Monday, January 23, 2012

The To Do List

Unless the Lord builds the house,
     those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
     the guard keeps watch in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
     and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
     for he gives sleep to his beloved.

                        Psalm 127:1-2

Whew!  This year has started out in a maddening hurry!  As new years go, this one has been much more demanding than I could possibly have imagined.  It especially comes home to me when I realize with horror that it has been a month since my last post!  I never wanted to go this long without writing. 

There were plenty of ideas in my head about what my first post of 2012 might look like.  I had imagined serenely reflecting on my New Years Eve meal of 7 Can Soup.  (My husband and I, being the parents of young children, have decided to forego the wilder parties for now.)  I had considered writing about the usual January themed topics; goals and resolutions, winter and cold, new beginnings.  All of this fell by the wayside with the insane charge that January has become.

It all began with one very long To Do list.

Now we all know that January is a very busy time on the church calendar.  Just as busy, in fact, as December with our Advent celebrations and our preparing once again for Jesus to be born.  We are now getting ready for Lent which comes quickly on Advent’s heels.  (One might ponder the theological significance of Jesus’ birth and death coming so insanely close together.  What was our Savior thinking!)  We are also busy welcoming those new visitors who come through our doors with their resolutions to get back to church.  We are inaugurating new leaders and working to equip the entire congregation for another year of ministry and mission in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  It doesn’t slow down. 

This year, I was lured into some pretty unhealthy practices; namely overwork.  I labored in the office some very long hours; coming in often before sun up and remaining at the church till well after the dinner hour; tightly scheduling my timeframes for crossing off each item that needed to get done; and, if I was lucky, arranging for time to eat and breathe.  I put all of my energy and my efforts into taming this monster called the To Do List.

It didn’t take long to realize that my over-zealous attempts to get it all done were counter-productive.  Terribly.  My work almost certainly lacked in quality what it made up for in quantity.  I became, to say the least, exhausted.  I was dragging around the office at best, grumpy and paranoid at worst!  I feel certain some of my co-workers were ready to throttle me (though if you were one of them, I’d appreciate your silence).  Most of all, I became blind to the fact that I was allowing no room for actual faith; for the belief that God could and would work through my efforts, even if I only labored for a reasonable, humanly possible number of hours per day.

It is easier than breathing to become so wrapped up with our tasks that we forget the reason we showed up in the first place.  “Mission creep” takes on all kinds of forms, and it is probably at its worst when we think we are burning rocket fuel directly toward that mission.  We forget not only the people God has called us to serve, but the very God who is both the reason for the work and the one who makes it a possibility. 

I had hoped to get “on top of” my To Do list, thinking I could manage it from there.  The myth, I’ve learned, is that such a place even exists.  It is like trying to get on top of a river, or a stampede of horses.  There is no such location.  One cannot be over it, only in it; and there is nothing to grab hold of except for the lifelines of grace.  If I want to keep my balance, I can only hang on and ride. 

The 7 Can Soup marked the end of a peaceful week of rest and the beginning of an important life lesson.  So I share it with you here.  It is easy to make and tastes pretty good.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Blessed eating!

7 Can Soup
1 can chili with beans                              1 can chili, no beans
1 can corn                                                   1 can Rotel
1 can mixed veggies                                  1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce or tomato soup     1 onion, ch.
1 lb. ground meat

Brown meat and onion until done.  Rinse in hot water to remove most of the fat.  Mix all ingredients together in a crock pot and simmer 2-3 hours until onions are done. – Winslow Moore

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