Weeds grow among the flowers with no watering, fertilizer, or attention. “Stuff” piles up in the corners of places where people live, appearing almost magically! Chaos, disorder, decay … are the results of an unintended life. Frequently people who are up to their neck in some crisis ask me, “How did my life get to this state?” Often it is the result of one small act of neglect following another, piling up until there is a mountain of dysfunction! Ordering your world requires that you pay attention to the details, that you mind the little things. A few details left undone will destroy the entire project. Keeping the big picture in sight is also important, but it is very unlikely that we will accomplish the BIG dreams of our lives if we live in constant chaos produced by our inattention to day to day management. Let me illustrate my point practically–
Most married people want a harmonious, intimate relationship, don’t they? Did you know that it is the daily choices about life that make that a reality? A spouse feels loved and cherished when you care enough to pick up your socks, clean up the kitchen, or call when you’re delayed in traffic. Two dozen roses offered up once a month cannot overcome 28 days of thoughtlessness. An intimate marriage cannot be sustained on a yearly vacation and a weekend get-a-way now and then. Love is sustained by the morning kiss, the evening hug, the little things that say, “You are important to me, in this moment.”
Want to enjoy financial freedom? The key factor is not the size of your monthly contribution to your 401 (k) account, though that is a good idea! One author warns about the ‘coffee shop’ factor that ruins many a household budget. His point? You can make a cup of coffee to take for your commute to work that will cost you a few cents, or you can stop every morning at Dunkin’ Donuts™ and spend $2.50. 5 cups of coffee a week add up to $12.50, times 50 weeks, equals an expense of $625 – real money! $2 here, 50 cents there quickly turn into real budget busters!
What to stop living on a treadmill of frantic activity that keeps you from doing what you dream about? Buy a schedule book and learn to use it! IF you take charge of daily life, refusing to be driven by urgency all the time, you will discover time really is available to do what you really need to do. One hour of planning at the beginning of the week eliminates duplication and wasted time that will consume hours of the rest of the days in that week. Ever see a person who shows up at every meeting trailing papers, breathless from trying to make copies at the last moment, and still shuffling through folders trying to get ready? Imagine the reduction in stress if that same individual took a hour’s focused time the day before to put all the stuff together needed for the meeting.
Great Christians tend the little things. Lives disintegrate, one little lapse at a time. On the positive side, real accomplishment occurs where there is a long-term investment of time in preparation and the follow up of daily discipline. Make a priority decision to do the ‘little things’ that are needed- not to prove anything to God, not to comfort yourself with attention to meaningless detail, but to open your heart and mind to the flow of the Spirit. What are some of those little things for the Christian life?
- Put going to church high on your weekly schedule.
- Pick up your Bible every day and meditate on the Word for 15 minutes.
- Give to God from the top of your paycheck, not the left-overs.
- Make time for prayer before you watch TV, not after.
- Commit to regular serving ministry that comes before pleasure.
“Jerry, that sounds like a lot of duty.” The same act can be dutiful or devoted, depending on the attitude of the person. We do not glorify the disciplines for their own sake. They are, indeed, worthless – UNLESS they are part of a plan to discover God’s presence and purpose in life. John Ortberg, pastor and author, writes, “Spiritual disciplines are to Christian life, what warm-ups are to a basketball game! A player’s vigorous performance in warm-ups indicates nothing about his skills to play, but if he fails to do warm-ups, the level of his play will certainly be affected.”
Here’s a word from the Word. Soak in it for a moment, praying for the Spirit’s wisdom to live it.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26, NIV)