Month: January 2016
The first stop in our reflective adventure into the private world is to examine our motivation, or why we do what we do. This underlying “why” is the foundation for every action we take, and it can either help or hurt us as we live out our lives. It provides the the basis for our spiritual energy, and how we find gratification in the world (p.29). In some cases, this is simple and beautiful. I choose to spend time with my kids because I am motivated by my love for them. Other times, it is not so pretty. I lash out at my husband because I am motivated by selfishness and wanted the evening to be about me, not him. When it comes to our private world, Gordon has grouped the primary source of motivation into two categories: driven (focused on man and success) and called (focused on God and obedience). Understanding these categories, and what they mean for us, is where we will spend our time today.
Driven versus Called
In chapters 3-5, I love the way Gordon dives in deep to describe the differences (wow… that was a lot of d’s) between being driven and being called. From his perspective, driven people are definitely disordered; they are all about themselves, what they can achieve, and what they can accumulate. Everyone and everything outside of accomplishment takes last place in priority; it is not about being productive, but being the most productive, the most successful, and having the most stuff. He even goes as far as to describe them with the picture of being trapped in a lavishly golden cage: it looks gorgeous from the outside, but inside it is cramped, lonely, and nothing in it will last. Driven people live primarily for the self, and in the end, this is usually the only thing they have left.
In stark contrast, called people have a sense of inner order; they have a good idea of who they are, what they are doing as well as the why behind it, and are still productive, but are more concerned with quality versus quantity. They can prioritize the things in their lives, with God and people at the top of their lists, and have peace when they are following the path laid our for (not by) them regardless of the results. There is no cage, but a sense of freedom as they know they are not in control, but know and trust the One who is. Driven people live primarily for God, and in the end, enjoy the rewards of a fruitful and meaningful existence on the inside and out.
For a comprehensive listing of the distinctions between these two motives, see the chart below:
How does this apply to me?
Reading the differences between being driven and called has always struck a cord deep within me. This may be because earlier in my life, I was definitely driven. From elementary to high school (yes, it can show itself as early as childhood), my grades and my accomplishments were everything. When I did not make the perfect grade or win the outstanding award, I was crushed and my world would cave in. My mom (who reads my posts regularly; thanks Mom!) had to pick up the pieces the day I came home from 4th grade with a B in handwriting; and this was just the first of many “difficult” days.
It was not until a 10th grade English course with a beyond difficult professor, that I had to face my driven demons and determine for good whether I was going to continue to pursue empty, stressful, never-ending and never-good-enough accomplishments, or pursue the path God had for me. It was one of the darkest times in my life, but it was also one of the best things that has ever happened to me because out of my angst birthed a calling that has stayed true and steadfast and foundational to this very day.
With that being said, not a day goes by that I do not struggle with the driven motives that are my innate, selfish nature. So when I read the list above, there are quite a few in the driven category that I can still check off if I am being completely honest. Maybe you resonate with some of the driven descriptives above too. As Gordon shares, “any of us can look within and suddenly discover that drivenness is our way of life” (p.47).
If this is you, take heart! You are not alone, and there is hope for all of us as we recognize our driven motives. I love that Gordon uses the example of Paul to bridge the gap between being driven and called. After his life-changing encounter with God, Paul went from the epitome of the driven man to the testimony of living out a called life. If you are seeing some of the same qualities in your own heart and inner world, be encouraged that it is not their existence, but what you do with them that really counts.
OK. So, what do I do now?
Gordon ends this part of our adventure by looking at John the Baptist as an example of how to find and walk out a called life. If you are not familiar with John, his role in history was to introduce the people of his time to Jesus (technically he is still doing that today) and he is renowned for ushering in the time of Christ with a new take on baptism and religion. He even got to baptize Jesus!!!
However, the focus of this section is not on his actual calling, but how he was called. As Gordon (and the Bible) tell us, John spent his time in the desert (a dry and difficult and I would envision quiet land) and was called from this place into his ministry. While this was definitely not normal (I am also pretty sure he ate locusts), the overarching picture here is that John took the time to be alone, get away from any distractions, and wait on the Lord for when and how he was to proceed.
