When to say yes, when to say no

Join me for deep thoughts. It happens so infrequently here, doesn’t it?

So I listened to Rob Bell’s first podcast the other day and my initial thought was, “I wish he would talk without so many pauses.” He speaks the way he writes, which is just.

like.

this.

Pause for impact.

His messages are usually thought-provoking and cause a stir in my brain. That’s good, mostly. Once I get over his speaking and writing style I can focus on what he’s saying rather than how he’s saying it. The podcast, or Robcast (eye roll), was about paring down your life so that you are only connected to the things you really, truly want to be connected to. Because life is busy, you know? We are ALL SO BUSY, so much that when we talk to each other, it’s all about how busy we are.

“How’s it going?”

“Oh, we’re SO BUSY.”

“Yeah, we’re CRAZY BUSY TOO.”

Etc., etc.

Somehow, this is our normal. We don’t have time, we’re over-extended, racing here and there and everywhere. Part of it is have-to, part of it is guilt-drenched obligation. Rob suggests dumping the obligation and making the choice to say No when something (or even someone) isn’t a top priority.

He gives the example of going to a fundraising dinner with his wife. They accepted an invitation to a charity dinner with a friend of theirs, got a sitter, and had a decent time. If he had to grade it, he’d give the night a B. For his friend, who was all in for the charity, would rate it an A. So Rob sat there thinking, “This is his A, but only my B. How else could I have spent this time?” While the cause was good and the company was fine, he felt like his time wasn’t spent as wisely as it could’ve been and therefore started to wonder how often we choose B’s over A’s.

The point is this: If our time is so limited and precious, why not focus entirely on the stuff that WE TOTALLY, INSANELY LOVE and are PASSIONATE about? Additionally, if we’re all bogged down by B- and C-rated activities, how will we have time for all the A’s?

In other words, how can we get around to the edifying stuff if all our time is spend in active obligation?

yes or no

I used to feel like time was escaping me, like I didn’t have a minute to breathe, but that was mostly when I was working and doing a lot of parenting on my own in Amarillo. There have also been other times when I did all sorts of activities I hated because I thought that’s what I’m supposed to do, like teach Vacation Bible School. Yeah, not my thing. 

Today, in this season of life, I have a lot of free time and that’s because I’ve said No to plenty of things. I said No to traditional education for my kids and No to outside employment. (It isn’t without consequence. Saying No to income means saying No to spending.) I’ve also said No to social activities that aren’t edifying and friendships that drain me. That allows me to say Yes to time with my kids, Yes to writing a novel, and Yes to devoting more time and energy to the meaningful, long-lasting friendships I already have. I say No to more television so I can say Yes to more books.  I said No to serving on a committee at church because I’m already on another committee and a board in our Presbytery. Two is fine, three is too much.

And so on.

There are weeks when I feel CRAZY BUSY but that’s usually because it’s a rare week that has extra doctor’s appointments or travel plans or something out of the ordinary. When those weeks come around, I say No to even more.

snobby-no

Perhaps this is why I’m not one of those Moms who’s saying, “Where did the time go? When did my kids grow up so fast?” I don’t have parenting whiplash. I’ve been present for most of it. Everything is going along just as it should be. I don’t feel cheated or blind-sided by the time-warp of busyness.

All this being said, what am I missing out on by saying No? Am I missing out on an experience that I need? A lesson I should learn? Creating a meaningful friendship with someone? A selfless bout of giving because it’s important to serve others? These are all possibilities when we turn away opportunity in an attempt to keep our lives simple. Surely we aren’t supposed to keep to ourselves and only give of our time when it suits us.

happy-yes

When you’re trying to figure out whether to say Yes or No, here are eight unscientific questions to ask yourself:

  1. Am I physically/emotionally/financially able to do this thing?
  2. Will this thing benefit my primary professional/spiritual/familial goals?
  3. Do I have a specific talent or gift that would be useful and meaningful in this situation?
  4. Am I sacrificing my family/loved ones to make this happen for me?
  5. Do I really want to do it or am I trying to make someone else happy by doing it?
  6. Am I being lazy or am I truly over-extended?
  7. Am I scared of what people would think of me if I said Yes or No?
  8. What does my gut tell me?

