Archive for the ‘Time Management’ Category

A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping

New Years Eve Time Square

“Exercise is labor without weariness.”  —Samuel Johnson

Exercise is an important part of my life that was ingrained during a 24-year career in the U.S. Army.  I enjoy a good workout and feel out of sorts when I go too long without exercising.  In January there are always a lot of new faces in my local fitness center—mostly folks who made a new year’s resolution to exercise and lose weight.

Moving into February the numbers dwindle and by March, few of the new faces are still around.  We humans are great at making promises to ourselves that we never keep.  This year I’ve made a resolution worth keeping and it’s not the usual “lose some weight.”   Instead, I’m going to slow down.

“Adopt the pace of nature.  Her secret is patience.”  —Ralph Waldo Emerson

An Army career often requires one to maintain a “hair on fire” pace for long periods of time.  Mine was no exception. After retiring from the service, I continued the fast pace in my civilian work.  I can recall my mom continually advising me to slow down, but I never made an attempt to comply until fairly recently.  A couple of years ago I came to a realization that there are better ways to spend one’s time than to dash about in a frenzy trying to get as much done as humanly possible.

Slowing down doesn’t mean getting lazy, however.   It’s more about tempering the urgency in life and finding balance.  If I succeed at this, there won’t be sufficient time to do everything I might be inclined to do.   Therefore, I aim to re-evaluate what’s important in my life and then do my best to focus on the things that matter, while sweeping aside the trivial.

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”   —Oswald Chambers

I’ve been thinking about some of the things I can sweep aside this year.  Television ranks high on the list.  As my wife often reminds me, I watch some fairly mindless shows with no redeeming social value. Shows like ”Man vs. Food” come to mind.  If you’re not familiar with it, check it out on the Travel Channel website.  It’s about a fellow who travels the country seeking “pig out” restaurants  (www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/man-v-food).

The “Colbert Report” is also on my “fuggedaboutit” TV list.   I enjoy the show immensely, but it truly is mindless entertainment.  There are others, but I’ll spare you the laundry list.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”  —William Penn

As a management consultant, I periodically presented time management seminars.  They were very well received by every audience. Unfortunately, I constantly find myself violating the time management techniques I know to be effective.   I aim to be more disciplined with my time this year.

One of the best techniques I know to save time is by turning off the TV.  Limiting time on Facebook and other unproductive Internet sites is also advisable.  Avoiding web surfing and clicking links on the web pages one must visit will also save an enormous amount of time.

I’m also going to avoid checking emails and messages on my phone every few minutes.  At present, I’m an email version of Pavlov’s dog—grabbing my cell phone every time an email or text message alert beeps.  (For those struggling with time management, the Mindtools.com website has a simple, 10-step approach to help you get on track http://goo.gl/RsWrQ1.)

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”  —Groucho Marx

By reducing the time spent in front of the boob tube and on unproductive websites, I hope to make some time for reading.  I’m not talking about casual reading either.  Gibbon’s classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire has been sitting on my bookshelf for about three years.  This year I plan to dust it off and dive in.  I’m also going to try to read or reread several books by C.S. Lewis.

“Prayer does not equip us for the greater work, it is the greater work.” —Oswald Chambers

At the top of my “to do” list for 2014, however, is spending more time in the scriptures and prayer. Prayer is work and I plan to work a lot in this new year.   Romans 12:12 advises us, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (ESV).  Now that’s a new year’s resolution worth keeping.

Divine Simplicity: Focus on the things that matter…sweep aside the things that don’t.

 

 

Things That Matter

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“Men, for the sake of getting a living, forget to live.”    —Margaret Fuller

Many things in life compete for one’s attention and time.  There rarely seems to be enough time in a day to address everything tugging at your life.   At work, at school or at home it seems that nobody ever attains that elusive state of existence we call being, “caught up.”  The fact is it’s never possible to be caught up.  As soon as you complete one “to do” list, you’ll find that another list has emerged to take its place.  Life in America is busy, in many instances even for retirees.

With all of the hustle and bustle, it’s quite easy to allow each day to blend in with the next.  The end result is we get caught up in routines that often result in our missing out on the things that really matter in our lives.  If you’ve seen Bill Murray’s movie “Groundhog Day,” you’ll get the picture.  Each day becomes a replay of the previous one, like being caught in an endless circle of the mundane.

