Tag Archives: Energy

Inflow and Outflow

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:32-33 (NIV)

Regular readers of these chapter-a-day posts (I’m grateful for the few of you!) will have noticed that my posts have been a bit haphazard of late. Some of it has been a particularly hectic work and travel schedule, some of it has been transitions and added responsibilities, and this week Wendy and I have been host to our daughter, Taylor, and new grandson, Milo. So, the normal routine has been interrupted a bit.

I have observed that so much of my life journey has been about finding balance. If I don’t carve out some time and routine for “filling the well” then all of life’s outflows (family, work, friends, community) leave me depleted and useless to anyone. If I get too rigid and self-righteous about my personal space and time then I end up self-absorbed in filling the well like a hoarder and there’s no goodness flowing out. Even Jesus took time for personal space and rest. He went up the mountain by Himself. He slept in the boat. He sent the disciples off at times. In His humanity, the Incarnate Christ sought to find the same balance of personal energy inflow and outflow.

In today’s chapter Paul speaks to the believers in Corinth about a prevailing attitude that some in their midst maintained: “I have the right to do whatever I want.” Paul chooses not to argue the point, but to add a layer of understanding over the declaration: “Not everything is beneficial. Not everything is constructive.” He then goes on to point out that this line of thinking is extremely self-focused. It’s all about me, what I want, what I desire, what I have a right to do, and what is good for me from my perspective. It’s hoarding the inflow of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and freedom while shutting off the outflow of love, honor, mercy, respect to those around.

Paul then goes on to explain that among the fractious and divided Corinthians he has sought to let his love and goodness flow out to all – both the stalwart Jewish believers and their conservative religiosity and the Greek believers and their liberal morality. “I’m not seeking my own good, but the good of many.”

This morning I sit in the quiet for the first time in a few days. I feel my soul soaking in the quiet and some one-on-one with Holy Spirit. I’m thinking about inflow and outflow. Since the first of the year it feels like the outflow valve on my personal energy has been cranked wide open. It’s not a bad thing. It’s awesome. My goodness how amazing it’s been this week as we love on our grandson and spend time with our daughter.  It’s fubar’d some of the normal routine. But, pouring out is the point, isn’t it?

I just have to be aware to maintain balance.

Some much-anticipated inflow is coming in 10 days.

Driven to Distraction

They sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.
Nehemiah 6:4 (NRSV)

For the last couple of years our local gathering of Jesus’ followers have been encouraged to pray about and choose a word that will be a theme for their year. My word for this year is “focus.”

Focus has been an interesting theme as I celebrate my half-century in this life journey, as an empty nest offers increased margins of time and resources, and as I am meditating on the reality of being on the downhill side of this life journey. I am ever and increasingly mindful that while my margins may have expanded in the micro sense, in the macro sense I am working with slowly depleting resources of time and energy.

We’re now almost half-way through the year and I’ve been spending some moments meditating on how my focus is going.  I have to confess that it’s not good. As I think about how I need and desire to focus my time, energy, and resources I find that life serves up a never-ending stream of distractions. I am so easily distracted in a million different ways. Between social media, technology, entertainment, television, games and events there is an endless supply of good and fascinating things on which I can focus my time and attention.

In today’s chapter, Nehemiah is desperately trying to focus on the project he’s been called to complete. He wants to get the wall rebuilt and the gates in place. He’s close to having the job done. Now, he is repeatedly harassed by critics and enemies who want to meet with him. He’s attacked with slander and gossip which requires him to address the lies and rumors. His life is threatened and he’s urged to sequester himself in the temple to be safe. Distractions. Distractions. Distractions.

Nehemiah’s response to these distractions was consistent. First, he took everything to God. He prayed for the work on which he needed to focus, and asked for God’s strength. He handed his troubles and enemies over to God and relegated justice to higher authority. And, he stayed focused on the work.

At the end of today’s chapter:

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

Today, I’m thinking again about my focus. The great thing about having a theme or a goal is that it becomes a point of reference. I may get off course or distracted, but simply having “focus” as my word of the year keeps calling me back from distraction. I can’t do anything about what’s past, but I have a new day, a clean day in front of me. And, on June 21 in Iowa, it’s a long day.

