Posts Tagged 'too busy'

The Plague of Busy-ness

Recently I’ve been going through old computer files and came across the following article which I wrote in August 2002 for the newsletter I was putting out then. This was about three months after Arena’s release, during which time I was busy making  trepidatious trips into local bookstores (“Who did you say you were? And why are you here, exactly?”), designing and ordering bookmarks, mailing out postcard announcements, putting together press kits and having a book signing.

In addition to a family related vacation to the east coast that summer, followed by a trip to the west coast for the 2002 CBA conference in LA, I also finished up the final touches on The Light of Eidon before turning it in to Bethany House, then began the rewrite of The Shadow Within to bring it into line with changes I’d made in Eidon.  All this in addition to updating my website, and writing the newsletter in which the following appeared.  Hence the reference to “activity and folderol.” The ideas expressed seem as applicable to me today as ten years ago, so I thought I’d share it again, this time in a different venue.

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“Let your occupations be few if you would lead a tranquil life.” ~ Democritus

THE PLAGUE OF BUSY-NESS

With all this activity and folderol, I’ve seen how easy it is to lose one’s focus on the things that really matter — that is, the things above, rather than the things on earth. In fact, in some research I was doing recently I learned that one of the techniques used by cults to suck in their new recruits is to keep them busy all the time, to tire them out and to never let them be alone.

If they are constantly occupied with some task or engaged with some person, they’ll have no opportunity to stop and think about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what they’re coming to accept as truth simply by default.

I believe this plague of busy-ness is one of the main assaults Satan’s world system is deploying upon Christians today, particularly in the United States with all of its prosperity and corresponding options.

Daily we are bombarded with things to do and be and have. With people to listen to and do things with (and for). It can get overwhelming, to the point we’re just like the newly-snagged pre-cultist. Run ragged by all the demands, opportunities and perceived obligations, by all the people who come into our lives (have you ever stopped to count how many?) we can end up losing track of who we are and what we really want.

Worse, we end up losing track of the One who’s put us here and for whose glory we’ve been created. We sell ourselves out for the “stuff” of the world.

We may say we haven’t, but in the measure of our hours spent, how many are devoted solely to concentrating on and communing with the One we claim to love above all others? Even one out of twenty-four hours is only 1/24th of our day.

Doesn’t seem like very much, looked at that way, does it? Especially when you consider that none of us could even live were it not for our Lord who holds the very atoms of our bodies together.

Nor when you remember that time is a drop in the bucket compared to eternity and that eventually all these things that seem so important today will be destroyed and utterly forgotten…

 “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.”         ~ Colossians 3:1-2

 

 

 

Journal Entries – Part 4: Busy-ness is not Devotion

5 November Saturday – Continued

[Note: I’ve been writing about a series of messages I listened to a couple of weeks ago, and the journal entries they inspired; 5 November is the longest entry of the lot.]

Continuing on the subject of busy-ness, Pastor John taught that one of the most freeing things in his life was when he finally realized that

“knowing your personal sense of destiny simplifies your life. It narrows your life. It throws away a lot of things that aren’t important. It gets you focused.

“Being single-minded is the key to fantastic success. That’s why we get our own spiritual gift and each  of us have our own unique position in the Body.

“Pruning is suffering, but how about looking at it as getting rid of all the non-essentials, narrowing and simplifying your life so you can see clearly the target ahead of you. You have a great Rule now by which you can determine what’s important to keep and what to toss. Part of growing spiritually is a narrowing of focus: Here’s the thing that matter:  “FOLLOW ME.”

Speaking of Jesus, of course. Pastor John contrasted Martha in the kitchen going nuts with her preps and Mary in the living room sitting as Jesus’s feet, listening to Him. I always took that to mean Bible class, and I believe that in part it does. But what about moment by moment? I always took “Follow me” to mean Bible class,as well, but that must be moment by moment. And that includes the function of my spiritual gift, which I’ve come to believe is not only writing novels, but apparently writing this blog as well.

To do that, things will not be about my schedule, my priorities, but me following His leading at any given moment.