The end product of such routines is missed events, missed occasions and missed opportunities.  Think about those things you most regret having missed out on in your life.  It might be a birthday, anniversary, wedding, baptism, funeral, recital, ball game, a move to a new location or job, or something entirely different.  Each of us has a list of personal regrets weighing on our respective souls. Sometimes the weight becomes too much to bear.

As a management consultant, one of my services entails helping people make the most of their time and other resources.  In order to do this, I recommend a reflective exercise called “imagine.”  It goes like this.  Imagine that today you learned you have three months to live.  Make a list of the things you’d like to do with your remaining time?

Many people playfully compile something called a bucket list—a list of things they’d like to do before they die (kick the bucket).  It usually includes a lot of exciting activities, like skydiving, climbing Mount Everest, traveling in outer space and other great adventures.  However, people who partake in the “imagine” exercise tend to be more serious in compiling their lists.

Common answers to the “imagine” exercise include spending more time with one’s family and loved ones, apologizing to someone you’ve offended, helping someone in need and spending more time in prayer and spiritual pursuits. “Working more” rarely appears on such lists! Doing the “imagine” exercise produces a list of the things that really matter in one’s life.

It’s useful for anyone to develop a personal list of the things that matter.  Life is short and our time and other resources are limited.  Knowing what matters in your life will help you be a good steward of your resources.

Colossians 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  I urge you to take time to reflect on what truly matters in your life and work heartily at being a good steward with the time and other resources you dedicate to the things that matter.  Concurrently, work earnestly to eliminate as many as possible of the distracting things that don’t really matter.

As the popular Johnny Mercer song goes, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative,
and latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In-Between.  Just for grins, here’s a link to the original Johnny Mercer recording.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3jdbFOidds

Wikipedia: H is the eighth letter in the ISO basic Latin alphabet.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try this.

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“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest”  Psalm 55:6                                                                                                                  

In Psalm 55, David is on the run, fearing for his life.  The disloyalty of an old friend has left him feeling alone, scared and in despair.  While your personal burdens may not be life threatening like David’s, they can be overwhelming nonetheless.

Our struggling economy has created burdens for many that they could never have anticipated just a few years ago.  Whether it’s because of a lost job, impending mortgage foreclosure, or overdue bills piling up, many Americans are suffering tremendous financial pressures.

Even if you’re in good financial shape, it isn’t enough.  A 2011 study by the Manilla Research Institute indicates many Americans are stressed out by the pressure of managing their financial accounts.

Many others are overwhelmed by caring for aging parents, health concerns, difficulties with children, struggling marriages and more—the causes are too many to enumerate.

In trying to escape the pressures, many people follow dangerous paths.  One of the most common escapes is alcohol.  Unfortunately, it provides only temporary relief and comes with a laundry list of potential hazards.

Drug abuse is another popular outlet. This includes both legal and illegal drugs.  Over medication with prescription drugs is a major concern–Michael Jackson immediately comes to mind.  In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in ten Americans over the age of 12 is on some kind of antidepressant medication.

The Internet offers newer forms of escape.  It abounds with websites catering to extramarital affairs.  Sites like “Married Cheaters,”  “Married Cheating,” and the “Married Affair Guide,” are there to help those looking for an escape from marriage, either through a physical affair or one carried out “virtually” over the Internet.

Internet gaming is also a popular escape.  Through a multitude of game sites it’s possible to escape into a make believe world where you make all of the rules and you decide all of the outcomes.  In September 2007, ABC News reported that a man in an Internet café in China dropped dead of exhaustion during a three-day Internet gaming session.   While most people never go to such extremes, escapism through excessive Internet gaming carries real risks.

So what do you do when feeling overwhelmed? How do you try to escape the stress? We would all be wise to learn from David, who provides us a simple solution. He says in Psalm 55:16-17, “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me.  Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice.”

Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  (NIV)

In her book, “The SuperStress Solution,” Dr. Roberta Lee devotes an entire section to spirituality and prayer.  Speaking of people who are religious or spiritual, Dr. Lee’s research concludes, “They’re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and well-being.”  She also concludes that people who are more religious tend to become depressed less often. When they do become depressed, they recover more quickly. While Dr. Lee’s  conclusions are sound, she could have saved herself some time by simply reading Psalm 55 and believing.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

Making Time for Family Time

  “A family in harmony will prosper in everything.”  –Chinese Proverb

Time Management

As a management consultant, I have found that business managers at all levels overwhelmingly agree that time is one of their most precious resources, yet few proactively manage it.  Consequently, many businesses are plagued by continual over-scheduling and scheduling conflicts.  Frequent scheduling conflicts in a business can lead to communications problems, employee frustration and poor morale.  The end result is always decreased productivity and profits.  Some studies have shown that improved time management can increase productivity by as much as 40 percent in certain companies!

