Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts on Time, Part III

I am opposed to always being in a hurry. Now, I know that there are times when time is of the essence. There are situations in which we must move quickly and cut corners. If you are a runner, or a stock car driver, in fact, your whole life is about going faster and getting things accomplished more quickly. But for most people, most of the time, and even for everyone some of the time, we should slow down.

One of the ways that we need to get calm and slower is in our conversation. We are always trying to "cut to the chase" (a phrase that is completely over-used by everyone- including myself). We have power lunches and "stand-up" meetings because we do not want to take the time to talk about things. We are too busy, in too big a hurry.

Here is one practical way to change the world. If you do what I suggest, you and everyone you know will have to slow down, smell the roses and enjoy life.


It is too simple to be profound. But that's all there is to it. Have a conversation. Spend some time shooting the breeze. Sit on the porch with a friend and see what happens. And do not short change the conversation. Do not fall into the trap of inserting the yadda-yadda-yadda. Tell the whole story. Give details. Do not worry about how long the story takes. Enjoy the conversation.

Here are a few suggestions for enjoying time, conversation, family and friends.
  • Turn off the television during dinner. Talk about what happened during the day. Play the good thing, bad thing game. Each person tells one good thing and one bad thing that happened during the day.
  • Next time, instead of watching a video, play a board game. Talk, laugh and spend time together.
  • Do not go to the movies, but instead go bowling or roller skating or miniature golfing. Instead of watching someone else's life you will be living your own and creating great stories for the next story session.
  • Practice giving details. Don't gloss over the finer points. Share colors, smells and sounds with others. Bring your listeners to the place where the events took place.
  • In the evening, before turning in, discuss the events of the day. Review what happened. Evaluate things. Then spend some time planning for tomorrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts on Time, Part II

There are a lot of other things that need to be considered in relation to time. For example, time really does seem to fly by when you are having fun. And tedious tasks tend to make time creep along forever. There are 24 hours in every day, yet Mondays seem much longer and weekends are always too short.

It occurred to me the other day, however, that there is probably a correlation between time and money. This thought is based on a few observations.
  • To begin with, when time is at a premium- and for me that is most of the time- I would rather invest money in a situation than time. Time is precious- often more precious than my time.
  • Money can be replaced. Time cannot. Once time has elapsed, it is gone forever. I would rather lose my resources than days, months or years.
  • People who have plenty of money do not have enough time. They work hard to accomplish great things, and when they do, they must commit much time to maintain their great things. These people are very often rewarded for their efforts. They work long hours and many days and years, but there is very little free or leisure time for them.
  • People who have no money have plenty of time. Those who do not have resources often do not have jobs, they do not have amenities, there are no family outings, no meetings to attend. In short, those with limited resources and assets have all the time that they need.
All of these things are somewhat problematic, especially when you have no time or no money. But remember this: If you wish you had more time, you might have to give up some of you cash.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thoughts on Time, Part I

I have often heard people talk about quality time vs. quantity time. The idea is that there is not enough time to balance everything- work, church, family, home, leisure, hobbies- so something has to suffer. From these constant constraints and demands on time we get all sorts of conflicts. Everyone, it seems, feels guilty because of their lack of time.

There are scores of programs, plans and ideas to help people manage their time. Schedulers and planners are a huge industry in the USA. It seems that there is always a best-selling book or two devoted to time management. People want to speed-read, eat fast food and use the express lane at the supermarket. Hurry, is the mantra of the 21st century. (By the way, have you noticed how slowly microwave ovens cook these days?)

As a result, we have too often bought into the idea of quality time with people since we believe we cannot invest quantity time. Our children will be fine, we think, if we focus on them intensely for the limited time we have to give them. The main problem with this is that it serves mostly to salve the conscience of the one who is limiting his/her time. I feel better about my lack of time and attention if I convince myself that the time I am giving is of exceptional quality.

What a crock!

Look at this issue from the perspective of the one who is on the receiving end of the time. No matter how focused and intent someone is, if they are limited in their time for us, that is what we know and notice. No child has ever thought, "That 30 minutes with dad was the best part of my week." They are more likely to enjoy the 30 minutes, but long for more time.

And that is the whole point. To the receiver love is always equal to time. I know how much I am loved by how much time and energy and person gives to me. When I am dismissed as an after thought, I know that I am relatively unimportant. When a person invests hours with me, cultivating a relationship, I understand that I am loved.

What does this all mean? Do not get caught up in the lie that there is an acceptable substitute for time. There is not. Prioritize your life so that you give your time to the people and places that you love. The people around you believe that you love them in proportion to the time you spend on them. So have a conversation. Go to a show. Play a game. Spend some time with someone you love.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Luke 6.12

I have often wondered whether or not I pray often enough, or long enough, or passionately enough, or... Well, I'm sure you get the idea. The thing is, I'm pretty sure that my prayers are anemic at best, and probably pathetic in light of what Jesus has set for us as an example. Even though he was God incarnate, Jesus was an impressive pray-er.
  • There were times when he prayed all night long. (Luke 6.12)
  • He had special places where he would pray- like a mountain. (Matthew 14.23)
  • He prayed early in the morning. (Mark 1.35)
  • He prayed by himself. (Mark 1.35)
  • His praying was an example for others, especially the disciples. (Luke 9.18)

It is easy to get discouraged if we spend too much time comparing ourselves to Jesus in the area of prayer. We should, rather, see his life-pattern as an inspiration for our own prayer times and emphases. Let's not get hung up on how we fail to live up to his life, but seek some easy, practical ways we can become more like him.

