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Life Is Too Short to Clean My House . . . Or Is It?

Life Is Too Short to Clean My House . . . Or Is It?

Some men don’t care if their home is clean or messy. Not my hubby. He grew up with a mom who could challenge anyone to the Heavyweight Cleaning Champion of the World title. Trevor is used to a spotless home (and I really do mean spotless). Mess stresses him out. But his high expectations for a clean house stress me out. Sounds like a killer combination, huh? Yes, I’ve shot lots of heated words his way over this volatile subject. 

The Clean Freak I Married

You know from my first book how for thirty plus years I ached for a pair of strong arms to hold me close. In God’s extravagant kindness, He granted that gift. However, in all those years of pining, I never gave a thought to what might accompany such a gift. 

Turns out, marriage involves more than being adored by a man. With a husband come kids, and that husband and those kids must live in a house, and that house must be cleaned, and those hubby and those kids must be fed and clothed with freshly laundered clothes . . . again and again and again. 

I was not prepared for that kind of service. In one childish-sounding journal entry I spewed, 

“Cleaning is stupid. As soon as you finish, it’s messy again. It’s futile . . . It’s not creative . . . I hate it.”

Truth be told, I thought myself above such dull tasks as dusting and mopping and window washing. After serving in women’s ministry for well over a decade, these sorts of tasks felt like the demotion of the century. 

My Cleaning Conundrum

Now, lest you think him a chauvinist pig, let me clear the record. Trevor does pitch in and help me clean. If it weren’t for him, our fridge, oven, and floors would never get a deep cleaning. But we’ve worked out a deal of sorts. 

See, he’s handy, and I’m not. We have been—and still are—in the middle of a home renovation. So anytime there is something I can do, I try to do it myself rather than asking him for help, in order to free him up for the tasks that only he can accomplish. 

In Search of Answers on Why a Clean Home Matters

There was simply no way around it. I needed to clean, and I didn’t want to hate every minute of it for the rest of my life. I desperately needed some big questions answered. Is there any redeeming value to cleaning? In light of eternity, why does cleaning matter?

By the grace of God, I finally stumbled across the answer in Courtney Reissig’s book, Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God.  

First, she showed me how housework is connected to the two greatest commandments of loving God and loving neighbor. My closest neighbors are my husband and kids, and work in the house is for them. This was an “a-ha!” for me:  

“Laundry is for people to wear. Food is for people to be nourished. Clean floors are for people to crawl around on. Dishes are for people to eat off. The people and the physical work of the home are not in competition. They are two sides of the same coin. . . . The physical work of the home exists for the physical people in the home.” 

I was wrecked (in the best kind of way). 

Another paradigm shift I experienced from reading her book is that work is not about my personal fulfillment; it is for the good of my neighbor. How have I missed that for all these years?! I wondered. Courtney quoted Martin Luther more than once in this regard: 

“If you find yourself in a work by which you accomplish something good for God, or the holy, or yourself, but not for your neighbor alone, then you should know that that work is not a good work.” 

Ouch. 

Keep the Whole Law with a Clean Home

Ever since I read these truths, things have been changing in my house and my heart. As long as I keep the big picture in view, I don’t resent the poop stains I have to magically remove from my son’s shorts. I don’t mutter about the smooshed grapes I have to clean off the floor. I don’t cry over the onions I have to chop for supper (well, actually I do, but for a different reason!). 

Life is too short not to love my closest neighbors with a clean house, clean clothes, and food on the table. Do I do it perfectly? Not even close. But I keep working hard at it, because in this small, ordinary way, I can actually fulfill the whole law (Galatians 5:14). 

Thanks to Crossway’s generosity, I’m giving away five copies of Courtney’s book, Glory in the Ordinary. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from reading it, enter here.

If You Weren’t Afraid, What Would You Do?

If You Weren’t Afraid, What Would You Do?

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

That’s the question Typology podcast host, Ian Morgan Cron, posed in an episode I listened to yesterday. I’ve heard a variation of that question before, and it’s such a powerful one! Ian mentioned that he has started a list of what he would do if he weren’t afraid, so I started my list yesterday.

I imagine that when Ian posed that question, he had in mind big feats, like:

  • Climb Mt. Everest,
  • Write that book, or, 
  • Start that business. 

If I Weren’t Afraid, I Would . . .

