BREAKING THE STRONGHOLD OF JANTE

Scandinavians are as far from Italians as Scandinavia is from Italy.   A famous Norwegian author once wrote, “Every joy you have you pay for with sorrow.”  Many Norwegians think it’s from the Bible. They take it seriously—and I mean seriously.  They, and most Scandinavians (and I am one), tend to value even-keeled emotions rather than the highs and lows more prominent in Mediterranean cultures.  Expressions of affection and praise tend to be guarded. When a gifted girl asked her mom why she didn’t affirm her, she responded, “We didn’t want you to get proud.” That is all too typical.

Many children grow up wondering if they are valued, which they then pass on to their offspring. Not vastly different from any other place in the world, but maybe more pronounced because of their disposition.  Garrison Keillor helped us laugh at some of these cultural patterns. Sometimes they aren’t funny.

These attitudes, a part of Scandinavian society for centuries, were reinforced in a book by a Dane who moved to Norway and came across attitudes of negativism and depression. His novel, The Escape from Jante, tells about the dark side of Scandinavian small-town mentality. The term “Janteloven,” which means “the Jante Law” has come to mean the unspoken rules of such communities.  It is a curse, not a blessing, but Scandinavians have owned it as their DNA. Sandemose may have chosen ten laws to give it the seriousness of the Ten Commandments, which interestingly are called the “Moseloven” (or Mosaic Law) in Norwegian.  

WHAT IT IS

Here is the Law of Jante which Sandemose wrote after observing it:

  1. Do not think you are anything special.
  2. Do not think you are as important as we are.
  3. Do not think you are wiser than us.
  4. Do not fool yourself into thinking you are better than us.
  5. Do not think you know more than us.
  6. Do not think you are more than we are.
  7. Do not think that you are good at anything.
  8. Do not laugh at us.
  9. Do not think that anyone cares about you.
  10. Do not think you can teach us anything.

Heresy is truth in distortion, and there is an element of truth in these statements. The Law of Jante, however, takes an inaccurate picture of humility and applies it to others in a kind of pseudo-democratic fashion.  It levels people off so no one feels like rising above anyone else. The Japanese have a saying, “The nail that sticks out is pounded down,” and the Law of Jante has been used for decades to pound people down, so that they question their value to others and even to God.

A Swedish pastor told me it is opposite the American spirit of “rugged individualism.”   “If you ask a Swede if he plays an instrument, he says, ‘Well, not much. I just practice a little bit,’ even if he is a concert pianist.  If you ask an American, he says, ‘Sure, I’m going to release a CD soon,’ even if he only knows two chords.” Both outlooks need the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I am not going after Scandinavians. I love my Norwegian roots–and fruits. And I love where God has placed us for twenty-three years, in American Scandinavia, the upper Midwest. As we embrace the culture, we also wish to embrace the healing that comes from Jesus (part 2 next).

“LET HIM WHO THINKS HE STANDS…”

…take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).  A friend at seminary asked me, “If Satan wanted to take you out, what would he use?” I said, “Pride.” Then I asked him the same question and he said, “Sex.” He was right. He divorced a godly wife who had given him four wonderful children and chose a single woman instead, leaving the ministry and a trail of suffering behind him. He knew enough to answer correctly but not enough to deal with the issue at hand. Sad, stupid and selfish. What do you tell his kids?

I wish he had a mentor that helped him to walk in the light, confess his sins, and deal with his problems. Might have saved a lot of people from a ton of pain. I ask young men I mentor to tell me their strengths and the weaknesses. Then we discuss them–in detail. I want to see if they know what could take them out and what they are doing about it now. Many of those who have good plans for their future and leadership gifts never get there. They are sidelined for a host of reasons. If they had been taking heed, maybe they could have prevented the fallout. If they had coaches to help keep them on track with probing questions, they might have learned to be on guard.

We are looking for older, wiser men and women who could help steer these young people into a bright future. Too many in their seventies think it is time for them to sit back and be spectators. Or perhaps the church they attend makes them feel that way. We desperately need mature fathers and mothers prepared to be a shining light with millennials who need their example and wisdom. Dear older friends, let your pastor know that you are available to work with young people one on one.