Colonel Thieme said we’re not to be led by our emotions and desires and impulses – that that’s arrogance and self-indulgent. And it can be, especially at the beginning of one’s spiritual life. But later I think to some degree that is how the Spirit leads. Suddenly you get an idea to do something and you do it.

But too often, especially in recent years I’ve wanted to write in the journal to figure out what’s going on, what I should be thinking — like yesterday. I remember being distracted from my intent of going in to work on Sky, and instead going in to lie on the bed and think about a subject I’d just read about on a blog. All these words and verses came flooding into my mind and finally I decided I should just go in and write them down. The result was my recent post The World is Not Christian.

I think that was God the Holy Spirit. That’s how it happens. It’s almost like I’m taken over. I always regard such events with dismay because they’re never what I’d planned, never what I’d intended to do.

It happens with the sudden inspiration of ideas for making cards as well. And for solving problems related to housework, storage, etc.  I think His leading is in those things more than not.

Pastor John’s next tack in his lesson relates:

“There’s an idea that we’re supposed to be busy — that that’s the proof of our devotion…”

(I’ve gotten done all the things I’ve determined to do based on my priorities…which years ago may not actually have been correct. Plus, as I said, this is all about me and my plan.)

“…when in  reality it isn’t busy-ness at all, but single-mindedness.   When we get pruned, we become more single-minded, more devoted to the Father and His Son. And HE will prune. HE’S the one doing it. He’s the one who identifies and will do what’s needed to make these things perfectly obvious to you and even maybe get rid of them for you.”

And in my notes I asked, “What does this MEAN? That I don’t have to figure it out?” Well, yeah, that does seem to be its meaning. I guess my question is, “but if I don’t, if I just keep muddling my way along, I won’t have any control (!).  It’ll be chaos. I’ll go along indulging myself like I’ve done for several months now…

Except… is that true? Have I just been lolling about reading novels, letting the house go, eating at McDonald’s every night? No dishes done, eating off paper plates, no laundry done until every last stitch of clothing has been worn? Leaving the dog to fend for himself, letting the clutter pile and pile? That is not what’s happening. Even my computer time is limited to a few blogs. I’ve not let Bible Class go. The checkbook is not a mess of unentered charges….

I feel afraid. That if I turn it over to Him… what? I’ll be lost? He won’t come through?

PJF continues:

“Many times what seems to us as a suffering and a difficulty, turns out to have been the best thing — God removing an unproductive way of spending your time.”

He used as example a sales position he lost years ago. At the time it seemed like a disaster — how was he going to feed his family?

“But it was a job that was mostly about accounting — how many cold calls did you make? How many hours did you spend? It wasn’t focused at all — it was a horrible job.”

And God removed this unproductive way of spending his time. This ties to my Martha mindset of how many tasks have I completed off my list. How many hours have I spent writing. Ohhh… never enough. Never. There will always be more tasks because every one of them eventually must be done again.

“He removes the unproductive aspects of our lives. Then we can go back and concentrate more fully on the broad and vital part of our lives, the productive part: growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Being closer to the Vine.

“We don’t bear more fruit by being busier (getting more done) but by being closer to the Vine. He wants us to see more and more of the Life of Christ. That He’s alive, that He’s real and magnificent. That if we more and more devote ourselves to Him, give our lives to Him, He’ll come through in  amazing ways!

“This time is really short and it’s the only time we have to glorify Him.”

We do that by trusting Him in suffering and difficulty. By believing His word even when we can’t see any results or sign that it’s true. And also by thanking Him when He finally does come through. As He always does.

Journal Entries – Part 2: Pruning

 1 November 2011 Tuesday

 1:15 pm   Another morning lost. I finally, just a bit ago, admitted I was out of line. I had not focused on my calling, but indulged my whims. Then I tried to guilt myself over having wasted the morning and now I have to PAY. But I reminded myself: He gives to His beloved even in her sleep (Psalm 127:2). So yes, I might have to reap what I’ve sown this morning. Or God might give me some progress anyway…

11pm   And so He did. I moved to page 7 of chapter 4.  Tomorrow I want to get up and get immediately to work…

3 November Thursday

~ 8:00am  I’m feeling anxiety and something like being beaten down. Another day to fail, basically. Another day to have everything go wrong, or all these little things that I’d hoped would be one way, or get done or whatever, not happen. It’s frustrating. And I guess I’ve known that for a time. That part of the feeling I have is frustration, anxiety, discouragement because I can’t seem to get out from under the load of things I have to do.

