Monthly Archives: May 2016

How To Prioritize Like Jesus A while back, I wrote about never-ending to-do lists, and how there will never be a day in this life when everything will be or feel finished. I mentioned that I haven’t quite figured out how to cope with this, except perhaps to allow that tension to fuel my desire for heaven.

Recently I’ve been reading the book Crazy Busy by Pastor Kevin DeYoung. I ran across a paragraph that really hit home and got me thinking about busyness in a whole new way.

DeYoung talks about how Jesus, too, was a very busy man. Maybe he didn’t have kids to take care of and a house to clean, but he did have a few things vying for his time and attention. Like, for instance, every sick and hurting person in need of healing wherever he was, the thousands of followers who awaited his teaching every day and the other large group of people who wanted him dead.

You could say Jesus had a pretty long potential to-do list, and every reason to keep going and going without ever stopping. How could he possibly take a break when there were always more people to heal and more truth to teach? But even Jesus knew he couldn’t just keep going, keep doing, keep meeting other people’s needs, without taking time away.

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.’” (Mark 1:35-38)

DeYoung notes how amazing it is not only that Jesus takes time away, but also that when the disciples come looking for him, he says simply, “Let us go somewhere else.” He doesn’t run down to the people who have been looking for him, many of whom are probably in need of healing. He says, “Let’s keep going so I can preach elsewhere, because that’s why I’m here.”

DeYoung puts it this way:

“Jesus understood his mission. He was not driven by the needs of others, though he often stopped to help hurting people. He was not driven by the approval of others, though he cared deeply for the lost and the broken. Ultimately, Jesus was driven by the Spirit. He was driven by his God-given mission. He knew his priorities and did not let the many temptations of a busy life deter him from his task.” (Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung)

Jesus was on mission. He knew why he was here, and while part of his mission was to help people, he didn’t get sidetracked from his mission by the expectations of others. He knew what his purpose was, and he kept that at the top of his to-do list, always. He didn’t do things because other people expected things of him; he did things because he was called to do certain things, and because he was driven by the Holy Spirit.

Now, obviously our mission as Christians is not quite as clear-cut as Jesus’ was. But we can, however, know what our priorities and general mission should be as believers and followers of Christ. And this can and should color everything we do.

This week in Sunday school, we talked about what our mission as disciples of Christ is. And while these verses certainly aren’t exhaustive, I think they are a great summary of how we are called to live.

The first passage is what we call The Great Commission, which Jesus gave to his original disciples before he left them for the last time.

“’Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

And what has Jesus commanded us? This is how he answers the Pharisees:

“And one of the scribes…asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, Hear O Isreal: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

We may have specific callings on our lives, but above all else, we are called to bring people to Jesus, to teach each other his ways, to love him and to love one another. These should be our priorities, and everything else should come second. If anything is distracting us from these things, it would behoove us to reevaluate our priorities.

Another thing we see Jesus doing here is resting, and spending time alone with God. Even Jesus needed rest, and even Jesus needed time with God. If we think we can go without either of these, we are sorely mistaken. These are not simply icing on top of the cake once we’ve finished all of the important tasks. These are musts if we are going to live the life that God has called us to live.

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What Does It Mean To Live Freely? I have a lamp that has been sitting in my dining room for almost a year without a shade on it. It’s a beautiful lamp, and it once had a beautiful burlap shade. But between dogs and toddlers and moving trucks, the burlap shade sadly didn’t make it back home to Nashville; it will be easier, I figured, to buy a new shade than to try to fix the old one.

And here I am, almost a year later, with a shade-less lamp sitting in my dining room. I’m largely immune to it now, but every so often a guest (usually my sister or mom) will mention it, or I’ll look at it with fresh eyes and think “Oh shoot, I need to get that shade.”

The lamp is becoming less of a décor piece and more of a physical symbol of my inability to get things done. “Remember me?” says Lamp. “You were supposed to clothe me months ago, and yet here I am, naked and alone, helpless against the judgmental stares of every person who enters your home.” I know the feeling, Lamp.

To-do lists are great. I would be a mess without them, and it’s satisfying to check things off (actually, I find it much more satisfying to go all in and mark through them. Die, to-do, die!). But they can be a burden too, especially if they contain unrealistic goals, or things we just know we won’t be doing for a long time.

For some reason I woke up this morning thinking of the Bible verse from Galatians in which Paul talks about freedom. He says,

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

He’s been talking about the law, and how before Christ, we were all slaves to it. But now that we have the truth of the gospel, we are freed from the law, and freed from the things of this world. But for some reason, we keep returning to those captors. We put these rules on ourselves, and give ourselves spiritual to-do lists, which are often unrealistic.

So Paul is saying to his original readers, and to us, no! You’re free, don’t you remember? And this isn’t just a side-benefit of the gospel; it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. It’s the reason for the gospel! Christ has set us free so that we can live freely.

As Christians, we shouldn’t have that nagging feeling of “Oh shoot, there’s something I need to be doing that I’m not doing.” We are not justified by anything we do, nor are we condemned by anything we don’t do. We are righteous and considered holy because of what was done on our behalf by Christ, and we can rest in that.

