Archive for category: Uncategorized

Pray Yourself Sober

What is sobriety? Doesn’t it mean more than keeping free of the bottle, the needle, the prescription pill, the credit card bill? This has been the drum I’ve banged for nearly three years, now. Sobriety, it seems to me, is that quality of connection that keeps us clear-headed. And in this modern world of noise, and news, and endless screaming over each other, don’t we need that kind of connection more than ever?

I’ve tried my best over the last few months to cultivate personal practices of sobriety, and in that, I’ve turned to the writings of George Buttrick, the twentieth-century Presbyterian pastor who wrote about prayer. Buttrick’s practices and insights lead me to quieter places, places of thanksgiving, confession, and rest. I’ve enjoyed these practices, and I’m inviting you to join me in them.

An invitation begs attendance. Doesn’t it?

I’ve created two daily email plans based on Buttrick’s work. The first, The Practice of Prayer: Thanksgivingis a five-day email plan stretching into the recognition of the good gifts of God in our everyday lives. The next, The Practice of Prayer: Confession, is a five-day email plan of examination and recognition. Confession–it’s hard, maybe, but aren’t most things worth doing?

If you sign up for the Thanksgiving plan, you’ll receive the Confession plan immediately following the completion of your gratitude practice. And if you complete the Confession plan, you’ll receive an email notification when new prayer plans are available (I’ll release another one in the next month or two).

Would you consider signing up? And as you’re working through the plans, feel free to invite a conversation partner or two (perhaps a small group) along. You can invite your friends to sign up by way of Twitter or  Facebook.

So, pull a group together, and let’s go. I’ll be working my way through these plans, too (you can’t practice thanksgiving and confession too much). Let’s cultivate practices of sobriety. Shall we?

 

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

 

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Choking Creativity (Part 4)

This is Part 4 of my series, Choking Creativity. To read Parts 1, 2, and 3, follow this link.

1. The Fog

“Sleep will enhance your ability to explore, make connections, and do less but better throughout your waking hours.” Greg Mckeown, Essentialism.

Too many mornings begin in a fog. The obligations of the day suck me dry, then the obligations of the evening land me in bed well past any reasonable hour. In bed, I don’t give up on the day. There’s the day’s news to catch up on, my social media feeds call my name, and news episodes of The Expanse, or The Crown, and The Blacklist wait to be streamed. I stretch the limits like taffy, hang on until my eyes are too heavy. I wake early, attempt to get a jump on the morning after too little sleep. 5:49 minutes of sleep? Round it up. Call it six. It’s good. Right?

I wake early, attempt to get a jump on the morning after too little sleep. 5:49 minutes of sleep? Round it up. Call it six. It’s good. Right?

2. The Problem

In his book Essentialism, Greg McKeownw cites to a Harvard Business Review article, in which the author states that a week of 4-5 hours per night of sleep “induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%” He expounds, showing how less than seven hours of sleep per night affects creativity and productivity.

You know this to be true, don’t you? How many mornings do you sit in the fog hoping the coffee will work some kind of miracle? How many days do you wander in a sleep-deprived funk? And on those days, how creative are you?

Be honest.

Our lack of sleep–isn’t this a consumption problem too? The activities, the obligations, the media–we consume and consume and consume until it’s well past the witching hour. Then, how much time do we leave to sleep, that time to recharge our brains and bodies?

Researcher after researcher has shown that sleep is the fuel for our creativity. It is the muse. Today, let’s examine the practices of consumption that disrupt our sleep. Let’s prioritize sleep as a practice of creativity.

3. The Practice

Consider the nights you’ve gotten less than 7-8 hours of sleep in the past month. What cut into your dreams? Television? Scrolling the news on your phone? The black hole of social media? A good romp with your significant other (which, I can excuse from time to time, human as I am). Do you see any patterns?

This week, make it your goal to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Resist the activities that deprive you of good sleep (save for the above-stated romp). Combined with your practice of making the first thirty minutes of your day digital free, see if this enhances your creativity. Consider writing notes on the results.

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Choking Creativity (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of my series, Choking Creativity. To read Parts 1 and 2, follow this link.

1. The Politics (But this is not about politics, per se).

The first few weeks of the Trump presidency have stoked the fires of outrage in this country (the fires of both left and right) and if the fires of outrage are good for anything, it’s powering the engine of opinion. The news (and #FakeNews) has an endless stream of topics to cover–the Muslim travel ban (“your words; not mine”); the Department of Education tweet; the Sessions confirmation; the Dakota Access Pipeline; #ShePersisted. CNN, BBC, Fox News, all of Twitter, everyone on Facebook, they’re all producing content these days. And here I am, producing content relating to all the content that’s been produced. (The irony is not lost on me).

There is a river of information, gigabytes streaming through the air and into our pockets.

