Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the posts that resonated with me this week:

Did You Know You Might Be Someone’s Blessing in Disguise? “I don’t remember that nurse’s name, but God does. She never knew how her warmth, genuineness, and kindness blessed us that day. But God does.”

Counseling Your Child About Salvation. When my kids were young, I was greatly concerned with how to know they were ready to be saved rather than just praying a prayer to please parents or fit in. This article has some wise advice.

Something to Eat, HT to Challies. “Too often, when someone first believes in Jesus – especially someone famous – we rush to push them on stage, or sign a book deal, asking them to tell their stories while they still have an empty stomach. They have been raised to new life, but they still need something to eat.”

Judge Not, HT to Challies. “Matthew 7:1 is one of the most needed and one of the most abused statements in the Bible. . . .Yet just because people can misuse a verse does not give us a reason to throw out that verse. The fact is that Matthew 7:1 is a necessary corrective that many Christians need to hear. If we can first clear away the false claims, we will be in a position to let Matthew 7:1 shape us as Jesus intended.”

The American Dream Couldn’t Save My Marriage, HT to Challies. “I am grateful to this country which granted me asylum and opened the door for my permanent residence status. I received many opportunities through which I was able to continue my education, find a better job, and travel freely without fear. When I purchased my first home, I felt I had accomplished the American dream. This and lots of other things ended up going right for me before I had to realize how wrong I had been.”

On Losing Consciousness in Public, HT to Challies. Though I don’t have Seth Lewis’ health problems, my own have frustrated me due to their seeming waste of time and hindrance of doing the things I need and want to do. “My body betrayed me and flipped the power switch without my permission. When something like that happens, I am forced to remember two realities: that I am not in control, and that I am not as strong as I think I am.” But instead of being distressed by those truths, I can trust “there’s no need for despair over weakness because God is still in control and still strong enough to keep his promises for his children.”

What to Remember When God Feels Distant. “Often, it is in seasons of struggle and weariness that we find God’s peace to be most sustaining, His comfort most reassuring, His presence most stabilizing. Maybe we have to come to the end of ourselves to realize He truly is the only Source of everything we need?”

When Church Leadership Goes Wrong. “But it is my conviction, and Honeysett’s, that the majority of leaders who eventually go wrong set out with good desires and noble motives. Their good intentions were not enough to protect them from eventually abusing their power and misusing their authority. Some of them may have even behaved in abusive ways without knowing they were doing so. Yet ‘lack of intention doesn’t remove culpability. The heart is deceitful, and we are never fully aware of our own motives.'”

Being Senior. “In any other context but aging, the word senior is very positive.”

Friday’s Fave Five

Susanne at Living to Tell the Story hosts this opportunity to pause and appreciate the good things of the week. I’ve found this weekly break to be so helpful and encouraging. Here are a few of this week’s blessings:

1. Jesse’s birthday. I always love our kids’ special days, though they’re starting to make me feel old. I joked on Facebook, “How can my youngest be 29 when I’m only 39 1/2?” 😉

2. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral service. I didn’t get to watch it as it happened, but someone had told me they watched on YouTube where there was no commentary, just a recording of the service. The music was glorious and the message so clearly pointed to Christ.

3. The first day of fall. I’ve said often that I love the in-between seasons of fall and spring, where the weather is a nice change but not at the extremes of hot or cold. And both have such beautiful color. The leaves are just starting to turn. I have family from TX coming in this week, and though full fall color won’t be out for a few weeks yet, I’m glad they’ll see a bit of it.

4. A productive week. With my family coming, I got a few projects done around the house and have started a more intense cleaning than my usual weekly tasks. I’ve learned from past experience not to get so into getting things done that I am exhausted when they get here. So I am aiming to get the major things done, then we’ll see about the rest. I can’t say I enjoy the act of cleaning, but I do enjoy the results.

5. Weeding out items to give away. I keep a large box in the pantry to toss things in that I don’t want or need any more. When that gets full, I usually add to it some other items. With family coming, I wanted to get that stuff out of the way. I’ve got a few boxes stacked up to be taken to the thrift store. It feels good to create some space and get these things some place more useful.

Have a great weekend!

