Sunday, May 17, 2009

Profound Contentment

It's interesting that we are transitioning from a few weeks looking at how to achieve balance in our lives to a study of Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. What's interesting about this is that Philippians is a letter about living vigorously and joyfully.

Joy was described as "profound contentment, serenity, and peace." Surely this is the result of somehow achieving balance! I wonder. The ideas we're going to encounter are things like humility, unity, self-sacrifice, pressing toward the goal. lack of anxiety, and the ability to do all things.

Maybe we've got it backwards. Maybe balance comes from profound contentment. In Paul's words, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." This is a secret worth knowing!

Read the whole book of Philippians in one sitting like you would read a letter from a friend. It's about 15 minutes long. Do it a couple of times this week and see what seeps in.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


We talked today about how to achieve "balance" in life. This is clearly a big issue for many of us, so I think it's worth a few sentences on what that means. What is a balanced life, is it something worth striving for, and how do I know if I've got one?

One thing balance might mean is figuring out how to get everything done without getting stressed out over it. Our world puts a lot of demands on us. Phone, email, work, kids, TV, house, spouse, cars, career, the economy, world peace, the environment... the things on our to-do list seems endless. And on top of all this, I go to church and find out I'm supposed to study the Bible and pray without ceasing! So, there's lot competing for our time and lots of stress over not getting it all done.

Maybe balance means a literal balancing of time and activities. Equal time for the various slices of my life. It makes sense that the more important things ought to get more time that the less important, so some kind of a prioritizing scheme seems to be needed. For example, people talk about wanting to spend more time with their families and less time at work. Nobody seems to suggest spending ALL their time at anything.

Balance might simply mean figuring out exactly what to do from this great list of expectations. It might mean picking the "best" of all the things I might do. But isn't this just another thing to do? Now I need to find the best thing to do before I can do anything. No stress there! There's some truth to this in that I clearly don't want to neglect important responsibilities to do meaningless things (well, actually, I do that pretty regularly!).

When we talk about balance in our lives, I think we mean it in this prioritizing-of-activities way. Some things are more important, and we want to be doing the important things in life... but does this lead to a balanced life? I suspect it does not.

How about Paul, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther, Moses, Abraham, Job, or Jesus? Were any of their lives balanced? I've been trying to thing of people worthy of admiration, real role models, who lived balanced lives and I'm not coming up with anybody. Great people seem to be pretty focused, single-minded and unbalanced about life. They throw themselves into one big thing completely.

What is it God wants of us? Balance? That's not a word I would choose to sum up our calling as Christians. God doesn't want part of us, he wants all of us. He doesn't want to be our top priority. He wants to be our ONLY priority. That's about as far from balance as you can get! God doesn't want me to have a balanced life, far from it.

We all know this, so why do I still feel uncomfortable when I spend too much time at work, not enough time with the kids, and minimal time in Bible study? Why do I try to get my life in balance? Maybe it's because I'm still trying to have it all. I want what I want, and I also want a relationship with God. I want everything, so I strive to get it all in balance somehow. I wonder if that's even possible.

In John 17:13-18, Jesus says that we are "in the world" but not "of the world." He says that he doesn't want to take us out of the world even though the world hates us because he has sent us into the world. I'm here on a mission from God... The Blues Bothers had it right all along! I'm not here to live a balanced life where I get a nice family, a good job, an early retirement, and everything I deserve. Maybe I should be trying to figure out what my mission is, not the go-into-all-the-world-and-make-disciples mission, but MY mission. Read the first few paragraphs of The Purpose Driven Life:
"It's not about you. The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions."
Maybe my feeling of being out of balance comes from too much "of" and not enough "in." That's what's really out of balance.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Love, Language, and Obsession

It's February, and love is in the air...actually love is in the language as far as our class in concerned. We've been talking about Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages (5LL) for the last couple of weeks so the topic of communication has been on my mind.

Communication is a tricky thing at the best of times. We often fail to communicate what we mean to, and when the target of our message doesn't respond as we think they should, we blame them for being unreasonable. The idea in 5LL is that even when we try hard to communicate our love, we can fail because we're talking the wrong language. We say "I love you" (see, I bought you this expensive vacuum cleaner) and our spouse either doesn't "hear" anything, or misunderstands what we're trying to say (you think the house is dirty?).

The other thing that struck me in all this discussion is that love is not about me, it's about my spouse. That's why it's so hard for us to do well. We spend a lot of our mental energy thinking about how to get what we want out of marriage. That's what a happy marriage that makes me happy, right? Actually, it's not. Marriage works a lot better when we both start to put the other's interests ahead of our own. Sounds sort of Biblical, don't you think?

So that explains the "Love" and "Language" parts of the title. What about the "Obsession" part? Well, that's why there's been such a gap in posting to this blog. I've got another one too! Oh, well.