But when I face that question head on, ordinary tasks come to mind:

  • Pick up a paintbrush,
  • Create a Facebook event page, 
  • Hang a picture frame on a wall,
  • Cut a piece of wood with a machine,
  • Figure out why the video isn’t working on my computer,
  • Etc. 

My lack of confidence isn’t a new revelation; marriage to Trevor has revealed just how dependent and helpless I’ve become. (He’s always trying on new hobbies for size; watching YouTube videos and then renovating our house . . . amazing!) 

Thankfully, Trevor continues to encourage me, “You can do it.” And slooooowly I’ve started to respond, “I know.” 

Goodbye Fear, Hello Freedom

In fact, the other day I was thinking,  I’ve given birth. Twice! Oh, and yes, I’ve written a book. But, I’ve given birth . . . twice! In light of that feat, I sell myself far too short. And I’m finally fed up with playing the role of helpless damsel. 

So while Trevor practiced his sermon last night (he’s preaching on Mark 14:1-11 this Sunday), I pulled the Knackwurst out of the fridge, fired up the grill, and went for it. 

I wonder if you can relate. You don’t have to tell me your answer. But do yourself a favor and ask the question of yourself. What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Are you selling yourself short? Are you walking in the freedom Christ purchased for you, or are you still living as a slave to fear? 

(Happy Independence Day, by the way!)

Turning Down a Great Job Offer

Turning Down a Great Job Offer

“I feel like I’m in a pinball machine,” Trevor told me. I felt like I was in a pressure cooker.

A few weeks before, Trevor’s sister had told him about an amazing opportunity with her company. Trevor has lived in Syracuse his whole life; I remember him telling me when we were dating that he had no plans of ever moving.

Still, I encouraged him to interview for the position. A former elder from Missio is co-leading a church in that city, so we would have a place to plug into. Plus, the job would provide a substantial pay increase and growth opportunity for Trevor’s career. “What do you have to lose?” I asked. And so he dusted off his suit and traveled to the interview.   

Weeks passed, and we thought that was that . . . until he received the job offer. We had just one week to decide.

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

We were torn down the middle; we both believed we could say yes or no in good conscience. We could glorify God and be devoted to good works in either place. Neither decision was sinful. “It’s not even that one decision would be wiser than another,” one of our elders remarked.

We prayed, we searched Zillow.com, we talked, and we both completed an exercise of best and worst-case scenarios if we did or didn’t go. We also sought counsel. A couple helpful pieces of advice/questions we received:

  • The burden of proof lies with the new place. It’s up to them to convince you that it’s worth all you’d be giving up. If you are divided right down the middle, it doesn’t sound like there’s enough there for you to say yes.
  • Who do you want to do life and ministry with?

“I want you to weigh in,” Trevor told me more than once. It was a good opportunity for me to learn not just to dutifully say, “I will go wherever you go,” but to really engage my mind and heart in deciding along with him what would be best for our family. 

As Trevor processed the potential move, he said more than once, “I feel like I’m missing an opportunity if I don’t take it, but leaving family and friends . . . I just don’t know that I can put a number to that.”

The night before he had to give his answer, we sat across the table from each other. “On the count of three,” he said, “show by thumbs up or thumbs down if you want to move. One, two, three.” And both our thumbs pointed down.

Syracuse, We Choose You . . . Again

We felt relief, but also a mixture of sadness the next day. It would have been an adventure, for sure. But there’s something about suddenly being given an opportunity to start over somewhere that shows you just how much you have right where you are.

God has blessed us big time, and unknowingly, we had begun to take this place and these people for granted. But thanks to this difficult decision process, we are recommitting to this place. Syracuse—among the top ten most poverty-stricken cities in the U.S.—is where we want to be a part of giving every man, woman, and child repeated opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the gospel. And the people at Missio church are the ones we want to do this alongside of.

In a world full of pressure to climb up, up, up, I am so grateful for a man who is committed to this cold, needy place. Syracuse, we happily choose you. Again.

How about you? Are you fully engaged where you live, or have you grown lax? Are you taking your influence on the people around you for granted?

In the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

PS: Through this process, we prayed that God would keep or move us to the place He knew would be most strategic for His kingdom advancement. That appears to be Syracuse. When you think of us, please pray for increased boldness and gospel-success in our neighborhood and city. Thanks so much!