Time to focus.

Social Media, Rights, and Responsibility

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV)

Just yesterday morning my daughter was sitting in my office and we were discussing how much life has changed in the past ten years. We were musing on how life has changed simply in our circumstances, but I also marvel at how social media and technology have changed the landscape of our daily lives.

Like everyone else, I have my own thoughts and opinions about all sorts of topics. I am also a huge proponent in every American’s first amendment right to free speech. In ten years I’ve published over 3,300 posts on this blog sharing my thoughts on all sorts of topics. In many ways social media is like the soap box that sat on the town square back in the day. Anyone and everyone was welcome to stand up and have their say to any who wanted to listen. Hear, hear. That’s freedom. God bless America.

However, I am increasingly aware that instead of one soap box sitting in a corner of the public square, today everyone has their own soap box within easy reach. Whereas I once had to make a point of going to the town square if I wanted to listen to what others had to say, today I can’t look at my phone without being barraged.

I find that as I read posts on Facebook and Twitter, as I read comments to blog posts and on-line news articles, I am struck at the vehemence, the snarkiness, the disrespect, and lack of meaningful discourse that takes place in this most public arena. The color of Christmas cups blows up into national debate. Jabs and insults are hurled non-stop from behind the disguise of pseudonyms and avatars. So much time, energy, and emotion gets wasted on things of such little consequence.

That’s the thing we once taught our children about rights: rights come with responsibilities. Because I have a right to my opinion and my say in the public square of social media doesn’t mean that it is beneficial for me, or anyone else, that I entangle myself in the endless petty conflicts, arguments, debates, and  that erupt ceaselessly in my feed.

Three times in today’s chapter, the wise mentor Paul gives first century advice to his protegé Timothy which rings with 21st century relevance:

  •  Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
  • Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
  • Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.

This morning I am mulling over the fact that I am more and more willing to have meaningful, face-to-face discourse and debate with respectful individuals who share very different opinions than my own. I am less and less willing, however, to waste my time and energy entering the ceaseless petty quarrels in the arena of social media.

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Giving Myself…to What?

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
1 Timothy 4:15 (NIV)

There are only so many hours in a day, and there are only so many days allotted to us in our life journey. Each day we give ourselves away. We invest our time, our energy, our thoughts, and our resources towards different pursuits without giving much thought to it. To what am I giving myself?

I was struck this morning by Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “give himself wholly” to use of his spiritual gifts and his work among the Jesus followers in Ephesus. The goal, Paul told him, was his progress.

This morning I find myself thinking about the natural relationship between what I give myself to and what is being produced in my life. Where am I making progress? What is the evidence of that progress? Am I progressing in ways that are at all worthwhile?

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Solitude Loving Extravert

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Morning quiet at the lake (Photo credit: Tom Vander Well)

At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place.
Luke 4:42 (NIV)

When our daughters were in high school our family took the Myers-Briggs personality inventory together. We then spent a few hours with my friend, who is a marriage and family therapist, talking about the results. It was fascinating, not only to see each others results (I’m an ENFP), but also to understand our perceptions of one another. I remember that Madison was shocked to discover that I was an extrovert, and I was shocked that she would think I was an introvert.

“But every morning,” she explained, “you get up and spend time alone in quiet.” Based on that daily observation, she assumed that I was introverted. I’ve learned that extraversion and introversion are really about personal energy rather than being particularly social or shy. As an extrovert, I get energized by being around people and social situations. In fact, just the other week I shared with Wendy that being alone together at the lake for days on end had my personal energy tank on reserve. Spending a few hours at the pool around a crowd of people helped fill me up.

The truth is, my time of solitude each morning is not about recharging my personal batteries (in fact, it often causes me to miss out on much needed sleep) as much as it’s about keeping myself centered and finding balance. My entire day feels off-kilter when I miss my time of quiet to read, think, write, and have conversations of spirit with God. Sleeping in, for me, has always been accompanied with the grief of missing my time of solitude.

This morning’s chapter reminds me that Jesus liked his morning solitude, too. This morning, as I type this post in the early morning quiet of my hotel room, I am taking selfish pleasure in this trivial connection; Jesus and I have a mutual appreciation and understanding of morning solitude.

