Why We All Need A Program To Follow

Cover of "The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5...

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Four Hour Work Week

Core Performance

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Total Money Makeover

These are just a few of the programs that I have enlisted in over the years to be intentional about change or improvement. This winter and spring, I have followed Peter Walsh into what our family has called “The Big Clean” as we attempt to organize our house and schedules. I function better when I have a program to follow. Some people need to hire someone but I can usually just get a book and give it a shot.

That is why I have set up 23 Things. I realized that there may be other people like me who need something to follow, need something to track daily, need to see a plan that has a beginning, middle, and end. I know, this makes me a very linear person but even the most non-linear people I have met (artist, musicians, etc.) do better when they have a plan to follow, even if that plan is just devoting a weekend to a project instead of constant starts and stops.

Even if  you are not following 23 Things, find a plan that will bring you closer to God. Bible reading plans are in abundance and daily devotionals make reflecting on God and scripture doable and easy. You could create an RSS feed so that your favorite spiritual blogs and sermons are sent to your email. Read one daily and find a point of action. The possibilities are endless. It just takes a few moments on the front end to make a plan and then six weeks later you have learned and done more than you thought you could and with the help of the Holy Spirit, you have become more like Christ.

Re-Hacked #3: Why Your Current Plan For Spiritual Growth Doesn’t Work

To mark the one-year anniversary of the beginning of this blog, I am re-posting some of my favorite posts from the past year. This post first appeared on June 7.

Dieting with just the notion of eating better doesn’t have deep impact, you must have a plan. Going to the gym and working out without a set idea about what areas you need to work on will result in little overall improvement. And learning a language by just opening up a non-translated book will not get you very far if you have not created a method to learn the language. How far does your money go if you don’t have a budget?

The reason that most of our current plans for spiritual growth do not work is because we have no plan for spiritual growth. Some days we pray a little, some days we read our Bible, some days we sing a few praise songs, and some days we forget all together. But there is no regular pattern, no plan, nothing written down that holds us accountable and reminds us of what we are trying to accomplish. Often times, we are not lacking in good intentions but we fail to put those intentions into action. A strategy for spiritual growth will serve as a motivation tool for us and keep us out of the haphazard practices that often fail.

In this space, I have recommended and detailed the Spiritual Enrichment Workout. When completed, this only takes 15-20 minutes and covers scripture readingprayer, worship, and silence. You can choose to follow this plan or create one on your own but the point is to have a plan for spiritual growth. If you don’t, you will have the same frustrating experiences that have marked many of our half-hearted attempts at getting healthier or learning a new skill. I know it doesn’t sound very spiritual to be regimented about your spiritual life but Christian history dating back to Jesus has shown us example after example of the value of intentional spiritual practices and strategies.

My Daily Routine

I am always reluctant to tell others about my morning routine. I think I am embarrassed by how early I get up and how regimented that I am. I think that it will discourage others from pursuing spiritual things because they will think that they have to get up as early as I do. I know, I know, I sound self absorbed but these are the thoughts that run through my brain when I am telling others about when I pray and read scripture. So, I am just going to lay it out there for you. You can pass judgement however you wish. But, I do hope that you will see how intentional I have to be in order to spend time with God and that sacrifices have to be made in order to make it happen. Below you will find my best case scenario for my morning routine. It seldom happens exactly this way but this is the ideal scenario.

4:50 – Alarm goes off

5:00 – Wake up and eat a snack

5:10 – Work out

5:30 – Spiritual Enrichment Program (prayer, scripture reading, silence, devotional and spiritual living reading)

6:00 – Writing For Blog

6:35-6:40 – Soaking in Tub (I use this time for more prayer and meditation on God)

6:40 – Get ready for work

7:30 – Leave for work (listen to a podcast related to whatever I am reading at the time)

Lunch break – Read a biography, memoir, or autobiography on spiritual figure in a location that is not my office.

Drive home – Listen to music. I find that this helps me wind down from work and often is good for my soul.

Nightly reading (this rarely happens) – Read from the same book that I read from during my lunch breaks

11:00 – Try to be in bed by this time. I go to sleep thinking about things in my day that I can be happy and thankful about.

