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Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem Paperback – September 23, 2013
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“Everything Kevin DeYoung writes is biblical, timely, and helpful for both life and ministry. You can’t afford to miss what he says here in Crazy Busy. He rightly reminds us to beware of the barrenness of a busy life, since activity and productivity are not the same thing.”
―Rick Warren, Pastor, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California
“I’m a fan of Kevin DeYoung’s writing, partly because I know what to expect. He’s always clear, biblical, and to the point―with a good dose of humor peppered in. Crazy Busy is no exception. It’s a quick and engaging read that busy people can find time for. DeYoung helped me think about the heart issues behind my busyness, and even gave me some practical ways to fight it. As a pretty busy guy, I encourage other busy folks to squeeze this little book into their schedule.”
―Trip Lee, hip-hop artist; author, The Good Life; Pastor, Cornerstone Church, Atlanta
“DeYoung is a smart guy, and he offers a refreshing (and refreshingly short) take on the plague of modern American life: the too-long to-do list and the overscheduled calendar that produce the frazzled response ‘busy’ to the innocent question ‘How are you?’ DeYoung doesn’t offer time management but rather theology. God wants you to use your talents, but God is not nearly as big on the idolatry of self-importance that often motivates overcommitment. Some of this could well have been said in a sermon, which would have been even shorter. But DeYoung is clever (‘If Jesus were alive today, he’d get more emails than any of us.’), his analysis is well-organized, and he brings theological thinking without moralizing. If you are someone who checks your email before going to bed and as soon as you wake up, DeYoung has your number, and this is your book.” (September 30, 2013)
―Publisher's WeeklyPublisher's Weekly
“DeYoung shows how trusting in God’s providence helps us work hard without going crazy.”
―World MagazineWorld Magazine
"Informal and friendly, [Crazy Busy] prompts readers to take a long, unsparing look at the things they say and do." (September, 2013)
―Christianity TodayChristianity Today
“A great book for the stressed-out. DeYoung shows that Jesus was busy and Christians should be busy discipling nations, parenting children, and bearing burdens. He rightly differentiates that from ‘crazy busy,’ a frenzied trying to please some and control others―and he shows how biblical rhythms and trust in God’s providence can keep us sane. Also a great book for parents who live in a Kindergarchy, over-programming their children: DeYoung says let them play, because it’s not easy either to ruin them or to assure their success.”
―Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, WORLD Magazine
“Habitual, sinful busyness is something that many struggle with and yet, it’s rare to hear teaching on this important topic. With refreshing transparency and his trademark humor, Kevin DeYoung identifies the problem and gives helpful practical instruction on how to find our rest in Christ. DeYoung has served the church well (once again). I highly recommend this book.”
―Shai Linne, hip-hop artist
“I’m glad to take time out of my busy life to endorse Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. As Kevin makes abundantly clear, our busyness can be evidence of our faithfulness or, on the other hand, evidence of our pride, ambition, and unbridled activity. As always, Kevin DeYoung is a careful thinker, a gifted pastor, and a writer who keeps the reader on the edge of our seat.”
―R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Kevin DeYoung goes after our busyness with all the best of Reformed theology: we don’t need to manage our busyness better, we have a busy heart, seeking approval from others. The problem isn’t too much to do, but a heart out of tune with God’s calling, forgetting its limitations, seduced by the siren calls of ‘the perfect family’ or ‘the successful career.’ In a world where speed and accomplishment is everything, DeYoung calls us to return to the rhythms of a Sabbath rest.”
―Paul E. Miller, author, A Praying Life and J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life
“Busy, hectic lives are the bane of the modern world. This book is not profound; rather it simply offers a lot of that most unfashionable commodity―common sense. DeYoung exposes the nature of busyness, the various ways in which it deludes us, and offers some basic advice on what to do about it. A fine, short book which deserves a wide readership.”
―Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Grove City College
“If you are like me and think you are too busy to read this book, trust me, you are too busy not to. As a mom of two little ones at home, I find my days are long, busy, and exhausting. However, after reading Crazy Busy, perspectives, priorities, and order were put back in place. This has been one of the most helpful books I have read to date. Whether you are a mom of two or a CEO of 200, this book will point you to the one and only thing your soul truly needs . . . Christ.”