The last one is the biggest question because our instincts are usually the most reliable source of information we need when trying to make a decision. I don’t mean the self-talk we use to persuade ourselves of one thing or another. I mean that deep-rooted, Spirit-driven, soul-connected voice that tells use the scariest, most honest truths about ourselves. THAT voice. You know what I’m saying.

So why type all of this if I’m already saying No to so many things? Perhaps because I need to practice saying Yes or remind myself that it’s okay to say No. Maybe I know that some of my friends aren’t saying Yes enough or No enough, or they don’t know how to decide and feel imprisoned by so much obligation. I encourage you to list to the first Robcast (eye roll) and hear what he has to say. It’s titled “One Thing,” and if you can get past his excessive pausing, you might gain a nugget of inspiration to help you make some decisions in your life.

Yes or no?

The Ultimate Goal: To be at peace

Here’s a nugget of goodness to chew on this weekend.

You can’t be connected with God until you’re at peace with who you are. If you’re still upset that God have you this body or this life or this family or these circumstances, you will never be able to connect with God in a healthy, thriving, sustainable sort of way. You’ll be at odds with your maker. And if you can’t come to terms with who you are and the life you’ve been given, you’ll never be able to accept others and how they were made and the lives they’ve been given. And until you’re at peace with God and those around you, you will continue to struggle with your role on the planet, your part to play in the ongoing creation of the universe. You will continue to struggle and resist  and fail to connect.

This paragraph leapt off the page and smacked me in the face yesterday. I’m about half way through Rob Bell’s Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality, so if I encounter any more earth-shattering bits, I’ll post them for you.

let go or be dragged

We, Image Bearers

Somehow, in between graduate school, homeschooling, painting cabinets, scheduling photo shoots, and oil pulling, I’ve managed to continue the self-imposed charge to read meaty books during Lent.

Right, we’re still in Lent. How easy it is to forget when the ashes wash off and I have a screenplay and short story due the same week.

I finished City of God in a couple of days. It was a great book to start with since it’s primarily focused around Ash Wednesday and its affect on people outside the walls of the church. Sara Miles is a lovely writer who paints a very clear picture of everyday life in San Fransisco’s Mission District. Some bits were heavier than others, and some bits were quite humorous, but it was a quick read and gave me a deeper understanding of how the tradition of Ash Wednesday is one that physically connects people to God.

Then I started reading Understanding the Four Views on Baptism, which is significantly heavier in church history and denominational tradition. It is an actual study, not a collection of anecdotes, so I’m taking this one slowly. The four views represented are Baptist, Lutheran, Reformed, and Christian Church/Church of Christ, and after each view of baptism is presented, the other three representatives offer a response.

People, we are so stinkin’ divided. The more I read, the more I grieve. I am currently knee-deep in the Lutheran view but have decided to take a break and switch to something lighter for the week. Yesterday, I started Sex God by Rob Bell.

This was one I picked up from McKay’s before I realized how irritating Rob Bell’s writing style is. But, since I’m reading for content, I’ll muscle through.

Yesterday, he made some great points about us – all of us – being “image bearers” and how often we reverse God’s creative process to suit our judgments. I had to share:

In the beginning, God created us “in his image.” So first, God gave us an image to bear. Then God gave us gender: male and female. Then God gave us something to do, to take care of the world and move it forward, taking part in the ongoing creation of the world. Later, people began moving to different places. It takes years and years of human history to get to the place where these people are from here and those people are from there. Different locations, skin colors, languages, and cultures come much later in human history.

What we often do is reverse the creative process that God initiated. We start with all the different cultural backgrounds and skin colors and nationalities, and it’s only when we look past these things that we are able to get to what we have in common – that we are fellow image-bearers with the shared task of caring for God’s creation. We get it all backward. We see the differences first, and only later, maybe, do we see the similarities.

