Crazy Busy

Crazy BusyWhen people ask me how I am, my default answer has become, “Busy.” I get so sick of giving that answer. It seems like that’s what everyone says (whether they’re really busy or not) because often (and unfortunately) in our society, busy-ness is equated with success and it sometimes feels like we try to one-up each other to be the busiest. It literally starts to make me nauseous if I think about it too long.

This past weekend I was blessed to get away for four days in order to attend my cousin’s wedding in South Carolina. This meant I had 8 hours of free time in the car to fill with whatever I wished (ha! Most of that time was spent fielding emails on my phone). I had been wanting to read Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy since before it came out, so that’s what I did (inbetween the email dings). Several years ago, when I read Just Do Something and The Hole in Our Holiness, I loved the way he wrote so openly, honestly, humorously, and concisely, yet packed in so much truth! Crazy Busy is the same way. He writes as one who hasn’t figured it all out, but wrote to find out.

Yes, I’m one of those people who has been blessed with a full plate, but I’m learning that I need to evaluate what I let get put on my plate and when I eat it. Sometimes I put things on my plate I think are good for me, but actually turn out to be junky foods that profit no one. Sometimes God puts things on my plate I wouldn’t have chosen that stretch me and help me grow. I’m also learning that the less I put on my plate, the more attention I can give to the quality of the metaphorical food I’m facing. Saying “No” is stinking hard, especially for this girl who has a people-pleasing personality and needs to work on choosing the good portion (Luke 10:42).

“We have to believe that the most significant opportunity before us every day is the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus. We won’t rearrange our priorities unless we really believe this is the best one” (pg. 115).

Speaking of rearranging priorities, DeYoung also had some great words about prioritizing and pruning activities in chapter 5.

  • “One reason we never tame the busyness beast is because we are unwilling to kill anything.” (pg. 62)
  • “Setting priorities is an expression of love for others and for God.” (pg. 62)
  • “Unless God intends for us to serve only the loudest, neediest, most intimidating people, we need to plan ahead, set priorities, and serve more wisely so that we might serve more effectively.” (pg. 62)
  • “If Jesus is any example, God does expect us to say no to a whole lot of good things so that we can be freed up to say yes to the most important things He has for us.” (pg. 63)

Over time, I have found that when I confine my work to regular working hours and focus fully on relationships, other responsibilities, and rest in the off-time, I actually do better work. Go figure. Isn’t that how God designed it in the first place? “He also offers us a Sabbath as a test; it’s an opportunity to trust God’s work more than our own” (pg. 91). I’m all about taking a Sabbath even though sometimes it’s hard to resist catching up a little bit. But I’ve found that even if I choose not to do it on Sunday, it always ends up getting done. There is undoubtedly something extra wonderful, refreshing, and powerful about the Sunday Afternoon Nap. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes shutting off the computer and laying down your head is an act of faith, trusting that the Lord will strengthen you for tomorrow’s tasks and shower you with new mercies.

And routine? I love routine, but I have an awful mess of one. That’s something else I’ve been praying about and working on. DeYoung was definitely singing the same song I’ve been trying to find words to for months in the “Ain’t Got No Rhythm” section of chapter 8. 

Many of us are less busy than we think, but life feels constantly overwhelming because our days and weeks and years have no rhythm. …One of the dangers of technology is that work and rest blend together in a confusing mush. We never quite leave work when we’re at home, so the next day we have a hard time getting back to work when we’re at work. We have no routine, no order to our days. We are never completely “on” and never totally “off.” So we dawdle on YouTube for twenty minutes at the office and then catch up on e-mails for forty minutes in front of the TV at home. …Over time most of us work less effectively, whether it’s in the home or out of the home, and find our work less enjoyable when there is no regular, concentrated, deliberate break. … We can’t run incessantly and expect to run very well. (pg. 92-93)

If you are one of those precious friends who has been so kind to ask how you can pray for me, it is highly likely that I have responded asking you to pray that I would keep my life balanced with Christ not only at the center, but permeating through all of it. That has honestly been my biggest struggle for the past year and a half or so, but by God’s grace (and only by God’s grace), it’s getting better. Thank you, THANK YOU, for praying!