Managing Family Time

The same holds true for families.  Many families units today have a single parent or two working parents.  Add school age children to the mix and you have an almost certain recipe for scheduling difficulties. Failure to properly manage your family’s time can lead to unnecessary stress, strife and even financial troubles. For families, most activities can be classified into one of four categories:  1) business, 2) household, 3) personal, and 4) family. Each category is essential to a family and each requires good time management.

Business Time is the time one spends on preparing for work, commuting to and from work, other work-related travel, and working.  It’s the most difficult time to manage from an individual perspective, since most workers are tied to a fairly inflexible work schedule.  They arise from sleep at a predetermined time and then spend an amount of time getting ready for work, commuting to and from work, and actually performing their work. It’s fairly easy to estimate the minimum amount time a worker will spend on each of these tasks.  Predicting the maximum is much more difficult, especially for those having long commutes, frequent business trips, and who are salaried rather than hourly laborers.

Household Time it spent doing the chores and other activities required to run and maintain a household.  This includes time spent on business correspondence, bill paying, preparing tax returns, dealing with home maintenance, meal preparation etc.  Many of these activities can be performed on a flexible schedule.

Personal Time includes periods of sleep, relaxation, exercise (including organized sports), personal hygiene and grooming, learning/studying, and spiritual renewal. For good mental and physical health, it is essential that none of these activities be neglected.  Unfortunately, far too many people sacrifice personal time in exchange for more business or household time.

Family Time is defined differently for every family.  Broadly speaking, it includes time spent on communicating, bonding, learning and enjoying one another’s company and love.  Family time includes worship services and other activities at church.  Since it is loosely defined, it is frequently the most neglected category.

Scheduling Your Family Time

As the ancient Chinese proverb at the head of this post suggests, family time is the most important category of time for families.  Mismanaging family time will hamper family harmony.  Sadly, in many American homes today family time hardly exists at all.

To maximize your family time, try this:

1.  Have a family meeting (parents only), to discuss and define what the most important, non-negotiable family time should be for your particular family.  During the meeting, try to set a day (better several days) for family dinner time.  The value of sitting around the table and sharing a family meal is well recognized.

2.  Next, bring any school age children into the discussion.  The purpose of this is primarily to inform them of your decision, but it’s also an opportunity to hear their thoughts and maybe even modify your initial decision.

3.  Use monthly, weekly and daily calendars to plan and list your schedule.  Refer to each frequently and keep them updated.  Time management consultants universally agree that having calendars is essential to success.  Use paper or electronic calendars, or a combination of both—whatever you’re comfortable with.  Free, printable calendars online can be downloaded at this link: http://www.vertex42.com/ExcelTemplates/schedules.html

Maximizing Your Family Time

Here are some rules to help you maximize family time when planning your family’s schedule:

1.  Use only one set of calendars (monthly, weekly, daily) for the entire family.  This will help preclude scheduling conflicts.

2.  On your calendars, enter dad’s and/or mom’s business time first, since it usually the least flexible.

3.  Next, enter your family time events.  This should include those non-negotiable, recurring events like attending church, designated family dinner nights, movie nights, board game nights etc., plus important non-recurring events like birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, recitals, ball games etc.

4.  Next list personal time for each family member.  This time is essential for mental and physical well being.  If you neglect either of these areas, it will have a negative impact on the other areas of your life.

5.  Next, schedule your household time, which is your most flexible time and can be squeezed in between other activities on our calendar.

Parents should take 10 minutes at the end of each evening to review and refine the next day’s schedule.  If you forget to do this or you’re just too tired, take 10 minutes at the beginning of the next day.  Once you’ve reviewed and made any required adjustments to the daily schedule, review it with the kids as necessary.

As with most things that are important to a family, managing your family’s time takes discipline. It also requires being flexible and willing to negotiate. There will always be scheduling conflicts for parents to deal with.  Every day will require trade-offs. Be willing to go to extreme lengths to protect your designated family time. Failure to be flexible and/or an unwillingness to negotiate on the part of either parent will disrupt family harmony and cause a ripple effect throughout the family unit. Remember to do all things with love.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Life’s Balancing Act

You shall not go out with haste, . . . for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard —Isaiah 52:12

If you’ve been to a circus or watched one on television, it’s likely you were entertained by a tightrope walker performing amazing stunts while balancing on a thin wire suspended between two large poles.  It’s an incredible feat and most of us can’t imagine doing something requiring such skill, concentration and coordination.  Unfortunately, the older you grow the more likely it becomes you will have to perform an even more difficult balancing act–maintaining balance in your life.

