Archives For January 2015

IMG_3449We have just begun a new year.  Many have set some ambitious goals.  Turned over a new leaf.  Added this and subtracted that.  But as we go through the various lists, something appears to be missing.  Play Time.

We have even taken it out of our educational system.  Recess seems to be a thing of the past.  Play time is no longer valued.  It’s missing in my own life.  Perhaps one reason is that I grew up with a dad who thought play was a curse word…almost.  My dad was obsessed with work, efficiency, and production.  But deep down in my dad’s soul was a yearning to play.

In fact, one memory of working for my dad stands out.  It was the day the unthinkable happened.  It was a cold morning one winter.  Four of us were up on the building:  my brother Mark, Mike, Scott, and me.  Out of nowhere, dad climbs off the ladder and comes walking across the building.  Familiar sight.

And then it happened.  Dad stunned as with his first words.  We should have been sitting down.  He said, “Let’s go skiing.”  Our jaws dropped.  Dad never, never, never, had fused work with play.

Well, needless to say, that day will never be erased from my mind.  That day the five of us hit the slopes.  While I can’t remember what happened the next day at work, I promise you we were more creative, more productive, happier, less stressed, and no doubt, even had a better attitude.

Perhaps like me, you, too, struggle with play time.  But what if play actually made you more productive, more creative, better at anticipating and making decisions?  Wouldn’t that inspire you to play more?

Today everyone has heard of Google and Pixar.  What you may not know is that they have intentionally incorporated play into the company’s culture.  Maybe they have learned the value of play.  Perhaps I need to stop working and go play.

Even Jesus had his disciples get into a boat and spend some time away.

What do you say we stop for a moment and schedule some play time?

iStock_000043385558SmallImagine being woken up during the middle of the night and being hauled off by a foreign army to a foreign country. How would you feel? What would be going through your mind?

Especially if you are a believer. I mean, wouldn’t you begin to question God? Where is He? How could He allow this to happen?

I’m not sure Daniel was awakened from his sleep. He may have been taken during the daytime. But he was captured along with three of his friends and taken to Babylon, the ruling power of the day.

No matter how you cut it, they were teenagers! You will need to read the story in Daniel 1. As you are reading ask the following questions.

* So where is God?

* Has God lost control?

* Couldn’t He have kept this from happening?

* Now what?

What I find fascinating about Daniel 1 is that God is the chief actor! Specifically God does three things.

1. God is the one pulling the strings when the Babylonian army invades Jerusalem.

2. God is the one pulling the strings when Daniel receives a special exemption.

3. God is the one pulling the strings when Daniel and his three friends outshine their classmates.

And just think. Many were thinking, “Where is God?” And He was right there all along. Right in the middle of the action. In fact, God was the main actor.

In your own life have you found yourself questioning where God is? Perhaps one day you will realize that He was there all along, right in the middle of it all!

iStock_000000084365XSmallIf it’s true that it takes 21 days to create a new habit, then we are getting close to a critical point…that is if a new habit was formed on January 1.

Even if the new habit was formed earlier there will still be a critical point in the life of the habit.

That was the case for Daniel. About 400 years earlier King Solomon had suggested that if anyone was living in exile that they might pray facing Jerusalem. Daniel liked the idea and adopted the habit. So three times a day he opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem.

So far so good…

Until a conspiracy was formed. Some of his colleagues simply wanted Daniel out of office. Who knows exactly why.

You’ll need to read the entire story in Daniel 6.

The point is Daniel had to decide if he was going to continue the habit. He could have prayed with the windows closed. But no doubt Daniel felt that to not pray as he always had would have been a betrayal against God.

How many of us consider our spiritual habits in a similar light?

Think about some of the basic habits we have:

  • read our Bibles
  • pray
  • attend church
  • give generously

You can add a few more perhaps. But how seriously do we take those habits? Yes, I realize that none of these bring instant gratification. Which can make it easier to let one slide.

But should we abandon those habits, would we consider it an act of betrayal towards God?

Daniel certainly did.

That’s why we read in Daniel 6:10, But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. (NLT)

Your spiritual habits matter.

But those same habits which strengthen you in the tough times, also cause you to betray God if you choose to abandon them.

Are there any spiritual habits you need to reclaim?

performance level conceptual meterAs the New Year begins, the subject of productivity becomes a popular theme.

After all, this is the year that your productivity is going to reach new heights. It will be your most productive year ever!

And so the guilt trip begins. “I’m not being as productive as I could be.”

So we cut some downtime and fill it with more productive tasks. We take less breaks during the day so we can be more productive.

We’re convinced that if we just upped our intensity longer we could be more productive.

But is that really true?

And are we all the same?

Is it a sign of laziness to schedule downtime to refresh ourselves mentally and renew ourselves physically?

In the football world it’s well established that defenses get tired if they are on the field too long during the game. Actually they become less productive.

So before you give into the productivity guilt complex and rush into a new high performance program, make sure you allow for and schedule some necessary downtime.

Yes, you may feel a little guilty, but you will be more productive!

 

iStock_FatherSonIt’s been over fifty years now since my grandmother told me Bible stories from the book of Daniel. After my grandfather passed away, she lived with us for a while in the lower level of our split-level house just outside of Tyson’s Corner, VA.

You have probably heard of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den.” Or the story of the three Hebrew guys who were put into a fiery furnace.

What you may be unfamiliar with is Daniel’s personal devotional life.

You can’t read the book of Daniel without noticing its impact on his life, and, ultimately, his influence on succeeding generations.

It not only impacted Jews in the second century who were being severely persecuted, but also my grandmother in the 20th century, and now me.

What was the secret to Daniel’s ultimate influence?

His personal devotional life. It is the KEY to his life and his influence. (Daniel 6:10; 9:20ff)

Now, Bible reading and prayer usually top the list of things discussed every New Year. You don’t know what the new year holds, and you want to have a good one.

But Daniel wasn’t focused on just the current year. He kept his mind and heart eternally focused.

As a teenager he was ripped from his home by a foreign army, the Babylonians. But that didn’t cause him to throw in the towel and try something new the next year. He stayed committed to prayer and the Scriptures even under threat of death.

As the book unfolds you notice his influence, his stability; and it is all influenced by his personal devotional life.

Sure, as we begin a New Year there are always headlines like “Have the Best Year Ever,” “Reach Your Goals in the New Year,” “15 Ways to …,” and “The Do’s and Don’t of Getting Leaner.”

And no doubt many of those are helpful.

But what about thinking beyond this year, or even beyond the next decade?

In a sense I am asking you to make a New Year’s Resolution, but not for this year.

A resolution is simply something you resolve to do.

When Joshua challenged the people to “Choose this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15), he didn’t say “…for this coming year, and see how it works out.” He challenged them to make a resolution that would give their lives purpose for generations to come.

Daniel himself purposed in his heart a course of action (Daniel 1:8), and it impacted his life along with countless others.

Daniel.

He influenced his coworkers.

He influenced his friends.

He influenced my grandmother.

He has influenced me.

That’s what I call Ultimate Influence.

And the KEY was his personal devotional life.

What will be the KEY in your life?