How to “fit things in”

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend who is trying to figure out “How to fit it all in.”

That’s something I’m fairly conversant with… fitting things in. Sherri (aka “The lovely and talented Mrs. Peterson) and I have this conversation regularly, and overall, we do a decent job of it.

Here’s the thing about “fitting things in”…

Just about the time you fit everything in… something changes shape! For instance…

  • You get the kids school schedule figured out… then it’s summer time!
  • You get the work schedule figured out… then you decide you want to lose weight… so where do you add gym time?
  • You get your grocery shopping day nailed down… and then you get the schedule for your kid’s soccer games and they’re scheduled… right during your shopping time!

AHHHHHH!!!

I’ve joked in the past that just about the time I figure out how to be a perfect parent, my kids have a birthday… and everything changes! And that’s a lot how life is… just about the time you get everything fit in… something changes!

So, what’s a decent way to fit things in?

Let me give you three ideas and then one practical tool that will help manage these ideas.

Idea #1 – Minimize

Let’s be honest here… most of us do a better job of adding than subtracting.

We add hours at work, gym time, hobby time, sport schedules, etc. but never figure out what they are going to replace! Typically what they replace are the most important things (e.g. church, gym, dates with spouse/kids).

I encourage you to do this… when you must add something, figure out what you will subtract! After all, you can’t fit everything in if you don’t take something out!

Idea #2 – Prioritize

Here’s an important question, “If everything had to be done at the same time what would I NOT do?”

For instance, if a soccer game and a doctor’s appointment were scheduled at the same time, which one would NOT show up at? The the soccer game of course (unless you are a terrible parent… yes, I’m judging you.) 😉

Seriously, there are some things you MUST do to live a healthy life (e.g. grocery shop, work on your budget, go to church, work out, go to work, sleep, etc.).

To begin prioritizing, sit down and put these non-negotiables on the calendar, what time is left is for those “other” things… discretionary things..

On my family budget, under expenses I have two categories: non-discretionary and discretionary. Non-discretionary includes things like: mortgage, electric, etc.Discretionary includes things like haircuts, etc. If I have to choose between getting a haircut and paying my electric… I’m going electric.

So, figure out what the non-negotiable/non-discretionary things in your life are… put them on the calendar… and then fit the other things around them. To get you started, a few non-discretionaries for me include: gym, meals, church, family time, sleep, study, etc.

And the third idea for “fitting things in”… if it is possible…

Idea #3 – Delegate

Some things in your life that must be done can be done by someone else! For instance lawn care, auto repair, meal prep, etc.

Obviously there are some that simply cannot (e.g. relationships, worship, exercise, learning, etc.), but the ones that can… GIVE THEM AWAY!

Now…

The tool

Something that has helped Sherri and me stay on top of an ever evolving schedule is our weekly “Coin and Calendar” meeting.

During this meeting we review our budget, look ahead at calendar items, plan for upcoming expenses and events, and make sure we are on the same page.

Now, because I am part of this system, it is not perfect! We miss the road from time to time… but believe me… in a family with six kids, multiple income streams, and more commitments than you can imagine, if we DIDN’T have the meeting we’d crash and burn!

During this meeting we constantly look for ways to minimize, prioritize, and delegate, and we look at how we are going to fund those priorities!

This plan works!

I know life is busy! I know most people feel overwhelmed! I also know it’s possible to find some space to breath deeply and enjoy who and what is around you!

A couple of resources I’d encourage you to pick up as you navigate this journey include:

My prayer for you, and me, is that we will be persistent in finding and fitting in to our lives the best things!

I’d love to hear from you… what have you found most helpful as you seek to “fit things in”?

The most important person you can care for is…

YOU.

This may sound wrong to you… especially if you’ve grown up within the context of the church, but wait… let me make the case.

In the world of nonprofits (e.g. church, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, etc.) we are regularly called to “give yourself.”

“Give yourself” is great advice if “yourself” is valuable.

Seriously, we both know people who’s presence could not be considered a gift! In fact, after a bit of time with them, you might even consider “gifting” them to another organization!

What I’ve found is that the best gift I can give to my God, wife, children, church, clients, friends, etc. is a happy, healthy, alert self; and that requires that I engage in intentional, regular self-care.

The other day I read a quote from Parker Palmer that gets right to the heart of this matter…

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

Think about it…

  • Are you a better parent when you are tired or rested?
  • Do you work better when you are angry or happy?
  • Do you think more clearly when you are hungry or full?

