Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Life feeling a little 'crowded'?

Life can be overwhelming these days.

There's so much to keep track of...e-mail, phone calls (and texts!), the calendar, facebook page, twitter, not to mention the 'real' paper stuff that shows up in the old mailbox out on the curb! All of it is demanding your attention, pleading for your time, pestering for a response.

If you're not crazy yet, you feel like you're getting very close!

How do you get some sanity back in your life in this noisy world? Where do you find a quiet place? When do you catch your breath? Will you get to do anything you really enjoy again...before, oh, say...retirement?

That's why this month (April and May, really) I'm doing a sermon series entitled "The REST of Your Life: Creating Balance, Margin and Peace." We're exploring what it will take to unplug enough from the constant clamor and never ending motion in order to find rest. And in that rest we can experience renewal, restoration and the energy to be the productive person God created us to be.

The picture above is from the popular TV show, "Hoarders." If you haven't seen it, you've heard about it. The show documents people who have so much physical "stuff" in their homes that they are literally suffocating in their stuff. In many cases, it has caused separation or divorce; it has led to children, parents, friends and loved ones becoming estranged from each other.

All over so much junk.

But it's not junk to these folks. It's important stuff...that's why they have to keep it, they can't throw it away. They might need it someday; they're sure they'll use it. It's special to them, even precious. And it has completely disrupted their lives, making it impossible for them to have a healthly life with healthy relationships. They are sick people...something has driven them to this point of needing to have all this stuff.

Most of us don't hoard stuff...we have some kind of "filtration system" that helps us keep things from piling up; it might be our desire for a clean home, or we throw old stuff out when something new comes in the house to replace it...whatever it is, we manage to manage things.

But I suspect that many of us are really "hoarders" in other, less obvious ways. We can't say no to an invitation to attend a lunch or event. We agree to one more task force at work or with our service club. We agree to serve on yet another committee or ministry area at church. We agree to run for school board, or serve on PTA.

Don't get me wrong...many of these may be very good things, very worthy causes. But are they the best use of our time, talents and energy?  Your time and energy, especially, come in a limited supply. Yet we somehow justify crowding one more thing onto the calendar, one more commitment which will require our attention and the above mentioned limited resources. 

As you think about your current commitments and obligations, honestly try to answer the following questions:

What are you trying to prove? (That you're superman/superwoman?) 

Who are you trying to please? (Who are you afraid to say 'No' to?)

Does this activity have real, eternal value for you or someone else? (Does it ... really?)

What would happen if you did say 'No' to some of your current commitments? Maybe you feel you should fulfill your current obligations, but what would happen if you didn't take on any new commitments without honestly assessing their value in light of that third question?

We all need to find ways to build margin into our lives. 'Margin' is time: time that is not committed to anything in particular. It is time to rest and renew. It is time that is available for your family and friends when 'something suddenly comes up'. Wouldn't it be great to be available for those closest to you? Wouldn't it be refreshing to have some of your time and energy - some of your SELF left for those who need you most?

A few weeks ago we had a cleaning day at the church. In the storage room next to fellowship hall, we went through LOTS of trunks, carts, boxes and bags...lots of stuff when into the dumpster. A few things went to the Good Will store. And four boxes of old magazines and journals that I've been hanging on to (for years!) ended up back in my office. Just sitting there. Staring at me. Every day...ever since we had the cleaning day.  

Yesterday they all went into the church dumpster. It wasn't all that difficult to do, really...I finally just got sick of them cluttering up my office. It's nice to have that space back, and to feel like I have one less thing to take care of/find a place for/worry about. It is a load off my mind, a burden I no longer have to carry. I can use that energy for other things now.

No wonder Jesus warns us about "stuff". 

And "stuff" takes many forms in our lives, crowding out the better and best. What are you "hoarding"? Material things? Trophies of your accomplishments? Why? Are you trying to prove something about yourself by what you have or what you do rather than by who you are? Again, why? It's very important to look deep inside yourself and honestly answer these questions.

Do you want to take your life back? Then ask yourself today, "What can I 'throw out' (or take off my calendar) right now in order to reduce the clutter in my life?"

Don't hesitate to do it; I'm telling you, it feels pretty good!

Stay connected,

Pastor Mike