How to Redeem your Ruts

I love routines because they give me stability. My morning routine is a good example: I begin in my study reviewing a Scripture (starting the day with God’s Truth), then to the gym or for a run to get my blood flowing, then spend quiet time with the Lord, then breakfast, then a shower and off to work for the day. When that routine gets interrupted, I feel out of sorts and out of control.

Right now many of my routines are being interrupted as we prepare to pull up stakes and relocate. Moving is chaotic, and we are reminded every time we reach for an item only to realize it’s now packed away in a box.

But there is an advantage to the chaos of moving, or any other sudden change in routine. Such times are good opportunities to evaluate our routines to see which have ceased to serve us well. To see which routines have actually become ruts.morocco-123969_1280

I’ve heard of a sign posted at the beginning of the barren Alcan highway: “Choose your rut carefully – you will be in it for the next 200 miles.” Whether you find yourself in the middle of a move, or simply the transition to a New Year, view the change as chance to consider whether you need to break out of some ruts and form some new routines. Here are some practical ideas to spur your thinking in several life areas:

Relational. When was the last time you had someone over for dinner who you don’t know well? When was the last time you proactively pursued a new friend? As the old saying goes,

Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold. – Joseph Parry

As you meet new people, ask them questions about their background and beliefs – it will stretch and grow you.

Physical. Are you in a rut with your workout routine? Maybe the rut is that you don’t have one – break out and introduce one simple activity 2-3 times per week in the new year. You don’t even have to tackle the “three times per week for 20 minutes” if that’s too daunting. Twice a week for 10 minutes is significantly more than nothing and gets your momentum going in the right direction.

Or maybe your rut is that you exercise too much – breaking that rut might look like taking 30 minutes per week to take a nap or practice deep breathing.

Mental. Do you get your news and information from the same sources all the time? Maybe it’s time to switch it up and try a new news app and read some books by authors who don’t share your point of view. On the flip side, if you work in a career that pushes you mentally all the time, you may need to set aside some time to play cards with your family or watch reruns of “Andy Griffith.”

Spiritual. If all your spiritual input comes from church once a week, pick out a new daily devotional for the coming year on YouVersion. Or choose a Bible reading plan and just spend time each day reading God’s Truth for yourself. Pick out a sermon podcast from a trusted Bible-teaching church and listen while you are working out (two birds with one stone!)

Here’s my challenge to you as the New Year approaches: identify three areas of your life where you have fallen into ruts, and brainstorm a new routine for each area in 2016. Use some of the areas above, or target Career, Education, Family, or Parenting. If you want to motivate us all, share your three new routine goals with us below.

Praying your routines move you forward to experience God’s best in 2016!

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Kneeling at the Manger: The Oxen

I first encountered this poem in high school – it remains one of my favorites. It captures the hope of Christmas – and faith itself – in spite of the dark realities of our world.

oxen kneeling

The Oxen, by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
‘Now they are all on their knees,’

An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen;

Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,
‘Come; see the oxen kneel

‘In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,’

I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

 

A little help with vocabulary: “barton” is a farm building, and “coomb” is a little valley. And for those of us who didn’t grow up on farms, oxen (as cattle) do actually kneel when they lie down and get up, in contrast to other animals like sheep.

The poem was published on Christmas Eve 1915, as England found itself ravaged by the second year of World War I. It was a time when the harsh realities of war could easily overshadow the simple beliefs of childhood.

As Christmas 2015 approaches, our world is still dark. Terrorism seems to be increasing, disease continues to outwit the advances of medicine, and relationships seem more challenging than ever despite the instant connection of our technology. And yet, 2000 years ago a light came into the darkness, and still today

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

Make your way through the gloom to the stable this Christmas. You may not find oxen there, but you will find millions from around the globe kneeling to the Prince of Peace. Kneel with them, and pray with them that His Kingdom may come.

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When the Fog Clears

Last week a friend and I went on an early morning run in dense fog. The limited visibility was a little unnerving, because we could barely see where we were stepping, and also because we couldn’t see cars coming until they were on top of us.

sunbeam-76825_1280Sometimes we feel like our whole life is enveloped in dense fog – it’s tough to see the path in front of us, we can’t gauge how far we are from our destination, and obstacles creep up on us out of nowhere.

Eighteen months ago the Lord stirred in my family a call to “Go,” similar to His call to Abraham when He said “Go” but didn’t say where (or when). Our journey has taken much longer than we expected, and for much of this year we felt like we were in a fog. It’s not a pleasant sensation, having no idea how to take the next step forward. But one thing fog does is deepen faith. When I can’t see the way forward, I do best to trust the One Who can.

The fog is now beginning to lift. We are seeing the path forward. And likewise, I can now see the past year more clearly. At the time I could not see the benefit to the timing and disappointments, but now I can make some sense of the formless shapes in the fog:

1 – Rejection becomes redirection. It was tough getting rejection messages when I applied to churches. There were days when the fog was so dense I wanted to stop moving forward. But deep down, I sensed that God wanted me to persevere. What I discovered is that rejection is really just God’s way of directing my steps. When I heard a “No,” God was re-directing my path to the church that would eventually say “Yes.” He opens doors no one can shut – Revelation 3:7.

2 – Hurt becomes healing. Disappointment over broken relationships prompted me to pursue healing through wise counsel, offering forgiveness, and in some cases face-to-face reconciliation. It taught me that not every relationship can be reconciled (Romans 12:18), but I can always extend forgiveness and walk free from resentment. We always have a choice whether to become bitter or better.

3- Delays can become purposeful. God knew I needed a break from ministry to discover how I could handle myself better in the future, and to continue my education to become a better leader. While I would have chosen to move back into ministry sooner, God knew exactly how much time I needed to learn the lessons He had for me. It was an important day when I decided to stop trying to get hired, and instead determined to become a man worth hiring.

I love Warren Wiersbe’s quote:

When God permits His children to go through the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. His loving heart knows how much and how long (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Whether through furnace or fog, God leads and teaches us always. And the truth is that my current enjoyment of clear view may be brief. There will be days ahead with more fog – sometimes pockets here or there, other times an all-encompassing density thick as pea soup.

There are new lessons to learn in the season that lies ahead. And while I wouldn’t choose to repeat the foggy days of this past year, I will value and implement the lessons that they taught me.

Question: What lessons have you learned during a foggy period of your life? Leave a reply below.

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