Routine Matters

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Time is elusive. We never seem to have enough of it. How many times do deadlines sneak up on us? Vacations slip by before we’ve truly begun to relax? A year is gone in the blink of an eye and we realize we haven’t accomplished what we had hoped.

Deep down, we know that time is not the real culprit. We too often fail to make ourselves accountable for how we spend our time. That is why I have worked to build routines into my life.

The word “routine” often evokes the image of being stuck in a rut. That’s not what I’m referring to.  Routine for me is the habits I create in my life so that I do what is truly important first, and consistently rather than scrambling trying to figure out how to fit them in.

The purpose of the routine is to help me, not to make me a slave to its rigid demands. In the past, I failed to allow for flexibility and would feel like a failure if I missed a day. Now I realize that there are times and seasons where things are just not going to go the way you want and that is ok! The routine helps me achieve what is truly important and to grow in the areas I need to grow.

It is so easy to go through life without ever stopping to take stock of what we truly are aiming to accomplish. What relationships we want to develop. How can we better build God’s Kingdom? Are we living with integrity? Are we actually happy? Satisfied? Fulfilled?

The most important things for me is creating built in time to spend with Jesus and studying His Word. Working to stay healthy physically. Reading books to help me grow both spiritually and as a leader. Building stronger relationships, both in ministry and personally.

Why is it important for me to identify that? Because it’s so easy to wake up, lazily check my phone, shower, rush off to work, come home, watch tv until I go to bed. In fact, that might be my default setting. Unfortunately, I know that if I live my life in such a manner I will not grow into the person I want to become. I will be lazy, overweight, isolated, spiritually weak and for sure not live with the character I want to live.

I refuse to let my default setting dictate how I will spend my time. I will choose to invest in my life by doing things that will help me be healthy, spiritually, physically and in my soul. This means I can’t always do “what I want” because what I want has gotten in the way of my true and deepest desires long enough.

Remember, routines are not one size fits all. I’m not suggesting that you should do what I do, however, I am hoping that by letting you in on how I spend my time, you might be encouraged to think about what you truly want and what habits can help you get there.

I am in the process of evaluating my routines, so what I am about to share my change even within the month, but this is what I’m aiming for right now. I set my alarm for 6am. I take a few minutes to wake up, drink water, stretch a little and make coffee. Next, I take an hour or so to pray, read my Bible, Journal. I don’t have a set pattern for that time, but every morning I will accomplish those elements in some capacity. Finally, I hit the gym, shower and head to work.

I start my evening routine around 8pm. I turn off all entertainment, turn on my worship music and prepare to spend a little bit of time just worshipping and reading. I am always reading a leadership book and a spiritual growth book. I don’t try to read excessively,  only a minimum of 5 pages in each. If I am really enjoying it, I’ll read more. But if I can stick to just 5 pages in each, I can usually read them both in pretty close to a month. After reading I will sit for a few minutes and try to write. Sometimes it’s easy and words pour out and other times it feels impossible. But I am committed because I have found that writing helps me clarify my thoughts, stirs up my creativity and makes me feel useful and I find that very satisfying. Finally, I will get in bed and read a little bit in a fiction book before sleep takes me, usually around ten.

The challenge of an evening routine is that if I’m hanging out with people, or busy with church events it’s not possible to have such an extensive ritual before bed. And I’m learning that it is ok. The important thing isn’t that I do the same thing, but I do something healthy rather than unhealthy. Relationship building is another important goal for me, so it is worth exchanging my routine to help build stronger relationships with people.

The important thing is that all of these things, from my routines to spending time with people help fill up my soul and help me find rest in an often noisy and restless world. If you take nothing from this, know that you are the only one who can create space for yourself to rest. It is incredibly important and we all need it. We also all find rest in different ways. Discover what restores your energy and make it apart of your everyday life.

One final point I would like to make is that in this blog, I have talked a lot about what we can add to our routines to help make us more healthy and pursue our goals. Please know that while this does require effort on our part, the most important thing we can do is acknowledge our greatest need is to allow God to work in our lives. We need a deeper relationship with Him above all else. The number one priority in my routines is not to see what I can accomplish in my effort, but to position myself to allow God to work in me.

Let me know in the comments something you truly desire and one habit you can incorporate into your routines to help you meet it.

What Went Wrong?

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It was a sneak attack. It came out of nowhere and left me feeling crippled and unsure of what step to take next. Of course, it didn’t really come out of nowhere, I just refused to pay attention to the warning signs.

