Monthly Archives: February 2013

Vacation-mode to Real World-mode: Piece of Cake???

“Ladies  and Gentleman…  Greetings  from the flight deck.  This is your captain speaking.  We are number three for take-off.  Flight time to Cancun is two hours and forty minutes.  Current weather is clear skies with a temperature of eighty-four degrees.”

Whoa!  Vastly different scenario from the snow-covered runways we’d just left in Louisville!  Our “Mexican Adventure” was about to begin…

Airplane flying over tropical beach.

John and I were traveling with four other couples, all of which are dear, long-time friends.  We all met when our oldest children, now fast approaching their third decades of life, were starting grade school at Dunn Elementary.

While we frequently gather for dinner, or lately parties and weddings, we’d never traveled together collectively, ten for ten of us, much less stayed in the same house  for seven days.  So how did this transpire?

Group pic from Mexico0012

Last fall, at the most gracious invitation of one of these couples who’ve invested their lives helping and leading Boy Scouts, the ten of us attended a Fund Raiser Dinner for the Scouts ( www.scouting.org ).

Upon entering, we were presented with many tables of silent auction items. Each item was more tempting than the next.  Unbelievably, we all agreed on bidding for one particular vacation home in the Caribbean.  (Never imagining we’d win.) The description of this item read:  “Sleeps ten to eleven adults, located on the beach, with a pool….”  Say no more.

We appointed a designated bidder in our group, agreed on a do-or-die bottom-line price, and went along enjoying the evening.  Before we knew it, the auction began…

Fast-as-lightening verbiage spewed from the auctioneer’s microphone…

Quickly, the bidding boiled down to our friend against another guy across the room.  Palpable tension mounted.  Nine out of ten of us leaned closer and closer, toward the stage, while our bidder bravely held his own.

We were nearing our do-or-die bottom- line price when, the next thing we knew…..

“BANG!” went the gavel.

“SOLD!” went the Auctioneer.

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What just happened?  Oh my word….WE WON!!!!

Now what?

WHEN can we go?” became the Land of Denial question.  How do you begin to coordinate ten calendars while most of us have aging parents whose health can turn in an instant???

Brave souls that we were, the girls soon met with calendars in tow to plan our “prize”.  (What a way to support the  Scouts!)  With one of each of our feet already planted firmly in the Land of Denial, we discovered just a few challenging  details:

feet in sand

“You’ll need to fly into the Cancun Airport.  We recommend you rent a car as the house is seventy-five miles south of Cancun.  Be certain you do not exceed any speed limits.  Be certain you only drink bottled water.  Pack antibiotics just in case.”   Alrighty  then.

Water bottles

Amazingly, we found a week in February we could all go.  The list-making ensued.

The Lord truly helped orchestrate our trip or it would have never happened with all ten of us.  He also protected us while we were there, not to mention the well-being of our parents back in the States.

 While in the Land of Denial, some of our more amusing challenges included watching the ever-changing speed limits on the highway.  With our two mini-vans (!), our two very competent drivers, their co-pilots (usually not the spouses…),and a few back seat drivers (which usually were the spouses, thank you very much) navigated just fine.

If only you could see the dirt road we had to traverse just to get to the road to our house!!!  Interspersed with iguanas and major, no-foolin’-major,  dips-n-holes, we finally hit concrete toward the house.

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A lovely concierge named Guillet greeted us upon our arrival.  Our neighbors from Louisville, Kentucky, came down the beach to say “hello”. (No, I am not kidding!)  Remember, we were in Akumal, Mexico!!!

And so the week  went, one “gift” after another.

Ann Voskamp, who wrote one of my all-time favorite books, One Thousand Gifts, challenges us to constantly be on the lookout for blessings, or “gifts” from God, from  the littlest to the biggest of things.  She says, “Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on.”

One Thousand Gifts

Here’s a sampling of “gifts” from our trip:

Picture-perfect weather every day.

The only-God-could-have-created-this-beauty of the beaches and Caribbean waters.

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Swaying palm trees.

Take-your-breath-away sunrises by morning.

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Brilliant stars, too numerous to count, by night.

NO health issues!!!

Delicious food, both in restaurants and prepared by a sweet couple, Noemi and Jorge, in our house.

