Quit Reminding Me

“Be careful. Don’t hit your head.”

My dad repeated the warning at least a half dozen times. He was still recovering for surgery, so he directed, while I got some things ready for winter. One of the tasks was winterizing the dog pens. With each run, I reached in to the get a dog, placed him or her in a temporary dog box, got the pen ready for winter, then put the dog back in the pen. But I wasn’t used to the smaller gates into the pens. Unlike our dog’s pen, I couldn’t just lean in unless I wanted to bash my head.

Which I did the very last time I was putting away a dog. In fact, I bashed it about the time I thought, “I’m really glad my dad cares enough to keep reminding me, but does he think I’m an idiot who can’t remember a warning?”

Well, yes. Apparently, I am.

I reeled back as he asked if I was okay. “I don’t know,” I said. “Am I bleeding?”

I wasn’t, and we both laughed, but I had a knot on my forehead for several days and had small scabs from the imprint the fencing left behind.

We might get irritated when someone repeatedly reminds us of something, whether it’s something we should do or something we shouldn’t. But many times, we actually need those repeated reminders. We lose focus and easily forget.

Are you surrounding yourself with people who hold you to God’s standard, who know it well enough to hold you accountable? Are you consistently filling yourself with reminders by becoming increasingly familiar with God’s Word, not just what you remember, assume, or are told?

There’s always learning to receive and respond to and reminders about that learning.

Remember to get to it today.

Has Technology Changed Our Perspective of Problems?

Technology solves a lot of problems for us. We have easy access to many things we once would have had to spend a lot of time and effort to research, plan, and network. We get reminders, warnings, and notifications. If we have a problem, there’s likely an app for it. Actually, there’s probably many apps for any one particular issue. We have to identify the problem we have and somewhat know the solution in order to choose the right app among many.

Just because technology helps us solve a “problem,” doesn’t mean it was a problem in the first place.

Need to manage tasks? Ask for directions? Find the answer to a question? Be able to convert a measurement? Connect with an old friend? Technology can help with all those problems, but there are other solutions, too. And to be honest, are those things actual problems? They are definitely something to figure out, but problems? If you were to list all the problems in your life, or around the world, how many of them could you solve with apps on your phone?

Perhaps we’ve broadened our definition of “problem” so widely that we’ve watered it down. Our first world problems, like being delayed in the Starbucks line or not being able to find our favorite shampoo, have warped our perspective. Maybe not having easy, free access to wifi isn’t actually a problem. Maybe being available at all times isn’t actually a problem. Maybe being able to check in with our friends (without them knowing about it) on social media isn’t as essential as we think.

When you think about the apps that make your life easier, consider how dependent you are on them. What problems are you certain they solve. Would you be okay if you didn’t have an app for the particular problem? Could you solve it another way? Or live with it as a minimal issue?

The people who make apps want you to believe the apps solve problems for you. In order to sell the apps (or the advertising or other support for the apps), people have to create the demand. It’s a Marketing 101 concept. What do you do if there’s not a problem to solve? Create the solution to the problem you can get others to imagine. Present the problem, then offer the solution.

Be more discerning than that. Don’t buy into the idea that technology solves a problem, or that you actually have a problem to solve. Think about it.

That doesn’t mean you set all technology aside either. But know the difference between a real problem and a “first world problem.”

Keep your perspective in good shape, so you’re not overwhelmed by the distortions of “problems” in your life.

 

My Worth Is Not the Sum of My Accomplishments

numbersYou’ve heard it before: who you are is not equal to what you do. You’ve been warned about placing your identity in your profession, position, responsibilities, activities. But it’s easier said than done.

Pride.

It’s gets in the way all the time. It pulls our focus away from God and onto ourselves. Whether we think of ourselves as too high or too low, the root is the same: pride.

When you’ve gone through your task list for the day, or at least accomplished the really essential things, which do you do first: take a deep sigh of relief and think “I feel pretty good about getting all that done,” or do you thank God for giving you the time, focus, and perseverance you needed to accomplish what He planned for the day?