Chick-fil-A, You’ve Been Good To Us

Chick-fil-A, You’ve Been Good To Us

Once there was a young man who was such a rabid Chick-fil-A fan he reworked an old hymn about it:

Trevor’s Chick-fil-A Hymn

Guide me O thou cows of Cathy

Pilgrim through this chikin-less land

I am weak, and very hungry

Hold me with thy powerful hand

Buttered bread, so lightly toasted

Feed me till I want no more

Feed me till I want no more

 

Open now the crystal fountain

Whence the sweetest tea doth flow

Let the fiery chikin sandwich

Lead me all my journey through

Tastiest fast-food, kindest service

Be thou still my flavorsome fill

Be thou still my flavorsome fill

 

When I tread the lands without thee

Bid my hungry fears subside

Death of thirst, and hunger’s destruction

Land me safe in thy drive-thru’s line

Many thank you’s I will ever give to thee

“It’s my pleasure” I will ever hear from thee

Sparks Fly at Chick-fil-A

Alas, this young man lived in New York, far from “the Promised Land” (as he lovingly referred to his beloved Chick-fil-A).

But as luck would have it, he bumped into a girl over Twitter who lived near a Chick-fil-A. After they’d talked online for about four months, he asked what she’d think of him visiting her for a long weekend.

Knowing how much he loved Chick-fil-A, she arranged for them to meet for the first time in person in “the land flowing with sweet tea and lemonade.”

Their friendship was forged even deeper over that long weekend. So much so that at their parting breakfast—over his spicy chicken biscuit—the young man let this girl know that he was interested in more than a friendship. And right there in the Mishawaka Chick-fil-A, they became boyfriend and girlfriend.

The boy and this girl dated, got engaged, and then wed on October 3, 2015. Three weeks later they traveled all the way back to Michigan to celebrate with their friends over . . . yes, Chick-fil-A sandwiches. ​

Every chance they got they stopped at Chick-fil-A on their travels until one day . . . they learned that Chick-fil-A was coming to a town near them!

In Line for Free Chick-fil-A

The young man knew exactly what he would do. He would rise early and wait in line in hopes of being one of the first one-hundred customers. If he was successful in his mission—assuming he spent that day doing community service—he would win a free Chick-fil-A meal each week for a year!

Suffice it to say, you can now spot that young man and his wife through the Chick-fil-A window as they save money many Friday nights by taking advantage of this free meal on their weekly date night.  

Chick-fil-A: You’ve been good to us.

  • Karen Wilson, we don’t know if you’re still serving as the Marketing Director at the Chick-fil-A in Mishawaka, IN, but thank you so much for donating part of our reception meal back in 2015!
  • And Dan Cathy, my hubby loved meeting you when you flew in for the Chick-fil-A opening in Syracuse. You have created a beautiful business, and it has blessed us personally in significant ways.  

To my readers: Thanks for your patience. A couple months ago I shared some of my hubby’s writing with you and promised this Chick-fil-A hymn plus two more poems. Watch for the final installment of his writing next Monday.

 

The Christian Life in 3 Simple Phrases

The Christian Life in 3 Simple Phrases

“The Christian life is simple. Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when you fail.”

This sentence has lodged in my gut and changed my days—possibly even my life—since I heard it.

The Christian Life Made Simple

A pastor spoke these words simply as I sat in a circle of complete strangers (you can read that story here). But that’s not the point of this post.

What I want to communicate is that this truth has been changing my thoughts and actions since I heard them. And I think they’ll do the same for you.

See, for years I’ve scurried around trying to chip away at my to-do list. But just when I’d eliminate one task, three more would pop up.

So I’ve lived with the mentality that “after my work is done, I’ll rest.” (All that did was result in a giant physical and emotional crash several years ago.) But recently God has used other means—as well as this one, simple sentence—to calm my anxious heart and change my whole approach to the Christian life.

Instead of hitting the ground running each morning in an effort to tame my beastly to-do list, I’ve realized that my task for each day is simple: Love God, love people, and repent and believe the gospel when I fail.

Today I’m writing over on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. Catch the rest of this post there.

Then, I’d love to hear from you. How does this simple summary of the Christian life focus and/or redirect your hectic life? Do you need to repent of not loving God and others and believe the gospel—that in Christ you are forgiven? What can you do today to cooperate with the Spirit in you in loving God and others?

