Last week while on our New York City mission trip I received the sad news that one of my dear friends, Jennifer, had passed away after a long battle with cancer. I returned home from our mission trip on Thursday at 2pm, and by 4pm I was on the road driving up to the Rochester, NY area for her funeral.
Jen and I were the class clowns of our youth group back in the day. She was one of the funniest human beings I ever knew. I have many wonderful memories of laughing hysterically with her. She loved life. She loved people. She loved to make people laugh. She genuinely cared about people. Even as she battled cancer, she maintained her sense of humor, and was always trying to encourage others. She gave everything she had without expecting anything in return. And Jen was a fighter. At the funeral, the minister said, “Jen did not want to die. She did not want to die – not because she was afraid of death, but because she wanted to be here with you.” How true. She squeezed every drop out of life and gave until she could give no more. Although I am glad she is now at rest, I will miss my friend. But the good news is that this is not really “Goodbye,” but rather, “I’ll see you later.” #CancerSucks
Youth group friends reunited at Jen’s funeral.
The last picture we took together. I surprised Jen in the hospital June 6, 2014.
This morning Pastor Ron made a pancake breakfast for our team and the other team that arrived yesterday from Ecuador. After breakfast we had a combined devotional time. Natalia shared on servanthood, then I shared from 1 Corinthians 3, and one of the leaders from the other team shared as well. It was a really neat time of encouraging one another as our team was wrapping up a week of ministry and their team was beginning. After devotions we cleaned the dormitories and packed. At 11am we took a group pic in front of the church, then hit the subway, walked about 1/2 of a mile (freezing cold again!) and caught our train home. On the train we went around, and each person shared what they appreciated about each other. We also gave each other care cards. We arrived back in Mineola at 1:15pm, and everyone was safely reunited with their families. It was a wonderful and stretching week in which we all served the Lord by serving His people and grew in our faith.
This morning after breakfast Griffyn led us in devotions, sharing several Proverbs with us that talk about caring for those in need. We then got to work here around Living Waters. Our team was able to accomplish a lot of things that needed to get done around the church. We mopped the entire basement, four flights of stairs, fixed about 40 chairs in the sanctuary, washed 4 refrigerators, cleaned the stove, fixed some lights, stocked toilet paper and paper towels, and vacuumed the dormitories.
After some quiet time to do devotions, journal, and reflect, we had a brief time to relax, then at 5:30pm we jumped on the train and headed down to Brooklyn Tabernacle for their Tuesday night prayer service. Thanks to one of my friends who is a pastor at BT and were able to sit down in 6th row. It was a service in which probably 2,000 people were gathered to pray and worship, and it was a great experience for our team to not only observe another church, but to participate in praying for the needs of people all around the world.
After the service we took the A train down to the Brooklyn Bridge and had pizza at the world famous Grimaldi’s. Over dinner we talked about things students should be looking for in a church when they are older and need to make such a decision. We also debriefed our day, and Kristen led us in a devotional. It was another fruitful day for our team.
Does this cartoon ring true for you? It does for me. I have found that I often need pressure to get things done. I find that I thrive when I am faced with a ticking clock. But I know it’s not the best thing for me or those around me if I am constantly living under pressure. It’s not good for my health, it’s not good for my relationships, and it’s not always best in terms of producing quality work. I have found that the challenge is to create a sense of urgency in which I can thrive, but which also allows me time to breathe before actual deadlines. This also provides me space to tweak or edit my work in order to submit the best of my work when it is due.
A number of years ago I watched a DVD on time management. One of the things that stuck with me was what author Brian Tracy called a forcing system. He cited Parkinson’s Law which says “work expands or contracts so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The idea was that we will generally take the full amount of time we are given to accomplish the task we are given. For example, if you are given 2 weeks to accomplish an assignment, you will take the full 2 weeks to finish it. If you are given 1 week to accomplish that same assignment, you will do whatever you need to do to finish it within the week. One of the things you can do in order to relieve the constant pressure of last-minute panic is to create deadlines for yourself which will force you to accomplish your tasks before they are actually due. For example, if you have a paper or a project due on Monday, make it your goal to finish it on Friday or Saturday. You will breathe easy for a couple of days knowing it’s done, or if you realize something could be improved, you still have time to make any minor adjustments to enhance your work without feeling that you don’t have time to do so.
I have found this to be true whether I am planning an event or preparing a sermon. I am not perfect at it, and I find myself up against the ropes more times that I care to admit. But whenever I am able to create a forcing system I find that I am able to relax more, and it causes me to be a more healthy leader.