Saturday, August 6, 2016

A To-Do- List with no Pressure

I'm a list writer, and sometimes list writers like me write too many things on their lists because there are places to go, people to see, things to do and we get excited till enthusiasm shimmies down the pen and jigs another jot.

Thing is, my enthusiasm often outruns my energy, tends to bully priorities, and requires daily taming.

I try to limit the space I have to make my lists on. So I have a lot of 4" x 4" post-it notes, but I can write pretty small. I can fit a lot on a post-it note. I also know that what I write on a list doesn't hold the power of the last word about what I'll be doing today.

I down-sized to a tiny bitty 2" x 3.5" notebook, about the size of a band-aide. It helps, but doesn't mend. Not really. The real mend isn't writing a smaller list, and it's not even limiting what I fit into my day. No, the real mend is in listening to what's already been written. It's in listening to the list written for this day before it yet was. 

"And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:16).

Ironically, I write my lists during my morning prayer time. I do this because my mind wanders to things I want to be sure I don't forget, like the fact I'm all out of bleach, and that I want to remember to text so-and-so, and I've got a graduation party to plan and I'm missing ingredients I need for dinner tonight. 

I jot these thoughts down. 

Putting them on paper gets them off my mind. Usually. But some times not. 

Sometimes I'm antsy and quickly press past prayer till I say something like, "I don't have the patience to pray," and I want to grab my list and run. 

But I can't. Yeah, there's this wild streak in me, but I've been trained by years of prayer and I just can't, won't, leave my Master's word for the sake of my list any more than a well-trained wild Mustang would run from the cowboy who loves her. 

I glance at the list, and then, "Can I see it?" It's God.

I show Him the one I scratched out on a paper scrap beside my Bible, and ask Him about it. 

Then it happens-I start listening

"Does this need to be done today?" He points to some chicken scratch off-center and oddly angled in the upper hand corner of the pink post-it. I scratch it off because it's nothing that needs to be done today. 

"And what about that? And that?" And He prioritizes the list, and I check things off not because they're done, but because they don't need to be done. Not today.

Somehow He uses this process to draw me back into prayer with stillness this time.

"You press me into prayer, not past it." The realization wakens me to His grace. 

My definition of grace, learned long ago, is that He has already done what is being done. I look at the list He's prioritized. I read what He's written about how He's already fashioned this day for me and say, "You've already made the list for today." That's grace.

The grace is that when He looks at my list, He doesn't say, "Ooh, girl, give yourself some grace!" No. He looks at my list and says, "Enter into the grace I give you." 

The grace is that He doesn't look at my list, shake His head, and tell me to write a new one, saying, "Now, on this list only write down what you figure you are able to do undistractedly and wholeheartedly today." 

List makers like me may have received that kind of instruction before, like that's supposed to help? Write another list 'cause this one's got too much on it? I'm trying to pray, here!

Martin Luther once said, "I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." 

I say, "Amen!"

"So," says the One who just prioritized my to-do list "do you really need a list? Are you afraid you'll forget something important? Let something slip?"

"Yeah, I am." I confess it. It's true. "And," I continue, "my to-do list gives me a sense of direction. Security. And when I check things off of my list, I feel accomplished." 

A little shyly, I whisper, "Did I show You the notepad I made yesterday?

He crosses His arms, half smiles a friendly knowing, "And when you accomplish something not on your list?"

"Yeah," He knows me, "I write in down just so I can check it off." There it is.

"What does it mean to you that I've already written about your day, today?" It's a fair question and maybe my answer should roll right off my tongue, but it doesn't. 

I chance a guess, "That I don't need to make another list in my life?"

I'm certain I hear Him chuckle amused. "Make as many lists as you want, if putting your thoughts on paper gets them off your mind."

I know what He's saying. He knows my mind wonders, and He knows I long to be attentive in prayer.

"Listen to Me," He says, "and you will attend to what I've already written."

I hear what He says, and it sounds like, "Listen to Me. I am you're living list."

What's this I feel? Do I dare feel that I gain employment by the grace of what God has accomplished?" 

He answers my thought, "I work in you both to will and to do for My good pleasure." 

"My employment comes from Your grace." I dare say it clearly.

"Rest assured," He says, "I will take care of what matters to Me."
I'm pressed into grace; and pressure is released. I feel it. 

"What matters to You, is of greatest matter to me!" I say it and realize this is His grace. 

Isn't God the fulfillment of His own grace, for His own sake? 

Doesn't He extend this grace to me, and this for His sake as well?

Maybe no one needs to hear me say, "I know how you feel! I'm buried in busyness too! I'm going to work on another to-do list, 'cause this one's got too much on it!"

Maybe, instead, "I know how you feel. I've been there too. Starting today, the only thing I'm writing on my to-do list is, 'Listen.'" 

I'm listening, and what I'm hearing fills me with gratefulness. 

This is my God! He gave me this life! He's filled my day!

Grace is depressurizing.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig