Renewal Through Shared Disciplines

Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.

Mike Ditka

Many of you know me to be a pretty disciplined person. For example, today will be my 1093rd day in a row with 10,000 or more steps. It takes discipline to keep that kind of streak alive. Disciplines can be great to keep you on track when it comes to reaching certain goals and to keep you out of trouble when it comes to avoiding unhealthy areas of life.

Disciplines can become stale after a while. Sometimes we forget why we established a habit in the first place. And sometimes we simply fail to draw the positive result out of the discipline. From time to time, we could all use a little shake up when it comes to our disciplines. We could all use help to form better habits.

Recently, I was on the phone with my Grandpa Miller. Grandpa recently turned 94 years old. Physically, he is definitely showing signs of his age. He can’t run around like he used to when he was in his 70s and 80s. And while is mind isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be, I’ve been impressed by how well he is doing mentally and spiritually. During our phone conversation, he shared with me his pattern for prayer.

On Mondays, Grandpa prays for missionaries. He prays for their strength, their wisdom, their safety, and their effectiveness in sharing the hope of Jesus with others.

On Tuesdays, Grandpa prays for tasks God would have him do.

On Wednesdays, Grandpa prays for more laborers. He prays for more people to do work for God’s Kingdom.

On Thursdays, Grandpa prays prayers of thanksgiving.

On Fridays, Grandpa prays for family. He prays for me. He prays for my wife and kids. He prays for the entire family.

On Saturdays, Grandpa prays that he might be saturated with the Word. He prays for a growing knowledge and understanding of the Bible.

On Sundays, Grandpa prays for sinners. He prays they would come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.

Wow!

I’m so thankful Grandpa shared this with me. First, it’s part of his legacy – it is who Grandpa is, and I’m glad to know this and to know that I’m the subject of Grandpa’s prayers. Grandpa’s relationship with Jesus is a personal and deep relationship. I’m a blessed beyond measure by the faith of my parents and grandparents.

Grandpa’s discipline of daily prayer is a great reminder for me. This is an area for me to further develop. It’s easy to dismiss prayer as ineffective and lacking real action, but the Bible reminds us that the prayers of a righteous man produces much.

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:15-16 (NIV)

In this year of renew, I’m encouraged and renewed by Grandpa’s shared discipline.

What disciplines have others shared with you that have encouraged you and spurred you on towards good? What’s one discipline you can share with someone else today that will encourage and renew them?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

Renew My Head

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr. Seuss

Last night, I had the privilege and blessing of watching the live stream concert for the Grove City College Touring Choir. My son, Isaac, is a member of the choir, and watching from our home was a blessing knowing COVID-19 and the distance between our home and the college make it a challenge to make it to every one of Isaac’s performances. The concert was truly beautiful.

At the end of the concert, the choir director announced the last song, John Rutter’s God Be In My Head. Apparently, this is the song the choir uses to close out all of their performances. I was struck by the words penned by Sir Henry Walford Davies:

God be in my head,
And in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes,
And in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
And in my speaking;
God be in my heart,
And in my thinking;
God be at mine end,
And at my departing.

All Saints Kingston

God has been working on my head lately. I’ve been studying Winning the War in Your Mind by Craig Groeschel with a group of guys I meet with every week. I’ve also been doing some personal reflection related to my thought life and my work.

The words of this song, a benediction, hit me right where I am and where I want to be.

I want God to be in my head, my eyes, my mouth, and in my heart. I want the desires of my heart to align with the plans God has for me. I want my thoughts and my words to be honoring. I don’t want to be complacent in allowing the world or my sinful nature to negatively influence by thought life.

In this year of renew, it is my prayer that my thoughts (my head) would be renewed every day, and I pray that for you as well.

May God be in your head and in your understanding.

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

Renewal Through Holy Cleansing

I have sinned against You, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgiveness.

Jimmy Swaggart

After a hard days work outside or after a strenuous or long workout, you are covered in dirt and sweat. Your skin cries out for relief that can only come from a shower or long bath. You stink so bad that others don’t want to be near you. You barely even look like yourself. Your are a mess, and you need cleansing from the grime that covers your body.

This gets a little harder when the grime is found in our heart and soul. How do we wash away the mess that is in our heart? How do we remove the transgressions – the sin – that causes us to be so unholy and impure?

