Spending My Time Well: How to set priorities

“’I have the right to do anything,’” you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12 NIV

I am a champion time waster. I dawdle over social media. I perform low priority tasks to procrastinate over completing more important matters, fearing my efforts won’t measure up. Then, I decide I’m too busy to engage with friends because I would rather crawl into my introverted shell than engage.

In the 1960s, a best-selling business book Tyranny of the Urgent was written by Charles Hummel. This book discusses the tension between urgent and important. Do I give into the pressures others place on me to complete a task or create pressure of my own without weighing importance before I choose where to spend my time? What things scream “now” that rush me to react before I stop to weigh importance? How many unimportant “urgent” requests have I let hijack my life?

In the above passage, Paul details why Christians should not participate in sexual immorality. The same verse is repeated almost word for word in 1 Corinthians 10:23 where he talks about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul offers a principal to live by. We should not live to please ourselves but to remember that our life choices testify who we are. As Christ-followers, we should live to point others to Christ.

So the question is, what masters us? What gets us off track, or out of balance, as we try to live in Christ? Do emotions master us? Does entitlement? Are we self-centered when we should focus on others? Maybe, like me, you do not use your time as well as you could. Maybe your nemesis is something else.
To find God-given balance, we must look to God. If I were to lay open my planner before you, it would reveal how I spend my time. But more than that, it will reveal my priorities.

Making Wiser Decisions

Two weeks ago, I adopted a new practice (writing this post convicted me). In my morning time with God, I now lay my day before him. I ask, what should stay? What must go? I seek His guidance for making decisions throughout the day about how I spend time.

God has yet to reach down and mark through an entry or to add one. But, I am more aware through the day that the phone call from a friend who needs to vent may be an assignment I need to take even if I dread picking up the phone and am tempted to let it roll to voicemail. I recognize that a detour in my route to the gym may be an invitation to open my eyes to something I had not noticed before–perhaps an opportunity for service.

I want my time wasters gone! I want to rest in God rather than mindless activities. I want to be alert for opportunities to serve others, stretch myself and say yes. I want to write regularly, because I feel that is the main work God has called me to in this season. Following His plans helps me find balance and rest for my soul.

I also take a sabbath because I believe God can use me to accomplish what I’m assigned to do in six days. I prioritize a day of rest and worship without feeling the pressure of my schedule.
I’m older than most of you. In this season of life, I am compelled to finish well and point as many to Christ as I am able in the time I have left on earth. I regret I have not always recognized the importance of this attitude. I excused myself, thinking I’d get to certain important tasks when work was not pressing or when resources were more abundant.

I will leave you with this quote from Elizabeth Elliot: “If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to him and ask him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”

Making Sense Of Hard Things

Often, we find ourselves in a trying situation and our knee jerk reaction is “No! Lord, take this away!” We are accustomed to easy lives that offer minimal pain. Or, if we struggle with on-going pain, we know that pain, and on some level, we make peace with it.

When I read the Christmas story, I see men and women God called to step out of comfort zones—to step onto unknown paths and offer not just a momentary yes, but a lifelong trail of one yes after the next. Willingly stepping into the discomfort and persevering in a difficult place is an act of worship if God calls us to step there. But sometimes, it’s difficult to know if it’s God’s call. How could something be trying and heaven sent?

The Christmas story teaches us a bit about confusion in the calling (like Mary’s unusual pregnancy). His call comes out of the blue, and it’s nothing we would have dreamed on our own. He calls for sacrifice that benefits many, not just us or our family. In fact, our family may make sacrifices. It may seem upside down. Yet, the topsy-turvy should not surprise us. We serve a God who makes the weak strong and the foolish wise.

The Advent season, a time of Christmas celebration, is also a time to renew our worship by committing to follow God when it’s hard, when it’s confusing, and when we are forced to lean into Him just to make it through. Emmanuel is God with us, not just in this season but also daily as we tread the path that is too steep to navigate without a holy “hand up.”

I know that we only have a few days until Christmas, but don’t miss this opportunity to download the free devotional to help renew your worship even when it’s hard! Use the link in the sidebar. I will be removing the devotional at the end of December. If you want a paper copy for next year, that will happen some time in 2020.

