Making the best of my time

Why do I give my time to that low-priority stuff which could easily wait at the expense what is immediate and important?


How many hours have I wasted catching up on blogs, social media and whatever else is new on the internet? Then I find it is very late, my sermon is not yet finished and I’ve not done the dishes either. Why is it that low-priority stuff which could easily wait is given my time at the expense of the immediate and important?

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV)

The section of Ephesians this sentence is taken from discusses the works of darkness in which we should not participate in as Christians. Such things as foolish talk, crude jokes, impurity, coveting, getting drunk, and general unfruitful pursuits. Often in the New Testament the idea of  fruitfulness comes up – our lives are expected to bear fruit for God.

Great, so I’m expected to be fruitful on top of working full time, being a father, a husband, and trying to maintain our house. Where am I supposed to find time to be fruitful?

Godly, organic time management

God’s time-management principles are simple: stop doing pointless and destructive things, replacing them with fruitful pursuits. This is an organic model which fits our humanity better than trying to cram every minute with action and scheduling life in a manner more appropriate to a robot than a person. Jesus talks of pruning unfruitful branches to make the tree as a whole bear more fruit, a principle we can apply to our own lives. Not just adding more stuff to do but cutting away all that is unfruitful so what remains will grow better.

Fruitfulness is also a lifetime assessment – no tree bears any useful fruit in its first few years – in fact God commanded Israel to not eat the fruit of a newly planted tree for 5 years (Leviticus 19:23-25). Similarly, a tree cannot control the seasons or growing conditions around it.

Sometimes life is hard and our focus has to be on survival. Then seasons change and the roots which that down deep seeking living water in order to survive a drought enable great fruitfulness which could have come no other way.


Image: iStock

Twitter praying

Today Ann wrote about wounds, scars, pain and the beauty of Christ redeeming our lives. Whoever and wherever you are, life will knock you around and wound you in many ways.

This week the scab on one of my own scars was ripped open again. Then someone told me of their own massive wounding, facing eternity and a crisis of faith. Another story came to my ears of deep anguish of soul and uncertainty of how to face the world again.

My own little scab shrunk back into it’s context. I still hurts, it will take time to heal over again – especially if I keep knocking the top off it like this.

For myself I (weakly) called out to God in my hurt, then asked a friend on the other side of the world for prayer via Twitter. When daylight came I rallied prayer from home also. God heard, and helped. I have likewise prayed for these people I know who are struggling through very dark places and others are praying for them too.

Some time after reading Ann’s post today, I read another discussing The Rise of Confessional Media and inappropriate sharing of personal stories through social media. This caused me to pause and consider whether it is wise for me to discuss the struggles of living the Christian life online? Why add to the noise? This had long been a worry of mine and probably should be – there is already a lot of rubbish out there, who wants more?!

But when it is 3am and asking for prayer takes less than 140 characters to type into Twitter, social media becomes God’s hand reaching across the oceans. The people at either end of the keyboards are just as real as my wife praying with me at home. If we remember this we can speak the truth in love and grow together in Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Sharing our pains and struggles needn’t be voyeuristic or narcissistic. We must take care, some stuff is not for the world to read, but the real stories of hurting and healing, wounds and worship – these are our testimony to the work of Christ in us. This is something to share in humility.


Gifts I have noticed recently:

894) Wonderful, glorious daylight.
895) Technology, even with it’s pitfalls.
896) Not knowing how little time I have left.
897) Patting my smelly old dog.
898) Waking up during the day when I should be asleep – at least I get to see some daylight.
899) Time to think.
900) Finding a refill for my favourite pen.
901) Eleven years of marriage and still deeply in love
902) Craig, the only other man I know of who counts blessings like this.

Image: iStock

I can’t drink from a fire hose

Fire-hoseI deleted 52 blogs off my feed reader today. They were all good ones too. Now I have only 10 feeds remaining, one of which is my own blog.

Why would I do that?

I realized that I can only drink from a cup, not from a fire hose.

I was spending a lot of time scanning through numerous pages of blog posts, anxious I might miss something if I didn’t read all of them. Or I would look at my feed reader and read nothing because it was too overwhelming.

I subscribed to all of those blogs because they offered something useful to me at the time. But regardless of how useful they were individually, as a combined fire hose of information they simply generated anxiety.

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV)

The skillset of our internet age no longer has finding information at the top of the most useful list, now we have to be better at filtering information – taking in only what we need. This is something I am having to learn, having been educated in the era when books were the only source of reliable information.