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety

Do you deal with social anxiety? This girl does. She asks:

How do you deal with social anxiety? I get so nervous around people sometimes and always feel awkward. I’ve been praying about it, but it’s still bad. I want to witness to others, but I practically have a panic attack when I do!

So for her—and anyone who can relate—here are ten helpful ways I’ve personally found to push past social anxiety.

You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.

First, though, a disclaimer: If you’re an introvert, you don’t need to become an extrovert! Think of the following list of suggestions as a few tools for you to take or leave. No one is asking you to get a whole new personality and become the most gregarious person at the party. What we are seeking is to love and welcome others as we have been loved and welcomed by God through Christ.

Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will be helpful to that end.

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety

1. Don’t hide behind your phone. Put it away when you’re with other people. It will help others feel more cared for and will help you engage them more easily. I’m guessing you’re actually better than you know at engaging people when the phone isn’t vying for your attention. You’ve got this!

2. Know that your approval comes not from people but from God. If you are looking to people to tell you what you’re worth, you will fear them instead of love them. Remember that we are all equal, each made in God’s image. If you have surrendered your life to Christ, you now have God’s full approval. And you have been given a mission to love Him with all your heart and to love others as you love yourself. You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.

3. Don’t be afraid to be awkward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said or done awkward things. But here’s the deal: It’s not a sin to be awkward. It is, however, a violation of God’s law not to love others. In order not to stay perpetually awkward, give yourself permission to be awkward for a while. And if you hurt someone in the process, be sure to seek forgiveness.

4. Ask questions. If you can’t think of questions to ask on the spot, it’s not cheating to have some prepared. For example, when I see someone new at church, I’ll often ask, “How long have you been attending?” followed by “How did you hear about us?” Then I can think of other spontaneous questions to ask them once the conversation is rolling.

5. Listen well. Now that you’ve asked a good question, your job is done, right? Wrong! Don’t let your mind wander. Listen well to how they answer your question. Don’t worry about thinking through your response or your next question—just listen well.

6. If you really want to go the extra mile, jot down notes after you talk to them while the conversation is still fresh in your mind. I often take notes on my phone when I meet someone new whom I think I might bump into again. My notes consist of their name plus an identifying characteristic and maybe something interesting I learned about them. That way, I can always go back and reference my notes later if (okay, when!) I forget their name.

7. Pray. Even though I usually feel like leaving the building right after service on Sundays, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking God, “Who do you want me to talk to today?” I then look for someone to introduce myself to or to say “hi” to. My husband and I are almost always the last to vacate the premises!

8. Practice. Stretch yourself. Try sticking around on Sunday until you’ve found someone to talk to. Practice striking up a conversation with the cashier at the mall. Try smiling at the strangers you pass on the street or in the halls at school. See and engage people wherever you go, just like Jesus did while He lived on earth.

9. Remember that others are insecure, too, and don’t take it personally if they don’t seem interested in talking back. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you should seek to consistently be friendly. Don’t only talk to the friends you’re comfortable with. Seek out new faces, and do your best to make them feel welcome.

10. Focus on becoming a “there you are” person. There are a few blog posts you read and never forget. This one by Jani Ortlund is one of them for me. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it was to me!

What did I forget? Any other tips you’ve found helpful for pushing past social anxiety? Why do you think it’s so important to work on it?

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety was originally published on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Staring Death in the Face

Staring Death in the Face

My husband and I have been staring death in the face for the past couple of months.

We were first reminded of its presence the afternoon our next-door neighbor told us his wife was going downhill quickly after a two-year battle with brain cancer.

Death called again the day we noticed the medical van in their driveway advertising hospital beds, wheelchairs, and oxygen. Then came the newspaper obituary and the knock on our door: Our neighbor’s wife had died at home on Saturday, surrounded by her family.

A couple weeks after the visitation, death visited again. This time it was our neighbor’s dad who was taken.

And suddenly I can’t escape the cold, hard truth that all of us share this destiny of death. Every time I look at my neighbor’s house, I am reminded of the reality of death. And while none of this is pleasant, I am glad for this sobering reminder. As the teacher says in Ecclesiastes 7:2:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

The wise will live with the reality of death ever before them.

Do you remember the motto, YOLO, that gained popularity back in 2012? “You only live once” served as encouragement for reckless living and obscured our destiny of death.

