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The Best of Intentions

Over the weekend, we had a small Craigslist sale that has made a remarkable difference in our lives…not financially, but in our habits.

The Compound’s master bedroom has a small transition room that connects the bedroom to the bath.  It features floor to ceiling built in cabinets and drawers – original from the 30’s.    You’d never find it in a new house…and it is The Bomb.

A friend of ours looked at it the other day and asked “Why do you own a dresser?  You have no need for one!”

We agreed….so we sold our dresser and made room for a small love seat, chair and coffee table.  Suddenly, once the kids are in bed, we find ourselves sitting there and talking.  In days past, we would have piddled around the office or the kitchen, often doing our own separate thing.  What started as a novelty – “wow – we can sit down in here!” has become a nightly ritual.  We sit – often in the dark – and talk.  I’m loving it.

Last night, once the conversation wound it’s way past the next day’s schedule, how we’re going to pay for the yet un-repaired truck, and what we were going to grab when we raided the kitchen, we found ourselves talking about our schedules.

We came to an agreement.  We are getting sucked into scheduled events that don’t give either of us life.  We mean well.  Everyone involved means well.  The issues are important…and we can contribute and glean.  So why do these things still feel like death on a stick?

Kevin & Lorna Matthews were key leaders here at IHOP for a long time.  Once, in a management meeting, Kevin watched me squirm as I tried to avoid being given a role that I really didn’t want.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t qualified – but rather that I didn’t want to do it.

Later, Kevin pulled me into a side room and drew two circles, one within the other.  He pointed to the bigger circle and said “this is what you’re capable of…”.    Then he pointed to the smaller circle inside and said “This is what you’re called to do.   You’re capable of more than you’re called to….and they will forever be trying to pull you out of the smaller circle and into the bigger one.  Don’t go there.”

I knew exactly what he meant…but had to ask “Who are ‘they'”.

With his ominous British accent, he said “Everyone.”

Kevin wasn’t paranoid.  He was talented.  He had a lot of skills none of us knew about because he wouldn’t tip his hand for fear of getting tapped for a lot of jobs he had no passion for.  (Some time later, he offered me office space in a suite they were renting…where I discovered he had a very elaborate IT setup that he’d built himself.  I asked him “Does anyone know you can do this?”   He said “No, and if you tell them, I will throttle you…”.)

That was six years ago or more and I’m still fighting the struggle to stay within the smaller circle.   The same is true of Kelsey. Half of the meetings I attended this week were time-suckers which I could have been represented in by a well trained monkey.  Of course, I didn’t know this going in…so the failure is mine.  Failure to discern and failure to resist the pull from one circle to another.

We talked about what gave us life and what felt like a drag…and vowed to be more intentional in our scheduling.  I’m going to start saying ‘no’ more, or at least being very selective about available times.

I need to proactively protect Kelsey’s time as well.  Her schedule is often far more taxed than mine.  Two nights ago she had a profound prophetic dream that spoke volumes to a major leader…and I’m inviting her to meetings that circle like a jet at O’Hare – round and round and never landing.    With her dream life, she’s more valuable asleep than she is awake….and when she is awake, I can’t afford to waste her time.

I can’t worry if people will feel like I’m disengaging from their next big thing.  Life and purpose are found inside the smaller circle.


22 Responses

  1. this is so good. I feel like I spend half my life trying to stay in the half circle…

  2. Awesome! Very awesome. I feel sorry for the people that invited you to those time-sucker meetings, but they’ll get over it.
    Isn’t there a third circle? Oh yeah, its the stuff you’re not capable of but try anyway. #RenovationRealities

  3. I have sat in some of those meetings with you. Danny Silk has a great message/series on personal space – with circle analogies, unfortunately I can’t find it right now. It was hearing that message, like Kevin’s to you, that I realized “I don’t have to live this.” I found myself with a heart divided by being inundated with other people’s ideas, thoughts, ramblings and opinions, and I felt like the focus that I once had on what the Lord had spoken for me to do became so cluttered with what I “could” do, or what other people “want” me to do or what “needs” to be done that I couldn’t tell the difference anymore.

