Effort

Effort doesn’t always equal accomplishment. Have you tried something with all your might and been unsuccessful?

Sometimes the point of the task is whether we even tried — making the effort is actually the goal.

Other times, the point is to complete the task. To be finished. To move through the steps and then, presto! You are done.

Other times the goal is to finish the task so it is the best it can be, whether or not you have limitations.

Once my husband had a boss who tried to set the office goals 10% higher than the previous year. There were no additional resources in the way of people or budgets, just a higher goal — expecting more effort (and results) from everyone.

Sure, we can probably all work a little harder and make a stronger effort.

Unfortunately, this boss was unsatisfied with the progress that was made (indeed, progress was made) and the very next year asked for another 10% increase in effort and accomplishment from everyone. Of course, they did not offer a budget increase or additional personnel, just more effort and, technically, less resources than the previous year. Also, no increase in salaries.

People can kick it into high gear for deadlines and special projects but to be at high delivery all the time is unreasonable. And it means there is less of you in other important places, like home and family. Isn’t there more to life than work? Isn’t an employee better in the field if they have a work/life balance?

You can ask for more and more effort but it doesn’t mean the positive results will be seen.

Effort is like energy — we only have so much to give and then there is a need to refuel by gaining new skills and training or by letting the mind and body rest. You need energy to give your best effort. And while rewards along the way can help with motivation, there is still only so many hours in the day.

And there are still no guarantees of success.

 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. [Colossians 3:23-24, NIV]

While I agree with this verse, take caution that you aren’t involved in an unhealthy system that routinely asks more and more of its people. Unfortunately, the church can be one of the greater offenders in this arena. If your personal time is dwindling because of the routine requests of your employer, it might be time to make an exit plan!

God’s blessings on your week!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: INTERRUPTIONS

Focus, II

Setting aside time to concentrate on a situation is sometimes difficult for me. If I am in a shared space it makes it even harder because I can get distracted with the other person’s presence and movement. Eliminating any extras is very helpful but not very realistic. We all share space with different people all the time. But I have found the quiet of the early morning is a great space for me and not often shared.

Having a list of what needs to be accomplished also helps my focus. I can easily get caught up in a task, which leads to another thing, and those are all fine items to tackle, but if I don’t have a list, the essential things might not get addressed. A list can help me prioritize the day.

Prayer can be a wonderful opportunity for focus. Talking through things with God helps me see what issues in my life are coming to the forefront or are hanging out in my peripheral vision but bothering me. What are those dreams or fears? When I put words to them it helps them go from ideas and feelings swirling around my head to something I put a spotlight on as I try to explain them. It is important to sort through them and allowing them to come into view aids that process.

When things are out of focus I seem unable to accomplish much anyway so it is important for me to figure out what is going on. If I focus too much on the past, I will not see where I am going. But if the past is causing me issues, I need to take some time to examine it. Even though the Bible is a really old book, it is amazing that God’s Word can offer so much insight for my life today!

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 3:12-14, NIV]

May God give you eyes to see those things that need your focus today!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: EFFORT

Focus

  • Eyeglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Microscopes
  • Magnifiers

My glasses help bring things into focus. Since I don’t have to wear them all the time I don’t always have them with me when I need them. For some people, they can hardly see and glasses or contacts are necessary to start the day.

Binoculars allow us to see things in the distance. While using binoculars you are somewhat ignoring the current surroundings to bring something else into view. For a time. You can’t live with binoculars on your face, though some avid birders might want to!

Microscopes really bring an up-close and detailed look at things that are really not in our regular field of vision and require extra assistance to see. The microscopic world is fascinating but that is another area where too much time there means it is difficult to be in the here and now.

Magnifier pages are awesome for looking at maps with teeny, tiny towns. It takes a minute to figure out how to hold it so it does the greatest amount of good and it works great. It just takes some getting used to!

Our lives can benefit from all of these tools that bring our world into focus. There is a time and place for each of them but also a need for balance.  Do you prefer to deal in the nitty, gritty details? Are you going for the overview? Do you like the long range planning? Are you caught up in the here and now that you are just in survival mode? I have found myself in all of those situations at different times in my life.

I love that God is here and now. He is in my present, my every day. And I appreciate that He is the God of details. His intricate creation is absolutely amazing.  If that isn’t enough, He is also the God of generations – He sees the long range. He’s got everything from the big picture to the tiniest detail in His hand!

It is a challenge to juggle all of these ways to focus on my life. It isn’t easy changing my perspective all the time. I can do my part, but His part is so much bigger and comprehensive. Resting on God’s work, instead of my own, is important. I need to ask Him where I should be focused.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. [Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV]

May your focus be on the work God is doing!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: FOCUS II

Enough

Enough is one of those words that conjures up so many different thoughts for me.

Have you ever heard someone draw the line and say, “That’s enough!”? I know I heard my mom say that a few times when I was bickering with one of my brothers. She had drawn the line. She was done listening to the banter.

We all have different limits and mine have definitely changed as I have moved through life. In some ways, I put up with less and in other ways I put up with more.  I know my tolerance for some things is very different now compared to thirty years ago.

