Book Review—Shopping for Time

Reviewed by Barbara Harper

Mahaney, Carolyn, Nicole Whitacre, Kristin Chesemore, and Janelle Bradshaw. Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT Be Overwhelmed. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007. 96 pages, Paperback. $12.99.

Purchase: Crossway | CBD | WTS
Special Features:

ISBNs: 1581349130 / 781581349139

DCN: 248.843

Excerpt: Introduction and Chapter 1

Subjects: Christian Living / Women

Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and author. She leads the Titus 2 women’s ministry at Covenant Life Church and speaks to women in churches and at conferences. Carolyn and her husband, C.J., are the parents of three daughters and one son. Read her Girl Talk blog.

Nicole Whitacre is a wife, mother, and homemaker. She contributed to I Kissed Dating Goodbye: The Study Guide by Joshua Harris and assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal. Nicole and her husband, Steve, have one son, Jack.

The subtitle of this book might cause one to raise a skeptical eyebrow until she gets to page 13. It says, “We can actually do all that God has called us to do” without becoming “overwhelmed, miserable, and exhausted.” That sentence succinctly states the theme of this book, and the following chapters outline several tips for using time wisely. Ephesians 5:15-16 is the theme passage of the book: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (ESV). “The phrase, ‘making the best,’ means to ‘buy up, rescue from loss, or improve’ the use of time” (p. 19). A shopping metaphor is employed throughout the book to illustrate ways to “buy up” time.

While we constantly—almost unconsciously—plan, evaluate, strategize, and make wise choices when shopping, we often neglect to do so with the most important matters of our lives. We wouldn’t dream of going to a grocery store without a shopping list or buying a car without haggling over the sticker price, or purchasing new shoes without checking the price tag, but we throw away time as if we had an endless supply. (p. 17)

The first chapter provides a thorough study of the theme passage, Ephesians 5:15-16. Chapters 2-6 discuss five tips to make the best use of time.

Tip one is to rise up early to spend time with the Lord and to plan for the day. Mrs. Mahaney and her daughters began what they call the “5 a.m. club,” but they acknowledge it is “founded on principle rather than practice. The question isn’t ‘How early do you get up in the morning?’ but ‘Does your daily schedule reflect your priorities: seeking God at the outset of the day, romancing your husband, and serving your family?’ The purpose of getting up early is to make the most important priorities most important” (p. 36).

The second tip emphasizes the need to sit at Jesus’ feet. Nothing else we can do is as good a use of time as this is. “Because of his death on the cross for our sins, we have the privilege to sit at the feet of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of peace and to listen to Him (Isa. 9:6)” (p. 41) and to receive grace, wisdom, guidance, peace, and strength.

It’s cute when children assume they can create or accomplish something all by themselves. However, it is altogether different and more serious if we conclude that we can grow in godliness, conquer sin, or spend our time wisely all by ourselves. That’s why we must seek God each day. If nothing else, sitting at Jesus’ feet says to God, “I need you!” It expresses—whether we feel it is true—that we know we can’t shop for time on our own.

Conversely, choosing not to sit at Jesus’ feet makes a statement. It says to the Lord, “I can do it without you. I don’t need to read your Word or pray or listen to your voice. I am competent all by myself, thank you very much.” These are frighteningly arrogant words we’re saying, if not with our mouths then with our hearts. (p. 43)

The third tip, “Sit and plan,” advises taking something of a personal retreat once or twice a year, even if it is just a few hours alone to take time for study, prayer, and evaluation of what our goals and priorities are and what we can do to better meet them. In my opinion, this tip would be the hardest to incorporate, but the value of it is such that I wish I had done it throughout the years. One of the evaluating questions in one of the sub-points discussing our service to the Lord concerning whether we are using our gifts everywhere else but the church was particularly thought-provoking to me.

Tip four is evaluating relationships. Which need attention? Do we have friendships that “sharpen” us? Do we have friends who mentor us and friends to whom we can be a mentor? Are there any negative friendships we should curtail or eliminate?

The chapter about the fifth tip, “Plan to depend,” contains several practical tips for implementing the goals and priorities we’ve established and for dealing with problems like interruptions while reminding ourselves that we need to depend on God all along the way to accomplish anything.

The book concludes by explaining that even though better time management can enhance our peace of mind, true peace of heart is found in the gospel.

The book is written in a conversational, encouraging, “coming alongside to help” style and doesn’t present a rigid system of schedules and plans as some time-management books do. Sprinkled throughout the tips are anecdotes from the authors’ own lives as well as snippets from notes and e-mails they have received. They frankly deal with issues that must be faced, but they also acknowledge problems women face in managing their time, especially with small children in the home. They also offer creative ways to implement their tips in busy households with very different planning styles, schedules, and seasons of life. They remind us that our standing before God is secure based on our relationship with Christ, not on how well we perform our duties, yet we can improve our stewardship of the time and responsibilities He has given to us.

The only statement in the book I wasn’t in total agreement with was a quote from the husband and father of the authors. He wrote, “Only God gets His to-do list done each day. We are not God. We are finite creatures with serious limitations” (p. 87). I believe I understand what he means: We will always have more things to do than time to do all of them. Truly we are not God, and we are finite and limited. But the premise at the beginning of the book is that we can do everything God has called us to do. Many people were still unhealed, unsaved, and undiscipled when Christ left the earth in bodily form, yet He had finished the work God had given Him to do. Our limitations actually help define some of the things we are not supposed to do.

I think most women would enjoy this book. It is written for women in any stage or season of life. At less than 100 pages, it’s ideal for someone who is short on time but wants to manage it better. Though I have read many time-management books, I was reminded of several principles and discovered some new perspectives through this book.

harper07.jpgBarbara Harper, who resides in South Carolina, has been married to Jim for 27 years and is the mother of three boys. In college, she majored in Home Economics Education and minored in English. A stay-at-home mom for 23 years, she keeps busy with her family, home, ladies’ group, and missionary activities at church. Her favorite hobbies are reading, writing, blogging, and crafting. Check out her blog.
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