Posted in Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Sometimes Less is More

simple

As a young woman, I didn’t need much sleep. I believed that sleep was a necessary evil that robbed me from living an exciting and productive life. I wanted to do great things for the Lord and I packed my schedule from early in the morning until late at night. I aspired to have an amazing marriage, raise fabulous kids, work full time in meaningful ministry, invest actively in my community, build close friendships, and pursue my education, all at the same time. In addition, I wanted to keep a spotless house, cook delicious dinners every evening, have a healthy body, and keep up with my hobbies. And of course, cultivating a growing relationship with Jesus was the top priority. I was definitely ambitious, and coffee was my constant companion.

At some point, though, my body began to rebel against the break-neck pace, and I became allergic to the caffeine in coffee. I can’t seem to remember which one happened first. What I do remember is the frustration and anger I felt at not being productive. Although I hadn’t successfully juggled everything in my life according to my excellent standards, that didn’t matter. Now there was no chance at blazing a big trail of glory for the Lord. After all, isn’t being busy the same as being productive?

You may be laughing or shaking your head at my belief system. The truth is, I didn’t really think about why I did what I did back then. All I knew is I wanted a life that really mattered. It wasn’t until I had to stop and take a step back at the situation I had created that I realized my crazy way of thinking.

It doesn’t seem that our culture has changed much in thirty years in regard to being busy. I know there are people that embrace the simple lifestyle. And, there are Christ-followers who adhere to practicing regular quiet time, Sabbath, and spiritual retreats. But still, what seems to be the most common compliant when you ask someone how they are doing?

“I’m so busy!” Although they lament the fact, they still wear it as a badge of honor.

I have learned and continue to learn that busy does not equal productive, and it certainly does not equal meaningful. Sometimes less is more. This applies to managing our time well.

A powerful strategic business plan will target three to five strategic initiatives on which to focus. Any more than five will dilute effectiveness. In a similar way, if we are going to live powerfully, we cannot spread ourselves too thin. Narrowing our focus to fewer things will increase our ability for real impact.

As I prepare to begin a doctoral program in January, I have been reminded that I cannot add 20 hours of study per week to an already full plate. I need to approach my education seriously and remove some good things off my plate. I haven’t figured out what that looks like yet. Thankfully (hopefully) I have some time.

There are some questions to ask ourselves as we consider how to spend our time.

  • Am I able to spend time on the things that are truly important to me rather than on just the things that are urgent?
  • If I could only spend time on five areas, what would they be? Remember to include relationships.
  • How much room is in my schedule to accommodate divine interruptions?
  • Does my pace of life center on tasks or people? What can be changed to allow more time to invest in others?
  • If my life were to end today, what regrets would I have?

It’s a constant temptation to pack our schedules with good things. It takes diligence to be prayerfully intentional about how we spend our days. Sometimes less is more. Saying yes to less will yield blessings and empower us to be more fruitful.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. Help me to be mindful that each day is a gift from you. Help me to be intentional in how I spend each day. Show me Your ways and Your will, so that I may honor You above all things. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

How to Stop Worry In Its Track

My husband was late. Thirty minutes had passed since his typical arrival, and I hadn’t heard a word from him. His cell phone went straight to voice mail and he hadn’t responded to my texts. I tried to busy myself and not worry about him. My hands were active, but my mind was racing with possible tragic scenarios.

Perhaps he was in an accident.
Or maybe he had a heart attack and nobody was around.
Or he was involved with a younger woman.
Or he had been mugged and shot.

I settled on the health issue and dismissed the other situations. Before my husband walked through the door, I had imagined myself as a widow with no place to live and no place to go. When he arrived, he was greeted by an emotional wreck. I had allowed worry to run roughshod through my mind and it had taken control.

Worry—(noun) the act of tormenting oneself with or suffering from disturbing thoughts.

Worry starts out subtly and, if left unchecked, can grow into enormous proportions. There is nothing about worry that is positive. It is problem oriented, focuses on the negative, presumes worse case scenarios, and is without hope. The root of worry is a lack of trust in God and His goodness, or what He has promised in His Word.

Some people seem to think that worry simply can’t be helped. “It’s a normal part of life and everyone does it.” Contrary to the opinion of these habitual worriers, we can ward off worry. It does not have to rob us of peace and health. We can thrive, even as we face difficult situations.

The following are steps that I recommend to stop worry in its tracks.

Be aware of your worries. Before you can stop worry, you need to recognize when you are worrying. Some people wear a rubber band on their wrist and snap it every time they realize they are entertaining anxious thoughts. Some people make tally marks in a journal or electronic device. It may surprise you how often you worry. In addition, take note of the things you worry about. What are the areas that cause the greatest amount of worry?

Turn worries into prayers. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” As soon as you recognize that you are worrying, refocus your attention on the Lord.

Declare Scripture over your problems. God’s Word is powerful and transforms our thinking. Find promises that address your situation and speak them out loud when worry rears its ugly head. Choose to believe what the Lord says rather than entertaining worry.

Learn to relax. Prolonged worrying can have significant effect on health. It impairs the immune system and can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, inability to concentrate, and more. Practice deep breathing techniques and meditate on God’s Word to relieve tension. Find activities that help you unwind.

