David Murray

Professor, Pastor, Author

God's Idea of a Happy Meal

When you eat of the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

 (Psalm 128:2)

Here is God’s idea of a happy meal and it’s a much healthier happiness than the usual box of carbs and sugar. Although it doesn’t include a plastic pink mermaid, it has much deeper and longer-lasting pleasures. So what makes such plain fare taste so good?

God has given work: The godly woman sits down at the meal table and thanks God for occupying her hands, for giving her work, and the ability to do it.

God has given work that pays: The working man rejoices that he is not a slave and that his daily labor results in daily pay.

God has given food to purchase: What use is money if the store shelves are empty? The believer knows there are places where shortages are common and therefore sees rows of varied breads as the gift of God.

God has given efficient means to cook it: He doesn’t need to hunt for wood, start a fire, and wait for hours. He turns on the electricity or pops something into the microwave and a few beeps later, a tasty meal is ready.

God has given the appetite for it: Anyone who’s spent even a few days without an appetite will tell you what a misery it is. You have to eat but you can’t eat. The godly woman therefore rejoices for every hunger-pang.

God has given a body that can process and use it: When you pop a potato in your mouth, multiple internal factories start whirring to receive and process the food for the good of our body.

God strengthens for the next day of labor: ”It shall be well with you.” Future tense because food not only refreshes from the toils of today but strengthens for tomorrow’s tasks too.

God gives good company: Have a read of the whole Psalm to appreciate the domestic harmony at this dinner table. No home alone for this man. His table is adorned with a loving wife and lively children.

God gives a taste of heaven: As heaven is often portrayed as banquet, every happy meal is a little foretaste of a happy heaven, with the whole person being satisfied and nourished. That’s a happy meal that will never end,

God gives all this to the undeserving: Knowing that all he deserves is eternal hunger and eternal thirst in eternal misery in eternal hell, the Christian tastes mercy in every morsel, grace in every glass, happiness in every hoagie. He tastes and sees that God is good, who trusts in Him is blessed.

When you eat of the labor of your hands,
You shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

 (Psalm 128:2)

New Student Tips

For most High Schoolers, Mom is their calendar. She keeps track of classes, school trips, holidays, doctor visits, swimming club, etc.

Then students go to college, and chaos ensues as Mom steps back. Students start forgetting classes, missing meetings, double-booking swimming and volleyball, running late for just about everything, and just being in a constant tizzy.

The answer is not the back of your hand or blizzards of post-it notes. The answer is a calendar, ideally a digital one.

OS_X_Calendar copy

There are multiple calendar apps and services out there, but the two standouts are Google calendar or Apple’s iCal for Mac users. Whatever you choose, make sure your calendar has the following features:

1. Cross-platform syncing. You need your calendar to sync across multiple devices so that you can enter events and access your calendar wherever you are and whatever device you’re working on - cellphone, Tablet, PC or laptop.

2. Notifications. When you enter an event you should usually set up a notification as well, so that the calendar will send you an email, a beep, or a buzz a specified number of minutes beforehand.

3. Year, Month, Week, and Day Views. Sometimes you need to drill down to a specific day to see what you are doing at 12 noon. Other times you need to see the week on one page to identify areas of over-scheduling or perhaps areas where you can schedule study time.

4. Color coding. You may want to assign color coding for different kinds of events – classes, sport, church, etc. You definitely want to color code study time so that you can see at a glance if you are allocating enough hours to assignments and exam prep.

5. Start and finish times. You need the facility to enter start and finish times so that it blocks off a visible portion of your calendar and you don’t schedule anything to begin before the previous event ends.

6. Location. Classes take place in different buildings. Games and competitions vary their venues. You want a calendar that lets you enter where as well as when.

7. Sharing. This is not a must-have, but eventually (we hope) you will have a significant other in your life and you’ll want (I hope) him or her to know where you are and when you are available. It’s therefore helpful to have the ability to share calendars. And if you’ve got nothing to hide (!) why not make it available to your parents too, so that they can schedule family events and trips with you.

Let me finish up with a few extra tips.

1. Enter the event as soon as you can. Don’t wait until later and hope you’ll remember to enter it and get all the details right. Just get into the habit of entering the data immediately.

2. Schedule everything. It’s tempting to just schedule classes and other events that you must attend. However, unless you schedule some of the more optional events – they probably won’t happen. For example, you should schedule blocks in your calendar for studying, for exercise, for friends.

3. Schedule margin. Don’t schedule events so close that you are always rushing from one thing to another. Estimate how long it will take you and then add some margin to allow for traffic, unplanned conversations, etc.