In terms of acquiring things, what is “enough”? That, too, is something that has changed for me over the years.

What are we collecting and what are we collecting it for? Will we ever be satisfied or is more always the goal? Is there ever enough time? Sometimes striving so hard causes us to miss out on other things.

Is there something you need to draw the line on? Is someone pushing his or her limits with you? Is there something you are gathering for naught? Is God trying to expand your boundaries? Are we seeking something because we are unaware that we already have “enough”? Are we too concerned about the future that we aren’t a part of today?

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [Matthew 6:33-34, NIV].

God’s blessings on your day, today!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: FOCUS

Good. Better. Best.

We deal with so many choices every day. Some decisions are clearly between a right and a wrong but other times we aren’t entertaining the wrong choice at all – we are choosing from good, better, or best.

How something is categorized is in the eye of the chooser. But these categories are also in the eyes of those watching the chooser. And sometimes we are too busy paying attention to everyone else and judging his or her choices that we forget about our responsibility to worry about ourselves and what we are doing.

There are just so many choices to make every day. It can be exhausting. And what about the items that cause a conflict? Rice and beans might be my best choice financially but as far as health goes it might not be the best. And it certainly is better than _______________ [you fill in the blank].

We have choices about how to spend our money, time, energy, and it is good to be deliberate about those. If we weed out the bad choices right away, it makes it easier to choose from good, better, or the best. And even at that we will not always choose perfectly.

So we do our best, given what we know at the moment.

But the fallout of bad decisions (ours or someone else’s) can have a lifelong impact.

Have you ever struggled with a decision someone else made that has impacted your life? Those situations are such a reminder that we can’t arrange our lives to happen in a certain way with any guarantee. But we can trust that God will use every thing for His higher purpose. I don’t often ask God “why” any more. I tend to ask Him “how” as in, “How are You going to work this out?” And then I watch and pray for the eyes to see His work. And when I am simply unable to see it, I ask for the faith to know and trust He is working.

“Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?” [Deuteronomy 3:24, NIV]

May you have the faith to know God is working it out even if you are unable to see it at the present time!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: ENOUGH

Pace

Have you found your optimal pace? The rhythm and tempo you work best in?

I am still trying to figure it out!

I know I don’t love the “Hurry up and wait!” kind of thing. When I have put my mind to something, I like to move forward without interruptions.

But I also think it depends on what I am trying to accomplish. If I am visiting with someone I enjoy, I don’t want to rush the time. But, there are time limits all around me. Maybe grabbing a coffee and 60 minutes of conversation is all there is time for, even though I want more time. Sometimes those limits make me cut to the heart of things much more quickly because time is of the essence.

A friend of mine recently said, “A deadline is my muse.” And boy does that ring true for me! There is nothing like a ticking clock nearing its finally tock that can spring me into action.

If the task ahead is something I dread, it is hard to get motivated. But “the road to a friend’s house is never long,” [Danish Proverb]

What motivates your movement?

  • Relationships?
  • Accomplishment?
  • Accolades?
  • Commitment?
  • Obligation?
  • Love?

I do much better following through when there is an external commitment on me. I do get plenty of things done on my own, but I often fudge on my own, self-inflicted deadlines. I probably don’t do a great job estimating what space and time I need to accomplish a task. Also, I sometimes let perfection be the enemy of something that is “good enough”.

I know I am guilty of wanting a certain pace for things. For example, when I have a need — how often do I ask God to come quickly?

16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
    answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
    deliver me because of my foes. [Psalm 69:16-18, NIV]

And God wants me to call on Him (He does quickly come) – but to also keep perspective on His pace and His much bigger picture plan.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. [2 Peter 3:8-9]

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28, NIV].

May you have the patience to see God’s work unfolding in your life!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: GOOD, BETTER, BEST

Sowing

If you love gardening, you might have some starter plants in your house but surely you have been plotting and planning about what you are hoping to see in your flower or vegetable garden this year! I love having a garden but I don’t love working in it. I am a perennial kind of girl – give me something that does its own thing, independent of me, and it has a much better chance of survival! So, if we have a garden, it is my sweet hubby who makes the plan and tends to it.

There are so many different seeds we sow as our life moves forward. As I think ahead about what kinds of things I want in my life I need to be planting those seeds that will yield me that “crop” now.

Of course, farmers and gardeners know all about this process and the importance of each factor, only some are listed here:

  • Choosing the seed for the desired crop
  • Quality of the seed
  • Preparing the soil
  • Last frost/First frost
  • Soil moisture
  • Weather –sun, wind, and rain
  • Hungry critters (large and small)
  • Timing
  • Harvest

What kind of things do I want in my life in 3, 6, or 9 months from now?

  • Stronger relationships?
  • Better health?
  • More money in my bank account?
  • Improved writing?
  • Precious memories with my family?
  • A deeper walk with God?

This list can go on but each thing requires a certain amount of investment of my time. A gardener is very intentional about the seeds they sow.

We should be too!

What are you hoping to grow this year?

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day. [Genesis 1:11-13, NIV]

May God bless your crop!

Liz

PrayerPrompt: PACE