My SMARTER not harder 🙂 application from this, and what I want to encourage both you and myself to do, is “get in the desert.” When was the last time you got away and spent time with God? When was the last time you removed yourself from any distractions (yes, even your iPhone… hard copies of the Bible still exist and are actually quite nice if you want to take notes or underline with a pen) and spent time in God’s word in both prayer and listening? When was the last time you heard God speak to you and what did He say? Are you waiting on Him or moving ahead on your own?
I challenge you to set a specific time to spend in your own “desert” this coming week: Go away and get with God. This might be to a specific room on your house, a nearby park, or even your car (yes, sometimes this is the only place I can find that is quiet and available). Pray through the chart above and take inventory if there are things that God is revealing to you about your own life and current path. Listen and journal God’s voice about you and your calling. And if you do not hear Him right away, WAIT until you do and then proceed accordingly. Take the time to truly evaluate your motives… and determine how you are going to live… driven or CALLED? ♥
“In this world, you will have trouble…” -Jesus (John 16:33)
… and disorder…and disobedience…and chaos… and MAYHEM.
Isn’t that the truth? There really is not a day that goes by that I do not see some sort of trouble, disorder, disobedience, chaos, mayhem, whatever you choose to call it, swirling around me. Even the innocent disorder of the playroom beside me reminds me that we live in an imperfect world (I swear… no matter how many times I clean it, it always is a mess! 😉 ). Jesus knew this and warned us from the very beginning that this life would be hard and that trouble with a capital T would be something we would have to face.
The wonderful part, and the thing I love most about this story of life, is that there is a constant thread of redemption among humanity that allows there to be inner order among the outer chaos. Jesus finishes his speech above with these words: “But take heart; I have overcome the world [and in me, you may have peace].”
Beautiful words to highlight and underline and carry with us when we face the troubles of this world, but sometimes, I also want the practical side of what these words really mean. What does it look like to take heart? What does it look like to truly live in peace? Thus, the birthplace of books just like Ordering Your Private World 🙂
So far, I have read and journaled through all of the intro stuff: the Preface and Chapters 1 and 2. Already, I am blown away by the many points that speak directly to my life and the truths that I want to remember day in and day out. However, for the sake of time and sanity LOL, there were 4 big takeaways that really stood out:
1. “I believe that one of the greatest battlegrounds of our age is the private world of the individual.” (p.15)
AMEN!!! And I will say it again: AMEN!!! In a world where there is so much temptation partnered with so much isolation, the true battlefield of whether or not you will have inner peace is your very own private world. It is not so much a struggle of the flesh, although it may appear that way at first, but most things really do start with a struggle of the heart/soul (Ephesians 6:12). I am a true believer that an ordered soul is a strong soul, and a strong soul can take on anything: extremes of torture, illness, grief to the everyday obstacles of disappointment, stress, and irritation.
2. What is my private world?
Your private world, the descriptor that Gordon uses throughout his book, is your heart and/or soul (p.23). It is that innermost part of you that no one can every really understand, even if you try to explain it to them, because it really belongs to you and you alone. “It’s the private part of life where we know ourselves best of all: this is where self-esteem is forged, where basic decisions about motives, values, and commitments are made, where we commune with our God” (p.7-8). It involves the beautiful and the ugly, the truth we have chosen to acknowledge as well as the lies that have taken root and the interweaving of the two that we live out each day. It is also the place we invite Christ into when we give our lives to him, and the location of the indwelling that can bring true peace, true life, and true order within us. According to Gordon’s perspective, this private world is divided into the five sectors that we will focus on for the rest of our readings: our motivation, our time, our wisdom/knowledge, our spiritual strength, and our restoration.
3. We were created to “work most effectively from the inner world toward the outer” (p.23).
And this is the crux of the matter. So often in life, I find my outer world encroaching on my inner world. Usually, its when I am having “one of those days.” You know them: when absolutely nothing is going your way, sometimes to the point of sarcastic hilarity because the mounting disorder is unbelievable and can really only be handled with a desperate laugh. Or maybe the response is unbridled anger; harsh words that hurt both you and the listener, and create a wound that will have to be both forgiven and reconciled. Or maybe the response is withdrawal, to the lonely place that seems safe but really only multiplies the issue as you quietly cry out to be free and known and understood. Whatever the response, when we allow life to happen to us, when we allow our outer to have undue influence over our inner, we will most definitely experience crisis and a decreased quality of life that was never the intent of our Creator. We will end up spending our lives only surviving, and not thriving.
