Changing Routines

Have you ever marveled at an Olympic gymnast or figure skater and just been amazed at their flawless routine? A well thought out routine that is continuously practiced becomes a habit for these athletes. These perfected routines are often rewarded by a perfect score from all of the judges. Sometimes routines lead to poor performances and the judges reflect this with poor scores. From a spiritual perspective it is also possible to develop bad routines. Our daily routines, if we are not careful, can draw us away from God. One day we must face a judge as well. Developing God centered routines in our spiritual lives can help to assure us a good score on our final judgment day. What type of spiritual routines are you practicing?

Let me just share a personal moment of honesty with you. Many weeks when I write these 4thdayletters, I believe I am sharing with the world the messages God is putting on my heart for me to learn. This is clearly one of those messages. I know that I have some bad daily routines that pull me away from God and keep me from more time in prayer and study of His Sacred Word.

The inspiration to write this week’s message was put on my heart a few days ago when I was shaving. The Holy Spirit got me to stop and think that I shave robotically every day. Most of you know that in addition to shaving my face I also shave my head to eliminate the little bit of hair I have left. I remember reading once that Michael Jordon said he knew exactly how many strokes it took to shave his head. I might not know the number of stokes but I can say I do it exactly the same every time.

Then I began to think. My morning routines are also quite robotic. I wake early (usually 2:30 -3:30 am), after the mandatory trip to the bathroom it is off to the coffee pot and here again it is exactly the same every day. I remove the filter and grounds from the previous day before putting in the new filter, then I add 2 scoops of Italian roast coffee and the exact same amount of water and press the start button. When brewing is complete, I pour my coffee and head down to my office. Day after day this routine doesn’t change.

Now comes the interesting part in my routine when I am I faced with the proverbial fork in the road. Sadly, some days I choose the wrong path because I have developed bad routines too. But first let’s go back to those athletes and then to a Harvard Business Review study before returning to my story.

I am showing my age by choosing 1968 Olympian Peggy Flemming, as my example. Unlike skaters before her, Flemming’s skating was like a fine work of art. She repeatedly worked to perfect her routine and as a result was flawless in her execution. Her jumps and spins were never seen before in woman’s figure skating. The pay off forher great routine was a gold medal. Click here to watch her routine.

Constant and repetitive practice of their gymnastic routines likewise turned gymnasts like Nadia Comaneci, Olga Korbut, and Mary Lou Retton into world renowned Olympians. All of these are examples of athletes with repetitive routines that had great outcomes.

There is an old saying regarding computers that says: Garbage in garbage out. The same is true for us spiritually if we develop weak and poor routines. Daily routines that are not focused on God tend tolead us away from Him. If we are not careful, these old routines become such ingrained habits that they are very hard to change.

In March of 2014, the Harvard Business Review carried a story by Sarah Green that examined the routines of 161 painters, writers, and composers, as well as philosophers, scientists, and other exceptional thinkers. She concluded that a good routine was essential to their work. Here are just two of the common keys to success in their secular routines.

  • Minimal distractions.
  • Accountability metrics.

Perhaps these are good guidelines for developing sound spiritual routines. We should set aside a special time and place for both prayer and scripture study. We should also have Christian friends that we can meet with weekly so that we can hold each other accountable on our spiritual journeys

I think we may all be familiar with this Old Cherokee Tale of Two Wolves but the message is so good that it is worth repeating again here: One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil and the other one is good.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’ The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’

This is such a lovely story: it is both simple and true. Our daily routines often spell out which wolf we are feeding. It hasbeen said that those things we think about most often become reality in our lives. In our spiritual life it is said like this: Where you spend your thoughts, your time and your money, there is where your ideal is at. Are we feeding and nourishing ourselves with God’s words?

Our daily routine should always include time for prayer and bible study, the question is does it?

Now let me jump back to my story and the fork in the road I face each day with my routines. After taking my coffee into my office and turning on the computer I must decide if I am going to do my morning online scripture study? Am I going to take a few minutes to pray and then work on researching and preparing my 4thdayletter? Am I going to read the daily spiritual meditation that pops us as my home page?My other choice would be to avoid doing those things and instead check the weather, check my email, look at Facebook, and in general piddle around on other meaningless and distracting things.

Galatians 6:7-8 says it this way: “Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” Are our routines sowing to the Spirit?

Another very popular Bible verse is Matthew 6:24No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

If you reflect on your daily routines what do they reveal? Do they reveal you are serving God alone or instead do they depict you are attempting to serve two masters?

Many of our routines have been in place for so long that they are deeply ingrained in us. Trying to break old patterns in pursuit of newer ones that are more focused on God is difficult. By way of example try for one week tying your shoe strings a new way. It seems nearly impossible. But reorienting our routines towards God has eternal implications. We must do this.

We are at the half way point in Lent. Easter is not far off. Can you identify just one new routine that you can implement to draw you closer to our Lord? If so, start today.

Brian Pusateri
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