the beginning place
Take a moment to think about your schedule. Grab that first
reaction - when you read the word schedule, did you shut your eyes and
wince? Hold your breath or let out a deep sigh? Feel like throwing this
book across the room? Smile about the great plans you have to look
forward to today?
Chances are that if you're married with children, you spend a
lot of time shuttling kids here and there, or getting them ready to be
shuttled. Laundry, meals, Back-to-School Night - your to-do list goes
on and on, and that doesn't even count what your husband needs from
you. Maybe on top of taking care of your family you've got a paying
job because without your income, the mortgage wouldn't get paid.
Wouldn't life be easier if you were single?
If you're single, you're probably shouting No! You work full-time,
and unless you have a great roommate, nobody's sharing the bills,
errands, and household chores with you. You're on your own, and you
feel it. Furthermore, unless you can survive practically and emotionally
as a hermit, you have to devote at least some time to friends and
perhaps to "the quest for the Holy Grail," a decent husband. All this is
hard enough if you're single and childless, but if you're a single mom,
heaven help you.
So how's it going, really? Please don't say, "Fine." For the duration
of this study, drop that word from your vocabulary. It's too easy to
say, "I'm fine," when you're not, to say your schedule isn't that bad.
If you're exhausted, scared, frustrated, unhappy, please say so. Or if
you're challenged, excited, well-rested, and motivated, say that, too.
Use the space below to summarize your beginning place for this
lesson. Describe the reality of your schedule as well as your dreams.
We'll start here and then go deeper.
read the end of a loooong day
From the Today's Christian Woman
article "Not Tonight, Dear ."
by Jill Eggleton Brett
I'd returned from running
errands one afternoon when
I walked into the house and
saw my husband give me "The Look." The screen door banged
behind me as my twin preschoolers ran over to me and wrapped
themselves around each leg, squealing with delight. As I reached
down to hug them, my husband gave me his signature shake of
the head and said, "Hey, honey ." And I, as usual, rolled my
eyes as I peeled the girls off my legs.
If your husband's anything like mine, you know what the "dot,
dot, dot" means. Those little punctuation marks come at the most
inconvenient times! I mean, come on, I'd just picked up the dry
cleaning, bought his cousin a wedding gift, found new shoes for
our twins, shopped for his favorite food for dinner that night. And
now this - another chore. I was cranky and still had laundry to do.
Not to mention I could hear my pillow calling in the distance.
But God had some lessons for me that night, and many more
nights to follow. As I continued to shrug off my husband's sexual
advances, tension continued to build. I grew colder, and he continually
felt rejected. It was time to face the facts: I didn't want
to have sex. I was too busy, too tired, and flat out didn't have
the desire. I had two little people calling my name all day, wiping
their noses on my pants, and vying for their turn on my lap.
When the twins' bedtime arrived, I wanted personal space.
From The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger
"How could you do this to me?" she hissed as she pushed me
through Runway's reception-area doors and we hurtled together
back to our desks. "As the senior assistant, I am responsible for
what goes on in our office. I know you're new, but I've told you
from the very first day: we do not leave Miranda unattended."
"But Miranda's not here." It came out as a squeak.
"But she could've called while you were gone and no one
would've been here to answer the . phone!" she screamed as
she slammed the door to our suite. "Our first priority - our only
priority - is Miranda Priestly. Period. And if you can't deal with
that, just remember that there are millions of girls who would
die for your job. Now check your voice mail. If she called, we're
dead. You're dead."
I wanted to crawl inside my iMac and die. How could I have
screwed up so badly during my very first week? Miranda wasn't
even in the office and I'd already let her down. So what if I was
hungry? It could wait. There were genuinely important people
trying to get things done around here, people who depended on
me, and I'd let them down. I dialed my mailbox.
"Hi, Andy, it's me." Alex. "Where are you? I've never heard
you not answer. Can't wait for dinner tonight - we're still on,
right? ." I'd immediately felt guilty, because I'd already decided
after the whole lunch debacle that I'd rather reschedule. My first
week had been so crazy that we'd barely seen each other, and
we'd made a special plan to have dinner that night, just the two
of us. But I knew it wouldn't be any fun if I fell asleep in my
wine, and I kind of wanted a night to unwind and be alone.
· How is your story like or unlike these stories?
· What stresses in your life come from children?
· What stresses come from paid work? What about from unpaid
work (at home or volunteering)?
· What stresses stem from your husband, boyfriend, or lack
Lord, please help me face .
read tell me how you really feel
Human life is a struggle, isn't it?
It's a life sentence to hard labor.
Like field hands longing for quitting time
and working stiffs with nothing to hope for but payday,
I'm given a life that meanders and goes nowhere -
months of aimlessness, nights of misery!
I go to bed and think, "How long till I can get up?"
I toss and turn as the night drags on - and I'm fed up!
