April 14, 2012

Listening for God’s Direction can be a time-saver

One of my goals in the past couple of years is to declutter my house. Progress is being made, but there are pockets of resistance! These involve areas that I simply don’t know what to do — toss or keep. Sometimes I’ve had a measure of success by hitting those spots when I’m in the “throw it out” mode, such as my closet. In that mood, I can fill a box and know will not miss any of what goes to charity.

Yet the frustration of not knowing what to do next had me in the library yesterday. I found a book about shedding not only the stuff that is collected over the years, but the hang-ups and attitudes that go with that habit. 

Instead of focusing on clutter in the closets, first couple of chapters challenged me to think about words that characterize what I have felt like about life and how I want to feel instead. This was helpful. I put one word to the biggest reason I do not accomplish as much as I could: procrastination. 

I’ve other problem areas, but from that word, I came up with a phrase for change. It is not new to me, but could assist me in this whole business of getting rid of those things that are not needed. The words are: Do the next thing. This phrase is from Elizabeth Elliot, Christian missionary, author and speaker. She said it in reply to a person who asked her secrets for time management. She added, “You always know what the next thing is.”

As I read this book about shedding my hang-ups, I thought how true that phrase is, and yet how often I procrastinate over doing what I know I should be doing. I’ve written “Just do it” in my task manager software, on notes to myself, and in other reminders, but still find myself doing something other than the next thing, usually a meaningless activity that wastes time and I later regret. How silly.

I’ve not read the next step from that book, but from the introduction I am guessing what it will say; I need to eliminate from my life all those time-wasters and any clutter associated with them. This could be the television set, the two games left on my laptop, and the habit of borrowing stacks of quilting books from the library for inspiration when I have stacks of books just like them on my own shelves. 

Another thought came from reading this book. While it is not about spiritual matters, yet I know I must consult the Lord, not only about “the next thing” and the wherewithal to get at it, but also what He has to say about my bad habits and how to solve them. In this whole process of trying to manage my time well and trying to get rid of excess stuff, I need His wisdom. My own ideas are flawed, and too often my actions are prone to my moods and whims.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5)
The reading that goes with this verse for today says I need to listen more than I talk. Some people never hear God’s answer to their prayers because they have not been listening. I can be like that too. I become so busy with service, work, my to-do list, and even with my praying, that I don’t stop my own asking long enough to hear God’s response.

He speaks with a “still small voice” that requires me to be passive and quiet. To hear Him, I must do nothing, say nothing, and in some sense think nothing. While procrastination is a hindrance to progress, this is one arena where I need to put off what I have in mind and be “distracted” or more accurately, be receptive and wait for God’s quiet voice. 

While the book I’m reading does not mention You Lord, You are speaking through it anyway. From what I’ve read so far, and in combination with this verse, I’m hearing You say that I need to slow down and listen to You more than I do now. This is particularly needed as I try to get things done and find myself hindering my own progress. You want to supply what I need, but instead of listening and receiving Your grace and wisdom, I hurry into things or let myself be distracted by “busy work” that takes me nowhere. My prayer time may double if I take more time to listen as I pray, but from what I already know about the way You do things, that will become a gain, not a loss.

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