“Whether they articulate them or not, everyone has values in life. I recommend the following.” So spoke William Jennings Bryan, III, former pastor of Lover’s Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas and now Director of Intern Program and Professional Formation at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. His sermon one Sunday back in the mid-90s was about priorities.
“People first – People are number one,” Bill Bryan said with his left hand up at eye level, “then number two Ideas and number three Things.” His right hand scaled down below his left. “But if a classic sports car drives by, my eyes and thoughts follow that car.” With his hands still suspended, he craned his neck and turned his head as if that bright yellow roadster had zoomed by the altar. “My priorities flip,” he confessed as his left and right hands changed places in mid-air. “I lose track of myself and all the other people on the road.”
How easy it is to get distracted by things. How hard to keep our eyes on the road, our thoughts on what’s really important. How easy it is to flip priorities.
Not long ago, Pastor Tim Bohlmann of Bethany Lutheran Church (Waynesboro, Virginia) also offered a message about priorities – the fundamentals.
“I love you all,” he said to the congregation as he walked part way down the aisle gesturing good will with an open palm. “I love what I do, but my family comes before you.” Pastor Tim’s hand returned to his side. “Sorry about that.” I noted he didn’t say his family came first. “I love my family,” he continued with both hands now on his Bible, “but they know that God comes before them. My wife, children and parents know God comes first.”
How many times did I flip those priorities? Teaching ideas and tending household things often seemed to impinge on family time, and sometimes vice versa. And God – what about God? What about the times when, among the clamor of daily responsibilities, did I not only flip priorities but also lose the most important one?
“People first, then Ideas then Things.”
“God first, then Family then Mission.”
How do I keep my priorities?
My friend Sarah Myers provided some guidance in this post from her Noontimes blog: “There are times when we see that it is best for us to go into exile… There are times when we must leave behind family, friends, associates, anyone who draws us away from God.”
And thus I start each day in the quiet exile, sitting in my God time chair. Then I do my best to carry that focus with me throughout the day. Family/People, Mission/Ideas, Things.
What are your priorities?