Semper Paratus

This display is comprised of gloves used by the smokejumpers.

Always be ready! —Matthew 25:13 CEV

One of the highlights of our month-long trip to the Pacific Northwest this past summer was touring the North Cascades Smokejumper Base in Winthrop, Washington.

These amazing firefighters, who parachute into remote areas to combat wildfires, must be ready at all times to respond quickly and efficiently. When the air horn sounds, they have two minutes to suit up in their gear, which includes pants, jacket, harness, reserve parachute, main parachute, helmet, gloves, and personal fire pack. Their goal is to be in the air, en route to the fire, within 15 minutes of being dispatched.

The key is to always be ready.

Their suits hang in the parachute loft in such a way that all they have to do is back into them. Parachutes, paracargo (supplies dropped from the aircraft via parachute), personal gear bags, and 100-pound backpacks are all ready to go.

The smokejumpers are semper paratus—always ready.

Semper paratus, the motto of the US Coast Guard, would be a good motto for each of us. Because we need to be always ready for anything, planned or unplanned, that drops itself in our laps.

While I love serendipity and spontaneity—they add excitement and fun to life—they are the exception, rather than the rule. I need order and organization. They are my keys to survival. Without them, chaos reigns. And with chaos come stress, anxiety, worry, waste of time and resources, and, often, disaster.

This coming Saturday our house will be filled with family gathering together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Eleven people, ranging in age from seven to 68, and two dogs (including Tucker, the hyperactive pup who chews everything in sight), will spend the weekend under our roof and share a Thanksgiving meal.

This takes planning—from meals to snacks to who sleeps where to games to bathroom time to keeping Tucker out of trouble.

When the first car drives up, I have to be ready.

This involves lots of planning, preparing, and praying.

I’ve made lists of things to do, groceries to buy, who will prepare and bring what dishes. I’ve scheduled which rooms to clean on which days next week.

Once my plans are in place, it’s time to begin preparing.

Sometimes the unexpected upends the whole apple cart. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” (Robert Burns). Then what? I go to Plan B. If that doesn’t work, Plan C.

If all else fails, I pray.

But prayer isn’t last-minute grasping at straws when things go wrong. It’s a part of every phase of semper paratus. Pray when you plan. Pray as you prepare. But most important, pray ahead. You don’t know what the day will bring.

I pray ahead every morning when I wake up. Before I even throw back the covers, I ask God for wisdom and discernment, for guidance in the problems I’ll face and the decisions I’ll make. I don’t know what those problems and decisions will be. But God does.

I need God beside me, every moment of the day, for the big things and the little things. Without Him, all my plans and preparations come to naught.

What about you—are you always ready for what’s on your agenda? For the unpredictable?

Are you semper paratus?

Help me, Omniscient Father, to be always ready for anything that will come my way. Help me to plan and to prepare for the expected and the unexpected. Only with Your help can I navigate the unpredictable waters of life. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 25:1–13

© 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

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