Instead, we were created for our inner to have influence over our outer. This is where growth and movement and true strength and victory reside. This is where we start to thrive. Think about even a plant: it pulls all of the nutrients and water and everything it needs into itself and then grows outward. Think about those people you know that have conquered the odds against them: the friend that lost weight and kept it off because she developed a healthy mindset (inner) that influenced her lifestyle (outer); the couple that resolved in their heart and minds to be good stewards with their money (inner) and paid off all of their debts (outer); the man who shows up every Sunday at church even though his body is fighting cancer and aging because his heart (inner) wants for more even though his flesh (outer) is fading.
One of my greatest examples, that comes to mind all the time, is Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, who wrote about his experiences and noted that it was his inner world, his resolve and faith, that really determined his experiences. It was the one thing that the Nazi’s could not determine, could not destroy, and could not influence without permission. He chose not to let his outer influence his inner, even in the most horrible of circumstances, and it is a testimony that is still influencing lives today. As Jesus said above: we can have peace in the inner, because He has overcome the outer. When I really think about this, it encourages me that I can probably (most definitely) handle one more of “those days” in my home with my kids and my husband and my job.
4. “Am I taking the time to regularly order my inner world?” (p.16)
Time for being honest. When was the last time I checked in with myself and my thoughts and feelings that are driving my actions? When was the last time you checked in with yourself and your thoughts and feelings that are driving your actions? If I had answered this question even a month ago, I would not have been able to give a specific answer. Why? Because I had not been regularly taking the time to check in and make sure that even though things are going crazy around me, my private world is secure. Just like anything thing else worthwhile: playing an instrument, learning a new language, excelling at a sport or subject, etc., ordering your private world takes regular, intentional time, effort, and a word we will see more of: discipline.
So, going back to making things happen, how can we be intentional, how can we work SMARTER not harder 🙂 when it comes to practically dealing with our private worlds? Specifically, I like to ask myself: What is one thing I can do to regularly start ordering my private world TODAY? For me, reading this book and blogging about it are where I am going to start, but I will be asking myself (as well as you) this question for each sector as we continue our reflective adventure. This way, we are not just having a great reading experience (although I do love Gordon’s stories and points) but we actually apply what we are learning to our life journeys.
Who knows… we might actually end up with a newfound sense of order, a peace in our inner world, and a new way of living that comes from the inside out. My hope for me and for you is exactly this: that we might actually experience, not just read about, this amazing, life-changing, peace-giving, overcoming ORDER.♥
Our first book of the year is one of my favorites (you may hear that a lot): Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. It is no coincidence that for my blog that focuses on making the most of the mayhem around me, the first book I would want to read would be about order. 🙂 However, I think you will agree after reading (spoiler alert) that this book is more about grounding yourself amidst the chaos, rather than trying to manage the disorder around you.
Why I Chose this Book:
To truly make the most of my mayhem (my marriage, mothering, and the miscellaneous other things in my day), I must have some sort of foundation to my inner world that helps me maintain my sanity (anyone thinking about building a house on a rock versus sand here?). When I first read this book, almost 10 years ago now (woah.), I was a walking testimony of disorganization. Everything looked great on the outside: I was a newly accepted Master’s student working for the dean, a newly wed wife who still had stars in her eyes, with a new set of adult responsibilities including rent, utilities, cars, etc. I was young, smart, and all of that “new” was full of potential.
But on the inside, I was caving in.
Pressures and doubts were all I could think of, and it kept me up at night. Everyone had such high hopes for me, but could I really do it? What if I failed a class? What if I missed paying a bill? What if I could not complete my program and had loans to pay with no degree? Was this even what I really wanted? What if my new husband stopped loving me, or lost his job, or the honeymoon wore off too soon and things got stale? What if I made a mistake and everyone found out that I really had no clue what I was doing?