Noemi and Jorge cooked for us twice while we were there.

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I’m still dreaming of the gargantuan bowl of homemade, to-die-for- guacamole that Jorge whipped up both nights!

Jorge making guac

The lizard we spied scurrying along the ceiling in our kitchen never made it upstairs to our bedroom!!!

We all read LOTS OF BOOKS!

Writing while basking on the beach!

Daily walks on the beach.

NO SCHEDULE!

This is worth repeating:  NO health issues!!!

TWO POINTS I’d like to bring home: 

 1 – While it is tough returning to the real world from a vacation, it is possible to continue to count your blessings regardless of your surroundings. (Sorta/kinda a piece of cake–perhaps more petit-four in size.)

And, while returning to cold February temps in Kentucky wasn’t ideal, and while the gray skies and leafless trees seem not-so-much-a-piece-of-cake compared to the tropical palms of Mexico, we remain blessed.  May we see things with your eyes, Lord.

Ann maintains that “…ingratitude makes the poison course.  The cure against thanklessness’s bite?  The remedy is in the retinaHow we behold determines if we hold joy.  Behold glory and be held by God.” 

Prior to that, she reminds us, “Without God’s Word as a lens, the world warps.”

Super exciting:  Ann Voskamp  is COMING TO LOUISVILLE for the North American Christian Convention, July 9th – 12thShe’ll be speaking at the Women’s Luncheon, on the 11th and will be leading two workshops on blogging that afternoon.  For ticket information, please visit www.gotonacc.org .

 Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to read her excellent blog.  Go to:  www.aholyexperience.com

  It’s EQUALLY important to count the blessings of friendships.

My sweet little small group of Bible study buddies is currently studying Angela Thomas’ Brave—Honest Questions Women Ask.  We have found it very helpful and empowering.  Angela takes challenging topics, such as “I am worn out,  I am undisciplined, I am trembling inside, I am suffering a thorn, etc.” and gives us promises from God’s Word on how to survive.

Brave

As a bonus, we have all loved discovering “pearls” or gifts Angela drops into each week’s lesson.  One discovery is a beautiful phrase:  “soul refreshers.”  What are “soul refreshers”?

 Soul refreshers are “Godly friends who refresh your soul.”  I pray as you read this, you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, yeah, mine are so-and-so…”  Angela adds, “If you don’t have a soul-refreshing friend, would you write a prayer asking God to bring you one, OR to bring YOU to someone who needs such a friend?”

Angela took us to I Corinthians 16:18 in the NCV,  where Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, “he said that his friends Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus ‘have refreshed my spirit and yours.  You should recognize the value of people like these.’”

 Don’t miss that point!  “We should RECOGNIZE THE VALUE of people like these.”

I love what The Message says:  “They’ve refreshed me by keeping me in touch with you.  Be proud that you have people like this among you.”

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group of guys pic from Mexico

Angela offers three excellent suggestions for us all:

(1)    “We carve out time for Godly friendship, even when there is distance involved.”

(2)    “We let them know in thoughtful ways how much they mean to us.”

(3)    “We give to them as they have given to us by listening, remembering, and laughing.”

While I’d like to quit there, Angela takes it one step further (Yes, sometimes she steps on our toes!!!).  She says, “While we’re at it, as the Holy Spirit is really convicting me in the moment:  Am I a soul refresher?  For  my husband?  My  children?  My  neighbor down the street?  Oh may it be.”

Lord would you just show each and every one of us who it is, perhaps this very day, who you would have us ‘refresh’ in you?  We thank you and praise you for the many blessings of friendship you so graciously have given us.  Amen and Amen.

  ‘Til  next time!

(This week’s post is dedicated to SIX  fantastic couples:  One very obvious one: To the multi-talented Noemi and Jorge, of Akumal, Mexico, who can seemingly cook anything, delighting ten-for-ten of us every single time! To Kathy and Joe Daniels who got this group of truly twelve together in the first place.  Kathy is still with us, right up in Columbus, Ohio, while her precious Joe, is with our Lord in His Heavenly Home, patiently awaiting us to talk football with him.  We had more fun laughing at what Joe would have said to some of our um, “antics”.  Finally, let’s not forget the ever -patient FOUR couples we just traveled with:  Randy, our birthday-boy-of-the-week, Happy 56th!!!, Susan, Jon, Denise, Steve, Bev, John and Jayne:  we’re a/k/a “The Ya-Ya’s and the Yo-Yo’s”. Another  story for another day.  Thanks for the   memories!!!  Love all y’all….You define “Soul Refreshers”.)