In this year of renew, I have been drawn to Psalm 51. In this passage, King David humbly asks God for forgiveness and cleansing from his sin. He wrote this prayer after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Throughout the prayer, David repeatedly asks God to wash away his sins and to cleanse his heart.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

You and I may not have sinned in the same way as King David, but we still need that holy cleansing. Our hearts and actions don’t always bring honor to God, and we too must ask God to cleanse and purify our hearts.

If you and I are truly to find the renewal we seek, we must start by examining our hearts, by confessing our sins, and by seeking God’s cleansing that comes through His forgiveness. When we take the time and effort to follow these steps, we have the opportunity for true renewal.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

Take some time this week to read Psalm 51 and to seek renewal and restoration that comes through holy cleansing.

Going All In

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Matthew 22:37-38 (NIV)

When it comes to your faith and your pursuit of God, how are you doing? Are you giving it your all? Or are you approaching your faith like a limp fish – soft, squishy and not fully committed?

Jesus reminds us of the greatest command originally found in Deuteronomy. He tells us to give our ALL – all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. We can’t do it half-way. We have to go all in!

Early in the career of baseball legend, Pete Rose, he hit a pitch that led to an easy out. Rose knew this as soon as the ball left his bat. Instead of running it out at full speed to get to first base, he essentially walked from home plate towards first until the out was official before he retreated off the field to the dugout. After the game, Rose’s father found Pete and scolded him for failing to give it his all. Following this conversation, Rose hustled every play, and he soon became known as Charlie Hustle. In other words, he gave it his all – he went all in when it came to playing the game of baseball. Pete Rose went on to set the record for the most hits by any player in Major League Baseball history.

As fathers, we carry a significant responsibility. We point our children in the direction they will one day travel, and we set an example for them to follow as they become adults and possibly parents. In order to carry out this responsibility – in order to do our jobs well, we must go all in when it comes to following Jesus. Our whole lives depend on it!

Are you ready to go all in?

Father, I want to follow you with everything I have. Show me your ways. Teach me your truths. Redirect me when I let other things come in the way of going all in with you.

Renewal By Taking Time Off

“I’d like to dial it back 5% or 10% and try to have a vacation that’s not just e-mail with a view.”

Elon Musk

When was the last time you took a day off – or even a half day off – from work?

The time between New Year’s Day and Memorial Day can seem like a long stretch for many of us who don’t have company sponsored holidays during this time frame. We fall into a pattern of getting up early, heading to work (or possibly to our working space in our homes), grinding it out for 10-12 hours per day, and doing it all over again the next day. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

We begin to understand the mindset of a rat stuck in a wheel. We run and run. We rarely stop. We grow weary. We begin to take on characteristics like the zombies in The Walking Dead.

While the days are starting to get longer in the northern hemisphere, we still find ourselves deprived of the vitamin D available through exposure to natural sunlight. And the pandemic has only served to increase the problem as most of us have faced government recommended travel restrictions.

We need to take a break! We need a day off!

I took Friday afternoon off from work, and it was wonderful!

Part of my day included having a catch with Dan Reischel. (He is on a mission to have a catch with 162 different people over the course of this years baseball season – 162 Games of Catch. You can follow his journey on Facebook or Instagram.) I also stopped by a local McDonald’s to pick up my annual Shamrock Shake. I took some time to read and relax. And I naturally was sure to get some steps in with the sun over my head (many of my steps happen before the sun comes up each morning).

The afternoon off was just what I needed to renew my energy and zest for life and for work. I know I’m heading into a challenging week at work, and it’s good to go into it feeling revived.

In this year of renew, it’s important to take time off. In some cases, I’ll take a half day. Sometimes, I’ll take a whole day off. And I’m also planning to take a few weeks off later this year.

A vacation day gives us a chance to catch our breath, a chance to setup for the next challenges, and a chance to re-calibrate and renew.

If you haven’t taken a day off or even a few hours off recently, it might be time for you to block off some time on your calendar. It might be just what you need!

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:9-11 (NIV)

First Things First

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

As fathers, we can have a lot of things on our mind. Our list of responsibilities, priorities, and goals includes our career, our hobbies, our kids, and our marriage. Perhaps, we are also enamored by our favorite sports teams or sports stars.

Often our intention is to move forward, to get ahead, and to have some fun along the way. Honestly, these don’t sound like awful pursuits to me. Unfortunately, our focus on the above things sometimes causes us to lose focus on what really matters.