This is not a formula and everyone will be different but I hope that you do not copy this arrangement as much as you maybe draw inspiration from it. With this arrangement, I am able to read two books at a time, exercise, write a blog, spend time in God’s word (not enough though), and pray. But, I often sleep past five, get distracted by the internet, put too much emphasis on reading books over reading the Bible and pray in a rush. I am not perfect but this arrangement has given me some very beneficial times with God and opportunities to learn more about him.

What can you change about your schedule to give you more opportunity for time with God and spiritual growth?

Best of Christian Life Hacker: Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

Since the past month and a half has been pretty intense here on Christian Life Hacker, I thought it might be good to revisit some of the posts that epitomize the Christian Life Hacker faith style.  This post talks about how passive barriers can derail our spiritual life and how to overcome them:

Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

I have recently come across some personal finance articles that discuss how passive barriers prevent people from making effective choices with their money. A passive barrier is an inconvenience in our life that makes doing what we know we need to do more difficult.

For example, the other day I was going to workout during my lunch break but I forgot to bring a change of socks and since I dreaded to spend the rest of the day with sweaty dress socks, I said forget it. At our house, we never seem to have stamps when we need them and so things that need to be mailed often sit for days because we are too lazy or forgetful about picking up more stamps.

Spiritual examples in my life includes times when I didn’t feel like walking to the other side of the house to find my Bible; times I didn’t feel like taking the extra fifteen seconds to say a prayer with my kids before going to bed; or how meaningless internet activity seems to crowd out the opportunity to send an encouraging email to a friend.

Here are three easy steps to remove passive barriers from your life:

1. Track your life. For one day, pay attention to your most common routines. Is the first place you go to in the morning your coffee pot? Do you spend the majority of your day in front of a computer? Do you enjoy sitting on your back porch each evening? Track your routines and start strategically placing spiritual materials in these locations. I know of people who write scripture verses on bathroom mirrors using dry erase markers. I read of one couple who found a shower curtain with a map of the world on it so they would continually pray for the world. Place your Bible next to your computer or on your dinner table. Make it convenient to read.

2. Tell others. I am constantly trying new diets, exercise plans, and spiritual practices but I never bother to tell my wife what I am doing. Then I get annoyed with her when she messes up my plans or activities. How was she supposed to know what I was doing? By telling others that you are trying to remove passive barriers to your spiritual life, they can help you by not putting your Bible away when they are straightening up or not turning on the TV when they know you are trying to spend a few quiet moments in prayer.

3. Make a God spot. I talked about this idea last week but I think it is a great way of removing passive barriers. When you set a particular location as where you go daily for prayer or scripture reading you are developing a habit that will trigger spiritual activities and thoughts about God. Don’t be ashamed if your God spot changes; I can think of three locations in our house that I have used as a God spot.

Don’t start this week by letting the slightest things keep you from spending time with God. Make a few simple changes and let God have a more prominent place in your life.

Best of Christian Life Hacker – Quiet Time Has Got To Go

Since the past month and a half has been pretty intense here on Christian Life Hacker, I thought it might be good to revisit some of the posts that epitomize the Christian Life Hacker faith style. This is one of the first post from back in December:

Quiet Time Has Got To Go

I have a confession to make. I don’t have a quiet time. That’s right, the standard for evangelical spiritual growth is not in my vocabulary. Not because I dislike the idea of having a time of the day set aside for being quiet but because the term “quiet time” has turned into something powerless and reeks of church speak (terms that have very little meaning outside the church).

I am sorry, but my time spent talking to, listening to, and learning about God and his kingdom needs a term that packs a little more punch than “quiet time”. This term sounds like something I would do to my daughters to punish them or settle them down before bed.

Also, for anyone who has grown up in the church, the term has been used so frequently and with such “preachiness” that it instantly conjures up feelings of guilt in individuals who have failed to live up to all the requirements of a ‘quiet time’ (at least 15 minutes, first thing in the morning, chapter a day, etc.). I don’t know if I can come up with a better term, but the one that I have started using is “Spiritual Enrichment”.

To me, the term Spiritual Enrichment accomplishes two things. First, it helps explain the goal of the activity – to grow, to be enriched, improved. Second, it reminds us that what we are doing during this time is a spiritual activity and not just a time when we try to be alone with our Bible open. We are spiritual beings, that is part of the life that God breathed into us in the Garden of Eden and later at Pentecost. Evangelicals get nervous when talk turns too spiritual but denying our non-physical side is denying what makes humans unique and what made God so proud in creating us.

