Simple Math, Big Implications

As I mentioned in this past Sunday’s sermon at Restoration City Church, life is pretty full for Laura and I these days. She’s just started a new job as a school nurse, we’re juggling kid’s summer camp schedules, I’m in grad school, and there’s this whole thing about leading a local church. So, we are most emphatically not bored! In fact, we’ve been having a lot of conversations rooted in the truth God shares with us through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (CSB)

This is more than biblical affirmation for good time management. It’s a reminder of how easily we can squander our time in meaningless or even damaging pursuits and a reminder that it takes a tremendous amount of wisdom to steward the days God has given us. None of us exhibit this kind of wisdom by default, it takes tremendous intentionality and a vibrant relationship with God.

It was in pursuit of that intentionality that I was reminded of a significant truth: 12×2=24. Granted, I’m no mathematician but it wasn’t the algebra that seemed so significant. It was the implications for my calendar. Let me give you one simple example.

Three years ago, I started serving in our neighborhood HOA. I wanted to meet the neighbors and make our little community better. Despite those lofty intentions, I’ve learned a profound truth – the first thing Satan did after his fall from heaven was establish an HOA. Ok, that’s a bit extreme. But not by much. It’s been a challenging experience but I’ve stuck it out because I hate quitting and really wanted to make things better. But here’s the thing, part of the way I justified my involvement was by reminding myself that it was only a 2 hour meeting every month. This is where a little math can give us a lot of perspective. What I had lost sight of was the fact that even if my involvement was only 2 hours per month (which is a lie, by the way), then over the course of the year I would have invested the equivalent of three full work days into this one project. Three whole work days!!!

Let’s zoom back out for a minute – my point in writing this is not to bash my neighbors or HOAs. I’m honestly grateful for those who are serving our community and am open to rejoining them when my life calms down just a bit. That’s just the scenario that got me thinking about all of this. My real goal in sharing this with you is to remind us all of how easily small commitments can add up and squeeze out space for the things we truly care about (family, friends, God, church, serving in areas of gifting and passion, etc…) If we’re going to live with focus, intentionality, and significance, we’ve got to watch out for the small things that keep us from the big stuff.

Family Meeting

Family Meeting

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.

Blank Page

rest guie

I waste a lot of time trying to convince God to bless the script I’ve written for my life.  By the way, it’s not an evil script.  It’s actually a pretty good one – a healthy family, a church that’s impacting our community, enough rest and money to keep going and some fun along the way.  Maybe I would be okay if I just left it there.  But I don’t.  I keep going and start telling God exactly what we need to do to achieve those goals.  I get myself in trouble every time I try to micromanage God.

The problem is God already has a script for our days.  He’s had it for all eternity.  Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”  Before God created time, He knew we would exist and He had Monday, August 24, 2015 all planned out for us.  Unreal!  God has a specific script for how He wants to use each one of us today.  He has things for us to do, people for us to love and ways He wants to make us more like Jesus.  Today isn’t a Monday to be endured.  It’s a divine gift to be explored and embraced.

So often I miss out on God’s script because I’m trying to force mine.  Sometimes my script is a bold new idea I want God to get behind.  And sometimes it’s just being entrenched in the mundane routines that allow us to live days at a time on autopilot – the same commute, to the same meetings, to the same project, to the same gym, to the same tv, to the same bed, all to be repeated again tomorrow.

Recently, I’ve been trying to see each day as a blank page.  What if there was nothing scheduled, nothing in my inbox, nothing that I needed to do?  How would God want me to use today?  What would today look like if I brought God a blank page and asked Him to script every detail of the day?  What if I acknowledged that, yes, there are some things on my calendar but asked God how He wanted to use those opportunities?

There’s so much freedom and joy in giving God a blank page rather than a script.  It’s my way of trying to live out Isaiah 64:8, “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”  Clay never becomes anything beautiful on its own and my script rarely amounts to much.  But God is the master potter who writes beautiful scripts.

It may seem risky to bring Him a blank page but it’s the wisest, most freeing decision you can make.

Mission Requires Margin

Over the weekend, I did a little gardening at our new house in DC. By the way, when I say gardening, you should be thinking more “hacking my way through a rainforest” and less “planting nice little flowers.” I’m not 100% sure anyone has done anything remotely resembling yard work at this house for a decade or more. I was ripping out weeds, slashing back over grown bushes and doing anything else that would make my allergies go crazy.

Then this morning, I realized I need to do the same thing with my calendar. It’s gotten a little overgrown and could use some pruning. Too many meetings, too many commitments, too much wasted time and too many obligations that aren’t serving our church or my family well. For the record, I do realize I just compared people to weeds and that’s where my little analogy gets me in trouble. I know everyone on my calendar is immensely valuable in God’s eyes and I’m called to love them. But I also know I’m not loving anyone well by letting myself get overwhelmed or depleted.

Personal sanity and health would be enough of a reason to get control of our calendars. But for those of us who follow Jesus, there’s something even more significant at stake. We’re called to a life of mission – a life of loving service to others and a life of sharing the gospel that transformed us. But that kind of mission requires margin. For many of us, the greatest obstacle to getting to know our neighbors, to interacting with co-workers outside of the office and to meeting people at the local coffee shop is time. If we’re honest, we don’t have time to be used by God. And that’s a really big problem.

At Restoration City, we’re passionate about being a community on mission. We exist for the good of our city and the benefit of people who don’t go to our church. We live to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”(1 Peter 2:9) So, when we don’t have time to do the thing God saved us to do, something needs to change. How overgrown is your calendar right now? My guess is there are meetings you don’t really need to attend. My guess is there are chunks of time that are being totally wasted – watching reality tv while sort of answering emails on your phone. There are requests we need to say no to so we can say yes to the things God is asking us to do.

My simple encouragement to all of us today is to take a hard look at our calendars and make the changes we need to create margin. You’ll be happier and more fruitful if you do.