Meditation Contemplation

IMG_3474…and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
Psalm 145:5b (NIV)

Meditate (med-i-teyt) v. to engage in thought or contemplation; to reflect.

Wendy and I have a great relationship, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t irritations with one another. You learn things about yourself in marriage as you, with all your unique quirks and foibles, enter into a 24/7/365 living arrangement with another person who has their own unique quirks and foibles.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself through Wendy’s irritation is that I have a penchant of getting so engaged in thought or contemplation about something that I virtually shut out the world around me. This happened again yesterday morning before we headed to worship. I was on the computer and engaged in a task. The computer was not working and I was myopically focused, angry expletives flying hither and thither, on successfully shutting down a rogue application that was freezing my computer. Apparently Wendy asked me multiple times about the problem I was having. She was just a few feet away, but I didn’t hear her and it had little or nothing to do with my hearing issues. I was so deeply focused on my computer issue that I shut everything else out around me.

I thought about that little incident this morning as I read of David’s commitment to meditate on God’s wonderful works in Psalm 145. The discipline of focusing our mental energy and spending time in reflection is ultimately a good thing. The real question is the object of our meditation. Where do we concentrate our thoughts? What do we think about in the privacy of our heart and brain? Upon what do we reflect? I can easily lose myself in meditation upon silly things but often give less energy to meditation on eternal things.

This morning as I head out into a new work week, I’m contemplating my meditation and committing myself to be more aware of how I’m spending my mental energy. My goal this week is to engage more in reflection on worthy things and catch myself before I get too focused on things that ultimately don’t matter.

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Relational Investment Choices

Friends talk
(Photo credit: Ruud Raats)

Do not speak to fools,
    for they will scorn your prudent words.
Proverbs 23:9 (NLT)

I have a retirement account and a person who manages my investments in that account. Each month I check the account to see how it is performing. I need my administrator to make wise investment choices for me. If it is invested well and I get a good return on my investment, the compounding interest will give me even bigger yields and provide for my future retirement.

As I get older I find that I look at relationships much like I do financial investments. The days roll by and I realize that I have limited time on this Earth. I want to invest my time, energy, and resources in relationships that are life giving and produce good results for both me and the other person in the relationship. My financial advisor would steer me away from foolish stock or mutual fund choices that would not be in my best interest. In the same way, I find myself evaluating the veritable plethora of choices before me regarding those with whom I spend my time and relational energy. 

I have no time for fools. That’s like throwing money into the stock of a company headed into bankruptcy. I find myself wanting to invest in a diverse portfolio of relationships with my limited means. Some relationships are sure things and safe investments. Investing in my wife and kids and family are no brainers and I need to invest heavily in those. Wise friends are like well performing funds which are solid, dependable and offer a good return on investment. I need to direct a good chunk of my relational investment in those. I also want to find those relationship investments which are diamonds in the rough. Like penny stocks, it may not seem like there’s much there, but a little investment could pay off substantially for both parties and bring great reward.

If you study Jesus relationship choices you’ll find that He made very clear and even harsh decisions about whom He would invest time, energy and resources. He rejected some who wanted to follow Him. He said “I have no time for you.” He chose three among his closest followers to pour a greater investment of Himself into, and in doing this He created hard feelings among the twelve. In his final three years of life on this Earth Jesus made conscious choices, as the eldest son of his earthly family, to pull investment out of his earthly family and pour it into a diverse portfolio of risky relationships. His twelve closest followers can be described as risky penny stocks at best, but Jesus saw the future yield His investment in them would produce.

This morning I’m asking myself these questions:

  • In whom am I investing my time, energy and resources (emotional, relational, and spiritual as well as financial)?
  • What foolish relational investments have I made which are draining my resources and leaving me with a personal deficit? From whom do I need to pull my relational investment away?
  • Who would it be wise for me to put more relational investment into? How can I make that happen?
  • Have I fallen into the trap of spreading my relational resources so thin across so many relationships that I can’t possibly manage it all well? Is it time for me to adjust my relational portfolio, make some tough choices and bring it into a manageable level?

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