―Ali Deckard, stay-at-home mom
“If you’re like me, you’ll see yourself in the mirror of DeYoung’s experience and will be prompted to make changes based on the biblical diagnosis we find in these pages. Trust me. You’re too busy not to read this book.”
―Trevin Wax, author, This Is Our Time
About the Author
Kevin DeYoung (PhD, University of Leicester) is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, and assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte). He serves as board chairman of the Gospel Coalition and blogs at DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed. He is the author of several books, including Just Do Something; Crazy Busy; and The Biggest Story. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have eight children.
Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina
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I had seen this book in a couple places recently, decided to order it for the library and then the book club here decided to make it one of their picks. Anyone who knows me will agree that I've been crazy busy for decades now (like DeYoung, it started before graduating from high school). There were even times in the past where just like that scene in 27 Dresses I had a supervisor have me practice saying no. I have been superwoman, and superwoman got very, very tired. Thankfully, I have learned from some of those past mistakes and gotten much better at saying no, but the opportunities to get busier are always there and calling desperately for me to get involved. I felt like this book was a perfect timely reminder at the beginning of the school year that it is ok to say no, to guard times of rest, and to watch out for the good choking out the better. I appreciated DeYoung's humility and honesty. He readily admits he doesn't have it all figured out or put together, but I also feel like the principles he brings forth are sound and helpful. Knowing my own tendencies, I will probably need to read this yearly or even every six months to be reminded of healthy practices. But thankfully, it is a short, easy read so I should be able to squeeze it in.
Path: DeYoung gives three dangers to avoid (ch 2): 1) Business can ruin our joy. 2) Business can rob our hearts. 3) Business can rot our souls. He then gives seven diagnoses to consider (chs 3- 9) including pride, trying to play God, unidentified priorities, false parenting conceptions, the effect technology plays, rest, and expectations. The author finishes by giving one thing we are to do (ch 10), and that is to know Christ.
Sources: Personal experience, Scriptural principles, various authors on productivity and rest.
Agreement: Here are some of the things I appreciated about this book:
It was short
The author is sympathetic
He has a good chapter on pride
He has a good chapter on parenting
He recognizes that all business is not sin
He pointed me to Jesus
Disagreement: I would disagree with very little of what he said. It would have been nice to have someone who has been in the trenches of this fight and has come to tell us, rather than someone who is trying to crawl out with you. However, that is also one of the positives of the book.
Personal App: What am I busy with?
Favorite Quote: Here is just one of the many that made me think "If someone recorded your life for a week and then showed it to a group of strangers, what would they guess is the "good portion" in your life? What would they conclude is the one thing you must get done every day?"
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it to someone who:
consistently replies with "Busy" when I ask them how they are doing
is frustrated with their current priorities
has their children in thirty different programs
who views busyness as a badge of honor
Top international reviews
Kevin DeYoung assures the reader early on in Crazy Busy that, although he is crazy busy, he doesn’t consider it a badge of honour or something to brag about. He then goes on to describe the various things that keep him busy and that have kept him busy in past seasons of life. (My favourite part of his litany of busy is his description of how in seminary, among many other things, he “sang in three different choirs at the same time.” I tried to picture singing in three different choirs at the same time. That’s quite a skill. If he would just have sung three part harmony at the same time in one choir he could have cut his choir practice schedule by two-thirds. But I digress...) The page and a half of this seems longer than necessary and I’ve read comments by some readers online who took this to be bragging and didn’t finish the book. Read on. The author genuinely wants to help Christians walk in Christ honouring obedience and true gospel witness. If the reader pushes past the first chapter (basically a justification for a book like this), you will be rewarded with much to help you with the pervasive problem of busyness. The author doesn’t claim to have it all together but readily admits his own struggles in this area. In fact, DeYoung used this writing project to wrestle with the issue of being crazy busy and to search for biblical and practical wisdom to help himself and others overcome this problem.
