Month: February 2014

Can Our Kids Thrive Without Being So Busy?

The following is a short excerpt from my new book, Addicted to Busy, which releases this Fall.  I would love your comments about the hard choices you have made to maintain sanity around your kid’s schedules. What mistakes did you make? How have you found safe rhythms for your home?

A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s

just that it can’t buzz any slower.
–Kin Hubbard

Practically speaking, my observation is that when kids are never taught how to appreciate healthy rhythms, once they escape the frenetic pace their parents have maintained on their behalf, they rebel like Rebellion is their middle name. Busyness has become their business, and when that busyness disappears, they don’t know what to do with their lives. They don’t know what to do with an idle thought, let alone an idle day. To this point, writer of “The Busy Trap” article Tim Kreider: “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.” Most people who suffer from rickets are kids, and most kids who get it are starving. I realize that in twenty-first-century North America, a majority of kids are not starving from food, but I guarantee they are starving for something—for calmness, for quietness, for rest.

When Pam and I decided back when our kids were young to unplug one day a week, it was a counter-cultural move, to be sure.  Unlike nearly every other toddler we knew, Abram and Callie were not in gymnastics classes, dance classes, horseback-riding classes, foreign-language classes, art classes, etiquette classes, or classes that taught taekwondo. As three- and five-year-olds, they were not on soccer teams, basketball teams, debate teams, cheerleading squads, or in science clubs, and those tiny fingers never played piano once. Sure, various activities would emerge as they got older—including basketball and taekwondo. But in those early years, even in the face of mounting pressure, we chose to simply stay home.

In 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, the apostle Paul writes, “I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.”

Keep it simple. Uncomplicated. Dealing as sparingly as possible.

            Huh? Is this really possible, Paul?

Pam and I decided it was. And we ordered our lives according to that truth. We let the hyper-scheduled families zoom right past us, while we stayed hunkered down inside our peaceful home. And you know what? We were better for it. We recognized how well our kids did when we didn’t have plans for them on those days. We saw that if we gave our kids time and space to breathe, to exhale, to just be kids, they flourished. From time to time, we wondered if they were missing out on something—if by not learning an instrument or a foreign language at age three, they’d somehow suffer later on. But by the end of each bedhead day, we’d have our answer again. A day of rest was pure benefit for them. “Just as our children depend on us for three meals a day,” writes Katrina Kenison, “they also need us to prepare peaceful spaces for them in the midst of this busy world.” There was nothing for Abram and Callie but upside, by our choosing not to run ragged, by choosing to live joyfully at rest.

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More Than Songs and Sermons …

Recently, a well known Christian author announced that he no longer attends church because he claims he does not connect with God through songs and rarely learns from listening to a lecture. If that was all the church was about, I suppose many would follow his example and abandon the weekly gathering.

However, church is more than a one hour production highlighted by song and sermon. Church is a perpetual gathering of people who, together, are becoming the people of God and while hymns and homilies are still very important to me and others, church involves a huge scope of Divine activity.

  1. We help prepare couples for marriage.
  2. We meet with married couples who are struggling to stay married.
  3. We perform official duties at weddings.
  4. We help families plan the funerals for their loved ones.
  5. We speak and lead at funeral services.
  6. We equip leaders to go plant churches around the globe.
  7. We send teams to help missionaries around the globe, especially in times of crisis.
  8. We help take care of the poor in our city, especially the widows and orphans.
  9. We baptize and disciple new believers.
  10. We celebrate the Eucharist together.
  11. We pray for the sick and visit them at their homes and in the hospital.
  12. We prepare meals and help those who are going through a crisis.
  13. We help people who are struggling financially.
  14. We gather and pray for each other.
  15. We support families who have adopted children.

“We” is a synonym for the entire church body in the above list. While a handful of these activities are overseen by the clergy, most are not. I suppose some of these could be done alone or with a few close friends, but after two decades of following Jesus, I am still convinced that we are best when we gather often as a big messy family to serve Christ and others together.

This past Sunday, I counseled a young unmarried couple who want to follow Jesus, but are living together. I prayed with a single mom who has a struggling teenager, hugged a young widow who is still grieving the sudden loss of her military husband, encouraged a family who is returning to the local church after 20 years away, answered questions from a sad lady who was upset about a church decision and prayed for an elderly couple who are moving to retirement in another state.

