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.)
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.
Ironically, we find ourselves in similar scenarios without recognizing overload. Today we’re going to address controlling our calendars vs. our calendars controlling us.
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?
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.
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.!!!
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!
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.
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.
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 women: How 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???
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
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! )