The second chapter warns that being crazy busy is a spiritual sickness which has real potential to wreck our lives. DeYoung warns that this kind of busyness ruins one’s joy, robs your heart, and covers up the rot in our souls. As DeYoung sums up: “The greatest danger with busyness is that there may be greater dangers you never have time to consider.”
In the third chapter, we are warned that often busyness is a manifestation of pride. That pride is often not recognized as such since our hearts can be so self-deceptive. Pride can take many forms, and DeYoung gives us a few, each starting with “P” to remind us these are all pride at heart: People pleasing, Pats on the back, Performance evaluation, Possessions, Proving myself, Pity, Poor planning, Power, Perfectionism, Position, Prestige, Posting (the blogging / facebook / twitter kind). While admitting there is more to it than this, DeYoung offers this diagnostic question to help us root out pride: “Am I trying to do good or to make myself look good?”
Chapter four is called, “The Terror of Total Obligation”, and is all about “trying to do what God does not expect you to do.” DeYoung uses the life and example of Jesus to illustrate that God calls us to certain things in this life, not to everything. Jesus himself didn’t do all that could be done or minister to everyone in every way. There were many people he did not heal or preach to. But Jesus was conscious to do all that the Father had sent him to do, no more and no less. DeYoung warns the reader against developing a “Messiah complex” and about being sure to take time for our own spiritual enrichment just as Jesus himself did. There will always be more things, even good and worthy things, that need to be done, but we are not called to do everything. Only that which the Father has called us to do.
Chapter five develops some of the thoughts of chapter four further. DeYoung points out that we are actually ineffectual in our ministry and efforts to help others if we don’t set firm priorities for ourselves. Drawing on the gospel of Mark, DeYoung illustrates this from Jesus’s own life. He points out that “Jesus was so terrifically busy, but only with the things he was supposed to be doing.” And in all he was busy doing, he never lost joy and peace. We are encouraged to set priorities because we can’t do it all and because we must have priorities if we are to serve others most effectively. DeYoung also reminds us that we must not impose our own priorities upon others but must let them work out their own priorities with God. “Stewarding my time is not about selfishly pursuing only the things I like to do. It’s about effectively serving others in the ways I’m best able to serve and in the ways I am most uniquely called to serve.”
I found chapter six to be the weakest in the book, mainly because I think the problem that DeYoung points out is not nearly as widespread as he seems to think. The problem is that of freaking out because you believe your children’s whole futures, in this life and the next, all hang on your efforts at raising and training them properly. There certainly are folks out there who are constantly anxious and stressed out about every little thing and are always second guessing whether they’ve done things right or whether they’ve done enough. I believe that the author had this type of parent in mind, and such parents need to be reminded that God is sovereign and they are not, that he saves people and they do not, and that they can sow and water in the lives of their children but only God can give the increase. Such parents need to learn to stand on God’s promises and rest in his love. However, in my ministry and everyday experience I have run into more Christian parents who have the opposite problem.
Many parents, while verbally acknowledging God as priority one and incorporating some Christian aspects into family life (such as praying before meals), practically raise their children in much the same ways as the average parents in our surrounding society do, with the kids involved in umpteen different activities, rushing off in all directions, eating meals separately, consumed with screen time (be that TV, movies, computers, ipads, ipods, etc.) and not giving God the daily time together as family that he calls parents to (Deut. 6:4-9). While I fully recognize that DeYoung is addressing a real need and a danger some Christian parents fall in to, the pervasiveness of the other problem in Christian homes today makes me worry that many parents who read this book and who need to be challenged to drop most of their other activities and busyness and to slow home life down and return to actively discipling their children will instead feel justified in their various levels of parental negligence. It is certainly true that God is sovereign and that some children of Christian families will not “turn out”, but God in his sovereignty has also made it clear that the normal means he has ordained for children to be brought to faith is through the teaching, example, love and training of their parents. For this reason, I wish this chapter was more balanced or that there was a follow-up chapter called, “Stop charging off in all directions and stay home together for a change.”
