We haven’t stopped laughing since Tracy sent in this story about her husband. A big thank you to Tracy’s husband Matt for being a great sport!
Janelle for the girls
We have a bees’ nest under one of our bushes in the front of our yard. The bummer is, the bush is at our front walkway so everytime we go out or come in, we need to walk around so as to avoid the mad rush of bees. I for one just walk right by figuring that if I don’t bother them, they won’t bother me. Matt and the kids are not so carefree.
Matt had to preach this morning so he left early and was probably in a rush, so instead of walking across our lawn, he just risked it and walked quickly past the bush. Bad move. Before even reaching his car, he realized he had been stung and as he was driving to church, his arm was swelling up. Did I mention that Matt is allergic to bees and as long as I’ve known him, I’ve heard him proclaim, “The only good bee is a dead bee!”
After church when I saw him, he showed me his arm and I immediately pulled him over to Steve Bickel - the resident pastor/pharmacist. Treatment required: Benadryl.
When Matt arrived home, his arm was swollen even more and he was finding it extremely difficult not to scratch it. Treatment required: anti-itch cream. Sounds good, right. He found some cream upstairs that he apparently really lathered on - BIG TIME lathered on. It seemed to help. Or, was it all in his head?
We had a single sister over that evening and after slipping into the kitchen for a cookie, she made an interesting discovery. Her face was turning a bright pink and she looked like she was holding back laughter. I asked her a few times what was going on and she finally whispered in my ear that the cream Matt was using was this. Of course I cracked up and then told Matt to check out the cream he had been using. He got up, walked into the kitchen and broke out in his deep laughter upon the discovery. He’s convinced that this was part of the sovereignty of God, if only for a fresh opportunity to laugh at himself and to be laughed at.
We hope the simple suggestions for managing your holiday time have been helpful. But let’s be clear: this is not a self-help blog, because if truth be told, we can’t help ourselves. Whether peacefully navigating the Christmas season—or any other season of life—we must constantly depend upon God’s help.
What does it mean to depend on God? Proverbs 3:6 answers that question: In all your ways acknowledge him.” Charles Bridges explains how this works out in everyday life:
“Take one step at a time, every step under Divine warrant and direction. Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God. It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without his counsel. He loves to be consulted.”
It’s the “ordinary matters of the day” that we try to accomplish on our own, is it not? When we’re faced with a big decision, Proverbs 3:6 is our go-to verse. We’re quick to acknowledge our need for God in extraordinary situations. But Christmas preparations? We think can handle them by ourselves.
But of course we can’t! Rather, we must abandon self-effort and self-idolatry and actively choose to depend on God.
So let’s humbly conceded that we can’t carry out even the most ordinary of Christmas preparations apart from God’s help. Let’s consult God, acknowledging him in all our ways, while not forgetting Mr. Bridges’s confident assertion: “He loves to be consulted!”
Practicing the 15:4 rule this holiday season opens the door to another productivity option. It gives us the chance to decide the best time to complete each task.
First consider what optimal time corresponds to each type of task In other words: do the hard stuff first. It can be very helpful to take tasks that require more thinking and energy (e.g., Christmas baking, cleaning, shopping) earlier in the day, when our mind and body are at peak energy. (Although I think I only peak for about 5 minutes.) Then we can leave the less brainy stuff (e.g., wrapping presents, recipe hunting, addressing Christmas cards) to the end of the day. This allows us to use our physical and mental resources more efficiently.
Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, it helps us fight that pesky enemy of peace and productivity: procrastination (which some people call my middle name). When you sit down in the morning and look at your to-do list, ask yourself, “Which task am I most likely to avoid?” Then resolve to take care of it first. If I’m not convincing then Alexander MacLaren most certainly will.
“No unwelcome tasks become any the less unwelcome by putting them off till tomorrow. It is only when they are behind us and done, that we begin to find that there is a sweetness to be tasted afterwards, and that the remembrance of unwelcome duties unhesitatingly done is welcome and pleasant. Accomplished, they are full of blessing, and there is a smile on their faces as they leave us. Undone, they stand threatening and disturbing our tranquility, and hindering our communion with God. If there be lying before you any bit of work from which you shrink, go straight up to it, and do it at once. The only way to get rid of it is to do it.”
Only imagine how happy our days of Christmas prep will be, once we’ve rid ourselves of those disagreeable tasks early!
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord….” Colossians 3:23
”Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17
Here’s another time-saving tip for the holidays: Take fifteen minutes at the beginning of each day to plan. Planning for a few minutes each morning can significantly affect the trajectory of your day, and thus your holiday.
I base this claim on a businessman’s helpful little rule, the 15:4 rule:
“Spending fifteen minutes thinking about what you are going to do before you start will save four hours of wasted time later on. Any individual who has thought through her workday, set priorities, and organized the days’ tasks is likely to accomplish far more than someone who randomly moves through the day.” (James W. Botkin)
Four hours a day is a lot of time! If fifteen minutes saves me even one hour a day, it’s worth it. Point being: when we deposit a few minutes into morning planning, we’ll yield significant returns in time and productivity all day long.
Ignore this little rule, however, and we potentially throw away time that was free for the taking. Not pausing for a few minutes to plot our days’ course is like going Christmas shopping without making a list. We would undoubtedly forget someone and waste a lot of time going back to the same stores to purchase more gifts.
On the other hand, if we’re faithful to plan first thing each morning, we’ll conserve loads of valuable time. We may realize that our hair salon is in the same shopping center as the post office or figure out that we can order a gift online instead of going to the store. Or we may plan to call a relative during our Christmas baking (although my mom and sisters wouldn’t recommend this time-saver for me!).
If we make the 15:4 rule a daily ritual this December, imagine how much time we’ll save!
Last Monday I went to the craft store in search of Thanksgiving stickers for the nieces and nephews. It was still three days until Thanksgiving, but the harvest decorations were on the clearance rack and it took me fifteen minutes to find a few, lame pumpkin stickers underneath the mounds of Christmas stuff. The store was packed with people whose carts were full of Christmas lights and wrapping and gifts.
I wasn’t even close to being ready for Thanksgiving, and now I was already behind on Christmas!
Here on December 2nd, the outlook still isn’t good. I only have a handful of gifts and about 3 hours available between now and the 25th to finish my shopping.
Thankfully, I have Mom’s “Three S’s for Busy-Season Survival”: Separate, Simplify, and Size-Up. We’ve blogged about them before, but never are they more helpful than in December. I hope they serve you. Unless, of course, you were one of those people at the craft store last week who were ready for Christmas before you sat down for Thanksgiving turkey.
Last week CJ sat down for an interview with one of my favorite authors and teachers—Jerry Bridges. As I listened to the podcast of their conversation, I was freshly reminded of why I appreciate Mr. Bridges’ ministry so much. He is a man who combines a deep understanding of the truths of the gospel with a passion for personal holiness. To listen to him describe his daily pursuit of godliness—which has not waned, but only increased with age—inspires me to new zeal in fighting sin and loving the Savior. I would heartily encourage you to listen and apply.