Guilty as charged. I feel so silly when common sense slaps me upside the head, and this is only the beginning of the book.

Of course, it’s infinitely difficult to look at some people, like [insert name of serial killer here] and see the image of God, but I think we grow closer to God by trying. We deepen our own understanding of humanity by making the effort to see the similarities before we see the differences. The payoff is exponentially greater.

image of god

Unlearning/Relearning

I’m currently reading Love Wins by Rob Bell. His writing style is not my favorite (in fact, it’s a bit obnoxious), but he’s controversial and thought-provoking, which made him perfect for my Lent book list.

Yesterday I was trudging along on page 22 when I was suddenly stopped by this:

My wife, Kristen, and I often talk about raising our kids in such a way that they have as little as possible to unlearn later on in life.

In this particular section he’s talking about our image of Jesus, the stuff we’re taught as children compared to the stuff we learn as we get older. However I immediately expanded this thought to a much broader scale and in turn felt the weight of everything I’m teaching my boys – intentionally or unintentionally. Then I started thinking about all the things I’m unlearning now, and then I got a headache.

I am very intentional about driving home the essentials with my boys – love God, be kind, be thankful, eat the food Mom puts on your plate – with the hope that these are the umbrella values that encompass the rest. For example, if you learn to be kind, then you won’t need to be taught all the things you’re not supposed to do that aren’t kind.

[By the way, no one tells you that this is the meat of parenting. NO ONE. And if they did tell you, then you weren’t listening because you were too preoccupied picking out cloth diaper patterns.]

After pondering the concept of unlearning, I heard this from Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, first thing this morning:

You cannot give what you do not have.

Sure, that sounds pretty simple. For example, I cannot give you ham sandwich if I do not have a ham sandwich.

But what about –

I cannot give you patience if I do not have patience, or

I cannot give you perspective if I do not have perspective, or

I cannot give you calm if I do not have calm, or

I cannot give you laughter if I do not have laughter, or

I cannot give you God if I do not have God.

Yes, now I see what he means. And therein lies the weight of raising these boys. If I want to teach them things they won’t need to unlearn later – love, kindness, God – then I better make sure I already have that stuff to begin with. If I want to parent in confidence and not out of fear, if I want to show them everyday what is really important, if I want to equip them with everything they need for productive living, then I have to start with me and my own heart.

And that sounds too overwhelming for words.

The Book Fairy

First of all, Jeremy has the flu. I thought it might be strep, but after that test came back negative our doctor swabbed him for the flu. The poor kiddo is feverish, flush and coughing. He and Salem are currently snuggling.

When the doctor asked if we needed a note for school I gave him a funny look, to which he replied, “Oh right.” I teased him and said that I knew the principal, so we didn’t need a note.

This afternoon, when I got home from getting a few groceries, a lovely box from Amazon was sitting on my doorstep. This is the result of late-night, . Usually what happens is over the course of several weeks I’ll browse books and drop them in my virtual cart. I used to order mostly fiction books along with add-ons to our homeschool curriculum.

Then, on some random evening after I’ve taken my sleeping pill, I’ll decide it’s a good time to press the “checkout” button, thereby officially ordering whatever books I’ve dropped in the cart. In the morning, I’ll forget what I’ve done, so when an Amazon box shows up on my doorstep, I realize the Book Fairy has paid me a visit.

Or rather, I ordered books about 20 minutes after taking my Ambien pill and therefore have no memory of it the next day.

We’re in the middle of Lent, so all of the books in my virtual cart were added when I was mostly coherent. (For Lent, I decided to forgo fiction and read only the books that I would have most likely avoided five years ago. I wrote about this more in depth here.) The Book Fairy did a great job this time around, so there is much reading to do! These are in addition to two I already finished (here and here), the Shane Hipps book I’m about to finish, and three Rob Bell books under the nightstand that I have yet to read.

Books for LentLast week Chuck teased me about this becoming a “dog blog,” so I intentionally didn’t share photos of Major this week. I’m so proud of myself for almost following through.

Walking Major