4. Use small blocks. The best studying gets done in large uninterrupted blocks of time. So, where you see these possibilities in your calendar, mark them down. Then you’ll see other bits and pieces – 30 minutes here, 40 minutes there – what should you do with them? These are valuable but easily wasted time slots. Without undermining what I said about allowing for margin, you may want to use some of these 20-30 minute blocks for the multiple small to-dos of each day like email, phone calls, errands, etc. Don’t shorten, interrupt, and waste substantial study time blocks with these little things.

5. Check your calendar. No point in going to all the bother of entering all that data and then not checking it. Don’t just rely on the beep or the buzz a few minutes beforehand. Every Saturday evening or Monday morning you should look at the week ahead and make sure you have a good sense of what’s planned. Then every evening, check for the next day’s events and plan accordingly.

6. Accountability. It’s a good idea to ask someone to look at your calendar from time to time to see if you are using time well. Ask someone who is well-organized and self-disciplined to take a look and offer advice.

Other Resources

New Student Tip #1: Dropbox

New Student Tip #2: Wunderlist

New Student Tip #3: Evernote

New Student Tip #4: Diigo

New Student Tip #5: Lastpass

Thriving at College by Alex Chediak (for students)

Preparing Your Teens For College by Alex Chediak (for parents of students)

Top 10 Books for Students

What I Wish I'd Been Taught at School

My high school years were pretty disastrous – not just academically but morally and spiritually too. As I look back, I take a large part of the blame for that; I made so many wrong and foolish decisions about friends, money, relationships, media, and entertainment. I ended up leaving school one year early, and it wasn’t until my early twenties, after I was converted, that education became so important to me. A late starter, you might say.

However, I believe I can honestly say that the education system was partly to blame for my 12 year educational wilderness – with one or two exceptions, the subjects, the teachers, and the style of teaching were just so utterly boring and totally impractical.

When I look back, I can hardly believe what we wasted our time upon:

  • English books that seemed to have been chosen for maximum profanity and obscurity
  • Math teachers waffling on about weird things like sine, cos, and tan but nothing about money and personal finance
  • History courses that delved deep into a couple of insignificant events (Skara Brae anyone) but didn’t touch either of the Great Wars and gave no sense at all of an overall timeline of history.
  • Geography that studied the clouds and river bends but left us without a clue about where different countries (even our own) were located on the globe.
  • Science that was big on dry theory and tiny on the wonder of the world on the micro or macro levels.
  • Music classes where the most music we were allowed to make was with a triangle.

But what annoys me even more than what we did spend time on is what we DIDN’T spend time on. I spent thousands of hours in school and yet never learned:

Personal finance: Not even the basics of saving, mortgages, budgeting, life assurance, pensions, etc.

Time management: Not one lesson on how to plan a weekly calendar, or how to assign different work for different sized time blocks, or what times are best for what work, etc.

Organization: Filing, office management, To-do lists, and so on.

Study techniques: Not one lesson or note-taking or preparing for exams.

Public speaking: Never gave one speech in my whole school career. Never had any coaching on communication skills or making a presentation.

Reading: We were weighed down with plenty books but given no idea how to read efficiently and retentively.

Leadership: Taking initiative, delegation, mentoring, chairing meetings, were all completely untouched.

Conflict resolution: How to prevent conflicts, how to manage them, how to negotiate, how to compromise, how to confront wrong, how to reconcile? Not a clue on any of these.

Mental health: Nothing, absolutely nothing on danger signs to look out for in oneself and others, how to take preventative action, or how to recover from major crises, losses, and disappointments. I’d like to see CBT taught in every school.

Basic Housekeeping: Just the basics of how to paint, wire a plug, change a wheel, saw in a straight line, etc.

Personal Fitness: I stand in front of these machines in the gym and haven’t the first idea what to do with them. I’m still not sure I could tell you where my biceps are (or if I have any at all).

Teaching: How to teach!

When I left school, the cutting edge of technology was the Sinclair ZX81. I believe things have moved on a bit since then, making the world slightly more complicated. So today I’d also want multiple lessons on digital health.

I think things have improved somewhat in some schools over the years, but there are still huge gaps of basic practical living and vocational skills that no amount of algebra, physics, history, and psychology can make up for.

With all the inertia, vested interests, and stagnant thinking in the educational system, I know it will probably take another 40-50 years to see a more practical and useful curriculum containing some of these subjects. However, it would be great if our more passionate and innovative teachers would try to work some of these things into existing curricula.

You might end up with less people like me.

What subjects do you wish were taught at school? What subjects would you drop or reduce?

In this video, I discuss five important questions I ask early on when counseling someone with depression.

They are:

1. Do you accept you have a problem?

2. Are you willing to explore all dimensions of this problem?

3. Do you want to be made whole?

4. Are you willing to explore all possible solutions?

5. Do you trust me when I tell you there is hope for recovery?

You can see other short videos from the Christians Get Depressed Too video series here or view five feature length documentaries here.

About David Murray

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He blogs at HeadHeartHand . and you can follow him on Twitter @DavidPMurray .

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