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Filed under Friends, Travel, Uncategorized

Fully Alive by Ken Davis will THRILL you to tears!!!

RUN, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and grab Fully Alive–A Journey That Will Change Your Life by Ken Davis!  You’ll laugh so hard and cry so hard your endorphins will be off the chart! And THAT’S a good thing!

Fully Alive

I was excited to tote Ken in my Kindle to Florida recently.  I took it everywhere.  I prefer the beach, but we also sat by the pool.  What you must know about where we stay is there’s a rule board taller than my six- foot- four husband.

“No jumping” is one such rule I have trouble with.  No jumping in a pool?  Are you kidding me?  What are we s’posed to do, slither in???

One particular day, we were already lounging at the pool.  There happened to be nary a chair left there were so many people sunning.  Few talk.  Some read, some sleep.

Pool Reading

Before I reached a certain part of Fully Alive, I’d already read aloud (but softly) a couple of parts I knew John would like.  (He’s now reading the whole book and loving it!) More library-like than an outdoor swimming pool, we whisper.  “No talking” doesn’t appear on the rule board.  Guess it’s an unwritten rule.

Well, this part I want to tell you about is very, very, v-e-r-y sad.  Grateful I was sporting sunglasses, I could feel tears dripping down my face…Unbelievably, it got sadder!  Then, on a dime, Ken added another component to the story which is the single funniest thing I’ve ever read. Ever. It hit me so hard I exploded.  Howling followed–akin to a volcanic eruption. (Remember, we’re at the very quiet pool!)

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John looked at me with a let’s-get-a-grip glance.  Of course the more you try not to laugh, you laugh harder.  By this point, I was kicking my legs up in the air I was so tickled.  Trying to tone it down just made me wheeze and gasp.  By this point I didn’t really care what all the “pool people” thought.

What I should have done was read out loud the subtitle of Ken’s book: A Journey That Will Change Your Life.  Of course I wanted to tell the “pool people” to GET a life, but we are Christians here, aren’t we now?!!!

Forgive my tirade, let’s dive into the book. (Pool pun intended.)  I’ll share a couple of highlights from this excellent resource, but I promise NOT to spoil it for your reading pleasure!

I commend Ken for being so brutally honest.  For me, and I suspect for you, his being vulnerable made me think, “Huh, well if HE can do this, I’d say ANY of us can do this.”

What does he do?  He takes us on his journey of losing sixty pounds!  He confesses his non-athleticism, toting us along while he learns to bike, jog, and swim.  Each exercise is its’ own escapade.  Some successful, and some, well, not so much.  More hysterical tears.

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Check out Ken’s attitude:  “When it comes to living, it’s the never-ending adventure of being a follower of Christ that keeps the wow in my life.”  Wow.

Oh, but how he gets there, reaching his goals, is completely enthralling.  Ken’s writing is so visual, you are right there with him, cheering him on.

Look at one of his conclusions:  “…it’s never too late to open your eyes and look around to a broader view.  Making choices means making commitments, taking a position, risking failure.  Your approach to the process will either move you forward or hold you back.”

I’m also dying to meet Diane, his wife.  She seems to possess the patience of Job coupled with a keen sense of humor.  She can be tough when necessary.  If there’s such a thing as a very frank cheerleader, she’s your go-to gal.

Those of you who know me know I’m really not a fan of exercise.  I’ll do it when push comes to shove, but a nice nap following a large chocolate bar would be my preference.

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Ken was the same way.  So, what made him change?

You’ll love this:  He cites the “Oh nooooooo” photo!  He even includes it in the book!  Brave man.

The picture is a snapshot of him with his youngest grandchild, when he was sixty pounds heavier.  This was the turning point for him because he came to two realizations:   #1 – He wasn’t looking so svelte, and #2 – If this precious child got into trouble out in the water, he probably couldn’t swim fast enough to rescue her.  Makes you think, huh?

