I am rejoicing that summer officially arrived on June 21! Hands down, it is my favorite season of the year. I love the long days, sunshine, warm weather, as well as all of the opportunities for fellowship. However, if I wish to experience a “no regret” summer, I learned that just as it is incredibly important to not allow my tithing to slack off, so I must be intentional to not allow my life priorities to vacation during the next three months.
As a Christian, my priorities begin with a spiritual focus rather than a management strategy, and that starts with how I view my time. Though difficult to believe, the challenge is not the amount of time I have, but rather whether or not I commit it to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2), chose to be a good steward of it (Luke 17:19), and trust Him to multiply it (Phil. 4:13).
The word priority implies that some things come before or prior to some others—not instead of. Priorities assist us in being well organized. If our lives are going to significantly impact the Kingdom of God throughout the summer months we must prayerfully establish priorities associated with the use of our time. Proverbs 16:9 teaches that we should make plans, counting on God to provide direction, while Proverbs 23:23 encourages us to get the facts and hold on tightly to all the wisdom we can get.
Scripture teaches basic facts about time. First, everyone has the same amount (Gen. 1:3-5). Secondly, God gives us all the time we need to complete the tasks He has assigned to us (Phil. 4:19). If we are pressured by time, it means either we are doing the wrong things or doing the right things the wrong way (Prov. 3:5-6). The only way that we can intervene in this pressure-cycle is to STOP and evaluate our priorities.
While there’s no universal list for priority evaluation, there are some basic strategies that offer assistance:
Prayer—it is the most necessary, yet habitually the most neglected strategy, in the quest to sort our priorities. Scripture teaches that God has promised to provide all our strength and all our needs (Phil. 4:13, 19), that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), and with God, all things are possible (Luke 1:37)! Taking the time to petition our heavenly Father helps us prioritize responsibilities, multiplies time, and reduces stress (1 Peter 5:7-8).
Dovetailing or Bunching—this strategy requires creativity since we are combining two or more activities and completing them simultaneously. For example, I often wash a load of laundry while undertaking a cleaning task close to the laundry area. When I have a variety of errands to run I plan the route before I leave home. Traveling the farthest distance first and then working my way back home saves time and fuel. If the grocery store is on the list of errands I make certain that I have cold packs and insulated bags so that the food does not spoil. If the weather is warm I plan to shop during the coolest part of the day. As well, I organize my grocery shopping list so that I do not walk extra steps in the store. Placing all of the heavy, non-perishable items in the bottom of the cart, then adding produce, and finally the bakery, dairy, and frozen products insures that I do not damage delicate items or decrease the temperature of items needing to remain cold.
Discern between the pressing and the urgent—there are many pressing but few urgent activities. While writing this blog article I was faced with the application of this strategy. I planned to accomplish some closet reorganization during the weekend. However, the blog article needed to be completed by Monday. The blog article was the urgent priority. The closet reorganization was not. You are reading this article because I chose the urgent.
Set aside time to plan—the time that we save far exceeds the time that we spend in planning. I must consistently focus during my planning sessions to refuse to allow the pressing to take the place of the significant in my life. Since I normally have more “think time” on the weekend, I take a portion of it to sketch out the week. I seek to commit my plans to the Lord and write them in “sand rather than stone” (i.e. I must remain flexible). The day of the week used for planning is really unimportant. What is significant is that I humbly place my plans in the hands of my heavenly Father and trust Him for their implementation (Jer. 29:11-14). Regrettably, I have learned that there are consequences for failing to seek my heavenly Father’s guidance when scheduling the week’s activities. Trust me—the consequences are not worth the impulsive action!
Set yourself up for success—our time is a tool that allows us to fulfill the priorities God called us to—not our best friend’s or a colleague’s. We must not compare our priorities or our organizational skills with others. Failing to plan can deplete our energy and victimize our time, since we are expending effort that moves us in the wrong direction.