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Normally I wouldn’t have looked twice at a book like Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I’ve read a number of books on time management, achieving goals, etc., so I wasn’t looking for one more.

But I listened to an interview with the author as part of one writer’s group’s attempts to draw in new members. And though I decided not to join the writer’s group, I appreciated much that Greg had to say.

These days, we’re all beset by having more opportunities and responsibilities than we can keep up with. Plus other people can pile their agendas on to us. We spend much of our time “busy but not productive.”

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless (p. 7).

Lest that sound cold and heartless, one of our essentials is our loved ones. One of the catalysts to McKeown’s journey towards essentialism was when he was pressured to be at a meeting with a client just hours after his daughter was born. He was told the client would respect him for his sacrifice of being there. But the client didn’t, and the meeting in the end turned out to be pretty worthless.

Trade-offs are going to happen as we learn we can’t do everything. It’s better to decide ahead of time what’s really most important and spend our energy there, even when that means saying no to other things, even good things.

Part 1 of McKeown’s book focuses on essence: to do what’s essential, we first have to figure out what’s essential according to our goals and values. We have to determine what’s non-negotiable and what’s a trade-off.

Part 2 is Explore: the “perks of being unavailable,” the necessity of sleep and even play.

Part 3 is Eliminate: to say yes to some things, we have to say no to others. Part 3 explores principles and methods for eliminating the nonessential.

Part 4 is Execute: protecting our essential goals by implementing buffer zones, starting small and celebrating small wins, the helpfulness of routines to eliminate unnecessary decisions, flow and focus.

Sprinkled throughout the book are simple but very effective illustrations. This one, for example, shows “the unfulfilling experience of making a millimeter of progress in a million directions” vs. “investing in fewer things” to “have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most” (pp. 6-7).

Here are a few of the other quotes that stood out to me:

For capable people who are already working hard, are there limits to the value of hard work? Is there a point at which doing more does not produce more? Is there a point at which doing less (but thinking more) will actually produce better outcomes? (p. 42).

We need to be as strategic with ourselves as we are with our careers and our businesses. We need to pace ourselves, nurture ourselves, and give ourselves fuel to explore, thrive, and perform (p. 94).

An essential intent, on the other hand, is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable. Done right, an essential intent is one decision that settles one thousand later decisions. It’s like deciding you’re going to become a doctor instead of a lawyer. One strategic choice eliminates a universe of other options and maps a course for the next five, ten, or even twenty years of your life. Once the big decision is made, all subsequent decisions come into better focus (p. 126).

The way of the Essentialist isn’t just about success; it’s about living a life of meaning and purpose. When we look back on our careers and our lives, would we rather see a long laundry list of “accomplishments” that don’t really matter or just a few major accomplishments that have real meaning and significance? (p. 230).

McKeown includes multiple examples from businesses and institutions. Just about the time I wished he brought some of his illustrations and principles down to a person level, he did.

One problem that he didn’t discuss, though, is when you can’t say no to obligations that seem meaningless. He says several times that saying no to the unnecessary meeting or obligation actually garners respect instead of resentment. But that’s not always the case. And you can’t always say no if your boss requires something that you think is a waste of time.

And you have to be careful that your time-savers don’t become an imposition on someone else. For instance, he mentions someone who skipped a regular hour-long meeting at work to get his own work done, then got a ten-minute summary from a coworker, thus saving himself forty minutes. But he doesn’t note that this guy was putting an unnecessary drain on his coworker’s time. If I had been the coworker, I would have been tempted to say, “If you want to know what happens at the meetings, you need to be there. I have too much to do to recap them for you every week.”

But those instances are minor. Most of what the author had to say was very good.

This isn’t a Christian book, and the author recommends a wide range of resources that I wouldn’t always agree with.

But overall, McKeown gave me much to chew on.

The Reluctant Duchess

The Reluctant Duchess is the second in Roseanna M. White’s Ladies of the Manor series.

Brice Myerston, the duke of Nottingham, was a side character in the series’ first book, The Lost Heiress. He was one of England’s most sought-after eligible bachelors, which he handled by being a notorious flirt to fend off serious advances from young ladies and their mothers. But he also had a close walk with God and uncanny sense of the right thing to do.

