Tracking Time with Toggl

One simple tool I use in order to keep myself accountable with time is called Toggl. It helps me monitor all my activities or ministries, even down to the more insignificant details. At the end of every week, month, and year, I can see where I have participated in God’s work in Spain.

I use Toggl for a variety of reasons. On one level, it is immensely helpful to see the year end reports. Basically I try and keep a balance between work in theological education, church ministry, and evangelism. Occasionally Toggl has reminded me to reign in my workaholic spirit. Any work week that exceeds 50-60 hours is simply too much for a man with three young children.

The main reason I use toggl is for maximizing stewardship of time and money. God has taught us that our time is not our own, and he also has taught us that our resources are not our own. All our time, and all our money, is God’s. And as stewards, God asks us to use both of these resources wisely. For example, Ephesians 5:16 encourages us to make the most of opportunities because the “days are evil,” and Luke 12:33-34 teaches us to store up our treasures in heaven through giving our money away to the poor.

In some ways, I think that it is easier for us to remember that we are stewards because of our work. As missionaries, we receive our salary from churches and individuales that sacrificially give to God, for God’s work in Spain. Often we feel more deeply the weightiness of how we use our time and our money because of the sacrificial giving of others. After all, it is only through these gifts that we are on the front lines in Spain.  Toggl has become a practical way for me to have peace in my heart as I work towards healthy stewardship.

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Let’s Not Grow Weary

Julie and I have been singing a song to one another these days. It’s a children’s tune from Steve Green in his Bible verse series, and we’ve enjoyed as much, if not more, than our boys. It is Steve Green singing in an upbeat style a quotation from Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, in due season you shall reap.” I suppose you could say that the song matches the concept, with its cheery melody. But more importantly, the message is clear; no matter what, keep on doing what God has called you to.

Right now, Julie and I need this verse. Even though we’ve recently been encouraged by open doors, there are always opportunities to be weary, to coast, or to despair. Always! I honestly think that at any given moment in our seven years in Spain this little line could have functioned as something of a “go to verse.” In each of the various seasons, with their unique challenges, Galatians 6:9 has been God’s exhortation to us. Whether it has been support raising, infertility and loss, language training, culture shock, abuses, rejection, secularism, more culture shock, or more rejection, God breaks in to speak to our hearts and says, “Do not grow weary! Keep doing what is right!”

 

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Slow Down You Move to Fast

In 1966 Simon and Garfunkel released a song called “The 59th Bridge Song.” It also had the alternate title of “Feeling Groovy.” I remember the lyrics of the song because I listened to it on the radio when I was kid. The song fits with the Spanish culture, especially their approach to leisure. If I’m not careful, sometimes when I go to my Spanish friends’ more relaxed events on the weekends or holidays, I can really overwhelm them with my American intentionality and drivenness in conversation. We Americans can be so pointed or specific in how we approach our time with friends, it can really overwhelm the Spanish people.

One thing that’s helped me not rock the boat too much is to hum to myself a few of the lines of this song. When I am acting too American in Spain, I try to remember verses like these:

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

It’s not that this is my new philosophy on life, or that I’ll ever really stop being American, but in order to connect with the Spanish way, I need to remind myself to “slow down,” because by nature, I move way “too fast.”

I’ll give one recent example of how I messed up and wasn’t feeling the Spanish “grooviness.” At the end of June, our church had a all-day gathering at a mountain river for a baptism. After baptisms like these, we spend most of the day together with a picnic and a lot lounging around. Sometimes, after the service, people don’t even talk to each other. We all just eat, sit, smile at each other…la la la…feeling groovy. It feels so different for us, but in a really fascinating way, Spaniards truly feel a connection with each other by just being together.

Well this year, just before the baptism, I came from a conference in Britain on the New Testament. I had spent every waking minute of the previous three days interacting with my peers on the New Testament. Conversation was intense, driven, and fast-paced. Without even noticing it, one day later, when I went to the church’s picnic, I came with the same kind of intentionality to talk with my church friends. I went around to people asking them about their summers, pressing in and asking particularly pointed questions about anything and everything. I can’t believe I didn’t realize what I was doing, but one thing I did notice is that everyone started to avoid me, setting up their picnic blanket, far, far, away from the Reesers. By the time we were in the car riding home, Julie and I had to remind ourselves yet AGAIN that we need to slow down, because sometimes we just move too fast.

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Much More than a Preaching Conference

This last weekend I (Chad) travelled to a camp/retreat center with an elder from our church named Kike. We arrived and greeted some 60 other pastors and elders, and we learned that everyone was really excited for the opportunity to learn more about expository preaching.

The conference did not disappoint, as many of the workshops really strengthened our resolve to preach in faithfulness to God’s Word. However, it ended up being much more than a preaching conference for us. Though Kike and I went with the expectation to learn about exegetical outlines and crossing cultural horizons, we found that the weekend turned into a weekend of refreshment and encouragement.

For Kike,  it was an opportunity to hear from other pastors in his situation. Many others are just like him. They have been handed the preaching responsibility in the church as the older generation of pastors moves on into retirement. However, the younger leaders they leave behind wrestle with their qualifications, whether to give up their day jobs, how much to commit, etc. In this sense the conference was vital for Kike; it showed him he is not alone. He also learned about some great tools and resources for his own theological training and development.

