Life as a headless chicken

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]M[/su_dropcap]y solid old farmhouse is more than 100 years old. That may not mean much to folks in the northeastern United States or my dear friends in England, but in Kansas, it’s a big deal. It’s the perfect sanctuary for writing. I turn on my music and hammer out words by the tens of thousands and feel good about myself. The trouble comes when somebody needs me.

My office is on the second floor at the south of the house. The only stairwell is on the north. There are several solid wood doors between us, and if it’s summer time, I also have a window air conditioner running. There’s so much noise, I can’t hear when anybody shouts up at me. I can’t even hear my cell phone ring. So if anyone wants to get my attention, they have to walk up the stairs, throw my office door open, and throw things at my head.

It’s a chore to get my attention sometimes. But that’s true even when I’m sitting in a quiet environment.

One of my favorite television shows, Longmire (based on the brilliant book series by Craig Johnson), has an episode called “An Unquiet Mind” where we get a peek inside the main character’s tumultuous thoughts. His mind is never quiet. He’s always thinking about something, and that’s how I feel most times.

Do you ever feel like that? Like your brain is so noisy that you can’t get a word in edgewise?

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Here in America, we’re expected to live busy, crowded, noisy lives. That’s what it means to be American, isn’t it?[/su_pullquote]

My mind is never silent. It’s not chaotic. Not usually. But it sure is loud in there most of the time. I’m thinking about what I have to do today, what I have to do tomorrow, what I have to do next week, next month, next quarter. I’m worrying about friends and family. I’m fretting about the dwindling decimals in my bank account. I’m thinking about bills that need paying, chores that need doing, meetings that need scheduling, manuscripts that need editing, blog posts that need writing, etc.

We weren’t meant to live like that. That’s not how God designed us to function, in spite of what those around us might say. Here in America, we’re expected to live busy, crowded, noisy lives. That’s what it means to be American, isn’t it?

But is that how we were meant to live?

We’re not supposed to be lazy. We’re not supposed to sit back on our blessed assurance and live a life only reacting to trauma and disaster. But we’re certainly not supposed to live life like headless chickens either.

So how do you prevent being dragged into the chaos of life and still manage to get things done? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.

peachy-divider

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap] underestimate the value of silence. Silence isn’t something I’ve ever truly appreciated until recently. Silence always meant that something was wrong or someone was waiting on me. And I hate it when people are waiting on me. But it’s difficult to find an instance in the Bible where silence is considered negative.

Sure, there’s all sorts of Psalms begging God not to be silent, but most of the time, silence is a good thing. Proverbs says over and over again that even fools are called wise when they shut up (Proverbs 17:28). Fast forward to the New Testament and James encourages people to make listening the priority rather than speaking (James 1:19).

Silence is hard to find, both externally and internally. But it’s something we should strive for, because—like it or not—Someone is trying to get our attention.

God talks to us every day. He makes Himself known every moment. The whole world has no excuse for ignoring God. But for those of us who know the Bible, we who’ve been raised in it from cradle to pew, how can we possible explain ourselves? Burying our lives in chaos? Drowning ourselves in anxiety and noise?

God’s calling us. He’s shouting at us, waving His arms in desperation, trying to catch our eyes.

Pay attention! Listen to what I’m saying! I’m here, and I’ve always been here, and I’m not leaving you. Not ever. I’ve done everything to prove Myself to you. Why aren’t you listening?

[su_pullquote]God’s calling us. He’s shouting at us, waving His arms in desperation, trying to catch our eyes.[/su_pullquote]

We don’t have to succumb to the tidal waves of stress and exhaustion the world (and even the church) sends in our direction. We don’t have to fear what’s coming tomorrow or in November or in ten years. God’s in control. He knows what He’s doing. He never makes mistakes. He always keeps His promises. And all we have to do is trust Him.

Yes, easier said than done, but nothing worth having was ever easy to achieve.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20

rev3-20Is your life so noisy you can’t hear Him? Is your life so busy you can’t see Him? Then something should change. Maybe it’s the way you live. Maybe it’s the way you think. But something’s got to give, because you weren’t made for this.

