How to accomplish nothing in a day

First, you must plan ahead. Preparations for a day in which nothing is accomplished must begin the night before. Work on a few household tasks that justify staying up past bedtime…load the dishwasher, fold laundry, organize your pantry. Whatever. Once you have finished the task, (or at least gotten to the part where things are messier than before but you are too tired to finish) reward yourself with a big bowl of ice cream and some tv. Sure, there is nothing good on at 1am and you really ought to go to bed but we are working on a bigger plan here! Stick with it!

When you wake up on the couch some time later, go to bed.

Your alarm will begin it’s cheerful ring at an awful hour. Ignore it. Press the snooze every 5 minutes until the clock gives up and quits trying. Alternately, just unplug the clock when you are falling into bed after sleeping on the couch.

Eventually you will have to get up, whether it’s that pesky sun shining in your face or hungry little munchkins poking you, rising will be demanded. Don’t bother getting dressed, you plan on going back to sleep as soon as possible anyway.

While you make your coffee check your email…and Facebook…and pinterest…and twitter…and catch up on all of your “with friends” games. (I know this may seem like accomplishing anything but don’t worry, I won’t lead you astray) You should be able to kill an hour or two here.

It would also be a good idea to turn the tv on at this point. Maybe your kiddos will join you in your desire to do nothing but sit and stare blankly all day. (not likely but here’s hoping!)

Leave your Bible in its place. We don’t want to be convicted now do we? Instead find a website with lots of LOL-worthy pictures to scroll through (may I suggest awkwardfamilyphotos.com?) This activity should eat up most of the afternoon. When you finish, go to YouTube and watch every single ‘laughing baby’ video. Now thats entertainment!

Feel free to doze off periodically if you would like but in any case, avoid getting off the couch at all costs.

By now it is probably bed time again. Feel proud of yourself for accomplishing absolutely nothing today. If you are particularly adventurous and daring, stay up and watch an all-night marathon of some old tv show so you can do this all again tomorrow!

Can You Hear Me Now?

“Hello? Hello?” Ever been the victim of a dropped call or bad reception? Trying to communicate with a poor connection is almost impossible. More than once I have found myself happily chatting away, only to realize that my dazzling conversational skills were being wasted on a piece of malfunctioning technology. So, what do we do? We redial! We shout louder! Sometimes we get frustrated and give up.

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But what do we do when we feel like our spiritual life is suffering from “poor reception”? When we feel like we have lost our ‘connection’ to God? These are my thoughts:

  • Redial – Sometimes we aren’t doing our part. We cannot expect to hear from God—or feel like He hears us—when we are not ‘picking up the phone’ by having a consistent quiet time and digging into the Word through Bible study.
  • Do You Have Service? – I firmly believe that salvation is a once-and-for-all deal. That said, I also believe that sometimes a person can have an emotional experience that may not have actually included surrendering their life to Christ. It is also fairly common to assume that because they were raised in church/granddaddy was a preacher /mom has prayed for me every day of my life etc. that they are ‘covered’ in the spiritual department. Not so folks. If you, personally, have not accepted Jesus as your Savior then you are not connected. The good news is getting connected is as simple as ABC: A is ADMIT you’re a sinner, that you need Christ as your savior, and that all those who call on the Lord Jesus and obey Him will be saved. You can’t be saved without Him, nor add to or take from what Christ has done for you (Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6:23). B is BELIEVE the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. You can know He is Who He says He is by the hundreds of prophecies that came true in His Life. Many things foretold hundreds of years before His birth came true in His lifetime, and others He Himself made came true later (Romans 10:9, 10:10). C is CONFESS to the Lord and admit to yourself that you have responsibilities and that you have commitments as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. The more you know about the Lord Jesus Christ, the more you’ll want to tell other people about Him (Romans 10:13, 11:36, John 1:1)
  • Check the Connection – Is something blocking the lines of communication? Sin interrupts our connection but the blessing is that God is faithful to forgive us.
  • Keep Talking & Walking – Sometimes with a bad connection, persistence is what pays off. If you keep talking and walking around eventually you will find that ‘sweet spot’ of good cell coverage. Our spiritual life can be like that too. Not every day is going to be a spiritual high but if you stay faithful during the shredded wheat days you will have the peaches & cream days. Keep on keepin’ on.

Few things feel better than finally being able to communicate after battling poor reception. Take comfort, in times when you feel that communication between you and God is not the best, in this truth: He is El Shama.(Psalm 17:6) The God who hears me (and you!) – and He never has bad reception.

