Too Busy to Listen?

I have noticed a pattern developing when we stop for fast food that has a scary correlation in my life. When I place our order I am asked by the voice in the box if I want any additional sauces with my order.  Each time I say no.  Yet, when I get to the window where they hand the bag of food I find it loaded with packets of sauces.  Way more sauce than two of us could use even if I had said yes.

How wasteful I feel throwing away all those packets.  I tried saving them for a time, but then wondered what I was going to do with a stock of sauce packets I never wanted in the first place.  So out they go after all.

Then it struck me –  how often do I think I’ve been attentive to someone, perhaps even sculpture-2275202_1280asking a question of them, only to realize I don’t really know what they just said to me (I am sure no one else has experienced this).  Essentially I’ve just wasted their time and trust in me, something far more valuable than plastic pouches of sauce.  I allowed them to talk to me, but never engaged in listening.

It is bad enough that I have noticed I do this with my husband, family, co-workers and friends.  But even worse, I do this with God.  I spend time in His word each morning.  I ponder what I read and believe He is saying to me.  I pray for application to my life.  And then hours (or sometimes, sadly, minutes) later I think or respond in a way that shows I totally missed what God said to me. photo_10929_20090511Thankfully He (and my friends, family and associates) extend a great deal of grace and second chances to me.

question-mark-160071_1280So help me please dear friends and readers . . . . share with me your best tips for keeping focused and attentive to those around you when your mind is begging to float away to a myriad of other thoughts.

 

Prayer – At What Cost?

Today I learned of a Christian ministry that expects each employee to spend 10% of their time in prayer.  In fact, they offer three corporate prayer times throughout the week because they put such a high value on prayer.

I was intrigued by this, particularly because it brought to mind another organization, one Jerry and I worked for many years ago.  When the job offers were made to us we were told that one of the reasons we were hired was because they realized they had strayed from their Christian roots and thought we could help them return.

Many Christians served in leadership and on the staff at this company, though not all employees were Christian.  Soon after employment, we asked the Executive Director praying-614374_1280about starting an optional prayer time for staff.  Those who wanted to pray together could join us on their lunch hour. The idea was approved. We were encouraged as the size of the group grew along with the intensity of the prayers.  We were seeing God answer some of our requests, which fueled the desire to continue praying together.

Several weeks into this journey we were told by the Executive Director that the prayer time had to stop.  When asked why, the response was, “it is costing us too much money.”  He was referring to wages of those who prayed when they could have been working.

Sadly our group disbanded, and it wasn’t long until we left that organization.

Isn’t it interesting to consider one company who finds it is too costly to pray, and another who finds it too costly not to pray?

The cost or value of prayer cannot be measured simply in dollars and cents.  How do I know?  Because too often I think I am just too busy to pray. How ridiculous is that to believe my plans are so much more important than talking and listening to my Creator, Lord and King?

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I am not at the place Martin Luther was when he said, “I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.”  I am slowly learning that when my schedule, “to do list,” and my heart are packed full it will be too costly not to pray.

feedback.jpgYOUR TURN:  What is something you do when you are trying to grow your prayer life?  When you are busy how do you make prayer a part of your day?

Guilt, Need and Call

Note from Joan:  I will be “off the grid” for a short time while Jerry and I take a much needed trip to soak up some sun.  In my absence I’ll be reposting some of my favorite posts from the past.  Look for a return of new material in mid February and with it an exciting announcement about what God has led us to in this next phase of our journey!  Bon Voyage!

Recently I’ve been struggling with guilt.  Not over something I have done, but more about what I have not.  It comes from posts on social media, stories on the news, headlines in the paper and songs that say, “if not you, then who?”  I am admonished by these reports to pray more, step up and act, sign a petition or tell others and together we can combat sex trafficking, ISIS, bring imprisoned and persecuted Christians home, feed those who are starving, and provide a fair wage and working conditions for the many women and children forced in slave labor, among other horrendous needs both in this country and around the world.

There is no doubt that we live in a fallen world that seems to fall more every day.  There is also no doubt that God wants His people to “act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.”  (Micah 6:8)  I care about the people caught in these issues and want to see justice prevail in each of these situations.  But sometimes I feel guilty that I am not doing enough.