He finds himself in a knotty dilemma, though. His family has made their annual visit to Scotland to visit his mother’s family home not long after the death of his father. There, the Scottish laird, who has no use for Englishmen and has avoided the Myerstons all this time, asks the family to dinner. While there, the earl of Lochaber tries to set a trap for Brice to wed the earl’s daughter, Rowena. Brice steadfastly refuses at first. But then he realizes this is no title-seeking or money-grubbing ploy. Rowena is in serious trouble. Brice feels the Lord’s direction to protect her, and the only way to do that seems to be to marry her and take her back to England.

Rowena’s father has become harsh and distant since the death of her mother. Her fiance, Malcolm Kinnaird, seemed loving and kind at first. But his true colors came out when he forced himself on Rowena and became as controlling and as harsh as her father. Rowena hates that her father has set a trap for Brice, but she accepts his offer as the only way to escape.

But Rowena trembles at the thought of being a duchess in English society. And her fears come true when no one accepts her except Brice’s family and two of his closest friends. Rowena has been beaten down mentally and physically and has no confidence. She recoils from Brice physically and emotionally.

In addition to trying to discern how to help his new wife, Brice has another problem on his hands. He had offered to take and hide the rare treasure that had caused his friends, the Staffords, so much trouble (in the first book). But, though the main troublemaker had been killed, other dangerous pursuers are not giving up. And one of them is trying to entice Rowena into a false friendship.

This book had a bit of a rough start for me, with Rowena facing off against Malcolm, the knowledge that He had abused her, and a lot of yelling. In The Lost Heiress, even the villains had an air of gentility. In this book, even the Scottish nobility were quite rough around the edges.

But once I got into the story, I enjoyed it. Brice and Rowena had much to learn to trust each other, and each made many mistakes along the way.

The whole hidden treasures story line was as intriguing as any suspense novel. Besides the enemies Brice knows of, he discovers new unseen ones.

I think this could be read as a stand-alone story, but it’s a much richer experience to read both of them.

I listened to the audiobook, wonderfully read by Liz Pearce. I thought she did a great job with the different accents, which added a lot to the story.

As always, Roseanna did not write a fluff piece with this novel. She leads her characters to an understanding of their need and God’s abundant grace in an organic and not a preachy way.

What Is God’s Highest Calling?

I winced when I heard my mentor-from-afar say that motherhood was the highest calling.

Thirty years ago, hearing such sentiments encouraged me that my decision to stay home to raise my children was a valuable one, contrary to the feminist teaching that stay-at-home moms were somehow lesser beings than career women. And I am sure that’s how this writer and speaker meant her statement.

But where does that sentiment leave women to whom God has not given husbands or children? I know from this speaker’s other writings and speeches that she did not regard single or childless women as any less called by God to serve Him. Maybe in her desire to encourage mothers swimming against the tide of societal pressure, she just didn’t realize how her statement about calling sounded.

I’ve also heard preachers say that being a minister of the gospel is the highest calling. I don’t think they meant it arrogantly. It surely is a privilege to be able to study God’s Word and minister to people with the bulk of your time and life.

But I don’t think the Bible calls motherhood or professional ministry or anything else the highest call of God (unless I’ve missed it. Please feel free to let me know if I have).

In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, a man gave three of his servants differing amounts of money and told them to invest it while he was away. When he came back, he called his servants to give an account of what they did with what he gave them. The person with five talents and the one with three each invested their talents and doubled their money. They were each told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” The main focus on the passage was on the one servant who didn’t invest anything, but hid his talent away. The master was highly displeased and that servant was punished.

But even though the second servant isn’t the focus, I note that he didn’t grumble, “Well, I could have made ten talents if I had been given five like this other guy. But I was only given three, so this was the best I could do.” No, he was commended for doing what he could with what he had been given.

Paul tells us we’re not wise to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12), yet we all too easily fall into that trap.

What is God’s highest calling? No one profession or ministry. God’s highest calling for each person is to surrender themselves to Him for whatever He asks. He has a place and purpose for each of us.

When we cared for my husband’s mother in our home, hospice sent a bath aide out twice a week. I can’t think of anyone who grew up saying, “I want to give old people baths when I grow up.” But our primary bath aide treated her job as the most important thing she could be doing at the moment. She was efficient, she was on time unless something hindered, she was cheerful. She didn’t gripe about unpleasant aspects of the work. She treated my mother-in-law with dignity and respect. It was like she brought sunshine in with her. But her light came from the Son she loved.

