Thinking on Words

A friend recently said she planned on “wafing” at work the next day. At first, her word left me floundering to understand her meaning. But when I thought more about my friend and her approach to work, I somehow knew what she meant. The relationship created the meaning necessary to understand her words.

My friend also said that putting the word in quotes made it okay to use even though it is not a word. If that’s the case, then a lot of words need quotation marks.

Our conversation got me thinking about how people in general use words, both intentionally and unintentionally, how we create the meaning of the words we use, both real and made up, as well as the impact of relationship on the meaning of our words.

So, strap in, hold on, and journey into my thought process on the topic of words.

Words

Did you realize“unforgiveness” isn’t really a word? Not in my dictionary, anyway. “Impactful” isn’t either. Kind of disappointed since I use those words often.

Technically, adding “un” before “forgiveness” means taking back or undoing forgiveness. A very “churchy” (yes, another non-word) word, the assumed meaning of “unforgiveness” involves not forgiving or refusing to forgive, not so much an undoing of forgiveness given because of it not actually being given in the first place.

Impactful,”used to portray major impact or effect, is actually in some “online” dictionaries, but it’s not an official word according to Dictionary.com. And anyway, why not just use influential or effective? Unfortunately, I’ve used “impactful” so much over the years that I naturally think of it when describing something with great impact.

How many other words do I use frequently that don’t actually exist?

Words4

People constantly make up words. Some eventually become official words. (I’m still not over “ain’t” officially becoming a word.) Don’t we have enough words? Are we just too lazy to learn the ones we already have, so we make up new ones instead? Isn’t that kind of like being unable to find that thing you know you have somewhere, so you buy a new one instead of taking the time and making the effort to look for it?

Marketers, Tweeters (technically a real word) and “Facebookers” make up words all the time. Where do you think the Word of the Year “selfie” came from? (In case you’re wondering, second place went to “twerking.” Sorry, Miley!)

Ginormous” and “bestie” were also spawned “online” with “selfie.” The word “ginormous” combines gigantic and enormous, related synonymously, so why not just use one of the legitimate words? Can something truly be so gigantic and enormous that it needs both words to be described? Once something reaches enormous, does it need to be more? Or, is this simply our human tendency to add dramatic flare to everything?

Maybe my obsessive need to eliminate the little squiggly line under words creates an over-sensitivity to word choice. Or maybe my frustration over increasing laziness with the words we speak, over taking the time to communicate clearly and accurately, creates a need to consider the details of the words I use and the intentions behind them.

Words5

Take a minute to think about the words you use. Actually, think about how much you actually think about your words. Or, do you just let the words come forth without giving them much thought?

Scripture says a lot about using care with our words, and taking the time to consider these instructions strengthens character and relationships by bringing greater awareness to the fact that the words we speak – as well as how, when & why we speak them – reflect the atmosphere of the inner self with striking accuracy.

In January, we will look at how what we say, the way we say it and when we say it holds tremendous impact. In addition, we’ll look at how who says something matters along with the impact of the amount of words we speak (how much we say or don’t say). Finally, we’ll also look at the value of controlling our words along with ideas on how to incorporate this aspect of self control into the details of our lives.

DISCUSS: Take me on a journey into your thoughts on the use of words. Tell me what you think a detailed focus on this topic should include.

3 Ways to Reduce Busyness & Discover Simplicity

busyToo busy?

Recently, I overheard a friend say, “I am done with holidays.” She explained that holidays were just too stressful and gave her too much to do along with having to deal with the drama that often accompanies family gatherings.

Since I know this person well, I also know that these words really characterize her whole life. She always has too much to do, and she’s always stressed. Which basically means that the holiday (Thanksgiving in this case) undeservedly received the blame for her stress.

Why are you so busy?busyness

Our culture is one of busyness, and I truly feel burdened for those I know and love who are simply too busy. This burden comes from living in that reality, being broken by it, and rebuilding a simple life without the weight of busyness. In other words, I’ve been there and know the way out. More importantly, I know that there IS a way out.

Much of this busyness comes from the seasons of life. Kids need attention, loved ones are sick, work is overloaded and ministry calls. This busyness, to a large extent, is simply the inevitable busyness of life itself.

