Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Is Writing Your Chapter Thirteen Causing Chapter Thirteen?

We’re facing bankruptcy. That’s the problem.

Some of us “wired to write” spend like Bill Gates even though the reality is we’re living on fixed incomes. Of time, that is.

Our time credit rating stinks. We promised to get together with friends just as soon as the proposal reached the desk of the editor or agent. Didn’t follow through. Interest upon interest and untold relationship penalties now make the debt unmanageably high.

We promised ourselves our children would have our full attention. Cheated on that one, too, with our cell phone conversations and pocket PCs during soccer games. Promised full attention to our spouse. The face said, “I’m with ya, babe.” The mind spent the day in Fictionland.

How could we not spend our time on the church project? How could we dare say no to our grandkids? Designer community moments? Can’t really afford it, but I’ll put it on the credit card. Home repairs? No time-cash on hand. I’ll put it on the credit card.

Unsure what else to do, we racked up time credit card debt into the thousands. Now we’re drowning in debt and feel the hot breath of bankruptcy rustling the hairs on the back of our neck.

How does a financially troubled person get out of debt?

  1. Stop the bleeding.
  2. Renegotiate.
  3. Live within your means.
  4. Honor God and expect miracles.

Can’t that plan work for the time bankrupt, too?

In what areas are we bleeding time? Meaningless television? A nickel here, a nickel there chit-chat that adds up without accomplishing anything significant? Catching a few too many waves while surfing (the Internet)? Retracing steps for lack of implementing simple organizational methods?

Is it necessary to cut up our time credit cards in order to get victory? Probably.

How can we renegotiate? I thought I was showing my son love by doing his laundry for him. No more. I’m going to show him love by looking him in the eye and listening over a bowl of popcorn. I’ll show him a life skill by expecting him to keep his own socks clean.

Age-old, sage-wise advice: Live within your means. I have 24 hours. If I spend as if I’ve been given 26 or 30, is it any wonder I’m getting deeper in the hole every day?

Budgets don’t just happen. They’re not organic. They’re manufactured, cultivated, intentional. I’ve been hoping to live a balanced life. That goes against the flow of nature. It’s time to live intentionally.

Here’s my paycheck for the week, my pile of time. The non-negotiables: tithing to the Lord, time for my husband and children, adequate sleep, time to make progress on God’s calling on my life…

Not much left. But into their individual envelopes, I’ll then divide time for church involvement, friendships, entertaining, leisure, extracurricular activities…

And when there’s nothing left in the pile, I will stop. I will not spend what I do not have.

Sometimes the washing machine breaks down and the vacation fund has to cover the cost of repairs. It’s the way of life. Sometimes the mother-in-law’s health breaks down and vacation time is diverted to her needs for a season. It’s the way of life. The budget is adjusted, not thrown out the window.

Finally, honor God and expect miracles. This is the loaves-and-fishes God. The God of bottomless olive oil containers. The God of water from rocks and regular-as-clockwork manna.

IF we honor Him with our time, we can expect miracles. Yes, the sun does still retrace its steps to allow us to accomplish all that He intends for us to get done. When we listen to the whispers of His Spirit telling us to jettison our agenda and attend to the interruption He sent us, we’ll find our projects progressing at warp speed when we return to them.

There…is…a…time…to…every…purpose…under…heaven. Linger for a moment on the wisdom of that truth from the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1). Every purpose God ordains for my life comes with batteries included and a workable timetable. There is a time. All I have to do to stay within my budget is to quit spending it on purposes I invented…or others invented for me…rather than the ones “under heaven.”