Working on the Stuff We Love

It’s a weird concept but I’ve been thinking again recently about the self discipline we require to do the things we love.

We might imagine that we’ll just get on and do the stuff we love doing and that we only need to discipline ourselves to do the things that we don’t like to do; the things we have to anyway.

It takes real discipline and resolve for me to do any gardening and a bunch of other things that aren’t really my thing but what about the things I really enjoy doing?

Shouldn’t those things come easy to me?

Perth’s beautiful weather makes my city the perfect place for cycling. It’s one of my favourite passtimes yet if I don’t discipline myself to get out there on my bike I’ll miss out on something I love. It’s easy to sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of rising early to ride with my cycling friends but I know that if I put in the effort I’ll get greater benefits from cycling than I would from an extra hour in bed.

When I force myself into the habit of regular cycling I feel fitter and more energised, yet that discipline can slip away so easily. With a ride right across Australia on the horizon next year, I’d better get that discipline happening soon or I’ll miss out on my big adventure.

If I love reading so much why do I need to discipline myself to sit down with a book for an hour?

A week or two can often go past without me sitting down to soak in some words from the pages of a good book yet when I make the time to read I can easily get lost among the words and I thoroughly enjoy every moment of it. Sitting down with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other is one of the most satisfying things in the world yet I can waste my time on the trivial things of life rather than reading.

We need to work on our relationships.

Some relationships are easier than others, but we even need to put in a great deal of effort on our relationships with those we love.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. ? Theodore Roosevelt

Do you find the same thing happening?

Are there things that you really love yet you find you have to discipline yourself to invest your time pursuing them?

I find the same thing with my faith. I’m never happier than when I feel that I’m in tune with the Creator yet I can let time slip through my fingers without making the effort to recharge my spiritual batteries.

The simple spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading the scriptures, reflecting and others that are absolutely life giving can be easily crowded out in our busy world.

Why do we let ourselves get robbed of the real stuff of life?

It’s somehow strange that we should have to exercise discipline and self-control to do the things that make us feel most alive but sadly it’s true. I guess that’s where priority setting comes into play.

What are you like at doing the things that you love? Are there things you love, things that truly energise you, that you have let slip away?

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Wondering About 2016

2016 New Year

In all the busyness of this time of year have you managed to set time aside to draft out a few New Year’s resolutions?

While many people don’t believe in making resolutions I reckon that any time that we can sit down and take stock of our lives and make plans for the time ahead is time well spent. If you haven’t yet, maybe you’ll get some time over the next couple of days.

As with every year I’m sure that many will set all the usual resolutions about losing weight, getting fitter, quitting smoking, reducing debt, increasing income and all the rest. There’s nothing wrong with examining those areas of our lives but I’m wondering how it would be if we shifted focus. Many of the goals we hear about at this time of year are about a better ‘me’.

[bctt tweet=”What would 2016 look like if our goals and resolutions went beyond creating a better ‘me’?”]

I wonder what 2016 would look like if we made resolutions and goals about improving relationships with those close to us. I have goals about fitness and better nutrition but how I treat others and practical steps towards growing relationships are far more important. That shouldn’t mean that those other goals don’t matter but it does come down to priorities.

I wonder how things would be if we made resolutions about helping those we may not even know but who need a hand up. What if we made 2016 the year that we would seek to more fully understand the deep needs of others and then partner with them in a way that would move us all a little closer to what we were designed to become? Do we really just want to focus on making life better for ourselves and those we know or can we extend that concern and care a little more widely?

How would 2016 shape up if we determined that family was more important than the demands of work and then structured our schedules accordingly? I wonder how 2016 would look if we took our fresh new diaries, whether they be electronic or the old pen and paper kind, and scheduled in chunks of family time before the hours filled up with work appointments.

What would it be like if we decided that 2016 was the year that we would look beyond the physical and material things of this world to discover deeper spiritual meaning? Our lives are so short and each year seems to go so much faster than the previous. There’s value in giving attention to the ‘here and now’ but not if we do that without keeping eternity in mind.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV

Interesting that we’re told to train ourselves in godliness. Training ourselves suggests a directed effort on our part. If we’re going to direct attention to anything in our lives, doesn’t it simply make sense to direct it to things that are of value in every way, holding promise for the present life and also for the life to come?

I wonder.

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The Dark Side of Doing Good

danger

Can a life of helping, of doing good for others, of serving the greater good all be worthless? Can such a life even be doing us harm? Is there a spiritual danger in doing good?

Peter Greer, who is the President and CEO of HOPE International, has written a book titled The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good. I bought the book some weeks ago and took advantage of a three and a half hour flight couple of days ago to get a good start on reading what Greer has to say. I finished reading the book in the first half hour of the return flight last night.

