Saturday, October 24, 2009

When Enough is More Than Enough

“I’m exhausted,” a friend said, collapsing into a chair. She was considering cutting back on some of her activities.

“You can’t do everything,” I offered.

In no way was I preaching to her; I was simply repeating my own personal mantra: I can’t do it all.

The old anti-drug slogan, “Just say no!” is hard for me to apply to a worthy cause. My friend had the same problem. There are so many worthwhile activities that need our participation, not to mention all the work required to keep our homes up and running.

When my children were small, I read a wonderful little booklet titled, Tyranny of the Urgent. I learned that urgent tasks are not the same as important tasks. Urgent tasks may scream at me to be completed, but they are things that I wouldn’t mind having someone else do, like clean house, shampoo the carpet, or wash the car.

But important things are those that I would not let someone else do: read bedtime stories, make brownies for a family picnic, or care for a sick loved one.

The urgent can usually wait; the truly important cannot.

But what about all those important things outside my home that vie for my limited time? How do I choose?

Jesus told the parable of 10 young women who waited for a traditional wedding celebration to begin. They waited all night. Five were prepared with extra oil for their lamps, and five were not. When the call rang out at midnight, all ten got up, and the five without enough oil asked the others to share.

Jesus said the five with extra oil did not share with the others. Gently, but wisely, they said, “No.”

The point of the parable was to be prepared. But I believe the Lord was also trying to show us something about personal boundaries. Sometimes we have to say no rather than use up everything we have and then be caught short.

I believe that applies to our energy, time and emotional strength as well as oil.

Will the world come to a premature end if I don’t attend that workshop? Do I really need to serve on another committee? Will anyone care if my floor isn’t mopped today?

Psalm 16:5, 6 says, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; … The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; …”

That portion and those boundary lines denote limits for our blessing and for our good. Life without limits can be dangerous.

So what do we do as Christians who want to do the right thing? Do we give up all our charitable efforts?

Absolutely not.

Instead, we pray about the demands and requests on our time, and ask God what His priorities are for our lives.

After we know for certain, we “just say no” to everything else. The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. That would include a gentle “no” without impatience or hatefulness.

And finally, we must not let guilt rob us of our rest. The Lord tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt.11:28).

If you end up with an extra afternoon and “nothing” to do, spend some time outside enjoying the cooler weather and fall sunshine. Go for a walk, or just talk to the Lord, praising him for leading you in your decisions.

And be sure to thank him for helping you to “just say no.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Rocks Your World

It started with an antique tea canister in the kitchen and the tinny tune it played as it rattled back and forth.

Why was it moving?

Soon, other canisters joined in the song, then the cupboard doors, the framed pictures on a shelf, and a deep rumbling beneath my feet. Earthquake.

Within 20 minutes, two smaller temblors struck, shaking our hilltop home, reminding me that this world is on shaky footing at best. However, the hands that hold it are steady as a rock.

“The Lord is my rock,” wrote the Psalmist. “Who is the Rock, except our God?” (Psalm 18:2,31b).

It’s difficult to picture a rock as comforting, but frequently scripture uses the metaphor to help us understand a spiritual principle.

Isaiah wrote of “the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land” (Isaiah 32:2b) I can’t help but envision a treeless plain with no refuge in sight – until a weary soul stumbles upon a rock big enough to offer shade from a blazing sun or shelter from a blistering windstorm.

Again, the Psalmist wrote, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2b) That is exactly what I need when I am in need – something, Someone bigger than myself.

When Moses asked to see the glory of God, the Almighty said to him, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by (Ex. 33:21,22).

That’s where I want to be – a place near God where I can stand on a rock while He hides me with His hand. How grateful I am that He is that close, that He is the shade that protects me from the heat of oppression and the wind of torment.

Jesus is the Rock of my salvation. He is the sure foundation upon which I base my trust, my life, my hope. Whether earthquake or soul-quaking news, when my world is rocked, thank God He is the Rock that is higher than I.