The Lie of the Idol of Busyness

 

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“To be like Jesus, we must see the use of our time as a Spiritual Discipline.” -Donald S. Whitney

A new year is upon us and we are once again filling out fresh new planners and making exciting new plans. We may have added all the things we dream to do this year and all the things we didn’t get to, last year. You pen in this play date, that meeting, this extracurricular activity, that other extra-curricular activity, this and that and this and that until the schedule is over-full.  If you are like many American families the schedule keeps on filling. We feel accomplished to check off lists’a’plenty and we feel we aren’t maximizing our full potential if we do not keep adding to the fattened schedule’s of our lives. Busyness can be an idol of the heart and we know that all idols lie. Whether it is the 21st Century mantra of busyness or the idol of our own heart we can speak truth toourselves to combat the lie of busyness. Christians need not carry this lifestyle that is seen nowhere in the Bible as an example for living well in Christ and through further study is antithetical to Christ’s teachings.

Americans win the prize for busyness, probably not on a global scale but we work more and rest less than most developed nations and the effects of this culture of busyness is literally driving us crazy. Stress and Anxiety levels are rising rapidly and we are all feeling the weight. There are 40 million Americans that are struggling with anxiety and it is not uncommon now to hear of children suffering from stress-induced anxiety. People struggling with anxiety disorder are six times more likely to be hospitalized for a number of Psychiatric problems. What are we doing to ourselves and to our families?

s_meifxrzik-mario-calvoI am not talking about good work. The Bible has given an excellent model of good work as a habit worth having. We see a commandment of a work ethic in Exodus 20, and an example of hard working apostles in Mark 6  but we also see a much-needed habit of rest inspired by the Father himself in inspired sabbath rest. Work is good, it is biblical and it is needed. Work in excess or busyness for the sake of itself is not set forth for us as a model of  a good Godly habit. There may be other heart idols in play as well, but these require personal examination. Kevin DeYoung in his book Crazy Busy makes this very astute statement “Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means you are busy, just like everyone else. And like everyone else, your joy, your heart and your soul are in danger.” This is something that puts us in danger he says.  ” This is not a matter of a busy schedule, but busyness is a matter of values”, Paul David Tripp says in Parenting. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. A matter of values. 

We avoid the quiet.

We avoid the quiet. Silence is not part of our 21st-century nature. We need rest from chaos, we need time with our thoughts and time to wonder and awe on the good things given us. This is hardly achieved by over-bustling schedules. Ask yourself when was the last time you sat in complete silence with your thoughts with nothing blinking and telling you what to think on any number of issues. If you are a Mom, like me, you probably just laughed out loud, yes, I know that it seems impossible but I promise there are ways to make the time for the stillness our soul’s crave.

Even the way we speak is a testament to our lives. We rarely listen. We don’t listen to ourselves, we don’t listen to others and sadly we aren’t listening to our children. I have seen this in my own life in how I can tune out my kids and get frustrated when they vie for my attention. We need to listen to them, their words hold weight and show us their hearts, how else can we lead them well. I recently listened to a TED podcast about listening that I found very convicting because I can truly say I am a poor listener. Our rush to finish each other sentences, to micro-schedule quick jaunts with friends to check it off the “Good Friend Checklist” as opposed to resting in long conversation and quality time, our need to color others’ speech with our own dialogs makes listening a long-lost habit. More about that another time but Godly restfulness helps us to interact better with our co-inhabitants.

The lie of the idol of busyness. ‘Not enough’. The lie of the idol of busyness is not enough, almost anything. Not enough time, not enough work, not enough education, not enough qualifications, not enough extra-curriculars, not enough fun, not enough activities, not enough socializing, not enough . It says “you aren’t doing enough” and in our society of work ultimacy that is a statement on your being, “You are not being enough”, so you must “Do more” to be “Be more”. The one truth in this lie is that we are not enough. Because that it is true, we aren’t. Where the truth gets twisted is that we can be enough in our own rights by doing “all the things” and doing them better than everyone else. We must combat our Not-Enoughness with more truth and not more schedules.

