To React or To Respond?

To react or to respond? That is the question.

Ok – I know that’s not the famous opening line of Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play but it might be the question we all need to ask ourselves. Wait, lest you think I’m judging, I need to ask myself. Am I reacting or am I responding? There is a difference.

Reaction or response?

  • the email that is hastily sent when I feel that I have been wronged
  • the email sent the following day after thoughtful reflection and prayer
  • better yet – a phone call or an IN-PERSON conversation

Reaction or response?

  • the sarcastic remark which in my case, may also include an eye roll
  • silence and maybe a comment without the sarcasm
  • better yet – silence

Reaction or response?

  • the words that fly out of my mouth and then I think: “did I just say that out loud?”
  • those spoken words that should be said aloud
  • those spoken words that are seen in compassionate action

. . . and don’t even get me started on Twitter or Facebook? We can respond globally in the time it takes us to type something on a keyboard or find just the right emoji. We can like, love, be mad, be sad – all with the click of a symbol. I can even respond to you with a bitmoji that looks like me! . . . sort of . . .

Just sayin - trish

We live in a world of instant reaction. Everything must be fast. How did we ever survive dial-up modems???  My guess is dial-up modems and pre-historic rotary dial phones prevented many harsh words spoken in haste.   (For proof of my hypothesis on rotary dial phones, please watch Dialing Tips circa 1950.)

In 1980, Eugene Peterson wrote his classic book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. 1980?? Just think how much has changed in our instant society since 1980!

If only we would slow down and turn our reactions into responses.

If only I could take back the words that hurt a family member or a friend.

If only I had waited until the next day to send the hasty reaction to an email.

If only . . .

Jesus calls us to a life of response – a response to Him and His call on our lives, a response to a hurting world so in need of compassion and love, a response to the grace and love He offers to all. . . . and our response?


God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me – my whole life one long, obedient response.       Psalm 119:33 – The Message

Building Margin to Reduce Stress – Week 2, Day 1

IMG_2239 - Version 2

Daily Scripture Reading: Read John 11:1-44

vs. 6 – “After having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

vs. 21-22 – “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ ”

 I don’t think I’ve ever read of Jesus running through the desert, saying, “Hurry up, John! Get moving, Peter! You disciples are so slow! We’ve got places to go, people to see!” Jesus certainly traveled throughout the land but he was intentional about when and where he was going.

When Jesus got word that his friend, Lazarus, was sick, he didn’t rush to his bedside. He stayed in his present location for 2 more days. Sister Martha was not happy. Why did Jesus not rush to his friend? The Bible does not say but I like to think that Jesus was doing something important in his location. He was fully present there.

Rush Slowly, these words on a sign hanging in a restaurant in the southern-most tip of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, sum up the pace that Jesus seemed to keep in the scripture. He went where he was needed but he traveled at the pace that kept him fully present wherever he was.

Maybe we could all ‘rush’ a little more slowly. How present are we with the people we encounter? With our families and friends? How present are we with the people at work or at school? Are we talking to someone, but in our mind, we’ve already moved on?

Prayer:Reach down inside me now, O God, and change the gears that race and roar. In place of turmoil give me peace. In place of frenzy give me patience. Then I shall be more like Jesus, who taught us to make room for you in our hectic days. Teach me, God, to make room for you in all the events and affairs of my days. Then I shall find rest. Then I will be at peace with myself and with you.”   Amen *

Reflection Question for the Day:

What one action can you take to slow down and be fully present?

Examples:   Physically walk slower. Look at people when you are talking to them.

*Prayer written by Norman Shawchuck, pages 342-343.  A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2003.

Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved

Building Margin – Week 1, Day 3

Daily Scripture Reading:

Isaiah 30:15-16 “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, ‘No! We will flee upon horses’ – therefore you shall flee! and, ‘We will ride upon swift steeds’ – therefore your pursuers shall be swift!”

“Come on, people! We’ve got places to be!” No, this was not me yelling at traffic but the voice of my son, Will, yelling from the booster seat in the back of the car. He was 7 or 8 years old and he was only repeating what he had heard someone say. His mother most likely.

I was probably late for something. Maybe I had thrown one more load of laundry in the washer before I left the house. Maybe I had talked on the phone a little too long. Maybe I hadn’t allowed time for getting a child, his stuff, my stuff and myself out of the house. Whatever the reason, I was in a rush.

And I was teaching my son to rush.

Isaiah spoke of our salvation coming from rest and returning to God. He spoke of quietness and trust as our strength. He said, however, that we refuse this salvation and strength by fleeing and riding away swiftly. We rush, we speed and we reap the consequences.

Building margin into our lives helps us make room for calmer spirits. It teaches us to return to God for our strength. It also helps us set more peaceful examples for others. You never know who’s listening.

Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for your calming presence in my life. Forgive me, Lord, when I rush instead of seeking your peace and your salvation. I don’t allow the time that is needed to move peacefully through life. Forgive me when my lack of margin in my own life affects the lives of others. Teach me this day to trust You in all areas of my life. In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

Reflection Question and/or Application for the Day:

Think about your week. Would you say that you have had a calm week? Have you rushed from place to place? Have you sensed God’s presence throughout your days?

What can you do today that will give you a sense of God’s presence in a deeper way?


Keep a brief prayer in your mind that draws you back to God. (Examples: God, be my strength or God, be my peace)

Memorize a verse of Scripture:

Is 30:15 – “In quietness and in trust shall be my strength.”

Prov 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”


Devotion from Building Margin for a Balanced Life, devotional book, small group study and sermon series

©Tim Reaves and Trish Archer

All rights reserved