Ken says, “…taking the initiative to do something different is one path that leads to living fully alive.”  Here’s one of many arguments you simply cannot argue against:  “A healthy body gives you the ability and stamina to keep moving ahead.  It increases your mental sharpness and makes it possible for you to more effectively glorify God by living fully alive.”   Excellent motive!

He reminds us that “consistency is much more important than intensity.”  And, we all know Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Ken’s initial work-outs depict his attempt at building Rome, better known as a buff body, in a day.  More hilarity…Thru’ the pain, Ken realized we need to pace ourselves which requires rest.

“God offers moments of respite and peace for your soul.  Rest is an important part of pacing yourself.  Studies show that the people who live the longest on earth are those who take advantage of a day of rest.” (Remember our time spent on the Sabbath last week?  Click on Part 4 of 4 on Beating Busyness …for more information.)

In addition to addressing all that comes with diet and exercise, Ken broaches real friendships.  That little four-letter word “time” plays a big factor.  Time is directly proportionate to the intimacy of the friendship.  Hello…..(A dream, or more like a recurring nightmare literally awakened Ken to re-assess his friendships.  Don’t miss this part!)

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My dear friend and mentor, Jane, always reminds me when the going gets tough to remember God and the blessings He has lavished on us. She’ll often say, “We need a lunch date so I can just see your face.”

Ken parallels this concept:  “God sent Jesus to meet people face-to-face.  The tablets and burning bushes were replaced with dinners, embraces, personal touch, and holy blood spilled on barren ground.

I’m so glad God didn’t text, e-mail or tweet His message of love to us.  Only the appearance of God in the flesh could consummate the relationship He desired with us.  It was this act of love that gave us the ability to lighten up and live fully alive.” Love that!

Another issue we all struggle with is balance.  Ken’s on the road a lot.  He candidly shares his challenging schedule.  He also coaches us on forgiveness and everyone’s nemesis: guilt.

My favorite aspect of the book is how Ken applies Scripture and teaches us some of Jesus’ pearls of wisdom without making us feel like we’ve blown it.  His lesson on God’s Sovereignty will take your breath away.  Total trust.

To be honest, while reading Fully Alive, I felt compelled to seek the Lord even more because I realized I do not have total, one hundred percent trust.  Please forgive me Lord.

One of many favorite highlights captures the theme of the book  “The glory of God is man fully alive.  When we are fully alive we function at the capacity we were created for in every area of life.  We operate on all cylinders—mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually—doing what most glorifies God and brings Him joy.”   See how his enthusiasm is contagious?  Lace ’em up and let’s get going!

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Bottom line:  I pray two things:   (1) I pray you’ll read Fully Alive.  I pray we will all be challenged, and committed to what Ken calls our Apostle Paul’s “better focus”:  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever     is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:8-9) and (2) I pray we may all be able to answer a question Ken poses:  “How has your life changed in the past few years because of the power of Christ living in you?”

‘Til  next time!

(This week’s blog post is dedicated to this most honest, talented author and speaker:  Ken Davis.  Blessings to you Ken in your ministry, your marriage, and your family.  Thank you for sharing your joys and struggles with us: your readers, and your audiences.  Bravo!  We’ll be praying for big impacts for all of us! God is faithful.)

To learn more about Ken, please visit his website:  www.kendavis.com

Super news!!!  Ken is coming to Louisville in July!  He’s one of many excellent speakers coming to the North American Christian Convention July 9 – 12.  Tickets are already available!  Go to:  www.gotonacc.org

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Filed under Book Reviews

Get Over the Guilt: Grab a Nap! (Beating Busyness: Part 4 of 4)

Slinking up the stairs, barely putting one foot in front of the other, the oh-so-tired Wife/Mom/Crazy Girl crawled into bed.

Long sigh…

Buried under the covers, sleep enveloped her quickly.

Oh, but not for long.  The world pursued…  Startling her, something was ringing, and ringing, and ringing.

Eyes wide open, she snapped: “I promise, if it rings one more time, I’m chuckin’ that thing OUT the window!” …as if her cell phone could comprehend.