David Mathis in Habits of Grace says ” We are humans, not machines. We were made for rhythms of silence and noise, community and solitude.” We need the balance of both.

So, what can we do to combat busyness?

Firstly, turn toward the Word. Look at your life and your schedule in comparison to the examples set for us. Ask yourself, “Does this resemble the habits of grace I see in the Scripture? Then if the answer is, “No”, pray and ask yourself where it went wrong and ask God for clarity. This is something that we are learning to do ourselves, in my family, often. You see, I am one of those statistics above and am thankful that God has been teaching my heart to rest in Him. It’s like any habit, it a process.

Practically,  though, in addition to prayer you may want some suggestions. I am no expert but these things have helped me greatly:

  • -Pray about your Schedule, match it up to Scripture, pray for wisdom and discernment.

 

  • -Cut the Fat. You prayerfully need to do this with your spouse, if you have one, and it might even need some discussions with children, as well, about their priorities. Cut all non-essentials, all the things that are not wanted and then examine what is truly needed. The matter of need and want is your own personal heart decision, so the prayer for discernment helps. It is a like a bandaid being ripped, the pain of it will be over soon and you will heal.
  • As an example a few years ago with only one child in activities, but still being  quite overwhelmed, we prayerfully decided to allow only one activity outside of the home so we had a conversation about what she would choose. She chose dance and has been faithfully focusing on that one activity for several years. Look into alternatives for the things you don’t want to lose, things that your children can pursue independently at home.

 

  • -Protect your Schedule. This is simple. Every week pray about your schedule and protect it. Keep it safe, examine every new thing that pops up with “Will this be fruitful?”, and once you begin to do this you will actually have more time for the organic and non-scheduled community that forms in our lives. Give yourself grace room, room to breathe and room to engage with others. One way we do this , personally, is by keeping our afternoons free and unscheduled. This allows my children time that isn’t school and time that isn’t scheduled to do what they choose to. **I will say as an aside that this does not mean TV, as a personal decision we have one Movie Night and Saturday TV only.** This is more what we call occupations, things they would like to pursue that do not require a guiding hand. For young ones, block building, for older ones, handicrafts or journaling, leisure reading etc. For mom putting the baby down and reading a book for a few moments or having a cup of tea. In addition, we only have one night a week that is reserved for outside-the-home activities for children.
  • -Make habits of restful enjoyment such as take up writing a diary, or journaling or a quiet hobby or reading more. Things that require a little more attention than checklists and iPhone reminders. These habits help slow our minds and let us know what is really in our hearts.
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My commonplace journal for keeping quotes, verses or passages I find in my reading.

To conclude, know that busyness although a very real and apparent part of our lives is not the example we are shown for living. We can work well in it’s own time and rest well in it’s own time.

 

On Teaching Perspective to Our Children: Church History

2dyvq1psbgw-jeremiah-higginsOur children being raised in Christian homes in the United States may probably never see the type of suffering we see in the lives of Christian martryrs that have gone before us. It is a rare occasion of true persecution for your faith in this country. I am not talking about Facebook friends chastising your beliefs on social media. I once heard an individual claim they were being “persecuted” for their faith online because there were some that disagreed with them. I thought that this must be a problem with perspective in our culture. Being teased or “yelled at” on Social Media  pales enormously to the suffering of a history of martyrs and saints that experienced death, beatings, sickness, loneliness, disease and more for the Gospel. There are many in the world today still that truly suffer in these ways for the faith. It is a matter of perspective. Much perspective can be gained by studying our Church History.

I have a three part series on teaching perspective to our children: 1. Church History  2. The World and Missions and 3. Our Neighbors. This is on Church History. Even though this post is geared toward teaching children about perspective in the history of our faith and the needs of this world, it is not meant just for children. We grow as we teach, I hope it inspires us as well.

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) National Trust, Tatton Park; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Let us begin by learning of Anne Askew and reading The Ballad Which Anne Askew Made And Sang When She Was In Newgate. 