The huge time-sink of various electronic media is the topic of chapter seven. DeYoung admits his own problems in this area, and is correct in pointing out that many people burn up a lot of time with their electronic gizmos. DeYoung tallies, “I have a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, a Bluetooth headset, an iPhone, an iPad, wifi at work and at home, cable TV, a Wii, a Blu-ray player, multiple e-mail accounts, and unlimited texting. Pride comes before a fall.” He points to a number of ways all this electronica harms us spiritually, and suggests some very helpful ways of mitigating the negative effects, the most helpful of which is to set up boundaries and strictly enforce them (eg. no texting at the table, no work emails after hours, etc.). This problem is bigger than many people are willing to admit. In this whole area, perhaps our first reaction to a new gizmo or gadget ought to be along the lines of, “just because a new technology exists doesn’t make it good and doesn’t mean I need it.” At the dawn of the PC, most people trumpeted how much time it would save and how much more productive it would make us. Being humans, we’ve figured out how to use modern technology to help us waste even more time than we used to. These technologies are not bad in themselves, but we must master them or they will master us.
Chapter eight is about keeping a proper biblical rhythm in our lives, which means that we must include rest as part of our weekly routine. DeYoung correctly acknowledges that Christians throughout history have taken different views on the Sabbath (Reformed Christians have varied too, from the Puritan view of fairly strict rest from all forms of work to Calvin viewing the Sabbath rest as basically fulfilled in Christ). Yet he reminds us that the church has consistently recognized the Lord’s Day as different from all other days of the week and that it is to be a day to worship God together with his people and to be a break from the normal routine of our daily labours. God built a natural pattern into humanity and we require rest. As DeYoung says, “Whatever your take on the specific dos and don’ts of Sunday, I hope that every Christian can agree that God has made us from the dust to need regular times of rest. He built it into the creation order and commanded it of his people...God gives us Sabbath as a gift; it’s an island of get-to in a sea of have-to.” This is possibly the strongest chapter in this book and the one, in my experience at least, that the church most needs to hear. DeYoung issues a much needed call for Christians to return to a Lord’s Day observance and rhythm of rest that in past eras was a given but which for the church today often looks little different from the surrounding secular society.
The next chapter looks at the burden of busyness from a different angle. DeYoung points out that often we make busyness seem so much worse than it really is by having unbiblical expectations and ideals for our lives. He reminds us that the American dream, with its heavy emphasis on leisure, pleasure and ease, has nothing to do with living faithful Christian lives in which Jesus promised that all of his disciples would face suffering and hardship. Clearly suffering will look different for Christians in different times and contexts, but one thing is certain: always getting whatever we want, being wherever we want, and doing whatever we want all the time is not a Christian ideal. Jesus calls his disciples to take up their cross daily and follow him. When our lives are consumed with obedience to Christ and serving others, we are often quite necessarily busy. But if we are constantly wishing for perpetual leisure or always coveting time to do all our favourite things and not the often hard things that self-sacrifice necessarily involves, busyness seems far worse than it is. Our lives are not our own and this life is not all about self-fulfillment but about faithfulness to God and gospel service for the sake of others. Such a life will be busy and tiring, but the burden will seem all the heavier for having an improper and unbiblical view about what life should be like. In God’s strength, this burden will be light, but it will still be a burden.
The final chapter is about exchanging the good for the best. DeYoung points to the famous story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha’s home (Luke 10). Here Martha hosts and serves while Mary sits at Jesus’s feet and listens to his teaching. Martha complains that her sister ought to be helping her but Jesus responds that Mary has chosen the better thing. To be clear, Jesus is not saying that being busy in the service of others is bad. Rather, he is saying that we need to have right priorities; we need to be oriented correctly. Jesus himself needs to be our highest priority, our main and central focus, around and after which all other things must fall into their proper place. The lesson is not that we should be seeking to get out of serving others, but rather that service and busyness must not be our primary focus. Our relationship with God must be first and foremost; we must learn to sit at the feet of Jesus. Only then will we be in the right place to go about all that we have to do. DeYoung calls Christians to carve out time for devotions, personal Bible study and prayer. After all, the Christian life is a relationship with our Heavenly Father and with our Lord, through the Spirit, and for this relationship to thrive, we must purposefully spend time with God. DeYoung ends this chapter and the entire book with this worthy wisdom:
“It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”