Oddly enough, this situation is a little like the very first temptation – reach out and take knowledge (Genesis 3:5-6). Yet having grasped knowledge we now find that unlimited information is in fact empty and burdensome because we ourselves are finite. Satisfaction does not come from trying to become like God, it is found by submitting to God and trusting in my Creator.

What I need to refresh me is to drink from a cup of still water, something that has had time to sit and allow the sediment and crud to settle out from it. God provides this, He leads me into spaces in which there are restful waters to refresh my soul. Deep, living water bubbling up from His Word.

He leads me beside still waters.
(Psalm 23:2 ESV)


Photo of firefighter by AnnaGreen via iStock

What message is this medium giving you?

Does the tool I write with determine the message I write?

The medium is the message” according to Marshall McLuhan. I haven’t read any of his publications myself, but recently listened to an audiobook of The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies in which he discusses this concept.

In a nutshell, the idea is that every medium of communication carries with it inherent constraints which determine how the content carried by that medium will be created, transmitted and received. So the way in which we receive a message is partly determined by the medium through which we receive it (i.e., text versus TV, or blog versus Bible).

My musing over this stems from a concern over whether I might be unwisely using my time writing a blog? I tend to justify it to myself with two reasons:

  1. Writing these posts gets me thinking more deeply about ‘God-stuff’ than I would do otherwise.
  2. It serves the Body of Christ to have God-glorifying content on the internet.

However, I cannot say with absolute certainty that God has ‘called’ me to blog. I could write in my own notebook in order to think deeply about God without inflicting my musings upon the world. I am not even certain that what I write is of any benefit to the Body of Christ.

So I have two questions:

  1. Is it possible to truly honour God with the medium of a blog?
  2. What is the best way to use a blog to glorify God?

Question 1 is basically a yes/no question. Question 2 may require some explanation: the format of a blog determines how the message is received. Some of the ways in which the format affects the message is that readers of web pages tend to skim rather than ponder; many blogs are entertainment so this colours how people read all blogs; there are technical constraints on how a web page can be displayed, limiting how it can look; a blog must always be viewed through a gadget (computer, ipad, phone); and so on.

Netted recently, June 5

Netted recently:
  • Michael Hyatt (Chairman of Christian Publishing house Thomas Nelson) contends that there are too many low quality books flooding the market:

… I contend that we need better books not more books. I can’t tell you how many books I started this past year and never finished. Why? Because, frankly, they weren’t worth finishing. Most of them left me underwhelmed. The authors would have done better to boil down the content and make it a magazine article. (Too Many Books, Too Few Shelves)

“We have introduced a whole lot of devices that prevent us from ever being bored … every physical space we might go is now jammed to the rafters with things demanding our attention,” she said.

“We might have traded boredom for suddenly being overloaded.”

Bell, who has spent her career researching how people interact with technology, advocated bringing “a bit of boredom back into our lives”.

She said being bored was actually a moment where “our brain gets to reset itself”, and while devices worked best when they’re constantly connected, human beings worked better when they were intermittently disconnected.

Netted Recently, May 5

Netted recently (and not so recently):
  • During the month of May christianaudio are giving away a free download of the book The Next Story by Tim Challies. I have begun listening to it and if you have any interactions with technology (this means you, blog reader!) I think you will find it an interesting audiobook to listen to.
  • From the Bible Gateway Blog, a Holy Week Timeline: examine the “who,” “what,” and “where” of events leading up to and through Easter. Follow the lines in the chart to see at a glance what people were doing, where they were, and whom they were with at any point during the week.
  • “The measure of faith isn’t pain, it’s choice.” For those of us living comfortable, safe lives, this is a thoughtful and encouraging consideration of what is required to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Xtreme Blog 64-The Greatest (Link broken)
  • An old post but I only read it this week and really agree with this comment:

These technologies should be peripheral to our lives, not central. God still loves people and desires our lives to be invested into real, healthy, and growing relationships. May God enable us to be in balance—to use technology for His glory and the edification of people He loves. Blogs and Twitters—Is There a Point? (By Cary Schmidt | November 14, 2008)

  • So, the man who masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001 has been located and killed. I find myself relieved that they ‘got him’, saddened at the militant jubilation from some, and somewhat apprehensive regarding possible backlash from Bin Laden’s supporters. Here is a good responses from the Desiring God blog: Is God Glad Osama Bin Laden’s Dead?