Philippians 2:14-16a tells us we “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.”

We can shine His light and make a difference no matter where we are or what God has called us to. Secretaries, executives, doctors, nurses, firefighters, custodians, nursing home residents, all have unique spheres of influence.

In my husband’s first professional job, his supervisor was from a religion where he had been told not to read the Bible. His boss would never have entered a Baptist church, except maybe for a funeral or wedding. So my husband’s only means to share Christ with him were through conversations and working side by side over several years.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Those good works are not meant to count for salvation: the previous two verses tell us our salvation is a gift of God, not a result of our works. But from that salvation, from our love and thankfulness, we spend our lives to serve Him. There are things He created us to do, and our highest calling is to do whatever He has put before us with grace.

Does shining our light for the Lord mean nonstop witnessing? No. But when we “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), it shows in our lives.

We can shine for God whether we’re comforting a child with a skinned knee, drawing blood, answering a customer service call with a cheerful voice and efficient help, preaching a sermon, washing a patient’s hair, letting someone in our lane of traffic, or having the same conversation for the fifth time with an elderly loved one.

What matters is not the size of our service, but the One for Whom we do it and the love and grace He wants to show others through us.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

I have a fairly short list to share today.

Elizabeth the Faithful”–a Small Reflection on Our Queen, HT to Challies. I’ve read several tributes to and reflections of Queen Elizabeth, but I particularly liked this one, which contains an except of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermon after her she first became queen.

Why I’m No Longer Trying to Be Extraordinary, HT to the Story Warren. “Who are the people who left a lasting mark on you? My guess is they weren’t superstars, celebrity pastors, or people with global influence. In my life, the most influential people were the teachers, coaches, pastors, and family members whose roots went down deep. They led lives of quiet faithfulness, regularly slowing down long enough to be present with those around them.”

Will You Be Good at Your Thing Today? “There are many things we can be good at in this worldGod gives several talents to each person. But on this morning on this day, this nurse being good at drawing blood might make all the difference to this young boy. Whatever you do today, if you can, do it well. It might move someone from feeling terrified to being glad to see you

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Apply a Passage to Others, HT to Challies. “Some expositors and exegetes are gifted at applying Scripture. It’s as though these communicators have read our minds. They seem to effortlessly connect a text to our experiences and emotions. I envy them. Application doesn’t come easily for me. I have to work at it.”

Little Kids and Big Emotions. “Is there a way to help our children to begin to manage their feelings without stuffing them, prettying them up, or feeling as if there’s no room for them?”

For writers, seen at The Funnies, HT to Challies:

Just after praying for some dear to my heart, I was blessed and comforted to see this verse in my morning reading in Daily Light today:

Friday’s Fave Five

Wow, this month is going by so fast. Susanne at Living to Tell the Story hosts this opportunity to pause and appreciate the good things of the week, lest they’re forgotten in the bur of passing time.

1. Grandparent’s Day was last Sunday. Jason and Mittu observed it by bringing over dinner and dessert as well as flowers for me and jerky for Jim. Timothy colored pictures for us both.

2. Not getting sick when I thought I was. I thought I was catching a cold one morning, but felt better that evening and the next day. It must have been allergies, but it was odd to suddenly have such a reaction when I have been taking Claritin every day for months. Jim saw a weather report that day showing a map of our whole state under an allergen cloud.

3. A customer service call that took care of a problem (actually a second call, but thankfully everything got straightened out). It’s nice to hear those words, “I can help you with that.”

4. The Tennessee State Fair. We haven’t gone to the fair since a year or two before the pandemic. It’s a bit of a sensory overload outside, but we enjoyed watching Timothy on some rides. Inside the main building we always enjoy the 4-H competition displays in various categories.

We had a couple of unexpected blessings, one in finding a parking space right next to a gate. There were no signs about paying for parking, so we parked close and free. Jesse rode with us, and as we walked to the gate, the attendant asked if we had tickets to the fair. No—we had planned on buying them at the gate. She said she had three that she had been given to hand out to family members, but none of hers wanted to come. So she gave them to us.