You get the point, right? When YOU are taken care of, you show up and perform at a higher level… and THAT’S a gift worth giving!

Here’s the thing about “self-care”, if you don’t do it… no one will.

No one is going to make you eat right, get enough rest, exercise, pray, be creative, etc. You must do these things for yourself. If you don’t create space in your life for these things… they won’t get done.

Your spouse, kids, boss, friends aren’t going to create space for you to do these things, because they are all trying to get some space in your life too! You have to care for yourself!

And when you care for yourself, the people around you get a better YOU!

Think about it, is it better to be open 24/7 but offer sub-par service or is it preferable to be open 40 hours a week and offer high value service, friendship, love, insight, etc.?

I think we agree on this one….

I encourage you to do this… stop. Take some time to think about and plan the next 30 days of your life. As you create that plan carve out some time to do “self-care” and then watch what happens to your relationships as you begin adding true value to the people you serve/love.

How to grow spiritually (Re-post)

In light of the current teaching series we are doing at Church180, Spiritually Strong, this blog post seems worth re-posting!
Really there is no magic formula. It’d be great to have a drink, swallow a pill, or take a pilgrimage to some holy spot and upon arrival… “BOOM”… you become holy.
Well, don’t get your hopes up because after thousands of years and multiple experiments the verdict is in… spiritual maturity is not something that happens in a moment or after one exercise.
Spiritual maturity is the result of a lifestyle… a series of habits… a regular and consistent practice of “trust and obey.”
This morning I was reading from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and he wrote something that I have to share with you:
The New Testament does not suggest any shortcuts by which we can grow in sanctification, but simply encourages us repeatedly to give ourselves to the old-fashioned, time-honored means of Bible reading and meditation (Psalm 1:2; Matthew 4:4; John 17:17), prayer (Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6), worship (Ephesians 5:18-20), witnessing (Matthew 28:19-20), Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25), and self-discipline or self-control (Galatians 5:23; Titus 1:8)
So how’s it going? Are you doing these things? Be encouraged and persistent in them and watch how God uses the best practices to grow your faith!

Why I go to church (or why I wear pants on Sunday)

Yes… I am a pastor so I kinda “have” to go. But even if I weren’t… I would.

A few years ago I wasn’t actively preaching, so I decided to skip church for a few weeks.

IT WAS AWESOME!

I slept in… puttered around the house in my underwear for a while… cleaned the garage… played with the kids… took a nap… put some pants on… took another nap… ate… went to bed.

After living six days of busy it sure felt nice to have one day of NOTHING TO DO!

I started going to church again and realized I had missed a few things…

  • Happy people. Sure there are some knuckleheads at church… but there are knuckleheads at the bar, work, and neighborhood events too! What I’ve found is that at most churches there are a lot of happy people working on making their lives better, and somehow just being around them made me feel better.
  • Helpful information. I’m a preacher so I know this… not every lesson is a homerun. I’ve struck out a few times and went home thinking, “Geez, if I were my pastor… I’d find something else to do on Sunday!” Having said that, most pastors work real hard to present God’s ideas in a way on Sunday that will be helpful for living on Monday! Sometimes it is new information, sometimes just some inspiration. Sometimes it is a kick in the pants, and other times it is an arm around the shoulder. What I find though is that I need all of these things from time to time and church on Sunday is a pretty safe place to get it!
  • Holy moments. I know you can have these on your own, BUT there is something unique that happens when a group of people are singing to, talking about, and trying to hear from God! It’s the difference between watching the Super Bowl on TV in your living room and actually being there! I’ve had some amazing moments with God alone… but I can’t deny that I’ve had some equally awesome moments with God surrounded by friends and other people who are listening to Him as well!

I understand why people skip church, but my experience showed me that getting up, putting my pants on and going to church usually has a payoff that makes the sacrifice worth it.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know.

How to pray

Recently I’ve been reading a version of the Bible called “The Message.” I like to read through this version of the Scriptures every couple of years because of the fresh way it presents classic ideas.

Today I read something about prayer that made me stop, pull out my pen, do some underlining, and make some notes!

Here’s what I read:

“…when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

I LOVE this!

As a public speaker in general, and preacher in particular, it is easy to turn prayer into a demonstration of oratorical ability.

Jesus said, “Don’t.”