But busyness reaches toxic levels when we, by deliberate choice, choose to do more than we are capable of doing. These are the things we say “yes” to because we “should” or because “someone has to do it.” They are the things born out of perfectionism and long-standing habits. This toxic level reaches epic proportions when we pile on “things to do” as a way to avoid doing the hard work of creating a balanced life focused on true priorities. Instead, we get lost in the multitude of activities, obligations and commitments.

When we’re too busy, we don’t have time for deepening relationships. We don’t have time to work through issues that created rifts. We don’t have time to read that which would deepen our character. We don’t have time to get the rest we need. We don’t have time to make healthy choices. And, worst of all, we don’t have time to spend one-on-one with God.

But my friend who said, “I am done with holidays” actually got at a very important point. Busyness and overload seem amplified during the holidays. We may casually notice at other times, but busyness suddenly jumps out as out of control during the holidays. The time between Thanksgiving and New Years seems to magnify the need to slow down and enjoy friends and family. It emphasizes the crucial need to worship God made flesh, which has a way of making us realize our desperate need for a simpler life.

Trapped in busyness?

Many people feel trapped in busyness. They realize that busyness creates an inner conflict that seems impossible to reconcile. This becomes amplified during the holidays and is really why my friend meant when she said, “I am done with holidays.” With that in mind, let’s explore three ways to reduce busyness and discover simplicity no matter the time of year.

busy 2Reduce Busyness and Discover Simplicity

1.) Make small changes. Small changes done consistently over time add up to make a huge difference. Becoming instantly un-busy won’t happen, but making small adjustments will slowly reduce busyness. Taking your time with this process rather than trying to “quit cold turkey” increases its staying power.

2.) Accept the painful truth. You will have to say “no” to some good things. You will have to let things you really want to do go in order to do the things that are truly important.

3.) Commit busyness to prayer. Ask God to show you how to become less busy. Ask Him to show you how to simplify. And most importantly, ask Him to change your heart towards busyness and to help you realize that obedience to Him does not mean saying “yes” to every opportunity that passes through your awareness.

Transforming a busy life is really hard. It requires brokenness. It requires letting go of attachment to accomplishments. It means admitting that under our own strength, we try to do too much. And it means admitting that without some help and without deliberate choice, we will continue feeling the increasing weight of busyness.

Are You Adding to Others Busyness & Overload?

When working to reduce busyness and overload, we tend to focus on our personal schedules. We look at ways to reduce our own “to do” lists. How often do we look at how our actions or inactions create more work and load for others?

Consider the following elements and how they not only impact your own life but how they might be adding to busyness and overload in the lives of the people with whom you work, live, go to church and play.

  1. Exhaustion. Our own busyness and overload adds to what others need to accomplish when we become too exhausted to keep commitments or fail to complete tasks satisfactorily. By continually working to keep busyness and overload in our own lives at bay, by default we reduce those for others as well. More importantly, living in constant fatigue, stress and overload fails to provide a picture of the freedom that Christ died to bring (Galatians 5:1). Instead, we appear trapped in and resigned to living out lives in the realm of too much.
  2. Ineffective Communication. Do you fully listen when someone talks, or do you think about all you have to do or want to say? Are your interactions (face-to-face, email, text, Facebook) uplifting and helpful or filled with confusion?  Develop the habit of truly listening, and learn to communicate effectively. Also, simply learning to Reduce Email Overload and Frustration goes a long way in promoting effective communication. Pick an area of communication and focus on improving there if for no other reason than to ease the stress and overload another person is experiencing.
  3. Drama. Do you constantly tell stories about your busy and stressed life? Are your stories filled with exaggeration that stresses busyness?  Consider that constant drama may be exhausting to others. How long can you go without saying you’re busy? Can you have a conversation without telling a dramatic story of the events that make every moment of your life exhausting? Purpose to not be someone who brags about being too busy and stressed.
  4. Nosiness & Gossip. Often, hearing about the pit others find themselves in makes our own pits not seem so miry. When we talk about others problems, our own don’t seem so bad. While that can give a needed perspective switch, it can also backfire by leading us to feel like change in our own lives isn’t necessary. Consider how projection and magnification might exist in your life to the point of causing you to not see needed change in your own life.
  5. Neediness. Some people just need others to listen to them, and borrowing a friend’s ear certainly has its place and time. Unfortunately, some take this to an extreme and live in a constant state of neediness. Part of refusing to constantly add to others busyness and overload means avoiding being needy and always taking. It means choosing to give, whether by helping in a tangible way or simply by not staying too talk long when the person is obviously busy. Instead, schedule time to vent and talk when both parties can have the mental space to focus.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul gives advice for living that results in respect from others as well as lives that do not put unnecessary burdens on others. His advice? “Live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands.”