She’d told herself all she needed was a quick, fifteen minute power nap…

Fuming at the interruption, she climbed back out of bed and returned to the first floor, where laundry, emails, and dishes awaited.

A rather large hamster wheel comes to mind.

hamster in wheel

How does one find time for a break???

Why does the word “R-E-S-T” seem so foreign to us?  Today we’re going to address the four letters of “rest” to help us rest.  Let’s not forget how God created rest and fully intends for us to find it.

Genesis 2:2-3 says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” NIV

R: “Remember to take a nap REGULARLYand do not, do not, do NOT feel guilty about it! Get over the guilt and get off the hamster wheel.  Remember from last week how Mary Byers taught us that even Jesus got away to rest.  (Click on Part 3 of 4 on Beating Busyness here for more information.)

So IF we are rested, we’re more apt to glorify God, as He longs for us to do.  John Piper says it best: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Please mimic our friendly polar bear below:

Sleepy Polar Bear

E : “Engage in LAUGHTER!”

Make a lunch date with your funniest friend.

Rent a funny movie.

Hang out at a preschool!  What?  Richard A. Swenson, M.D., in his book Margin–Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, shares remarkable stats:   Did you know the peak age for laughter is age four???  It’s reported that four year olds laugh once every four minutes, or four hundred times a day!

Can you guess how many times adults laugh?  An average of  fifteen times per day. (Not sure I make that on a daily basis.)  You WILL feel better if you can find the humor in your daily situations.

Dr. Swenson adds, “Perhaps the best kind of laughter is when we laugh at ourselves–we never run out of material.  After Hurricane Andrew leveled his house, a man in south Florida put out a sign reading:  ‘Open House.’  He will heal faster than his neighbors.”

Write these verses on a post-it note to take with you:  Proverbs 15:13 says, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face, a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.” (The Message)

Proverbs 17:22 helps as well: “A cheerful heart is good medecine…” (NIV)

Kick in those endorphins!

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S:  “Sabbath Keeping”

Read, very slowly, the following phrase: “Seven FULL days makes one WEAK.” Nope, not  w-e-e-k,   w-e-a-k.

This truth hails from Lynne Baab’s excellent book Sabbath Keeping.  We read and discussed her book in Book Club a few years ago.  Sadly, not one of us at the time could honestly say we even tried to keep the Sabbath.

Sabbath Keeping

One teensy-tiny detail I believe we all overlook:  One of the Ten Commandments (not “suggestions”!) happens to be about keeping the Sabbath:  Exodus 20: 8-11 says,  “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day.” (NIV)

The word “Sabbath” is from the Hebrew word, “Shabbat”, meaning “stopping” or “ceasing.”  God’s true desire is for us to purposefully carve out time to be still and enjoy Him.

Matthew Sleeth, M.D. recently wrote   24/6—a prescription for a healthier, happier life.  (This is my new favorite book to give to people!)

Matthew shares his own discovery of the Sabbath along with his family’s journey in keeping it.  His excitement is contagious.  His medical experiences from running an Emergency Room, combined with his honesty and sense of humor, makes this book a fascinating page-turner.  What makes it unique is he backs up the cases he builds with Scripture.

24-6 Sleeth

Matthew says, “In learning how to rest, we actually gain knowledge of Christ.  We learn to be gentle and humble and to GIVE UP OUR PRIDE.  My ideal day of rest …is a day when I trust that the world can get along just fine WITHOUT Matthew.”  Hmmmm, this is a good reminder for some of us control freaks (!) to mosey on over to the passenger seat.

Removing his wristwatch, Matthew and his family’s Sabbath begins.  They are “wealthy with time”.  Give it a try!

Shutting down their computers, they remain media-free for twenty-four hours.  (No more interrupted naps from cell phones! Someone ought to notify that Wife/Mom/Crazy Girl in the beginning of our story….yeah, you guessed it, that would be me.)

A clever promotional magnet to go along with 24/6 is a prescription for us all.  The Rx reads:  “REST for 24 hrs., Dispense 1x/wk, Do NOT mix with work.  Refill:  52x/yr. “  (www.246.com )  Don’t miss that last little number:  FIFTY-TWO TIMES….That equates to FIFTY-TWO GIFTS from God.  Don’t waste these!

