Prioritizing Sleep

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

1 Peter 1:13

“Sleep is for the weak” I’d say all the time in college. Somehow I thought I could handle taking more credits than the “average” student. I could work more odd jobs than the “average” student. I could even have more networking opportunities than the “average” student. I worked hard to get ahead, and my pride grew with it.

Then, I got older. My need to achieve overcame my common sense and I cut as much sleep as I could so that I could squeeze one more good thing into my life. I still had the same habits and the same motivations—being better than “average.”

I also noticed another trend. The first prayer of the morning was, “Jesus, get me through the day, I’m so tired.” And I also noticed that each journal entry started with, “I’m tired. Grant me energy.” I drank more coffee, worked out harder, but didn’t pay attention to my sleep. My health suffered despite the exercise and upstanding (dare I say, “better than average”) diet.

I read Arianna Huffington’s “The Sleep Revolution” and it taught me about the serious issues a lack of sleep causes. It’s not just that you feel tired, it’s that you aren’t at your best. You aren’t alert and can’t relax on the couch of hope and grace. Striving, pushing, trying to be better than average; It can literally kill you if you’re not sleeping well.

For me, I read this verse and get caught on the words “alert and fully sober.” Fully alert to me means getting enough rest and sleep. It took me years to get to a place of health so that I can have a mind that is fully alert. Teetering on the edge of burnout, in 2013 I was involved in 9 different organizations, mostly on their leadership teams. I cut that back to 4 organizations. I had 20 goals to pursue (from not drinking caffeine to publishing a book). I cut those down to 5 goals. (I’ve heard that it’s best to have 3-5 goals, with 3 being on the better end of the spectrum.) I read a lot about simplification. I didn’t use Sundays as chore day, but instead made it relationship day or a chance to enjoy some good books.

Today, I’m learning even more about sleep. I’ve learned about the HRV (heart rate variability), which is not the total beats your heart takes per minute, but the consistency of the pauses between beats. The higher the HRV, the higher your energy level. What I’ve found so fascinating is that there’s no quick hack to up your HRV. What has changed my score is literally how I treat myself the previous day. And, catch this, it’s the whole day—not just the 30 minutes before I go to bed. If I am kind to myself and live in a place of hope and grace, I find that my HRV (and therefore my energy) is high the next day because I get good rest. If I find that I live in a place of stress and striving, my HRV is low during the night and I’m a wreck the next day—not at all fully alert or sober minded.

In my book (coming out Sept. 28), I talk about the importance of the basics of life. Sleep is one of those basics. Nonprofit leaders, are you setting the example for others by paying attention to the basics of your own life? How is your sleep?

What do you do to help you fall asleep? Share it on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by Egor Vikhrev on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

Monkeys, Ants, and Gratitude

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil….always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:15-16, 20

My aunt is not really my aunt. She is the sister of the woman my uncle married, which makes us completely unrelated. Still, I call her aunt, and she is a mentor to me. She introduced me to the concept of the monkeys in an article from Harvard Business Review.

It’s easy and sometimes even desirable to be wanted, needed, and even honored to be asked to do something at work. “Leave it with me.” These four words can feel so good when you say them, but as Mike Clayton says in this video, it adds one more monkey to your desk. Someone asks for your advice and instead you do it for them. This adds one more task (monkey) before the important priorities you may have wanted to work on and complete.

If you don’t have monkeys on your desk, you may have ants. Actually, it’s referred to as the “aunt trap” at Manager Tools. It means one of your boss’s peer ask you to do something but forgets to inform your boss. Usually, the project pulls you away from the priorities your boss set for you. Sometimes it’s referred to the uncle trap, but it’s not just something men do—we all tend to do push monkeys around as we get into progressively difficult and expanding roles.

Whether you have an aunt problem or your aunt introduces you to the monkey problem, there are plenty of people who used those four words “leave it with me” and lived unwisely.

I didn’t see why I shouldn’t say “leave it with me” for years. I used to think that making the most of every opportunity meant doing it all. I wanted to prove I was a valuable hire, that I could do whatever was handed to me, and that I could do it all right now right away. It’s taken a few burnouts, stray monkeys, and some ants crawling around my desk to learn that I’m not to do it all—I’m to live wisely. I’ve learned that the most wisest way to live may mean saying no so I can focus on what God has asked me to do.

What I love so much about this passage is that the paragraph ends with thankfulness. It’s hard to skirt around monkeys with gratitude. It’s much easier to be thankful for teammates, for growth, and for opportunities that make sense with the role and calling God has given me the privilege to live out. Living wisely makes me genuinely grateful, not fake grateful. And, it removes monkeys, too.