You may notice that some of these same thoughts/questions are addressed in the preface of the book. Gordon, the author whom I will refer to familiarly by first name although I have never actually met him, wrote this book as a response to these questions in his own life and the lives of those around him. He acknowledges that these doubts and pressures exist, and then offers both practical and spiritual wisdom on how to confront and conquer them. I love his conversational writing style, amazing metaphors and stories to illustrate his points, and the foundation of his writing that constantly points us back to the rock solid foundation of Jesus.
When I found it, I embraced his writings as a life preserver, bringing me back to Christ and back to sanity, equipping me for the many challenges I had no clue I would face in the future, and helping me to help others order their private worlds both personally and professionally. I still love to re-read it; to address the disorder that pops up here and there as well as to be a great reminder of the importance of continuing to attend to my private world when things seem to be going great on the inside and out.
How the Book Club Will Work:
With this being the first book of the year, I want to outline my thoughts on how this will tentatively work (which can be modified if needed; SMARTER not harder right?!). For each month, I will come up with a reading and posting plan that works for my scheduling as well as the book content, and let you know this plan so you can either follow along or make your own. No pressure either way; I know some of you will not be reading the books but might still be interested in the posts. Then, I will do my best to post according to the schedule I laid out. As we all know from our own mayhem, life sometimes has other plans 🙂 , but at least this will provide some direction as we go along. For January, this is my outline:
- Introductory Post: This one right here 🙂 Wed. 1/6
- Post 1: Preface, Ch 1-2 Thurs. 1/7
- Post 2: Sector One Motivation Sun 1/10
- Post 3: Sector Two Use of Time Thurs 1/14
- Post 4: Sector Three Wisdom and Knowledge Sun 1/17
- Post 5: Sector Four Spiritual Strength Sun 1/24
- Final Post: Sector Five Restoration Sun 1/31
In addition to what I post, please please please feel free to comment!!! One of Gordon’s goals in writing this book is mine as well: “to begin a dialogue among a few curious people” (p.11). I would love for you to share anything in particular that stood out to you, any feedback (both positive as well as constructive 😉 ) you have, or maybe even your own struggle with the content. With all of the posts on this blog, this is truly my heart: to share my journey with you as you journey so that we can learn from and encourage one another along the way.
My Hope for this Experience:
Gordon ends his preface and starts the book in this way (p.11):
“To all those who think there is a more organized way to live within: join me on this bit of reflective adventure. At the end there may just be an opportunity for a deeper experience with God and an understanding of our mission in serving Him.”
My hope and prayer for this inaugural book club experience is that this would be the start of just such an adventure: a monthly way of reflecting upon and caring for ourselves and others by intentionally choosing to focus on the things that are most important, like the inner world from which we operate day in and day out. I am a huge fan of setting myself up to succeed, from making meals each day to the bigger things of life like motivation and resiliency. 🙂 By reading the books on this list, like the one for this month, we are choosing to fill our hearts and minds with truth that will reinforce, restore, renew, and refresh our souls to truly make the most of and embrace the miracles in our mayhem. ♥
In writing the previous post on my miraculous making it happen, I have to admit I was excited, inspired, and ready to face my fears and do the do to truly make it happen. I felt like I could take on the world, that my mustard seed faith could really move mountains (yes it can for real, but I felt it too!), and my fingers could somehow type a million words a minute and fill this blog before I knew it.
I was also quite comfortable in my favorite spot at my favorite coffee shop all by myself sipping my favorite winter tea latte. 😉
Until I looked at my watch.
And all of a sudden, my two hours of write time while the boys were napping and my husband was watching them (also napping LOL), was over and I was throwing all of my belongings into my bag and rushing out the door to complete the many errands on my to do list before running home. Just like that, my making it happen that was so fresh, so invigorating, and so within reach… moved to the back of the line where it has been for so many years.
What happened? Why did it change? What shifted?
To be honest, my IT sits at the back of the line because it seems so HARD in the midst of everything else. Have you ever felt that way? It sounds good, it sounds fun, it sounds meaningful and awesome when you are dreaming about it or even starting the beginning stages, but when you actually start the doing of it, that IT is just a little harder and more difficult than expected. And because it is hard, I choose to avoid it and delay it instead of doing it.
