Thursday, March 15, 2012

AVOIDABLE Time-Consumers, and How to Get Rid of Them

I've already addressed two of the biggest UN-Avoidable time-consumers, but what about the things that ARE avoidable? The things that we CAN take out of our schedule? Here's some practical steps to avoiding the avoidable. Psalm 16:11 says "In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand pleasures forevermore." We don't need those things; we need God. So let's do some life-cleaning, shall we?


a. (Social) Internet

The internet has become one of the largest problems for Christians recently, who become quickly reeled in to be glued to the screen. While the internet is not bad-it can be useful and even productive, overuse, unproductiveness or even evil sites have been crawling onto the desktops of Christians. The biggest problem lies, I think, in the social networking, which consumes thousands of hours from Christians that could be used for God. But there are ways to monitor (or get rid of it) fully.

1. Set up hours/limits for your online use.
It really helps me if I just decide that I'm not going to use Facebook every day. All it is is telling your temptation to get online "I'm sorry, but let's just wait until tomorrow. We don't need to do it today." Satan will tell you that you do need to do it now, and sometimes there is a real reason that you need to check your social pages. But oftentimes it is just a way to burn time. The price is too high to waste on this! We pay attention to burning as little fuel as possible because of its five dollar price: your time and spiritual life are priceless!

2. Use it for edifying purposes.
If you find yourself just scrolling randomly around the internet, that's when it's time to get off. Rather than looking down your "news feed", following random friend's pages, or just posting a status about your recent escapade of eating a bagel (which really interests everyone else, I'm sure), why not post a Bible verse? Send a note to a friend who's having a hard time? Or better yet, blog?

3. If it is in your power, get rid of it.
If the only people on your social internet are either mostly strangers or people who you already see three times a week, it might be time to get rid of your Facebook. Sometimes that may not be possible; but if it is, it may be time to reconsider your priorities.

b. Television
Recent movies, like Fireproof, Courageous, and Amazing Grace have brought great Christian films to many. But the television is one of the worst for consuming time that could be used well. The average American watches 4 hours of TV every day-which will amount to 9 years of television by the time they are 65. Even if you don't watch 4 hours of TV every day (or week, even), it may be time to think about why you watch it.

1. Spend Your Time Well
As I said before, setting a time limit for yourself is a great way to keep track. You can set yourself to maybe a limit of time or on how many movies you watch. A TV fast is also a great way to improve your walk with God-every time you want to watch TV, you go spend time with God instead. I'd recommend trying it!
2. Watch God-Glorifying Movies
Not every movie that is good necessarily has a "Christian" message-some very good movies aren't "Christian." But many Christians have become hardened to swearing, bad jokes, and other things in movies. We justify it by saying "Well, that movie is great! The one swear word can't bother God, can it?" Well in truth, the smallest sin and compromise brothers God, and if we take one step down we'll just want to take one lower.

3. If You Can, Remove the Distraction
It may not be possible to throw out your family's TV, but if you can it could cause a wave of difference in your spiritual walk. If you get rid of your TV and find a good movie, you can always watch it with your computer or watch it with a friend.

UnChrisitian Music, Books

The UnChristian music and book genre is a touchy place, one of those gray areas in Christianity. But I'm not on a position on whether secular things are actually wrong (assuming that they don't contradict any Biblical precepts). I think that we need to stop asking, How far can I go before it's not in God's boundary lines?-but we should be asking How far can I go to honor God in this area of my life? This is what the Bible says we should do-"Do ALL for the glory of God." is what the apostle Paul says. So here are some tips in the area of secular music and books.

1. Let Yourself Be Open
The first step is always to be willing to give it up. This willingness may not come over night, but with a firm prayer that He would help you to let it go and a real try, He will bring you through.

2. Obey His Commands
This is harder, even if you have allowed yourself to be open. There will be excuses from your flesh. Maybe you don't listen to the non-Christian radio station, but you have a couple of Taylor Swift songs on your iPod. "That can't be bad, right? Or really, Eragon? That book is totally fine! The Hunger Games? Really? God, you're getting into the extreme." flash, Christianity is the extreme. And if you're going to go under its banner, you'd better be prepared to live like it.

I highly recommend taking a break (or removing) distractions from your schedule. And believe me, I am anything but a finished piece in this part of life. But with work-and prayer-all things are possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Top Unavoidable Time Consumers-and What to Do About Them (Part 2)

If you've ever gardened, you know how beautiful and enjoyable it can be to watch your flowers and plants grow-especially if you can taste the outcome! But you also probably know how much work it is. Flower gardens are a lot like our lives. One of the biggest problems are the weeds, which choke out the beautiful blossoms and food and make the garden downright ugly. But some flowers have the tendency to become overgrown and take over the entire garden-and even the yard! We have to learn to keep the things we need in our lives under control so that God can have full, unhindered control of our lives.


I can imagine the teenagers who read this groaning and rolling their eyes. Sleep. We can't go without sleep! And that's true. We need sleep. And even if you're not sleeping in until noon, sleep can have unhealthy control over your life.

