I just recorded a quick video devotional for our elder team as we head into our monthly meeting this weekend. I had some things I wanted to share with them from my heart, from God’s Word, and from some recent experiences we’ve had as a team shepherding a local church. By the grace of God, I think it was helpful and I pray they will share my excitement for what I think God is saying to us through His Word.
There was only one thing wrong with the whole experience – it wasn’t anywhere on my list of things to do this morning!
I came into the day with a meticulously crafted plan for how I was going to use this morning and what I needed to get done. It was all good stuff (and I did get a decent amount of it done), however, this video wasn’t on the list. But as I sat here trying to work on other things, my mind kept coming back to this desire to share with our elders. I found myself putting a devotional together in my head. I found myself getting excited about recording something simply to bless and encourage a small team that means a great deal to me. Despite all that, I initially fought against all of this as a distraction from what I needed to be doing – it wasn’t on the list!! Sure, it was a good idea but it was something I could schedule for another time this week.
Ultimately, I felt this little prompting in my heart to abandon my plan and record the video. That prompting was followed by a deeper question – do you want to join God in what He’s doing this morning or do your own thing without God?
It was a pretty stark choice – plow through my list in my strength or cooperate with what God was intending to do in my life. Fortunately, in this instance I made the right choice and decided to go with God. But that’s not always the case. I can be really guilty of ignoring what the Spirit is doing in the moment because of my preconceived plans and ideas.
That’s such a mistake, particularly for those of us in spiritual leadership. When God invites us to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14), and keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25), He envisions us living with sensitivity and submission to what the Spirit is doing in our lives moment by moment. The question isn’t just “what is God doing in the world today” but “what is God doing in my life, right now?” It turns out the Spirit is somewhat unpredictable and often does things I don’t expect. But life is found in getting on board with what He is actually doing, not what I thought He would be doing!
So, don’t miss out on the adventure of following God today because you’re so locked up in your plans that you miss His still, small voice.
Every once in a while, Laura and I stumble into something that ends up being a tremendous blessing to our marriage. As boring as it sounds, a weekly “family meeting” is one of those things. For the record, the boys don’t participate! But we both do and we’ve come to see it as a hugely valuable part of our week.
To be honest, we see the value so clearly because of the years of marriage we had without this kind of regular touch point. We were chronically over scheduled, setting up conflicting meetings or not having enough time for ourselves. There were times when Laura felt like she really didn’t know where we were financially because I do the majority of that work around the house. It never felt like we had space to discuss major decisions – and, no, trying to work everything out in a series of texts throughout the day doesn’t count as “discussing.” It was a recipe for frustration. Even worse, those conversations would often spill into “date night.” So, what should have been a fun, romantic chance to connect turned into a planning meeting! Not cool.
In an attempt to regain control of our lives, work more as a team and help each other make better decisions, we started setting aside one hour a week to sit down in the evening after the boys are asleep (well, at least in bed!) and plan out our lives. We pray together and then we hit on three major points:
Our finances. This is usually just a quick update. But it’s also a place to discuss unexpected expenses, larger purchases or adjusting our budget.
Our schedules. This is the main event. We’re constantly working to protect white space, to ask ourselves if we’re living out our priorities and setting realistic expectations for our week. We both have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew – this is a little forced accountability.
Other decisions. This could be anything from finding a pre-school for Jack, to thinking about a vacation, to checking in on how the other is doing spiritually.
I know many of us have an instinctively negative reaction to meetings. You do your best to avoid them at work and now I’m trying to get you to add one into your home! I get it. That’s how I felt for a really long time. But, the cost of not having this kind of regular check-in is so high in terms of wasted time, energy and emotion. If nothing else, try this for a month and see how it goes. My guess is it’ll become a regular part of your week and marriage.
I used to hate the last work day before vacation so much that I’ve actually considered cancelling vacations just to avoid that day. That last day of work can be pure torture – an exhausting frenzy of work I’ve put off too long, conversations other people absolutely must have with me before I go and a few totally unforeseen disasters just to make life interesting. It can be the kind of day when I’m annoyed at everybody including myself.
I used to cope with that stress by carving out extra work time. I would plan to stay really late at night and get everything done once everyone else left for the day. When that wasn’t enough, I would start auctioning off vacation time. Some of those last-minute conversations became phone calls I could make from the car. Some of the projects I needed to work on became things I could take care of on the plane. Last minute problems became reasons that I wouldn’t totally unplug during my vacation.
It was an awful way to vacation.
And then I started doing something that made all the difference in the world for me. It’s so simple that I’m almost embarrassed to write about it. But it’s been so helpful to me that I’m willing to take the risk. As soon as I schedule a vacation, I block out four hours of time on the morning of my last day in the office – no meetings, phone calls or interruptions. Pure space to tie up loose ends.
I’ve found that if I push that time to the afternoon, it gets swallowed up by the events of the day. But if I give myself four hours first thing in the day, I’m able to make a huge amount of progress. I get to wrap up projects, answer emails and get a few things in motion that I need to hear back on later in the day. Once I have that time, I don’t mind scheduling a few meetings in the afternoon. But the morning is sacred – it’s my time to fight for my vacation, fight for time with my family and fight for the ability to genuinely rest and recharge.
My guess is a number of us are headed out on vacation later this week for the 4th. So, start planning now for how you can defend that last day of work and actually be able to unplug when you head out on vacation.