Loosening the Grip of Being Available

I work with people and relationships are important to me. I enjoy talking with people one-on-one over a good cup of coffee. I am connected with people via Viber, WhatsAp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, and the list, as you well know, can keep going. Add to this old-fashioned emails and just a regular phone call – you remember, that’s what phones were initially designed for – and you can quickly become overwhelmed.

Of course, as an introvert, I deeply value my personal space and personal time. Time to think, pray, journal, and read my Bible. Time to just be myself and by myself. At times, due to the busyness and involvement of ministry it becomes time to ‘find myself’. Ministry can be overwhelming and all-consuming at times. 

So, I have been on a journey to reclaim my life in what has become an overworked, overspent, and over-connected world. It has not been easy. It has had some blow back. Some people are not happy with me. Others are wondering what has happened as I am no longer instantly available. Some are genuinely concerned and wondering if I am not well or if I am having a struggle mentally, spiritually… It seems I am swimming upstream. I remind myself frequently that dead fish float downstream. Only live ones swim upstream. That helps. 

I have set my iPhone on silent from 9:30p to 9:30a. I am not available during those hours. That allows me time to read in the evening and adequate time for “devotions” in the morning (adequate being several hours). 

I watch a lot less television in the evenings. I am working to keep it at a maximum of 90 minutes which includes watching some news. 

I work on emails for an hour a day. When the hour is over the remainder of the emails wait. I don’t read or answer emails From Friday night to Monday morning. Weekends are free of emails. And, when on the road ministering I only answer emails connected to the ministry I am doing while away from the office.

I no longer automatically say “yes” to a coffee with someone when asked. I would first like to know the purpose of the coffee time to determine if it something I need to be involved in. In other words, is it a good investment of my time. Is it something the Lord wants me involved in or should someone else handle it? Or is it just someone who wants to simply have coffee and chat, you know, spend some time with the pastor, leader, apostle. And you would be amazed at how many people really have no set purpose for a coffee except to touch base and visit. Not against ‘just visiting’ but I am working to “Loosen the grip of being available” whenever and for whoever. This allows me to be “totally there” for the people I do have coffee with and invest my time more wisely and on purpose.

I no longer say “yes” to every offer that comes in to minister. The first reason for that is simply there are too many offers to be able to accommodate all of them. Secondly, often they are wanting me to speak on something that is not within my list of topics that I feel called to teach on. Thirdly, they are often looking for a pastor or a teacher and I am now ministering full-time as an apostle. That’s my calling. That the role I play within the Kingdom and the Church. And the fourth reason is that those who invite me are not looking for a long-term relationship. And, I am not looking for a once-only engagement. I want to build long-term relationships with the people that I minister to.

I don’t answer phone calls unless they are in my contact list. And, even then, I prefer to let the message system pick up all calls so that I can then sit down as my work day is coming to an end and return all the calls at the same time. That way my day’s activities and events are not being constantly put on hold or interpreted for a one or two minute phone call. Same for instant messages and texts. I group them and answer them all at the same time – usually daily, but not always. And, not on the weekends or evenings. I open my snail mail once a week when I have time to deal with it immediately. 

So, I am not disconnecting from the electronic world in which we now live. I have decided that I own the phone and the computer and they don’t own me. I am reclaiming my life and pacing my days to enjoy the time I have been given by the Lord. It’s not “stop the world I want to get off.” I enjoy being very engaged in today’s world and various cultures and the strong issues of the day. I simply no longer want to be involved in the rat race. Remember, if you win you simply become #1 rat. Not a goal I want to achieve.

This past weekend after lunch with my youngest daughter we did Starbucks and the bookstore. It’s a long-standing Christmas tradition between her and I. I found a book while drinking great coffee and simply browsing with no agenda. It confirmed what I am working to accomplish in my daily schedule. I am only part way through the book but it is good and confirming… as well as giving me more fuel for my fire and some new ideas. It is called “To Hell With the Hustle” by Jefferson Bethke. He is a Christian author.