As a management consultant, the “Wheel of Life” illustration at the head of this post is something I use frequently when conducting time management seminars and coaching.  How can you tell when a wheel is badly out of balance on your car?  You might feel a “shimmy” in the steering wheel.  Your life is like a wheel, constantly spinning as you go and go.  If  a part of your personal wheel of life is out of  balance, it tends to affect all of the other parts on the wheel.

      FAMILY – PHYSICAL – MENTAL – SPIRITUAL – CAREER & FINANCIAL – SOCIAL

Science had shown that trying to keep the six areas on the outer perimeter of the “Wheel of Life” in balance will lead to a higher quality of life.  It will also make you more efficient and content with your life in the workplace and at home. This doesn’t mean you should devote an equal amount of time to each area on the wheel.  At certain points in life you will have to devote a lot of time to one area over all of the others.   Those caring for aging parents, raising young children or dealing with serious health concerns know exactly what I mean.

However, it’s a certainty that if any area on the wheel is neglected for too long it will have a serious impact on many or all of the others. For instance, if you fail to pay attention to your health and let yourself become morbidly obese, it’s fairly clear this will affect other areas on your wheel.

Many of my clients have such busy schedules that they feel like there’s insufficient time in the day to stop and plan out their actions.  They live each day in full “reaction” mode, bouncing back and forth between whatever task demands the most attention at the moment.  They start work early, stay late and constantly feel tired and swamped.  Worst of all, at the end of the day they have no feeling of accomplishment, which leads to frustration and unnecessary fretting.

Periodically taking time to stop and evaluate the situation is guaranteed to give you clarity and make your life simpler.  I advise my business clients to spend 10-15 minutes at the beginning of each day reviewing their calendars and organizing their daily tasks.  This helps ensure that they focus on the most important tasks on their “to do” lists.

The same principle applies to everyone.  Taking just a few minutes of quiet time each morning to pray, study the scriptures and reflect on the day ahead will add clarity and purpose to your day.  Christians could learn a lesson from the followers of Islam.  Muslims stop five times per day to pray–morning, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. Periodically pausing for prayer throughout each day is guaranteed to help you cope with daily stress and worries.

It seems that I’ve spent a good deal of my life in a hurry.  My mother was always telling me to slow down. It took me years to figure out what she meant.  As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to reassess how we spend our time.  As we move forward in 2012, let’s proceed with the power of knowing that the God of Israel goes before us and clears a pathway for us, if only we will follow Him.

Need some extra time? Try this simple trick.

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free…                                                                                                                                                                        (taken from “Simple Gifts,  a traditional Shaker tune by Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. – 1848)

Are you one of those people who never seems to have enough time in your day?  If so, there might be an easy way to fix that.  It just  requires a bit of  simple behavior modification…and it’s easier than giving up chocolate for Lent.

As a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, my first assignment after completing the Officer’s Basic Course was at an isolated air defense missile site in the German state of  Westfalen (Westphalia).  The year was 1977. Westkirchen was truly a village in the purest sense of the word.  With a population of only several hundred,  it had one stoplight, a church, a butcher shop, a bakery, a barber-drugstore combination and a pub, more properly called a “gasthaus” in German.  Westkirchen was surrounded by similar villages.  The county seat of Warendorf , which was nearly 10 miles away, offered only a few more conveniences.

Military duty in Westkirchen was tough on the soldiers and their families alike, mainly due to the isolation.  Counting soldiers and family members, there were less than 50 Americans in the village.  My wife and I were fortunate to have lived in Germany previously, so we both spoke the language passably.  Unfortunately, few of the enlisted soldiers or their wives spoke German. Most of the soldiers were young and single; the majority were teenagers or in their early twenties.  Few were married.  Of the married ones, most were young with young wives and infants at home. The American elementary school was located in the city of Muenster, about a 45-minute drive to the north.  Fortunately, there were no teenage children, as they would have been required to be boarding students living in a dorm at the American High School in the city of Giessen, nearly three hours to the south.