If an entire Sabbath seems too extreme for you right now, please allow me to share “The 14 Challenge” from Priscilla Shirer and her book Resolution for Women.  I referred to an “aha moment” when I heard Priscilla speak on this last summer.  She  opened my eyes to the concept of margin. (Click on  “But I Don’t Have Time for a Bible Study!”- Part 1 of 4 of Beating Busyness for more information.)

Resolution for Women

Priscilla occasionally finds herself in need of some “retail therapy”.  She claims she has a “shopping anointing”.  (Not sure I’d share that “gift” with my husband!)

Priscilla’s visual aid was a whole mess of belts she toted up onto stage.   Wide belts, narrow belts, belts with bling, belts  with ropes, belts with dangly-thingys, and well, you get the picture.  Some of us “collect” shoes, Priscilla obviously collects belts.

She bravely confessed to her excess purchases, remarking that clutter causes chaos.  Got clutter?  I’d be happy to share some of mine!  Big sigh…?????????????????

Let’s go back to The 14 Challenge.  Here’s how she came up with the number 14: The Sabbath, being one of seven days is fourteen percent (14%) of your week.  Start little by little.  Try fourteen minutes per day to “be still”.  Gradually, you can add more minutes.  Simple,  right? (This helpful information is in the chapter called “Sabbath Spaces”.)

Additionally, consider clearing Sabbath SPACES (or Margins) in areas of your home.  Try clearing fourteen inches of space somewhere in your living area once a week.  Think of it as an act of obedience to God to “literally give your home some BREATHING ROOM!”  These are very manageable ideas.  (As the piles on my desk are begging to be cleared…)

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Hebrews 4:9-11 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (NIV)

(Last but not least….)  T: “TEARS”

Seriously?  YES!!  Tears from laughter or tears from sadness, BOTH  are good for you!  Emotional tears have a therapeutic chemical consistency.  How awesome is God to hardwire us to weep when we come to the end of ourselves?

THIS week, I pray we will really make a concerted effort to REST. (R– Remember to take a nap REGULARLY, E– Engage in laughter, S-Begin this Sunday, or the day that best fits your schedule, to take steps toward keeping the Sabbath, T-Tears- Shed some!)

Priscilla’s ideas in The 14 Challenge are your first steps to reaching the Sleeth’s type of all-in Sabbath.  Again, it wasn’t their idea.  It was God who ordained it.

Beyond this week, now that we’ve completed all four parts of Beating Busyness, I pray we will be ever mindful of the meaning and blessing of margin. Let’s go back one more time to that hammock photo….Ahhhhhh…

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R-E-S-T.

Savor the Sabbath.

What have you got to lose?  Chime in and let me know if you try it.  No guilt and remember, it’s a process on this heavenward journey.

Next post, we’re going to talk about a book that’ll make you laugh and cry.  Just addin’ to those endorphins!!!

‘Til  next time!

(This week’s blog post is dedicated to Dr. Matthew Sleeth.  He and his wife Nancy are my newest and super fun discovery thanks to my friend Sherry who introduced us.  Nancy’s book, Almost Amish,  has also blessed my life.  Not converted yet, but sure am thinkin’!   Additional details can be found in a previous blog post about 3 new books & Branches Book Club…May God continue to bless you, Matthew and  Nancy, your family, and your ministry with Blessed Earth. www.blessedearth.org )

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Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons, Margin, Scripture

HELP! My Calendar is Controlling ME!!! (Beating Busyness – Part 3 of 4)

Death hovered.  Old Man’s chest barely rose, each breath seeming to perhaps, be his last.

Suddenly, an irresistible aroma wafted its’ way up the stairs, straight into his bedroom.  Miraculously, bolting upright, Old Man swung his legs over the side of the bed, planted his bony feet on the cold, hardwood floor, and walked down the stairs!

There, with her old floral apron on, stood his wife of many decades, baking dozens of chocolate chip cookies.  “Am I in Heaven?”  Old Man wondered while approaching the counter.

The following sensation was not from savoring the mouth-watering aroma, but from a sharp, searing pain shooting thru’ his hand.  Seems Old Man’s wife flailed a brisk “Whack!” with the spatula across his hand!