I could go on and on with excellent quotes from Crazy Busy that address social media, engaged thumbs, hospitality, parenting, and so much more, but really you should just read it yourself. Its subtitle is true. It truly is a (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem. Please make time to read it.

I’ll end with a quote from what is perhaps my favorite page of the book, page 108.

For the sake of Christ, we must be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. And yes, sometimes we must be content with busyness. For when you are weak, then you are strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul had pressure. You have pressure too. But God can handle the pressure. Do not be surprised when you face crazy weeks of all kinds. And do not be surprised when God sustains you in the midst of them. 

That just might be the best part of all the busyness, pressure, and ridiculously crazy weeks: realizing that you’re operating only by the immeasurable amount of grace He ends up giving to get through it all.

(And the next time you ask me how I am, if I happen to respond with “Busy,” please~please~please be a true friend and smack me.)

 

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Enough.

I read David Platt’s Radical when it first came out a couple of years ago and while it did help change the way I view the world and the way I choose to live my life, my life didn’t really change too drastically. After hearing multiple sermons on Luke 9-10 and having conversations with friends who are following with a price, I’ve decided to reread it–this time with a new set of eyes and at a little bit different stage in life.

This time around, I find myself being able to read only a few little bites at a time because it’s so doggone convicting.

David Platt Radical Happy MealAs I was eating my lunch in McDonald’s today (a happy meal with David Platt just sounds so right), I started reading chapter 2 where he describes meeting with an underground house-church in a small room. I had to put the book down and just sit for a while after reading the following passage. It’s followed me all day.

“Despite its size, sixty believers have crammed into it. They are all ages, from precious little girls to seventy-year-old men. They are sitting either on the floor or on small stools, lined shoulder to shoulder, huddled together with their Bibles in their laps. The roof is low, and one light bulb dangles from the middle of the ceiling as the sole source of illumination. 

No sound system.
No band. 
No guitar. 
No entertainment. 
No cushioned chairs. 
No heated or air-conditioned building. 
Nothing but the people of God and the Word of God. 
And strangely, that’s enough. 

God’s Word is enough for millions of believers who gather in house churches just like this one. His Word is enough for millions of other believers who huddle in African jungles, South American rain forests, and Middle Eastern cities. 

But is His Word enough for us?

This is the question that often haunts me when I stand before a crowd of thousands of people in the church I pastor. What if we take away the cool music and the cushioned chairs? What if the screens are gone and the stage is no longer decorated? What if the air conditioning is off and the comforts are removed? Would His Word still be enough for His people to come together?” {Radical, pg. 26-27}

I’m grateful to attend a “no-frills added” kind of church. I don’t say that to brag at all–it’s certainly only by God’s grace that the premium is placed on the Gospel and His Word is the best thing we have to offer.

It’s easy to lose sight of what our focus should truly be. So often I find myself comparing my church to other churches–even the trivial physical aspects. When these silly thoughts pop into my head and I have to be swift to capture them and make them flee because what truly matters in the end? God’s Word.

We may not have a multi-million dollar freestanding building. We may not have a praise band. We may not have a coffee bar. We may not have an unbelievably decorated children’s ministry wing. But we do have the Word of God–and that is enough.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth;
it shall not return to Me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
{Isaiah 55:10-11}

I’m a fan of “Not a Fan” {Book Review}

I just finished Kyle Idleman’s “Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus.” I was a fan. And I was not just a fan, I’m a follower of the truths he presented. Most importantly, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. “Not a Fan” reminded me of the importance of counting the cost and living as a doulas, a slave to Christ, one who takes up their cross, follows Him, and dies daily.