Jesus reminds us where are focus should be above everything else. He tells us to pursue His Kingdom first. He doesn’t give us an exact formula for what this looks like, but I think it’s safe to say we will get closer to understanding this the closer we get to Jesus. Reading God’s Word (the Bible) and studying the life of Jesus will lead us to prayer, to sharing our faith, and to serving others. And all these things will draw us closer to His Kingdom.

Jesus’ statement is also a promise that when we pursue His Kingdom first the rest will fall into place. When our focus is on Jesus and His Kingdom, the desires of our hearts more closely align with His desires, and these are the things that will be given to us as well.

Father, forgive me when I don’t make You and Your Kingdom my priority. I want to seek You, Lord, better today than yesterday.

Son Of A…

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

John 1:12 (NIV)

What was your father’s occupation? What was his father’s occupation?

My Dad was a pastor. His father was a mortician. My Mom’s father was a postman. My wife’s father was an instrumental music teacher and a church organist and music director.

It’s not uncommon to draw our identity from our fathers. For example, I’m a PK – a pastor’s kid. As a young teen, I’m not sure I was too proud of my Dad’s occupation. Now, I’m quite thankful to be a PK.

Drawing our identity from our fathers isn’t always a bad thing, but I think we need to be careful. Our fathers are flawed. Even my father, the pastor, was not the perfect father, and he will tell you that himself.

Some of us grew up with father’s who didn’t amount to much. Perhaps, they struggled with their own demons, or they may have been absent.

This is why it’s important to remember our true identity. As mentioned in John, we are children of God if we simply believe in His Name. We are sons of the King.

Heavenly Father, thank you for our earthly fathers imperfections and all. Thank you for calling us your children. May we represent you well as we go into the world today.

Renewal Through Trying Something New

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Walt Disney

It’s easy to find ourselves in a rut or a routine that lulls us into an boring, mind-numbing existence. We find ourselves committed to our work and to our responsibilities at home. Then out of pure exhaustion, lack of energy, and simple laziness, we find ourselves falling into patterns that only drive us deeper into our ruts and routines. For me, this is the television. I often find myself collapsing on the couch after dinner and a busy day at work – perhaps looking for an escape for an hour before I head up to bed and do it all over again the next day.

We need a catalyst – an outside force – to wake us up from our zombie-like walk through life. I’ve discovered the catalyst we need is to simply try something new. The fifth challenge of the 7 Week Stretch Challenge is to “Try Something New.” Doing new things – something different – is a great way to stretch our minds and bodies and to jar us out of our ruts and routines. (To sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge click HERE.)

I was recently reminded of this important truth when a friend invited me to a new platform called Clubhouse. It hasn’t been fully opened to the public yet, but I hear that it’s coming. I’m still learning about Clubhouse, but from what I have experienced so far it’s a new way of connecting and learning. Yesterday, I jumped into my first “room” led by Cliff Ravenscraft. It was truly exciting to meet new people and to see how Clubhouse works. I’ve already begun dreaming about how I might be able to use this platform to follow some of my passion areas like coaching young engineers, mentoring husbands and fathers, and helping other people succeed.

In this year of renew, it’s important for us to explore and open our eyes to new things around us. Drive a new way home from work tomorrow. Cook a new recipe for dinner sometime this week. Read a new book this month. Visit a new place this year.

What is one NEW thing you plan to try this week?

“See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Renewal Through A Quiet Place And Rest

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Jesus – Mark 6:31 (NIV)

Is it just me or does life seem to be adding more noise to your life? Does it feel like all your energy is depleted trying to keep up with the demands of work and perhaps the commitments outside of work?

Today, many Americans might describe their lives like a rat caught in a wheel – never stopping, always moving, going around in circles, wondering when it will stop, considering whether or not it’s worth it or not. The pressures we find ourselves in can seem unending. Work requires more of your time and attention. You are in an endless pursuit of more trying to keep up with those around you. You are trying to provide the very best for your family – best college experience, best home, best exposure to the world.

Soon the more, better, faster, wealthier, sooner, and so on becomes so normal that we don’t know how to stop. We don’t remember what it means to experience real quiet and real rest in our lives.

I know it is true for many of you, because it is true for me.

In my year of renew, this could be one of the most important revelations. In order to experience the renewal I truly need, I must learn to seek out quiet places in my life and to relearn how to rest.

I’m on the go. I operate on minimal (probably unhealthy) levels of sleep. When I do finally find a few minutes at the end of the day to sit down, I too often rely on the screen on the wall of my family room (the television) to provide a break. While this is okay in moderation, it is not really providing the renewal my mind and body need. I quickly fall asleep at night out of exhaustion, but I often find myself awake at two o’clock in the morning as my mind processes the events of the past day or tries to solve the challenges I know I will face in the day ahead. This kind of sleep is not restful.

