There's an App for That: Busyness

There’s an APP for That
Part 4: Busyness
Mark 1:21-39

Pastor Morris Brown

This month we’ve been sharing a worship series entitled, There’s an APP for That. In this series, we’re exploring how we can apply our faith to some of the challenges we all face in life. So far, we’ve learned that our faith has an APP for transition, work and worry! This morning I want to talk about the fact that our faith has an APP for busyness.

Why busyness? Well, for one, we live in an incredibly busy culture. For example, an ABC News report recently said, “Despite the fact that in 1930 economist John Maynard Keys predicted technological advances would reduce the average American work week 15 hours, leaving plenty of time for leisure, most of us are busier than ever!”

That’s true, isn’t it? Time saving technology has only filled our lives with more things to do! The second reason I want to talk about busyness is because this is an incredibly busy time of year. With school starting several weeks ago, fall sports underway, and activities at church in high gear my guess is most of our daily schedules fill up way too fast! As a result, many of you are tired before the day begins!

Finally, I want to talk about busyness because I’m busy! After two months as the pastor of a church the size of ours, I’m finding that the varied demands on my time are occasionally making me feel “like a dog at a whistler’s convention.” And if I don’t find some balance, I’ll burn out FAST!

So, how can our faith help us with all this busyness? Can it help us find a sense of balance in the midst of our busy lives? I think it can, and in the gospel story we read this morning Jesus shows us how. You see, this story describes a 24-hour period in the life of Jesus, and if you paid attention you noticed that Jesus led an incredibly busy life!

For example, in just this one day Jesus teaches at the synagogue. He casts a demon out of a man who’s possessed. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. And ministers to people who are brought to him from all over the village. There is no doubt about it. Jesus was a busy guy who led a busy life! And yet as busy as he was, Jesus never burned out. He never ran out of gas. He was always able to keep his balance. How did he do that? Well, I think we begin to find the answer at the end of the story.

You see, the end of this morning’s story says, “Early in the morning, before the sun came up, Jesus went into the wilderness where he spent time alone in prayer. When the disciples found him they said, “Come back to the village with us, people are looking for you.”

But, Jesus said, “No, there are other villages where I must go share the good news.”

So, how does Jesus keep his balance in the midst of a busy life? I think he does it by engaging in four very simple practices. Four practices that can help us keep balance in our busy lives as well.

1) To keep balance in the midst of a busy life Jesus paid attention to his PACE.

In other words, he developed a rhythm that included periods of being with people and periods of being alone; a rhythm that included periods of intense activity and periods of relaxation and rest. As I said, this morning’s scripture story describes a busy day in Jesus’ life.

And yet did you notice that in the midst of all his busyness, Jesus took time to go out into the wilderness for a time of solitude, of rest? You see, Jesus understood that if he was going to navigate the busyness of his life he was going to have moments when he got away from everything. He was going to have a rhythm of activity and rest.

A few years ago, the U.S. Army did a study on affects of pace. They took one group of soldiers and asked them to work a series of simple math problems as fast as they could for 12 hours. Then, they took a second group of soldiers and asked them to work the same math problems for 12 hours. However, with this group they did one thing different.

Unlike the soldiers in the first group, the soldiers in the second group were required to take a ten-minute break every hour (which meant they would really only get to work on the math problems for ten hours). They then told both groups that the group that completed the most problems, with the highest percentage of right answers, would receive a 3-day pass.

Well, you know what happened, don’t you? At the end of the 12-hour period the soldiers in the second group, the group that was required to take regular 10-minute breaks, that really only got to work on the math problems for 10 hours, ended up winning the contest. They completed 30 percent more math problems and got way more right.

Why? The required rest periods increased their productivity. Here’s the point: if we want to manage our busy lives, if we want to keep a sense of balance, if we want to stay productive, the first thing we need to do is be like Jesus and pay attention to our pace! We must intersperse the frantic pace of our lives with regular periods of rest and relaxation!

How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions: we might close the door of our office and ask our secretary to hold our calls for ten minutes. We might take a short walk around the building where we work. We might go sit in our car and eat our lunch alone. We may have to get creative, but the first way to manage our busy life is to watch our pace.

2) To keep balance in our busy lives Jesus reminds us that we need to spend some time in meditation and PRAYER.

The scripture says Jesus went out to a lonely place to rest. But, he also went there to pray. That’s because Jesus knew meditation and prayer connected him with the One who could empower him to meet the demands of each day.

Have you ever heard the story about the ambitious young man who got a job selling vacuum cleaners door-to- door? His sales territory was a small community way up in the mountains. So, on the first day at his new job he enthusiastically loaded up the car, drove way up into that mountain community and stopped at the first little cabin that he came to.

Well, when he knocked on the door of the cabin an old mountain woman opened it. As she did, the enthusiastic young salesman marched into the woman’s living room, opened a bag full of dust and dirt, and dumped it all over the floor. Then he said, “Good morning, Madame. I’m here to sell you the finest electric vacuum in the world! In fact, I promise that if this electric vacuum doesn’t pick up the bag full of dust and dirt I just dumped on your floor, I’ll eat every bit of it!”

Without a word, the woman turned and walked toward her kitchen.

“Wait a minute!” the salesman cried, “Where are you going? I haven’t shown you what this electric vacuum cleaner can do!”

The lady said, “I’m going to get you a spoon.”
“A spoon?” the young salesman replied, “Why?”
The old woman smiled and said, “I ain’t got no power!”