Idleman presented truths boldly while also maintaining a sense of humor. One of the passages that struck me most was the following:

“A few months ago I was speaking in Houston, Texas, and a good-sized man, with a good-sized belt buckle, came up to me with tears in his eyes. He began to tell me the story of his prodigal daughter, how she went to college and totally turned her back on the faith. As soon as he started the story I knew how it would go. I’ve heard it so many times, even the details seem predictable. But when he finished, he didn’t ask me why she was doing this or what had gone wrong. He wasn’t looking for an explanation. Instead, with one sentence he put his finger on what he thought happened. Here’s what he said…

We raised her in Church, but we didn’t raise her in Christ.

You hear what he is saying? We raised her to look right on the outside but didn’t teach her about the inside. We taught her to keep all the rules, but she never really had a relationship. We made her feel guilty for the wrong things she did, but somehow she missed God’s amazing grace. 

We taught her to be a fan of Jesus — instead of a follower of Jesus.”
{page 83}

This situation is all too common. As my dad frequently says, “The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.” I thank God for giving me parents who always looked to the deeper side of my disobedience by dealing with the spiritual side of things first. You can only look good on the outside for so long. For effects that last a lifetime, your heart has to be changed and the Spirit must live in you. And when the Spirit lives inside of you, you can’t just be a fan, you are compelled to be a follower. You WANT to give up everything. He changes your whole outlook on life.

By His grace and because of His grace, may we die daily to ourselves and live to the glory of God, not just as fans, but as followers.

And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
{Luke 9:23-24}

One Thousand Gifts {Book Reflection}

Over the past few years, I have started becoming thankful for the little things in life more than I used to, but reading Ann Voskamp‘s “One Thousand Gifts” helped me realize the necessity of being thankful for everything.

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” {1 Thessalonians 5:18}

Want to be in God’s will? Give thanks. As corny as it may sound, gratitude really does change your attitude.

“Thanks is what builds trust.” {page 150}

I’m learning by experience that one way to make Jesus bigger in your eyes is to list the many grace-gifts He gives you each day. Everything from a gem of truth He reveals to you as you read His Word, to the beauty of His glory seen in His creation. Like the old hymn states, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” I’ve started keeping a journal to list such gifts and it’s amazing how much He blesses me day by day in ways I never noticed before.

“Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on.” {page 151} 

Remember the Lord’s faithfulness shown to you in the past to increase your faith that He is working out your future for your good. When you are actively thankful for the way He is working in the little things, you are more apt to trust Him with the bigger things. Look at David for example…he had confidence that the Lord could deliver him from the hand of Goliath because of how God had delivered him from the paw of the lion and paw of the bear in his past. “And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.'” {1 Samuel 17:37}

“To see the glory, name the graces.” {page 129}

Ann Voskamp often uses the phrase, “All is grace.” How very true. Everything He gives, everything He withholds. It’s ALL grace, being worked together for my good! In reality, I’m a sinner who deserves the wrath of God, but because of GRACE, my sins have been covered by Christ’s precious blood. So, frankly, anything outside of hell is grace. What lavish grace He has shown! Doesn’t that make Jesus more beautiful in your eyes?

I had heard sooooo many good reviews about this book and am so glad I finally took the time to read it. It literally is a book that you cannot put down. Ann is a very gifted writer who carefully chooses every word. You NEED to read it. I promise you once you do, the book will be near the top of your 1,000 gifts list…guaranteed.

Forgotten God {Book Review}

Francis Chan has swept the LCA Band Staff by storm this summer. I had read Crazy Love at the beginning of this year and was very challenged by it, so I was eager to jump on board with the rest of the staff and start reading the sequel during band camp. (Who reads a book during band camp anyways?! That’s proof in and of itself that the Holy Spirit is alive and working!)

In Forgotten God, Chan reminds readers about the importance of the Holy Spirit…the member of the Trinity who is often looked over.

Sadly enough, it is easy to forget that the Spirit of the Living God lives within me. Paul reminds us several times in Scripture, confirming how prone we are to forget. “Hello, Sarah. Did you forget…again…that the Spirit dwells in you?”