A quiet life means a simple life, however you define that, and a simple life comes in small, deliberate steps that add up over time. Not only does a simpler life reduce our own stress, busyness and overload, but it reduces those aspects in the lives of others too. When we are less stressed, busy and not as overloaded, we tend to have the energy to communicate more effectively and to be a source of peace to others, which then allows us and them to progress further along the path to victory over busyness and overload.

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Sunday Reflections – A Foundation with No Building is Just a Swimming Pool

For 30 years, the Moskva Pool (Moscow Pool) was the largest open air swimming pool in the world. Originally the foundation for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, the church was demolished to make way for the Palace of Soviets. That palace was never built. Construction began in 1938 and was abandoned three years later when the steel for the project was instead used for war material during World War II. The foundation was then made into a swimming pool.

Without a building, a foundation has little purpose. And certainly, a foundation is not even built without plans for a building to be built on top of it. In a spiritual sense, however, foundations are built often without anything being built on top of them.

Let’s be clear that for a Christian, the only true foundation is Christ, and the life of a Christian exists as “God’s building.” At some point, someone laid the foundation of Christ in the life of a Christian. Then, the process of sanctification (holiness or being set apart) hopefully takes place and builds a “building” that will survive the fire (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).

This process of sanctification serves as the building process that takes place over a Christian’s life. But what if that process never takes place? What if the foundation remains but is never used for its intended purpose? As with the Moskva Pool, the foundation will have to settle for less rather than for fulfilling its intended purpose.

Fortunately, Christians don’t have to settle. Through the process of living the Christian life and by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us to conform us to the image of Christ, Christians can build upon the foundation that is Christ. The following points exist as crucial aspects of that process.

  1. Be willing to be pruned. The Word of God prunes in order to prepare Christians to bear fruit. Likewise, life’s circumstances lead to additional pruning that allows for the process toward perfection to continue.  Be teachable and willing to change.
  2. Understand that there’s always more. Even when a building is complete, there’s always maintenance needing done. There’s always cleaning that needs to happen. As a Christian continually spends time with God, the light gets brighter to allow cobwebs and dust to become obvious even in the deepest and hidden corners. Stay open to correction.
  3. Focus on the top priority. A building is usually built for a very specific purpose. Likewise, a Christian exists to be with Jesus. That is our #1 calling. As we focus there, we remain joined to our Heavenly Father (John 15:1-6). Remember that your focus determines your reality.

For the Christian, sanctification comes through living a life of excellence. In practical terms, this means gradually increasing in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This lifelong commitment comes as we walk daily in obedience to Christ. This process of sanctification exists in a progressive sense in that we increase in holiness as we conform to the will of God.

Not sure where to start? Consider Paul’s advice for how to live life in 1 Thessalonians 3:11-12. He advises living a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands. Doing so sets a good example for others as well as creates a life that “lacks nothing.” A quiet life, one absent of focus on constant drama, earns respect, which opens doors for sharing Jesus. Such a life allows Christians to live out the sanctification process in a way that encourages others to build on the foundation that already exists and to ensure they fulfill their purposes rather than just settling for anything less.

On a final note, realize that the best time to build on the foundation is now. Learn from the past and then move forward. While the Moskva Pool remained a foundation that missed its purpose for 30 years, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior was eventually reconstructed, thus returning the foundation to its original purpose. Christians don’t have settle for where they are with building materials being used for other purposes. Returning to Christ is always an option.

DISCUSSION: What are some things that distract us from building on the foundation of Christ in our lives? What steps can you take today to eliminate distracts and return to His will?

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