Archive for March, 2007

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Bring Sanity to Your Daily Schedule – Part 3

March 27, 2007

The problem with collecting all your internal courage and getting control of the time at your disposal is that you find you aren’t very successful at corraling the ‘beast’. Most of us can rearrange how we are spending our time for a few weeks, but we find that, like a rubber band, we keep snapping back into old habits. We promised ourself that we wouldn’t get sucked into serving on that committee or watching that television program or being stuck with that annoying chore at work that is someone else’s responsibility but tragically becomes the monkey on your back. What is the reason that time management feels like a “Pushmi-pullyu”? (reference Dr. Doolittle if you’re confused).

As an homage to the first habit of Stephen Covey, we must assume it is our responsibility to make changes to our own lives. Therefore, if the fault is to lie anywhere in this failure to gain sanity in the daily schedule, it must start with what is happening inside of us. As anyone who has read this blog for awhile will testify, I see most of our psychological problems as a combination of lie-based thinking interacting with triggering situations accidentally prepared by unknowing people. Never has this been more evident than with time management techniques. All of them will fall short if we have not dealt with the four primary lies we face when we try to corral the wild stallion of our daily life. These four (in no particular order) are:

1. A Sense I will Never Fit In: This is a variation of the shame lie, a devious belief system that proposes to our inner man that there is something essentially wrong with who we are. As we marinate in that belief, our actions betray its presence in this way. We cannot stand the thought that we are this sack of damaged goods…or more to the point that others will discover it…so we do everything we can to present a picture of ourselves that others will find appealing. One way we often do this is to give them some of the keys to our time and priorities. We believe inside that by going along with their priorities for our life they will not get realistic and discover the shame we are trying to hide.

Let me give an example of what this could look like. At work, they are looking for someone to head up a committee that helps employees find places to do their continuing education. Rumor has it that this committee takes up many non-work hours and is completely voluntary. You have no desire to be on that committee because it requires skills you do not possess. But your boss comes along one day and tells you how much you would benefit that committee and how well it would operate with your presence. You would like to tell your boss that you do not possess the skill set to do that job, but you find you can’t. Something inside is nudging you to take the position so as to allay any belief the boss might have that you are less than a desirable employee.

As with everything in this process of bringing sanity to our daily schedule, Jesus, the man of Truth, is the best example to go by when it comes to dealing with lies. Jesus truly shows us how to navigate this shame lie. In John 7 Jesus’ brothers approach him with a proposition. Why doesn’t Jesus go up to Jerusalem at that particular feast and announce his Messiah status? Instead of succombing to this pressure from his brothers however, he simply let them know that his priorities will not allow Him to make a public spectacle for the sake of proving something to his brothers. He was impervious to shame and the demands that shame makes, because he lived in the Truth always.

2. I’m going to Miss Out On Something: This lie is really not a lie at all. In fact, all of us miss out on most of life – if what we mean is we cannot experience everything everyone else is experiencing all the time. That probably wasn’t a great dilemma a thousand years ago when the only thing you might miss out if you were having a molar removed is the latest taxing of the peasants by the local ruffians from the castle. However, this lie is a fear lie…it is a fear that by missing out on something, we may miss out on something critical. These days, we are aware of all the things people in this world are doing through television, gossip at work, text messages, blogs, podcasts, DVDs and more television. Other people have the latest video game, hobby, pasttime, sport, equipment, vehicle, concert, exhibition, club, church event, high tech gear, Fave Five, hot tickets, cool drinking place, job from Monster.com, contact list, etc., etc., etc. The idea that we will not be able to do what others are doing bothers many people so they seek to add as many things as can be crammed into a 24-hour day as possible. We even start our kids on it by driving them from one sport to another to another until by the age of twelve they are so burned out that sleeping in until 1 p.m. on a Saturday seems like Shangri-La.

