THE FINE ART OF ACCOMPLISHING ‘NOTHING’

“Encouraging Words Today”   June 22, 2010

 THE FINE ART OF ACCOMPLISHING ‘NOTHING’

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

           Do you write ‘to do’ lists? Do you feel a sense of accomplishment whenever you get to cross off a task? Well, I actually have lists to keep track of all my lists. And rarely is every item checked before some of it gets transferred to another week’s ‘to do’ list.

          Right now my list is pretty long as I’m packing for a trip (and helping oldest son pack for his Special Olympics trip), settling monthly home expenses, juggling 3 different book projects in various states of progress, communicating important things (like replacing credit cards in identity theft, etc.) to all 4 kids scattered this week in 4 different countries, setting up for a banquet for 35 tomorrow night and planning another for a milestone family birthday soon, sending out birthday/congrats/get well cards, and cleaning the house for overnight company tomorrow. And to think that I thought I’d have more discretionary time when high school let out last week!

            But my list is about to get a whole lot shorter.

             In fact, I plan to NOT have a list at all for at least ten days. I am about to enter the 21st century equivalent of the Twilight Zone — practicing the fine art of accomplishing nothing.

            I’ve done it before (should that be I’ve not done it before?) and highly recommend you try it sometime this summer. It can be, quite frankly, revolutionary.

            The prophet Isaiah reminds us of the Sovereign Lord’s words, “Only in returning to Me and resting in Me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30.15 NLT) What a message for our day! God says we need to Return to Him, Rest, be Quiet and Confident. But then He notices that we ‘would have none of it.’

            Kenneth Boa observed something similar a few thousand years later, “The responsibilities and pressures of this world clamor for our attention and tend to squeeze our inner lives and starve our souls. When this happens, we lose sight of the things that matter and focus on the things that are passing away.”

            If you can identify with any of the above, then may I suggest that Summer can be a particularly good time to replenish our souls. I’m planning to do just that in the next days — soaking up solitude, silence, study, and enjoying all that God offers of His creation.

           No lists. Just embracing the people and pleasures that He sends my way each Moment.

     Here are a few suggestions to embrace Being more than Doing:

  • Develop a clear sense of your mission so you can invest your time with God’s calling in mind.
  • Free yourself from bondage to the opinions, agendas and expectations of others. Learn to say no.
  • Seek a balance between rest and work, recharging and discharging, inward and outward, reflection and practice.
  • Ask yourself how much is enough. Simplify.
  • Look for ways to reduce your commitments so that you will not do a shoddy job on numerous tasks instead of an excellent job on a few.
  • Realize that rest requires faith, because it seems non productive from the world’s point of view.
  • Budget time in advance for the important things that could get swept away in the daily grind.
  • Try to live from moment to moment and hold a looser grip on your long-term plans.
  • Seek to be available to make the most of unexpected opportunities God providentially sends you.
  • “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt any situation you believe to be the will of God.” Jim Elliot  (taken from Conformed to His Image by Boa)

             Okay, I know that this can’t last forever. I am, after all, trying to live as a responsible adult so that means I have accomplish things occasionally. But refreshment and renewal come only if we pursue them intentionally. God will meet us where we are. And He will stoop down in His grace and offer mercy and peace.

          I’m counting on it.

 Prayer from Thomas a Kempis: “O my soul, above all things and in all things always rest in the Lord…Grant me most sweet loving Jesus, to rest in You above every other creature, above all health and beauty, above all glory and honor, above all power and dignity, above all knowledge and precise thought, above all wealth and talent, above all joy and exultation, above all fame and praise, above all sweetness and consolation, above all hope and promise, above all merit and desire, above all gifts and favors You give and shower upon me, above all happiness and joy that the mind can understand and feel, and finally, above all angels and archangels, above all the hosts of heaven, above all things visible and invisible, and above all that is not You, my God. Amen.”

                                                                                 under the mercy, Cindy 

©2010 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

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3 Responses to THE FINE ART OF ACCOMPLISHING ‘NOTHING’

  1. Jan Nicholson says:

    Thank you Lucinda for this wonderful message. I’m looking forward to using your suggestions this summer as I seek to make more time to just Be. It will be a real challenge for me, I know. I care for an elderly couple, take care of my ailing Mom and have a family member living with us right now. Quiet time seems unattainable at times, yet I know it is needed for my soul. The Lord is speaking to me about something I think he wants me to do concerning ministry, Please pray that I can allow the time in my life to be quiet before him this summer as I seek his will.
    Blessings in Christ, Jan

  2. Jan, I will pray this for you. It’s hard (almost impossible) but our God is a God of the impossible, and I’ve discovered if I take the first steps, He follows through and grants me His grace.

  3. maggierowe says:

    Great post, Cindy. Glad you have this week at willowbank to get some much-needed R&R. Wow, what a list of things you are working on at home including three book projects! I agree that it can be very difficult to “do nothing” and simply be. We are so wired to produce. Right now I am sitting in a cafe in a Greek plaza and what am I doing? smile. But reading your post was pleasure, not business.

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