How to do more. And be more

A few times people have asked me how I manage to do all the things I do.

Having all the kids gone from home helps, of course. And I have a devoted wife who picks up a lot of the slack and allows me time to write and work. But there’s more.

We live simply, with fewer of life’s distractions. We could do better here, but we’re working on it.

I sleep as much as I need, but no more. Now and again, I take a nap, if I’m working at home. No guilt there. The mind has to be sharp. Then, at other times, when eyes feel heavy, the mind pushes through and insists until the sleepiness gives way.

When I sleep, I put all work and troubles away. My head hits and pillow and I’m gone. Sleep is sound. I’ve trained my inner clock to wake up when the night begins to fade. Ben Franklin was right about the early bird.

We work hard at health, eating foods that contribute to energy. When in others’ homes, we eat what’s before us. (It’s always good.) Volume, however, is seldom good when it comes to food. Exercise is a challenge, I admit.

We don’t watch TV. I don’t do Facebook for fun. No video games. No puzzle books, no hours on end with time wasters. Jack Lewis was right: To be proficient in biblical scholarship, you can’t be a devoted comic book reader. Ditto for ministry. For life.

I do enjoy an occasional novel, for a break now and again. The mind needs an occasional (not constant) distraction.

I can work from home or the office, which is a short commute away, about 15 minutes. (I am blessed not to have a long driving time.) Morning, noon, and evening are all time for thought, writing, meeting, teaching, learning.

Having good tools is important. How 19th Century writers managed so much is a mystery. I type fast, can pop out something, sometimes, in a matter of minutes. Editing takes more time, but with modern tools, how easy it is compared to what the ancients had at their disposal. How we are blessed!

I lose some ideas to forgetfulness, but I write down loose thoughts and sudden ideas, which serve as a well to draw on when I need it. Planning makes better use of resources. My Bullet Journal has been a blessing.

I’ve learned to enjoy what I do; I live for God’s work.

Sometimes I could learn to do fewer tasks and focus more energy on those. That’s a challenge. On the mission field, however, sometimes you’re the go-to guy and are required by circumstances to wear many hats. Just have to be careful not to think you’re indispensable.

You may not be called to make choices such as mine. The details will certainly be different. But in your calling, you must find the desire, make the choices to sweep away distractions, find the physical, emotional and spiritual drive to sustain your efforts, and discover motivations that will energize your focus.

It’s a process, a journey, a walk of faith.

Sometimes I feel like I’m hitting my stride. Other times, it’s a stumbly, lurchy, jerky falling forward that gets me anywhere.

So I think my prayer needs to include more thanksgiving for God’s patience with me.

Thankfulness, peace of mind, a quiet heart make for good work. And when the heart is heavy, and the mind is burdened, and the soul is troubled, those too become material for work and sharing.

I ask lots of questions. How can I do this better? How can this be said in a better way? What will sound better to the lost soul? How can the eternal truth be expressed in a new way? Where else can the gospel go? What project will best serve? Who most needs this? Tony Robbins was correct that the right questions will get you far.

My most recent key word is opportunity. Where’s the opportunity in this hardship, in this suffering, in this situation?

I test limits. I wrestle with my mind. I refuse to settle for yesterday’s results. I want more. Better. Longer. Quicker. I want the new and improved juice squeezer that gets more out of my time and effort.

Robbins, again, talked about the importance of distinctions. Some think it’s all just a bunch of words, but the more you can understand those fine shades of meaning, the greater the mountain you can move.

I look at where I’ve come so far, where I’m at now, where I need to go.

For example, have I been closed emotionally? Then let me learn to touch and hug, to be open to receiving and reflecting others’ emotions, to sharing my struggles and being transparent with who I am. So in recent weeks, I’ve cried more with others — with brothers in Christ — as they struggle to grow, than I have in ages. (Does that give you jitters? Me, too.)

I’d prefer to stay in my little corner and write. (And you’d love to just do what you love to do best, right?) But the Lord won’t let me, or you, do that. Besides writing (insert your favorite thing here), life is to be lived and shared and molded and stretched. Life is to be walked with the Lord and with others.

Sometimes I may waste time looking for ways to better use time. (Like recently trying an alternative software instead of doing the tried-and-true WordPress install. That was dumb. Or maybe not.) God will tell me some day how all that came out in the wash.

So how do we do more and better?

By striving for growth and improvement. By asking questions and probing issues. By staying curious.

By a holy dissatisfaction with the spiritual status quo. By stretching (there’s that word again; it sounds awfully athletic) the soul and mind and heart. By breathing the air of God’s Spirit. By desiring the eternal rest and the endless joy of his presence. By fitting into his holiness and exercising the inner person as we make the run for heaven.

And we not only do more. We become more.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day” 2 Peter 3.18 NET.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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