My Latest Project

I’d like to tell you about a project I’ve been working on. It’s a new kind of writing for me, but it was so much fun! I’d love to hear from you.

I used a Biblical Fiction format. Why did I do this? Because studying the lives of those who experienced the first Christmas made me realize that they were real people with real and somewhat messy lives. It made me realize that often our most sacred act of worship is when God says, “I’ve got a plan, will you join me?” We say yes. No matter how uncomfortable, no matter how messy, we simply say “Yes” and do the best we can.

How would you feel about an entire book written using this Biblical Fiction format? Do you think it’s a good way to learn?

Would you like your own copy? Just use the form to the right.

Don’t Focus On the Overwhelm

Life has been a bit overwhelming for me these last few weeks. It seems that in every area of my life, pressure is building. I feel like the State of California waiting for the big one. Eventually, it’s all going to fall apart. But as I sat in silence this morning, thinking about the recent events and wondering how I was going to manage it all, a verse I memorized so long ago that it was the King James Version, came to mind. 

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee. 

Isaiah 26:3 KJV

I wasn’t casting about looking for a Bible verse to calm me. I was just sitting quietly before God doing my best to focus on something other than the overwhelm. Handing my concerns to Him rather than give in to the rising panic. And there it was. I said it out loud just because I really did need to hear it! I felt strengthened, so I said it again.

Then I paraphrased it to hold it close all day…“I will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed on Me.” My personal message this morning from God. That seed planted in my heart long ago was springing to life. It was bridging the gap in my composure, which threatened to grow wider.

Slowly, I began to feel solid, less likely to slide out of control and into self-pity or panic. I renewed my point of focus.

I’ve been playing around with a podcast idea and feel compelled to encourage with God’s Word. Today was just one more reminder for me of why knowing the Word is such a critical component of living life well.

Read more reasons for committing God’s Word to memory here.

When you find yourself in hot water, and let’s face it, we all do, what we have put into our lives is what will pour out. To finish well, I need to live lives Steeped in the Word of God.

What is Hospitality?

I have a love seat in my living room that the cat likes to scratch on after we go to bed at night. She’s been scratching on it for a long time. My living room furniture is comfortable but mismatched. I wish I were a more meticulous housekeeper. But, I’m a bit of a clutter collector and honestly, I don’t really like dusting or mopping floors. Oh, I do these things, but I don’t maintain that level of sparkle that I see in the homes of some other women when I visit.

Despite the lived in nature of my home, I invite people over all the time, and they come. They park in my driveway and sometimes they park in the neighbor’s driveway when they have permission. They sit and share deeply with me and with each other. On Tuesday evenings, a group of women keep showing up over and over again to sit in worn rocking chairs and slightly ragged love seats to be real about struggles in their lives and wrestle with the ways we can become Christ-followers who love and serve well. Who forgive, and lift one another up, who challenge one another and hold each other accountable.

I hear women say all the time that they would like to host a Bible Study in their homes one day but they would need to get a new couch first, or live in a bigger home or spend money for a housekeeper. These women are missing out. And they are not setting themselves up for success in the way they think they are.

I have to wonder if my willingness to show the reality of my life is a signal that I’m willing to share who I really am with the women who visit my home and in turn, they are willing to be more transparent and vulnerable too. There is no pretense in my living room on Tuesday evenings. And you know what, we like it that way!

We live in a pretty lonely world. We isolate ourselves. We curate our lives on social media driving the bar ever higher and the void between us ever wider. We chat by text so that we can multitask during a conversation and we meet our friends at coffee shops so we don’t have to let them into our homes. We don’t know our neighbors and we sure don’t sit on the porch and drink tea while we pass the hours with them like my grandparents did. We all hunger for deeper connection. The kind of connection the church is meant to offer the body of Christ. The kind of connection that can be salt and light in our world. People are hungry for true connection.

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Romans 12:13 (NLT)

I’ve looked up the definition for the word the Bible uses as hospitality in this verse, it’s the same word we use for fellowship. Letting people into our homes is a first step toward letting people into our lives. My friends, it’s not likely we will impact anyone deeply by holding them at such a distance. And the loneliness in this world will continue to multiply unless we reach out. We must swallow our pride and open our homes and our lives in a way that invites vulnerability. Yes, I know that sounds scary, but in truth, it’s life changing and affirming.