Then I think about my work and life; maybe not daily but at least several times each week I hear stories of someone’s accident or illness that left them or a loved one disabled, the challenges of living with disability in a world that doesn’t always get it, or even worse the hurt and pain that comes from someone in the local church responding to someone with a disability in a way that doesn’t represent God’s heart, or the trauma in a family when  disability takes time way from others.  I could go on and on with examples.  Sometimes these stories come from our neighborhood, sometimes from our region, and even from around the world (yes, the photo here came to our attention at the office this week when someone sent it asking us to pray and help as able).

But I, and those I have the privilege of working with, don’t just listen to those stories.  We pray with the person, share a word of hope that is found in Jesus.  We strategize and work toward moving people affected by disability from the margins of our society to the mainstream of Church and community life.

Then I come home and read the headlines and stories referenced earlier and feel overwhelmed.  “Lord, what I read/see is horrendous; how it must grieve Your heart.”   I wonder how I can do anything more and God gently reminds me that a need is not a call.  There are many needs that exist out there (even some in the world of disability) that I am not called to meet or respond to.  I need to be open and listen to God’s direction for me, but when He doesn’t call me to meet a need I can continue to pray for those He does.

As I release my false guilt, I’ll lift you up in prayer for the needs God calls you to meet; will you do the same for me?

And the Seasons, They go Round and Round . . . (thanks Joni Mitchell)

This new season in our lives came round when life in the super fast lane suddenly and unexpectedly experienced the brakes being applied (don’t fear, we are safe I am speaking metaphorically).  As one might imagine this sudden interuption of momentum resulted inspeedometer  a great deal of change.  It has been interesting at twenty plus years of marriage to see the different ways Jerry and I respond to this experience.

Almost immediately I welcomed this “sabbatical” (of sorts) to slow down, allow my brain, body and soul to rest and replenish.  Jerry on the other hand found the slow pace unsettling and dove into tackling the enormous amount of paperwork that comes with a vocational change.  I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am for his leadership in this area.  My eyes glaze over with this kind of stuff, and he just plows through it.

Then a funny thing happened.  After about a week to ten days, we switched roles without realizing.  Jerry began to see the value of some down time, and I became busy with meetings, helping a friend post surgery, spending time with some of those I love, and volunteering at one of my favorite ministries.  All of a sudden I felt like I was nearly at full speed again, and wondered how I ever managed to work full time and have a life.

Now that we are two and a half weeks into our journey of transition what am I learning?

  1. Busyness is insidious.  It really has little to do with job status or hours and all to do with making right decisions.  That is knowing what to say yes to and standing firm on the things we say no to.  It doesn’t take long after stepping out of the rush to see the value of slowing down; but it also doesn’t take much to speed back up with barely a thought.  I must guard my time.
  2. We each have to process transition in our own way with our Lord. But as a married couple we also have to make time to talk, pray, worship, laugh and play together and let grace rule when one’s needs seems to be out of sync with the other’s.
  3. Proverbs is right!  There is safety in wise counsel.  “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed.”  Proverbs 15:22 The Message.  In just these first few weeks we have sought counsel from our pastors, business associates, close friends who know us well, friends who have traveled a similar path and a financial planner.  We need the objectivity of others and their wisdom when our “normal” becomes abnormal.
  4. I have time.  I don’t have to know today (or even this year – good thing since we are already half way through December – ha!) what my next steps are.  I need to be obedient to the call and leading of our Lord, use this time to dream, pursue interests and explore the range of opportunities.
  5. God is the supplier of my every moment and my every need.  In just a very short amount of time needs we didn’t even know we had have been provided. Here is one example.  Friday a friend and I volunteered to wrap gifts at an urban toy store.  Afterwards we planned to stop for lunch.  As our shift was ending one of the urban church partners said he wanted to bless us all (7 volunteers) with lunch.  A short time later he returned with boxes of pizza and some drinks.  Not only was it incredibly kind of him, but it spoke volumes to me on two levels.  First, here was a man who we thought we were serving by helping him and his parishioners to have Christmas gifts.  He turned the blessing around and served us.  It is very humbling to be on the receiving end.  The second blessing came to me in realizing that here, once again, God was supplying my need.  Yes, I had budgeted for the cost of going out to lunch with my friend, but God provided for us to have lunch at no cost to us but still enjoy the fellowship together.

