What My Obsessive Nature Says About My Spiritual Life

I am a guy who has obsessive tendencies. I once prided myself in reading weekly Sports Illustrated issues cover to cover before the next week’s issue arrived. I had a small transistor radio called the Street Beat that I carried around the house so I wouldn’t miss a pitch of a Texas Rangers’ baseball broadcast. This was done when I was a married man, with kids!

I have listened to everything Tim Bluhm and Mike Roe have ever recorded and obsessed over their best work and most memorable moments. Not a week goes by that I don’t make a reference to Friday Night Lights. I have run four marathons. Is there anything more obsessive than running marathons?

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How has this part of my personality helped my spiritual life?

Loyalty

I think, for one, I am not a binge obsessive. When I get into something, I am loyal to it for a long time. So, If I have a spiritual insight or inspiration, it will stick with me. For example, I have studied, memorized, read, and lived with the Sermon on the Mount for years and years and haven’t gotten tired of it. Parts of Psalm 23 still inspire as if I am reading them for the first time. Same with Colossians 3.

Stick to the Routine

If my routine gets off, it starts to bother me. This kind of rigidity obviously has its problems but also its advantages. If some kind of routine is required or prescribed, I am willing to adhere to it and not deviate. Every day may not be a breakthrough or an epiphany filled experience, but I trust the routine to bring something good coming my way.

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I am  a Completist

I have tried to work on  this and  be willing to not finish certain things but my tendency is to complete anything that I start. This means, that I am able to fight through the emotional roller coaster that often marks the spiritual life. High points and joyous moments are great but if I am unwilling to fight through the frustrating times and the moments of uncertainty, then I wouldn’t be around for the pleasant moments that are waiting on the other side. I have learned to be okay with frustration.

My tendency to obsess over things is sometimes maddening, sometimes unfair to my loved ones, and sometimes a helpful trait to have. God created me in this way for some reason. Maybe, because he knew I might spend an obsessive amount of time writing this blog.

 

 

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You Are Spiritual Whether You Want To Be Or Not

Everyone has a spiritual life. From Donald Trump to a child in the slums of India, we all have unbodily personal power to choose, feel, think, and run our life.

This idea that being spiritual is a description of being disconnected from reality or a little out there is just wrong.

Dallas Willard says that “we are destined for a time when our life will be entirely sustained from spiritual realities and no longer dependent in any way upon the physical.”

If this is true, don’t you think we ought to start working on our spiritual life now? If we don’t acknowledge, nurture, or prepare our spirit now, we will be ill equipped for our unceasing spiritual lives to come. The most spiritual people you know are not the ones who are most willing to read their Bible or attend church, but the men and women who operate out of a power that most resembles the existence, mindset, compassion, and actions of Christ; our spiritual Lord and King.

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Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the words of Jesus:

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

According to this passage, our spiritual life is essential to us entering the kingdom of God. Our spirit must be birthed from the Spirit of God. And, the spiritual is not something that can be measured or tracked like the wind can, it must be experienced personally.

When you hear people like me going on and on about the spiritual life, know that we are not discussing something that is beyond the scope of the words of Jesus or the very heart of scripture. You are a spiritual being that is inhabiting the physical and, if you are a follower of Christ, a spiritual kingdom that requires you to spiritually Grow Up.

photo credit: Michael Foley

How Would Jesus Use A Smart Phone?

Just as hurry has made the present a place that few people are satisfied living in, technology and its communicative ability to transport us digitally someplace else and with someone else has made us more and more distant from the people who may need us right where we are.

Mark Galli, in a piece entitled “Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?” expounds on this point, “I often find myself so drawn to my Blackberry and laptop that I fail to be present with the flesh and blood person who is standing before me. I look at them and pretend like I’m listening, but my mind strains to get back to my email. The technology is obviously undermining my ability to be present in an embodied way to the real person in front of me.” [i]

Have you ever noticed how much Jesus, as presented in the Gospel, never seems to lose sight of the present moment? Consider the story of Jesus when his mother and siblings are trying to reach him (Mark 3:31-35) or the way the story of the healing of Jairus’ daughter progresses (Mark 5:21-43). Jesus is never in a hurry and never loses sight of an opportunity to minister in the very present moment.


[i] Galli, Mark. “Does Twitter Do Us Any Good?” Christianity Today 4 June 2009. Web.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Make Spiritual Goals Stick

Why do so many New Year’s Resolutions fail? Because most of the people who make them change nothing about their life in order to reach their goal. You might be saying, “Isn’t change what all resolutions are all about?”

The path that most people take when adopting a New Year’s Resolution is to make it about more – more Bible reading, more time with family, more exercise, more prayer, etc. All of these are admirable but what happens when you go and implement this plan of more without first

evaluating the status of other areas of your life. The reason people cannot sustain their resolutions is because they try to stack their resolution on top of the normalcy of the rest of their life.

So, Bible reading becomes about getting up 15 minutes earlier, time with family becomes about forced activity when you have no energy at the end of the day, exercise becomes about joining a gym, and prayer becomes about buying a book or a journal to write your prayers in. Do you see the pattern here? Piling on activities, throwing money at things, and adding products only adds more stuff and complexity to your life.

The best resolutions should be to determine what I need to eliminate from my life so that I have more time for Bible reading, prayer, exercise, and family activity. Where do I get the most distracted? Does my time and my commitments need to be overhauled so I have room for the things that really matter and will give me the most fulfillment? New Year’s Resolutions fail because they are seen as addendums to our life instead of priorities that need to reshape many of our other commitments.