Once again, in the life of Jesus, though he was one of the busiest men in the world, and though he accomplished more in three years than other people do in many lifetimes, we see someone who could sleep through a storm, find a quiet place to be alone, pick up kids while a meeting was going on and single out a blind guy for special attention in the middle of a crowd. He knew what he wanted to do and wasn’t influenced by what others were doing. There is nothing wrong with setting your sights on the most important things in your life and allowing others to have different priorities. That is actually how any of us can be individuals: by choosing our own path, even the one less travelled.

3. There is Nothing I can Do About it: This is the helpless lie. It is at the heart of many time schedules gone awry. At the heart of this lie is a belief that we can fight the desires of others all we want, but eventually we will lose. That lie takes all the fight out of us. But here is the kicker: If you tell people often enough that you’re not going along with their desire to control your time, eventually they give up. But usually we stop resisting long before they have time to give up. All of life is yelling at us “Resistance is futile”. Why would the enemy say that to us if it really was futile?

Because it isn’t. In spiritual warfare, the Bible clearly tells us “Resist the devil and he will flee from you”. It doesn’t say he will run away immediately. Jesus had to put up with several temptations in the wilderness, including a job (turn the stones into bread), a sport (bungie-jumping off the pinnacle of the temple with an angelic net), and a religious event (worship satan and receive the whole world as a prize). But it was someone else’s job, someone else’s favorite sport, and someone else’s idea of religion. Eventually, the enemy left him and he went on his way stronger and more resilient. If you throw off this lie, you will find that even in situations where you seemingly will never be able to overcome, amazing things can happen. I know a young mother of three small children who could never get alone to think, pray or even have a breather. She gave up even trying. But one day, an idea occured to her. She instructed the kids that when “mommy has a towel over her head, that is when everyone must be quiet”. She didn’t think it would work. And the first dozen times she tried it, it didn’t work. But then the kids began to catch on. They immediately quieted down and solved their own problems during those moments when the towel emerged. Eventually each of them would do the same thing when they wanted quiet. Eventually, the entire house practiced the towel/quieting technique. Only dad struggled with it during those months, and eventually he even caught on. It can be done, but only when the lie of helplessness is thrown off.

4. I Will Not Be Accepted: This is the classic variation of the lie “I will not be loved” which plagues the human race. We so desire to connect with others that we will give them the right to cross the proper boundary lines we place around our precious time and invade the values that direct the use of that time. It can be as simple as someone yelling from the other end of the house that we need to come and look at an ifilm clip right when we’re praying. It can be a friend at work who takes off an hour early to go to a spa leaving us with the client from hell that always comes at that time of day. We won’t say anything to them the next day because we want them to keep liking us.

Peter was Jesus’ dear friend. He also never lacked for opinions, even on how Jesus spent his life. In the months leading up to Jesus death on the cross, he had tried to give Peter advance warning on this life-changing event. Peter didn’t want to hear it. Peter even had the audacity one day to rebuke Jesus in public and tell him to put this nonsense out of his head. Jesus got angry with his friend because he had crossed the line. Friend or not, Jesus was not going to put up with someone telling him what the priorities of his life were. He was willing to damage the friendship at that point to keep the boundaries of his life secure.

On another occasion, a man approached him and told Jesus to order his brother to share the inheritance they had both received. Only the chief Rabbis had this kind of power. In one sense, Jesus should have been honored he was thought of so highly. But instead, he answered the man, “Who made me your accountant? Settle the issue yourself.”

Was this a harsh statement? Yes, it was, but sometimes that is the only way to get a person off your back. Only those who are secure in the love God has for them can do this. Others will get sucked under the current of wanting others to accept, admire and love us: Even if it means giving them the keys to our values and time.

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Bring Sanity to Your Daily Schedule – Part 2

March 24, 2007

If you look at your schedule and, after honest evaluation, see more U’s and C’s than M’s, a change must come if you want to bring sanity to the ever-increasing time pressures we are facing in today’s culture. But before I lay out a simple process for doing that, let’s look at what has to change inside before the external changes will work.

