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Last year I read an interesting novel. The book had an intriguing storyline and was well written, but it wasn’t anything extraordinary. The reason the book captured and held my attention is because the author did something very unique with his writing style–he wrote the entire novel in the present tense. The main character told the story as he was living it out moment by moment.

This book came to my mind while recently evaluating my life. As it turns out, I personally am terrible about living in the moment. Staying present at any given time is a real challenge for me. And if I were to venture a guess, I’d bet that I’m probably not alone. Do you ever find yourself struggling to focus on the here and now? Do you ever dwell on the past? Or perhaps you constantly recall the wonderful memories of yesterdays long gone. Maybe you are more like me, constantly striving for the future, making plans, and dreaming big dreams.

There is nothing inherently wrong with learning from the past and making plans for the future. But I’ve noticed something with my own life–I am completely failing to focus on the present. And because I do not live in the here and now, I fail to fully engage myself today. Without even realizing, today slips by and becomes the yesterday for which I long. I end up wishing I would have lived that day differently and more intentional. And when I don’t engage in today, it leaves me longing for tomorrow. I fail to find joy in the present and assume that happiness is hiding just beyond the next sunrise. I’m dreaming my life away and missing it as it passes by, leaving me with only memories of what could have been.

It is important to stay immersed in life today. Just like reading a book, we must stay focused on whatever page we happen to be reading. If we keep going back to chapter three, we’ll never make it to the treasures the next chapter holds. In the same way, if we skip to the end of the book, we gloss over important events and characters; we miss the journey all together.

The key to making the most of everyday is to focus on the page, paragraph, line, and very word that represents your life this moment. Remember the past and learn from it. Treasure special memories. Anticipate the future, and prepare for it, but not at the cost of missing the gift that today holds. After all, it is called “the present.”

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. {James 4:13-14}