Jesus says,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

If we can just put down our spiritual to-do lists and live in Christ, keeping in step with the Spirit, loving one another, we can live in freedom. Freedom from the rules we give ourselves, and freedom from the sinful desires that once had a hold on us.

(for more on what Paul was saying, read Galatians 4-5)

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Image via FlickrI hear a lot of talk, and read a lot of blog posts and articles, about how hard it is to be a parent. Heck, every other blog post of mine is about that. But one thing I feel like isn’t mentioned often is how hard marriage gets when you have children.

Marriage before children is hard. There are bills to pay, houses to keep up, stressful jobs, in-laws, moves, financial hardships. My first couple years of marriage were spent a thousand miles from home in a foreign land (okay, it was Massachusetts, but it felt like another country) while one of us was in school and the other was working a job she hated and then getting pregnant (that was me). We had money issues from the beginning, and we’ve always been “fighters,” so it was never purely sunshine and roses for us. But still, we had our freedom, we could go on dates, take trips and sleep in.

Then we had a kid.

Everyone told us it would be hard, but so worth it because we would be so in love with this little new life that none of the hard stuff would matter. And that was true, about the parenting part.

The marriage part? Well, all of that crap we had brought into our marriage was still there. Wait, you’re telling me I have this baby to take care of around the clock, and I still have to find ways to be loving toward my spouse, to spend time with them, to get along with them and work through issues with them?

Issues. Let’s talk about issues. Remember how when you got married, all of these issues came up that you never even knew were issues? How you dealt with finances, how you related to family, how you handled emotions, how you arranged your pillows at night? Well, guess what. Bringing another life into the world brings up a whole new host of issues. Who gets up in the middle of the night? Who wakes up with the baby in the morning and who gets to sleep in? How late is too late to come home from work when the other spouse is drowning in diapers and baby food? WHOSE LIFE IS HARDER? (I’m convinced this is one of the great mysteries of life, one that will forever be disputed. “I have to come home from my job every day and go straight into my other job of being a parent!” “Well I never get to leave my job! Ever!” And so on and so forth).

I’m a firm believer in premarital counseling. But since having children I’ve decided that what we really needed was pre-parental counseling. No one ever sits you down and asks you if you’re really ready to add another life into your marriage relationship. In fact, from the second you get married, all anyone ever wants to know is when you’re going to start having kids. No one asked me if I felt like my relationship with Marshall was in a good place to start a family. People talk about being financially ready to have kids, and while that’s important, I think it’s much more important for your marriage to be strong enough to handle everything that comes along with becoming parents.

So if you’re thinking about having children, I’m not saying you need to go see a counselor (though I’m not saying you shouldn’t), but I do think it’s wise to take stock of your marital relationship and whether its ready for such a monumental change. If you have children, it’s never too late to start better tending to your marriage. It’s easy to say “We’ll deal with it later, I’m too tired right now.” Don’t do that. Talk to your spouse. Go on a date. Learn how to enjoy one another even when your children are going crazy. Let your spouse sleep in. One of the best gifts we can give our children is a happy home, which starts with a happy marriage. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

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Babies Don't KeepI have a lot of days when all I can do is wait for them to end. Especially recently, with my son being every bit a two and a half year old boy, from tantrums and all the “no”s and pushing his sister to roaring at the top of his lungs (YOARRRR!!!! Usually directly at the baby or the dog, neither of whom are ever amused) and using his maraca to drum violently on his guitar while he yell-sings the ABCs. My emotions pretty much remain somewhere on the spectrum between on edge and at my limit, from the moment I wake up until the moment my kids go to sleep.

I know this is a temporary phase, that someday in the future my monster child will be enjoyable again, that I won’t spend the rest of my days saying “Leave her alone!” and asking “What did you do to her?” and taxiing him to and from timeout. And while it’s comforting to know that this phase won’t last long, I have this little voice in my head telling me, “Enjoy this phase, because it won’t last long.”

Last night I was feeding Mabel before bed while Shook was out on the front porch watching Marshall mow the lawn. He had taken a pair of those Velcro gloves you use with a tennis ball (remember those? They’re like ping-pong paddles with Velcro on them and you “catch” the tennis ball with the Velcro) and put them on his feet like skates. He was “skating” on the front porch yelling “Mine okay! Mine okay Daddy! Mine okay Dad!” because he kept slipping. And I thought to myself, “I want to remember this.”

I don’t want to let this time pass me by, without stopping to dwell on how sweet it is. Yes, my toddler drives me up the wall most days, but he also cracks me up, makes me smile, and lets me hug and kiss him. Yes, my eight month old is crawling now, which seals my fate in regards to being productive while they are both awake, but every day a new part of her little personality shines through, and it’s so fun watching her follow us around everywhere.

I want to remember this time with littles as an exhausting, stressful, amazing time in the life of our family. I want to be present every day, in every moment, even when many of them seem terrible. I don’t want to spend my days wishing my kids were older so my job would be easier. I want to take it all in, the good and the bad, because I know this time will be over way too soon.

Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Author: Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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