“Stop!” she cried.  “These are for the funeral!”

(Story adapted from Overcoming Overload—Seven Ways to Find Rest in Your Chaotic World by Steve and Mary Farrar.)

Overcoming Overload

Shocked?  I’m thinking the wife can’t see the forest for the trees!  She must have been just a tad overloaded.

Poor Old Man probably died without having one last chocolate chip cookie.

Tragic.

Ironically, we find ourselves in similar scenarios without recognizing overload.  Today we’re going to address controlling our calendars vs. our calendars controlling us. 

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David C. McCasland said, “Altho’ people will pay to fix their stress, they are not about to change the lifestyle that’s causing it.”  Ouch.

Let’s try an experiment:  Picture yourself in line in the grocery store.  An elderly lady is told her total by the clerk, and then, for more than a few minutes , she hunts thru’ her purse for her checkbook.  Upon finding it, she then spends more than a few minutes hunting for a pen.  Writing in very neat, slow-but-sure cursive, she dots all her ‘i’s and crosses all her ‘t’s.  Double checking her spelling, the amount, etc., she then finally hands over the check.

Next in line, how are YOU behaving?  Are you tapping your foot impatiently, checking your watch?  That would be an affirmative from yours truly.

In our rat race, why doesn’t everyone whip out the credit card, swipe it instantaneously, grab their receipt and run?  Who has time to wait in line?  Don’t we all have people to see, places to go, hurry, hurry, hurry?

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Beth Moore just assigned a fitting Scripture to memorize on her January 25th post of her blog, www.blog.lproof.org   It’s from Isaiah 30:15-18.  Verse 15 in particular sounds like God’s been watching us scurry:  “Your salvation requires you to TURN BACK TO ME and STOP YOUR SILLY EFFORTS to save yourselves.  Your strength will come from SETTLING DOWN in COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON ME.  The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.” (from The Message)  Anyone besides me need to just settle down?

The grocery store scenario came from Dee Brestin’s  book  Idol Lies–Facing the Truth About Our Deepest Desires.  She addresses our desperate need to recognize and squelch our idols.  For example:  “When I exaggerate to make myself look better in the eyes of others, I am bowing down to approval.  When I overeat, I’m bowing down to comfort.  When it’s more important to be a successful Christian wife, or mother, or author, I’m finding my identity in those things, not in Christ, moving me away from God and toward my crouching idols.”  Busted on all accounts.

Idol Lies

Back to the grocery store scenario, when we find ourselves irritated over having to wait, our idol is our agendas. Dee suggests, “First, confess that you are NOT more important than the elderly lady ahead of you.”

Remember, God loves that person just as much as He loves us. Sweet Dot Weaver, God rest her soul, used to always tell us:  “You may be the only Bible someone ever ‘reads’.”

Dee adds, “We must embrace BOTH parts of the gospel:  repentance and faith.  The first part of the gospel helps us see our sin, and the second part helps us move forward in faith, trusting God.”

So HOW exactly, can we control our calendars and not have them control us?  How can we ban the idol of our agendas?

Last week, I gave you a few suggestions (see info’ in post “Don’t Miss Liz Higgs.”…), one of which addresses balance in our lives.   Our margin guru, Richard A. Swenson, MD, also wrote, The Overload Syndrome—Learning to Live Within Your Limits.  This perpetual resource has a mere one hundred and seventy-five “prescriptions” for maintaining balance: controlling change and stress, hurry and fatigue, debt, possessions, work, media overload, choice and decision, active commitments, etc.!!!

The Overload Syndrom

He pleads:  “Each of us has 86,400 seconds per day. If we schedule ourselves for 90,000 seconds per day, we’re double booked, skipping lunch, dead tired at the end of the day. But, if we build some margin into the schedule, a buffer, a short coffee break for the soul,” we’d be so much better off!

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Henri Nouwen explains the idea of margin and white space for us:  “In the spiritual life, the word discipline means the effort to create some space in which God can act.  Discipline means to PREVENT everything in your life from being filled up…”

 In other words, say “no” more than you say “yes”.   Swenson offers:   “When you get up in the morning, what is it you wish to do today?  And one hundred years from now, what is it you’ll wish you would have done today?  Do the latter.”