I am sad for every pastor who experiences a moral failure. That wasn’t on their agenda when they were ordained and took vows of ordination and when they were married and made promises to their spouse. Somehow, they didn’t take heed–and they fell. The potential is in every one of us. A man after God’s own heart created pain in his family for years through moral fallout. He was forgiven, but the consequences played themselves out for decades.

What could keep you from your God-appointed destiny? The master called three servants and gave them jobs. Two did well and were commended. The third buried his talents and had a miserable ending. The master called him a “wicked and slothful servant.” That was not a compliment. He was both mean-spirited and lazy. He didn’t take heed–and he fell hard.

“Taking heed” includes:

1) Vulnerability. James urges us: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Walking in the light means that we don’t have secrets. If we have a secret for more than a week, it has us.

2) Awareness of Satan’s sinister plans. He wants to take us out. Oh how Satan rejoices when someone with a successful ministry is picked off. Paul called it “craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). We are called to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). May you stand–as you take heed!

A “BALANCED” LEADER

A TRIBUTE TO LARRY CHRISTENSON

I want to be a balanced leader. By that I do not mean that I want to straddle in the middle between excessive passion and passivity. Don’t ask me to be balanced in my passion for my wife, the Minnesota Vikings, or, most important, the Lamb of God. Balance finds no place in the high worship of heaven. It rather means being able to go to this extreme, then that one, in response to the initiative of the Spirit instead of walking the delicate tightrope.

When I think of balanced leaders, I picture those who are not thrown by the latest theological fad when everyone else jumps in with a knee-jerk reaction. But their life cannot be described by lack of passion. They just know what to be passionate about, when to be passionate about it, (timing is critical in the life of the Spirit), and what to be circumspect about. They are not easily fooled or manipulated. They know that we can fall off the horse on the side of either legalism or libertinism, form or freedom.

And yet they know that Jesus holds high regard for those who get out on a limb, not for those who play it safe. Some who appear to be balanced may, in fact, just be chicken. Truly balanced leaders are not cautious in a way that reduces their boldness or tames their zeal. Neither are they predictable. People of the Spirit never are. How could you guess the way Jesus would bring healing to someone? Go ahead—write the manual. He taught His disciples to be men of the Spirit, not men of technique. Formula Christianity does not describe Spirit-anointed leaders.

They know and preach the whole counsel of God—sooner or later. You hear them teach about heaven and hell, judgment and mercy, unity and relationships, sin and grace. You look hard to find the hobby horses, except for the Lordship of Christ and the empowering presence of the Spirit. If they have pet doctrines, they are so powerful and impacting as to be universal, such as the apostle Paul’s common phrase, “in Christ.”

Larry Christenson struck me as a man of both great passion and great balance. He didn’t pull his punches when he needed to strike with fire. And yet he didn’t jump on and off the wagon like some are prone to do. When he went to the edge, you felt like going with him.

Balanced leaders understand the dialectic tension between such polar truths as transcendence and imminence (the God beyond and close at hand), holiness and happiness, suffering and glory, and crisis and process. An unbalanced leader is impatient with those who question him, spurns history in the quest of destiny, talks too easily of recovering lost truths, presumes to know and therefore stumbles over pride, uses proof texts more than the wide breadth of Scripture, likes shortcuts, and does not understand the difference between kingdom now and kingdom then.

I thank God for the impact of Larry on me and many. He influenced me toward marrying Karen, a great decision. He helped to shape my ministry. I followed him at Trinity and at Lutheran Renewal. I sometimes find myself asking, “WWLD?” I was happy to be his follower, and “though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4b).

CONTROL ISSUES?

The elder brother of the prodigal had them too–and didn’t know it. If you are a controlling person, you probably don’t see it–but everyone near you does. They feel it when you try to control the time, the conversation, the meeting, the phone call.

“The fruit of the Spirit is…self-control.” The more self-control you possess, the less you need to be controlling. The more out of control you feel, the more you may try to control whatever you can. If you struggle with needing to control other people,

1)  You feel entitled to your opinion, but you don’t want theirs. You trust your outlook.

2)  You assert yourself with anger, one of the major methods of controlling. And you are mad when people don’t follow your advice or expectations. The elder brother was like the Pharisees, who were out of control but presented themselves as in control. Controlling others masks insecurity. Think Martha, who tried controlling her sister.