Believe it or not, there is a point to that story! There is no way we can manage the busyness of our lives if we “ain’t got no power,” if we don’t take the time to connect to God, our higher power.

How do we do that? I would suggest that we begin by spending just ten minutes, twice a day, finding a quiet place to sit down. Then, we simply take a few deep breaths, open ourselves in God’s presence and invite God to fill us. Invite God to give us the strength, energy, and wisdom we need to meet whatever challenges are going on in our day.

If we will do this, I think we will be amazed at what happens. I think we will begin to discover that God does begin to fill us with the energy, the patience, and the wisdom we need to meet the challenges of our day in ways that are healthy and whole. So, to keep balance in the midst of our busy lives we must spend time in meditation and prayer.

3) If we are going to keep balance in our busy lives Jesus reminds us we need to take care of ourselves PHYSICALLY.

Now, I may be stretching the text a little here, but did you ever wonder how Jesus got out into the wilderness where he could spend some time in solitude, relaxation, meditation and prayer? That’s right, he walked!

Some of you may remember the story of the sixteen-year old that was begging his dad to buy him a car? After a lot of nagging his dad finally said, “Alright son, I’ll tell you what. If you will do three things, I’ll consider buying you a car.”

“Okay”, the teenage boy said, “What are the three things you want me to do?”

“Well,” his father said, “First, I want you to bring straight A’s home on your next report card. Second, I want you to read your bible every single day. And finally, I want you to get a haircut.”

Reluctantly, the boy agreed to the terms. A few weeks went by and the boy burst through the door one day with his report card in hand. “Look dad!” He cried, “I got straight A’s!”

“Great!” his father said.

Then, the boy brought out his bible. He opened it up and showed his dad all the notes he’d made. “Look dad,” he said, “I’ve been reading my bible every day!”

“Fantastic!” his father said. “That’s two out of three! Now, what about a haircut?”

“Well,” the teen said, “As I was reading my bible I noticed something. I noticed that everyone in the bible everyone had long hair!”

“That’s true!” his father replied, “I hope you also noticed that they walked everywhere they went!”

Now, I don’t know if everyone in bible had long hair, but I do know everyone walked everywhere they went, including Jesus! You know, we often think of gentle Jesus, meek and mild. But the fact of the matter is Jesus was probably a very physically fit person. I mean, think about it. He grew up doing physical labor in his father’s carpenter shop. He probably worked with the fishermen who were his disciples. And he did walk everywhere he ever went. So, how did Jesus keep his life in balance in his busy life? He cared for his body.

Listen, physicians tell us that one of the best ways to “burn off” stress, increase our energy and have the resources we need to meet the demands of our busy lives, is take care of ourselves physically. And through his lifestyle, Jesus essentially says the same thing. One key to keeping balance in the midst of a busy life is to care for our physical state.

4) If we want to keep balance in our busy lives Jesus says we must set PRIORITIES and give ourselves PERMISSION to say “No!”

You know, the last verse of this morning’s story has always intrigued me. When the disciples find Jesus, they say, “Hey Jesus! Everyone has been searching for you! Come back to the village with us! There are more people who need to be healed!”

And what does Jesus say? He says, “No!” He says, “I can’t go back to that village. Instead I must go on to the next town so I may preach there also, for that is why I came.”

What’s going on here? Well, Jesus is saying to his disciples, “Look guys, I realize I can’t do everything. I can’t be everywhere. I have a limited amount of time and energy and resources. And so, instead of trying to do everything, instead of trying to be all things to all people, I have prayerfully set a few priorities and I am going to stick to them. That means there are going to be times when I am going to have say ‘no’ to competing demands.”

Does anyone remember the Citibank commercial that ran during the Olympics a couple of years ago? The commercial opens with the voice of an American athlete who says, “Dessert? I haven’t ordered dessert in two years.”

Then another athlete says, “You know that best selling book that everyone loves? I haven’t read it.” Finally, a third athlete says, “Take a day off? I don’t even take a morning off.”

What’s the commercial about? It’s about setting priorities. It’s about all the things Olympic athletes had to say “NO” to so they could prepare for the Olympics. Olympic athletes understand that in order to accomplish one’s goals, in order to perform at the highest level, they must set priorities. They must be willing to give themselves permission to say, “no” to some things that are important so they can say, “yes” to what is most important. And the truth is, so must we.

As a friend of mine puts it, “I have come to understand that I can’t do everything for everybody. ‘Cause if I try to do everything for everyone, I don’t do anything for anyone well. As a result, I set some realistic priorities for my day, and then give myself permission to say ‘no’ to everything else.”

How do we manage our busy lives? How do we keep a sense of balance in our day? How do we keep from becoming so busy that we find ourselves running on empty, completely burnt out?

First, we recognize we can’t do everything. Second, we set some realistic priorities on what we can do. And finally, we give ourselves permission to say, “NO!” to some things, even important things, so we can do the things that are the most important things in our lives! Otherwise, we’ll end up burning the candle at both ends and in the end, discover we didn’t do the things we really wanted to get done!

Listen, life is busy. We are going to have a lot to do. But, the truth is our faith, the life of Jesus, offers us an APP that can help us keep a sense of balance in the midst of our busy lives. Our faith reminds us that we must first pay attention to our pace by making sure that even the busiest of our days involves some kind of rhythm of activity and rest. Next, by spending time in meditation and prayer each day, connecting to the Holy One who can give us the strength, patience and wisdom we need to meet the challenges of each day. Then, by caring for our physical state, exercising to relieve stress and increase energy. And lastly, by setting priorities and giving ourselves permission to say, “no!”