Please, God, no more yelling,
no more trips to the woodshed.
Treat me nice for a change;
I'm so starved for affection.
Can't you see I'm black and blue,
beat up badly in bones and soul?
God, how long will it take
for you to let up?
Break in, God, and break up this fight;
if you love me at all, get me out of here.
I'm no good to you dead, am I?
I can't sing in your choir if I'm buried in some tomb!
I'm tired of all this - so tired. My bed
has been floating forty days and nights
On the flood of my tears.
My mattress is soaked, soggy with tears.
The sockets of my eyes are black holes;
nearly blind, I squint and grope.
· How, if at all, do you identify with the words of Job? How
about with the psalmist?
· What do you typically do when you feel "starved for affection"?
· How do you imagine God responding to the psalmist? To Job?
· How easy is it for you to complain to God about your life?
Why do you suppose that's the case?
Father, what I most long for from you is .
read too many worlds, too little time
From The Connecting Church, by Randy Frazee
One of the underlying problems of the Johnsons and most people
who live in the average American suburb (or international equivalent)
is that they have too many worlds to manage. There are too
many sets of relationships that do not connect with each other but
all require time to maintain. Bob and Karen simply do not have
enough time and energy to invest in each world of relationships in
order to extract a sense of belonging and meaning for their lives.
Just think of the many disconnected worlds the Johnsons
have to maintain: their own family, two places of work, church,
a small group, the children's sports teams, the children's schools,
extended family out of town, and neighbors. If we were to delve
further into the Johnsons' lifestyle, we would discover many
other worlds as well - old friends from high school and college,
the last place they lived, and other relationship circles at church
(for example, the women's Bible study group and the Mission
Committee of which they are both members)
If a true and workable solution is to emerge, it must involve
a radical restructuring of our lifestyle. At the core of this restructuring
is a new operating principle for living: In order to extract
a deeper sense of belonging, we must consolidate our worlds into
one The mission is to simplify our lifestyles in such a way
that we concentrate more energy into a circle of relationships
that produces a sense of genuine belonging. While this in no
way suggests that we should be so narrow in our scope as to cut
significant people out of our lives, it does reinforce the commonsense
notion that we can go deeper with less to manage, and we
must find a way to do this.
· Make a list of the different worlds you have to maintain.
· To what degree do these worlds overlap? How does that affect
the amount of time you spend with each person? How does it
affect the depth of your relationships?
· How would your life be different if you had fewer worlds to
maintain? For example, if your children's school friends and
church friends knew each other?
· How do you respond to the idea of concentrating more
energy into a circle of relationships that gives you a sense of
genuinely belonging with those people? Does this mission
seem desirable? Achievable? Wrongheaded? What makes you
· What forces in your life make it hard to reduce the number of
different worlds you have to juggle?
God, the challenges I'm dealing with here are .
read a really rough lifestyle
2 Corinthians 11:24-33
I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up
more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time.
I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes,
beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once.
I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open
sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out,
I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends,
struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the
country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed
by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and
hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a
missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.
And that's not the half of it, when you throw in the daily
pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets
to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When
someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.
If I have to "brag" about myself, I'll brag about the humiliations
that make me like Jesus. The eternal and blessed God and
Father of our Master Jesus knows I'm not lying. Remember the
time I was in Damascus and the governor of King Aretas posted
guards at the city gates to arrest me? I crawled through a window
in the wall, was let down in a basket, and had to run for my life.
· What goes through your mind when you read the apostle
Paul's description of his life?
· Do you ever play "My impossible schedule is worse than
yours" with your friends or family? Why do you suppose some
of us tend to brag about our stressed-out lives?
· Among many other trials, Paul mentions hard work, hard
travel, struggles with friends and foes, betrayals by those close
to him, and anxiety for others. Describe your experiences with
any of these.
· What does Paul's account of his life motivate you to do? Work
harder? Thank God that your life isn't so bad? Feel guilty? Why
do you suppose that's the case?
· What do you think about Paul's determination to "brag about
the humiliations that make [him] like Jesus"?
Lord, thank you .
what i want to discuss
What have you discovered this week that you definitely want to discuss
with your small group? Write that here. Then begin your small-group
discussion with these thoughts.
Use the following space to summarize the truths you uncovered about
your schedule, how you feel about it, and where you need to begin in
dealing with your situation. Review your "Beginning Place" if you need to
remember where you began. How does God's truth affect the next step
in your journey?
What is one practical thing you can do to respond to what you discovered?
What concrete action can you take? Remember to think realistically - an
admirable but unreachable goal is as good as no goal. Discuss your goal
in your small group to further define it.
How can your group - or even one other person - help you follow
through with the goal you described? What support do you need? (Sure,
you're Superwoman, but .) How will you measure the success of your
plan? Write the details here.