Buzz… swipe… read… opine.

Buzz… swipe… read… opine.

Buzz… swipe… read… opine.

This is the endless rhythm of so many of our lives these days.

2. The Problem

In the first quarter of 2016, it was reported that U. S. adults consumed 10 hours, 39 minutes of media, up a full hour from the corresponding quarter of 2015. On average, two hours and ten minutes of that media consumption was through a smartphone or tablet. I suspect that during the first quarter of this year, media consumption will be even higher, the current political climate being what it is. Our smartphones and tablets, these have become the portal to the digital town hall, and meetings are always in session.

Don’t get me wrong, digital media is not all bad. It allows us access to news, commentary, and that long lost friend from Plano, the one that stuck the raisin up his nose on a third-grade dare. (He’s a brain surgeon, now; funny how life turns). But when digital media becomes habitual, addictive even, our consumption of it robs us of creative space.

“It’s so hard to find creative time,” so many of us say. But what if we carved out twenty minutes of creative space from those two hours (and change) of digital media consumption? What if instead of scrolling Apple News, or YouTube, or Facebook, or Twitter, we sat outside, pen and paper at the ready, and stretched into the quiet space of creating? What if we started our day this way, and ended it this way, too?

Would it hurt you to lose twenty minutes of digital media a day?

3. The Practice

We’ve discussed the practice of setting aside twenty minutes a day to practice creativity. Today, let’s consider another practice. Let’s consider the practice of unplugging.

Would you consider living the first and last thirty minutes of everyday digital-media free? If the pull of your smartphone is too much, charge it in another room instead of by your bed. Set aside this beginning and end of your day as a dedicated creative space. Journal; doodle; write a poem; brainstorm solutions to a tricky problem (even a work problem); mindmap; whittle; carve; sculpt; bead; play guitar, or piano, or banjo. The output of creativity matters less than the lack of digital input. Follow this practice for a few days, then ask yourself: how do I feel?

 

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Choking Creativity

Man was the envy of the animals, first known for his opposable thumbs, then his creativity. We are an ingenious species, aren’t we? Innovation, ingenuity, genius, creativity–it’s all baked into our DNA, made in the image of God as we are. And throughout the millennia, we’ve applied imagination in every facet of life. We’ve become poets painters, sculptors, storytellers. We’ve created new means of value, have bartered and bargained our ways into new ways of doing business. We roll, rail, fly, and soon, we may be zipped down pneumatic tubes. Communication has been reimagined, and our virtual selves amplify messages that might have once been heard only by a handful of local folks sipping Saturday coffee in the town diner. Spirituality–we’ve innovated there, too, reimagined the limits of human enlightenment. (Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of new religious movements, most of which sprung up after 1900.)

Innovate; innovate; innovate.

Create; create; create.

We are a people made to make things. And yet, with each passing day, I’m finding more and more resistance to the practices of personal creativity. The tank runs dry far too often, and instead of creating, I found myself spiraling down the consumptive drain.

What’s on the tube? What’re the masses on Twitter saying? Which political thread is 100 comments deep on Facebook? The Times. The Post. The Gazette. CNN. Fox News. BBC. Whatever.

We’re known for consumption these days, and so often it displaces creativity in my own life. Do you know this feeling? Be honest.

Over the next few days, I’d like to explore the things that choke our creativity. I have a working hypothesis–one I can’t get back up just yet, but it goes something like this: over-consumption kills the creative drive.

We’ll continue this series in the coming days, but for now, tell me: have you found it difficult to carve out creative space these days? Why?

Please join the discussion on Facebook.

 

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

Make America Great (Again)

The lectionary and daily office readings have been on point over the last few weeks. “How is such a thing possible since these readings were scheduled years ago?” you might ask. Call me absurd; call me a religious nut; call me whatever you like. But know this is my opinion: God is trying to speak to us, if only we’ll listen.

Today, I’m simply sharing yesterday’s Old Testament lectionary reading (which is also today’s daily office reading) in several different versions. Let the words sink in.

***

Isaiah 58:1-9a (NRSV)

Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

“Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

 

Isaiah 58:1-9a (ESV)

Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

“Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

Isaiah 58:1-9 (The Message)

Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances, they’re a nation of right-living people—law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

Well, here’s why: The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

***TINY MEMBERSHIP DRIVE***

The content here takes hours (and no small amount of spare change) to produce. If you enjoy reading my content, whether here, in the bi-monthly Tiny Letter, or in any of my free email campaigns, would you consider SUPPORTING THE WORK? (It’ll only set you back a cup of coffee a month.) And, if you enjoy this website and haven’t yet signed up for the bi-monthly Tiny Letter newsletter, sign up to receive it straight to your inbox.

powered by TinyLetter

Want to receive my updates in your inbox? Click here. Also, follow along on Twitter and Facebook.