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The Thing About Number Six



It’s Monday and Monday is usually a fresh start for me.  I love Mondays.



Except today.



Today, I woke up feeling hunched over. Pushed down.  And the funny thing is, it’s not my immediate circumstances that feel weighty.  My life is really pretty solid right now. It’s the stuff outside and the process of determining what gets to come inside.



Politics are driving me crazy.  I’m passionate about most things – it’s a good and bad thing in me – and I therefore have a pretty strong opinion about every thing I read or see flying around on facebook.  I even have an opinion about your opinion, though I’m better about letting that go than I’ve ever been. Today I’m wondering, how much should I care about this Very Big Deal in our country? How much should I pray, how much should I say, how much more noise does this thing really need?



Social issues are weighty and pressing. Syria, orphans, human trafficking, racial tensions and our country’s divided view of their reality, ALS and other deadly diseases, lack of clean water, the need for young women to get an education…everything is important.  Most of these things even carry life-and-death consequences.



And people.  People right here in my city are hurting – longing for connection and community.  I get emails nearly every day, asking for a coffee meeting to talk about why I think the Bible is absolutely true or could I call someone’s friend who was just diagnosed with cancer or connect with someone’s daughter who just moved to Bend and has no friends.  They are all good, kind requests and any one of them is possible in my schedule, but not the bulk of them and so the decision about what to let inside becomes a weight in itself.



When Steve died, I sat down and wrote some things I definitely wanted for my new, single life.  At the top of the list:  Well-ordered priorities.  In my world right now, the priorities are currently:



  1. My own health and healing – spiritual, emotional, physical. If this one doesn’t work, none of the rest work either.
  2. Parenting well – the sense of responsibility I feel as the only parent is not something I could easily describe. It’s just very, very real.
  3. My job, which both pays the bills and provides a great sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  4. My tribe. They are people who have been with me through thick and thin and have a voice into my life. They often serve as a Steve surrogate, listening to my heart and helping separate the wheat from the chaff.  I would say there are about two dozen people in this category and they are GOLD to me and not easily replaced. But like all relationships, they don’t maintain themselves. They require time and nourishment and conversation.
  5. The ALS Community.  I will almost always push an ALS need to the top of the pile. The disease is so vicious and rare, that those going through it are desperate for mentors and encouragers and I want to be one of those, but I do often wonder how to fit it all in.



And then there’s Number 6.  Number 6 is where my problems start.  It’s the blank space, the open territory that could be occupied by politics or coffee with young women who want to be pastors or research on the Syrian civil war. Number 6 could be almost anything, because after the first five everything else is somewhat equal. But the problem is when, like today, Number 6 becomes weightier than the main list. There’s something about it’s lack of definition that makes it noisier than those others.  Maybe it’s because the first five have been around a long time and can seem like they’re doing fine compared to Syrian refugees.  That blank space has an of-the-moment appeal that moves my short attention span toward shiny things.



One thing I know for certain is true:  I only have a certain amount of seed (time, talent, treasure) to sow and I can’t magically create more. I can only use what’s left after the others are well cared for.  Number 6, therefore, is a daily exercise in listening to the Holy Spirit for what I should do with this handful of seed.  Where will it land and grow most effectively?  What are my motives in sowing?  I recently spent hours on a blog post about my current political leanings only to realize: this isn’t going to help anyone.  My motives in writing it were, frankly, to spout off and look smart.  The end result was two hours of seed, thrown to the wind.  Sigh.



So, that’s my thing today.  What to do with Number 6.  Have you found a good way to order your priorities and deal with the onslaught of seed-hungry opportunities?  I’d love to hear about it.  Help a sister out.



With hope,






March 7, 2016 - 10:08 am

Kaci - Love. Every single word of this. Number 6 in my life needs some supernatural wisdom. Praying for us both… Seriously!

March 7, 2016 - 11:40 am

Debbie - #6 as you categorize it is probably a hard one for most of us. For myself I have delegated a couple things that might tend to weigh some people down. Politics and volunteer work are the 2 that can drive me crazy. I hate politics and my husband is political enough for our entire family, lol. I do trust his judgement and so I let him lead and I follow. Not to say that I don’t have an opinion because I do on most things but this year the politics are just too much for me. So for me I can hand that one thing off. You may not be able to actually hand any of 1 – 6 off but maybe you can rely on someone else’s opinion now and then on some things.
Now volunteering has been an issue of late – I am learning to say NO. Your word this year is YES, mine might be NO.

Good luck.

March 7, 2016 - 1:58 pm

Nikki - My go-to for the overwhelm of ambiguity and just…ALL THE REST…is to just do the next thing, without thinking or contemplating or pondering or analyzing its purpose or direction or outcome or…

Just do the next thing.

If that means the dishes, then so be it. If it means the phone call that comes in right at that moment, so be it. If it means sitting on the porch staring straight out into space and feeling every single feeling, so be it.

Perhaps #6 is not to be defined. Ever. And that’s the point. 🙂

March 7, 2016 - 2:16 pm

Kathryn Vai - First, huge hugs!