So, on this blog at least we will not use the term “quiet time” but will replace the idea with the term Spiritual Enrichment. I am not sold on this term so if anyone else has an idea on what we can call it please let me know.

Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

I have recently come across some personal finance articles that discuss how passive barriers prevent people from making effective choices with their money. A passive barrier is an inconvenience in our life that makes doing what we know we need to do more difficult.

For example, the other day I was going to workout during my lunch break but I forgot to bring a change of socks and since I dreaded to spend the rest of the day with sweaty dress socks, I said forget it. At our house, we never seem to have stamps when we need them and so things that need to be mailed often sit for days because we are too lazy or forgetful about picking up more stamps.

Spiritual examples in my life includes times when I didn’t feel like walking to the other side of the house to find my Bible; times I didn’t feel like taking the extra fifteen seconds to say a prayer with my kids before going to bed; or how meaningless internet activity seems to crowd out the opportunity to send an encouraging email to a friend.

Here are three easy steps to remove passive barriers from your life:

1. Track your life. For one day, pay attention to your most common routines. Is the first place you go to in the morning your coffee pot? Do you spend the majority of your day in front of a computer? Do you enjoy sitting on your back porch each evening? Track your routines and start strategically placing spiritual materials in these locations. I know of people who write scripture verses on bathroom mirrors using dry erase markers. I read of one couple who found a shower curtain with a map of the world on it so they would continually pray for the world. Place your Bible next to your computer or on your dinner table. Make it convenient to read.

2. Tell others. I am constantly trying new diets, exercise plans, and spiritual practices but I never bother to tell my wife what I am doing. Then I get annoyed with her when she messes up my plans or activities. How was she supposed to know what I was doing? By telling others that you are trying to remove passive barriers to your spiritual life, they can help you by not putting your Bible away when they are straightening up or not turning on the TV when they know you are trying to spend a few quiet moments in prayer.

3. Make a God spot. I talked about this idea last week but I think it is a great way of removing passive barriers. When you set a particular location as where you go daily for prayer or scripture reading you are developing a habit that will trigger spiritual activities and thoughts about God. Don’t be ashamed if your God spot changes; I can think of three locations in our house that I have used as a God spot.

Don’t start this week by letting the slightest things keep you from spending time with God. Make a few simple changes and let God have a more prominent place in your life.

Three Steps To A God Drenched Day

A 2008 study from researchers at Northeastern University monitored the cell phone signals of 100,000 Americans. The study was intended to track the movements of humans throughout their daily lives. Published in Nature, the study showed that humans are very predictable in their daily movements. They visit the same places around the same time each and every day.

I thought it was just me who was attached to a schedule but apparently a majority of our society structures their day around a pattern of activity. We could say that habits of time and place are a part of the way that God created us.

The question becomes for those of us who are interested in Christian spiritual growth, how can we make God just as much a part of our daily routine as taking a shower and drinking a cup of coffee? Let me offer a few ideas to spark a more God drenched daily life:

Step One: Begin and end everyday with a prayer of thanks and gratitude toward God. Most of us either choose our mornings to pray or our evenings. Why not make a point to pray at each of these moments of the day. Just a simple one sentence prayer of thanksgiving will do. What a great way to bracket your daily routine.

Step Two: Set up a God spot. If you have kids you probably have used some variation of the Time Out or Naughty Spot technique of discipline. You have set up a spot where your kids must visit when they are in trouble. Why not designate a spot in your house that is reserved for Bible reading and prayer. It doesn’t have to include anything fancy such as candles, incense, or religious imagery, it just needs to be a set spot that you go to whenever you are praying or reading scripture.

Step Three: Include your family or roommates. Think about how natural it is for many of us to pray together before eating. My kids throw a fit when we forget to pray with them before going to bed.  There is strength in numbers and a completely isolated spiritual life will be a limited spiritual life. Maybe spouses could pray together before going to bed or someone could be designated to read a scripture at the dinner table. My wife always prays with our girls before they go to school. Make reading scripture, praying, and talking about God as common as “How was your day?” and “Let me tell you what I want for my birthday.”

Change can come in our lives when we begin to restructure our daily existence around our priorities to begin to live more like Jesus.