When you’ve confronted someone and waded with them through the muck of tough relationships and situations, which do you do first: claim “I think I handled that pretty well,” or do you thank God for giving you the peace, boldness, respect and discernment you needed, knowing what you said and how you said it couldn’t have come out of your mouth had you not relied on Him?

When you feel depleted, like a failure, unable to reach the completion of anything but having all sorts of fragmented pieces scattered around you, which do you do first: try to take control by organizing and micro-managing anything you can, throw up your hands in surrender and claim you’re a failure, or cry out to God for help then take responsibility for following Him well?

Just because things go well doesn’t mean you get the credit. Just because things don’t go well doesn’t mean you’re to blame. Just because things go well doesn’t mean God is more present and more attentive. Just because things don’t go well doesn’t mean God doesn’t care, isn’t listening, or isn’t invested in your life.

It’s not that simple.

You can’t figure it all out. If you think you can, that’s pride. On the other hand, if you think you’re incapable of anything meaningful, that’s pride, too. Humility isn’t about putting yourself down. It’s about putting yourself in a proper relationship with God, acknowledging and accepting His authority.

God doesn’t define us by our accomplishments. He’s much more interested in our faith.

When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

It’s Not My Time

When I get to the airport with little time to spare, it seems I have to wait longer for a shuttle and shuffle slowly through the security line. When I get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, it seems I have hardly no wait times at all. During a recent trip, I even got to watch the Flintstones while waiting at my gate (and of course, multi-tasking some work tasks).

I’ve experienced time flying by and time standing still. I imagine you can relate. Even though every minute contains 60 seconds, every hour contains 60 minutes and every day contains 24 hours, I’m convinced all time is not created equally. I’ve arrived on time when I expected to arrive late (and I wasn’t speeding…this time). Something that should have taken 10 minutes has taken me 30 even when I was staying on task. Time might be objectively measurable, but it’s subjectively experienced.

I used to say I was good at time management, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. I balance what needs to get done. It’s not the time I manage well but the tasks within that time.

I hear and see many comments indicating there’s not enough time in the day to accomplish what needs to get done, but it’s a deception we accept as reality. The truth is there’s exactly enough time in the day. There’s exactly enough time in a season. There’s exactly enough time in life.

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:

A right time for birth and another for death,

A right time to plant and another to reap,

A right time to kill and another to heal,

A right time to destroy and another to construct,

A right time to cry and another to laugh,

A right time to lament and another to cheer,

A right time to make love and another to abstain,

A right time to embrace and another to part,

A right time to search and another to count your losses,

A right time to hold on and another to let go,

A right time to rip out and another to mend,

A right time to shut up and another to speak up,

A right time to love and another to hate,

A right time to wage war and another to make peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, The Message)

As I’ve struggled with time (I certainly haven’t overcome the struggle yet!), I’ve realized it’s not a time management issue. It’s an obedience issue. It’s a submission issue. To be honest, I’m not big enough to manage time. God does that. I can steward the time he gives me, and the way I do that is listening to him and being obedient. That means I can’t map everything out. I have to let him guide my organization but also be flexible, because he will not keep me inside my pretty color-coded boxes. My role in time management is not control but yielding. As I accept God’s sovereignty, I acknowledge he knows what he’s doing. I trust him to guide me. I seek him and listen to him, responding in obedience in his perfect timing. I don’t race ahead and I don’t lag behind.

God’s time isn’t my time. My time is God’s time.

So, I try not to fit too many tasks in too little time. I try not to stress about something taking less or more time than expected. I try to write in pencil, because I know God will make adjustments. He guides. I respond. He fine-tunes. I adjust. That’s what relationship is all about.

It’s not my time. It’s my relationship with God.

Fertilizer

Poop happens.

Especially with one of my dear friends. She seems to have a lot of “poop” stories. You might think that’s not a nice word to put in a blog post. Well, it is what it is, and she has the stories to prove it!