I did not choose all of them for my community and they did not all choose me. Church is not just hanging out with our friends or the people we choose. We need people we have not yet met and people we have not met need us. Church chooses us.

Sure, it would be easier to isolate myself among a tribe of homogenous people, but church does not give us that luxury. Church gives us the privilege of loving people unlike ourselves.

 

 

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Addicted to Busy, Recovery for the Rushed Soul

My new book, Addicted to Busy, releases this Fall.  I wrote the book because, more than anyone else, I need to embrace rhythms and rest. I would love to know if this book is needed in your life right now.

Introduction

In one sense, I’m the worst person to be writing this book, seeing as I’m a complete hypocrite when it comes to actually living out the restful rhythms I so passionately espouse. But in another sense, I’m the perfect choice, because I recognize that digging in my heels and demanding self-discipline will never correct my errant ways. They can’t and won’t correct your errant ways either, which is how I can so boldly declare that this book will not change your life. A book never changes our lives.

Here’s what will change our rhythms, our pace, our lives: revelation from the Spirit of God, or, in other words, the ability to detectspiritually what we’ve only had sensory knowledge of before. Yes, life is made up of tasks on the to-do list, our vehicles whizzing down the road, kids rattling off their incessant needs and wants, the hurried embrace of a spouse who is rushing off to drive carpool, the scent of one more bag of fast food—really, now, who has time to cook anymore?

But it also involves an undercurrent, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, a spiritual underpinning holding together our days. It’s the God story that contextualizes the Us story. It’s a spiritual understanding that makes our lives make sense. The highest goal I can set for this book is that it will somehow serve as a conduit for the revelation we so sorely need. Mere words on a page can’t talk us out of our beloved freneticism, but the Holy Spirit can. And will, if we will let him.

I want this revelation, and yet I don’t. Because on the heels of real revelation, real-deal growth is required. “Revelation is not for the faint of heart,” writes Anne Lamott. But how beautiful it is when it finally appears. Without it, she continues, “life can seem like an endless desert of danger with scratchy sand in your shoes, and yet if we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, so many bits and chips and washes of color, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise. There are so many ways to sweep the sand off our feet. So we pray, ‘Oh, my God. Thanks.’”

That sense of gratitude is what I desperately want to feel. I want to receive revelation, I want to live from revelation, and I want to thank God for saving my sanity, by gently prodding me to slow my pace. And yet here’s a question I think about: would I even know how to live a slowed-down life? Would I know what to do with rest? When I was first handed my newborn son, while I was instantly in love with him, there was this secret question rushing through my brain: “What does it do?” 

Would I look at a well-rested life the same way?

How do I hold it?

What is it good for?

What on earth does it do?

I wonder if I’d be the guy who would unravel with the quiet of it all.

Still, I’m willing to try. I’m willing to put on a rhythmic life. When we know better, we do better, Maya Angelou says, in her unfailingly poetic way. I’ve known better for a long, long time. I’m ready for the doing-better part to begin.

In Jewish tradition, the command to “keep the Sabbath holy” is followed religiously, beginning at sundown Friday and lasting a full twenty-four hours, until sundown Saturday. Friday evening, as a way to welcome the prescribed unplug, the family recites a blessing—Kiddush, it’s called, literally meaning “holy.” There’s a Kiddush cup that you use, which looks like an ornate goblet that’s been glued to a small saucer—a saucer that’s really important, not only in function, but also in form. When the blessing is recited, typically by the father of the family, wine is poured into the goblet until it overflows, spilling out. You can get the cup and saucer for fifteen bucks on Amazon, but you can get what it represents only by living a rhythmic life. The pouring out, the overflow, the blessing—the symbol here as Sabbath begins is that God’s abundance cannot be contained.

This is what I’m after: feeling not empty, but full. Living not full-throttled, but at rest. Letting whatever abundance God has in store for me come in, sit down, be at home.

 

Take it easy.

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels

drive you crazy.

Lighten up while you still can. 

The Eagles 

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