Don’t let yourself get so mired in noise and the craziness of life that you can’t hear Jesus calling you. It’s easy to get there. Believe me. But you don’t have to stay there. Climb out if you can. Ask for help if you can’t. Just get out. Open your ears. Open your heart. Listen.

Jesus is knocking. Can you hear him?

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We aren’t called to live in chaos

Have you ever been in the grocery store and picked up an apple or a green pepper from the bottom of a stack and watched the whole mountain above come crashing down at your feet? Sad to say, I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. And that’s a pretty fair picture of my life right now.

I am currently living in chaos. Just being honest. When you’re sick for a month, life and responsibilities just stack up, and then when you’re well enough to put things back together again, it feels like you cause an avalanche of apples or green peppers with every project you decide to work on.

But one thing I learned a long time ago is that God doesn’t call His children to live in chaos.

This is not my picture.... Not my office either, but I'm almost this bad

This is not my picture…. Not my office either, but I’m almost this bad

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 14:40.

But be sure that everything is done properly and in order.

This verse is actually part of the first letter Paul issued to the Church of Corinth. Man, you think your church has problems? Oi. Nobody has problems like the Church of Corinth. It was a mess, and Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, addressed the issues in the book of First Corinthians.

While this message is primarily directed at a church gone haywire, I think there’s truth in it for our everyday lives too. So how do you live life properly? How do you live life in order?

So what is proper? That word always makes me think of Jane Austen novels and Victorian etiquette. Obviously, that’s not what it means. And in order? There are lots of ways you can put something in order. Which one is this talking about?

You guys know I love a word study.

The word we translate properly in this instance in the Greek is εὐσχημόνως (Strong’s Concordance word 2156, if you want to check it out yourself), and this word only appears in the New Testament three times (Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 14;40, and 1 Thessalonians 4:12). It always talks about behavior, especially behavior that is in good form. Decorously becoming. What’s respectable, modest, noble.

The word we translate in order in the Greek is ταξιν (Strong’s Concordance word 5010). It’s a little more frequently used in the New Testament–9 occurrences total for the root word. But what’s interesting about this one is that it’s a military term used in ancient Greece, suggesting a detailed ordering of a group of soldiers.

So what does that tell us? Proper behavior isn’t sipping tea with your pinkie crooked. It’s making choices in life that are respectable and modest. If we are to live properly, that means we live a life that is worthy of respect.

And living a life in order means we need to know what’s happening in our lives, as specifically as a soldier knows his duties. I also think it’s interesting that soldiers live a very simple life usually. They don’t have a lot of possessions, and they don’t usually take on more duties than they are assigned. At least, the soldiers I know don’t.

Living a life that’s worthy of respect and that is clearly defined in its responsibilities? Sounds pretty nice to me.

In my experience, we tell everyone yes. We want to help everybody. We want to make everyone happy, so we rarely say no. And as a result, our calendars are so overfilled with appointments and responsibilities that we can’t keep anything straight. So step one is to learn how to gently say no to the extra activities that stress us out.

Get the basics down. Know your responsibilities–your duties. What you have to do today. What you have to do tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. And don’t just know it–do it. The basics of life are like the foundation of a building, and if they aren’t properly cared for, the whole structure will come crashing down. Prioritize.

Don’t have so much going on that you can’t keep track of everything. And if you simply have to have lots happening, find a way to organize it. Keep track of it. The more that slips through the cracks, the less respectable you’ll be. And part of living the kind of life we’re called to is to be worthy of respect.

We aren’t called to live in chaos. God calls all of us–our churches, our families, our personal selves–to live orderly lives worthy of respect. It’s not an easy calling. It means we have to make difficult decisions. We have to say no sometimes. We have to cut things out of our schedules that we might want to do.

So think about it. Do you really enjoy chaos? I don’t. Nobody is going to make you do it. It’s a decision you have to make on your own. It’s between you and the Lord. But nothing is going to change until you make up your mind.