Desiring balance is a worthy goal, but are Americans really all that balanced? There is so much focus in society to be extremely successful while also being perfectly balanced that you may be confused and actually find yourself unsuccessful and out-of-balance. But there is a way to find that happy medium. At the core of being balanced is having an ability to juxtapose opposites, or to be both/and. Consider the following examples:
You love your child, but can’t approve of his unbiblical choices. How well are you able to balance that out? Unbalanced extremes: you show so much grace that you teach him nothing, or you show so much disapproval that he feels only shame. Balanced: he feels safe with you even while knowing your Biblical worldview. It’s both/and.
You want to have a good lifestyle for your family while juggling multiple schedules. How well are you able to balance that out? Unbalanced extremes: you’re so structured your kids are becoming resentful, or you’re so flexible you’ve even lost your own personal self-discipline. Balanced: you’ve separated which areas of your life to keep open for change and which to guard as non-negotiable. It’s both/and.
You know it’s important to be physically healthy, while having other priorities. How well are you able to balance that out? Unbalanced extremes: you’re so preoccupied with what you eat and your workouts that you’re unpleasant to be around if there are any interferences, or you continually rationalize unhealthy choices. Balanced: you’ve talked with at least one significant person in your life to plan out the appropriate shopping list, cooking plans, and workout times so that loved ones, customers, etc. aren’t neglected while you are attending to your needs. It’s both/and.
You want to be smart about planning for the future, while knowing you might not see tomorrow. How well are you able to balance that out? Unbalanced extremes: you can’t think of the last time you asked yourself the question “Am I ready if Jesus comes today,” or you’ve given no thought at all to any long-term goals. Balanced: you contemplate this tension regularly, such as on the Sabbath. It’s both/and.
You want to believe you are sensitive without losing logic. How well are you able to balance that out? Unbalanced extremes: much of your decision-making is emotionally-driven, or you’re so passionate about efficiency that you regularly step on people’s toes. Balanced: you sort out thoughts, emotions, facts, opinions, truth, and lies about each situation before you respond. It’s both/and.
Navigating the world around you in a both/and way is Biblical and Christ-like…because you follow a both/and God. After all, “the Lord gave…and the Lord has taken away.” (Job. 1:21)
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Think like Him – it will make you mentally healthy. His both/and thoughts are higher than the ones naturally in our brains. (Is. 55:9)
Plan like Him – it will leave you less frustrated. In His both/and ways, He allows what He hates – to accomplish what He loves. (Joni Eareckson Tada)
Do relationships like Him – it will bring you closer to people. Because of His both/and attributes, in His compassion, He restrained his anger often and did not stir up His wrath. (Ps. 78:38)
Seek the both/and paradox, and you will achieve a most balanced/successful life.
The New York Times Best Seller is everywhere. But is it a scam offering empty promises? And is it a good idea for Christians to be reading a pretty hardcover about magic?
Biblical Starting Point:
There are at least three arguments in favor of this secular publication being used to bring about change for a Christian.
- It’s based on a foundation of changing your mindset. After all, you have been commanded to be transformed by the renewal of your minds; of course testing the facts according to God’s Word so that you may discern if it’s God’s will. (Ps. 119:9; Rom. 12:2)
- It’s actually focused on not laying up treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, giving you a better chance to lay up treasures in heaven. (Mt. 6:19-20)
- It’s another opportunity to bring God glory. In whatever you do, word or deed, you are called to do in His name. (Col. 3:17)
- Your brain has probably never thought about your stuff the way this author presents it. And all the ways you’ve tried to systemize in the past didn’t work for a good reason.
- Once you get started, looking at your new living spaces may energize you so much that you will not want to stop.
- If you welcome these perspectives, you lower your risk of relapse into your old ways. You won’t be so bad about losing things anymore either. The concepts are unforgettable and the method is effective.
- Having a tidy home can help you better live out your values.
- This de-cluttering event (it’s not a process) encourages you to create and maintain a lifestyle vision that is true to who you were made to be.