If we had a chance to sit down with the writer of the wisdom book Ecclesiastes, I believe he’d tell us that YOLO had it all wrong. Rather, our mantra for life should be YODO: “You only die once.”

And After Death . . .

Why should we think about our inevitable death while we’re still alive, even though none of us really want to? Because we have a Creator, and we will meet Him face to face on the other side of death. Then we will give account for the way we lived:

It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Heb. 9:27).

That’s why, after twelve chapters, the author of Ecclesiastes sums up the teacher’s words this way:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccl. 12:13–14, emphasis added).

So if you want to continue living as if YOLO is your motto, go for it. But don’t say you weren’t warned:

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment (Eccl. 11:9, emphasis added).

The teacher tells us that we are to enjoy good while we live, recognizing that these thing are God’s gifts to us, remnants from life before humanity’s fall into sin.

I wonder, when you examine your life, have you been living as if YOLO were the motto of your life . . . or YODO? Are you living recklessly, mindless of your Creator and Judgment Day where you’ll give account for every thought and deed?

How would living with the reminder of death and judgment ever before you change the way you live each day?

An Interview with a Praying Woman

An Interview with a Praying Woman

Every once in awhile, I meet someone whose life nearly takes my breath away with its beauty. My friend Debra Fehsenfeld is a passionate follower of Jesus, a wife and mother of four, a lover of all people, and a praying woman. (She’s cool, too!) I asked if she’d answer my questions about prayer, and here’s what she had to say.

If you had to describe prayer to a new Christian, what would you say?

It’s the gift we’ve been given to talk to God, to take action before God, and to participate with Him in all He’s doing in the world.

  • Talk to God: He’s listening. Ask Him questions, tell Him what you’re thinking about, what you care about, wonder before Him about what He cares about, marvel at what you are seeing around you, both good and bad—there are no limits to what you can talk to Him about.
  • Take action: We see things, hear things, wonder about things, believe things, understand things . . . but we don’t always know what we’re to do in response to all these things. Prayer is what we do.
  • Participate with Him: Through interacting with God and seeking His kingdom in all that we see, hear, wonder, believe, and understand, we actually enter into the incredible privilege of working with God to make all that is wrong right. (There’s no geographical, racial, religious boundary to hinder us in this work!)

What motivates you to pray?

Aside from the fact that I really do want to obey Jesus who has told us to pray (Luke 18:1, etc.), I think I’m motivated by two things: (1) an awareness of need, and (2) my experience of the perfectly divine ways in which God does things—experience with the God who alone is the perfect head of wisdom, the perfect heart of love, and the possessor of perfect almighty hands. I pray because I have great needs and so does the world around me. I pray because I believe God intends to do something about those needs, and I want to see Him do it and be part of what He does.

When and where do you pray?

The greatest amount of concentrated time praying I do is in the mornings and afternoons while I’m running on the treadmill, and especially while I’m biking (recumbent). Both pieces of equipment are in our basement, and there is usually very little distraction.

I do pray at other times and in any number of places, but these would certainly be less intentional times of prayer though no less real or meaningful; they are usually responsive prayers—immediate responding to immediate circumstances or thoughts.

But my when and where isn’t relevant in any useful sense for anyone but me because it’s different based on one’s context and season of life. The thing relevant for us all, I believe, is that there must be a regular time where we arrange our days (and lives) to be alone with the One we love and are seeking to learn from. We have the example of Jesus confirming the importance of such a time. If Jesus needed set times of solitude with the Father, I do as well.

When my husband, Del, and I go on a date, we have the opportunity to really catch up with each other and make a deeper heart-to-heart connection. We obviously connect and touch base throughout the day, but these set-aside times are about us connecting on a deeper level. Likewise, it’s vital for me to create a space of solitude in order to really engage at a deeper level with my Father.

I’m assuming you didn’t always pray like you do now. What increased your commitment to—and hunger for—prayer?

Hands down, I started really praying intentionally when I began to realize that my children were going to need to make their own choices in life one day. I cannot make faith come alive in them; I’m completely dependent on the heart-changing, love-infusing power of God’s Spirit.

Now I’m motivated by more than need. I eagerly anticipate those daily spaces of solitude with my Father. We are so together in these spaces of solitude. I lose track of time; I don’t want to leave. It’s so personal.