I am a positive person, preferring to look on the bright side of any situation. I am quick to tell myself that I will get through this. I am ok. If I can convince myself that I am ok then I will be.

The challenge this time is that I was carrying more than I’d ever carried before. I had just moved 1200 miles away from home. For the first time in my life, one of my parents was dealing with a sudden and life-altering medical crisis and I was powerless to do anything about it or even be there for them due to the distance. Add to that a handful of personal matters that caught me off guard and defied my expectations. I was also starting a new job, learning a new culture, realizing the challenge of maintaining friendships from a distance and didn’t yet have any close friends at my new home. All of this left me with more time on my hands than I’d had before.

In my quest to convince myself I was OK, I did not even realize how much I was walking through and how heavy the burden was. I was circling depression and losing sense of who I was. In my previous season, I was the most confident I had ever been and suddenly I felt like I was losing myself. It is only by the grace of God I didn’t.

When your hurting and feeling isolated, decision making is not as strong as it could be. We tend to choose the easy thing rather than the healthy thing. Grab the oreos and leftover pizza rather than cooking a healthy dinner. Spend a little more time watching television rather than pressing in through prayer and study of scripture. Go to the gym? Not on your life.

Before I moved, the beauty of the routines I had put in place, plus the busyness of my previous job and time spent with very close friends, was that it left little time for entertainment. I appreciate being entertained. Movies, television and an occasional video game (Hello, Kingdom Hearts) can be incredibly enjoyable and relaxing for me. I do, however, think that our entertainment choices should be guarded, both in content and in time consumed. Moderation is king.

When I suddenly had more time on my hands, entertainment began to take over.

Slowly at first. I was overjoyed to have a little more personal time. Honestly, I was tired and needed a little rest. However, as time went on and I began my downward emotional spiral I began losing self-control. My routines began to take a back seat to my own personal comfort.

I knew that the principles of sticking to my routines and seeking Jesus, going to the gym, working to build new relationships would eventually help lift me out of my spiral and lead me back to emotional health, but I didn’t want to do any of that. Eventually, I forced myself to do so and climbed out of the pit, but it took a great deal of intentionality.

On the other side of that, I have come to realize I have been at times a bit too rigid in my routine. There was no room for flexibility. If there wasn’t time to do everything I needed to do, I would be overcome with a sense of failure. If I missed a day I would feel a bit down on myself. Especially with my book reading. I was bent on reading two books each month no matter what. I somewhat enjoy statistics and numbers, so I even had a spreadsheet to tell me how many pages I HAD to read each day to meet my goal. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but once I lose flexibility and fall behind I feel overwhelmed and lose the desire to read at all.

I want to have healthy habits and routines to help me continue to grow, but I don’t want to be so formulaic that it takes all the life out of my time with the Lord and robs me of the joy of learning.

So what will my routines look like in 2019? How will I create room for flexibility? I’ll share my starting point in tomorrow’s post.

In the comments let me know something in the past that went wrong for you.

Daily Pursuit 2.0

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New year. New beginnings. New hopes.

I confess, I have on occasion started off enthusiastically, faltered in the middle and then ended up far less further along than I intended. When we are staring down the barrel of a new year, ahead of us lie endless possibilities. This could be the year we finally get in shape, prioritize our relationships, or get more involved in church.

Alternatively, it could just be a continuation of the same choices you’ve previously made.

Ok. It definitely will be.

Unless you make new choices and make them consistently.

Endings and beginnings have a way of bringing into clarity our shortcomings or successes from the past year. We often realize, “I want to do better next year.” And so we set out with our resolutions and hope to succeed where we have in the past failed.

My challenge always happens when I’m in the midst of the grind. Add some distance from my starting point and everything I’m doing starts to feel a little less important. I fail to consistently remind myself WHY I started doing this in the first place. I allow lower priorities to become more important because… at that moment my desire for instant satisfaction outweighs my desire for discipline.

In the grind, the longterm reward of discipline loses its appeal.

So why will 2019 be different?

I truly believe that God has called us to live “on purpose”.  There is a difference between letting life happen and choosing to live life with intentionality. We get to choose who we will become and we are in control of how we spend our time.