During one of Jesus’ teachings he makes this grand statement in Matthew 11:29-30: “29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” This seems to be a study in contrasting ideas. First he instructs his disciples to take His yoke upon themselves. A yoke is a bar and chain you place on the shoulders of an ox in order to direct it while plowing. It is an instrument of work and toil. Yet, Jesus’ next statement talks about finding rest for the soul. How can the thought progression go so quickly from work to rest? The next verse supplies the key ingredient that ties it all together. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. In essence, when Jesus gives us work to do, it doesn’t feel like toil and doesn’t sap our strength. God’s calling upon a job actually keeps our energy level on an even keel rather than resulting in our demise.

Some things we do are callings from God. I am not referring to a life calling, like being a missionary or wife or President of the United States. I am referring to the daily callings where we latch upon the will of God for us that day and we do the work with the gusto that comes from his presence doing the work with us. The opposite of working from a calling is working from being driven. A driven person is fueled by a sense that what they are doing is necessary, even though there is no corresponding leading from God to keep doing it. Driven people and called people can work the same hours and produce the same amount of work, but the driven person will be exhausted and the called person will, for the most part, feel renewed.

Of course, no one besides Jesus has yet perfected a daily existence where they continue to work by calling and not by drivenness. But that is the goal.

Someone might ask “So do I need to quit all the things I’m doing that don’t have God’s call upon them?” Not necessarily. Many jobs can be transformed by submitting them to God and seeking to have adjustments made. When God transforms a task, it then becomes a calling.

Years ago, when I was foolish enough to be working 70 hour weeks, I used to dread coming home from the office. My wife had been all day with our small children and I knew she wanted an escape from talking to underage rapscallions. She wanted my time. But, by the time I came home from hours of counseling, office work and administration, not to mention my increasing work load through writing and public speaking, the last thing I wanted was to start fresh into deep, intimate conversations with her. I’m afraid that for a long while she got my emotional leftovers.

One day in my office, during a season where I began to clean up the drivenness of my work life, I opened the door to God so that He could help me evaluate everything. The first thing he put his finger on was the way I approached going home each evening. He pointed out that I felt this was a burden and an obligation and that I didn’t ask Him what He wanted me to bring home. After that, I started to approach going home as if it was my next assignment. From that moment on I became much more sensitive, creative and helpful. It also transformed that time from a burden to a blessing for both of us. Within a month I was genuinely looking forward to that first 30 minutes of time we would spend together.

If Jesus’ burden is light, and if we are not feeling rested in life, then we have to do three things to get there.

1. Look at everything you do from the perspective of being driven vs. being called.
2. Ask God to transform our tasks before we jettison the lot. The tendency that most people have when they begin this process of bringing sanity to their time is to abandon many of the commitments they have made to others simply because they did not begin as an essential element of their calling. But let us remember that there is virtue in carrying out our assignments and commitments. Kat and I have a friend who used to accept everyone’s tasks, allowing the world to dump job after job on her. She was very capable with all of it, but it would invariably overload her. Then, in order to get control again, she would get rid of every commitment she had made and start over again. It got to the point that I advised ministry leaders in our church not to ask her to do anything. We could not rely upon her. The best advice I can give is to set a time limit on how much longer you will carry forward your commitment. Then, when that season is over, you have given them sufficient notice to find a more called person for that task.
3. Remember that all of us are called to do many things. That yoke has your name upon it. For all new tasks, bring them to God and allow Him to lead you into new territory.

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Bring Sanity to Your Daily Schedule – Part 1

March 21, 2007

I was leading a seminar recently on the reality of our time crunch. Everyone, everywhere, is experiencing a deficit in the time available any more. I mean, who cannot say in exasperation that they spend every day running from one event to another, from one commitment to another, from one important slot on the schedule to another. Intermixed with all this are family, work, recreation, church, friend and entertainment commitments.

For the next week or so, I want to suggest several ways we can bring sanity back into our daily lives. Of course there will be a degree of sacrifice, soul-searching and perhaps even deep sighs, but each person’s experience will differ.

First, what is the problem?

I mean, if we can’t figure out why we are so maniacally busy, is there any hope of turning off the spigot?