Lord willing, if we choose to implement the strategies suggested in this article, on September 21 we will be able to say with gratitude, “I did not permit my life priorities to take a summer vacation (Eph. 5:15-20; 1. Thess. 5:16-18)!”
Going to the circus is a favorite summer activity for many. Kelsey’s Korner vicariously takes you to one as she shares personal lessons inspired from the book of Ecclesiastes.
Sometimes I feel like my life is a circus. There are hoops of fire I have to jump through, precarious balancing acts to endure, and oh-so-many things to juggle! Just like a circus, life can become absolutely chaotic and overwhelming. When we find that we are attempting to juggle too much, it’s a good strategy to stand back and analyze whether everything we are involved in is really worth the stress and effort.
I’m in the midst of a busy season right now, and in the Lord’s kind sovereignty, as I yearned for the wisdom to decide how to simplify my life, my personal Bible reading landed on the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is full of blunt wisdom! The author is likely King Solomon (or at least someone describing the life of King Solomon), and the whole book is a giant experiment to discern the age-old question: what is the purpose of life, and what should we be doing with our time?
The author’s prevailing discovery? “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). Throughout the whole book the author repeats this refrain! This word “vanity” is the Hebrew word hebel, and it means “vapor,” “breath,” or something hard to grasp, like an enigma. Basically, the author wants to portray that life is short, complicated, hard to understand, and, if pursued in the wrong way, quite pointless and unfair!
During the author’s time of experimentation, he first attempts to live by total wisdom, discipline, and hard work. He soon discovers, however, that this work by no means creates a formula for success! Death and misfortune strike when we least expect it, and all the hard work and money we earn is then pointless. Additionally, he discovers that the more knowledge we try to gain, the more sorrow, vexation, and restlessness we obtain.
Eventually, the author decides to try to live for pleasure. He buys everything he wants, has parties, many wives, and enjoys his money, but he discovers that no amount of pleasure brings him ultimate joy—he always wants more! Also, sleep is no easier on a full stomach, and death is still inevitable and can happen at any time, erasing his name from the earth.
The author continues drawing example after example of the vanity and pointlessness of life until he makes his final conclusions near the end of the book. Two of his main decisions are:
“Man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun” (8:15).
“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 and evil” (12:13-14).
In the end, death will someday come—we have no control over when or how it will happen—and when it does come, we won’t be able to take our money, degrees, or anything else with us. So, the author’s conclusion is simple! Enjoy each moment and blessing that the Lord gives you (the tasty food, the time with family and friends), and live your life for God. Everything earthly is “vanity,” or fleeting, but God is eternal, and our actions, whether we lived foolishly or for God, will follow us after death (12:14).
I walked away with several personal lessons inspired from this book:
Everything earthly requires moderation. Too much time spent in books, gaining knowledge, and working hard is vanity (12:12), yet too much time spent pursuing pleasure and riches is also vanity (7:17). Strive for a balance in all things!
We can’t forget to make time to enjoy the blessings of this life (5:18-20). Although the Lord has allowed hardship during our time on earth, and nothing is gained without hard work, he has also blessed us with so much goodness! Being too busy and stressed to enjoy these gifts is a good sign we are involved in too much.
Ultimately, relying on, trusting, and seeking to honor the only Eternal One is our purpose. All other things are fleeting and pass away, but “fearing God and keeping His commandments” are everlasting treasures. This is why we were created, and at the end of the day, this is all that matters.
So, when life becomes a circus and you’re afraid you’re juggling too much, step back and analyze your priorities. What are you pursuing, and why? Is anything hindering you from your ultimate purpose of fearing God and keeping his commandments? Are you taking time to enjoy the moments and blessings God has given you? If not, pray for the wisdom and discernment to choose which items to let go of or cut back on. In the end, remember that “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31)!
THE EVERYDAY HOMEMAKER’S MONTHLY MEDITATION THOUGHT
God has said, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
Therefore, I may boldly say, “Though I am crazy busy I am continually sustained.”
Blessings on your day as you focus on making your house a home!