Just keeping the house on the minimum maintenance and writing and dealing with all the other stuff takes all my time. Except for the time I spend writing about it. Or whatever other weird things suddenly consume me.

11am   Last night in Bible Class Pastor John talked about all the trials being for our benefit. They produce endurance, and we’re to let that endurance have its perfect effect. We’re told to consider and know Him and let endurance work. Or Him work – clearly I am not clear on this matter. What I know is the struggle is familiar and long-standing.

“Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4

I know I’m not supposed to be anxious. And the testing of my faith means “Do you believe what God’s word says? It’s not enough to know the promises and doctrines. Do you believe them?”

So what is all this chaos supposed to lead me to believe? That God’s got it all under control and I don’t have to change my self or fix everything? I don’t even know what to fix! Have I gotten distracted? Or am I being hindered in ways that are not my fault?

I’ve lately recalled that when I’m at peace and relaxed I work at the writing better. And yet I have all these other things to do just to keep the house, laundry, etc, on track.

So on the one hand – “You must get X, Y and Z done so you can cross it off your list and not have to think about it, free to focus on the book, free to be relaxed, to let it come…”

And on the other, “Just get in there and write before you get too tired or distracted!”

I guess I’ve always thought my problem was just simple failure to have self-discipline, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe I just have a kooky idea of what life’s about.

Pastor John talked of God using afflictions to get us to move beyond our simplistic, humanistic and very small ideas of who He is. Some people have a Vending Machine god — you put in your money (prayer) and out comes what you want. Others have the Tit for Tat god — I do this for You, You do that for me. There’s the Short Order Cook god, where you step up to the counter, put in your order and voila! There is is. Or the Mechanical God, where you wind Him up, or plug in the formulas and He does the same thing every time.

I think that’s involved here. I think my idea of god is the Organization Guru god. Or maybe the Drill Sergeant god.  I have an idea of what He want my life to be like: Colonel Thieme’s little outline where you decide your priorities and schedule out your day accordingly, then proceed to execute your plan. That assumes you have the power to control your day…and it also doesn’t need God. It’s me doing it.

If only I could muster the self-discipline to follow my plan.

Except self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. So… it can’t be the same as an unbeliever’s self-discipline. I had a lot of self-discipline as an unbeliever. My mother was fantastic at it. But it came out of apprehension and guilt. Whatever you’re to do hangs over you, making you uncomfortable until you do it. Which is not a proper motivation for someone who is in union with Christ.

11:00pm  From today’s Bible Class Pastor John said,  “We don’t want to learn how to get more things done!” How to be more busy.

YES!!

We’re in John 15:1 now and he’s teaching on the True Vine, which is Jesus and the Vinedresser, which is God the Father. We are the branches, and sometimes He has to prune the branches so we will bear more fruit — cutting things out of our lives, challenging misconceptions, molding us day by day into the likeness of His Son.

“Pruning gets rid of non-essentials, narrowing and simplifying life so you can see clearly the target ahead of you. You have a great rule now as far as what’s important, how you decide what stays and what goes. In the past you didn’t know what you were going to be doing, so you kept all kinds of things you might need. But now you know.”

He talked of how we hear about this idea of “the unnecessary things in our lives and then give ourselves another project: to figure out what’s unnecessary and get rid of it. No! God’s the one who prunes and who identifies and will do what’s needed to make these things perfectly obvious to you and maybe even get rid of them for you.”

This has so much application to my life! I’m just not quite sure how. I keep coming back to the notion of RELAX and let Him do it. Stop trying to be “responsible” and work, work, work, get so many things done. I know I have too many things to do – more than I can do. But I don’t know what to do about it. Let some things go? What things? Declutter my life of areas of responsibility. He’s supposed to do that.

Well… maybe I’ll let Him…

Next: Part 3 – Affliction


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