Written by Sharon Kaufman, Contributing Writer
The Theme of the Book
One of my summer reads has been a small book that I've found to be most encouraging - Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her three daughters. The premise of the book is founded on the text in Ephesians 5:15-16, which says, "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
Carolyn writes about this verse, "This phrase, 'making the best' means to 'buy up, rescue from loss, or improve' the use of time. It is a metaphor taken from the merchants and traders of the ancient Near East, who aggressively pursued the best deals when they would buy, sell, or trade." Hence the idea of shopping for time.
The book's subtitle is How to Do It All and NOT Be Overwhelmed. I don't know about you, but for me, being a woman who desires to do as much as possible for Christ's glory in my home, the church and the world, it is easy to become overwhelmed. So the subtitle piqued my interest right off the bat. I really would like to know how "to do it all" without feeling burnt out and ready to retire from life.
The Mahaney girls approach this theme by laying out the canvas of biblical priorities for the Christian woman and then offering tangible ways whereby those priorities can be achieved. In reading the book, I've come to the conclusion that sometimes the problem of having too much to do and not enough time in which to do it, is simply because of a lack of planning.
One Thing is Necessary
So planning the use of time to optimize one's opportunities and priorities is the essence of what Shopping for Time is really all about. The book begins with planning for the "one thing" that Jesus emphasized was necessary to Martha of Bethany. "Keeping tryst" with Christ - that is a plan that includes the time and place for meeting with Him - is the prerequisite for all other planning . The premise is that when this is the priority - really the priority - there is direction and clarity and the rest of the day becomes more focused and productive. Planning your day at Jesus' feet is where the book begins.
Concerning this one necessary thing, I've posted about using a Bible reading plan on my blog. In Shopping for Time, Carolyn takes it one step beyond a reading plan. For your encouragement here is an excerpt from Shopping for Time regarding a plan to get the most from the time you spend with the Lord daily:
...take time to listen - meditate - on the words in front of you. One simple method is to write down two sentences, one beginning with "God" and the other starting with "I". To complete your "God" sentence, ask yourself, "What do these verses reveal about God? For your "I" sentence, you can ask two questions: "What do I learn about myself in relation to God from these verses?" and "What do I resolve to do in response to God's revelation of Himself in these verses?"
Then spend time in prayer. Worship God for the aspects of His character that He's revealed in the verses you've just read. Thank Him for the many facets of His grace you've glimpsed in the passage. Ask for His assistance to respond in obedience to His word. And likewise, pray for others.
Personal Retreats, Friendships and Productivity
The chapters that follow include taking a personal retreat, evaluating relationships, and planning for productivity in daily life.
Taking a personal retreat is a tactic that involves a small chunk of time away form home - perhaps 24 hours - spent alone in order to list priorities, evaluate how you're doing in each area listed and decide what changes need to be made to realign yourself to make the best use of your time for God's glory. This might involve a plan to become more consistent in disciplining a toddler or being wiser in communicating with your husband. The personal retreat, taken once or twice a year really helps to refocus on all priorities, but targets only one or two areas for growth during the following six months. Carolyn and her daughters explain exactly how to determine which areas need change and how to implement that change into real living.
The chapter about evaluating relationships focuses on friendships with other women. What types of friendships are profitable for godliness? How much time should be devoted to these friendships? How can I invest myself in each particular friend? The authors answer these questions with Biblical wisdom and of course demonstrate how to work all of the answers into a plan that "buys up and makes the best use of your time".
The final chapter involves productivity in daily life. The 15:4 rule is offered as the basis for productivity. (Perhaps you have no idea what the 15:4 rule is. In that case, you'll just have to get the book and read it to find out.) Basically the Mahaney women explain how planning your day at its onset yields many benefits. But they also address the issues of interruptions, trials, seasons of life and dependence upon God for every minute we live.
My Plan to Plan
In reading Shopping for Time, I have been convicted, encouraged, enlightened and exhorted. This little dynamo of a book is less than one-hundred pages long but it is packed with practical wisdom for today's Christian woman.
Since my husband is currently in Sudan, I plan to buy up this time I have alone with a personal retreat. By God's grace I'll be ready when Robert returns home, more committed to helping him in his resolve to buy up the time for eternity.
I'm curious...What would your list of priorities include if you took a personal retreat? How do you invest in friendships? What tool do you use for planning your day?