Bookstore Book Reviews

Book Review: Do More Better

I am always looking for ways to better structure my time. My productivity process is a beautiful, clunky work in progress.

When I came across Tim Challies website, his bio caught my eye. He was an early adopter of blogging. He is a book reviewer, an author, and a pastor.

These are all completely up my alley and I felt that he should be my role model– and thank goodness, I could learn how to be like him because he wrote a book on his productivity system– Do More Better!!

Right out of the gate, I have to say that a large portion of his productivity system was not for me.

He recommends using digital tools and focusses on task management.

Essentially, this book would be gold for a personal assistant, someone going through a career change who needs to set-up a new schedule, or someone in a job with many diverse roles– like say, a blogger, writer, reviewer, pastor.

As a mother whose preschooler is currently in the throws of needing all of mommy’s attention, I shed more technology every day.

I am not in front of my computer all day. I use a flip phone. I have an auto-reply from my email account notifying senders that I will reply to them by telephone in 24-72 hours. So, Todoist, Google Calendar, Evernote, and LastPass are tools that live far away from my toolbox.

The focus on task management is a little discouraging for me. Though, he acknowledges that productivity is not busyness; the number of tasks to manage/accomplish seems latently the measure of your “Christian character,” which is equated to productivity by Challies.

I didn’t really like that very much. Too Puritan. Overlooks the truth that sometimes even a Christian’s job is to be the weakest member.

However, by reading this thin book, I did realize that my roles and “jobs” are relationship oriented not task oriented.

My work output is by nature low– probably causing my feelings of unproductivity. Maybe rather than being unproductive, I just don’t  have much to produce right now!

But in reality, I am only truly unproductive when I spend my time trying to validate myself by churning out “work” rather than doing the invisible work of nurturing my daughter and husband.

When I do that– churn out work,– according to Challies, I am living off mission, in idolatry, and misguided in my prioritization.

Challies says that checking a bunch of minutiea off your to-do list could actually kill your productivity if your mission is the one task that you didn’t do!

This was greatly helpful to me.

I wrote out, as Challies instructed, my mission statement for each of my roles/areas of responsibility.

In doing so, I was easily able to observe that though seeing a perfect column of tick marks at the end of the day is so gratifying, it is:

  1. snuggling with my little girl and listening to her stories,
  2. tricking her into eating healthy food,
  3. going lock step with her through a tantrum,
  4. praying,
  5. singing,
  6. dancing,
  7. going for a drive with her so we can both have downtime,
  8. keeping her home when she is only “a little” sick even though I had a “to-do” list– all this is my to-do list!

And I am actually the least productive when I’ve reviewed an extra book, have done some great editing, stolen some time for cover designing, built some “content” or wrote some “copy,” but see in my family’s faces that I haven’t fulfilled the missions of my most important roles:

The mission to bring peace and health to our house. The mission to offer my child a secure love. The mission to be God-honoring in how we treat our belongings…just to name a few examples.

Undergirding it all, Tim Challies’ Do More Better is about how to do good to others and in so doing bring glory to God. 

I can’t tell you how much I don’t want it to be that my great contribution in life at 32 yrs old is cleaning my bathrooms, washing the dishes, or running to the store at 9pm for milk.

But those are my mission critical tasks every day. And acknowledging that they take priority actually frees me to do my writing, reading, and editing too.

And I can do so without feeling guilty by knowing they are second, putting them second, and entrusting my time to the Lord knowing that my “me time,” and my “passion projects” are not going to be unattended– but my very boring and important work for my family should not be stolen from.

And these are the kinds of realizations you get when pastors write books that shepherd Christians in non-ecclesiastical realms.

Challies writes about self-discipline in work as part of the spiritual work that a disciple does.

He writes using some great and recognizable coaching concepts. (I don’t know if he meant to, but he did.)

He does offer a very specific solution, which could be difficult for some people to adapt to their workflow needs.

Still, I would absolutely use this book as a coaching resource with a coaching client. His spiritual principles for productivity are great to wrestle with. His generalized organization tips are solid.

If you are willing to engage with this book, it has a lot to offer you.

 

 

The Proverbs 31 Family

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,” Matthew 1:20

I want to talk about Mary and Joseph as a picture of submitting our physical realities to spiritual realities. We live in the natural but are called to the supernatural.