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” {1 Corinthians 3:16}

I know the Holy Spirit dwells in me, but transferring that truth from my head to my heart and applying that day-by-day, moment-by-moment is a different story. Every moment of every day, the Spirit lives in me, prompting me to do what is right in God’s holy eyes. Being constantly aware that HE–not me–is the One at work, empowering me to do the right thing, is something I battle all the time.

“If you have received by faith the promise of the Holy Spirit,
you are also His temple.
As you drive your children to school. As you go to work every day.
As you embark on a new, unknown season. As you go to school.
As you face tragedy and pain. As you buy groceries.
As you give of yourself in relationships.
As you walk the dog. As you make decisions.
As you live your life, the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you.”
{
pages 110-111}

When I let that person over in traffic, the Spirit is working in me.  When I leave a generous tip to the crummy waiter, the Spirit is working in me. When I take a step way out of my comfort zone to feed the homeless, the Spirit is working in me. When I initiate Gospel-centered conversation, the Spirit is working in me. When I let the Mom with a cart-full of groceries and 5 screaming kids cut in front of me at Kroger, that’s most definitely the Spirit working in me.

The Holy Spirit is who clothes me with power to do what is right. Anything good that I do is initiated by the Spirit living within me.

“I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit.
I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power.
I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through.
That if He doesn’t come through, I am screwed.
(I probably shouldn’t write that word here, but it’s how I truly feel about this.)”
{
page 142

The Forgotten God used Francis Chan’s Forgotten God to serve my soul well. I was humbly reminded that there’s nothing amazing about Sarah Caroline Wainright in and of herself. I’m just a girl living an ordinary life with Someone extraordinary shining through me. May my actions always be unexplainable apart from the Holy Spirit.

I hope the Spirit leads you to pick up a copy!

Twelve Extraordinary Women {Book Review}

One of my sweet sisters in Christ, Becky Vance, gave me a book for my birthday that I could not wait to read. I just knew I’d sit down and read it all in one sitting. Well, it’s June now. My birthday was in January. And (*runs and hides*) I may or may not have just now finished the book.

It’s not that it wasn’t a good book. No, not at all. It was an excellent book! You know it’s common for people to say, “That was such a good book…I couldn’t put it down.” I’m the opposite…if it’s a really good book, I don’t want it to be over…which explains why it took me 6 months to read John MacArthur’s “Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women of the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You.”

Twelve Extraordinary Women was such a blessing to me because MacArthur used each woman’s life to point to Christ. He didn’t present them in a false light, but made sure to show how God used them in spite of their failures and weaknesses.

Perhaps my favorite “extraordinary woman” he focused on was Sarah, my namesake. She certainly had her faults and shortcomings. According to Genesis 18:12, she even laughed when she heard God’s plan for her to have a son. (I could just see me giggling to myself upon hearing what God plans are for my life.) But after all was said and done, she was remembered for her faith.

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful Who had promised.” {Hebrews 11:11}

I long to have the faith of Sarah. I think the more she saw God work in her life and watched Him extend grace to her despite her sinful and selfish heart, the more she began to trust Him. I need to recount the ways the Lord has worked in my life. When I KNOW from experience that He is faithful, I will only trust Him more.

“The most significant women in Scripture were influential not because of their careers, but because of their character…The faithfulness of these women is their true, lasting legacy.” {pg. xvii}

The common thread in these women was their Christ-centeredness. All of them were empty of themselves and let the Spirit of God work through them. They were just ordinary ladies who would have amounted to nothing of any importance by human standards, but when they were wholeheartedly submitted to God, they became extraordinary women. None of them cared to be seen, but remained modest and humble because they knew they weren’t doing great things on their own, but that it was God working in them.

I may not be the most successful businesswoman or the prettiest girl on the block, but by the grace of God, I hope that my life counts for His glory. I want to be faithful in the little things He gives me to do, always serving with joy. I don’t want people to remember Sarah Wainright for who she was, but for the extraordinary things Christ did through her to expand His kingdom and magnify His Name. May my life always be lived to make God famous.

It’s fascinating to think that the same God who used Sarah, Rahab, Ruth, Mary, Anna, and Lydia also seeks to use the ladies of my generation for His glory!