I’m Not Indispensable

I recently had a problem at work. I had agreed to meet some people and mentor them in ministry. Every Nation values Leadership Development and mentoring leaders is always time well-spent. But because of some schedule changes, I wasn’t able to meet them at the time we originally expected.

At first I tried to cram it into my schedule anyway. “I’ll make it,” I reasoned. “I just have to get to my first appointment quickly, stay the required amount of time, then dash across the city to get to the next one. I think I can beat the traffic. I’ll just be getting to bed really late. But what’s life without a few sacrifices here and there?”

The problem was it wasn’t just “a few sacrifices here and there.” This has become my lifestyle over the past years. Packed schedules, meetings on top of meetings, and very little margin for anything. After being convicted of this, my wife and I are both attempting to coral our runaway schedules. We don’t want to be driven by pride, need, or the pressure to keep moving. We want to be obedient to God.

So I did something I don’t normally do: I successfully adjusted my schedule. I called the affected people, explained the situation, and offered a more calm meeting time. Instead of packing in one appointment after another, I now had margin to spend time with God, my wife, and my son, while doing my work.

Then something crazy happened! The person understood! They weren’t offended that I had to prioritize my health or my family. They didn’t backslide because I was concerned for my health (and theirs). They didn’t lose their calling because I adjusted our mentoring time so that I could sleep well. I started to wonder why I didn’t do this more often.

But here’s the craziest part, when I moved my appointment the world didn’t end, civilization endured, God’s Kingdom continued to advance, and He remained on the throne. I guess I wasn’t the one holding it all together. Maybe I don’t need to stress as much as I thought. I’m  not as indispensable as I think. As Kevin De Young says in his wonderful book, Crazy Busy,

“But the truth is, you’re only indispensable until you say no. You are unique. Your gifts are important. People love you. But you’re not irreplaceable.”

This brings so much peace and freedom. It releases us from being driven by performance. It allows us to be us and God to be God. Maybe this was just for me, but I doubt it. I know there are people out there who are driving themselves to the ground from a false sense of obligation, maybe even using Christian words to justify it. I hope these words help put us in our proper place, the place of grace.

With a Little Help From My Friends

After two fulfilling but tiring trips abroad, Carla and I found out that the baby we were quietly expecting had passed away in the womb. Second miscarriage in two years. I took some time to rest, then went back to a few meetings at work. While I was glad to be doing what I love to do with people I love working with, something wasn’t right with me.

I was moving and thinking in slow motion. Each command from my brain had a delay before my body responded. Like an online game character with high lag. I also felt disconnected from the people I was interacting with. Maybe it was because of my stopped ear which hampered my hearing, or maybe because I wasn’t telling people about what we were going through.

As the days wore on, I felt less and less energy to keep working. I just wanted to go home and sleep, even though we’d been sleeping well and early. I had no passion for things that normally excited me. Normally I can call on huge amounts of energy (too much, if you ask Carla or my officemates), so not having that felt terrible.

 

It’s okay to not be okay…

Thankfully, some mentors like Pastors Gilbert and Paolo reminded me of the need to take it easy on myself during this time. That was very helpful.

What definitely didn’t help was reasoning with myself that I had no reason to be down.

You just came from overseas. You’re well-rested. Get back to work. It’s not like you’re the one who miscarried; it’s Carla. Why would you feel down about losing a baby? You’ve got Philip. There are people who don’t even have one child. You’re fine, start acting like it.

But none of my internal pep talks helped.

It also didn’t help that I was isolating myself. I chose not to tell some of my friends because I wanted to avoid explaining all over again. And there was an internal dialogue for that also.

Yeah, don’t tell them. It’s not like they can do anything to help. They’ve got their own problems to deal with also, do you really want to add to that? Besides, you don’t have a reason to be down. They’ll think you’re just whiny.

I finally had to be honest with myself that things weren’t alright. And that’s what started to fix things.

 

But don’t wallow in it. Fight back.

Acknowledging the problem was the first step. So last Saturday as I was walking to another meeting, I turned off the podcast and began speaking in tongues. Out loud. I didn’t care what the passing cars thought of this crazy guy babbling to himself on the sidewalk. Maybe I was crazy for walking around outside in the heat of lunch time. But at least it was faster than being stuck in traffic.