I believe an old fable tells the true story. Listen and remember the moral you were taught years ago:

“I shall have to sell that donkey of ours,” said a miller to his son. “I can not afford to keep him through the winter. I will take him to town this very morning to see if I can find a buyer. You may go with me.” In a little while the miller, his son, and the donkey were on their way to town.

They had not gone far when they met some girls going to a party. They were talking and laughing as they went along. One of them said, “Look at that man and boy driving a donkey. One of them surely might ride.”

The miller heard what they said, and quickly made his son mount the donkey, while he walked along at its side.

After a while they came to a group of old men who were talking very earnestly. “There,” said one, “I was just saying that boys and girls have no respect for the aged. You see it is true in this case. See that boy riding while his old father has to walk.”

“Get down, my son,” said his father, “and I will ride.” So they went on.

They next met some women coming from town. “Why!” they cried, “your poor little boy is nearly tired out. How can you ride and make him walk?” So the miller made his son ride on the donkey behind him.

They were now in town. A man coming down the street called to the miller, “Why do you make your donkey carry such a load? You can carry him better than he can carry you.”

At this the miller and his son got off the donkey. They tied the donkey’s legs together, turned him over on his back; and began to carry him.

A crowd soon gathered to see the strange sight. As they were crossing a bridge the donkey became frightened at the hooting of the crowd. He broke loose, fell into the river, and was drowned.

The miller was angry and ashamed. He said, “There! I have tried to please everybody and have only made a fool of myself. After this I shall do as I think best and let people say what they will.”

The man and his son switched the traveling arrangements four times to suit the observations and opinions of onlookers. None of these onlookers had the particular financial need which drove the man to sell his donkey. Yet, each one of their opinions added perceptibly to the eventual demise of, and loss of profit from, the donkey. What happened is that the man did not consider his goal of selling the donkey to be of greater importance than the opinions and agendas of bystanders. This isn’t far from what too many people face as they look at their schedules. Much of what we do is because others have grasped control of our daily lives and strewn their opinions and desires recklessly through our valuable time.

I am thoroughly amazed when I read biographies of great people. Recently, I re-read the autobiography of Lee Iaccoca, the head of Chrysler Motor Corporation. He is highly regarded for the role he played in rescuing Chrysler from the pits of dissolution hell and getting them back on their feet financially. They are now a very strong company due in part to his leadership. I was surprised to find that he only works 45 hours a week and will not allow himself to be interrupted on the weekends. We have been lead to believe that great business leaders become great by working themselves to death. Iaccoca shows that you can lead effectively by setting significant boundaries around your life and requiring those around you to honor them.

But how do you do that when you work for someone else? How do you do that when your family is in crisis, and health issues arise?

It starts with knowing what God wants you to do on a daily basis. That is the subject of the next blog entry.

But to prepare for it, spend several days examining your life. Keep a record of all the things you do each day on a scrap of paper or in your computer. Beside each entry write one of three letters:

M – beside an activity that is your choice primarily

C – beside an activity that is someone else’s choice, but you have committed to it

U – beside an activity that is someone else’s choice for you and you did not take control over it.

At the end of a couple of days, add up how many “C’s” there are. Are they the majority? If they aren’t, then the next few blog entries may help.

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An Atheist Looks at Prayer

March 7, 2007

Hemant Mehta, an avowed atheist, made a lot of headlines a while ago by posting his soul on Ebay. He sold his soul to the highest bidder, promising that he would attend the religious services of whichever religion paid him the most money. For every ten dollars bid, he would attend for one hour. I invite you to read the results of what he found as he spent 50-some hours in many churches in the Chicago area after a Christian outreach organization had the winning bid. His book is called “I Sold My Soul on Ebay” and is a quick read.

Outreach Magazine did an interview with Mehta and asked him to describe his experience with various church groups. He had several conclusions and one of them had to do with prayer. Here is what he said,

Then, there were prayer services where people were asking God for things I figured they could just take care of themselves. You have a problem in your relationship? I think you should talk to the other person and work it out. You don’t like your job? Then work on finding one that suits your passions. I think atheists are a lot more confident than Christians in their own abilities to make things happen.