Like as the armed knight
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight
And Faith shall be my shield.

Faith is that weapon strong
Which will not fail at need.
My foes, therefore, among
Therewith will I proceed.

As it is had in strength
And force of Christes way
It will prevail at length
Though all the devils say nay.

Faith in the fathers old
Obtained rightwisness
Which make me very bold
To fear no world’s distress.

I now rejoice in heart
And Hope bid me do so
For Christ will take my part
And ease me of my woe.

Thou saist, lord, who so knock,
To them wilt thou attend.
Undo, therefore, the lock
And thy strong power send.

More enmyes now I have
Than hairs upon my head.
Let them not me deprave
But fight thou in my stead.

On thee my care I cast.
For all their cruel spight
I set not by their haste
For thou art my delight.

I am not she that list
My anchor to let fall
For every drizzling mist
My ship substancial.

Not oft use I to wright
In prose nor yet in rime,
Yet will I shew one sight
That I saw in my time.

I saw a rial throne
Where Justice should have sit
But in her stead was one
Of moody cruel wit.

Absorpt was rightwisness
As of the raging flood
Sathan in his excess
Suct up the guiltless blood.

Then thought I, Jesus lord,
When thou shalt judge us all
Hard is it to record
On these men what will fall.

Yet lord, I thee desire
For that they do to me
Let them not taste the hire
Of their iniquity.

You see when Anne Askew spoke of enemies in her poem she truly meant enemies. The poem is reminisicent of the suffering by enemies in David’s Psalms and just as harrowing. Anne Askew, one of the first known female English poets was a protestant and had been kicked out of her home by her Catholic husband who had her later imprisoned. Charged with heresy for leading bible, prayer and discussions, of which one of those patrons was the then Queen of England, Catherine Parr, she faced many trials. The poem above is not merely a poetic work but truly what she had been experiencing. She was openly critical of the state of the church and was an important figure in the Reformation period. Because Anne Askew did not recant of her criticisms of the unbiblical teachings of the Church of England in her time even while imprisoned, interrogated by the Bishop of London, and tortured she was sentenced to execution by fire in 1546 but not before making the very poignant and critical statement “He errs and speaks without the Book” about the bishop’s executorial sermon. She died for her faith and history shows the Church of England was greatly influenced by reformation saints like her and they did eventually adopt the beliefs they killed Anne Askew for in her time. Even observation of the portrait above by Hans Eworth painted posthumously shows the inscription “Rather Death; Than False of Faith”. This is but one story of Church History.

Perspective in regards to martyrs and saints that have gone before us can help our children and ourselves understand 1. the weight of the knowledge we carry and 2. true suffering does not look what we might be accustomed to knowing. I am pretty sure there are very few Americans that have experienced execution by fire for the sake of the Gospel but even in our country we have heard of church burnings and shootings that should cause us to really pause and view our freedom to share the Gospel and the grace of our thriving in juxtaposition to the histories that have been written and will still be written of those that experience great trial in the name of Christ.

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I do not believe as Christians we should shelter our children from these truths and histories. In the United States, it is easy to become so insular that the world and history have no influence on our myopic hearts. We become hardened in our near-sightedness. So to combat our apathy we can teach our children about these stories and pray. Two resources that we use at home for teaching on martyrs and persecuted saints is Trial and Triumph and the Book of Missionary Heroes. We include this as church history in our schedule but can be read at any point in your week. We have read portions of the Book of Missionary Heroes before Family Worship as an example. Both are in story-form and make these stories accessible.

Another great resource is the Voice of the Martyrs website and the VOTM companion site Kids of CourageYou can read modern accounts and biographies of the persecuted church and write letters to imprisoned Christians around the world.

I believe we all need some perspective in our very narrow world-views. We all suffer with only knowing what if right in front of our eyes. It will do all of us well to challenge, Parent and Child.