Then I started listening worship songs. And the point rang home, my circumstances change and my feelings are unstable, but God doesn’t change so it’s always appropriate to worship Him.

That got me to the next step. Ask for help. I was encouraged by the thought that there are people out there who I could contact out of the blue. People who would pray, with no need for awkward questions or unhelpful suggestions. I had to choose who I would contact and stuck to people in the same timezone so I knew they could pray immediately. I wrote a message that in so many words basically said, “I need help. Please pray.” And they did.

That was the turning point. It felt like a heavy blanket was removed. I got home to see Carla in a similar state – having a difficult day, but fighting back through worship and prayer. While we had some more bad news ahead, we didn’t feel like we were sinking underneath it. In fact, we’re surprised by how okay we feel, even as we slowly get back into gear.

This experience really fleshed out this Bible verse for me. If you’re going through difficult moments now, I hope you know you don’t have to face it alone.

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

 

Here’s Carla’s blog also.

“You want Papa to do it?”

Philip has the sweetest temperament. He is kind to all babies. Very sweet and affectionate to his mom and me. And he takes pleasure in making his mom happy.

That’s why it’s really jarring when he loses his temper. Our sweet, even-tempered boy suddenly starts throwing things around in rage. It usually happens when he’s playing with his Duplo sets and he can’t get it to do what he wants to do.

But now he’s learned a trick. He goes up to me and with his big eyes asks, “You want Papa to do it?” I fix the unruly LEGO pieces and he goes back to playing with his LEGOs happily.

A lot of the time, I’m like Philip. I lose my cool while I’m at work, when I’ve got a God nearby who’d gladly help. I don’t (always) throw things around, but I get worried, fearful, impatient, irritable, or unable to sleep when life starts to stress me out. My wife and son can see this the most.

Then I go to God, our Heavenly Father, and say, “God can you help me with this?” And it’s remarkable how quickly He fixes things. It leaves me wondering. Why didn’t I just do that from the start?

We’re all a lot like Philip. If you’re stressed about something now, don’t take it out on yourself, your family, or your work. Go to your Heavenly Father and ask Him, “Can you do this with me?” The results will surprise you: faster work, better outcomes, less stress.

Philippians 4:5–7

5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Short Sentences

A few nights ago, the eighteen year old son of one of my officemates prayed for me. He said something I’ve been mulling over ever since.

“God said He’ll provide for everything. Just pray to him. Always pray. Use small sentences.

The statement caught my attention. Was God really giving me writing tips? Did God think I would find large sentences too challenging? Are short sentences more spiritual?

But the more I reflected on it, the more it made sense to me. It wasn’t a command to keep the sentences short. It was an encouragement to keep praying the right way:

  • Pray unceasingly

God commands us to pray unceasingly. Does mean we don’t do anything else, but pray? Obviously not. What it means, I think, is that we are supposed to pray while doing everything else we’re doing. How do we do that? With short sentences.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing

 

  • Pray at every occasion

Having a fixed time to pray everyday is irreplaceable. But that doesn’t mean we can only pray on those times. We can pray all throughout the day, like bursts of divine connections. My favorite example of this is how Nehemiah prayed to God while in the middle of a high-risk conversation. That had to be a super short prayer.

Nehemiah 2:4-5  Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

 

  • Pray sincerely

There are two times that Jesus actually condemns the use of long prayers. He’s not saying that praying long prayers is wrong. He was against hypocrisy. Pray the way you really talk. God hears us all the time. It’s not a shock to Him.

Luke 20:46-47 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

 

  • Pray to a God who’s nearby

Imagine you’re about to ask two people for a favor on Facebook.

The first person is someone you haven’t spoken to in five years. How long will your message be? If it were me, I’d have to build up to the request: Hey… How you doing… Your pics are so nice… Kalbo ka na pala… Oh, I’m messaging to ask you a favor…. I’d have to do it this way because we’re not that close.

The second person is your really close friend. How long will the message be? Or how short? Borrow the car. Or may USB ka? Or can you pick me up? Why is it short? It’s short because you know they’ve got your back. Their willingness to help isn’t in question. You can get straight to the point.