This weekend, Leanne and I got away to a bed and breakfast in the Delaware Water Gap in northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s just what I needed. It certainly is a quiet place. With over two feet of snow on the ground and no other places in site, it provided the perfect place to get away from the noise I typically face. It provided a place to rest – going to bed early, waking up late, and taking it easy for the first part of the day. I found rest.

I need to do this again!

Our reality doesn’t necessarily afford the opportunity to get away like this every weekend, so we must learn to find quiet places and rest in our every day. Here are some ideas to get you (and me) started:

  1. Turn off the notifications. You don’t need to know everything right away. In fact, many of the messages that pop up on our phones aren’t necessary. They only add to the noise in our lives.
  2. Get outside. Go for a walk. Sit on an outside bench. Do something that takes you away from the distractions of your devices or your chores at home. In a way, my daily steps discipline has often provided some of the quiet and rest I need every day.
  3. Schedule quiet and rest time on your calendar. If you are like me, my calendar is often filled by others demanding my time. In order to ensure I get some quiet time, I must learn to schedule it. I must also learn to take advantage of my out of office assistant that alerts others of my current unavailability. It’s okay, people can either wait for me to return or they can contact my delegate. Even a ten or fifteen minutes slot on your calendar for quietness or rest can make a huge difference in your ability to experience daily renewal.
  4. Find quiet and rest with someone else. A weekend away with your spouse or with a couple of friends can provide the refreshment and renewal you need and the connection you need with your spouse or friend. It doesn’t have to be a weekend or a long period of time. Invite a friend to go on a hike with you for an hour or two.
  5. Give yourself permission to take a break. It’s going to be okay. Your work, your commitments, and your responsibilities will be there when you get back. I’ve written about the importance of regular sabbaths before. You and I need regular sabbaths in our lives. The concept of sabbath was made for you and me to find the regular renewal we need. Learn to practice sabbath – hourly, daily, weekly – in your life. You deserve a break today!

Slow down. We are moving too fast. We’ve got to make our lives matter. We were meant for so much more than the noise and exhaustion we have come to know in our lives. We were meant for opportunities to find a quiet place, to find rest, to find connection with others and with our God.

Go find a quiet place and discover rest!

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.”

Ovid

Renewal Through The Help Of Others

We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.

W. H. Auden

Thursday didn’t start out quite the way I had planned. I’ll spare you all the details. The abbreviated version of the story has me checking myself into the emergency room at a local hospital around 8:30 in the morning. I ended up being discharged from the hospital around 2:00 in the afternoon after receiving help from a wonderful hospital staff. I’m still recovering to a degree; my visit to the hospital was rather minor compared to some of the other people I was hearing about who came into the emergency room that morning. I understand someone was having a stroke, and someone else was having a cardiac event. Again, my reason for going to the hospital was rather minor compared to the reason others visits. Nonetheless, I had no other choice but to visit the hospital based on what I was experiencing at the time.

As news of my emergency room visit spread to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, I quickly learned of people praying for me, of people helping Leanne as she taught her classroom from home and tried to figure out how to get to the hospital, and of people taking on my workload at the office while I laid in a hospital bed. I even had a group of friends graciously offer to donate steps to me to ensure my 10,000 steps a day walking streak continued (somehow I’ve been able to keep the streak alive despite a visit to the hospital).

I could tell you many other ways we received help on Thursday – a neighbor’s offer to shovel my snow for the rest of the winter, multiple neighbors’ efforts to find my keys that had somehow fallen out of my coat pocket as I shoveled earlier that morning, and multiple neighbors’ generous gift of a dinner certificate for a local pizza restaurant. I even heard that one of the neighbor boys had his entire fourth grade class praying for me on Thursday morning.

Despite a hospital visit and a medical issue which will require some follow-up and recovery, I find a sense of renewal. My energy is still low, and yet, I feel uplifted knowing there are so many people who care for me and my family. I also find renewal knowing I have a God who brings me help.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121 (NIV)

I don’t know what is going on in your world today, but I’d encourage you to look up and to look around you. Find God’s help along your path. Look for those who are doing good things for you and for others in your community. Be renewed as you witness the helping hand, the caring touch, and the thoughtful word or prayer that others have to give.

1 2 3 225