Tag Archives: time management

Everybody Needs More Time

It is a twenty-first century mantra that nobody has enough time. Multi-tasking is an essential skill, even for young children, and in any group of people, if you listen, you will hear a persistent theme – I didn’t have enough time, I don’t have enough time, I ran out of time.

                I say these words, too. If only I had more time. Yet it is well known that nobody has any more time than anyone else, and none of us can manufacture time no matter how hard we try. What’s more, we don’t have any more or any less time than our parents or grandparents. Contemporary advances in technology have truly not given us any more time. Further, because we don’t have enough time, we are under terrible stress.

                Stress is a killer. Doctors say that many health issues either originate in stress or are exacerbated by stress. People can be stressed by fear, inappropriate expectations of themselves or others, and by a perceived need for more time. In an attempt to deal with the issue, personal organizers have become popular, but for some, the organizer is simply a place to record with terrifying orderliness the ultimate depressing truth that they don’t have enough time.

                Where does time come from? How can we get more of it? Why is time such an oppressive taskmaster?

                Time is a gift of the God who created the universe. The reality we all see, hear, taste, touch and smell is an environment bounded by time and space. Try as we will, we cannot be in two places at the same time, and despite our use of the word “multi-task” to suggest that we can do two things at the same time, we actually cannot. Multi-tasking is only very fast switching between two or more single tasks. We are at the lowest level completely single-threaded. And nobody has longer threads or more threads than anyone else. When we stress over what we experience as a deficit of time, we are actually saying that we think God short-changed us.

                Nobody will ever likely be more stressed than Jesus’ disciples the night he was arrested. It is hard to imagine what could produce more stress than the terror of imminent arrest, torture and gruesome execution. We all want to think that we might have been more faithful than the disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested, but the evidence of people’s faithless behavior in various situations over the past two thousand years makes it quite clear that everyone is capable of falling away when things get scary.

                Jesus knew what was coming, and he knew that his “time” had run out for earthly ministry.  The night before he was arrested, he gave his disciples a gift they would need when they was Jesus dragged away. They would be saying, “If only we had more time with Jesus,” but there wouldn’t be any more. He gave them a gift that would transcend their stress as they realized that for them, time had come to a halt. When we feel stressed, even if our stress is not about imminent death, we, too, can claim this gift as Christ’s followers. The gift he gave to his disciples is a gift for each of us, too. That gift is peace.

                Peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you. I do not give as the world gives. Don not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.  John 14:27

                This gift is the gift we all need in order to see the gift of time for the richness that it is. The God who created the universe out of nothing by the word of his mouth, is not stingy with time. The God who fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish has not short-changed humanity by giving us only 24 hours each day. There is plenty of time. The God of abundant provision has provided more than enough time. We do not need to be stressed. Lately God has led me to think about time a great deal, and he has led me to understand that there is plenty of time to do what he has called each of us to do. Plenty of time.

                It has been a while since anyone said to me, “Take your time,” but I remember how it feels to be given that gift. God is saying to me now that he wants me to give that gift to other people.

There was a time in my life when I shopped for groceries by walking to the grocery store, buying my groceries, and taking a cab back home. The people at the service desk in the store called cabs for customers, and all I had to say was, “Would you please call Joe for me?”

                When Joe arrived, I had to unload my grocery cart into his trunk. I always wanted to get the job done quickly and not delay him. I usually managed to spill cans or boxes out of my grocery bags in my hurry, but every time, he said, “Take your time. There’s no rush.” When we arrived back at my home, again I tried to unload my things hastily. Joe always said, “Take your time. Don’t worry.” It was a true blessing to be given time to complete my task without feeling I had imposed on him.

                Lately, I realize that everybody needs that gift. As a Christian, I live in relationship with the Creator of time. Just as God provided manna for the Israelites, God gives me new time every day. By his grace, I am called to share that gift with others. It is easy to do. All I need to say is, “Take your time. There is no rush.” Just as Joe gave me the time and freedom to unload my groceries without rushing and breaking eggs and crushing my bread, I can give other people the time they need, the time they almost certainly believe they don’t have.

                I can’t make more time for myself or anyone, but as Christ’s representative in the midst of daily life, I can give time away like the disciples who began handing out bread and fish at Christ’s command. They all knew they started with not nearly enough food for five thousand people, but somehow there was enough. When I trust Christ and start giving away time, there will always be enough.

                I have plenty of time to listen to an elderly man who is wandering the docks with a crystal block in his hand. He comes up to me and says, “Do you know what this is?” and I say, “No. What is it? Tell me about it. Take your time.” We sit down, and he explains that he made this very beautiful but very functional piece of hardware to be “jewelry” for his wooden sailboat. I remember that Christ has given me perfect peace and that he is Lord of time. I have time to listen.