 

Enough (Five Minute Friday)

I am excited to join the Five Minute Friday group for the first time! Head over here to see what it’s all about and maybe join the fun.

I will admit to spending more than five minutes on this post but I blame it on a) one word topics send my mind in a million directions so narrowing it down was no easy task and b) baby Eric is adorably distracting. In any case, here is my take on ‘enough’ in five-ish minutes.

Enough

Enough is a mindset
as much as a measure,
Not grasping for more
content with current treasure,
Opening one’s eyes to
see blessings all around
Unlocking the secret
that here can be found
Gratefulness springs
when we see the small stuff
Happiness is found when
enough is enough.

“I am doing a great thing” (Nehemiah pt 3)

I’ve been in the doldrums lately. Going through the motions without joy, the vision for the future was blurry. I contemplated easier options. And then I started last week’s Bible study and ran headlong into this: the enemies of Israel were terrified of the wall of Jerusalem being completed and they did not pull any punches in their attempt to distract Nehemiah. They attacked, spread lies, stirred up fear and tempted Nehemiah to sin. They sent messages asking him to meet them for peace talks, which sounds like a good thing, right? I love his response: “I am doing a great work and I can’t come.” Wow.

Vision
Nehemiah had a clear vision of what he was to do. He knew what God had placed in his heart and it was specific. When his heart was burdened for the people, he did not ask the king to let him go help them somehow. He went to build the wall. Remember, he did not immediately see the whole picture and have a complete plan as soon as he felt the burden of the need in his heart. He prayed…for months. How else can we know what God wants us to do but by asking Him and seeking to hear His voice? If the vision is from God we can know that it is a “great work.”

completely convinced
Nehemiah was completely convinced that then plan that God put in his heart to do was a “great work” therefore it was worth putting aside a comfortable life and rightly-earned amenities. Who would stand against constant opposition unless they truly believed that what they were doing was worth it? No one is willing to sacrifice for a mediocre work. A good work sounds nice but when we get tired there is little motivation to continue on. It must be a great work. If the vision is from God we know it is a great work because our God does not do anything mediocre.

be undistractable
Nehemiah refused to be distracted from his work, even by things that seemed good. I think he understood the lesson my Dad repeated to me countless times, “good is the enemy of the best.” Oh, to have such a clear vision and determined focus that I cannot be distracted by the ‘good’ opportunities that come along! Perhaps the hard part is that some things may be great things in one season but good things in another. And something what is a great thing for you may be a good thing (read distraction) for me.

I used to teach 3 year old Sunday School and loved it! It had its moments but for the most part it was a joy and blessing to me. Then my kiddos got a little older and we began homeschooling. Each week I felt more and more that I was not doing my best at teaching Sunday School or teaching at home because my time & energy were divided between the two. I labored over the issue, I tried to rationalize continuing with both. I felt that God wanted me to focus on the great work of educating my children and that, at least for a season, meant that Sunday School was a distraction. The guilt of stepping down when there was already a shortage of teachers plagued me…for a while. As I became more convinced of how great the work is that I am currently called to the guilt faded. You know what? That class has a teacher. Someone who may not have ever stepped up to offer to teach before but who is enjoying teaching the 3 year olds as part of the great work God has for her in this season. I know that God is in control but when I see Him work things out like that I can’t help but smile.

The are other types of distractions. You know the ones. The time wasters, fun but of little be benefit to anyone. Not everyone will be susceptible to distraction by the same thing but we all have something. I am currently battling a certain electronic distraction. I’ve thought about tossing the whole thing but it isn’t all distraction, there are some big benefits for me. My second thought was to answer every beep, bell, chirp and chime with a very loud “I am trying to do a great work here!”

ahem. Obviously, I’m still working through my distraction issues.

keep working
So what now? If I have a clear vision of the great work God has for me to do and I am completely convinced that it is great and I am carefully guarding against distractions, what then?

Do the work. Keep doing the work. And finish strong.

Stay the course, my friends. A great work will never go unchallenged. A work done by the power of God will be completed. When the wall of Jerusalem was completed everyone knew that “our God had done it.” (Nehemiah 6:16) No one praised Nehemiah for his wisdom and focus or his excellent plans. God received the glory. Ultimately, shouldn’t that always be our goal in all things?

So, what is your great work? What distractions do you battle and how do you fight them?

If you will excuse me now, I have a great work I need to get back to.

