Set Boundaries & Please God (Boot Camp for Creators & Dreamers 17.4)

Quick Review: You can’t accomplish much in life if you’re double-minded about your goals and dreams. So make a decision and stick to it. Keep your eyes on God, not your problems. Stay focused! And, to avoid being pulled in multiple directions, prayerfully evaluate the needs and expectations of those around you. Continue to honor God by helping others, but maintain a sensible balance. It’s okay to say “No” to unnecessary or unreasonable requests.

Do you have trouble saying “No”? Then you need to re-evaluate your priorities and learn to set boundaries. Again, we never want to get so focused and bent on our own agendas that we neglect the precious people God puts in our paths. But it’s okay to tend to our own needs — and to pursue the dreams God has placed in our hearts. Balance is key. Unfortunately, many of us never mastered the balancing act. Instead we try to juggle too many tasks and requests; and generally end up dropping the ball (or several).

How do we maintain a balance?

  • Make time for yourself. Don’t get greedy — but be kind to YOU. God expects us to give and to serve, but He’s certainly NOT a taskmaster! In fact, He reassures us, “…The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light.” (Matthew 11:30 ERV)

  • Stop feeling guilty. You cannot meet every need or live up to every expectation. This may come as a complete surprise to you, but we have it on good authority that you’re only human. Besides, even our Lord Jesus Christ was careful to take time out from His mission on earth. He taught the truth, fed thousands, and healed the sick; but He also scheduled times of rest and recreation: dinner and fellowship with a friend; and retreats with His Heavenly Father. Jesus maintained a balance and never felt guilty about it. Why would He feel guilt? He was without sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Learn to discern between a genuine need (that only you can meet) and a want (which can often be selfish, unreasonable, unnecessary, and even frivolous).
  • Regardless, ask yourself: “Is it time for someone else to step up to the plate.” By not taking on more than your share, you can silently help your brothers and sisters be accountable: “Help each other with your troubles. When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to do this, you are only fooling yourself. …You must each accept the responsibilities that are yours.” (Galatians 6:2-5 ERV)
  • Distinguish between what’s urgent versus what’s important. President Dwight D. Eisenhower used this principle to guide him through a major war and two terms in the White House. He once stated, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” Confusing?
I like Ike … because he stayed focused.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, explains: “Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately. …Things like phone calls, tasks with impending deadlines, and situations where you have to respond quickly. Responding to an email, when you have to do it, is usually an urgent task. Important tasks are tasks that contribute to long-term missions and goals. …Things like that book you want to write, the presentation you’d like to make for a promotion, and the company you plan on starting.”

Got that? No? Well then … we have a coupon for a free bar of soap, but it expires at midnight. We need to go to the store RIGHT NOW! Please stop what you’re doing and drive us — so we can pick up our free soap and save seventy-nine cents!

  • Recognize that there will always be demands on your time. Meet the ones which are truly important.
  • Set boundaries. Christian authors Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend explain in their book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, “Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what is not.”
No boundaries: Not a pretty sight!

We always want to be loving, accepting and helpful, but there are some problems we can’t fix, some needs we cannot or should not meet. And even when we can help solve things, we need to remember that we’re only human and that our time and resources, as well as our physical and emotional energies, are limited. “If we fail to set some boundaries, people can even keep us from doing the work God wants us to do!  So, drawing the line is not being selfish. To the contrary, the “…Goal of learning boundaries is to free us up to protect, nurture and develop the lives God has given us stewardship over.” (Boundaries, p. 285)

Sad to say, life is full of needy people (some who are well-meaning, but also some who are just “takers”) who will try to hog your time, abuse your willingness to help and serve, invade your privacy, manipulate your emotions, exploit your gifts — basically control your life! If allowed to, these people (especially the takers) can pull you way off course. Whether unintentionally or not, they can keep you from achieving your own everyday goals and, ultimately, fulfilling your dreams.

  • Realize that every time we say “yes” to something, we’re automatically saying NO to something else. And, if you’re a true servant and/or giver, don’t be surprised when people start lining up at your door. The world desperately needs more Barnabas people who are willing to lend a helping hand. Therefore, once a friend, relative, or coworker discovers one, they’ll want to “dip into the well” as many times as possible.

But nobody’s well is inexhaustible. So, before yours runs completely dry, start setting limits. If we fail to set boundaries, someone will always have us jumping at their every whim and cry, and we’ll end up constantly stressed out and frustrated with life. Eventually, we burn out!