                I have plenty of time to call my two elderly aunts who live alone and endure the health problems that go with advanced years. I can listen to their stories and share my own, because there is enough time and to spare. When they stumble over the details, I can say, “Take your time. There is no rush.”

                At the checkout line, a frazzled woman with a child in her cart and two others calling, “Mommy, Mommy, can we get candy?” is rummaging in her purse for her credit card. She looks up at me and says, “I’m sorry. I’m so clumsy today.” I can say, “Take your time. There’s no rush.” I can pass to her the peace Christ has given to me, and I can give her the gift of enough time to take a breath and pay her bill and shush her children without fear that I am checking my calendar to see how late I will be to my next meeting.

                I give my order to the fast-food cashier, who discovers someone else took the last bag of fries just as she reached for them. She turns to me and says, “I’m sorry. It will be a couple of minutes.” I can say to her, “Take your time. There’s no rush. The peace of Christ be with you.” Then I can go wait my couple of minutes and hope her day is a bit less stressed because she just received the gift of more time.

                God is telling me that my word for today is “Take your time.” The God who dwells in eternity has infiltrated the world of time and space and given me so much time that I have time to give away to others. When I do, I will remember that Jesus said, “Peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you. … Do not let your heart be troubled.”

                I am the servant of eternal God who created time. Eternal God calls me to live in his frame of reference – eternity. When I think like God, I can give time away to others and know that I will not run out. I can say, from the center of God’s love, with perfect peace, ‘Take your time.”

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No Agenda Required

Most people I know believe that they should read the Bible and pray more than they do. Even though I don’t really know the challenges of their daily lives, I know the challenges of mine, and I am pretty sure they are right. It isn’t always easy to “work in” time for private, intimate worship and study.

Still, the other thing people seem generally to believe is that they need a plan. They should have a guide for reading the Bible, or they should know more about how to pray before they begin. They can’t start reading the Bible and praying regularly, because they don’t know what to read or what to pray about. On this issue, I know they are wrong. You can read the Bible without a plan, the same way you read a newspaper or a novel. You can pray without a plan, the same way you have a conversation with the person you love most. These experiences will be good for you. They will help you grow into deeper faith and maturity. You do not need a plan.

To say that is not to say that plans are bad or unnecessary. It depends on a lot of things. Where are you in your faith? Where do you want to go with God? How on earth will you shoehorn into your day even one more thing? There is nothing wrong with plans or agendas, but if the lack of one keeps you from doing anything at all, that is a problem. If you don’t read the Bible or pray with any regularity today, and if you think you really want to grow in faith, and if you think that reading the Bible and praying is important to that growth, then a plan is not what you need first.

The first thing you need is five minutes. Five unimpeded, uninterrupted, absolutely committed minutes.

If you don’t have five minutes for Bible reading and prayer, then no plan or agenda is going to change that situation. I submit for your consideration this question: How can you ever follow any plan at all if you can’t even set aside five minutes for Bible reading and prayer? There is no cosmic barrier to your growth in faith. The barrier is a little five-minute appointment with God.

Just five minutes.

If you think exercise is important, you surely set aside time for that work. I doubt you think five minutes is enough exercise to have any good effect on you. If you think weight management is important, you probably spend more than five minutes a day thinking about what you eat and whether it is or is not good for you. It is doubtful that anything important in your day takes less than five minutes. Yet, five minutes for Bible reading and prayer could change your life.

I speak from experience. In the year 2000 my life took a dramatic turn. I became a consultant, and I began to travel to customer sites every Monday morning, returning each Thursday or Friday to my home. I worked at least 12 hours per day on project tasks, and I had a heavy load of continuous professional education and administrative work related to my business. My days were full to overflowing. On weekends I tried to do all the things I might have done in my spare time during the week if I had been home. I tried used my time catching up with my husband, worshiping at church, visiting with family and friends, and trying to put my house in order. It was a huge life change.

Along with that life change came the perception that this change had the potential to fracture my marriage, even though my husband and I had both agreed that this decision was the best way to reach some very important goals we shared. I worried that the frenzy of this life and the stress of separation would fray our relationship. I worried that either or both of us would start to think like separate individuals instead of like the two who had become one in our marriage. I felt that without God’s help, all our hopes and dreams could fall apart under the stress of all these changes. I thought I needed to make yet one more change at this particular time.

I found five minutes.

I decided that every morning, as soon as I had a cup of coffee in my hand, I would take five minutes for Bible reading and prayer. I told myself that even reading a couple of verses and praying two sentences would at least sustain my commitment to God. I wanted his help to keep our family strong during this very stressful time.

