A Well-ordered Life.

Time to go; don’t be late. Leaving the house: got my gadgets, got my glasses, wore the right clothes, used mouthwash, locked the door, got my keys, oops. Once again the well-ordered life evades me. A new set of plans begins, call for a ride and worry about the keys later.

Living a well-ordered life can be monumental in our multi-tasking, distracted world.   Is it that we are trying too hard to do too much? Or is this how life is, so we have to get with it or be left behind. Unfortunately, what is left behind might be something more valuable than my keys, like my well-being and peace of mind, my family or even my faith.

What I’m discovering, when driven to distraction, I need to stop and check in with my soul. Is it “well with my soul,” or has distraction filled my inner life too?

A well-order life is a beautiful thing and it doesn’t depend on a fully put together exterior.  The pursuit of a well-ordered life is a choice to be uncluttered even when all around is chaos and confusion.    “Set you affections on things above,” the Bible says. (Col. 3:2) The difficulty I face is not just a scattered mind but disordered desires.   I love how the apostle Paul was able to sift it all down to “this one thing I do.” It is the one thing above all things that kept his life on course.   That one thing was to be like Jesus. (Phil 3:13)

Pure water contains one thing, H2O. Okay, technically water is two elements, but you get the point. Moving from inner chaos to inner simplicity can only be accomplished by grace and more grace. By grace and some healthy soul-searching, we can gain inner victory over our disordered affections, but we have to get to the root of the problem. We must do more than separate ourselves from temptation, we need to uproot the wanting of lusts and passions that will only corrupt and confine us.   “The man who only shuns temptations outwardly and does not uproot them, will make little progress,” says Thomas a Kempis.

“The greatest obstacle, indeed the only obstacle, is that we are not free from passions and lust, that we do not try to follow the perfect way of the saints.” Thomas a Kempis

The result of a well-ordered inner life is the ability to live fully in the moment, to be present to God and others, to be free compulsions and maybe get out the door without forgetting anything important.  This inner beauty is cultivated by allowing God’s presence to dwell within us daily.

Order my steps by your word! Do not let any sin dominate me!  Psa. 119:133

Work: Chasing after the wind.

Does work ever get you down? You are not alone. The author of Ecclesiastes lamented his work too:

“What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.”  (Eccl. 2:22, 23)


It seems healthy to me to occasionally look at work from this “under the sun” view of Ecclesiastes.  It prevents us from making too much of it.  Apart from a few classic works of art and music, some cool inventions and buildings, what is gained from the last 100 years of toil?  Are we in the brave new world?  Who will remember the great contributions of the 20th century a decade from now? Perhaps the likes of Gandhi, Churchill and Mother Teresa will be remembered, but what of the billions of ordinary people who we never heard of in the first place? In my own experience, I like to know the “why” of doing something. However, this can be idealism.

There may not be a point to everything I do except that it needs to be done. Yet, I must believe there is a divine point to all things or I am a practical atheist.

My view of work is changing. I expect less fulfillment from it and that keeps me balanced and encourages me to take some time to “work at” some fun things too.

However, laziness, isn’t an option either, since experience and scripture both indicate that slothfulness generally ends in poverty or dishonor. (click for Proverbs) So, we work, under the sun, but we do not have to submit to its despair.  Rather, work can be enjoyed when we find a purpose “above the sun” for what we do.

Above the sun, we work for the coming Kingdom of God that is already here.  Working in two kingdoms creates a healthy tension.  We may find we are pulled between the futility of striving after the wind and the hopefulness of changing the world through Christ.  It is not our politics or our corporations that will create meaningful change; it is the Christian working under the sun with an above the sun vision.  So much work today is motivated by envy and competition.  A higher, nobler motivation is love for God and for my neighbor. This way we work for something more rewarding than praise of man or financial reward, and work recovers a sense of meaning and joy for us.

 “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.”  (Colossians 3:23,24)

Chasing the Wind

The new iphone goes on sale today and Apple is expected to sell 10 million this weekend. This will be the largest consumer electronics debut in history. One young buyer is quoted as saying, “There is nothing cooler than being the first. Now I am going to go home and unpack it slowly and with joy — this is going to be better than sex.” So, consumerism is alive and well. For many families, however, it will be another thing to try to say no to.

We are inundated daily with powerful & creative messages aimed at convincing us to spend.

It turns out that the world spent $5.3 billion on mobile ads (from display, to search, to messaging) overall in 2011, and it turns out that Asia is laying out the most capital.

Restaurants spent $5.875 billion on measured advertising in 2011, up 4.4% from the previous year, according to new data from Kantar Media. Not surprisingly, McDonald’s tops the list with 963 million spent on advertising.

So often the only reason we want something is to impress someone or to get something they have. The result is a me centred view of life. Jesus warned against this when he said, “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, and cast away himself?” Luke 9:25 The irony of it is that while we are getting more things we are becoming less of a person. In order to avoid the pressure of consumerism, that’s a good thing to remember.

In Ecclesiastes the author has had personal experience with the limitless pursuit of wealth and in his experience it’s like chasing after the wind.

What can families do in response to this intense consumer pressure? Teaching and practising generosity is a great counter cultural move. Avoiding consumer debt is a must. Explain to children that money is limited and we have choices. Get them involved in the choices. With our kids, we used an allowance in which we matched their flyer route earnings. Discretionary spending such as clothes, movies, and gadgets, was up to them. They wanted expensive running shoes back then, not electronic gadgets like now.

Enjoy what good things you have and be content. More of a good thing is not better. Don’t let temporary things take on any kind of ultimate meaning. The void that we are trying to fill is spiritual and only God can fill it. When we lose ourselves in this culture the way to recover a sense of our true self is to turn back to our true source which is God. And when the wind blows, just take them to the park to fly a kite.