  • On that note, STOP TRYING TO BE A PEOPLE-PLEASER! You cannot be all things to all people. Nor can you ever hope to meet all their expectations. You’re not here to win a popularity contest. And in regards to your life, dreams, and creative pursuits, you don’t need the approval of men — so seek God’s approval instead. The Apostle Paul writes, “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (Galatians 1:10 NLV)

Don’t waste time wondering why someone doesn’t want to hang out with you — or support you in  the pursuit of your dreams. Obviously that person is not part of your destiny. Not to worry, because Jesus experienced the same thing. Many of the religious leaders of the day snubbed Him, but God supplied our Lord with plenty of genuine friends who fully supported Christ’s mission on earth (and with no strings attached). Jesus never had
to play politics or buy their devotion. He simply shared His great dream and stayed focused, thus changing the world forever. Let’s do likewise!

“…I am single-minded: …Reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize….” (Philippians 3:13-14 NET)

Next: Stay Motivated (Friday)

Click on above image to view previous lessons.

Making An Indelible Mark (Special Edition)

New York Public Library: site of an indelible mark.

We all have hopes and ambitions in life — dreams of achieving great things. But sometimes the road to fulfilling our fondest dreams takes us to unexpected places. These places may be momentary detours or side stops on the way to our final destination; but occasionally the “side stop” ends up actually being the end of the journey, the place where we’ll make our mark in the world. We can’t always be sure if and when this is the case. We can, however, make sure that we take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way, even if it’s not the perfect fulfillment of the dream, or the best use of our gifts and talents.

Many of us have “day jobs” which pay the bills while we wait for our “big break” in life. But will we recognize that one great opportunity when we see it? Not always. So it’s important to be open to the “detours” and “side stops” we encounter; to use our time and talents wisely, but also to be willing to use them in less than ideal situations which, at first glance, may seem far short of where we want to be.

This means allowing God to use us when and where He needs us. And that means making ourselves available — always faithful and humble, especially with respect to our God-given abilities. It also means being a servant. Above all, it means approaching every job, no matter how insignificant it may seem, with energy and enthusiasm, always doing our best, always giving 100%!

Example of a silent movie intertitle.

Israel Schnapp understood these principles well. He was an 18-year-old Jewish graphic designer and engraver who emigrated from Austria to the United States in 1910. After arriving in New York, he simplified his name to Ira Schnapp and started looking for work. Schnapp held a variety of jobs, including designing and engraving U.S. postage stamps, and lettering the filmed title cards for silent movies.

Postage stamp designed during Schnapp’s time.

Schnapp was also a highly skilled stonecutter, and in 1911 the City of New York hired him to design and hand-carve the lettering above the main branch of its library: MDCCCXCV • THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY • MDCCCCII. Three years later, Schnapp designed and carved this famous phrase above the entrance to New York’s James Farley General Post Office: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Due to the historic significance of these facades, Schnapp’s contributions to Americana are impressive, but his greatest contributions to pop culture were yet to come.

In 1938, Ira Schnapp was offered a job at DC Comics designing title logos for its magazines. The great American comic book was still in its infancy, and working on so-called “funny books” wasn’t exactly something to brag about. Schnapp could have easily and understandably rejected the offer. He’d already left some impressive and enduring marks on U.S. history, so to create the mastheads for what the general public considered lowbrow and “disposable” entertainment, was a huge step DOWN! But Schnapp was open to any legitimate venture that allowed him to use his talents. He decided to give the new opportunity a shot, and see what he could create in the new arena of comics.

Apparently, Schnapp soon discovered he actually enjoyed working for DC (—at the time, the company was called National Publications). He stayed with the publisher for 30 years, until he retired, lettering covers and creating dozens of inspired logos for comics, including such mainstays as Action Comics, The Flash, and Justice League of America. Along the way, Schnapp created the most recognizable logo in the world: the stunning title for Superman comics.

Ira Schnapp left indelible marks on both the New York Public Library and comic book history. All because he was humble and open to new opportunities; because he made himself available; because he saw a need for his special gifts and talents and decided to fill that need. Because he knew the importance of making the most of every circumstance and situation.

Few of us can be certain when or where we’ll make our big mark in life. Will that mark be left on newsprint or canvas, on TV or in the movies, in a boardroom or at a soup kitchen, on a military installation or in the mission field — or in the stone blocks fronting some public edifice?

We won’t know, really, until we reach the end of our journey and look back.

So don’t take chances; be open to all of those little detours and side stops you encounter along the way. And wherever you find yourself, always remember to bloom where you’re planted.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23 New King James)