If you have an aunt problem or some monkeys on your desk, Mike Clayton recommends four next steps:

  1. Identify with the person the problem (the what)
  2. Identify with the person the owner (the who)
  3. Identify with the person the next steps and the authority to act (the how)
  4. Identify with the person a time to check in (the what if)

Do you have a way you deal with monkeys or ants? Share it on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by Norbert Levajsics on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

Do You Know What You Want?

What do you want me to do for you?

Mark 10:51

What’s the question? You know, the question. The one that Jesus is asking. The one you know the answer to but can’t quite formulate the words.

Jesus asks a lot of questions. He asks rhetorical questions, but also ones that he expected an answer to as well. For example:

  • “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” John 6:5
  • “Woman, why do you involve me?” John 2:4
  • “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51
  • “Do you see anything?” Mark 8:23

And these are just a few of the questions he asks.

Challenged by the Bible and a few people in my life, I’ve spent a few years trying to determine exactly what I want. How would I answer Jesus if he were to ask, “What do you want?”

I can’t answer.

Perhaps you can relate to my reasoning. First, I find that it is easier to say, “Whatever you want” rather than truly do the work to discover my desires. Plus, I remember that verse that says the heart is deceptive (Jeremiah 17:9). Still, Psalm 37:4 teaches us that if we set our desires on Him, He will give us what we want.

So, back to the question. What do you want? How would you answer?

Here are some responses to Jesus’ questions:

  • “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” John 6:5
    • “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish” John 6:9
      • This is the feeding of the multitudes. It teaches me that God doesn’t waste imperfect small offerings.
  • “Woman, why do you involve me?” John 2:4
    • “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5
      • This is the story of water turned into wine. It teaches me that if I am willing to do what he asks, God delivers the best.
  • “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51
    • “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51
      • This is the story of blind Bartimaeus. Healing is available to those who call out to Jesus.
  • “Do you see anything?” Mark 8:23
    • “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Mark 8:24
      • This is the story of Jesus helping a man to see by putting mud on his eyes. Sometimes a vision is blurry until Jesus deems you ready.

Jesus is waiting to hear your answer. Listen for Jesus to ask the question: What do you want?

I’ll tell you what I want; I want to share about my upcoming book! Ambassador International is printing Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by Ilkka Kärkkäinen on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

Donor Fatigue and The Comparison Trap

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

John 21:21-23

The speaker asked in a training session, “When was the last time a donor said, ‘I can’t donate because I’m tired of giving? Oftentimes, when we hear of donor fatigue, it’s other nonprofits providing an excuse. To avoid joining this groupthink, don’t compare your donors to other nonprofit donors…get to know them for who they are and invest in them in the way they would appreciate.”

It was a shift for me to think about donor fatigue and the comparison trap. Donor fatigue is defined by the Oxford Languages as “a lessening of public willingness to respond generously to charitable appeals, resulting from the frequency of such appeals.” As one always learning more about the nonprofit sector, I devour a few blogs and articles a week, listen to podcasts and webinars, and talk to other nonprofit leaders. And yet, I know that I do those things more than the simple notion of talking to the people in the nonprofit I serve—our clients, staff, and donors. Have I assumed that our donors are fatigued about hearing successes or engaging with our stories of need, or have I compared donors who love my nonprofit to the donors of nonprofits around me?

Jesus knew about the comparison trap. He knew that people would base their experience of Himself on what others had experienced—not what was going on between that person and Himself. After He rose, never to die again, Jesus gave Peter a sneak peek into the future. And those around Peter and Jesus immediately started guessing and comparing. Jesus squashed that thinking quickly by saying, “What I’ve shared is between the two of us, and there’s no need to compare your situation to that of Peter. Keep focused on what I’ve asked you to do, and don’t worry about those around you.

Can you think of a recent situation where you fell into the comparison trap? Was it about donor fatigue or a program success or even the next steps you should take? Listen to Jesus. What is He saying?

If you have remembered a situation where you were caught in a comparison trap and escaped, like this post and then share your encouragement on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by Kseniia Samoylenko on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

Stronger Together – Collaborating in the Nonprofit Sector

Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength.“Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

Daniel 10:16-19

We were walking down a boardwalk, me and a friend who recently got a new job at the local county tax office. She was a high school history teacher before that at a private Christian school. I asked her if she missed teaching. “Yes, I miss learning and talking about history. I miss a reason to watch a documentary. I miss my colleagues. But you know what I don’t miss? The feeling that the work is never done. There’s always one more paper to grade, one more book to read, one more lesson plan to make perfect. I truly enjoy leaving work, and actually leaving work.”