Make a plan today to cut out a distraction from your life and open up some space for God or an important change in your life. Here are a few things that I do to keep me out of the “more trap”:

  • Only check email and texts twice a day
  • Never read more than two books at a time
  • Keep the Sabbath
  • Periodically fast from technology
  • Never trust how schedules look on paper; anything can look doable on paper
  • I don’t own a cell phone
  • limit TV watching to 1 hour per night
  • go outside

The Focus of Christians Should Be The Heart

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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If you are a pastor and you want to get your name and face on TV just start criticizing everything around you in culture. You will get carted out in front of the cameras and show up on TV talk shows. Unfortunately, the minute you do this will be the minute that you cease to be a proclaimer of the gospel and instead become a political figure.

Jesus, for all of his countercultural sensibilities, was not a political figure and never even appeared to be one. He said that he came into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17).

His people, the Israelites, during his lifetime, were ruled by the tyrannical Caesars of Rome. The Israelites were the chosen people of God and yet they had the unclean Roman Gentiles occupying their land, taxing their finances and ruling in their holy city. The Jewish people in Jesus’ day could not have been more opposed to anything as they were the Romans and their power over them yet Jesus says nothing about the issue and even shrugs off a question about what belongs to Ceasar so he could make another point about the spiritual life. Jesus’ harshest criticism was not for governments or cultural evils but for hypocrisy and limited faith.

Jesus was much more concerned about transforming hearts than transforming political establishments. Perhaps it is time that Christians take a step back and quit placing the microscope on politicians, Hollywood, and Homosexuals and instead place it on their own hearts. It is in the heart where Christ does his best work.

Running the Race: Feeling God’s Pleasure

Ian Charleson (foreground) and Ben Cross (left...

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On Dec. 4 I will run in the White Rock Marathon in Dallas. Once a week, I will provide my observations on the connection between the spiritual life and training to run a marathon. Please visit my White Rock fundraising page to honor my daughter and contribute to a great cause.

St. Irenaeus once said that, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” When I am running, I can’t help but think about this quote. Though there are times during training when I feel like I am dying there are also times when I feel more alive than ever. The breeze is blowing, my heart is racing, my legs keep churning, and my mind is alert to my surroundings. I am fully engaged in the moment and nothing is distracting my focus other than getting one foot to move in front of the other.

There is a famous line from Chariots of Fire where Eric Liddell says that when he runs he “feels God’s pleasure.” I can’t tell you that I have reached such spiritual heights in my life but the sense of aliveness that I get when running is getting me closer to feeling God’s pleasure.

When Jesus says that he has come to bring us life and life more abundantly, he is not just talking about eternal life. He is talking about an existence right now that is full of the light of the world. I want my life to be this abundant and full of light. When I run, I am learning more and more what this Christian life can look like.

Announcement: Christian Life Hacker Marathon Challenge

On December 4, I will be running in my first marathon. That is, if all goes well in my training. But I am off to a good start.

I am running the White Rock Marathon in Dallas. Besides the personal pride and achievement associated with running 26.2 miles, I am also running because the main beneficiary of the proceeds from the White Rock go to the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. My daughter, Joy, has gone to Scottish Rite since she was a year old and they have treated her for infantile scoliosis. I am hoping to raise at least $250 dollars for Scottish Rite. You can visit my fundraising page here: http://www.runtherock.com/donate/?kwoAdvocateId=3ZAZJX3

If you have been reading Christian Life Hacker for very long you will recognize that I make a lot of parallels between exercise and our spiritual life. Ever since I read Dallas Willard’s chapter on the body in his magnificent book, Renovation of the Heart, I have been fascinated by the body and it’s connection to the spiritual life and vice versa. So, once a week, on this blog, I will chronicle my marathon training and note any insights I have found regarding my spiritual life. I think that this goal will be both a physical, emotional, and spiritual test that God will play a key role in.

Wish me luck and please donate to Scottish Rite here. 

Making All Things New – Hacked

Henri Nouwen, for all of his scholarship and academic pedigree, was a master at taking aspects of the spiritual life and making them accessible and appealing. I have read his book, The Way of the Heart, many times and his Return of the Prodigal Son is one of my all time favorite books. I have recently completed reading Making All Things New and would highly recommend it as an introduction to the spiritual life and to the use of two important disciplines – solitude and community. I have provided my summary notes below so that you also can draw key insights from this book.

Our Present State

– We all share the same human condition

– Resignation of our spiritual state keeps us from growing

– Our occupations and preoccupations fill our external and internal lives to the brim and leave no room for God

Setting Our Hearts On the Kingdom of God

– A heart set on the Kingdom of God is a heart set on the spiritual life

– Jesus was concerned with one thing: to do the will of his father

– Everything that belongs to Jesus is given for us to receive. John 15:15

– Kingdom of God = rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us

– In the Kingdom, everything is a gift or challenge that strengthens and deepens our new life.

– Hearts set on the kingdom = worries will slowly move to the background

Spiritual Disciplines

– Spiritual Disciplines allow us to become attentive to the voice of God and respond to it

– God constantly speaks but we seldom hear it.

Solitude

– If God is who he says he is then he deserves our undivided attention

– We often use our outer distractions to shield us from interior noises

– We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside time to be with God and listen to him.

– A day without solitude is less spiritual than a day with it.

– To fight distractions, use scripture as a way to focus.

– Solitude= living active lives in the world while remaining always in the presence of God

Community

– True community – always reveals to us who we are before God.

– Community is obedience practiced together

Conclusion

– Through solitude and community we try to remove the many obstacles which prevent us from listening to God’s voice.

– Spiritual Life – active presence of God’s Spirit in the midst of a worry filled existence

– If we are faithful to our disciplines, a new hunger will make itself known. First, we will start to recognize God’s presence. Then we will be led deeper into the Kingdom of God. Finally, all thing will begin to be made new.