Don’t allow worry to steal from you. By retraining your thought patterns, you can turn your concerns over to the Lord before they grow into worry and anxiety.

In what areas of your life are you prone to worry? What steps can you take today to stop worry in its tracks and walk in God’s peace and calm assurance?

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me. Teach me to cast all my anxieties on You because You care for me. Help me to trust You in all things, to be still and know that You are God. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

The Power of the Plan

The Timekeeper has unleashed a sinister plot, speeding up time at an increasing rate. In league with Tick Tock, they will bring about the end of the world. The Organization of Super Spies comes to the rescue and stops the villains before it’s too late.

This weekend I watched “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.” I’m not sure who selected this silly, cheesy movie on Netflix, but it had a winsome message: Don’t waste time on meaningless pursuits. Time is a gift to be cherished with the ones you love.

The older I get, it certainly seems that time is speeding up. Now that my kids are grown and I have the great joy of being a grandma, it is much easier for me to realize when “The Big Lie” rears its ugly head. “The Big Lie” says something like this: I’ll keep this frantic pace for just a little awhile. One day (hopefully soon) it will slow down and I’ll focus on the important areas of my life. I have all the time in the world.

The truth is…life isn’t going to slow down tomorrow or next week or next month without making an intentional plan to do so. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). We don’t have all the time in the world. In order to fulfill what God has intended for us, we must manage well the time we’ve been given.

Life is too short to live without a plan.

I highly recommend creating a Life Plan. A Life Plan goes beyond setting goals. It approaches life from a holistic perspective, because every decision you make either adds or subtracts value to every part of your existence. You identify what is most important to you in life and then make steps toward investing in those areas.

There are many excellent online resources to assist in life planning. A life or leadership coach can walk you through the process, helping you discover your ideal future and preferred way to get there. Develop your own structure and style. Regardless of the systems and methods, making a plan is absolutely vital to intentional living.

Powerful Life Plans include the following steps:

Envision your ideal future. What do you want your life to look like in 20 years? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone.

Identify the most important areas of your life. There are many areas that could demand your attention: Spiritual life, marriage, family, career, education, health, recreation, finances, ministry/service, social stewardship, personal development, pace of life, etc. However, you must narrow your focus. Select no more than eight categories and then prioritize them.

Identify supporting goals. For each life category, what preliminary goals will move you toward your ideal future? What objectives are you committed to accomplishing in partnership with the Lord? What action steps will lead you to these goals?

Schedule your priorities. If it’s important to you, put it on your calendar. Make sure all your action steps are included. My devotional time and observing a regular Sabbath are top priorities to me. Therefore, these actions are scheduled first.

Revisit your Life Plan often. Look at it regularly to remind yourself of your priorities and evaluate your progress. It is a living document and should be revised as necessary, based on God-given wisdom and foresight.

We don’t have all the time in the world. But by living intentional, proactive, Spirit-led lives, we can make the most of the time we have.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

How Looking at Death Can Make Your Life Better

As a pastor in ministry for 25 years, I have been involved in many funerals and memorial services. In most of them, the sharing of memories is included in the order of service. This aspect is truly telling. In some services there is awkward, even oppressive, silence. People grapple with their memories and emotions, and a few brave souls may venture forth to share a good word. In other services, people almost fight for the microphone. Their loved one had a positive, lasting influence on them, and they are eager to share. Intense emotions are still present, but memory after memory is described in an atmosphere of joy.

Some times the audience’s lack of sharing is caused by shyness, coupled with the inability to navigate intense emotions. However, it has been my experience over the years that silence is more commonly caused by a lack of something to share. One person confided to me, “My mother’s funeral was so hard. Nobody wanted to dishonor her memory, especially there. But there was nothing good to say, and you have to tell the truth.”

Thankfully most situations are not as tragic as this one, but the fact remains–all of us will leave behind some kind of legacy. There is simply no way around it. Unless Jesus returns during our life time, we will all face death one day. Our death is outside our control. What we have control over is the type of legacy we leave.

A powerful exercise used to help people develop a life plan is having them imagine their own funeral. While this may sound morbid or unpleasant, it causes people to pause and really think about where their current choices are leading as they grapple with questions like these…

What do you want your family to say about you at your funeral? Your friends? Your colleagues?

Are your current choices and lifestyle going to get you there?

Discovering the answers allows people to get in touch with their values, their God-given callings, and what is truly important to them.

I have yet to meet anyone at the end of their life who says they wished they had spent more time building their career or making more money. Rather, regrets center on failure to invest in important relationships and in making a positive difference in their world. Things might have been different if they had identified their priorities before facing a life-threatening health challenge.

I personally make a point of telling each family member, “I love you,” before leaving the house even if I plan to be gone for a short time. My husband and two of my five kids are the only ones at home now (and the adult son living with me is rarely around), however, if something unforeseen should happen to me, I want “I love you” to be the last words they remember hearing. I don’t live under the fear of impending doom. I simply realize that my choices, even small ones, build the legacy I want to leave.

By taking a look at death, we have the opportunity to make the most of the life God has given us. We can make each day count by our intentional actions to build a God-honoring legacy.

O Lord, “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NIV).