Grace for the Stinky People

One of my favorite quotes of all time is “be kinder than necessary for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.” Perhaps it is because I have fought a few silent battles, dealt with things no one could see and I know that I needed extra grace during those times. I was reminded of this recently. It just so happens that during VBS this year our water pump died…on a day when a) I was planning to get caught up on laundry and b) I had to be outside most of the day. The result? I was a stinky, sweaty mess with no way to take a shower and my kiddos looked like ragamuffins because *all* their clothes were dirty! As we went to church I prayed that everyone would be so busy with their own stuff that they wouldn’t notice…and if they did notice, that they would extend grace instead of judgement.

Even as I prayed that God would give everyone at VBS a stuffy nose, I felt a wave of condemnation. How many times have I noticed someone’s body odor and made assumptions and judgements? Yet here I am hoping for grace. What makes me so much better that they deserve judgment for their stinkiness and I deserve grace? Ouch. Talk about a punch to the gut.

Now please understand, I generally make a purposeful habit of trying to look beyond the outward appearance and actions. From first hand experience, I know that the way someone looks or acts may not show what is in their heart but, rather, is designed to mask their heart. I try to be sensitive to that. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that there are areas that, in my mind, don’t fall under that heading. Like being stinky, or speeding and passing cars when it isn’t necessary…no grace for those offenses, only judgement.

We are all familier with “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1) but do you know what the next verses say?

“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:2-5)

It is so easy to see shortcomings in others, to notice mistakes and charcter flaws. Yet we like to gloss over our own, either ignoring them completely or at least downplaying them. We hand out judgement and ask for grace. It reminds me of the parable of the unforgiving servant. He owed more than he could pay back in a lifetime and begged for mercy. The king was compassionate and forgave the debt entirely. The servant, however, went out and found a man who owed him a small amount and demanded immediate payment. When the man could not pay he was thown in jail.

We are stinky sinners. That is truth. It is written right there in John 3:16 “for all have sinned.” We have received grace & mercy from God, He has forgiven our sin-debt and washed us clean. Not because we earned it or deserved it but because He loves us. Yet, here we stand, washed clean, turning up our noses at the stinky people around us. Judging and condemning. Shouldn’t we be willing to extend grace too?

This musing is meant to be practical…as in actually giving the benefit of the doubt to the people around you who could use a shower…but also spiritual…looking past someone’s outward issues to point them to the One who can wash their soul and make them new.

Either way, would you have a little grace for the stinky people today?

To Muse or to be Amused, that is the Question (Musings from Nehemiah part 2)

This is a topic I’ve been musing on for a while. I had even written the beginnings of this post. Then I read the following paragraph in our study of Nehemiah and I just had to share these thoughts.

Nehemiah 3 repeats the phrase “they laid its beams and put in its doors with their bolts and bars in place” over and over. Kelly Minter had this to say about the ‘gates’ in our lives:

“Have you ever wondered if “mindless entertainment” might actually be a wide-open gate in your life by which many hurtful and deceiving ideas are sliding straight into your thinking? What about the friendships you keep, the magazines you read, the conversations in which you choose to engage? Are your doors open to the uplifting, truth-telling, and life-giving, or to what corrodes your soul? All day long we choose what goes in and out of our hearts and minds, and if you’re like me there are some doors, bars, and bolts that need tightening”

Let’s start with Webster

This is going to start out sounding like a vocabulary lesson but hang with me if you will, it will all come together in the end.

Muse is not a commonly used word these days…except in the sense of finding one’s muse but I am not talking about the source of your inspiration. According to good ol’ Webster: Muse (verb) to think or meditate in silence, as on some subject; to comment thoughtfully or ruminate upon; deep thought, close attention, contemplation. Synonyms: consider, contemplate, deliberate, meditate, mull over, ponder, reflect, speculate, think, think over, weigh.

Amuse is more common. We have parks dedicated to our amusement and an industry devoted to entertaining—or amusing—us. All may not be as it seems, however. You see, when you add “a” to the beginning of a word it means “not” or “without.” For example: amoral means without moral quality, having no moral standard. So, in a basic sense, amuse means without musing. Going back to Webster we get a somewhat broader picture. Amuse (verb) to hold the attention of someone, entertain or divert in an enjoyable or cheerful manner; to cause laughter; to cause time to pass agreeably; to occupy or detain the attention with agreeable objects; to engage the attention by hope or expectation as to amuse one by flattering promises. Synonyms: Charm, cheer, delight, divert, gratify, interest, please, tickle, wow.