3)  You don’t plan on changing, but others need to. Unfortunately, you are clueless to your control. You just have better ideas and more wisdom, and you want to mentor others and show them how it is done. The Pharisees thought they had things to teach people. In fact, they had nothing right, nor did the elder brother.

4)  You have many relational conflicts, which should be a clue to your problem, but you tend not to see your issues while you point out the flaws of others. The elder brother had a conflict with his brother and with his father. He didn’t know how to do relationships. The prodigal and the father did. The emphasis of controlling people is more on functions than on relationships. The prodigal was mending a relationship. The elder brother had no idea relationships needed mending. He didn’t know his father as a father; he was his boss. Entitlement reduces a relationship with God from father to boss. And their picture of Him is skewed by their wounding, perhaps a demanding mother or father. The elder brother had a good father but but he didn’t know it. He tried telling his father how to run the family, how to control his over-the-top younger brother

If you have read this far and think you might have some control issues, you probably do, and they are most likely bigger than you think. Here are some helps to walking in freedom from the need to be the CEO of the universe:

 

  • Focus on yourself. Notice Paul calls it “self-control.” You are not required to control others, and you are not as good at it as you may imagine. Every one of your problems has a common issue–you. Quit thinking the world is out to get you. It just wants you to quit trying to manage their life. That is demoralizing and degrading, especially since your life is out of control. Think about it: the more we walk with self-control, the less need we feel to control others.
  • Consider God. He is the most powerful person of the universe–and the least controlling. The father of the prodigal is a picture of God. The son made an illegitimate request–and the father honored it. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe he could see that the son had already left and needed to learn what the world was really like. He did–and he came home to experience non-controlling compassion. So will you.

 

DISCOURAGEMENT–A SIN?

Really? A young man I mentor spent a large portion of his life discouraged. It had never occurred to him that it might be sin. Seemed like it was a condition brought on sort of naturally by adverse circumstances. You accept it and work your way through it. But if it is sin, then it can be overcome, because that is what Jesus died for. Made sense to him.

Some would say, “It can’t be sin because you can’t help it.” Could Elijah have helped it? He ran south under the threat of Jezebel. He surrendered to discouragement. It seemed out of character for one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.

What about John the Baptist? “He must increase and I must decrease.” As he starts to decrease, it doesn’t feel good. Could he have avoided it or was discouragement inevitable? He received a gentle rebuke from Jesus. He didn’t have to give in to discouragement. He could have kept his eyes on Jesus during his imprisonment, but discouragement blinded him.

Can you avoid it or do circumstances stack up in such a way that losing your joy, your fire, your concentration, your ability to praise the Lord at all times evaporates? Satan has something to do with discouragement. He steals, kills and destroys.

Here are two ways to not be discouraged.

1.YOU DECIDE NOT TO BE. “Oh, come on. Not that easy.” Okay, how does a person overcome the temptation to cross the line and sleep with his girlfriend at 1 AM in her apartment? He decides. He leaves rather than playing with fire. It’s all in his mind. Same with any sin. You choose not to. After giving in too often to discouragement, I chose not to be discouraged when a ministry we had for ten years was going down–little by little. I had to lock the door on discouragement each week. I knew it was not inevitable. It wasn’t going to help me. It was going to render me incapable of helping others during this difficult time. It is selfish for a pastor, a parent, a leader, a mother, a young adult to give in to discouragement. When my friend saw it as a decision, it encouraged him that he could do it–and he did!

2. YOU SPEAK IN TONGUES. “Are you really saying that? You just speak in tongues?” Yes. The Bible says, “He that speaks in a tongue edifies himself.” That is one incredible Scripture that we read, smile at, and go on. Wait a minute. Do you know anyone overdosing on encouragement, that needs a little discouragement in his life? Okay, do you know anyone who is battling discouragement on a daily basis and needing to be built up? The infallible, unalterable, unchangeable Word of God tells us we are built up when we speak in tongues. “Doesn’t work for me. And it doesn’t build me up that much. I don’t feel any different actually.” Right, and because you don’t, you only do it once in a while, and you do not do it in faith. The greatest apostle the world has ever seen said, “I am glad that I speak in tongues more than you all.” Do you think that has anything to do with his response in the back of a dungeon, locked in clamps unjustly, beaten without cause, and it’s midnight? He leans over to Silas and says, “Do you know any good choruses?” He was choosing not to live by his circumstances but by the Word of God. It will work for you as well.

