The Power of Habit

page_1Habit matters, and we all have them. The question is do we have good habits or bad ones?

And this was really shown to me a few nights ago.

If I can be honest, I’m not a perfect parent or even pastor. And this story will show that.

We came home late from something, I was tired and trying to get the boys to bed. This just seemed like a hassle, and I just wanted to zone out with Netflix for an hour before we went to bed. But the boys were busy and running, and finally it seemed like we were ready for bed, and I put them in bed.

And that’s why Asher (my 2 year old), started yelling “Bible…Bible…Bible”

Each night we read the Bible together, and we’ve got this good one with kids stories and it’s really good. But on this night I did not want to read the Bible (I know a bad thing for a pastor to say), I wanted to watch Netflix, and I wanted to rest.

So I said, “Not tonight Asher…tomorrow”. At which point both boys started loudly protesting (read – yelling) saying, “But we always read the Bible, no dad we need to read it, Dad just one story”

Do you see the power of habit?

Habits are things that you’ve invested in over time, so that when you don’t want to do the healthy and good thing (reading the Bible) that it feels weird when you don’t do them. That you notice and feel it when you skip a rhythm.

Because we’ve read the Bible so often (on nights when I’m not burnt out), when I didn’t want to do the right action (sit and read and talk with my boys), the habit forced me into the right decision.

This is why habits matter – they force us to make the right decision even when we don’t want to.

So here is my question: what good habits do you have? What unhealthy ones do you have? What good habits should you be starting? Because we all have them, good or bad. I think the challenge is for us to start simple but good habits that make a difference long-term. Some of the ones I think of are eating together, are praying together, reading together, or whatever. The point is that we all have rhythms that our lives play out too. I just think it’s worth to every now and then examine those rhythms and make sure they are the rhythms we want to learn.

And habits work best when they involve others, even little kids with words that remind you to make the best decisions, even when you’re tired.

Finding God all Around Us

1310598_43430592Today I want to just focus on a quote from Eugene Peterson that really spoke to me:

You would think that believing that Jesus is God among us would be the hardest thing. It is not. It turns out that the hardest thing is to believe that God’s work – this dazzling creation, this astonishing salvation, this cascade of blessings – is all being worked out in and under the conditions of our humanity: at picnics and around dinner tables, in conversations with bling beggars and suppurating lepers, at wedding sand funerals. Everything that Jesus does and says takes place within the limits and conditions of our humanity. No fireworks. No special effects. Yes, there are miracles, plenty of them. But because for the most part they are as much a part of the fabric of everyday life, very few notice. The miraculousness of miracles I obscured by the familiarity of the setting, the ordinariness of the people involved. (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in 10 000 Places)

I’d encourage you to read it again, and again, and again until it starts to make sense and seep in.

If I were to summarize this whole paragraph and what it means I’d say this: We often miss the activity of God all around us, all around us. The point is that we often discount everyday regular life as a place where God is working. But the story of Jesus says that he is just as active in picnics, parties, and in people’s lives as he is in temples, miracles, and worship settings. The point is that sometimes we don’t see God working, because we aren’t looking where he works most: in everyday life.

It’s hard to believe that God works best and most often in the everyday rhythms of life. But this is precisely Peterson’s point.  It’s not hard to believe that God is involved when a miracle happens. It’s harder to believe and perhaps see that God is involved in your conversation with the neighbor, cutting the grass, playing with your kids. But he is. He is there, so maybe we should start looking for him.

At least that’s what I got out of the quote…What about you?

Rhythm, Routine, or Rut?

A few weekends ago I was away for the night for board meetings. And while I was going to sleep I realized I missed something. I missed saying goodnight to Hudson. Here is our little routine. I pick up the little tired boy. We say goodnight and put him in his bed. Then before I go to bed I check on him. I cover him in the covers he’s kicked off. I pray over him. And I tell him I love him. Then I say goodnight, close the door, and go off to my bed.

I missed this routine.

This got me to thinking about the difference between routine, rhythm or a rut. Routine’s are things you do consistently. And when routine’s are beautiful, healthy, and good they become rhythm’s of life. Like going into your child’s room and saying goodnight. But routines can also shift and become a rut; where you eat the same thing each Monday.

Some routines in our lives give energy and life to us and become rhythms. Some routines in our lives sap energy and becomes ruts. Some routines we need to celebrate, cherish, and protect. Other routines we need to break, stop, and move away from. Putting Hudson to bed is a routine I will protect and cherish. Connecting with God in the mornings is a routine I don’t want to take for granted. But my emotional routine of fear or worry after certain experiences needs to change.

The question is are the everyday routines of your life healthy rhythms or unhealthy ruts?

Think about these questions: How often do you check your work email? Do you exercise? Do you have regular emotional responses that don’t lead to health and life? Do you have a consistent time with Jesus? Is stress and worry too often a part of your life? Does meeting with this friend each uplift you? Does taking time for silence and simplicity help?

The point isn’t to get rid of routines. The point is to turn each healthy routine into a daily rhythm, and to stop unhealthy routines from becoming a lifelong rut.

So what routines do you need to break? Which ones do you need to protect?