piece of advice. “Just keep plugging away,” he would tell me, “One vocabulary word, one verb parsing at a time.” This reminded me of another time when I needed similar advice.

I was overwhelmed one June. In the space of five days, I was to entertain out of town family, attend my twins’ high school graduation, host a party of 60 people for said graduation, including making all the food, finish report cards, pack up my classroom for the summer, and get ready to fly to Europe for a 10 day excursion with my boys' Madrigals group. As I sat at the kitchen table the night before the graduation, I knew I could not do it all. I was overwhelmed. Hearing my discouragement, my dad gave me a great piece of advice. “My friend has a sign in her kitchen,” he told me. “It says: Do the Next Thing.”

It was a eureka moment! I picked my head off the kitchen table and made a list. Every time the “next thing” was accomplished, I crossed it off. I only allowed my mind to think of the task at hand. And one by one, the tasks were completed. The party was a success, my grades got finished and my classroom packed away. Five days later I was on a plane to Europe. And I didn’t even forget my toothbrush.

Colossians 3:17 tells us: “Whatever you do , whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” It is difficult for us to do each task in the name of the Lord Jesus if we are too busy feeling overwhelmed about what needs to be done next. We need to slow down and stop to ask the Lord to enable us to bring glory to His name in how we complete each thing on our list. Then we need to do them, one thing at a time, to the best of our ability, and hopefully in the process bring glory to God.

That strategy got me through three semesters of Greek. I’ll let you know if it works for the fourth one as well.


Elizabeth said...

I wonder how many times "Mel, just do the next thing" has been repeated in our household and in our phone calls over the past 5 years. What a simple statement, and yet what an impact it makes.
I love you, mom. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for "Doing the next thing" with your daily posts. I look forward to each one and am encouraged by it.