5. Delicious coolness. The afternoons are still warm, but the mornings and evenings have been pleasant harbingers of fall breezes to come.

What’s something good from your week?

Jesus Led Me All the Way

I’ve mentioned before that Margaret Stringer is one of my favorite people. She was a missionary in Indonesia for forty years among former headhunters and cannibals. Though she had a variety of ministries among the people, one of her main jobs was reducing their language to writing, translating the New Testament into their language, and then teaching the people how to read.

The church we attended in SC supported Margaret. When she “retired,” she lived close enough to the church that she was available to come speak to the ladies’ group several times. She could have us laughing til we were in tears telling us about incidents that would have been quite scary when they happened to her.

Jesus Led Me All the Way is her second book about her time in Indonesia, the first being From Cannibalism to Christianity.

Margaret tells how from a very early age, she was sure God had called her to be a missionary. She had a hard time getting the first visa she needed, and it seemed like everyone brought up to her how Paul wanted to go to Macedonia in Acts, but God wouldn’t let him. Margaret wanted God’s will, whether that was Indonesia or somewhere else. But the delays and obstacles just made her more sure that Indonesia was where God wanted her. Later on the field, she was grateful for the hard time she had getting there because of the assurance it gave her that she was in God’s will.

She tells of her arrival on the field, early missionary life, learning the customs and language, getting adjusted to jungle food (like grub worms). She talks about how important it is to understand the world view of the people you’re trying to witness to.

It took a lot of patience to teach people who had not been taught before or hire helpers to learn the language when they had not had paying jobs before. If they wanted to go fishing instead of come to “work,” they did.

One chapter is on “People I Can’t Forget,” most of whom became part of the church there. It took much time and patience and prayer and overcoming many mistakes, but what a joy to see God open people’s eyes to His truth at last.

Margaret includes here one of my favorites of her stories. Once she was in an area where no house or huts were available, so she stayed in a small metal building with open windows (screens but no glass). Once when a terrible storm hit, rain blew in, destroying about 90% of her handwritten translation work. As she tried to salvage what she could and mop up the rest, she felt discouraged. She “fussed” with the Lord about dropping her down in the jungle and leaving her all alone. When she went to bed, something fell off the wall and hit her on the head. She felt like that was the last straw. She turned on her flashlight to see what had fallen. It was a plaque that said, “He cares for you.” She started laughing and said, “OK, Lord, I get it. Thank you.” She comments, “For some people, God speaks in a still small voice. Others of us, however, He conks on the head” (p. 125).

Margaret tells of difficulties in the translation work. She had to consider not just getting the words into Citak, but making them understood in their culture. For instance, they did not have a word for sister or brother—their words were older sister, younger sister, older brother, younger brother. That took some thought when dealing with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. All of their verbs incorporated time of day, so that had to be considered when translating narratives. The suffix “na” at the end of a sentence indicated the information was heard from someone else rather than witnessed directly. In Luke 11:11, when Jesus asks whether a father would give a serpent to his child when asked for a fish, they said, “Of course.” “The Citak people love to eat snake, and a good-sized python has much more meat on it than the average fish, so who wouldn’t want a snake instead of a fish?” (p. 205). they had to find a different word for a poisonous snake that conveyed the idea of the passage, that “no good father would give his son a poisonous snake when he asked for a fish.”

The Citak people had a big celebration day with invited guests, including dignitaries, when they handed out the completed New Testaments. One of Margaret’s greatest joys was seeing the Citak people’s joy at having the Word of God for themselves and their ability to read and understand it. But one of her greatest sorrows was when people from other villages with different dialects wanted the Bible in their language, too. She knew that it would take more time than she had left on the field to translate the NT for all the people there that needed it.

Margaret writes that the people “went from naked cannibals, without the Bible or ability to read, to 23 churches, and having the New Testament in their language. The journey was sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, sometimes discouraging, sometimes dangerous, but always rewarding” (p. xvii). I’m thankful she shared glimpses of that journey with us.

When You Have to Say No

When my husband and I were first married, if someone in the church we attended asked me to participate in some ministry, I usually said no. I worked in the nursery and sang in the choir. But I felt intimidated and inadequate to do much of anything else.