We don’t live close to each other, but we used to speak at many of the same conferences, so we’d enjoy our girlfriend times and laugh hysterically at the mayhems of her life. It’s okay. Sometimes you have to laugh at the junk of life because it beats crying.

When we were in Arizona several years, the “poop happens” phrase became a staple in our conversations because of an intense, overpowering (to say the least) experience. We were driving through the edge of town with our windows down, enjoying the warmer temperatures of the region, when we smelled something horrendous. I don’t mean the smell was simply unpleasant. It was overwhelmingly oppressive. The problem was even when we rolled up our windows, the trapped, saturated air surrounded and gagged us. We ridiculously tried to hold our breath. Tears ran down our cheeks – partly from laughter and partly from the stinging stench.

It took us a few miles to recuperate.

Poop happens.

Several months later, I titled a conference session “Poop Happens.” It was extremely well received. There’s not a single person on earth who hasn’t experienced a bit of poop in life.

My friend and I haven’t seen each other in a couple years (and I don’t like it!), but we recently experienced even more poop together. We’ve been trying to get together, driving several hours to meet halfway and enjoy a quick day together. We set a date – three times – and had to cancel for a variety of reasons. This past time, we almost made it. It was the day before our date when I got the message she and her daughter were sick. I was bummed, but I wanted her to be at full capacity when I saw her, so I wished her a speedy recovery.

I then realized I suddenly had a blocked day with no plans. I decided to work ahead on my to-do list.

    • Check.
    • Check.
    • Check.

I checked off tasks as my productivity and creativity soared.

The disappointment of not spending time with a friend was tempered with the unexpected opportunity to get things done.

The poop provided fertilizer.

Poop happens. That’s life. Will you plug your nose and avoid it or use it for fertilizer today?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:1-2

Technology Challenge(d)

I walked through business class as I boarded the plane and noticed every single person sitting in that section, which had only one empty seat, was working – or perhaps playing – on a smart phone. Perhaps checking email, rescheduling meetings, or shopping for gifts online. I’m not certain of people’s specific tasks, but I thought of how technology tempts us with its promise to keep us organized and efficient – and maybe we are – yet we can easily live life shoulder to shoulder with people on the plane, sidewalk, or in our homes, without turning face-to-face to invest, ask questions, and listen.

I don’t intend to bash technology. Technology in and of itself isn’t bad. It doesn’t have the power to pull us away from relationships. That’s a choice we make on our own.

  • Our iPhones can keep us organized – and provide distractions.
  • Our DVRs can free our schedules to spend with family and friends – and cause us to have a selfish, on-demand mindset.
  • Facebook can keep us connected to and updated with people – and create an excuse to avoid other obligations or become unhealthily consumed with details of others’ lives.

Some people react to technology with an “it’s all evil” approach, refusing to use any of it. Or so it seems. My guess is some technology is entwined into their lives: microwaves, telephones, calculators. We usually rationalize what technology is good and bad by what we have or don’t have and what we know or don’t know how to use.

So what? This likely isn’t news to you. There will always be concerns about the balance between using technology and letting it use us. I encourage you to set aside any controversy among your friends and challenge yourself to examine the balance from a personal perspective. 

  • Where or how are you spending too much time?
  • What pulls you away from significant, growing relationships?
  • In what areas does your unfamiliarity block your possibilities?
  • Where are you stuck in a rut, or where do you feel trapped?

My challenge to you this week is to behave outside the box. Take a look at the technology in your hands and consider how you can use it in a new way to connect? Perhaps you’ll need to set it aside – which is new to you – in order to connect. Or if you’ve been hesitant to learn something new, you’ll need to pick it up and (gasp!) ask for help.

As for me, I’m taking a look at my Christmas card list from a couple years ago and finding a way to reconnect with anyone I’ve lost contact with. For those I can contact through Facebook or email, I’ll send something creative. For others, I’ll write a note. I challenge you to do something similar.

Need some inspiration? Perhaps you can share this through email, Facebook, Twitter…or your blog!