When You Don’t Know What To Do

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? ”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8 (NLT)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been looking for my mission in life, longing to make a difference. For years, I had this verse from Isaiah written on an index card and stuck on the mirror. I saw it every morning as I put on my makeup. My heart was saying, Lord, I’m yours. I’m ready, send me. Show me what to do for you.

I thought there was a special task out there. Something that would stand out. I was certain that God’s assignment did not look a thing like my daily life in the corporate world. I thought that God would pluck me out of the day to day life I was living and plop me right down into something that looked a bit more ‘churchy’. Yes, I see that grin. I’m shaking my head as I write this but I’m also trying to be completely honest.

Serve Where You Are

Try as I might, application after application, to leave where I was employed, it became clear that God wanted me exactly where I was. Eventually, I began to think about how God could use me in this corporate life. As I tried to see things from God’s perspective in my daily life I was often less than confident that I was seeing what I was supposed to be. I forgot some days, who I represented, and did not do well. I’m sure I had seasons of just being an embarrassment to the cause of Christ.

You May Not Be Noticed

In looking back on those years what I see now is that I was looking for the splash. I was thinking I could not serve God well if I was not a big deal, doing big things. Now I see that it’s the small every day things that really make the biggest difference. It’s a willing attitude that allows us to be God’s instrument each day.

When I study Isaiah, he was certainly God’s messenger, but he did not live a life that any of us would envy most days. His days were filled with speaking the message on ears that refused to hear. God asked him to do some awfully embarrassing things to get the message across, and Isaiah did them!

Adjust Your Attitude

Yeah, I’ve got a bit of work to do in the obedience department before I am willing to do some of the things Isaiah did. And the good news for me, God has not asked me to! He has asked me to do some things that were difficult for me, and he still does. And one of those things God asks is to serve in the daily grind, the mundane, without worrying about whether I’m going viral on social media or garnering likes, or even signing up dozens of new subscribers to my email list. God just asks that where ever I am, I listen for his voice and serve faithfully without regard for how others perceive my service. He asks that I please Him.

My attitude has slowly become; God, here I am. Send me where you choose. Help me let go of trying to direct this show. Mold my heart and my actions will follow.

Walk On!

If you are reading this and you feel that your life is a bit mundane, or too frantic to think about God, or you think maybe you’ve just tripped over the wire between serving God to embarrassing Him, know this: attitude is everything! Let go of all those preconceived notions and remember that God can use anyone. Let go of the chase and look for the place of resting in the daily walk forward no matter what that walk looks like. If you are one of God’s girls, He’s got this! Just keep your eyes on Him. Don’t worry about what’s around you. Just link arms with your Savior and keep walking. This is God’s work, not yours.

When You Think You Aren’t Good Enough

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 NIV

I’ve been stuck in Galatians. Trying my best to wrap my head around what God would like me to know and share regarding this book.

In a nutshell, Paul is working hard to correct a problem. The rule followers have come in and tried to convince the Galatians that accepting Christ’s salvation is not enough. The Galatians were being told they had to follow a given set of rules too, and one rule specifically cannot be ignored or thier salvation was at stake.

Paul was always a good rule-following guy. He had a record showing that he was an expert at lining up his actions with his beliefs. Paul contends that it’s not about the rules it’s about putting your faith in Christ, and then our actions will be evidence of a changed life. With Jesus, you either believe him, or you don’t. Hedging your bets is not believing. You can’t count on your actions earning the prize, because what earns the prize is faith and that’s a one-step deal. Are you willing to leave everything behind and become a Christ-follower or not?

I’m chuckling as I get to the last chapter. Paul writes in Galatians 6:11 “Notice what large letters I use as I write these closing words in my own handwriting.” Why am I laughing because this is Paul using bold, underline, purple ink (or whatever color you prefer) to get us to listen.

His point? When other’s are trying to get you to follow some rule as opposed to only following Jesus, they have an ulterior motive. Perhaps they are building their own following. They could be acting out of fear. Or maybe they just want company on their journey of rule-following. But Jesus says:

  • Choose me.
  • I will change your heart.
  • Then the good things will flow out of you because my Spirit lives in you and I will help you out.
  • Stop trying to earn your way into my kingdom, because you can’t.
  • I don’t care about the rules, I care about you!