The ladies’ group in this particular church was highly organized with officers over various areas of responsibility. One fall, the president explained nominees for the next year would be notified soon. She encouraged those nominees not to say an automatic no, but to pray about the opportunity.

I was a nominee for the first time that year. I had been on a committee that changed the main hall bulletin board once a month to focus on a couple of missionaries our church supported. Bulletin boards had been the bane of my college education major, and I wasn’t excited about overseeing the committee for them for a whole year. But I took to heart the admonition to pray about it. I didn’t feel I should say no.

I was elected. I did not have to participate in every bulletin board, but I assembled a committee of ladies to work on them, usually two a month. Another officer made up the list of which missionaries were featured each month. Sometimes I’d come up with the idea for the boards; sometimes the ladies would.

Even though I was a reluctant officer at first, I learned and grew through the year. I came to actually enjoy bulletin boards, and I learned principles that enabled me in other areas of responsibility.

But then I went to the other extreme of feeling like everything that anyone asked me to do in church was of the Lord. I was soon overrun and overburdened.

It doesn’t take long, in church or in life, to learn that you can’t say yes to everything. Yet it’s hard to say no. You don’t want to let people down or let a need go unmet.

But no one can do everything. Here are some truths I learned along the way when trying to decide what to take on or let go. Maybe they’ll be a help to you, too.

Pray for wisdom. Just as my former ladies’ group president advised me not to say no until I prayed over an opportunity, I also should not say yes until doing the same. I shouldn’t use “Let me pray about it first” as a cop-out or stall tactic. But, even if I feel pretty sure one way or the other, I need to take it to the Lord.

Evaluate your season of life. When I had young babies, I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water. The outside ministries I was involved in only added pressure, and I wish now I had stepped back from them. I finally learned to do so with my third child. Likewise when we cared for my mother-in-law in our home, my husband and I both had to lay other ministries aside. There just wasn’t time or energy or mental space for anything else.

Remember little things add up. In one church, I had one major responsibility plus a lesser one. Over time, I was asked to take on other small tasks. They didn’t involve a great amount of time, so I said yes. But the small things that weren’t too much on their own added more pressure all together. I had to hand off some of them to others.

Remember my no may be someone else’s yes. Once I felt particularly bad about saying no to an opportunity, even though I felt sure I should. The person who said yes was as reluctant as I was with my first office, but she did a wonderful job. I realized that if I had said yes, I would have been robbing her of that opportunity.

Don’t feel guilty. If this opportunity is of the Lord, He has someone in mind for it. If it’s not you, He’ll help bring the right person to it. Or it may be time to set certain ministries aside or reorganize them. This happened with a homeschool support group we were part of in GA. It had started out small: one mom got together with a few other moms, organized field trips and get-togethers, and began an informal newsletter. But the group grew exponentially. When the woman who started the group had her seventh baby, she had to drop everything involved with the group. For the next year, I think the only thing we did as a group was the monthly renting of the skating rink. But by the end of that year, different moms volunteered for different areas. The year off had shown us how much we wanted and needed the group plus helped us diversify responsibilities so everything wasn’t on one person. And that gave more people opportunity to learn and grow in their areas. In hindsight, it might have been better if the original mom had tried to transition things before having to drop it all. I don’t know if she just didn’t think of it or if she had planned to continue until she realized she couldn’t. She might not have had time to figure it all out. But it all worked out for the best.

And sometimes a lack of available personnel means it’s time for that particular ministry to come to an end. Greg McKeown suggests running a “reverse pilot” in his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This isn’t a Christian book, but it has lots of good common-sense principles. A pilot program is used by companies to help discern whether a certain product or service would be beneficial. A reverse pilot tries to discern what the effect would be of removing a certain product or service. Greg told of a senior executive in a new position who kept up with his predecessor’s detailed visual report for the other executives. This report was time-consuming for both him and his team and didn’t seem to serve any useful purpose. So he just stopped doing it to see what happened. No one seemed to miss it. As organizations, churches, and even our individual lives change over the years, some practices will no longer be needed.

Don’t say yes for the wrong reasons. As much as we don’t want to disappoint people, we can’t always do everything everyone else wants. We also shouldn’t say yes for fear of missing out. We have to guard against pride: sometimes being part of a certain committee or ministry might bring a measure of prestige or feelings of importance.

