And there is a plan B

A sabbath rest, day -22

As the countdown to my sabbatical continues, I got some good news. My faculty host in Kathmandu called and was working on both the housing and the VISA issues.

Frankly, I had been a little discouraged. During Covid-19 our conversations have been infrequent and the details sketchy. There were long gaps of unknowingness, and I was spending more time thinking about plan B. Even starting to expect plan B.

But today’s conversations renewed my hope in the preferred option, researching and teaching in Nepal. For the first time, he said he expected they would be face to face by mid-February, which is when their spring term begins. He was trying to set up a meeting with their department faculty. All this is good news.

But there is still a plan B, as there should B. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). If 2020 has taught us anything, it has taught us to hold our plans loosely. Life should have taught us that anyway. And the Apostle James says:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (ESV)

James 4:13-15

From my perspective, we will live and do this is Nepal, and we will live and do that is plan B. Briefly, we lined up a place in north Georgia with poor internet where I could go and do some writing. (Thanks cousin.) The poor internet is a bonus if you want to do some serious writing.

I have two book ideas, and I expect to get to them eventually. This would be the time if the pandemic continues to rage and the vaccine fails and the world ends. Or anything like that.

The first is a book on aging. My thesis is, without moralizing, that most of us are going to live longer than we expected, so we need to think through what an extra ten years will mean, in terms of our contribution and legacy. If you reach the age of 65 your life expectancy is 85. That is, half of us will live to 85 and the other half will live longer. When my generation was young we thought we would do nothing of consequence after we reached 55, and now we have elected a 78-year-old president. Most seniors still have time to do something that matters.

So, that’s one idea.

The other is a book about risk. My thesis is that communication is one of the biggest risks we take, and we’ve been doing it all our lives, and yet our culture is becoming increasingly risk-averse. What’s up with that? If we think about how we communicate, it can help us think about which practical risk to take and which to avoid. In real life.

I don’t have the time or space to unpack that, but it’s more practical than you might expect. We take thoughtful and informed risks every time we open our mouth, and even when says the wrong (thoughtless and uninformed) thing, we learn and get better at communicating. We usually don’t stop communicating, so we are learning lessons about risk and perseverance every day. I’d like to write about this.

That’s plan B.

Comment below if you prefer one book idea over the other.

I might quote you on the back cover.


I’m making some awkward attempts at a podcast (it will get better), but I recently did a 3-minute episode on 5 tips for writing better. Check it out.

7 thoughts on “And there is a plan B”

  1. “When given a choice – Take Both!.” from Peter’s Laws, The Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive

    I find your concepts on aging intriguing. As I approach the age of LV (the Super Bowl and I are the same age), you have caused me to think that the years of building my legacy (besides being a grandfather someday) are not yet a thing of the past. My father died of cancer at age 47, ending his opportunity to build on his legacy. I then viewed age 47 to be an age of significance without having a necessary focus of life beyond that age beside “someday I hope to retire.” The question really should be “what’s next?” I outlived my father – what’s next? I retired from one career – what’s next? The nest is empty – what’s next? I am fully retired – what’s next? I would love to read about your insights.

    I don’t like to communicate. I’ve been in a combat zone, but would often rather go back than knowingly and willingly have a difficult or confrontational conversation. Because it scares me. The topic is not something I wish to explore…which supports your thesis and shows I should read it.

    1. Thanks, Warren. I do think the “what’s next” questions need to be addressed sooner. I have a friend who uses the term “retirement” when he talks about life after his career. We need to approach it that way.

      I loved your “rather go to battle” image, but of course we all do go to battle day by day in difficult conversations. I would hope a book would come across as helpful rather than simply theoretical, and I assure you there will be a chapter on conflict. If I write it. 🙂

  2. I think both book ideas are fabulous–I’ve been thinking about both topics lots recently. I think I’d vote for the risk topic though, as something that includes the aging topic, in a way. A couple thoughts that I’ve had, I’d be interested in your thoughts on… which makes me interested in either book! (both? why limit yourself… take advantage of that terrible internet.) 1) I have started thinking that getting old must be the last great trial of life before our true rest in the Lord. And to meet that trial with courage and purpose probably ought to take many years of conscious preparation…. but what does that mean and look like practically? 2) (Obviously, you would need to define communication very clearly.) But if you are considering that communication is a great risk, why is in-person communication so different from any other (say online, social media communication.) Could it be the meeting face-to-face that is actually risky? And why does it seem that risk is something on which many people base life decisions? Aren’t there many other more important priorities?

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. Maybe the question is which I should do first. :). On communication, I think I am thinking more about talk, F2F. But the issue of how we take risk online is intriguing and deserves some attention. Without sounding morbid, at some level, the aging idea really is about dying well. Any thoughtful treatment has to take into account managing the limitations and challenges that will surely come. Thanks for reading.

  3. I like the risk idea. I always tell my students the only thing consistent about communication is miscommunication so understanding and forgiveness are essential but thinking about communication as a risk is also a great way to define it- very relatable especially now that do a lot of mediated communication it seems the risks are higher (or at least more obvious.)

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