Yesterday’s blog entry presented the wisdom of what author Stephen Covey calls, “sharpening the saw.” If you didn’t read it, this entry probably won’t make a lot of sense to you.
On January 11, I landed in Sanford, Florida, tired and hoping for some sunshine. A few of my closest friends and I have wondered what my mental and emotional problem is in light of the fact that everything in my life is going so well. Do I have Seasonal Affective Disorder? Do I need a “happy light” near my chair in my house where the sun beams in so brightly that we can’t see the television? Should I plug it in on my office desk which is literally surrounded by big windows on three walls?
It is January 21 today and I fly back to the frozen tundra of Maine tomorrow just in time for what could be our first old-fashioned “nor’easter” snowstorm of 2016. We’ve had only 1 day that has climbed into the 70 degree range and a number of rainy, gray days that stayed in the fifties. If all I needed to change my attitude and motivation level was some sunshine, this mission failed!
Thankfully, I am fairly certain that my mental and emotional funk is not tied too tightly to Maine’s seasonal reduction in ultraviolet rays. This time of rest, prayer and study has helped me see that my “saw” is about as sharp as a roll of toilet tissue right now and is in need of some serious sharpening attention.
I need to make some adjustments to my approach to life and how I spend my time. Here’s my plan of attack to returning balance to my life. All of these areas have been seriously lacking of late.
- Quality time with my partner. Looking back over the past year I see that Robin and I have lost track of our date night and allowed task-focused errands to replace it. In our more than 32 years of marriage, we’ve learned that times when we don’t like each other much come from not spending enough time together. We know we like each other and have fun together when we spend time together outside the hectic pace of life. It’s time to put date night back on the schedule before the weeks fill in with other demands.
- Purposeful alone time. I started last year committed to shutting off all electronics at 8:30 PM and being in bed by 9:00 for a good night’s sleep. Then, knowing that my internal clock normally wakes me at 5:00 am, I determined to start my day with quiet time of prayer, reflection, reading and writing. It went pretty well until about August when I lost it, went back to my electronic addiction and lost my morning routine. It’s time to start again with daily discipline and put social media aside once again.
- Physical exercise & healthy eating. Yes, this one is the same as everyone else. 2015 was solid on the exercise front until October when I let cold mornings and appointments push me off my bike. The holidays and my “take a break” attitude has added the stubborn on-again-off-again 6-8 pounds back to my waistline. Three months “off” has left me with less energy and poor eating habits. That changes again with my return to Maine.
- Relationships. I like to say, “people, not program” but that has dropped quite a bit over the last several months. I need to find a new activity or social circle where I can be Scott and not Scott, the pastor. I need to get out of my bubble.
- Creativity. Creativity, for no particular purpose and with no deadline, refreshes me. What I mean is that my camera can either represent more pressures and deadlines as a tool to help us pay the bills or it can be something that helps me decompress. When I can create art for art’s sake, it energizes me. When I have to create art as part of my task list, it changes its effect entirely. It’s time to block off some time to create. That can also support #2 when alone or #4 when I create with friends.
- Sabbath rest. God created everything in six days and then rested. Why would an omnipotent God who never sleeps rest? I think he did it as an example for us so that we would regularly take a significant block of time to set everything aside to refresh. In addition, the Israelites also had regular festivals and distractions from the routines of life when they took time to celebrate. For me, that means I need to take out my calendar and block out times to rest, vacation and celebrate. If I don’t, my calendar, like most everyone else’s, fills in with appointments and tasks, leaving me to try to squeeze Sabbath rest into the leftovers.
- Learning. My last time of concentrated learning and listening to other speakers was in May of 2014. Each week I put together material and “teach” at least two times. Though I try to listen to podcasts online, they just can’t compare to sitting with others who do what I do every week, while others pour into me. I have to commit to making a yearly conference a priority on my schedule. I can’t keep pouring out without taking time to be refilled.
My first goal for this morning before I head back to regular life tomorrow, is to spend some time with my calendar and proactively bring it more into line with the person I want to be. I plan to take a careful look at all the self-imposed demands and expectations I’ve been putting on myself to realign some and let others go.
This time away has been a good time of sharpening for me. Hopefully, I can implement change when I get home. If I don’t, I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll find myself sitting on my impressive pile of cut logs unable to continue.
How will you sharpen your saw? What changes do you need to make? Will you make them? Where will you start?
What is ahead if you make no changes?
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:6-8
I used this quote from Phillipians every day while I was recovering from my stroke. Dwelling on good things made my stay enjoyable (friendly nurses instead of shoveling snow) and I saw how it relieved stress in other patients ( thumbs up when someone took a few more steps)
and encouraged them to fight their afflictions ( hey, eat those veggies buddy)