I have in the past discovered the power of self-discipline and pursuing Jesus daily. I set in my life a consistent morning routine that involved of specific time set apart for prayer, scripture, and journaling. Included was also time for reading spiritual growth books and leadership books. I discovered the rewards of working out and eating healthier (sort of healthier anyway). I learned the value of genuine friendships. All of these ingredients working together led to one of the most fulfilled seasons of my life.

However, in the last year, everything about my life has changed. I started a new job, moved to a new state where I knew next to no one. For the first time, I no longer have roommates. All of my closest friends live a great distance away.

Everything changed, except my morning routine. And I hated it.

Over the last several months, my routine became more and more frustrating and ineffective.

I understand that routines are not ONE SIZE FITS ALL. What works for one person likely won’t be an exact match for everyone, but it never occurred to me that what had worked so well for two years would stop being effective.

For me, 2019 means rediscovering the best way to spend my time in the mornings and evenings to best refresh and satisfy my soul. What is the key to renewing my passion to spend time with Jesus? I will be trying some new things and experimenting with the timing of it all.

In the past, when I consistently wrote in this blog, I would take about half an hour every morning and write. I didn’t do that in 2018, however, in 2019 I will be adding some writing time into my evening routine. I don’t know how often I will post, or even exactly what the content will be. I only know that my heart is to pursue Jesus and encourage you to do the same.

No doubt I will continue to discuss scripture and things that the Lord reveals during my personal study, but I also have a feeling things will be a bit more personal this time around.

I hope you will join me during this second iteration of daily pursuits. If you’re in, please subscribe to have these delivered directly to your e-mail. If you’re already subscribed, thank you for your support!

I look forward to growing together and pray that 2019 will be an unprecedented year of personal growth, encounters with God and divine opportunities to demonstrate God’s love to His people.

Happy New Year.

Let me know in the comments one small way you’re going to make 2019 better than last year.

When Things Don’t Work Out

You were so close. Everything you wanted, everything you’d been working for was right within your reach. Then it was gone. You had thought this would be the moment your dreams came true and suddenly things just didn’t work out the way you had expected. We have all experienced varying degrees of this phenomenon. A job that didn’t meet expectations, a sporting event we had expected to dominate, a relationship that fell apart, friends who betrayed us, the list could go on and on.

Expectations get crushed and then comes the hardest part.

Moving forward.

Proverbs 13:12 (NLT) Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

When what we were longing for fails to come to pass we become disheartened, weary and prone to giving up. When we put forth our best efforts and things still don’t work out we begin to question why we should even try. It is at this juncture that our that our future is forged. Will we give in to the weight of failure or shine with resilience.

Recently I experienced a season where it just felt like nothing was working out. I questioned everything. I doubted everything. I felt like giving up, or at the very least wasting all my time with the meaningless, empty things in life. My prayer time was dry, so why pray? I’d read His Word only to feel as if His voice had abandoned me. Sleep seemed to escape me at every turn, I felt restless and void of hope.

Still, I endured. I took stock of what had helped me grow in the past and made myself accountable for how I would spend my time. I limited my time engaging in entertainment and forced myself to persist in prayer and study. It did not seem as though I would ever feel normal again, but I refused to stop.

Eventually breakthrough did come.

If I have one message today, it’s don’t give up.

I don’t do this too often, but I wanted to share an excerpt from my journal. In the midst of my dark season, I wrote this. It started with me just trying to figure out what in the world I’m feeling and turned into a prayer of sorts.  I share in the hopes that if you find yourself in a similar season, you might be encouraged. You are not alone and eventually light will shine through the darkness.

Don’t give up.

Endure.

I’ve always been a positive and healthy person. I’ve experienced painful situations, but throughout I always felt like me. I dealt with them, processed them and moved on. I don’t feel like myself anymore. It’s like my personality is dampened. There are small moments where I feel normal, then they are replaced with feelings of isolation, sadness or anger. Last night I felt healthy. Now, once again my sleep is disrupted and I’m angry. Scared. Lonely. I can’t crawl out of this pit of despair. I’m numb, apathetic and just lost. Hope seems far away and I don’t know where to turn. Is this depression? Is this normal? Am I just broken? I’m not myself, this is not normal for me. God feels like a ghost. Will this last forever?

Maybe I’m the ghost. Shipwrecked and abandoned on an island, far from familiar. Lord, revive the dead in me. If only I could salvage something within my soul to renew a sense of security. A soul compass to point in the direction of healing. A spiritual saline to cleanse and renew my withered heart and find life again. Lord, revive the dead in me. You alone are the source of life. In You alone is there hope. Can I crawl close and rest in Your shadow? A reprieve from the elements threatening to tear away my identity. Can You remind me of Your voice? The voice that calms the sea. The clarifying voice of creation. Though I feel lost, deep down I know the only way to be found is to get lost in You. Lost in wonder. Lost in the magnitude of who You are.