  • Pray for a little bit longer this week than you did last week. Do not over-do it by trying to stay up all night Wednesday praying. In fact, it may be too much to pray for an hour a day.
  • Find a place where you can pray regularly. Some options might be your living room, bed room, car, office. If you can, devote a special place for prayer. There may be a tree or a bench in the park. Find a location that can be your holy ground.
  • Designate a certain time to pray, and devote it to the Lord everyday. It might be early in the morning, after lunch or just before bedtime.
  • Learn to pray by yourself. Get quiet and listen for God. Prayer is powerful and can change your life if you are in a position to really push through with God.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

All You Need

I have two confessions to make.
  1. I am a very emotional person.
  2. I do not let people know or see my emotions.
Generally speaking this is not a problem. However, it recently occurred to me that there are probably many people who have no idea what I truly think of them or their relationship with and to me.

Without even knowing it, this first manifest itself when I was in high school. I have always been something of a class clown. I have a smart remark or a joke to make about everything. Part of my humor is to seem completely serious. There have been many times in my life when people had no idea that I was teasing when I said something. I have unintentionally hurt more feelings than I ever care to know.

Today, I work really hard to not be hurtful. I label my teasing as teasing. I try to seem more "funny" as opposed to just saying funny things. I am making progress. But there are very few people that I tell about my love for them.

I think it is only my close family that I tell how much I love them. I say it a lot. Every phone call ends with, "I love you. Goodbye." I greet my family with my love. I speak so that they will never forget. I want there to never be a doubt for them about my love. I do not want to ever think, "I wish I would have said it more." I would much rather say it too much than not enough.

And that brings me to the problem. If other people do not know that I love them, isn't that worse than not loving them at all? It seems like it is almost withholding love. I have this gift for you, but I am not going to tell you about it. You will never know it exists.

I never want to be a person who over-uses love. I do not want my wife to think that she is in the same category with my favorite pizza or my barber. But I think it is time that caution be loosened up a little bit. It is time that I tell people how I really feel. Let the love flow.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

To Each His Own

I realized awhile back that I do not treat everyone the same. I have always felt like I was an open-minded person with very few prejudices. I think that all people are made in the image of God and have great value as his children. I have always believed and taught these things. I am proud to be a citizen of a country that has as a cornerstone of its heritage that all men are created equal.

And then it hit me that I have favorites. There are some people that I like better than others. In fact, there are some people that I do not like at all. I do not like admitting that, but there is nothing that I can do about it. My friend describes such people as EGR's- Extra Grace Required. These people are different from my favorites not because they are inherently different, but because of the way they respond to me and the way I operate.

  • I play favorites with those people for whom I am a favorite. That is to say, when I give attention to someone, if they repay that attention, I remember that.
  • I have an agenda for my life. There are things that I want to accomplish for myself, my family and the people around me. I respect people- and invest in people- who help me to accomplish these goals.
  • There are some people who have great potential, and are not afraid to meet that potential. They take chances and work to do God's work. People with great potential will get more of my attention.
  • Some people have a lot of work to do. Their lives are confusing, messy, hard and somewhat difficult for me to believe. These people get more of my attention.
  • In am willing to invest my time and energy in those people who are willing to spend their time and energy with me.
  • I give more time and attention to people who are especially vulnerable. That is, they are hurt, rejected or needy in some way. They have needs that I can work toward meeting.
  • I treat people differently who want to be treated differently.
So, I will not feel bad about the time I spend with some people. They are the people who want to spend time with me. I will continue to love those who love and long to be loved. I will lead those who want to be led. I will care for those who wish to be cared for and care for me in turn. I will invest in those in whom we will see the most return.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Weekly Prayer Thought

What God has cleansed you must not call common. Acts 10.15

One of the best times to develop your prayer life is at meal times. In Acts 10 Peter had a vision about all the foods that he could and could not eat. God's instruction to Peter was that if he had cleansed a food, it was eat-able. This should mean for all Christians that they should pray before eating. I know that this does not always seem practical or essential, but a great blessing will be lost if you do not get into this habit. And the sooner the better. So here are some thoughts, guidelines and suggestions for meal time prayers.

  • In public, or with others who may not be comfortable with praying, just silently bow your head and pray. This should only take a few seconds. Many people will be surprised to see you pray. Some will be encouraged by it and pray themselves.
  • In a group, make prayer a positive and fun thing. Use the "thumbs up" sign. Everyone at the table should put up one thumb. The last person to raise a thumb gets to pray.
  • At home, take turns praying for meals.
  • Use some familiar prayers, "Be present at our table, Lord," or "God is great." Pray in unison and enjoy the community that your family is.
  • Be original with your meal-time prayers. Include thanks for the day, petitions for protections and guidance. Pray for sick family members or friends.
  • At school, include some friends and classmates in your meal prayers. There is great power and fun in praying together.
  • In a restaurant, include your server in your prayer ask her/ him if they would like you to pray for them. Or, you can invite them to join your prayer.
Make praying for your food a habit. Pray before you snack. Pray while you are shopping for food. Pray for the food of others around you who are not praying. (When you do this, be sure to pray for the eaters, as well as the food they are eating.)

You can never pray too much. Everyone at least has a memory of meal time prayer. Use that to your advantage and pray. Pray. Pray.

PRAYER: Sometimes, Lord, I forget to pray before meals. Help me to remember. And God, make my meal-time prayers not only an act of obedience to you and your word, but make it a wonderful time of communion with you. Amen.