- By consistently applying these concepts, you improve your decision-making and problem-solving abilities, which can increase your confidence in managing clutter.
- You can sort out which of your belongings you are inappropriately attached to and why.
- It can really impact how much you purchase in the future, saving you money and time.
- Putting your house in order helps you have a better idea of who you are and what you are about.
- Being organized with your inventory restructures your time in the future so you can draw near to the Lord, improve your relationships, and achieve personal growth.
Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:
Push past any initial feelings of dread, stress, or skepticism about this project so you can receive the benefits of being incredibly organized with what you own.
You don’t have to be afraid or be turned off by the marketing or hard sell of this book. Allow the Father to bring you freedom in fresh and unexpected ways.
Don’t be alarmed that the writer shares her cultural and pagan beliefs. Simply pray as you read, and let the Holy Spirit translate her fallacies into truth for you. Think about the Mediterranean diet. You have learned from the Europeans that olive oil and lean meats and fish are healthy, but that doesn’t mean you vacation at nudist beaches. It’s the same here. You can benefit from her ways of thinking about tidying, while you guard against absorbing any of her idolatrous ways.
It’s ok that this kind of change is not so much gradual as it is swift. Sometimes God really shakes things up.
Celebrate the fact that you can learn from a non-Christian teaching when you first filter it through your Biblical worldview, and then use it honorably for your Lord.
Enjoy the results!
Of course you’ve read plenty of articles on making the most of your day, but it’s a hectic world and it’s always good to have fresh reminders to help you keep your head above water. First, think about some of the reasons busyness is such an issue for people nowadays:
- Modern culture has placed expectations on your lifestyle that can be grueling.
- Increased speed in technology can mislead you into thinking you have more time in your day.
- Priorities in general have shifted, so getting out into God’s creation or being still with the Lord can seem like the easiest things to cut out of a productive schedule.
- The world values “more” which can alter your perception of what is “enough.”
- Stimulation and distraction are all around, which can interfere with your concentration.
- There’s a tension between responding to your alerts and contacts, and nurturing your face-to-face relationships.
Second, now that you are once again cognizant of some of the reasons it takes so much effort to get things done, you can consider some practical application.
Keeping Room Tips:
- Consider that Jesus had a lot of demands on His time too. His solution? He sought out lonely places to pray (Lk. 5:16). Think that can’t work for you? Susanna Wesley buried her head in an apron when she couldn’t find any other place. You can find solitude to pray when you put your mind to it.
- Understand that the Lord knew you were going to live in this fast-paced society (Acts 17:26). Start your day with Him or at least include Him in your planning, and notice how things fall into place…how much more time and patience you seem to have…and how much easier it is to make decisions regarding your schedule.
- Don’t make assumptions or have fear about what God might do with your schedule if you release it to Him. Like He did with Gideon (Judges 7), He will show you if things need to be cut out; and for the things that remain, He will increase your abilities and efficiency to do what is before you. Study who He is and then align your thoughts to His Will, instead of negatively thinking you don’t have enough time and energy to do what He’s assigned to you.
- Commit to obey His instructions. For example, if you keep thinking you need to put your phone in another room while you do a certain activity, trust that He isn’t trying to deprive you. When you seek the Lord, you will lack no good thing. (Ps. 34:10)
- Let Scripture show you what to pray. “Teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom. Then will I ever sing praise to Your Name and fulfill my vows day after day.” (Ps. 61:8; 90:12)
Boredom, a dull mental state which can be caused by lack of external or internal stimulation, is an issue for everyone. What varies from person to person is 1) how often you face boredom and 2) what you do in order to alleviate it. The issue of boredom can become problematic if you deal with it on a frequent basis, or if you don’t realize the ways that boredom is driving some of your choices and activities.
Keeping Room Tips:
In case you have Boredom in Disguise:
*Boredom is sometimes masked as I’m-not-in-the-mood or I-don’t-feel-like-it. Instead of giving in to those apathetic feelings, acknowledge that boredom is the real issue.