How far from home must I have wandered for You to feel so small? When did I leave? When did I set out to make my own way, to build my own house apart from You? Tear down the walls I’ve built. The walls of false comfort. The very walls meant to protect me destroy me, cutting me off from my source of rest.

Revive the dead in me.

May I return to the home of Your presence? How long will You feel distant? How long must I wander in the vastness of this void? Fill me. I don’t know how long I can endure before the crippling call of failure lures me into its clutches begging me to forsake it all. Fill me with Your life. Do not delay. Forgive me of any sin and help me to endure.

May the horizon of hope fill my vision again.

Amen.

I Need Friends and So Do You

Psh, I don’t need people! We like to tell ourselves that sometimes. People leave us hurt, rejected and many times we feel like we’d be just fine without them. If like me, you’ve thought that before, you’re wrong. We need people.

Five Months ago everything in my life changed. I moved 1200 miles away from the place I had lived most of my life. As a single guy, this meant leaving behind not only everything familiar, but everyone I’ve ever known as well. Moving to a new state, by yourself means starting completely from scratch when it comes to friendship. Yes, I can stay in touch with those people I’ve known and loved for years, but they can’t satisfy that need within me for genuine relationship. I can’t go get coffee with them at a moments notice. For that, I must find new relationships.

There is a need in all of us for relationship. In some seasons we are very aware of it, while in other seasons we might get by with minimal contact, but it is certainly only a season. Eventually, we need genuine friendship.

We are busier and more connected than ever. The number one reason for not making time for relationships is that we are too busy. Between school, our jobs, our family and keeping up with social media, television, movies and books who has any leftover time to invest in new relationships or even keep old friendships alive? We are constantly in contact with people over social media and that is more than enough to fill my emotional need for human companionship. Except that it’s not.

More often than not, these online relationships leave us feeling hollow and a bit lonely at the end of the day. The tendency is to invest more time on social media to try and find the soul fulfillment we so desperately long for while neglecting the real face to face relationships that actually bring it. The result leaves us feeling more isolated than ever before.

The Bible says this about isolation.

Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

The more we withdraw from face to face relationship with people, the easier it is to lose perspective in life. When we are isolated, we make decisions that we otherwise would never make. Isolation leaves us longing for something to fulfill the need that is lacking. That need causes us to pursue unhealthy desires that deep down we know will leave us empty.

True friendships, however, satisfy something deep inside of us. Maybe it’s the laughter. Maybe it’s the part of us that comes alive as the discussion goes beneath the surface. Deep friendships do something deep within us. It reinvigorates us and brings us energy. We can never replicate that kind of soul fulfillment with superficial or online relationships.

How would your life change if you made an intentional effort to build room in your life for deeper relationships? It doesn’t have to be an impossible time commitment. It can be as simple as grabbing coffee once a week or getting breakfast before work.

We are all built differently and have different needs, but everyone has this internal need that can only be satisfied with friendship. My challenge for you today is to spend less time trying to satisfy that need with entertainment or social media and begin to invest in face to face friends. Remember, don’t rush! It takes time for a friendship to grow deeper, but don’t stop trying to keep your life full of friendship.

You need it and so do I.

Red Lights

There are moments in life when God is sending green lights and you have the all clear to move. In those seasons you better move because God is opening doors and you can be confident His favor and blessing is on your life. Other times God sends red lights and is instructing you to stop. You’ve probably already guessed the right thing to do is stop, but come on don’t we sometimes wanna blow through the red lights? We’re having so much fun moving forward, we feel so productive, God is blessing us why would we slow down?

Because He is telling you to, that’s why.

You can be sure if God is instructing you to stop there is a good reason. When we ignore His instruction to stop and instead keep moving forward, we will find that His hand of favor and blessing will be removed and the road ahead will begin to get difficult. We will wonder why we aren’t seeing the same results. Why? Because before we were moving forward in obedience to God and now we are moving forward in opposition to God.

Jeremiah 7:23 (ESV) But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’

Life is made up of seasons. Some seasons are about seizing divine opportunities while others are about preparation. In every season through our purpose should remain the same. Obey the voice of the Lord as He leads us through the path of life.