What do you think is the most important thing to understand about prayer?

The focus of prayer is not what you say or don’t, or how long you pray, or how you feel while you pray. Prayer is doing life with God; aware of Him always; interacting with and seeking Him in everything.

How much time do you spend talking to God; how much time do you spend listening?

Let me refer back to those dates with Del. Sometimes Del talks more. Sometimes I do. But that’s not the point. The purpose of the date is connection, leading us to restored and more complete oneness.

The point of prayer is exactly the same. The goal is connection to God, leading to oneness with God—where what He cares about is becoming what I care about, where the way He sees things begins infusing the way I see things, His altogether good impulses generating in me good impulses like His.

What is the greatest thing you’ve ever asked God for?

To be born again.

What is the greatest thing you’ve ever seen God do in response to your prayers?

The thing I’ve seen Him do now over and over and over again is the thing that still blows my mind. He engages with me, with all of us who are walking in life with Him! GOD, the Source and Sustainer of all life, wisdom, glory, authority, power, love, and good is content—no, more than content, He is full to the brim giddy to hang out with me all the time!

If He can bring dead things to life, if He can call into being things that never were heard of or in existence before, if He can be crazy with delight about hanging out with me every day and convince me that He wants to continue this forever—all of these things I’ve seen Him do in and for me and in and for others—I have no doubt whatsoever that there isn’t anything for Him that is too hard.

I’d love to hear from you. What motivates you to pray? And how is God changing the way you think about and interact with Him in prayer?

An Interview with a Praying Woman was originally posted on ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life

Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life

I can’t stop talking about it everywhere I go. Tim Challies’ book, Do More Better has revolutionized my life.

It’s a slim little book, which is probably why it’s the first book on productivity I’ve actually read cover to cover. Not only that, it’s such a practical book that I’ve been able to implement most of what I’ve read along the way! And oh, how drastically I needed someone to come alongside me and help me figure out how to change . . .

For years, I left untold emails unanswered. I have also been guilty of failing to return voicemail messages and asking for grace when returning a purchase a few days after the thirty- or sixty- or ninety-day return policy had ended. Piles around the house have remain untouched; great ideas of doing good for others have remained just that . . . ideas.

I have worked frantically, moving from one incomplete project to the next, attempting to keep my world from crashing down around me. As a result, I have not loved people well, I have not enjoyed life, and I have been a slave to work without ever feeling like I was getting anywhere.

This book has and is changing all that, though. When I read the true measure of productivity, I was stunned at its simplicity. I wrote in the margin, Could it really be this simple, God?

What Productivity Really Is

Productivity is not about crossing every task off our to-do list. It is about organizing our lives so that “you can do the maximum good for others and thus bring the maximum glory to God.” Matthew 5:16 summarizes this well:

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Tim Challies writes, “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good.”

He then pointed out the “productivity thieves”: laziness and busyness. If you’re like me, you’ve come to normalize and even spiritualize busyness. But Challies puts an end to that with this enlightening paragraph:

Busyness cannot be confused with diligence. It cannot be confused with faithfulness or fruitfulness. Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. Busyness . . . probably just means that you are directing too little attention in too many directions, that you are prioritizing all the wrong things, and that your productivity is suffering.

Ouch! But it got worse. He went on to diagnose my condition perfectly. I have been “Busylazy”: I put tasks off until I absolutely can’t avoid them any longer, and then I work like crazy to meet the deadline.

Getting Practical

With that foundation, Tim led me through some super practical exercises:

In chapter 3, he showed me how to define my areas of responsibility and then fill in the roles, tasks, or projects that fall under each.

In chapter 4 he encouraged me to define my mission. In his words:

You haven’t begun to live a focused and productive life until you have said no to great opportunities that just do not fit your mission.

In chapter 5 he taught me a basic organization tool: “A home for everything, and like goes with like,” and he recommended a task management tool, a scheduling tool, and an information tool. Because . . .

Appointments always need to go where appointments go, information always needs to go where information goes, and tasks always need to go where tasks go.

In chapters 6–8 he honed in on each of these areas:

  • collect your tasks
  • plan your calendar
  • gather your information.

In chapter 9 he encouraged me to “live the system.” He writes:

Your day needs to have two phases: planning and execution. . . . While planning does not need to take much time, it is very important, and when done right, will dramatically increase what you are able to accomplish throughout the rest of the day.