ENTITLEMENT

…sneaks up on us. “I am entitled to some free time because I worked so hard.” “I am entitled to more respect, because I am holding this marriage together.” The disciples thought they were entitled to time with Jesus, so they excused their rudeness to a needy woman. They also wanted to send a crowd away because they were hungry and entitled to food.

People living by entitlement make God their employer. “Give me my paycheck; I’ve earned it.” Think elder brother. He deserved a party, because he had worked for his dad and never disobeyed him. Whoops. He had just refused to come inside. Entitled folks are blind to their irresponsibility while claiming their rights.

Entitlement gives you a boss instead of a father. The elder son never used the word “father” when talking to his dad as the younger brother did. He clocked in every morning, then expected to be paid. You get what you deserve. He had the right to a party, not with the boss man but with friends. He didn’t even want to be with “the boss.”

Meanwhile, the young son knew that he didn’t deserve anything, but he got it all—a party, new clothes, new shoes, a ring. Far from deserving it, he planned his confession: “Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:19). That is where his brother ended up by entitlement. When you think you are entitled, you lower your status from son to servant and God’s from Father to Boss. The relationship morphs from personal to professional, from relational to functional.

We may wonder why we don’t feel close to God. Perhaps we feel entitled to a blessing because we are serving Him. Maybe we shouldn’t get sick like others or miss our plane. Servants of the King should be treated better. Thoughts creep in that rob us of grace and reduce us to slaves with a hard-driving master who expects us to work hard, then doesn’t even give us what we deserve, like a party. Check out the servant who called a happy, generous master “a hard man” (Matt. 25:24). He deserved a break, though he had buried what was given him to invest. Entitlement often makes people lazy, passive victims (see John 5:7),  though they expect others to come through for them.

Grace doesn’t make sense. There’s no free lunch. Why would love be poured out on a brother who shamed the family? It made big brother mad. But the father, who never stopped loving either son, preferred grace to condemnation. “Mercy triumphs over judgment” in the father’s house.

A Pharisee, proud of his record, came to the temple to boast. He had earned points by fasting and tithing. By contrast, the tax collector “beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (Luke 18:13). He received what he asked for. Jesus told the parable “to some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else. Entitlement doesn’t endear us to the Father, nor to our brothers and sisters. And it wreaks havoc on relationships. While an outlook of grace levels the playing field and puts us all in the same position of needy brothers and sisters, entitlement puts some in a higher place, like the Pharisee and elder brother placed themselves. Not a good thing to do. Choose grace instead and live above entitlement!

“A LITTLE WHILE”

How long is that? Too long when it’s hurtful. Peter, the disciple who had an allergic reaction to suffering the first time he heard it from Christ (Matthew 16:22), grew to understand its purpose. He put it in perspective so his readers could embrace it, not with quiet resignation but with blazing hope. Called “the apostle of hope,” Peter puts suffering in the context of the return of Christ and an eternity with the Bridegroom. Even an entire life of hardship, when seen from the view of forever, is an unbalanced fraction. God has mercy.

Peter writes, “In this (the coming of the King and an eternal inheritance) you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials” (I Peter 1:6). Then he takes exiles in a hostile world through some scenarios of suffering for “a little while:”

  1.  Abstaining from the passions of the flesh, an all-out war (2:11).
  2.  Living in an unfriendly world as aliens (2:12).
  3.  Daily mistreatment from an overbearing boss (2:18-20).
  4.  Marriage with a spouse who does not share our values (3:1-6).

The greatest reason to embrace redemptive suffering is that the Son of God did: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (2:21). And how did he do this, so we can learn this difficult assignment? Three ways:

  • He kept His mouth shut (“when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten”).
  • He kept His conscience clear (“He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips”).
  • He kept His heart open (“He trusted to him who judges justly”).