Why am I writing about this today? At the beginning of the year, I very strongly felt the Lord leading me to begin writing and I have been using these devotions as the vehicle to fulfill that goal. This weekend, as surely as I felt that prompting to begin I have felt that it is time to stop. I can’t tell you why I feel that, only that I do.

For many of us, we like to have all the answers right away. However, that isn’t how God works. His word is a lamp to our feet, not a floodlight. We usually only ever see a little bit ahead of where we are going and rarely the final destination. I do not know if this means to stop writing always and forever. More than likely it is only for a season. I have learned to really enjoy writing and I don’t believe the Lord is finished using me to write and teach His Word.

All I know is that for the foreseeable future I will not be publishing consistent weekly devotions. I do believe the Lord is leading me into a new season, even if I don’t yet know what that season is.

Since this is the final one I am publishing for a while let me leave you with what I believe is the most important thing we can do. Listen for His voice and obey it! Obey every Word He speaks. Treasure His words and regard His Word (THE BIBLE) with the utmost respect. Read it, study it, meditate on it, apply it to your life and live it out every day without compromise.

It is without question consistent obedience to the voice of the Lord that will transform your life.

I want to thank those of you who have subscribed and/or been faithful readers. I am appreciative of your kind words and encouragement. I pray you will continue to grow deep roots as you pursue the Lord. I pray you will be a people fully equipped to build the Kingdom of God right where you are.

Listen for His voice and strive with all you are to obey the Lord.

Divine Impartation

Recently I had a new experience. As I slept my mind awakened and I felt the Lord say, “If I asked, would you get up.”

I thought for a moment and replied, “I would, but why?”

“I need you to get to work an hour early.”

I opened my eyes for the first time to see the clock. It was exactly 1 hour and 5 minutes before the time I would normally wake up! I don’t normally have conversations like that with the Lord, but sometimes when I’m just barely awake I hear the Lord more clearly than when I’m fully conscious. I got out of bed and began my morning prayer time.

I was reading a book about the anointing and as I closed it tears filled my eyes and I found myself on the floor hands raised and weeping in the presence of God. I can’t say for certain right now what He was doing in my life, only that He is doing something new within me. Had I not obeyed and began praying I would have missed out on the Lord’s impartation in my spirit.

If there is one thought I can pass on today it is this.

We need the Holy Spirit.

I think of John the Baptist. We know he was Jesus’ cousin, but he did not know that his cousin was the promised One until He saw the sign. In the first chapter of John, the author tells of how John the Baptist describes the moment he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus like a dove. 

John 1:33 (ESV)  I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

I love that everything Jesus did, He did not do as God, but as a man operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore this same Holy Spirit He gives to us. Yes, the scripture tells us Jesus is the one who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 (NLT) But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

1 John 2:27 (NLT)  But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.

I love that the Holy Spirit is our teacher! We must learn again to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. When we read the Scripture we are not reading just to fill our head with knowledge, we are reading to hear the voice of the Lord for our lives. When we don’t understand something, we shouldn’t just shrug and say I didn’t know. We should ask the Lord to teach us.

I am not suggesting we never ask other people to teach us, only that we should rely on the Holy Spirit inside us. Even when we are learning from another, their lesson should bear witness to the Spirit within us. We can recognize false teaching because He will help us.

I believe we are not hearing His voice like we should for two predominant reasons. First, we are too busy and too distracted to listen. We are surrounded by noise constantly. Thanks to our smart phones we schedule ourselves to the MAX and have little time left to just sit and listen. We also are constantly bombarded with entertainment, from news media to social media, and from music to television we are constantly filling our minds with information and noise. However, none of it is useful for eternity.

The second reason we struggle to hear His voice stems from the first reason. We are not taking the time to really study His word. We barely have time to read it, let alone meditate on it, thinking about what it means and how it applies to our lives. Recognizing the voice of the Holy Spirit is learned, not innate. We learn to recognize it because it always, and I do mean ALWAYS, lines up with the Word of God.

When we learn to recognize and listen to His voice we will see an undeniable increase of Divine moments in our day to day living. I don’t want a mundane Christian life, being sustained from church service to church service. I want to live a life full of Holy Ghost encounters that not only leave me transformed, but leave the world shaken and in awe of the mighty power of God.

This is what is available to us when we put aside everything else and truly make our focus one primary thing, Jesus.