Reflecting on her experience, I can see how the cloud of need hanging over the head of a nonprofit employee also exists. There’s always one more client, one more need, one more grant proposal. Compassion fatigue and burnout run rampant in the nonprofit sector. People with good intentions drop out and those who are truly amazing at caring lose their humanity. And there’s always that one person who takes advantage, perhaps unknowingly, and it steers us away from investing emotionally again.

Nonprofit Leaders, we are not the first to feel overwhelmed by vision. Daniel received the gift of gab. God anointed him as a mouthpiece with a very large vision. And Daniel felt the weight. “God, I can’t do it, I can’t!” he says (paraphrased).

In response, God acknowledges that Daniel can’t. Daniel can’t carry the vision and say what he needs to, without outside strength beyond himself. That’s what a good vision is—reaching for something that is beyond yourself, that you can’t do alone.

God acknowledges Daniel’s weakness but doesn’t stop there. He gives Daniel strength, but he also encourages him in that he is respected in the community: that he can. In essence, God partners with Daniel. Together, they are stronger than apart. And the conclusion of the story is that Daniel can say, “yes, let’s do this thing. I can with you” (paraphrased). 

Where in your life do you feel tottering on the edge of burnout or that the responsibility of the vision is too much? Who will you look to partner with and find some strength? Is there another organization you’d like to connect with to partner so both organizations are stronger? Is there someone at work who does well what you struggle with? When you have someone (or an organization) in mind, like this post. Let’s all be stronger together.

Share this post on Facebook and tag @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

The Rebel

Author notes: Strolling through a shopping mall (masked, of course) two weeks ago, I saw the Christmas section. Already. It was the end of September. It reminded me of a short fictional story I wrote and thought I would share with you, based on John 7:32-49. Enjoy!

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash
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He stood up. Oh no, I thought, this is going to be a disaster.

A Christmas Eve service is my favorite moment during the Christmas season. It’s the one time that it feels like Christ’s birth is recognized before I am once again covered in consumerism. The feeling is like being wrapped with a hastily bought pre-made bow meant to rouse the receiver to believing a greater value of a re-gift. In other words, the season, apart from the Christmas Eve service, feels like smoke-and-mirrors to me: a bad white elephant gift.

So when the man stood up in the middle of the calm, candle-lit serenade of “Silent Night,” I feared the Christmas magic of a treasured memory would vaporize into another smoke-and-mirrors illusion.

He was the rebel. We all knew it. My small group leader whispered to me earlier that he was from the south side. Someone else asked during last week’s prayer session that we pray for him because she thought he was possessed. I can’t blame them in that assumption. After all, he was socially uncouth, loud, and almost heretical in the claims he randomly declared “truths.” I had not verbalized my own concerns—that he was here to stay in our small congregation, showing up each week with a new odd question that would take too long to answer during Sunday School, veering us from the carefully crafted lesson plan.

When I saw him at the Christmas Eve service, I guided my family to the other side of the sanctuary. No one was going to destroy this one moment. I deserved a holy night.

He stood up. And loudly, over the sound of the piano, bright as the candle that was dripping wax on my cardboard protector, yelled, “I am the light of the world!”

The piano stopped. We all looked at the far corner. We looked at his face that wasn’t anything like the others around us. We looked at his unkempt manners, at his rebellion. We looked. And we stared.

He stood up, interrupted our Christmas Eve service, and now commanded that we acknowledge him as the light of the world. How dare he.

——————————————————————————————————————–
This fictional scene draws parallel to John 7:32-49. The Scripture tells us Jesus was at the Feast of Tabernacles. Each year, around October, the Jewish community gathered to watch the priest pour water on the altar, while the people chanted a prayer for God to send rains for the winter harvest. On the last day—“the greatest day”—the people walked around the temple seven times (like Jericho). It is this day that “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’” (John 7:37-38). It would be similar to someone standing up in the middle of “Silent Night” at a Christmas Eve service and proclaim themselves as the light of the world. Which, in fact, Jesus did in John 8:12. He declared himself as light of the world.

Meanwhile, “the Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him” (John 7:32) and were determining how to kick Jesus out of their club. Their conspiracies and overheard mumblings occurs before and after the feast.

And all the while, I wonder, how would I respond to such a rebel? If someone were to go against my traditions that were part of my religious routines, would I lay down those habits and follow his example, or would I shush him and ask him to sit? Am I a Pharisee or a Follower? When have I stood up?

I follow a rebel. Do you?

© 2020, Mollie Bond

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Stop bringing meaningless offerings!…Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!

Isaiah 1:13a, 16b-17a

The man had on a yellow suit. The deep, Darth Vader-like sounds of his breathing scared me, even more so than the mask covering his whole face. Every year, this man attended our school, and my teacher said he was a good guy. He gave stickers out that took off the varnish of my dresser when I removed them later in life.