When we suffer, it’s hard not to say something. Completely natural. We wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt. What hurts gets our attention, and something comes out of our mouths. Peter encourages us to watch what does. The first thing that came out of his at the thought of hardship brought a painfully embarrassing rebuke from someone who knew what He was talking about (Matthew 16:23), because Peter didn’t. May God give us grace to check our words in the face of difficulty.

We’re not only tempted to say something wrong but also to do something stupid. A bitter or reactionary response may rob us of the grace we need to go through hardship and win. Hopefully, we can continue to trust Him who judges justly.

It’s one thing to suffer; another thing completely to suffer like Jesus did. That has power to influence those on the other end of our pain (2:12; 3:1,2). Suffering will change us, but righteous suffering can also change a boss, a mate, a hostile pagan. It is happening every day all over the world. Maybe it can happen in your life as well. Sister, brother: perhaps you are going through a horrendous battle. We weep with you in your sorrow. May God bring you through. And may you experience His healing, comfort, victory, vindication!

WHY MAKE A PRAYER LIST?

I’ve been a slow learner. Several things took my prayer to a new level: committing to a time, place, and…

Prayer list. You’d think it would get boring.  Sometimes it does. But it keeps prayer on track (I easily wander). Don’t always use it, especially if on a walky-talky. Ever leave your prayer time wondering if you covered what you were “supposed” to? Not anymore. And when a friend asks for prayer, I remember–as long as I add it to my list. My time feels more like a meeting. God and I are doing business. Later in the day is used for listening. Then God shares with me what is on His list! Computer is ready. I try to let the Spirit guide my thoughts. Speaking and singing in tongues is often a part of my prayer time, because it is prayer (I Corinthians 14:2).

P-R-A-Y, starting with…

PRAISE. We “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Ps. 100:4). Pressing issues may override this, as it often did for David (“Why?” or “Help!”), but the focus usually starts with God, as the Lord’s Prayer invites. A list of qualities helps to keep the flow. One may catch my attention for the full worship time.

WHO GOD IS: Loving, invisible, eternal, righteous, just, forgiving, generous, faithful, sovereign, good, purposeful, unchanging, accessible, helpful, powerful…

WHAT GOD DOES: forgive, justify, sanctify, glorify, seat us in heavenlies, rule and overrule, discipline, enable, motivate, restrain, encourage, comfort, support, exhort…

THANKSGIVING: trials, tests, tension, conflict, time, abiding, new earth, open doors, healing, answered prayer, music, home, ministry, friends…

When Isaiah saw the Lord “seated on a throne,” he heard angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy.” Then he said, “Woe is me.” When we picture God’s holiness, we are more prepared to confess our unholiness.

REPENT. As a young man I got tripped up by sin-consciousness, thinking the more I thought about sin the better off I was. Didn’t work. We are changed by what we believe and behold. If we believe that we are dead to sin, we are. If we gaze on Jesus, we are transformed (2 Cor. 3:18).   As has been said, “It is more about the Son than the sin.” However, we still need to confess. I read a list of sins. Any of which can sneak up on me. Confessing the whole list keeps me aware: “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:12).

Wasted time, undisciplined, lack of passion, unloving, insensitive, uncaring, judgmental, critical, anxious, fearful, doubtful, self-conscious, overbearing, presumptuous, opinionated, stubborn, easily offended, unbelieving, careless, tolerant, selfish, unmerciful; neglectful in witness, in Bible reading… As I go over the list, conviction sometimes comes. Once confession is made, I am ready to…

ASK, the longest part of the agenda: for self, family, friends, people in my ministry, the sick, pastors, missionaries, unsaved, special needs. Each item has names or needs attached, some long, like friends with cancer. This part of the agenda changes most often (thank God for computers). Once I have presented these needs, I am prepared to…

YIELD my time, day, resources, body, energy, plans, mind, heart, attitudes, goals, decisions, happiness, sorrows, opinions, problems, prejudices, weaknesses, pain, struggles, hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, regrets, failures, family, future, destiny to the Lord (Rom. 6:16-23). I want to think God’s thoughts, speak His words, and do His deeds. As I yield to God, my mind is being renewed.

ARE YOU SLOW TO SPEAK?

We are by nature slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to anger. Where does that get us? In trouble–much of the time. We prejudge a situation, address it too soon, and in reaction. We don’t weigh it and pray it before we say it–and we often spout out half-truths.

