Determining Our Priorities

"Determining our priorities" by Claire McGarry (

Copyright 2017 Claire McGarry. All rights reserved.

During the summer, I found that magical place where people and relaxation mattered more than paper and to-do lists. Like Psalm 24:3-4 says, it felt like I did go up to the mountain of the Lord, and spent time in His holy place. I rested. I relaxed. I rejuvenated. I reconnected with my kids. It was heavenly!

I really wanted to slowly rev up, gently step back into the school year. I wanted to keep that same sense of peace I had discovered while relaxing on my back deck.

Instead, one day I was reading my Bible on comfy furniture out in the fresh air, the next I was driving around like a crazy lady taking my kids to the dentist and multiple schools to meet their new teachers. The teacher “meet and greet” was so utterly chaotic, one frazzled mom actually rear ended my minivan in the mania of it all.

A few days later, when I finally found a second to further reflect on Psalm 24, God highlighted the error of my ways. The phrase “who has not given his soul to useless things, what is vain” jumped right off the page. I had done it again: just a few days into the school year and I had already filled the hours to overflowing, giving my soul to useless things.

Yes, it is important to communicate with teachers, make medical appointments,  and complete tasks our bosses assign to us. It’s also important to do them to the best of our ability. But there’s a difference between doing a good job and giving up our souls.

Doing a good job includes boundaries: knowing how to pace ourselves, knowing where to draw the line to determine when enough is enough. Giving our souls to useless things means we don’t draw boundaries; we don’t know when to stop. We continue to chip away at what needs to get done, without taking a break to refuel and rejuvenate. It also means we tend to waste time on what we think is important, when, in the grand scheme of things, some of those tasks don’t matter at all.

I found the solution in Luke 5:1-11. Despite fishing all night, Peter hadn’t caught a thing. Yet when he followed Jesus’ command and put out his net, it began to tear with all the fish he caught.

Fishing was Peter’s livelihood. Without a doubt, it mattered. But Peter wasn’t going about it the right way. He was doing it HIS way, and was coming up empty. But the minute He listened to Jesus, and did it JESUS’ way, he had success beyond belief.

It helped me realize I had it all backwards too. Over the summer, I had first created the calm and space by clearing my schedule. Then I had turned to my Bible and God to be refilled. The order really needs to be the reverse: Scripture and God first, then everything else after.

If I meet with God daily, He’ll tell me what tasks need to get done, their priority, and how to efficiently accomplish them. He’ll also be my job coach and life coach, all rolled into one: helping me to define boundaries so I know when enough is enough.

If we focus our hearts, souls and minds on God, our vision becomes clear. We suddenly see what truly needs to get done, and what is just hype. Moreover, when we follow through on what does need to get done, we’ll be doing it His way, and with right intention: a prayer in and of itself.

Copyright 2017 Claire McGarry


About Author

Claire McGarry is the author of the Lenten devotional "With Our Savior," published by Creative Communications for the Family/Bayard, Inc. and All is Blessing: Finding God in the Tensions of Life, to be published by Our Sunday Visitor in the fall of 2021. Her freelance work has appeared in various Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Focus on the Family magazine, Catechist magazine, These Days devotional, and Keys for Kids devotional. The founder of MOSAIC of Faith, a ministry with several different programs for mothers and children, she blogs at Shifting My Perspective.


  1. Thanks, Kerry! Now I just need to follow my own advice. Seems that’s a daily battle, especially in this back-to-school chaos. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. 🙂

  2. The small reminder I needed to push back
    From the back to school crazy….thank you Claire. Each day is new and luckily I get to start again if I let it overwhelm.

  3. I REALLY like that idea, Liz: that each day is a new opportunity to start again. That gives me the hope that I need for the bad days when I forget to start with God. On those days, when everything goes awry, I forget that He always gives second chances, and third, and fourth… Thanks so much for that reminder!

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