Netted recently, April 8

It seems to be a trendy thing for bloggers to post a weekly (or daily in some cases!) list of links to items on the internet that have caught their interest. Being a very untrendy person myself I have avoided this, but am beginning to see the usefulness of it as a way to empty my email inbox (yeah, I’m one of those old farts who uses email instead of Twitter, RSS or DIGG or whatever else is new that I can’t keep up with). Point being, I have collected a large number of reminders of stuff I think is interesting and would like to comment on but simply do not have the time to write a full blog post about. So I’m going to begin consolidating some of these into a roundup of miscellaneous ‘possibly of interest’ links. They may not always be recent articles, just stuff that got me thinking in one way or another. Frequency of such ‘Netted recently’ posts may vary (as with all posts on this blog!).

Netted recently (and not so recently):
  • Poverty versus wealth, which is more spiritual? Trevin Wax has written a thoughtful article about a discussion between David Platt and James MacDonald debating sacrifice and generosity. The really good stuff is after his summary of the discussion when Trevin discusses his own experience of wealth shock living as an American in Romania as a missionary. His conclusion that “a radical, unshakeable commitment to all three principles” [that money and possessions are a good gift from God, can become idolatrous, and we are called to exercise stewardship of our finances in a way that pleases the Lord and furthers the spread of His name] is more likely to encourage me to give more than telling me to be ‘radical’ and give away all I own.
  • This one is from five months ago, Digital Discernment –  from John MacArthur: our concern should not be, “How many people can I get to follow me?” but rather, “How can I bear witness to the wonder of following Christ?” He also makes some good points about the need to think deeply about our faith: believers must not allow blogs, tweets, and status updates to become their primary source of theological education or spiritual input. If they do, they will inevitably become doctrinaly shallow and spiritually malnourished. Overall a thoughtful, albeit slightly negative, consideration of social media encouraging Christians to think about how we engage with it.
  • Unmasking Burma’s ‘Democracy’(link broken):  “I was aware that if I had been Burmese, I would have been treated far worse. Undoubtedly, the late-night knock on the door would have been far more frightening—I would have been hooded, beaten, tortured and jailed. It is possible that I might not even have survived.”

My fridge is smarter than my soul

How come a fridge is smarter than my soul? I drift and drift and completely lose internal stability before realizing that some work needs to be done to get back to where I should be.

It has become my habit to use the quiet once everyone has gone to bed to check blogs, write a draft post, search for a picture for that post, check the news, scan Facebook, then wearily do the dishes and fall into bed. There was no plan of pushing God aside in my evenings, I am thinking about him as I do all these things. I’d like to spend less time on the computer but there are so many things that ‘need’ to be done online.

This evening, with no particular intentionality, I changed the order and did the dishes first – the computer was OFF, it still is as I write, with pen and paper – my favourite way. It took a while for the urge to be checking updates, editing, tweaking, researching, to subside.  Gradually the hum of the fridge became my new baseline – a monotonous drone maintaining the status quo. After a long reset my heart synchronized itself with this being here, maintaining a steady internal environment. It took over an hour to settle and regain the internal state of thirsting for God:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water
(Psalm 63:1 ESV)

Eventually homeostasis is achieved, the fridge stops humming – it will resume once it’s internal state drifts away from it’s set point. How come a fridge is smarter than my soul? I drift and drift and completely lose internal stability before realizing that some work needs to be done to get back to where I should be. Only then can I do the work God made me to do.

Phew!

Hopefully this post will be the only reason that you realise this website has moved across the Pacific Ocean! The Words of Eternal Life blog now physically resides on a server in New Zealand. This has involved transferring the domain name and WordPress database to the new host and my very grateful thanks goes to the fantastic support team at Mothership for doing the technical stuff and ensuring my blog didn’t disappear into the ether!

There are a few minor issues that I still need to update as a result of the transfer, I know a couple of images have broken links and I have not activated all the plugins yet so some behind-the-scenes functionality is not available. However, overall you should not notice too much difference, if you do please leave a comment!

Server switch

In order to (hopefully) improve the speed of this blog for people in NZ and to support local web host providers, I am going to attempt to move the Words of Eternal Life blog from a server located somewhere in North America to one located in Auckland. All going well you won’t notice anything, but there is a chance that the blog may be unavailable for a short period.

If you do try to visit and cannot connect, or get a ‘404’ error, don’t panic. Chalk it up to my lack of IT skills and visit again a few hours later when it should be all working again!

Thanks in advance for your patience!