This was way more than a conference for me because it encouraged me to the impact a missionary can have, if he/she perseveres. Everything takes longer in Spain, but I was pleasantly surprised at the powerful impact that many missionaries had in their organization and implementation of this conference. They not only offered vital resources for this next generation of teachers and preachers, they also offered a setting for people to network and encourage one another. I pray that I can eventually have this kind of impact.

On the left–a plenary session / on the right–Kike and I

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Online Bible School Gathering

Every year my Bible college (EET) holds its encuentro presencial or live gathering for students from all over Spain. It is a full day of seminars on a variety of topics given by professors of our school. Most of all, it offers students the opportunity to get to know at least some of their professors and classmates in person. Sometimes they travel a couple of hours to the nearest meeting point, and they often come excited to learn.

This year we had three cities in which a student could attend a gathering: Madrid, Cordova, and Barcelona. Each meeting point was led by a professor whose objectives were to give a seminar in person and then be the technology point person for live Skype lessons from the professors at other locations. I was in charge giving a seminar on exegesis in the Gospels and helping project the Skype presentations from the location in Madrid.

In the end the live (and virtual) gatherings were a success. We had 44 students attend in total and 11 of those students were with me in Madrid. The picture on the left is from the location in Barcelona, and the picture on the right is from Madrid.

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Thankful to God for 2016

Julie and I put the boys to bed last night at 9:30pm, but we did stay up to play a board game and welcome in the new year. We reflected on some highlights from 2016 as a family. Here are just some of ways we thanked God:

  1. Welcoming Eric into our family has been a blessing. It definitely hasn’t always been easy, but we celebrate how Eric has fit right in with us.
  2. It has been delightful to watch Evan and Eric’s personalities blossom this year. They are so very different–Eric more happy-go-lucky and Evan more persistent–but we get excited thinking about how God could channel their special personalities and gifts for his glory.
  3. We reflect with joy on the conversation we had 9 months ago in which Julie told me she was pregnant.
  4. We made it spiritually, physically, psychologically, through the most challenging international trip of our lives.
  5. The Cubs won the World Series!
  6. I (Chad) have been able to work through some pretty tough bumps in the road with in my doctoral research.
  7. I especially enjoyed a moment I had with my siblings in June of this year. We were all together during mom’s cancer treatment and staying the night at mom and dad’s place. Before heading to bed, we had a conversation on the roof of my parent’s house, and as we were looking up at the stars, we brainstormed how to love mom and dad as best as possible.
  8. My mom has been able to fight and come out the other side of very difficult cancer treatment. We are thrilled she is doing much better.

 

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Current Events in Spain

I have been keeping my eye on a few things going on in Spain that may have a direct impact on my family. Julie wisely reminds me that I need to think about these current events with my eyes firmly upon the Lord. We read the news (occasionally) and cast our cares upon the Lord, for his plan is perfect and we can trust him. At the same time, we also need to be prudent and prepared for what may come. For now, I’ll just share a few current events that may affect us and our friends:

  1. There is a radically left political party gaining ground in Spain called Podemos. They currently have 20% of the Spanish vote and are the second biggest party in Spain. They are very similar to the politically left party of Hugo Chavez (and now Nicolas Maduro) in Venezuela, a party that morphed rather quickly into a dictatorship and effectively destroyed their country. It may be that Podemos is different, but we may not have to wait very long to find out.
  2. Taxes have risen and keep rising at alarming rates. While most Spaniards don’t realize it or seem to care that much, we have really felt the last 51 decisions to raise taxes. Julie and I compare gas and electricity bills over the last few years and are shocked at the differences. Just to give one other example, while the price of gas has gone down in the rest of the world over 50% in the last few years because of the drop in oil prices, here the price has gone down about 5%. This is because politicians have seen fit to raise taxes and disguise it while prices on oil are low. When the price per barrel of oil rises again, Spaniards simply will not be able to afford the cost of travel. Neither will we. Just imagine what doubling the price of gas will do to the economy (the cost of food, etc.).
  3. Spain’s social security program is about to run out of money. By most estimates, the Spanish pension plan will not have a dime left midway through 2017. My guess is that Spain is going to ask Europe for another buyout, and it may be that the EU gives in yet again. The alternative to another buyout are tax hikes that would simply devastate the majority of Spanish families. I look around at the people in my little congregation and seriously wonder how they would get by if taxes rose another 75-100% in the next couple years. Half of the families of our church would experience a significant financial crisis.
  4. Sexual ethics in Spain have taken a “progressive” turn. The Spanish government just passed a bill which requires elementary public schools to invite homosexual couples to come talk to children about the dangers of homophobia. Podemos, the political party I mentioned earlier, wants to include with this bill a preposterous clause. They argue that a child of any age, and without the approval of their parents, can undergo a sex change paid for by the government. The key authority over the child in this case would be the school counselor and the school. If any “non-progressive” parents would disapprove such a decision, the school could intervene and pay for the surgery, removing the child from the home.

There are a few other current events that I could share, but this is probably a sufficient overview. Please pray for our dear friends here in Spain, that God would have mercy on them and help them stand strong in their faith in spite of these events. God is on his throne and Jesus the Son of God is ruling at his right hand. The Spirit of God is moving in our little church and making us more like Jesus.

 

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