This has been the atheist/agnostic/deist party line about prayer for a long time: god helps those who help themselves (“god” comes with a little “g” because these groups only acknowledge the idea of a god and not the actuality, which they say cannot be proved). I actually agree most with his last statement “atheists are a lot more confident than Christians in their own abilities to make things happen”. There should be no doubt that this is true. What has bothered almost every other religion is that Christianity exalts the weakness of man and the Strength of God to provide man with help where he is weakest. The Apostle Paul says it in this bald statement: “When I am weak then I am strong. God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness”.

Christianity teaches that the strength of man is just an illusion. We are as helpless in the face of uncontrollable circumstances as a blade of grass is toward the approaching brush fire. The illusion of atheism is that it can control much more than it really can. Alcholics Anonymous has learned this so well. Only when the substance-addicted person can say that he is helpless to overcome his addiction without the help of someone outside himself can the recovery really begin.

What I like about Mehta is that he got this; he understood that Christianity teaches that we can be strong, but only when God’s strength is helping us. What I pity about Mehta is that he relies completely on his own strength. This strength amounts to little more than a flower that looks nice for its few short moments on this earth and then fades away. That is not enough meaning for my life. I wonder how it can be enough for his.

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If The Man Were Honest…

March 2, 2007

This just in from Fox News’ Jonathan Morris:


This week “Titanic” director James Cameron and Canadian television director, Simcha Jacobovici stood proudly at the New York City library to announce the release of a new book and documentary called “The Tomb of Jesus.” They claim to have uncovered the remains of Jesus and his family, including Mary Magdalene, (Jesus’ supposed wife) and their child, Judah.

If he were honest, this is what Mr. Cameron would have said to the press:

“My dearest friends in the media,

Thank you for being here. I must admit, I am pleasantly surprised so many of you have come. Our public relations company had quite the challenge to convince you our commercial projects were headline-worthy. After all, what we are peddling is pseudo-science based on old and discredited news. But we obviously hired the right company. They came through on their promise that you wouldn’t remember, or wouldn’t care, that when this tomb was discovered twenty seven years ago, the Jewish archeologist in charge of the investigation, Amos Kloner, determined it was not the tomb of Jesus and his family and that, in fact, it is unlikely Jesus and his relatives even had a family tomb. To think that not a single respected archeologist from the Holy Land region is willing to go on record that our claims are true, and still you are here with us today, is mind-boggling. How can we thank you enough?

We really got scared when people like Joe Zias, who spent 25 years as an archeologist at Rockefeller University in Jerusalam, called into question our integrity. I think he said publicly “Simcha has no credibility whatsoever.” And even though the great archeologist, Amos Kloner, tried to rain on our party when he said, “The claim that the burial site has been found is not based on any proof, and is only an attempt to sell,” you were not deterred. You are here, and we are so happy!

By the way, did you hear our book is now in the top five of Amazon.com? Amazing! I am thinking about doing some other projects where I set science — even pseudo-science — up against religion. I think I’ll release them during the annual “slam Christianity season” — Lent and Easter — featuring a New York City press conference. We’ll win every time. Christians will be quiet. They won’t set cars on fire or blow anyone up, precisely because they believe in the Resurrection, that Jesus’ way of peace is better. They will, however, get nervous because they don’t really know much about their faith and will buy the book and watch the show.

This brings me to the real point of today’s press conference. Today is my day for revenge. When I received my Oscar for best director a few years ago, I looked out into the crowd and proclaimed, “I am the king of the world”. That’s what I felt on that day and I wouldn’t have said it, if I didn’t believe it. But some of my Hollywood colleagues have looked down on me ever since. They thought I was exaggerating. As my movie credits prove, I’ve been sidelined since that day. But when I found the two-thousand year old scribblings on a tomb wall and, with the help of mathematicians, extrapolated that Jesus’ tomb was not really empty, that he may not have risen from the dead, as two billion people believe today, I realized how true my Oscar’s acceptance speech really was. It was kind of prophetic, I guess. The real king of the world — James Cameron — calls into question the King of Kings.

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