Webster's Dictionary defines a priority as something that takes precedence logically or in importance. This means that whatever our priorities are, they should be the first things we try to get done each day. Of course, this doesn't always happen, usually because there are plenty of people out there who are more than happy to "help us" find things to do! But sometimes we ourselves can be guilty of completing tasks and participating in activities that, while worthwhile, have nothing to do with our priorities.
Priority Number One: Your Relationship with God
God is to be our first priority. We are commanded by Jesus Himself in Matthew 22:37 to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This verse implies much more than faithful church attendance. We need to commit ourselves to God daily, giving Him everything: our lives, our bodies, our health, our spouses, our children, our home and our possessions.
- Plan a personal quiet time.
Most of us are very adept at planning and scheduling the events of life. Planning your time with God should really be no different. Choose a time of day that works well for you. Some good supplies to have besides your Bible are highlighters, sticky notes, index cards, pens and a notepad. A good devotional book can be very helpful, just make sure you're not only reading about the Bible, but reading the Bible, too.
- Dream of where you would like to be spiritually in one year.
What would you like to accomplish? How would you be able to tell you've grown spiritually? Maybe you might challenge yourself to memorize one verse of Scripture a week. Write down your spiritual goals and keep them in your Bible. Evaluate yourself at the end of the year to see how you did.
- Give your quiet time a slot on the calendar.
Plug it in just as you would any other important appointment. After all, this is your most important appointment of the day!
- Don't forget prayer
This is when we are most in tune with God. During our quiet time is a good time to pray but we can pray anywhere and anytime. Our God is always ready to meet with us!
Priority Number Two: Your Spouse
When a man and woman first get married, it's usually a given that they will be spending time together, building a strong bond of marriage. But for some reason, especially when children come along, we seem to forget that the husband - wife relationship still needs time to grow and flourish, no matter how long we've been married. Once a man and woman have kids, the wife takes on the mom role and becomes "married" to her children. As a result, the man often becomes "married" to his job. When the husband wants to spend time with his wife, he has to go around the children and all their activities to get to her. When the wife wants to spend time with her husband, she has to go around work responsibilities and deadlines to get to him. The spouse relationship, which is supposed to be our number two priority, gets put on a back burner to "simmer" until the kids are gone. And the very fact that the kids will be gone one day and it will be just the two of us again should motivate us to make our marriage our number one human priority!
- Pray for your spouse daily.
It sounds simple because it is! But it's also one of the most effective things you can do for your marriage.
- Choose your spouse over all other human relationships.
This can be a tough one sometimes-especially because it includes the kids! Two psychologists, Howard and Charlotte Clinebell stated, "The point at which many marriages jump the track is in OVER-investing in children and UNDER-investing in the marriage." When you and your family reunite after the workday, give kisses all around and then send the kids off for about 30 minutes so that you and your spouse can reconnect. Or try letting the older kids clean the kitchen after dinner while just two walk around the block. When you're having a conversation with your spouse and the phone rings, let it ring!
- Put your kids to bed.
This sounds funny but we need to keep in mind that bedtimes are just as much for our benefit, as well our kids. Putting your children to bed at a decent time ensures that you and your spouse can have some quality time together-a nice quantity of it! As far as teenagers go, maybe they don't have to go to bed at 8:00pm, but they could disappear to their rooms at a certain time to do homework, read or listen to music. Will your kids fight you on this? Probably, but stick to your guns. An early bedtime is worth it!
- Once kids are in bed, spend time together.
Don't reach for the remote, the phone, the briefcase from work, or the computer keyboard. Visit with each other. Make TV watching or working at home the exception rather than the rule.
- Protect time with your spouse.
Don't get too involved in too many outside activities, no mater how good they are. This includes activities for your children as well. This does not mean that no one can be involved in activities outside the home. It simply means that the minute those activities encroach on the spousal relationship, they have to stop. It's as simple as that!
If you put this list of ideas to work, I think you will be communicating to your spouse how much you love him more than words alone ever could. After all, we want our actions show the kind of priorities we say we live by. And just think how much your spouse is going to love you back!
Priority Number Three: Parenting
God began civilization with a man and a woman, uniquely committed to each other and commissioned by God to extend the generations. He did not begin the family with a village or a religious institution. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that mothers and fathers are to raise their children unto the Lord. Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Deuteronomy 11:19, referring to the words of the Lord, says, "Teach them to your children, talking about them when you when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Psalm 78: 5-6 says, "He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our forefathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children." The child rearing we do as parents today not only affect our children, but many generations to follow! Dorothy Kelley Patterson states in her book "The Family" that good families are the product of months of endless mundane tasks, years of painstaking nurture, and seasons of personal sacrifice. No amount of money can compare with the joy of time spent with family.
- We must make our marriage a model of what Christian marriage ought to be.
The most loving thing a mother and father can do for a child is to let him see that they love each other. Obviously, single parents are the exception, but they can provide their children exposure to strong, healthy marriages, through relationships with extended family and friends.
- We must teach our children Spiritual truths.
This requires us to make some decisions, and some of them hard ones. To quote Dorothy Kelley Patterson in "The Family", she says, "Parents do indeed have a responsibility to rear their own children. Parenting is not buying your children anything they want and hiring babysitters, nannies, guardians, or imposing on grandparents to supervise their activities. Parenting is not putting your child in the best private school with all the extracurricular activities you can squeeze in. Children don't need more day care, more after-school care, more counseling, more entertainment. They need more parental love and guidance. Parenting means spending time with your children and teens in order to teach them truth, to help them learn the difference between right and wrong, and to nurture them into happy and production adult life. Parents must make the family their priority." This may be tough to hear, but this is what God had in mind when he designed the family. No one but us truly has the responsibility for raising and teaching our children.
- We must be present.
This sounds almost too obvious. But your presence in the home is important. Being home communicates that they are important to us and that we missed them.
- We must lead our children to go God's way through consistent discipline.
Discipline involves more than correcting a child when he has done wrong. It also involves training the child, molding his character, and helping him to live in the world. We want to move our children from parent control, to self-control, to ultimately, God control.
Making our children our number three priority can be tough. But keep in mind, the toughest work is often the most rewarding!
Lana Rush is a full-time wife and mom. A former elementary school teacher, Lana homeschools her two daughters while remaining active in the work of Home on Time with her husband Ryan.