Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker.

Zoom!

A man rushing to cross the streetIf you asked me to use one word to describe the average speed at which most of us live our lives, my answer would not be warp speed (because that’s two words) but zoom!

Zoom to get ready in the morning. Zoom to drop the children off at school. Zoom to get to work. Zoom to make it to the next meeting. Zoom to the doctor’s office. Zoom back to work. Zoom to complete the next assignment. Zoom to the grocery store. Zoom home. Zoom to grab dinner. Zoom to soccer practice. Zoom to the drug store. Zoom home again. Zoom to bed. Zoom, zoom, zoom! No wonder we feel so worn out. Some of us even zoom our way through church.

Okay, enough of zoom. What can we do to dial back a bit so we can experience times of refreshing? The first thing we can do is to realize that trading time for money is often a bad bargain. Much of our rush, rush life is powered by a desire for money. We work longer and play less so we can get ahead. A higher salary, a nicer house, more toys. Wayne Muller puts it graphically by saying that money “is the temple to which we are all drawn to worship, bringing our offerings of time, and taking away the blessings of money.”(1)  Put it that way, and our addiction to speed seems downright sinful.

When it comes to work, we may not always be able to slow things down. But most of us have at least some discretionary time. This week, ask yourself how you can get a better return when it comes to investing the precious resource of your time.

(1). Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (New York: Bantam, 1999), 98.

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The Bad Thing About More

A cartoon of a man's closet door bursting open with stuffHaving too much is rarely a recipe for peace, though it’s tempting to think so. When you have lots of stuff, you need to spend lots of time paying for it and lots of time taking care of it. Our many possessions can tie us down, making it difficult to respond to opportunities God gives. Oddly, having too much often makes us want to have even more.

In his classic book on the Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel points out that when modern people want to emphasize something in print, we often underline or italicize words. The Bible and other forms of ancient literature used a different tactic—repeating words within the text, as if to say, “Listen and listen up!” Deuteronomy 16:20, for instance, says, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (nrsv). Isaiah 40:1 declares, “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.”

Heschel points out that only one of the Ten Commandments is proclaimed twice, and that’s the last one, which goes like this: “Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else your neighbor owns” (Exodus 20:17)(1). By emphasizing the command, God puts a double fence around our tendency to want more, especially if the more that we want belongs to someone else.

You may not feel wealthy compared to those around you, but most of us who are living in the affluent West are rich compared to the rest of the world. No matter how much we have, all of us can fall into the temptation of coveting what we don’t have. If you find yourself stressed out by everything you own, ask God for help and wisdom to begin paring things down. Then listen and listen up so you can experience more of God’s peace in your life! 

(1). Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979), 90.

(Image courtesy of sraburton at freeimages.com)

Sensing God's Peace

White buildings against the dark blue of the Aegean Sea.Several years ago a business leader by the name of Michael Hyatt embarked on a three-week pilgrimage to Mount Athos, visiting several Orthodox monasteries. Toward the end of the trip, Hyatt and his companions visited a small monastic community located on the edge of the Aegean Sea. During their visit, one of the monks offered the travelers tea and pastries served up with stimulating spiritual conversation.

When it was time to go, Hyatt stood on the veranda overlooking the brilliant blue sea and remarked to one of the monks, “I hate to leave, Father. It is so peaceful here.”

Nodding, the monk remained silent for a few minutes and then replied, “You know, Michael, anywhere can be this peaceful, if”—he paused for emphasis—“you have God in your heart. But if you don’t, then even a place as beautiful as this can be hell.”(1)

Most of us can relate to Hyatt’s experience. Standing at the edge of a lake, staring up at starry skies, or walking through snowy woods, we sense a peace we wish would go on forever. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the created world has this effect on us, coming as it does from the good hand of God.

Let’s enjoy the beauty of nature, savoring the peace we find there without being seduced into thinking that a villa on the beach or a cabin on a mountaintop is what we really need to be happy. Only God, living within us, can give us what our hearts desire.

(1) Michael Hyatt, “Where to Find Peace in Turbulent Times,” Michael Hyatt Intentional
Leadership (blog), February 28, 2011, http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=52d5c7778a3adfda535c3b349&id=c17029a0c2&e=53afb51cde.

(Image courtesy of kitsos13/freeimages.com)

Natural Limits

Ever travel to Amish country? If so, yA horse-drawn buggy on the roadou know what it feels like to be transported to the nineteenth century. In parts of Michigan, not far from where I live, you can see Amish farms dotting the countryside. Most Amish deliberately limit their farms to eighty tillable acres or less since that’s the amount of land a family can work. Instead of seeing natural limitations as something to be overcome, the Amish embrace them. In her book Amish Peace, Suzanne Woods Fisher tells the story of an Amish man “who joked that if he were meant to plow at night, God would have put a headlight on a horse.” The Amish, she says, “respect natural limitations: sunlight and seasons, hunger and fatigue.”

This desire to acknowledge, preserve, and live within certain limitations is one aspect of Amish life that most sets them apart. After all, they live smack in the middle of a culture that prides itself on pushing the limits at every opportunity, overcoming barriers to productivity and play by offering a constant array of new and better gadgets and technologies. Computers, video games, cell phones, and other technological wonders take up more and more of our time. We don’t think twice about the constant flow of electricity that enables us to get less and less sleep so that we can do more and more. We’re like children who don’t want to go to bed, lest we miss something.

But we do miss something. We miss the peace that comes from accepting limits on our time and energy. And then we wonder why we feel so stressed. By hailing this Amish tendency to live within limits, I am not urging us to stop using technology, but we ought to learn from how others have chosen to live. By doing so, our lives will not be diminished but enhanced.

(Image courtesy of SailorJohn/freeimages.com)

About Ann Spangler

Ann Spangler is an award-winning writer and speaker. Her best-selling books include Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, Women of the Bible (coauthored with Jean Syswerda) and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (coauthored with Lois Tverberg).

Praised for the freshness, depth, and honesty of her writing, Ann writes in ways that reveal not just her intellectual curiosity but her desire for a deeper connection with God.  Her fascination with and love of Scripture have resulted in books that have opened the Bible to a wide range of readers. Together, her books have sold nearly 3 million copies.

For the chance to win a free copy of one of Ann's books visit her website at: annspangler.com

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