Read Widely

 

x7cdil50kky-clem-onojeghuoIt’s a brand new year and I have many thoughts brewing. I haven’t made official resolutions, because that doesn’t work for me but as with every new year I’m reordering my plans and priorities.

One priority this year is to read even more. I know most people dislike “what I read in…” posts, so I’ll share a little of what I’m reading now.

I do not consider myself an excellent writer, far too many muddled thoughts, but on a few occasions I have had people ask what can they do to be a better writer. I do not feel equipped to give advice because I need it myself but my one thing is always, “Be a better reader” but to add to that, “Read widely”. It is fact that a baker cannot make delicious bread if he has not become a friend to the ingredients. To bake and to bake deliciously are two very different things. It is the same for reading and writing. The art of reading widely should be something we all know how to do.

When I say “read widely” I mean not only books by many authors but also many types of genres and on many different things. Mix a little fiction with your religious non-fiction, a little poetry with your leisure reading. Try a book of history with a beloved YA book. I have heard “I read, I just don’t like fiction” or “I find non-fiction boring”. Let me encourage you that there over 130 million books in this world and you may have yet to find your favorite.

There are three reasons why I believe we should read widely; First for wonder, second for growth, and thirdly for understanding and wisdom.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
― T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Firstly, reading for wonder will involve a lot of fiction reading. My personal opinion is that individuals that do not read fiction are doing themselves a huge disservice but especially those tasked with teaching and leading others. Of course you can take that opinion with a grain of salt but I do believe “leaders should be readers”, and “leaders should be wide readers”, I should put that on a T-shirt. maybe not as catchy as the original. Why? Because the world is already so bereft of light when we can’t see the beautiful, we need to grasp on to beauty when we see it and understand darkness in contrast to light. Also, because all wonder points us back to the awe-inspiring King, the beauty of creation shows that the creator is most beautiful. In addition, You do not need to teach children so much “how to be” if they have a steady diet of books that allow them to understand “the how” firstly in their own minds and hearts. I do not then understand why we would cut ourselves off from beauty when it can only enhance our lives. fiction is the land where all worlds exist. fiction allows for wonder far past our own little plot and gives us ability to awe at things beyond our imagining. We should be enraptured with the good gift of the written word and wonder on it’s beauty. Fiction gives us a safe space to think deeply.

I have heard many arguments against fiction. None have been convincing. It’s one thing if you are a pragmatist and choose not to read fiction but it is quite another thing to make arguments against it. Someone once told me that fiction was lying and this made me speechless. Storytelling is not lying but it CAN be quite the opposite, truth telling. Thank God that Jesus was a storyteller and wove truth through parable and the Psalms to show us the range of our humanness and our great need.

I personally believe that the child-likeness that is lauded in the Bible would have a harder time being extinguished if we read about wondrous things in our Bibles and books more often.

“I write, not for children, but for the child-like, whether they be of five, or fifty, or seventy-five.”
― George MacDonald

There is wonder to be read also in non-fiction, in poetry, even in histories and biographies.

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I am a believer because of reading C.S. Lewis. What I mean is that C.S.Lewis was the tool used to prod me toward faith. As a child I read stories of heroism and magic and longed so badly for that land. As a young adult I read his religious works and the magic that I remembered now made sense. The wonder sat in waiting to make connections I never knew would be made as an 11-year old reading The Magician’s Nephew. Even now when I read Wendell Berry or Sigrid Undset I am touched by that awe. Reading is a tool for seeing, fiction is a sweet looking glass to see the world through. Friends are made in fiction that could never be made elsewhere and those friends are friends for life. If you have an introverted child or a child that becomes lonely easily, a good living book can soothe and give wonder like a playmate and friend.

Secondly, reading for personal or spiritual growth. This does not always mean Christian non-fiction. The greatest “Growing Books” for me have been sometimes biographies or narratives of Missionaries and Martyrs. The Hiding Place affected me in ways that I didn’t even now as a child and there are images from that book that have stayed visually with me for a long time. A biography that influenced me as a young child,  Joni  about Joni Erickson Tada changed my perspective greatly.