Second, I love how you lay your heart bare and tell the truth. Life can be so hard and knowing that we all struggle makes it so much easier to bear. Thank you.

Third, yes. I totally relate to the challenge of allocating my energy with faithfulness. It sounds so blasted easy, but I often find myself trying to stretch my resources past what I can reasonably manage. I rely on systems to keep me on track- prayer before I start my day, fix my breakfast and lunch for work the next day before I go to bed, get off the train one stop ahead so I can squeeze in some exercise- but sometimes I think all those systems do is keep me so busy I don’t have time to do what’s really important!

It finally occurred to me last week (LAST WEEK- don’t ask me how old I am!)that I spend so much energy on work that I don’t have any left for the thing I always say I would do if I didn’t have to work. You know, when someone asks what you would do if you won the Lottery? The answer that practically bolts out of my mouth before the question is even completed? Yeah, THAT thing. So my challenge is to figure out how to make that a priority and not use up ALL my reserves on stuff that is important, but not most important. So I am now back to praying more and asking for some suggestions. LOL

March 7, 2016 - 2:22 pm

ChrisAnn McBride - Hi Bo,
I just wanted to say thank You for sharing. Your words are so nourishing.
You’ve managed to bring out some of my feelings from within to words on paper that completely discribe some of them. Such a gift. Thank You again.

I love that you realized your motive and changed it, I love that you are working thru your priority list.

Most importantly that allowing Holy Spirit to lead. All of this is so nourishing to hold dear, infact, I’m going to print out and highlight what speaks to me and place in my planner/ diary.

March 8, 2016 - 7:05 am

Kristen - One thing I started doing about eight months ago that has helped me with #6 is that I started quarantining it. You want to have coffee with me? Fantastic. But I can only meet on Fridays. You want me to review your manuscript? Excellent. I’ll get through what you send on Fridays. I have a great idea for a blog post! Good for me, but…can’t devote time to it until Friday. That goes for you, too, pedicure.

By telling #6 where it’s allowed to hang out, I’ve been able to (mostly) keep it from wreaking havoc on Numbers 1-5.

March 8, 2016 - 7:17 am

Jennifer Wassel - Blessings on you, Bo! I’ve followed & quoted you (w/references to your site) over the past year as I cared for my father, diagnosed w/leukemia til his home going, & both cared for & then oversaw my mother who had Alzheimer’s til she went to join my father. Your faithful & honest words were a source of comfort, & I prayed for you & your family.
What a gift you have, to be able to express what is so familiar to so many. As I am juggling all of the 1’s through 5’s on my list, after battling through the events & consequences of the events of 2015, I so related. Just when you think it’s safe to go into the water….???!!!! And the swirling dervish of the current political arena is a HUGE distraction. I’m with you, & I’m sure we’d solve all the world’s problems, but that most definitely IS throwing seed to the wind. I second that sigh!
When you said you couldn’t “magically create more,” it triggered something I’ve been thinking about, as I’ve struggled to manage my time & resources . . . And NOT to always say ‘Yes’ to absolutely every need that crosses our path, but didn’t Jesus create more out of little? I’ve been thinking about how we emphasize tithing in our finances, but what about tithing in ALL our God-given resources? (Not being legalistic here either, so I mean in the spirit of the tithe, & also not “tithing” to get more of what I want/need from God; just being obedient & letting the chips fall…)
Soooo, I’m trying to experiment with this thing called obedience, focusing on not OVERdoing any of 1-5 & re-apportioning my time & resources, then just trusting that if Jesus could multiply the loaves & fish, He can multiply whatever I need to be obedient to all the items, 1-6,7,8…. (Or whatever comes up in the number 6 slot!)
Thanks for sharing all your beauty, Bo! I appreciate you very much.

March 8, 2016 - 5:13 pm

Jody Collins - Bo, I have no good way to set daily priorities other than to say pray and ask the Holy Spirit and trust that He will tell you.
Which sounds like what you’ve been doing all along…
I will say how much your words resonated re: the whole ‘number 6’ thing. YOu’re right–after we prioritize the top 5, there are so MANY other things that could be next. I think it’s the number 6 things that occupy our sowing time (and end up maybe being chaff instead). The number one things seem more obvious.
May God give us all grace to tell the difference and keep clinging to him.

March 22, 2016 - 9:39 pm

Jewl - I’m re-reading your recent blog posts. It all resonates. The power of habit. Priorities: And yes! It all seems important: politics, giving a helping hand, prayer, … oh, yes, and meals. Shoot–add in sleep (right now the clock shows it’s after midnight and the dishes still wait). The pull of 6: 6 is enticing because I don’t “have” to do it, at least right away. Or the fear that if I don’t write that friend back now, it won’t ever get done. The crazy idea that “Do the quick now” so to better tackle the “BIG,” but meanwhile, I never do get to the BIG projects, the piles grown, and they paralyze me even more, and no one in this home is chronically ill! Yet, I know that that conversation with my teen trumped all those projects, so yea! (And good for you for designated touch points with J.) Praying with you for greater understanding and choosing the best in these days, while giving ourselves grace for the journey.