These days you can’t make plans more than a week out. Ask any educator preparing for the school year. Things change daily, even by the hour. This leaves life feeling chaotic and uncertain.
So how do we go about our work?
Is it worth all the effort?
Should we make plans, or just throw up our hands?
I’ve been dwelling on Psalm 127. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 127:1) This Psalm re-frames our perspective on work and planning when our work seems in vain.
In response to Psalm 127, here are three practices that I think capture its spirit. They put us in the posture of proper work and planning.
My assumption is that you are hard-working and busy. You like to get things done. You feel good when tasks are accomplished. You take pride in your vocations. You are rarely accused of being lazy.
If this is accurate, you need to work on being unproductive.
"Do you want to quit this job?" the supervisor asked her young employee.
"No," replied the young man. "It's just a lot. I'm so busy. I don't have any time."
"I understand," she stated. "It is a full time job. But let me ask you, do you watch Netflix?"
"How much time a day do you spend watching Netflix?"
"I suppose 2-3 hours."
"Do you keep up on social media?"
"How much time do you spend?"
"Uh, probably two hours a day."
The supervisor paused, and then stated plainly, "No, you do have time. You just need to know where to spend it."
"Men have become tools of their tools."
In August, I'll celebrate 6 years of blogging at sixthgen.com. In that time, I've posted nearly every week. Now it's time to take a break. Today I begin a blogging sabbatical until September.
Tools, like the internet, are good things. This blog allows me to reach thousands of people around the country and world.
But as Thoreau noted, "Men have become tools of their tools." Even good things can enslave us. I'm checking my use of technology and assessing my workload. Taking a break from regular blogging is part of my re-calibration.
Fields need to lie fallow in order to be more fertile.
Calloused hands need time to soften.
Weary feet need to be lifted.
Thanks for following me. I'm grateful for the support.
This summer, find some time for rest, health, and leisure.
And if you're looking for summer reading, go here.
I got at app called Moment that tracks how much time you’re on the phone and how many times you check it in a day. Let’s just say, “Convicting.”
I was at my daughter’s gymnastics class. There’s an upper balcony with bleachers for parents to watch their kids. Forty parents and all of them glued to screens.
Ten years ago, before the iPad and iPhone were mainstream, the average person had an attention span of about 12 seconds. Now it’s 8 seconds. Shorter than the 9 second attention span of a goldfish. See Adam Alter’s book Irresistible and his recent interview on NPR.
So I’m going on a tech diet. I’m not quitting, just putting my electronic devices in their proper place. Why?
The room was packed for the preschool Christmas program. I was sitting near the aisle with my camera in hand. My son Joshua was Joseph that year and his friend Claire was Mary. I was prepared to document the entire event.
The procession commenced. As the kids walked in, I spotted Joseph and Mary, holding hands. Totally precious.
I fumbled with my camera, trying to capture the moment. Unable to get the cap off the lens, I reached for my phone to get some video. I was looking down . . . pushing buttons. By the time I was ready, the kids were already up front. I missed the entire entrance.
But there was Joshua, in his Joseph garb. He picked me out of the sea of faces and waved. “Hi, Dad!” He didn't care about the pictures. He just wanted my attention.
At that moment, I made a vow. "I’m going to stop documenting this event and instead simply be at this event." This applies to much of our life, especially in December.
We are obsessed with doing at the expense of being.
There is not enough time to meet all of the demands.
You wonder if this is what burnout is.
We think that the answer to being overwhelmed is better productivity. Find the best "life-hack" blog. But there's a secret weapon that very few are talking about. Instead of being more productive, be less.
Instead of adding things, subtract some.
There's a spiritual discipline formed around this philosophy. Fasting. And it's not just about food. Here are four "fasts" to use when life is overwhelming.
No roads or cars.
No bathrooms or outhouses.
No cell service.
Just water, a pack, a paddle, and a canoe.
I went off the grid for three days last week in the far recesses of Northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a swath of land that includes 1,100 lakes and no human civilization.
Here's why I went off the grid:
I've been too busy. Maybe you have too. This is what I'm doing about it: Rest.
The word rest in Hebrew is shabbat, from which we get the word Sabbath. Shabbat means "to cease or stop." There is a time to be active and work. Then there is a time to cease doing the things you do the other six days of the week. Of the Ten Commandments - before killing, stealing, or committing adultery – the third calls us to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”
I'm writing this post for myself. Last fall, I was a guest in a class of future pastors at Concordia Seminary. The topic of self-care came up and I rattled off a list of things I've instituted to stay grounded and healthy. But now it's spring, and I'm straying from my own advice.
With the strains and demands of my vocations, I can slip into unhealthy habits. I know my limitations. I need healthy boundaries and habits to maintain balance. So here's my list - and personal reminder - of how to stay grounded.