Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shopping for Time: book review

Written last Wednesday, during the first week of our school holidays.

I read - actually, I re-read - a superb little book today. In fact, I gobbled it up in a single sitting (or two, or three) as I lay on the couch while the kids were playing, during the times I wasn't spending time with them. It's wonderful what you can do during school holidays!

The book is called Shopping for Time, and it's by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters from girltalk. It's written for women "who may be overwhelmed, miserable, and exhausted" (13). You're speaking to me, sisters!

My priorities are in much better order this year, but I still feel like I'm drowning under life's demands: mountains of laundry, people who need encouragement, urgent needs like finding a high school for my daughter, and ministries like Sunday School and Bible Study. I've attempted and failed to keep so many plans for organisation that I've abandoned them and slipped into disorganisation.

Into this familiar womanly scenario steps Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters with their chatty, homespun wisdom. Shopping for Time is a short and easy read (I wouldn't be reading any other kind of time management book right now!) and it's thoroughly gospel-centred. Here are their five tips:

Rise early. I won't be joining the 5 AM club anytime soon (last time I attempted something like that it ended in exhaustion!) but I've been a happy member of the 6:00-6:30 AM club for years (although the kids are starting to beat me to it, so I think I'll have to shut the door while my husband arranges another quiet time for me ... ).

Sit still. "Choosing not to sit at Jesus' feet makes a statement. It says to the Lord, 'I can do it without you.' (43). Guilty as charged! I'm far too quick to replace personal Bible reading and prayer with busyness and Bible Study preparation. This chapter includes some excellent suggestions for mums of babies.

Sit and plan. It's reassuring to know that Carolyn Mahaney, like me, has felt "weary and burdened by the demands of motherhood" so she "lacked perspective and joy" (52). The solution? Her husband gives her bi-annual retreats to read the Bible, pray and reflect on her priorities. My hubbie and I are going to follow their example - tomorrow! I'll work my way through her list (godliness, family, church, fellowship, evangelism, work, health) and prayerfully examine my priorities.

Consider people. An excellent guide to evaluating relationships which I'll use to evaluate mine. I haven't been caring for some people as well as I should, and I often let relationships happen rather than being thoughtful about them.

Plan to depend. Lots of practical advice about daily planners, overcoming procrastination (by doing the things you least want to do first), and tackling big projects (a bit at a time). I need some help in this area. I've just created out some simple weekly and daily planning sheets (which I took from Peter Brain's Going the Distance 181): let's see how they go!

This book has its flaws: I think that God's call to "make the best use of the time" isn't about time-management but about making the most of every gospel opportunity during these last days (Eph 5:15-16 cf Col 4:5-6 ESV).* And while I agree that rising early may be wise, I think Christians easily turn this into legalism and undervalue God's gift of sleep (something I learnt, ironically, from Carolyn's husband CJ Mahaney's talk on sleep).

But this is a wonderfully grace-filled and gospel-centred book. It's interesting to see how much of the book is about sitting rather than doing. That's because Carolyn and her daughters want to encourage us to take time from our busyness to read God's word and pray, drawing our strength from him rather than ourselves; and to plan our lives carefully and prayerfully, with God's priorities in mind.

So if you're feeling "overwhelmed, miserable, and exhausted", or simply like your life could do with a bit more organisation, I commend this little book to you!

And yes, I had a great day praying, reading the Bible and reflecting on my priorities! I've only just started to process all the conclusions I came to. I'll be in touch ...

* See Tim Chester The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness 49-51.

images are from JonathonCohen and pritam at flickr


Tasmanian said...

I have just read this book too! I have been challenged about sitting at Jesus's feet. If I don't, then I am making a statement that I can do it on my own.

Jean said...

A comment from "Tasmanian" which blogger couldn't publish because of an error ...

"I have just read this book too! I have been challenged about sitting at Jesus's feet. If I don't, then I am making a statement that I can do it on my own."

Yes, that struck me too! A great point.

Katelyn said...

Here is a link ot the review I wrote about Shopping for Time, . I think it is a great book!