We learned to stop, drop and roll every year as the firefighters of our little town taught us.

More than fifteen years later, and I heard the sounds of the oxygen pushing into the firefighter’s mask as I read Isaiah 1:13. God, the ultimate firefighter, expounded the lesson. He tried to rescue the Israelite’s lives by repeating “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” He says,

“…wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.‘ Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:16-20).

We fumble, we argue, we flee, we rationalize. But no matter how logical our line of thinking, God makes it clear what we are to do when things get hot.

Isaiah 1:13a says, “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” Okay, gut check! If you didn’t catch it the first time, allow me to bring to a forte what I believe God is asking. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!” (emphasis mine). Not put your sin on hold, or wait until it’s convenient, or blame your disobedience on circumstances, or postpone what He’s asking. Stop. Now.

God knows it takes me a few times to really pick up what he’s asking of me. The firefighters came back yearly so the children learned the lesson. After reading verse 13, I continued to lazily read through Isaiah 1, when I saw it again in verse 16b-17a. “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!” Exclamation point! I get it! I do appreciate he gives me direction on what to do to fill the void. He tells me to stop doing something bad. It’s hard to take away something without putting something else in its place, good or bad replacements. This is a time to choose a good thing. How do I choose a good thing to fill up what I stopped? God then tells me to learn. There’s no better way to learn than to daily be in his word. It’s great to stop doing wrong, but if you don’t learn to do right, you’ll be the dog who returns to his vomit (See Proverbs 26:11).

I don’t want to be a fool, someone who returns to a disgusting habit. Some things are easier to stop than others. God calls us to be “willing and obedient” (Isaiah 1:19). So I have to have some proper motivation on my part to stop. And God forgives me. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” That’s God’s end of the deal. We can’t clean up on our own. We have to take on the duty to stop and learn. Be “willing and obedient.” Stop. Learn.

Stop, drop, and roll. Stop. No caveats. Drop it. And then roll into God’s grace.

Reason with him about what you’ve done, get over it, and move on. Not easy, but mandatory. Maybe the prescribed way to put out a physical fire is the best prescribed way to put out an eternal fire. Stop, drop, and roll.

“And…Scene!”

Scene One: Noises of the house party warm your heart, after all, important people have accepted your invitation, including the doctor. Some dust falls from your ceiling. When the boards start splitting in your roof, a few guests glance either at your or the ceiling. You wonder if the wife had a hankering for a new sunlight and forgot to tell you, so now she is getting your attention. It starts to look brighter in the room as a huge hole opens up, just enough for a man to come through. And then he does. “And…Scene!”

Scene Two: You slam the door shut to your pickup, wondering, “Who can afford a house like this?” You’ve got three friends and a sick friend with you. He’s had cancer for years, and this is a last ditch attempt to get the doctor’s attention. You have come prepared—saw, work gloves, and the pickup truck holding a nasty old couch with your dying friend. He’s going to see the doctor today. “And…Scene!”

Scene Three: The disease is desperate to take your life. You’ve got some pretty good friends, but this is going too far. Too weak to care, you rather ponder how much it will cost to get the roof replaced after the lawsuit that you are sure is also coming to take your life. Maybe there will be enough to get something wild in your last days after replacing the stranger’s roof. Why not replace the worn carpet at home? Maybe get the bogus red to match the 70’s print couch. The very same couch you are now riding on to get to the doctor. “And…Scene!”

These three scenes correlate to not only the same story, but a true story told in the vernacular. The true story goes like this: “One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’” (Luke 5:17-20).

The scene is set. This is close to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. So many people wanted to see him, it’d be like the paparazzi had the Facebook warning he’d be at this party. Then these fellows decide to ruin a perfectly good mud and straw roof and lower this sickly guy down. The sick man is probably dirty, smells, and definitely unwelcome. So Jesus says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (v. 20).

The guests of the party had issues. “Who does this guy think he is, forgiving sins? Only God can that!” they say. “The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….’ He said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God” (Luke 5:21-25).

Jesus heals the sick friend, instantaneously. Why did Jesus make everyone upset, and then give them a “warm fuzzy”? Jesus always went straight for what lasted longer. The man would eventually die of something else, but at least he had the chance at eternal life. Jesus kept his eternal perspective at all times. His focus saved others. It’s the fourth scene.

Good story, but how does it apply? Answer this question for yourself. Which perspective do you have: The house owner, passively watching; the driver of the pickup, actively getting your friend to Jesus; or the sick man, who not only needs help physically, but first needs sins forgiven? Decide before the Eternal Director calls out, “And…Scene!”