I have found this to be truth with just about everything worthwhile in this life: attaining any degree or license, embarking on the adventures of marriage and parenting, starting a new career or ministry, getting in shape/exercising, etc. Anything that seems awesome in the moment will at some point have a challenge or obstacle invoking the descriptor of being HARD. And while this truth is important to acknowledge because as of yet, there is no way that I know of to reap the full benefits of all of the above without enduring the challenge as well, I think the real issue is how I view the HARD.
What does that mean? How I view the HARD?
My view of HARD is often the picture of a person (me) standing in the middle of a tornado of things swirling all around. My tornado would have all the great and not so great things in my life: my hopes and dreams, my husband, my children, my family and friends, my work, my church, anything and everything that is a part of my everyday existence that requires my presence. In my tornado, nothing is within reach and I have absolutely no control as everything swirls around me. And as most tornados are considered, my primary response is always two-fold: FEAR (we talked about this last time) and being OVERWHELMED (here we go).
When I was sitting in the coffee shop dreaming dreams and sipping tea, I was not thinking tornado. I was swept away by my positive emotions and the singular focus of the fun of writing: the ideas, the outcomes, the great moments when something clicks. My IT was a cute and cuddly baby that was small and wonderful and sleeping soundly. But when I returned to my reality and the associated responsibilities and demands, I was able to see that this became another projectile swirling around in the chaos! I realized this baby, which was still small and cute, also had demands: time, effort, and pieces of me like everyone and everything else.
Your view of hard might be different than mine. It might look like a huge elephant blocking your path or an incredible mountain unable to be scaled. Regardless of the picture: elephants, mountains, and tornadoes all tend to leave us OVERWHELMED. And my instant reaction to being overwhelmed, like many, is to avoid. For me, it is procrastination. For others, avoidance can take a variety of forms that let us seemingly escape: exercising, eating, sleeping, business, etc. The truth though is that avoidance is never a true escape; the thing we are running from is still there and unless we finally confront it, we will never accomplish the amazing experience of making it happen. Think about it: the coolest stories are about surviving the storm, taming the wild elephant, and scaling the mountain, right?! 🙂
So, what do I do? How do I still MAKE IT HAPPEN when I am OVERWHELMED?
And therein lies the title of this post: to make it happen and maintain my sanity, I have to work SMARTER not harder. 🙂 I actually tell my students and clients (as well as myself) this all the time: to utilize their resources wisely and get the best outcome with the most efficient means to do so. In this specific situation, it means making the hard more manageable, more realistic, and using the well-known goal SMARTER acronym:
R: Reward or Re-Work
Specifically, I want to start with a weekly post (Measurable). Although I have dreams to do so much more, this seems both Attainable and Realistic for me (hence the existence of this post). Since I usually have write time on the weekends, I am setting Mondays as my Timeline. As we go along, I will be able to Evaluate (and you will too) if this is working and Reward or re-work as necessary.
So, what might this mean for you? You might be at the beginning stages of still figuring out what your IT really is 😉 This is a great place to start, but even that can have a SMARTER goal: “By the end of this month, I will have spent 30 minutes a week journaling and dreaming about my calling, the thing I would love love love to do if there was nothing in my way.” Or maybe you know what your IT is, even if you have never shared it or are still trying to convince yourself otherwise. What might your SMARTER goal be to take one step closer to making it a reality? Or maybe you’ve been living out your IT for years, and are basking in the glow of a fulfilling life. Even then, what is one thing you would like to continue doing (being intentional about it) or something you’ve secretly dreamed of but never gone after? It might be fun to go for something again, and see what happens!
For me, this means taking this writing and blogging thing one step at a time. To begin to bring order to my tornado by using my God-given will and reaching out to take hold of the things most important to me. It may seem small, but its this first step that will create the foundation (and the momentum) for the future.
And what better time to do this than at the beginning of a new year! 😉
As we embark on the adventure of 2016, I encourage us to go for it!
To take those first steps of the rest of our lives, and begin truly making it happen… by working SMARTER not harder.♥