Ok, maybe I’ve over-simplified that a bit. But I’m moving from head knowledge to heart knowing and that’s a bit of a messy process. If you are a Christ-follower who struggles. Who wonders, is it real, because I keep messing up? Am I doing enough? Then stay tuned because God is teaching me some things I just can’t wait to share!

What If You Don’t Have to Try Harder?

Are you a doer, a striver, or maybe a perfectionist? Always trying harder to do good things in the hope that you will be found loveable or worthy or any other tag you are trying to attach to your reputation? If you are, I have some great news!

I’m learning so many things from the book of Galatians. I’m planning to share what I’ve learned in a Bible Study, but that’s not quite ready. If you would like to join me in getting ready I’ve recorded all of Galatians in a podcast format. In my minds-eye, I’m picturing a scroll that has just arrived. We eagerly unroll it and I stand up before our group to read the news that Paul has sent. When you hear it out loud, all at once it is a good way to put everything into context.

I made the recording for me really, so I could listen in the car and get my brain wrapped around what Paul has to share. Then I realized, I might not be the only one who could benefit from hearing it this way. If you would like to join me in tuning your ear to Paul’s letter then I’d invite you to use the link below. I think ultimately this will be available on whatever format you like to use for podcasting, but I’m told it takes a day or two for that to happen.

https://anchor.fm/LorettaGjeltema/episodes/Galatians-from-the-New-Living-Translation-e33v0v
https://anchor.fm/LorettaGjeltema/episodes/Galatians-from-the-New-Living-Translation-e33v0v/a-aa0hvs

In the Meantime

Here’s a favorite verse for us to lean into this week.

Have you lost your senses? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

Galatians 3:3 (NLT)

Good News: The path to living as a Christ-follower is not about trying harder. There is no list of secret rules. It’s really very simple, love others. Notice I did not say it was easy, but the Spirit promised us help.

Tell me, did you listen? Do you plan to? Drop me a note and let me know

A Sense of Peace and A Slower Pace


He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  Psalm 23:2 (NLT)

Yes, this is a familiar Psalm. When I was a child, it often hung on the walls of nurseries, the walls of Sunday school rooms and other places where children could be found. Thinking back brings a sense of peace.

As I’ve been investigating the concept of sitting still before the Lord daily, I realize he is using this time to feed me, to provide sustenance that I need. My mind and my body desire action or activity that is what we have been trained to crave in this digital age. We grab our phones when we have a moment free, or often we multitask doing more than one thing, with the phone always at the ready.

Sitting still and staying away from all input but what God provides can be difficult. But, in my experience, it is fulfilling. God knows what I need, and he’s been providing it. I find that this peaceful time, which I aim for at the beginning of my day is setting a new tone. This is not time reading my Bible; this is not time spent in prayer, this is time sitting with God and just keeping my mind on him.

Sitting still and staying away from all input but what God provides can be difficult. But, in my experience, it is fulfilling. God knows what I need, and he’s been providing it. I find that this peaceful time, which I aim for at… Click To Tweet

As I studied the 23 Psalm, I learned that sheep do not like to drink from moving water. They only like to drink from still water, so a good shepherd provides precisely what they need. Nourishment, in the way that is best for them. You might say tailor-made.

My time of stillness and quiet before the Lord is not likely to look exactly like yours. It doesn’t need to. But I find as I give what I can offer, God fills in the edges. I scoot over a bit toward the edge that calls to me, and he draws me deeper into the space where he knows my soul will thrive. 

Benefits

As said, there is no need for sameness, but to share a few benefits, I’m finding: 

  • I am becoming more eager for our quiet time together each day.
  • My prayer time seems to be deepening.
  • By eliminating the distractors that I struggle with, like my phone, first thing, I’m able to distance myself from this distraction more throughout the day.
  • I think I need a second time of quiet with God at the other end of my day. Yes, writing those words is a bit like saying it out loud! My prayers at the end of the day I believe should be preceded by a quiet time. Just telling you here to make me accountable.