Night Owls

This is the wider, more popular category, made up of people who stay up late to do school (check out my last post), work, or just watch movies or spend time on Facebook. But what does this lead to? A rushed 10 minutes of Bible reading and 2 minutes of prayer while you scramble around at 9 to finish your school. But I've found it necessary to get up early to serve my King, and that has to be an option to you as well. You may not have to get up at 5, seven may work just fine. But whatever you choose, you have to choose a time to get to it.

1. Make a Determined Effort to Get to Bed Earlier
Whether it means finishing school at 4 rather than 9, deliberately turning off the computer at 8, or any other change to keep yourself from staying up late, the best thing to do is make a focused effort and decide to keep it. The first night (or several nights) it will probably be hard to fall asleep early, but keep at it and eventually your body will adjust to the earlier schedule. Not only will your spiritual life be furthered, but you will probably feel more awake during the day.

2. Make a Determined Effort to Wake Up Earlier
The first step is to set your alarm for the time you have decided to get up in the morning, and measure when you get to sleep depending on what time that is. If you're not used to getting up earlier, the first week will be torture. But as you adjust, it will become easier and easier. I've found it helps me to put my alarm on the other side of the room so I'm forced to get up and walk across the room to turn it off-which wakes me up. I've also put it under things before, so I don't half sleepwalk if I'm really tired. Remember, you won't be able to get up early if you don't get to sleep early too.

Early Birds

Believe it or not, early birds (I am one of them) can have problems with sleep too-even we have trouble getting up early some times! We too often fall into a schedule as well where our school and our sleep are almost back to back. My family has suggested to me multiple times that I begin school at 5:30 after my 5:00 alarm goes off, rather than 9:00, but the first two hours of my day are sacred to me, reserved only for the precious time with just myself and my King. If you've already mastered getting your sleep habits under control, then you may have other things to worry about ;)

1. Reserve Your Early Morning Hours for Him
Rather than doing school at 6:30, why not start at 8:00, and save that hour and a half for Him? If that isn't possible, then maybe it's time to consider pushing your wake up time back, removing an outside activity or school subject, or cutting down on Facebook or other similar distractions. Nothing is more important than God.

2. Reserve Your Evening for Him
My evening devotions aren't nearly as long as my morning devotions, but some people prefer to do then at night. With early morning risers, the need to get to sleep early presses-and sometimes God is forgotten in the rush to get to bed on time. Set something down to do before you get to sleep-a journal, one Bible reading plan or part of it, etc, that you do in the evening rather than the morning. Even if it only takes you two minutes, it's always better to end the day with God than without Him.

I'm not someone who can tell you how to get better sleep or how to fall asleep easier. My job is just to give what advice I've found helpful in my own life. I pray God blesses you in your efforts. :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Top Unavoidable Time Consumers-and What to Do About Them (Part 1)

"Look, I want to spend time with God, I really do, but I just don't have time!" This seems to be the cry of many Christians. The bookstores are filled with "Devotions in 3 minutes!" types, for in a hurry and on-the-go Christians. But as A.W. Tozer said, "It is well that we accept the hard truth now: the man who would know God must give time to Him." But we are stuck with a chapter of the Bible crammed into the corners and prayer is something that we wish we had time for. Even if we are setting aside a focused time, we still find ourselves rushing throughout the day. Some of this is our own laziness and unnecessary activities (we'll get to that later) but what about the things that we can't cut out of out schedule? Those are what we have to keep the tightest control over if our relationship with God is to flourish.

In the old times, school was not nearly as rigorous as it is today, and a higher education (high school, not college) was anything but mandatory-but that is not the view of today. It's so easy to say that the Bible was written in times when people didn't have to do school and that its principals don't work here. But God knows our time and our situation-and the Bible's ethics do work. It's just that ours don't. School is not something you can skip out on anymore, but we have to find a way to work around it so we can give our lives to God. Here are some practical ways to glorify God in this area of your life:

1. Clear Out Your Schedule
Now, as a homeschooler, life rarely caters to my schedule exactly. But school needs to actually have a certain time for it. Forty-five minutes of Wii Fit or a long jog may not be wrong in your schedule, but doing so at one in the afternoon and pushing your school back until six isn't a solution either. School needs to be able to work without distraction and with planning. When your day is planned out, it runs much more efficiently.

2. Set Boundaries
School doesn't have to go from nine to three, but it needs to have a set time. Staying up until midnight does not help your case. When your boundaries are not set, school can push essentials like family time and especially God out of the way in your pursuit. Even though school is important, it's not the most important thing in life. And with a clean schedule, it's as simple as stopping chemistry at three rather than ten.

3. Prioritize
If you find that your school is not fitting inside your boundaries, then you need to prioritize what school you are doing. A required math course, the Latin class your mom says you have to take, and science may all be stuck in your life. But do you really need that extra history class? Do you actually need to get two math books done this year? Do you really need to get ahead? It's not just the dropping of subjects though, but overdoing them as well. Yes, studying for the SAT is a worthy pursuit, but adding three hours to your daily schedule-even to your weekly schedule may not be the right thing to do. Do you have the lesson? Then do you need to do every optional problem? As homeschoolers (overachievers) the temptation is huge. Even if it means doing school during the summer, the eternal benefits are endless.

There isn't really a "how to" on exactly working with any area of your life, so prayerfully consider any additional changes that God may be pressing on you in the area of your education. The point is not to get more free time, but open your life up so that God may work in you even more.