I spent five minutes each morning doing two things. I read two verses in the Bible. I prayed about whatever those two verses inspired. I asked God to help sustain my marriage.

Today I spend a lot more than five minutes a day in Bible reading and prayer. That’s a good thing. I have grown in many ways since the first day I sat down to read my two verses and say a prayer that didn’t amount to much more than “Help me, help me, help me.” Anne LaMotte says there are really only two kinds of prayer. This is one. The other is “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” As I slowly matured in my ability to spend five minutes with God every day, I occasionally had reason to pray the “thank you” prayer as well. I grew in faith, and I grew in my commitment, but it all started with only five minutes.

You have five minutes.

You only need to decide that you will without fail set aside five minutes, with or without a cup of coffee, to be with God. You will take five minutes to listen and to speak with the One Jesus taught us to address as “Our father who art in heaven.” Five minutes. You will be surprised what happens. I can’t predict how it will develop for you. I can only tell you that for me, it became a safe haven in each day that I did not want to miss. At first it was a pain to remember it. I had to devise various ways to assure that I didn’t forget. Now it is much easier, but make no mistake, The evil one does not want you to spend even five minutes in rich communion with God. It will never be a done deal. But it is worth the battle.

You have five minutes somewhere. You know you do. Just do it. Let me know how it goes.

 

 

You Were Not Created to Maintain an Organizer

I know. I know. Everybody needs an organizer. Every family needs a calendar. Even third-graders need organizers. We are all busy, busy, busy. There is not enough time in a day. Too many people get too little sleep trying to get around to the day’s obligations. With all this organizing, you would think we are the most efficient, productive, happy people in the history of the world.

Not!

I don’t know anyone who has made peace with time. When I call people to visit, I ask how they are. Way too many answer, “I’m hangin’ in there.” That is no kind of answer for a human being. That is a horrible answer to hear from person after person. Maybe one person is under so much pressure that he rightly feels he is barely hanging on, but everyone? I don’t believe it.

What I believe is this: too many people feel obligated to accomplish too many goals set for them by other people or by some unreasoning expectation in their own psyches. This is not the way God meant for us to live. God did not create us for misery; he created us for joy. He created us to know him and to know one another in loving relationships. He created us to achieve fulfillment doing all sorts of wonderful things. He did not create us to keep 3-ring binders neatly annotated for the efficient use of every second.

The organizer is the ultimate weapon of the doctrine of scarcity. The organizer says that there is not nearly enough time for everything, and the only hope of a successful life is to be so well-organized that you can explain any failures by showing that you sincerely tried to make it all work. The organizer says it is okay for a person to be overwhelmed by all the obligations he must meet, and suggests that it is both possible and necessary for him live this way.

I was in high school when my mother announced one evening that that four people in our family had nine places to be, and we would not be going to any of them. She was normally a stickler for people’s commitments and obligations. This behavior was out of character for her. That says something for the level of frustration she experienced. I remember it precisely because it wasn’t the way we normally lived. In today’s language we would say that my mother needed, and took, a timeout.

Unfortunately, the timeout did not prove much. It didn’t really change our lives, except for that night. I actually found that the missed events simply piled up in the following days, which were already overloaded. In those days, and for many years thereafter, I bought into the notion that we are all obligated to do more things than the time allows, and we should shut up about it and quietly put up with it. I accepted the doctrine of scarcity of time.

I don’t accept that doctrine any more. I still need to improve my usage of time, but not because there isn’t enough. I need to learn what it is I am here for. Am I here to have a house that could be a museum of contemporary design, or am I here to help my child grow up knowing I love her? Am I called to wear myself out trying to do a job I hate in order to earn more money than I earn doing a job I love? Did God create me for a purpose, or am I a tool of other people’s definition of life?

Of course, you may reply that you have to take the job you can get, so maybe you don’t get to do a job you like? I have been there. I have done that. And that is why I can tell you that doing the job you took for the right reasons, even though it seemed like the wrong job can be a calling in itself. The job you took in order to meet your obligations to your family and your creditors can be God’s gateway to discovering things about yourself that you would never otherwise have learned. That sort of obligation is not set by someone else; you make that choice, because you have a commitment to principle, and God is with you through such an experience. It can still be the answer to the question, Did God create me for a purpose? Am I doing this for God’s reasons or for somebody else’s reasons?

That is the question we all need to ask ourselves about the way we use time. Unlike God’s other gifts to us, we cannot bank time. I always loved the song, “Time in a Bottle” just for its title. It was such a great image – the idea that time could be hoarded until we were able to use it the way we want. But time doesn’t work that way. Every minute we throw away in misery and frustration is a minute we will never use in fulfilling accomplishment. So we ought always to be asking ourselves, Am I doing what I am doing because God brought me to this place at this time, or did somebody else put me here?

