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10 Minutes Peace

    by Susan McGrath

"Running on . . . guilt?"
Date Posted: January 3, 2004

Remember the story of that little engine that could? A train carrying toys and food to the boys and girls over the mountain has broken down and all the other engines are too self-absorbed to stop and help, but not the Little Blue Engine. (The PTO/little league team needs a fund raising chair or VBS needs a director and all the other moms have jobs or new babies or aerobics classes or scrapbooking workshops, but you, with every square on your calendar already written on, will somehow find a way to fit it in.)

The Little Blue Engine has never done a job like this before and doesn't even know if he can, but something about the pleas of the doll and the clown convince him to try. (You've never made angel costumes -- you don't even sew; never organized a youth rally or scheduled a season of ballgames, but everyone knows how capable you are and they can always count on you!)

"Please Little Blue Engine, help us get over the mountain or the boys and girls will be so disappointed. They'll have no new toys to play with and no nutritious food to eat," (If you can't coach the team this year, those ten kids, including yours, won't be able to play! The poor angels will have to make due with hangers for halos! How will the teens ever meet other kids their age if they don't have fellowship events like this!)

The Little Blue Engine huffed and puffed and adopted the mantra "I think I can" which he said to himself over and over, perhaps to convince himself that he was going all out for a noble purpose. (You write in the new activity on your calendar in ink and then adopt the mantra "I have to get this done! I have to get this done!" But you remind yourself that without your sacrifice there would be no team/drama/rally.)

The Little Blue Engine makes it to the top of the mountain and all the toys cheer for him and he says (no doubt with a big sigh) "I thought I could". (You complete the task you have so graciously allowed yourself to be drafted into. You receive a couple of pats on the back and comments like "Great job, I could never do everything you do!" -- Duh! You say with a big sigh, "Why do I keep committing to these things?")

Now, I realize the little engine was sincere and the point of the story is not that he was guilted into helping out. But are our motives and reasons always as pure? Do we always serve or volunteer only when we can commit our all and our heart is in the right place?

Do we allow society, friends or wrong priorities to dictate our calendar and sometimes create burnout and misery in the process? I have to admit many times I have been guilty of being "guilted" into something I didn't have time for and which maybe wasn't necessary.

When we run out of steam, maybe it's because we've climbed mountains we didn't need to. When we are presented with a dilemma that involves commitment of our time and energy, we need to give the answer, "Let me think about it," and then sincerely do so.

As we begin a new year with a calendar ready to be filled, let's make sure what we put on it is something worthy of the time and talent God has given us.

Pray over it, discuss it with your spouse or a friend, consider what the consequences are to you and your family it you take on the project. What will happen if you don't jump in and take charge? Is someone else likely to, or will it just not get done? If it won't get done without you, is it something worthwhile that will honor God and benefit others?

The Lord promises us guidance and strength if we follow in His way -- not if we go our own foolish way. "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." -- 46:4

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Biography Information:
Susan McGrath is:

a recovering journalist trying to encourage others and glorify God through writing;

living the small-town life with husband Tim and sons Lincoln, 12, and Sawyer, 6;

completing a few put-off writing projects while using chocolate for therapy.
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