I’m learning to come to my shepherd without an agenda. To just offer my life and my time and see where God will use it each day. I can not begin to tell you the sense of freedom that is accompanying this change I’m pursuing!

Does that mean I never have plans or appointments? No, of course not. What it does mean is that I’ve had God’s assistance in formulating my plans and I am allowing God to fill the margins of my life instead of grabbing a quick technology fix. Oh, I still struggle with the lure of my phone, but I’m learning that it’s a tool, not a taskmaster.

Questions I’m Asking

I’m starting to ask myself questions like:

  • What if instead of getting out my phone I pray for the people sharing this waiting room with me? 
  • What if I strike up a conversation with the person nearby? (I’m an introvert we have to talk ourselves into these things.) 
  • What if I just sit here and take a breather?

If you have not made an effort to offer God a few minutes of sitting quietly at his feet each day think about it. You don’t have to start big. It might be a five-minute investment in the morning. But my God can take what we offer and multiply the outcome. 

I’d love to hear what you are learning or have already learned from time spent quietly in the Lord’s presence. Share below or send me a note if you’d like to encourage me. Or, let me know how I can encourage you.

Are You Tired? Ready To Lighten The Load?

Discipline, it’s not one of those magnetic words that the minute we hear it sticks, and we are determined to have it.  Yet, I believe this is the word that God has asked me to focus on in 2019. Unlike the first thoughts I had, I’ve come to understand it’s not a word that has been asked of me to wrestle my heart, mind, and soul into submission. God isn’t like that. He may pursue us relentlessly, but he does not drag us down and twist our arm behind our backs until we say “uncle”. He does not send us to our room and tell us we can not come out until we are ready to do what it is he has asked of us. God makes requests, gives us space, and sometimes consequences. Deeply desiring that we will, in the end, choose him.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Jesus had chosen his 12 apostles at this point and was beginning to teach them in the manner of the Jewish rabbi, or teacher. He would lead them to become disciples. He spent time with them. He talked with them about their thoughts, and he pulled examples from the daily experiences they shared.

The Rationale

Why have I chosen discipline? Because my soul needs rest! I read a lovely little book by Michelle DeRusha entitled “5 Unconventional Spiritual Practices For Your Soul”* In her chapter entitled The Spiritual Practice of Walking the Dog, yes, you read that correctly, she says this:

“The restless agitation we feel simmering just under the surface hints that we are missing something important, that our souls are yearning for more, but we don’t allow ourselves the silence and space to figure out what that something is.”

And if I’m honest, I do have that restless agitation. I realize that I want to spend this year going deeper with God. While my temptation is always to go wider, how much more can I read, how much more can I learn, always more! I am ready to do things differently. I want to spend more time just being with God. Because really that is what the spiritual disciplines are about.

My temptation is to seek distraction over quiet. To choose doing over being.

My Challenge

And so, I challenge myself to:

  • Sit in silence with God each day. Not try to do anything for Him, or say anything. Just be with him.
  • Listen while I sit. I want to hear all God has to say to me. Not just grab a quick answer to a question I’ve asked then whisper thanks and jump up and be on my way.
  • Experience the practices that Jesus observed while on this earth. These include prayer, fasting, study of the scriptures, and time with friends.

For me, this is the essence of the spiritual disciplines. To learn from Jesus’ example. Jesus tells me that his lessons provide rest for our souls. This mind that never seems to shut down could use a bit of rest. And so I begin. I spend time with Jesus, I watch him, and I listen in prayer and silence. And I respond to those gentle lessons. And contrary to our modern interpretation of discipline as in pushing and punishing ourselves into submission, I’m instead going to choose discipleship. And if you look closely, you will see that there is a common root.

What about you?

Are you ready for some quiet time at Jesus’ feet? If so, will you think of joining me on this quest for personal change? For growing deeper without striving harder? I just love that my Jesus says tie yourself to me (that’s what a yoke is, it ties two together.) And when you do, I’m going to do the heavy lifting. You will not find that what I ask of you is difficult. As a matter of fact, you will find rest.

*DeRusha, Michelle. 5 Unconventional Spiritual Practices for Your Soul. Michelle DeRusha. Kindle Edition. It’s a free book, of just 24 pages. So if you read on kindle then consider grabbing it here.