Think about your dreams. Think about your vision of yourself. Where does your mind go when you let it go? Did you always want to write or teach or make people well? Are you doing something else instead? Why? Did God bring you to this place at this time, or did you follow somebody else’s path?

God is the God of abundance. He makes plenty of time for everything you were created to accomplish on this earth. Look at the way he made the universe. Stars in profusion. Flowers in thousands of variations. Children of all colors. He doesn’t do anything stingy. He isn’t stingy with you. You are created with gifts—talents, dreams, a calling. Do what you are created to do, and let everything else fall away. You will be a lot happier, and you will discover that you have all the time you need.

 

Why Don’t You Have Time to Read the Bible?

A lot of my friends accuse me of inappropriate pressure when I suggest that they should take time for Bible study and prayer. They say that I am retired, and of course I have time for such extras as Bible study and prayer. You may feel the same way. Maybe your life seems very hectic and maybe you think you already have enough demands on your time. You don’t need another thing on your daily schedule.

It is true that I am retired today, but I haven’t always been retired. I worked at some very hectic jobs along the way. I reared two children. I attended meetings, took night classes, failed to keep my laundry or housecleaning done to my mother’s standards, and yearned to read the latest breakout novel. I know what it is to think there is no more time.

Yet I observe that everyone makes time for the things that seem important. Just as people find money for the important things. If parents believe that a child has musical talent, they will find money for piano lessons and make time to drive the child back and forth. They will listen to practice sessions while making supper and they won’t complain that the recital falls on the very same Sunday afternoon as a playoff game. People make room for the things that rise to the top of the priorities in their lives.

When I was working, I had one job in which I traveled 100%. I got up at 4:00 AM on Monday mornings, even if it was raining or even if it was only 15 degrees Fahrenheit, because I had to be at the airport by 5:30AM in order to get through security and catch the first plane out. I got up even earlier if my plane left at 6:15AM. That was the way things were. I worked long days on that job, often 12 hours or more. I worked every business day of the week, and sometimes on the weekends. I was expected to put in not less than 40 hours on the projects to which I was assigned, and I was expected to be active in continuing education and personal professional development on top of those project hours. It was a challenging life.

Yet all those years, I rarely failed to start my day with Bible study and prayer. I won’t try to sound like someone who never failed in my personal devotional discipline. I am an imperfect human. I am not a machine. Sometimes I fail. But the failures were intermittent. My daily routine started with coffee, Bible study and prayer. Sometimes I had an hour for those purposes, and sometimes it was less, but always there was some time. I had time, because I made time.

My work in the area of technical support was a 24-hour responsibility. I was subject to be called or even scheduled to work at 2AM just as surely as I might be scheduled for a project meeting at 2PM, and those two responsibilities might both come on the same day. I had to make my time for work and protect my life and health without failing in my responsibilities. Yet every day, there was time for prayer and Bible study.

I am not an exceptional person. I simply have a priority. I think Bible study and prayer are important. I think I can’t live successfully without making time for these personal disciplines. In blogs yet to come I will explain myself, but today I simply want to say that you have time for whatever is important to you. When you look at yourself, you will see immediately that you make time when you need time. You may feel guilty about your priorities and you may try to keep a low profile about the way you use discretionary time. You probably feel that this issue is none of my business, and you are right.

How you use your time is completely your business. You are not accountable to me or to anyone else’s judgment of your priorities. However, I hear people express regrets that they do not know God well, or that they don’t have any peace or that they wish they had time for prayer and Bible study. I hear the regrets, but when I suggest that it is worthwhile to make time for Bible study and prayer, I am almost always accused of not understanding how busy everyone is.

Everybody is busy, and one of the biggest problems most people want to solve is how to do the important things and not feel burdened by all the other undone things. People need to feel that they are doing the right things and living the right way and acting with honor and integrity. There is a way to feel that way about life, and it starts with Bible study and prayer.

There were years in which I got up at 4AM every day, whether I had a plane to catch or not, because that was the only way for me to have time for Bible study and prayer. That discipline was hard. Sometimes it seemed quite unpleasant, and I bribed myself to stick with it by making sure I got the coffee going right away. But the most important result was a reassuring peace and a sense of the presence of God in every day that only grew more beautiful and more reassuring over the years. Today I am retired and my days are my own, more or less, but it is just as easy for a retiree to let the discipline slip as it is for anyone else. I still need to be committed to that time or it does not happen. I must make the time, or I don’t have the time. I do it, not because I am retired and it is easy, but rather I do it, because it is worth doing.