Hmm…

Muse with me a moment

I don’t know about you, but an overdose of amusement leaves me bleary-eyed. I don’t mean sleepy (although there have been countless times that I have stayed up too late watching tv or movies or reading ‘just one more chapter’ and am consequently sleepy the next day) I mean out-of-focus, not alert, dull of senses. A few months ago I felt like I was dealing with a terrible case of mommy-brain. I felt foggy all the time. I wasn’t getting much accomplished in a day and I had a tendency to be short with my kiddos. Then it hit me. I was glued to my new iPhone all day long! Between instant access to email, Facebook, Pinterest and the ‘with friends’ games (not to mention texts and phone calls) my phone was with me all the time and in use for the vast majority of my waking hours. No wonder I was frustrated with my kiddos…they had become interruptions! And you can figure out why I wasn’t getting anything done! I was being amused to the point that I couldn’t muse even when I wanted to.

Looking over those definitions a few other thoughts come to mind.

Most entertainment (tv, movies, magazines, games on your phone, social media, even books) can be considered amusing. It engages our attention, diverts us from our real-life problems and causes time to pass agreeably. But, I believe there are other forms of amusement that we should be aware of. “To charm, to engage attention by expectation as with flattering promises, to tickle” (as to tickle the ears perhaps?) This smacks of politics to me. I don’t care which side of the aisle you are on, politicians generally spend much time attempting to charm people, and they tickle our ears with promises. If we choose to listen, believe and form opinions without musing over what we are hearing, then we are being amused. Am I wrong?

So how do we avoid being taken in? How do we avoid the brain-fog induced by amusement?

We muse! Consider. Deliberate. Think.

Check the gates, tighten the bolts, and make sure the guard is on duty.

We cannot give deep thought and close attention to anything if our senses are dulled. We can either spend large amounts of our time turning off our brains and being entertained OR we can practice the art of musing—engage in thinking, studying, discerning, conversing, weighing each word we hear and read.

Balance, grasshopper, balance

Now before you go and throw away your tv hear me say this: amusement is not all bad all the time. No, I didn’t jump to the other side of the argument here, I am trying to point out that we need to find balance. We all have times when we need to de-stress by doing something mindless, and I believe there is nothing wrong with that. We just need to be aware of and carefully choose what we allow ourselves to be exposed to while we are “vegging out.”

Allow me to share about a time when I was not careful of what was coming ‘through my gates.’ Several years ago, Owen and I got into the habit of watching tv for an hour or so after we put the kiddos to bed. There were 2 sitcom type shows that we enjoyed and that conveniently came on at that time slot. I would consider them both to be ‘good’ shows, no bad language or moral issues, just funny and relatable. One of the shows had the stereotypical tv family…the wife was pretty, educated, gave up her career to stay home with their children while the husband works, drinks beer, lies to his wife to go to sporting events and cannot care for his children for half an hour without an injury or other catastrophe. The other show had similar themes of smart wife/dumb husband. No biggie, right? After all,it was funny. It was several months later before I began to see how these shows were effecting me. I love Owen, I think he is brilliant, capable and a great husband and father. During this period of time, however, I found myself almost despising him in my thoughts, viewing him as stupid, incapable of doing things the ‘right way.’ And those thoughts occasionally turned into words…to him and to others. Needless to say, my thoughts, attitude, and words were hardly beneficial for my marriage! We stopped watching those shows and I spent months purposefully working on changing my thinking, replacing lies with truth. Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when I am mystified by his thought process or way of doing things, and times that I get frustrated with him, but during this period of time it was way beyond that. I firmly believe that having a steady diet of smart wife/dumb husband tv shows (while my brain was turned off!) effected my thought process…and I didn’t even realize it. We now avoid similar shows for the most part and on the rare occasion that we do watch them, I am aware of the negative messages and can guard against them instead of passively accepting them.

I think that is the trick to finding balance, don’t expose your mind to the unknown when your brain is not engaged. That would be like the guard who watches the gate calling out ‘someone is coming’ then opening the gate and heading home for dinner without determining whether it was friend or foe approaching!

Another way to look at it is through the parallel of eating while reading or watching a movie. When we eat while doing something else we often fail to think about what and how much we are eating. If you have ever consumed a whole bag of popcorn before the ending credits roll, then you know what I mean. The theater lights come up and you ask yourself, “who ate all the popcorn?” If we take the precaution of choosing a healthy snack we will likely feel fewer ill effects later even if we ate more than we intended to. Are you catching the parallel? If we choose our amusement carefully beforehand, fully aware of what we are exposing ourselves to, we will likely experience fewer ill effects later.

I hope I’m making sense. It all boils down to: think, choose wisely, check your gates.

Thanks for musing along with me.