*Purpose to push through the seemingly boring task, but address your boredom by adding variety to the task. Think creatively of ways that you can enhance your atmosphere even while pushing through a boring activity.
*Examine your typical activities and search for ways that boredom might be preventing you from being as productive as you could be. (How often are you checking social media because you’re bored and want to avoid the task in front of you?) Additionally, boredom could be leading you to seek inappropriate stimuli to relieve it. (Are you really hungry, or just eating because you’re bored?). Even daily Bible reading time might feel boring to you, but that feeling is keeping you away from something that’s good for you. Therefore even while facing boredom, make positive decisions anyway so that you can experience success, which can actually reduce future episodes of boredom.
If you experience Frequent Boredom:
*Boredom can be chronic for some people – especially in situations that can’t change (like school or work).
*Understand that perspective and planning are the keys to managing the boredom you so often face.
*Accept that although you may experience a lot of boredom at work, school etc., it doesn’t help to constantly wish you didn’t have to be there. (Are your thoughts about your situation actually making it that much more boring?)
*Plan ahead for your boredom by thinking of ways to break up tasks or to implement creative and new ways to accomplish tasks.
*Create a balance between having enough routine to be efficient, with enough variety to combat severe boredom.
*Set up a system to reward yourself each time you push through boredom and get your work done.
*Engage in healthy and active relationships (starting with Jesus) to give your life more fulfillment overall. (Are you focusing more often on your life being boring than about how you can enthusiastically and lovingly serve the Lord and others with your gifts?)
*Take time to verbalize your struggle with boredom with someone who will give you encouragement to stay the course in managing it well.
*Make appointments with yourself to dream and concentrate on your life’s purpose so that you are reminded of what you’re working toward, even in the mundane.
*God is never idle or bored. Look for the ways He is moving and depend on Him to mix things up for you. “See, I’m doing a new thing! Be utterly amazed.” (Is. 43:19; Hab. 1:5).
Do you feel scatter-brained? Are you so distracted and over-stimulated that you become jittery just thinking about a day without your to-do list or your electronic devices? Are you multi-tasking so much that your brain has forgotten how to concentrate on one thing at a time? Are you ever able to finish a prayer without losing yourself in a train of thought? Don’t fret or diagnose yourself as having ADHD. Instead, tell your brain that the ability to focus is there, but you need to do some retraining. (Rom. 12:2)
Keeping Room Tips:
First, you need to think about your thinking.
*There are no USB ports on the surface of your body. You don’t always have to be living as if you are waiting to receive external data. Turn inward. Start praying for God to position your heart upon what you most need to contemplate. Nothing lives closer to your brain than the Holy Spirit – by faith choose Him to be your Brain Teacher. (Gal 2:20)
*The Maker designed your brain to be malleable so that you could use your free will to think excellent and praiseworthy thoughts. You can literally grow in your brain more ability to focus – by thinking about focusing. Using God’s Word as your guide, you decide which focused thoughts you want to be part of your daily life. When you catch yourself thinking about something negative or jumping around to multiple and disjointed thoughts, remind your brain that you are teaching it how to be organized and healthy. (Phil. 4:8, Heb. 4:12b)
*The prophets demonstrate for you the best focus you can have. Simeon had a single focus on seeing Christ, and Anna’s primary focus was worshiping night and day. Look to them as your role models for where to place your first focus. (Luke 2:25-26, 37)
Second, you want to practice doing something new with your thinking.
*Re-learn how to concentrate on one task or one topic for a set amount of time. Use a timer or timed activity. For example, if you need to do some problem-solving or make a decision, give yourself the length of your shower to prayerfully think only about that one problem or that one decision.
*If your brain is struggling to empty itself of excess thoughts, make a list of thoughts you can return to when your focused time is up.
*Use a visual aid to help you focus on one thing at a time. For example, hold a picture of someone you’re praying for and keep looking at the photo until you’re done praying.
Third, keep thinking about focusing, keep practicing, and stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on Focus.