So how do I sum up these first few weeks of transition?  Honestly, with the words shared at the last staff Leadership Conference we attended.  We were encouraged to live “Adventurously Expectant.”  That is a call I want to live.

 

 

Walk Like They’re Always Watching!

Man with Binoculars

Conversation at lunch today turned to a virtual reality game that is making a lot of headlines (a topic I NEVER thought I’d talk or write about – it means nothing to me!).  A couple coworkers were discussing what they know of the phenomenon.   One person said, “it’s a little creepy how much ‘they’ know about us.  It’s like we are always being watched.”

That’s when the thought that has been buzzing around my head for ages just had to come out. . .  I don’t get it when I hear those kinds of statements about being watched and how bothersome it can be to many.  Why are we surprised?

Isn’t that how we are told to live as Christians?  To know that both our Heavenly Father knows and sees all?    And beyond that to live with the knowledge that the world watches us whether we realize it or not.  “They” are seeing if our lives match up with what we say.

I like the way Ephesians 5 is labeled (bold titles) in the New King James Version, and particularly verse 15.

Walk in Love
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know,[a] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Walk in Light
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

Walk in Wisdom
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.[c]

Living by the Gauges

I was privy to a conversation this weekend that turned to cars.  Sharing about his hybrid car, one of the men commented how his driving habits have changed since getting this car.  The reason?  The gauges provide constant real time feedback about how his driving affects his fuel usage.  In fact his wife said sometimes she asks if he really wants to get to their destination, because he won’t drive more than 55 mph on the freeway!  Apparently this is a big change from his driving style prior to the hybrid.  1208_fusion_hybrid

As I listened to the conversation I thought of the corollary to my life.  How would my daily interactions, my choices, the messages I tell myself be different if I had real time consistent feedback that I could see on a gauge in front of me (or even an app on my phone)?  I think I may be appalled at how I am not living my life as “efficiently” (translated obediently) as I would like.

My actions and self talk don’t always reflect my desire to live fully committed to Christ and His truth.  I am not always mindful that the thought I just entertained opened a toe hold for the enemy, or how the scores of other “little” things that I may do or not do affect myself and those around me.

Though I may not always see a gauge right in front of my view, I have something (someone) even better – the Holy Spirit living within prompting and empowering me with the truth of  God’s Word.

 

. . . .let me be revived by following your regulations.  Psalm 119:149b NLT

 

 

A Break to Refocus

If you have followed my blog for some time, you know that I have sometimes had a gap of time in between posts. Let me tell you about this last one.

I enjoy writing. It is a way that I can process experiences and thoughts. It is also a way for me to keep record of the ways God has moved and worked, or things He has taught me. I have been an on again off again journaler. By putting much of my journaling into an electronic format I can have it almost anywhere I am, and I don’t have to recall which of the several journals I’ve started but not completed contain what I am looking for. So the bottom line is I began to blog because it was helpful to me.

Sometime along the line others began to read some of what I wrote and I began to get some encouraging comments. I am grateful for those, and they do truly encourage me (though I am not so naïve as to believe that everything I write people will agree with!). This has caused me to want to invest more time into writing, and to periodically pursue a contest or seminar to improve my skills.

That is all well and good, but it’s also where the not so good part crept in. I began to place my value on how many people liked or commented on a post. Furthermore, when a post I thought was one of my best received little to no readership or feedback I would get mopey and begin to beat myself up.

I played for a time in those murky waters, before God redirected my focus. If truly I was writing to record for myself (and anyone else who cared to read) about His faithfulness and goodness then why did likes and feedback from others matter?   Were the lessons still as valuable to me? Of course!IMG_5530

So I took a break from writing publically to adjust my attitude personally and spiritually. I think I am ready to be back on track now. This seems to be a theme of something God is teaching me in a variety of ways in recent months – through multiple Scriptures – to keep my eyes/focus on Him!

If you are blessed or encouraged by anything I write, I thank God for that. I would also ask you to pray for me, that in all I do and say, I keep my eyes on Jesus!