Consider the trade-offs. What will be the impact of this new responsibility mean to my schedule, my energy, my family, and other ministries and activities I am involved in? Can I handle something new, or will I need to let something go if I take this on? Is it worth the trade?

If you have to say no, be gracious. I’ve asked someone to participate in a particular ministry only to be met with wide eyes and the equivalent of “Are you kidding?” This was someone who, as far as I could tell, seemed to have extra time. But then another lady volunteered who I would never have asked because of everything else I knew she had on her plate. Of course, we don’t really know what people have going on in their lives. And the issue isn’t always one of time. But when you find you do need to say no, don’t make the other person feel bad for asking. Ultimately you both want the right person for the job or ministry or opportunity. When you pray about and feel you’re not that person for this situation, you might also pray about the best way to say no so that the asker isn’t discouraged. Maybe something like, “I’m sorry, I have all I can handle right now. But I’ll be praying God will lead you to the right person.” You might also suggest someone else that you feel would be a good fit (and it’s probably best to ask them first if they’d mind your suggesting their name).

Remember even Jesus said no to some requests. Jesus did not give a sign when people asked for one, because they had plenty of evidence to believe who He was. Once, after a full day of preaching, he went out alone the next morning to pray (Mark 1:38). People found Him and “would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose’” (Luke 4:42-43). Healing was part of His ministry, but not the main purpose. Every person He healed would eventually die. Every person He raised from the dead would face death again. He came to provide hope for life after death and kept that the main focus.

Even aside from ministry opportunities, we have to tell ourselves no sometimes to activities that are harmless in themselves but aren’t our main purpose. We have more activities available than ever before and need God’s wisdom and guidance to know what’s best.

How about you? What helps you decide whether to say yes or no to new opportunities?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few of the thought-provoking reads found this week:

Hey, Christian, Don’t “Quiet Quit” Your Faith, HT to Challies. “But enough about the noisy quitters! What about the quiet quitters of the faith? There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the rise of the ‘Dones’, those who have just finished with the faith. But there’s a way of leaving the faith that’s less obvious. . . “

Driven by Awe, HT to Challies. “When Christians think of fighting sin, we usually imagine strict self-discipline and saying ‘no’ to wrong desires. Certainly, self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and a means of helping us fight our sin. But, what if we had another tool given to us by the Spirit to help us overcome?”

When You Hear of a Scandal, HT to Challies. “I’m no longer naïve. I’m not surprised when I hear of a Christian leader falling into sin. I have, however, learned four important lessons on how to guard my own heart when I hear of another leader who’s fallen.”

Though My Flesh May Fail: Reflections on Chronic Suffering From the Hospital Bed, HT to Challies. “I’m a firm believer in the sovereignty of God’s grace. I believe everything that happens to the believer is for good. After receiving an autoimmune diagnosis and seeing the subsequent bills roll in, though, this conviction has been put to the test. Amidst temptations to doubt, God continues to reveal His good purposes for me in my affliction. As I sit in my hospital bed today, three lessons stand out among the rest as reminders of the sovereignty of God’s grace and His goodness in my life.”

Planning Like Paul. “Some Christians think that making plans for your life is the opposite of being Spirit-led. . . They’ll tell you that if you make plans then you aren’t trusting God. What you really need to do is just let go and let God. But is this the model of the Christian life that Scripture presents us with? Should we never make plans? Are goals simply a manifestation of a lack of faith?”

A Few Handfuls for Weary Little Listeners. I love this idea and examples of speaking directly to children in a message.

Stories Are Light. “Isn’t this why we read to our children, why we fill their minds and hearts with true and beautiful story? Why we seek to cultivate their imagination and sense of what is good and holy? This beautiful confession took my words away. Wow, I said. You’re right. That is beautiful and true and wise.”

Tomorrow is the twenty-first anniversary of 9/11. Some years I have acknowledged the anniversary with post, but not always. But I do like to take a moment to think about it. Many of us promised we would “never forget” that tragedy, and I want to keep that promise. It’s a good time to pray for the survivors, the families of the fallen still living with loss, the fight against terrorism.