In the same way, the way we pray shows how we think God is. In another verse, Jesus told His disciples not to pray like Gentiles who “heap up empty phrases… they think they will be heard for their many words.” Instead Jesus said, pray to your Father in heaven. God hears, He listens, He acts on our behalf. You aren’t praying to a stranger. You’re praying to a God who’s right beside you.

Matthew 6:7-8 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 

How to Make the Most of 2017: For Him and Through Him

Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.

The two earlier blogs kept things firmly in the realm of the natural. It seems we can follow them with our ability. That’s great while things go according to plan, but what happens when they don’t? What happens when the problems are beyond our natural ability?

This is why it’s foolish to plan without God. As my wife and I looked back on 2016, it was only God’s grace that got us through it. She had an insight on what God’s grace looked like:

“God multiplied everything. He multiplied our days, our money, our energy so we could do what He wanted us to do.”

This year, we need God to multiply everything so we can survive and thrive. In the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand in John 6, his disciples saw the people who needed to be fed, saw the meager amount of food, and asked, “How far will so little go among so many?

We might see much of our life and our plans the same way.

  • How far will so little money go among so much need?
  • How far will so little time go among so much requirements?
  • How far will so little energy go among so much demands on us?
  • How far will so little wisdom go among so much uncertainty?

The answer is we need God to multiply it. We need Him to create resources where we don’t have any.

  • We can budget our salary all we want. But let’s also trust God to open new income streams.
  • God could give you insight so that our work could get done in a fraction of the time.
  • God can multiply our energy better than an energy drink.
  • Ask God for insight and He’ll give it to you generously.

The secret to unlocking this divine multiplying effect, this grace of God, is in Proverbs 16:3:

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

Commit this year to God. Committing means two things:

“God this work is FOR You.” Look back at the plans you’ve made. Are they entirely for yourself?

“God this work will be done THROUGH You.” We acknowledge that these goals are so big and impossible to do alone. This causes us to pray regularly not because we have to, but because we need to.

2017 will be an unforgettable year for us. And we need God to make it happen. What are your big plans for 2017 that you want to commit to God?

How to Make The Most of 2017: Start At the End

You can read Part 1 here.

Begin with the end in mind and you’ll have a great 2017. Put it this way:

What am I doing right now that the future me will be thankful for?

You want to live in January 2017 so that in December 2017 you will look back and say, “I’m so glad I did that.”

The reason for much of our unhappiness and dissatisfaction at the end of the year is we have done the opposite. We do things that make the January versions of ourselves happy, but the December (and ever after) versions of ourselves regret it.

While there are different answers for all people, here are four choices that we can all make that we’ll definitely appreciate in December 2017.

  • Collecting Memories over Collecting Possessions

Last year, our family gave each other memories instead of gift items for Christmas. We all invested to go to Singapore at the same time. It was pricey but made for plenty of stories. Besides, we saved a lot of money in not buying a new phone or flat screen TV. You’ll be less satisfied with most of your possessions at the end of 2017. But great memories generate value all your life.

  • Building Relationships over Building Your Brand

Focusing on building our brand robs us of the opportunity of authentic relationships. Don’t manipulate your image, just relate with people sincerely. Do your family and closest friends agree with the online persona or is it artificially produced?

  • Mental Vitamins over Mental Junk Food

Junk food makes you feel full, but there’s very little nutritional value. Mental junk food makes you feel like you learned something new, but you’re really not a better person. These could be watching endless TV series, cooking clips we’ll never attempt, and updates on celebrities. Hey, I love junk food too. But that’s why we have to deliberately remove it from our presence or else we’ll keep bingeing. Close the laptop; pick up a book.

  • Fulfilling Your Calling over Fulfilling Expectations

People’s expectations on us will never end. Someone will always have an opinion about how you did something wrong. (Usually an Instagram commenter) At the end of the year, we’ll be frustrated we gave so much away and are no closer to making everyone happy. Instead, ask God what He’s called you to do. Don’t just ask what He’s called you to do for life. Ask Him what He’s called you to do today, right now. Do that. And you’ll be glad you did.

In December 2017,

  • You’ll be glad you took that trip over buying that new phone.
  • You’ll treasure your relationships more than your social media following.
  • You’ll benefit more from reading that book instead of binge-watching that series.
  • You’ll be glad you obeyed God’s call over trying (and failing) to please everyone.

Proverbs 20:4 Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.