“Every day we fill our lives with things to do that weigh nothing on the scales of eternity.”  Sit on that for a minute… That decked me flat.

Balance

Confession:  I am famous for struggling with guilt.  Pitiful-poor-people-pleaser that I am, guilt is exactly what gets me into trouble, causing me to say “yes” when I mean “no”, overfilling my calendar.  At the end of the day, please answer me this:  WHO is the one who fills in your calendar?

Now, I know some entries are unavoidable such as sports events for your children.  Stress dominated me, then trickled down to our family when our middle son played on the high school golf team.  They had tournaments  all over the State of Kentucky.  One weekend we’d be in Pikeville and the next in Paducah.  Living in Louisville, those cities are several hours away.

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I’ll be the first to tell you I wish I’d savored my time with our son and the team more.  I loved and still love watching him play, but only occasionally did John and I both get to go. (Can’t forget our two other boys who also had games in either basketball, soccer, or football.)

Many times we had to “divide and conquer,” another unhealthy thing for today’s family.  (We could spend a week on that topic!) Plus, I had zero knowledge  of margin back then.  Honestly, the stress more than trickled…more like bull-dozed!

Good News!  Mary Byers wrote a must-read for us gotta-do-it-all womenHow to Say No and Live to Tell About It—A Woman’s Guide to Guilt-Free Decisions.  She begins,  “’No’ is such a little word.  Just  two letters.  And yet I’ve seen women lose sleep over the prospect of having to say it.”!!! Anybody???

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May we heed Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you  rest.”

We can TAKE ACTION today by creating a “no-asis”.  Mary’s definition sounds like another lesson on margin:  “The purpose of creating a noasis is to ensure you have resting places in your life that will slow you down and help you catch up to yourself.

Those resting places are white spaces (that’s margin!) in your calendars.  Mary wisely reminds us it was Jesus himself who intentionally “withdrew to lonely places and prayed  (Luke 5:16).  Jesus obviously recognized the value of rest and refreshment.” 

In Mark 6:31, Jesus is found talking  to his Apostles, “…because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a QUIET PLACE AND GET SOME REST.’”

 Fun Ideas from Mary to Nurture a “No-asis”:

  • A hot bath
  • A walk around the block alone
  • A morning latte in the sunshine
  •  Reading in a park  on your lunch hour
  • Lighting candles and sitting quietly (Remember our “arrow prayers?”  See…Beating Busyness Part 2 of 4) Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”  More of that settling down…
  • A massage, manicure, or pedicure
  •  Dinner or lunch out with a friend
  • A ‘free zone’ (time with your family where the kids agree not to ask for anything or argue with anyone)”—Boy, I missed the boat on this one.  Tell me if this works for you, those of you with young kiddos still at home?
  • My personal favorite:  “Putting yourself in ‘time out’ (Remember experts recommend that you get one minute for each year of your age!!!)”  Ha!  This is the BEST!  ONE way your age works FOR you!
  •  Journaling” (see journaling….Also part 2 of 4)
  • Turning radio off in the car

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 As you can see, we could go on and on with this.  My prayer for all of us would be:  purposely be intentional when adding to our calendars.

Pause-n- pray BEFORE you pen.

                Pause-n-pray BEFORE you pen.

                                Pause-n-pray BEFORE you  pen.

                                                Pause-n-pray BEFORE you pen.

Bottom Line:  It is God, not ourselves, who will ultimately receive the Glory when we are rested, peaceful, AND in control of our calendars.

And, unlike Old Man, may we find time to savor a warm, chocolate chip cookie!

‘Til  next time!

(This week’s blog post is dedicated to the “Queen of the Calendar”, a/k/a my friend Jayne Combs.  She’s a retired teacher.  She keeps our group of friends connected.  She’s who I spoke of in an earlier post–“Sure Cure for a Bah Humbug Attitude“.  She shoots us emails with “Random Dinner” in the subject line.  When we do gather, we’re instructed to bring our calendars so we can set a future get-together.  Jayne keeps us all sane and because we’re all aging, trust me, THAT’s a very good thing indeed! Love you bunches, Miss Jayne! )

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Filed under Friends, Life Lessons, Margin