One particular aspect of our family life in Westkirchen was quite unique for Americans.  For the year my wife and I lived there, we had no television in our home.  There were two reasons for this.  First, there were no American stations available.  It was 1977 and there was no cable TV, just German broadcast stations.  Second, German television programming was abysmal in those days.  Stations didn’t sign on until late morning and signed off around midnight. The stations offered a very boring line-up.   There were a couple of decent weekly series, but German TV consisted mostly of news programs and a lot of dry documentaries.  The later had deep subjects like “sheep farming in the north German plain,” or “the trials and tribulations of life as a prostitute in a Berlin brothel.”  You get the picture!

Life without the “boob tube” was a bit difficult at first, but we soon adapted and developed a routine without TV.  Like our grandparents and parents before us, we turned to radio as the entertainment medium of choice.  In Westkirchen, we could pick up the American Armed Forces Network (AFN) and British Forces Broadcasting System radio stations on the AM dial.  The AFN station was best by far, as it provided news from home, familiar music selections and old-time radio serials.  It didn’t take us long to become fans of  Dick Tracy, The Shadow, Jack Benny, and the Lone Ranger.  Although one might have some difficulty finding these programs on the radio today, there are still lots of great programs available on broadcast radio and on stations that stream their signals over the Internet.

If you want to simplify your life and add some much needed time to your day, try turning off the TV and turning on the radio.  Radio has some great advantages over television. Foremost is that radio doesn’t require your undivided attention, because it lacks a visual dimension.  You can listen to a radio program and do something productive simultaneously.  I like to work with classical music playing softly on the radio.  Best of all, unlike TV, you can listen to radio and interact with other human beings simultaneously, providing you don’t have the volume blasting.

Another feature of our television-free Westkirchen home was board games.  We must have purchased a dozen during our time there and we still have many of them.  Unlike TV, board games require interaction with another person.  Generally speaking, the more people playing the game, the more fun it is for all.  Baby Boomers might recall a Monopoly game many years ago, with a roomful of players packed around the board.  If you think back hard enough, you’ll probably remember the talking, laughter, eating, drinking and people generally having fun.

Compare this to a common scene today, where a teenager sits alone for hours in front of  a computer screen, playing video games with earphones on and the volume cranked up, totally isolated from reality.  Many of these games, like  Dungeon and Dragons, have dark themes.  Ask yourself which scenario is healthier.

According to the Nielsen Company, in 2010 Americans watched more TV than ever–an average of 34 hours per person, per week. That’s enough time to work a second job!  Try taking this challenge. For one week limit your TV viewing to two hours per day (OK, we’ll make it three hours on days the Steelers or Penguins play). At the end of the week, do an assessment of  your time utilization and you might just discover that television viewing has become a time thief in your life.

Many readers will find that by limiting TV viewing, they suddenly  have a lot of extra time on their hands.  If this is the case with you, try filling your time “bonus” time with something productive.  Give the kids some extra help with their homework, begin reading that good book you’ve had by the bed for a long time, take an online course, or start a new hobby…maybe even blogging. Just turn off the tube and turn on to life! It’s really quite simple.

Do you sometimes find yourself bouncing off the walls?

“Simplicity is an act of the will to reduce the fracturedness of life by centering life around a singleness of purpose.” — Ann Hagman

Do you sometimes find yourself bouncing off the walls–unable to focus on anything? Do you wake up at 2 am with your mind racing, unable to fall back asleep? Do you find yourself sometimes only half-listening to people because you’re more interested in what you have to do next than what that person has to say? If you answered yes to any of the preceding questions, don’t fret. You’re not alone! Many people have a “to do” list hanging over their head like an executioner’s axe.

In today’s fast-paced world, you’re probably in the majority if you feel like there aren’t enough hours in your day. You need to wash the car, mow the lawn, trim the hedges, do the laundry, drive the kids somewhere, and if you’re really lucky you might catch a ball game on television—and this is just your Saturday schedule! On Sunday, grasping for a spiritual straw to cling to, you drag yourself from bed, drive to church and put on a happy face as you meet and greet. You allow your mind to meander as the sermon is preached and afterwards reluctantly agree to join yet another working group or committee.

With church checked off the list, you return home to finish those tasks you didn’t get to on Saturday. On Monday you go back to work, caring for the kids and house or suffering through the trials of a long commute because you can’t find a good job nearby. Throughout your day there are emails, voice mails, text messages, phone calls and a seemingly endless string of meetings or appointments. If you’re lucky, at the end of an arduous day you’ll find temporary refuge in the smiling face and gentle charm of a spouse or significant other and, for a time, you’ll be restored. But this fragile moment of peace will eventually be interrupted by unwanted phone calls, endless junk mail, stacks of business correspondence demanding your attention, and a depressing lack of time to get it all done before you collapse into bed. Then, after grabbing a few hours of restless sleep, you’ll have just enough energy to rise the next morning to begin a similar day.