Fiction too can allow us to empathize and stand in the corner with people very different from us. Christians should want this.

“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” -Lloyd Alexander

A lovely Christian religious non-fiction title can also prod us toward growth.  There are books that I have read and journaled about in my commonplace book that were tools to a forever change in my heart regarding some personal matter. Recently I have been reading the puritan Jeremiah Burroughs’ The Jewel of Christian Contentment and it has helped greatly with a lifetime of worries. I am thankful for this book and it has happily been added to a place of honor in my mind’s library where books like the Orthodoxy and Mere Christianity lie.

It is almost impossible to become a better writer by never reading a book, so personal growth in reading is a benefit to those that would love to write. I lack so much as a writer and although I am not a great Grammarian (Mark Twain said it’s ok) I like to think that reading vigorously has sparked my desire to write down my thoughts and create a space for wonder and growth. Stephen King has famously said that if you want to be a writer you need to read a lot and write a lot. That is something I have heard from many writers and take it to heart.

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“Force yourself to read books you normally wouldn’t read. For me, a self-confessed theology-lover, that means reading fiction. For novel-fans, it means adding a little Packer to the diet. If you are planning on being a good preacher, you’d better like good stories. The greatest preachers in Christianity have known how to express deep theological concepts through riveting narratives. So, hunker down and start reading classic authors like Hugo, Dickens, and Dostoevsky. Watch these brilliant authors paint masterful pictures of sin and redemption and salvation. Hold on to memorable characters. Enter other worlds through the imaginations of Tolkien and Lewis.
Secondly reading for growth. And when I say “growth”, I really mean the stretching of our hearts, compassion. Reading widely allows us to step outside of our insularity and into the world of others, into different experiences and hardships and joys and celebrations. It helps us to understand, love, show compassion to others. It helps our own hearts ” -Trevin Wax

Lastly, reading for wisdom, as a believer the number one book we read for wonder, guidance, growth and wisdom should be the Bible. It is the foundation of all things. It is very hard to see beauty in ashes if we do not see the bigger story or to rejoice in suffering if we do not know the true and better way that awaits.

There are many books that can also help us toward wisdom, firstly the Bible in books like Proverbs but also a book such as the Institutes of Religion or Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, books that Charlotte Mason considers “stiff books” that practically challenge our dull senses awake to think about what we think on a matter and to read more and study about it. Even books of Allegory such as the Pilgrim’s Progress or a sweet novel such as Stepping Heavenward or the always wise words of Wendell Berry.  There is so much wisdom one can glean from Church Fathers to humble authors if we would just read them, although wisdom is a process and reading a good book does not equate to being wise, wisdom comes through understanding and being open to truth.

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

God has gifted us with much beauty in this world, through word, art, music, and life. If we look for it, it is there. If we choose to forget it, the alternative is a sort of mind death, where we just run on auto-pilot in this fast moving culture from one mind-numbing thing to another, never stopping to awe, to grow, to become wise on truth, goodness and beauty from above.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

― Ray Bradbury

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So, my reading long-awaited reading list, just kidding. In the Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola recommends a Stiff Book, a Moderately Easy Book, and a Novel. Charlotte Mason, my 19th century educational mentor, would have read much like this and more, it would have included poetry and bible reading as well, so here is my list:

Bible and Devotional Reading: The ESV on a reading plan, Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon, and The Cloud of Witness.

Stiff Book: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield

Moderately Easy (Does not mean twaddle, just something easily read): Parenting by Paul David Tripp

Novel: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Poetry: Selected Emily Dickinson (with Emma for homeschool) and Roots to the Earth by Wendell Berry (a beautifully illustrated copy gifted to me at Christmas by my husband).

I have reverted to this system to keep me from unwieldy reading lists and although I have many half finished books, I won’t be picking them back up until I’ve finished these above. I pray. I should make a to read in 2017 post to help my brain remember what I want to read and pick back up. I hope 2017 is a year of reading more for all of us.