And then in the final chapter he emphasized the importance of maintaining the system consistently. “Nothing in this world coasts toward order,” he writes. “You need to free yourself from thinking that organizing your life is a one-shot deal.”

Ever since, I’ve scheduled a “daily review” first thing each morning (Tim outlines how to do this in chapter 9), and I’m starting up weekly reviews each Friday as he recommends.

He closed the book with two bonus sections that were perfect for me. The first, “tame your email,” taught me to start at the top of my inbox and take action on each email before moving on to the next:

  • trash it
  • archive it
  • reply to it
  • or move it to my reply folder.

And then his final bonus section included twenty tips to increase my productivity. A few I especially appreciated:

  • Stop multitasking. Whenever possible choose a task, take it to completion, and then move on to the next one.
  • Move around. Sometimes a change of scenery is as good as time off.
  • Learn to delegate. What you do poorly someone else may be able to do with excellence.
  • Don’t send unnecessary email. Send sparingly, and you will receive sparingly.

It’s For Us All

With all this talk of email, you may think this book is just for someone with an 8:30–5 desk job, but it’s not. I believe this book will be revolutionary for the student, the housewife, the women’s ministry leader . . . for you.

That’s why I’m so grateful Tim has agreed to give away three copies. If you think you, too, could use some help thinking about productivity biblically and practically, log on to the giveaway widget over at ReviveOurHearts.com for a chance to win one of three copies of Do More Better.

Do More Better: A Productivity Tool That Could Revolutionize Your Life was originally published on ReviveOurHearts.com

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled

Have you seen the meme “rustle my jimmies”? It came into use in 2010 and expresses strong emotional angst toward someone else’s post on the Internet.

As a blog manager for the past seven years, I’ve observed my share of “jimmy rustling” in the comments section—on this blog and on other blogs. Yes, it appears even Christians get their jimmies rustled from time to time.

When I read a disgruntled commenter expressing sharp criticism toward the author of a post, it makes me think of this admonition from James:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be

  • quick to hear
  • slow to speak
  • slow to anger;

for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (1:19–20).

I can’t help but wonder how this verse might read if James were addressing modern-day blog readers. Something like this, maybe?

Know this, my beloved Internet users: let every scanner be

  • quick to read carefully and slowly all the way to the end of a post
  • quick to seek to understand where the author is coming from
  • slow to comment
  • slow to get their jimmies rustled

for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).

One of the best pieces of communication advice I have ever received is to seek to understand before seeking to be understood (again, just another way of summarizing James 1:19–20). It’s no different from how we are supposed to read the Bible—seeking to understand the author’s original intent rather than jumping to conclusions.

That said, would you mind if I passed on five pieces of advice that will aid you in not getting your jimmies rustled—and not sinning in your responses?

1. Don’t judge a post by its title.

In order to catch readers’ attention in a culture glutted with information, bloggers have to write intriguing titles in order for readers to even click on their posts. So give the author a break and read their post before blasting them for their title. Even then, don’t blast them for their title. Comment on their whole presentation, not on six words stripped of their context.

2. Don’t post a comment before reading to the end of the post.

Often the writer is making the same argument you are . . . you just didn’t stick around long enough to realize it.

3. Do ask clarifying questions.

Rather than reading between the lines and connecting dots that aren’t really there to connect, ask the author what they meant by such-and-such. Give them a chance to clarify rather than putting words in their mouth.

4. Do pray, re-read, and wait a bit before you instantly post a comment.

Growing up, my mom taught me not to send an important email immediately after writing it, but to leave some space before sending it. She probably got that idea from the Word of God: “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Prov. 19:2).

Words can never be taken back. I trust bloggers are doing the same thing as they write a post: praying, re-reading, and waiting before instantly posting their thoughts on the worldwide web.

5. Do share truth in love.

If correction is indeed needed, share this correction in love. The apostle Paul says it better than me:

I . . . urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:1–6).

I’m not saying you have to agree with everything that’s posted on the Internet, or even on this blog. Hardly! But I am asking you to help me change the commenting culture to one that honors God, gently corrects where needed, and encourages where possible.

I’d love to hear what you think. Have you noticed this same trend? How have you either contributed to or bucked the my-jimmies-are-rustled-and-you’re-gonna-hear-about-it system?

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.