Far too many Americans suffer through similar routines each day. I hear complaints from friends and colleagues all the time. Such routines propel us in directions God never intended humans to travel. The Maker’s grand design doesn’t include the chaos that confounds so many people today. His creation brought order out of chaos, light out of darkness. Man was designed to exist in harmony with God, as His child and companion. But we live in a fallen world where many people struggle to discover God’s purpose in their lives and far to many never stop to consider what God’s purpose for them might be. They simply muddle through each day without giving a thought to what it all means.

Evil thrives in chaos. Chaos breeds destruction. Years ago I witnessed this played out to its fullest in Somalia. After the Somali central government collapsed in the midst of a civil war, marauding groups of bandits raided the villages of neighboring clans, leaving a locust-like path of destruction and death. Entire clans were left isolated and struggling to survive. Although daily life is not usually played out so vividly in our society, chaos in American lives is also a breeding ground for evil.

What are the trademarks of social chaos? Just watch the evening news. Murder, violent crime, divorce, unchecked abortion, spousal abuse, child abuse, drug abuse, depression, suicide, a rash of children born out of wedlock, and constant fear are just a few. God has a better plan. He wants us to enjoy life to the fullest. But how can we hope to discover His purposes when so many of our lives are filled with chaos and distractions?

It might be impossible to reduce the “to do” list that’s making your daily routine chaotic, but there is a way to avoid the negative effects such a routine can have on your life. The solution is spelled out clearly in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Start by adding one additional task to your the top of your “to do” list. If you’re not doing so already, make a quiet time with God part of your daily routine. While you can’t always eliminate the temporal chaos of life, God has provided a way to eliminate spiritual chaos. Achieve this and life’s daily challenges will no longer seem so important.

Oswald Chambers said, “Even the very smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy Spirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion, and spending all of our time thinking about it will still never make it clear. Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment. … But when our natural power of sight is devoted and submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, it becomes the very power by which we perceive God’s will, and our entire life is kept in simplicity.” I encourage you to strive to begin each day spending quiet time with God. Study the scriptures, pray, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and most important of all, listen intently for His still, small voice.

Life is tough…there must be a simpler way!

“I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.”     –Albert Einstein

The rolling hills of Indiana County, in western Pennsylvania afford visitors scenic beauty and serenity rivaling anyplace in America.  From atop any of the high hills one can see large barns and farmhouses dotting the countryside.  Drive down a road and eventually you’ll come upon a horse-drawn buggy moving slowly, but steadily along.  This is Amish country, a different universe than the one I live in and probably different from yours.  Yet it lies only a few miles from my home.

Having rejected the modern world, these plain people, the descendents of German Anabaptists, struggle to maintain an 18th century existence in fast-paced, 21st century America. They till the soil.  They build their own houses and barns and heat them with stoves fired by wood and coal.  They have neither television, radio, cell phones, computers, cars nor tractors.  Stout work horses pull their plows through the fertile fields. They educate their children in one-room schoolhouses. They know their neighbors and help them when needed. They revere God!

When I consider their world, I can’t help but envy them. No, I’m not ready to give up my car, my television or most of the other conveniences of life, but I envy many aspects of the simple Amish lifestyle.  I long for simplicity in my own life.  Deep inside I yearn for a simpler existence, something that seems quite elusive.

Several years ago, just a few days before Christmas, my wife and I visited the tiny town of Smicksburg, which is situated in the heart of Indiana County’s Amish country. In a gift shop I found a small Christmas ornament.  It is a hand-painted, miniature wooden plaque bearing one word, “Simplify.” At that moment, awash in Amish culture, I experienced a sort of revelation.

I returned home determined to reduce the chaos in my daily routine. I’ve since enjoyed some success and some glaring failures.  The ornament now hangs in a prominent place in my home, providing a daily reminder to keep me focused on the road ahead.   Having thus set the stage, let the journey begin. I invite you to join me in exploring ways to cut through the chaos cluttering our lives, so we may more easily discern how to make daily living “simply divine,”  as God intended.

You’ll find that much, if not most of what I have to say is shaped by my Christian beliefs.  If you’re not a fellow believer, please don’t be put off by my religiosity.  If you visit now and then, I believe you’ll find something here to interest you and brighten your life.