I’ve found the book to be a bit like some meals I’ve had. It’s very easy to ‘consume’ but I suspect it’ll take quite a while longer to digest. By that, I mean that while it’s not a long read, and it’s written in a very easy to read style, it deals with weighty matters that will take a while to fully process.

Greer talks about those who serve in some kind of ministry yet serve from wrong motives. Being flawed human beings I suspect that that would cover about 99.9 % of those in ministry at some time or another.

One of the tell tale signs is when we begin to make our work our master. In the book he speaks of those who throw everything into doing good of one kind or another yet neglect those who need them most.

According to statistics compiled by Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, “Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked … and 50 percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.”

It is a very real problem that skewed priorities mean many don’t finish life well. Even looking at those heroes of the Scriptures we see a pattern of failure when those serving God lose sight of their true calling.

Greer spends a lot of time reminding us that we don’t have all the answers and that we really aren’t able to do much worthwhile …. in our own strength …. but that’s OK.

So accept that you’re inadequate. Embrace the fact that you’re needy. Don’t try to prove to God you’ve earned His favour. Let Jesus Christ flood your life with forgiveness, acceptance and love.

Peter Greer heads up an agency working in the developing world, helping release people from poverty, so I can certainly relate to what he has to say, but I would suggest that there are many who would benefit from reading his book. I reckon it should be absolutely required reading for anyone in full time ministry of any kind and I would urge anyone else who truly desires to walk humbly with their Lord to grab a copy. There is so much you’ll get from this book.

Through real life, relatable stories, humour, personal experience, and solid teaching, Greer gently leads the reader to more clearly see themselves and their own need for change. Far from presenting himself as the example we should all follow, Peter Greer shares his own brokenness and helps us relate to stumbling blocks that face us all.

You won’t feel like he’s using a ‘big stick‘ to make you feel inadequate, rather he provides relief from our own self imposed stresses and guides us towards a more Godly way forward. He doesn’t offer easy or fast answers but his direction towards a ‘better way’ is refreshing.

The chapters are short and engaging and each one ends with questions that help us focus on how to put principles into action. There is also a link at the end of each chapter which points to some stunning online resources which will help you get even more value from the book.

From his urging that we find some ‘3:00 a.m. friends‘ (those you can call at any time of the day to keep you accountable and stop you from doing something stupid) to giving us the tools to honestly face our own failures, Greer’s desire is obvious. He earnestly wants us to ‘finish well’. As someone who truly desires that but often gets tripped up along the way, I am truly thankful for The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good and I’m sure that I’ll return to it a number of times to continue gleaning the wisdom it offers.

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Blue Like Jazz – Talking with Steve Taylor

Blue-Like-Jazz-Movie

The movie, Blue Like Jazz, is based on the book of the same name by Donald Miller. It’s been described as a semi-autobiographical work. Its subtitle is “Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality”.

Blue Like Jazz is a collection of essays and personal reflections focusing on the need for an authentic, personal response to matters of faith. The book was released around a decade ago but I’ve only started reading it recently. I’ll write some more once I’ve finished the book.

Now director, Steve Taylor, has created the movie which has been screened in a number of cinemas and can now be bought on Blu-Ray and DVD. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Steve. You can hear our full conversation by clicking the play button on the audio player below.

Before directing movies, Steve Taylor was very involved in the music industry. His music tended to look at faith from a different angle than most of what was described as Christian music at the time and that spin on spirituality seems to be what attracted him to Blue Like Jazz.

By the way, if you live in the Perth area, you can grab tickets to a free screening of the movie at Hoyts Carousel this Wednesday thanks to 98five and Faith on Film. Just follow this link and fill in your details.

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Harry Potter’s Bigger Story

He’s the world’s most famous wizard and from the moment his story hit book stores around the world he has been the subject of controversy. Some Christians immediately started to warn us of this evil character and tell us that allowing children to read the Harry Potter series would lead to an increase in occult activity.

Many others said that the books were just good, old-fashioned fantasy and while there are some darker themes in the stories they’re still the classic tale of good overcoming evil.

With the release of the final movie in the Potter story, some Christians are now claiming parallels to the Christian story. They say that Harry Potter is a ‘Christ figure’ in much the same way as Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia.

Did J.K. Rowling set out to tell a deeper story through her books? Does her style mirror that of other fantasy writers such as C.S. Lewis with his Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings?

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98.5 Sonshine FM is Rev Dr Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Today we looked at the fantasy world of Harry Potter and asked whether there are links between the writings of J.K. Rowling and the bigger story of the Christian Scriptures. You can hear what Ross had to say by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

[audio:http://mpegmedia.sonshinefm.ws/feeds/SPI240811_1534.mp3] Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Harry Potter’s Bigger Story? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