    I’m even praying and considering a radical return to digital silence by beginning to deliberately limit time and energies on these electronic, social things. I just want my life back, doing the things that have that spark of Jesus all over it. I’m hacking away at stuff too going, “if there’s not life on this branch, it’s getting pruned!” Thanks for the post.

  4. Oh to stay in the smaller circle. Very timely for me.

  5. I really needed to read this today. Thank you.

  6. @Jeff The beauty of it is no one who invites you to a time sucker really thinks it’s a time sucker. Cue Carly Simon. “You’re so vain, you’ll never think this post is about you…”

    @Joanna Oh yeah buddy. We’ve been in a number of those on different fronts. 🙂 Also pondered the digital sabbatical at times, although in my case I think the problem goes to an inability or unwillingness to choose what is best over what is good. No easy fix for that.

  7. i just have an amen! there are MANY really good things to invest ourselves in. . . the dilemma is in doing only the ones we are called to. thanks for the reminder!

  8. I remember Kevin!! I wonder where are they now? I know exactly what you are saying because I used to managed the IT at that time (before Jack) and we were surprised of the saavines of his IT world!

    It is hard to be selective when you still work at a secular job.. I want to throw away my job many times a day but I still have a duty here (current job) ..how to handle the secular jobs is the question. I eager to jump into the missionary circle but dont quiet feel the specific call yet. I love the message and I wiill pray more for that discerning eye. I think another important thing si not wanting to prove to man that we can do it but be satisfy knowing that we are doing what Jesus wants us to do and no more. Jesus could disciple 100 men but He did only a small circle. thanks.

  9. Thanks for sharing this, Randy, I know I needed to read it. My life is so out of balance because I’m in the outer circle entirely too much. This is a great picture for me to have before me as I decide what to say “yes” to in the future. Love you guys!

  10. I was in a battle one time when I heard Kris Vallotton talk about not wanting to die on a mission field he was not called to and it spoke volumes to me.

    One day I am going to give this little talk about the circles and I am going to look like the wisest person in the room.


  11. Simply great! We feel the same way and have had similar discutions. I love the circle analogy and am going it use it tonight with Amberly as we set up our schedule. Thanks Randy!

  12. Randy

    Thanks for the great post and I agree with everything there. American Christianity is great at burdening a few talented individuals with way too much while everyone else sits around unengaged. That’s not a leadership problem…it’s an every Christian in America issue. I think rectifying it starts with people learning and living what you describe here.

    On a side note, I was @ FSM during the days when Kevin was around and he was a great source of wisdom for everyone. Oh to hear that British accent one more time! 😉

  13. Excellent post, Randy! Thanks for sharing.David Crawford wrote an excellent book called Access is the Key to your Success….he discusses this very topic. We’re not called to minister to everybody, and not everyone can/should be allowed to speak into our lives. This is a difficult concept…this setting priorities and learning to say no…especially for women. Thanks again! 🙂

  14. Randy- excellent…i am reposting on my FB.
    Thank you!

  15. It sounds like you might be ready for an apprentice/protoge? Kept thinking about an opportunity to disciple as I read this: allowing you the ability to stay in your circle of calling, while at the same time passing on the call/mantle to (1.an)other(2.s).

  16. Thanks, I’ve been struggling with this all my life, and this gives me some insight why I have trouble making time for my/God’s priorities versus other people’s needs.

  17. I loved this!

  18. Wow. This was really helpful. Thank you.

  19. It’s all about boundaries, no? Or did I hear a yes…?
    Letting no be no and yes, be yes. Both involve a healthy dose of freedom, emphasis on healthy. Hard to avoid burnout even when doing one’s best to maintain healthy boundaries, it seems to me.
    Starts first with setting healthy boundaries with own behaviors, no? Or was that yes, again…
    The Boundaries class I took at WOG and the book Boundaries was invaluble to me.

  20. Nice article. I always find myself more productive when I limit what I take on.

    I can find many applications for this concept.

  21. thank you. confirmation.

  22. This is great post that ive gone back to several times. As a musician and worship leader this is a great reminder that you dont have to feel guilty for saying “no” when 6 people want your time and abilities on every set at all hours of the day.
    There’s a sigh of relief knowing that “just because im able doesnt mean im called to.”

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