My favorite themes in 1 Corinthians are: first, the discussion of the physical body vs. the spirit– and how those competing appetites affect how we worship and serve God, and second is, the way that Christians are assigned, appointed, anointed, and arranged in the spiritual realm to be useful in the Body of Christ with intent and specificity by the Lord.

The interplay of the physical and the spiritual pervades the New Testament– starting in the Gospel narratives. There are a lot of picnics, meals with disciples, lunch at the in-laws, dinner parties with sinners, biblical feasts, festivals, weddings, Passover, the Last Supper. Jesus’ earthly ministry is punctuated by meals.

Jesus also tells the woman at the well that he can give her living water so that she will never be thirsty after drinking it. He speaks of us “feeding” on Him, the bread of life– A spiritual meal that does not lack, does not require more meals after.

The Gospel of John, the most “spiritual” gospel, reveals Jesus as the Holy Spirit, yet talks repeatedly of food, in order to talk about spiritual hunger, and that Jesus satisfies.

This seemed the premise of Jesus’ rebuke of Martha. Martha was busy with her, possibly usual task, of preparing the meal for Jesus and his disciples. She was attending to her physical assignment, which probably would have been fine had she not complained about Mary. Mary was not preparing a meal for Jesus but was receiving a meal from Him. She was fulfilling her spiritual assignment to feed on Jesus.

We have both physical and spiritual assignments from God, but! Our physical duties always yield to the spiritual ones. Your earthly life must punctuate your spiritual life. If your spirituality is just a comma in between your workday and dinner, don’t be surprised that your soul continues to hunger and that your flesh continues to lust.

The account of Joseph’s encounter with the angel Gabriel in Matthew 1:18-25, brings insight into the gravity of both the physical and spiritual assignments that God gives us, and how we are called to submit our physical assignments to our spiritual ones.

Joseph was physically anointed, as a man, to be head of a household, husband to a virtuous woman, father to legitimate children. He was called in the natural to be religiously observant, an adherent to the law, an abhorrer of sinfulness. Yet, Gabriel tells Joseph “she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,” Matthew 1:21. (emphasis mine)

Before this dream of Gabriel, Joseph had planned on quietly breaking off his engagement to Mary. He didn’t want to embarrass her, but it seems that he was “afraid” (Matthew 1:20) of what the implications of marrying a pregnant Mary might be.

Could the implications have been feeling like he had botched his earthly mantle as a faithful Jewish man? That he had failed to be a strong leader over his household, in which his wife and children respected him? That he might not be admired for his morality, but that people might snicker at him as a cuckold? That he’d sacrifice the satisfaction of living a righteous life in the eyes of man?

Could taking Mary as his wife– throwing away his fear– mean throwing away everything he thought God had called him to as a man?

To be the leader who would raise, protect, provide for, and name Jesus– “And Joseph named him Jesus,” Matthew 1:25– would require that Joseph lay down every right inherent to his God-given, physical assignment as a man.

He would lay down everything he had ever been taught about being a religious man in order to take up the demands of his new spiritual assignment.

The first counter-intuitive, counter-cultural aspect of this assignment was that Joseph had to tailor the very beginning of his marriage and family life to his wife’s calling and his son’s purpose. Men in his time did not organize their lives around their wives and children.

A patriarch in Joseph’s day would probably feel that it is their right to set the agenda, to take the most important role, to delegate menial tasks to others, to arrange themselves in the natural position to receive praise. Women and children wouldn’t even be part of the plan, let alone “be the plan.”

It must have been hard to believe that this was what God was asking him to do! Wasn’t this opposed to the natural order of things?!

In his calling, to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph did not: set the agenda, was not even nearly the most important actor, accepted menial tasks rather than delegating them, and was completely outshone by every one else in the Nativity narrative.

Joseph, Jesus’ father, is an early and strong example of living Christianity. He completely submitted his physical duties to his spiritual assignment. He did not reserve any natural craving, but satiated his spirit with his faith in God’s word over his life.

If we continue to be hungry for the rights inherent to our physical identities, we forfeit our time at Jesus’ feet and our usefulness to the kingdom.