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The extra credit season

Tis the season for list-making.Well, for me that is pretty much all year. Things to do, in different categories for different purposes. I’ve got my “home” section and “business” section, my “writing” section and my “business writing” section. Just by the sections, you can tell I’m leaning a bit. Balance is something I tend always to be catching and rarely something I have settled into.

To Do listI do love checking things off my to-do list. Frankly, that’s why I make it. Partly, yes, to take note of what needs doing, but I do relish the checking off part. Drawing a line through each item and reveling in my accomplishment. I have even begun breaking bigger tasks down into smaller units so I can check each portion off. Feels so good.

But this time of year feels like the bonus round of the bigger game of life. Everything counts more. You get extra points if the boss likes your gift. You get double pay if you work the holiday. You get special kudos if you make the supreme meal or favorite cookies or get the cards out on time. You get extra credit for everything.

Problem is, this extra credit is not without risk. It’s more like the game show bonus round. “How much are you willing to wager?” Get it right and you go home a winner. Get it wrong and you lose it all. In a game where you can’t get it completely right, we all go home losers. Unless there is extra, extra credit available. For things that don’t make the to-do list.

Here’s a list I’ve started. Perhaps there are things on your “done” list that never make the “to-do.” Here are a few of mine:

  • prayer
  • journaling
  • notes to folks who need a pick-me-up
  • emails to friends
  • laundry
  • getting the mail
  • feeding the dog
  • going to church
  • helping with homework, when asked
  • writing this blog
  • Facebook – okay, being honest here
  • planning meals and preparing them
  • baking zucchini bread
  • thinking
  • MANY OTHER THINGS

It is worth noting: there are good things we get to without being asked and there are things that steal our time without telling us. We probably would do well to exchange the former for the latter, but that is the struggle of work and play, meeting demands and taking time off.

And perhaps that’s the very tug of war going on this season. That many optional things all of a sudden become required things and our list grows and grows until it overwhelms and disables. Perhaps if we began with the sure knowledge that we get credit for it all, we could work this out. The world may not reward it. We may lose the bonus round and go home only with lovely parting gifts. But the counting continues and the credit accrues.

Except, this credit is applied to my account. Credit for the things I did without being asked, perhaps without being noticed. Those things count to God. In fact, God paid for them, without asking a cent in return. So I could give them as gifts rather than pay up when the bill came.

I’m not sure my time is well spent in making a “done” list but it is a good reminder that it all counts to God. Just like we all count to God. The world doesn’t excuse our failure to meet expectations, but the expectations He has are measured on an entirely different scale in an entirely different economy. And when I’m paying close attention I notice that the reward comes in the doing. My “yes, I will” becomes His “thank you very much.”

A gift that keeps giving. That’s perpetual credit. So what’s the big to-do about a list?

Busy is okay, it’s the “doing for” that does us in

The Advent season is almost upon us and already I am getting tired of people chastising me for my “busyness” in this season of waiting and preparing our hearts. I’ve heard this a million times before. We’re busy this time of year, for crying out loud, we’ve got stuff to do to get ready.

I think maybe the busy is just magnified in this season (imagine!) and so it’s easy to point it out. “See, there you go again, rushing from thing to thing.” Well, I don’t like the rushing and I don’t like the crowds but I do like the doing. I just need to get on it sooner so it doesn’t get to panicked doing. That can get ugly.

People look so forward to this season of doing. There are so many good things to do. It makes us feel so good to be doing them. I don’t think it’s the doing good that’s the problem. I think it’s the doing good for…that does us in. They’re not the same thing.

In this season we justify our doing. We are doing good for God. Or doing good in the name of the coming Savior. Really? Does God need our doing? Are we gonna add to His glory by shining up His image a bit? Nope – this is all about us. Our “need” to do and feel good about what we’re doing.

Nothing wrong with that, unless we invest our goodness in our doing. Because then what we do is only good when it is well-received. That, I believe, is doing for. And it’s not doing for the other, it’s about doing for me. I do, so that I can be received well. I do, so that I can fill that void that wants to be enough but can’t be. I do so that I can be acceptable to the God who comes again in this Holy Season.

The One who says, “Enough already. You can’t be any more than I’ve already made you. So stop trying.”

But Scripture tells us to “do good.” John Wesley famously says,

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

Yes, we are to ‘do good’ and keep doing it. Just take off the “for.” Our good-doing-for is for us. God has set us to doing because we need it. We need to give, without demanding or anticipating or even hoping for reciprocation. We need to let our given gifts be a complete package, opened or not. And leave the “for” to God. To turn our good doing over to God’s will. Then our gifts would be enough. Always. Each gift given in the name of God, would instantly become perfect, just as it is.

Just as He was. Given to us, the “for” already included.

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