God doesn’t care how eloquent I am. Besides that, even if I were a master orator… I’d be competing against every other prayer He hears… and I’m pretty sure there are lots of people with bigger vocabularies and more engaging presentations than me! In other words, if prayer is a performance… I’d get lost in the shuffle of great performers.

Fortunately, Jesus set me free from that way of thinking when He said, “Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

I can do that!

Be alone and genuine before God!

Say what you feel, think, believe, hope, dream, etc. THAT’S WHAT GOD WANTS TO HEAR!

He’s not impressed with your big words and fake passion any more than He is impressed with artificial tears and trumped up faith. He wants you to be real… honest… just you!

I can do that!

Alone… honest… just me and God.

I can do that… and you can too!

And the good news is… that is what God is looking for! Someone who will be alone and honest with Him! He can and will help that person… that’s what Jesus implied when He said, “you will begin to sense his grace.”

You can’t grow without this…

man-looking-in-mirrorEvaluation.

Rigorous, systematic, evaluation of yourself.

The evaluators can include others, but MUST include yourself… because at the end of the day, you know you best.

Right now I am evaluating my prayer life and my performance in the gym, among other things.

Sitting over a cup of coffee at Starbucks, talking to no one, reading a book, listening to the quiet whispers in my soul… I know some things are missing.

I’ve known this for a while… but I haven’t known them as clearly or heard them as loudly as today.

Why?

Because today I set apart some time for a rigorous self evaluation.

Now, an evaluation is not necessarily a “let’s beat the crap out of myself” session. Nope. It is an honest evaluation of where I am, whether or not I am happy here, and what I need to do to grow to the next level.

This exercise has many uses… in fact, it is helpful for every area of life: spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, relational, professional… and any other word that ends in “al” that you can think of!

I want my biceps and my faith to grow… so that requires that I spend some time evaluating!

A few practices that I’ve found to be helpful in this area include:

  • Plan a regular meeting with yourself to evaluate yourself.
  • Have a general outline that you follow during this meeting.
  • BE HONEST and MAKE NO EXCUSES!
  • Speak sternly to yourself when you must, and take every opportunity to celebrate what you can! You’re not doing EVERYTHING wrong. You are undoubtedly doing a few things right. Point them out… and have a piece of cake to celebrate! 😉
  • Talk to God during this time.
  • Make some notes! (Remember, a fair idea on paper is better than an excellent idea that is forgotten… because you didn’t write it down!)

Well, that’s what I think. How about you? Do you evaluate yourself? Do you find self-evaluation to be helpful?

What ideas do you have to make this a more efficient practice?

Think about your life

thinking-aloneWhen was the last time you sat down and thought about your life?

I mean, when was the last time you thought deeply about where you are spiritually.Financially. Physically. Emotionally. When did you last time you gave thought to the relationships you are involved in, for instance, your marriage, kids, friends, etc.

When was the last time you thought about where you are, how you got here, where you are going next, and how you are going to get there?

I am realizing that many adults end up where they are and then wonder how they got there! 

They got busy with life. One thing led to another. Multiple voices and roles making demands on their attention, money, energy, and passion… and before you know it they end up disheveled, confused, frustrated and feeling like they’ve been dropped off in a jungle… far away from the life they imagined in their early years.

Know anyone like that?

I find it helpful from time to time to sit down and think about my life; to intentionally walk away from the dings, rings, beeps, and tweets and just think.

When I think, much of what I see I am happy with, but there are some areas that have been left unattended… and I’m not happy with them. These are areas that I may have overlooked had I not sat down and thought about my life.

Here are a few areas to think about in your life:

  • Spiritually – how is everything on the inside? Is the private me different than the public me? What role does God play in my life?
  • Physically – am I taking care of my body? Do my sleep, exercise, and eating habits give me the energy I need to live a full life?
  • Financially – How’s the money thing going? Do I tell my money where to go at the beginning of the month, or do I wonder where it went at the end of the month?
  • Relationally – Do I love people? When was the last time I encouraged someone… showed them I cared about them?
  • Professionally – Am I getting better at my job? Do I love it? Do I need to make a change?

I’m sure there are more questions you can come up with… and that’s the point. It’s your life… ask your questions!

Four questions that will help guide this process are these:

  1. Where am I?
  2. How did I get here?
  3. Where do I want to be?
  4. How will I get there?

I pray that as you think about your life that you find joy, and if not, I pray that you will find hope!