I like Mike Bradley’s response (not reaction) when a celebrity messed up the Star Spangled Banner before an NBA game. People, of course, jumped on her quickly for disrespecting our country.  Mike said that she probably tried her best and feels badly that she performed poorly. Call it grace. She did apologize and said she loves our nation and wanted to make it special. She was sorry and embarrassed that she had blown it. (And she is not the first one who has). I think that Mike’s response may have reflected the heart of God more than a truckload of others.

My knee-jerk commentaries are too often misplaced judgments rather than a message combining truth and grace. What rubbed off on people when they encountered the Son of God was “grace upon grace” (John 1:17). That means heeding the admonition of the brother of Jesus, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19,20). What does it produce? Hatred, judgment, criticism–really bad fruit.

I have often said to myself, “I should have listened more before I opened my mouth and gave my less than sterling opinion.” Keeping one’s mouth shut is a helpful discipline for people who enjoy talking–like me. “Slow to anger” means not going from a two to a seven in five seconds. Five minutes would prove better. What about five hours? No one is slower to anger than God. Put the brakes on your anger–and you just became more godly.

The strong conclusion from James, “There put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness…” (21a). Whoa! Where did all that filth come from? An unchecked mouth opening the door to the free flow of bitterness. He goes on, “…and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (21b). So we are receiving rather than reacting. And we are doing it with humility rather than speak in pride and judgment. The infallible word from heaven is being planted in our souls where it can take root and grow up in righteous living.

People who respond rather than react…

  • care more about the people than their own opinion
  • are good listeners
  • have allowed the Holy Spirit to slow them down in their speech

People who react rather than respond…

  • cause some train wrecks
  • care more for what they think than listening to what others think
  • need to slow down their anger

Thank you, Brother James for helping us get a grip on our life.

ON TIME: MARY AND MARTHA

Martha may have looked efficient as she labored in the kitchen to prepare a meal for Jesus. She tried nailing her sister for sitting down on the job. Jesus said to her, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…” (Luke 10:41,42). This scenario teaches us some truths about saving time:

Worry kills time. Anxiety is the clue that we’re playing God and doing something that might not be in our job description. Martha should have backed off and asked a question, “Why am I doing this now?” The “why” question helps us save time: Why am I going to this meeting? Why am I writing this letter? Am I doing something that someone else should be doing? Am I doing something that should NOT be done? Is this my responsibility?  Should I be doing it now? Martha probably had the job right, but her timing was off. Meanwhile, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (39). We see Martha on a later occasion in the kitchen, and she is peaceful and right on schedule (John 12:2) So is Mary, anointing Jesus.

Distractions eat time.  Luke writes that “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (40). The word “distracted” literally means to be pulled in different directions. Distractions keep us from focusing on what is needful at the moment. Mary locked into the “one thing needful,” while Martha was pulled this way and that. God-given goals keep us from secondary priorities. We must say “no”  to people’s expectations that keep us from our highest priority. Martha was no doubt operating with cultural expectations and firstborn mandates. Mary’s devotion exceeded all other expectations and put her in the right place at the right time. Martha needed focus. Are any demands pulling you in wrong directions or at the wrong time?

Mary did three things, all of which kept her on track with right priorities and saved her time.

She “sat at the Lord’s feet.” People with a strong work ethic may question the value of sitting before serving, but in sitting we find out when and where we need to be serving. I have learned to ask the Holy Spirit simple yes-and-no questions, and it saves me a lot of time: Should I go get the tires? No. Is this a good time to talk with Don? Yes. Wish I had learned this as a young pastor.

She was “listening to what he said.” Those who don’t take time to listen will make wrong decisions, will sometimes overbook their schedule, and will not live on purpose. They will also fall prey to the expectations that others place upon them. Mary and Martha were listening to two different voices–and one was right.

She chose what is better.  Saving time has everything to do with making good decisions. Saying “yes” also means saying “no.” One cancels the other. People who say too many yeses live frustrated lives. Their own goals are overshadowed by the desires or demands of others. Thank God for hardworking Marthas who get the job done.And thank God for Marthas who have learned from Marys that their job goes much better when they have taken their cue from Jesus!