Readers of this blog may be interested in a mini-conference I'm involved in organizing. If you're in the Rochester area, consider joining us:
On Saturday, March 26 Journey Christian Church will hold a mini-conference for parents, grandparents, and others in the body the Christ. The conference is titled, "Christ-exalting Friendships: A Parent's Role." The conference will kick off with a delicious breakfast followed by teaching from Bible about godly friendship and testimonies from three families in our body with different perspectives and experiences in guiding children and youth in their friendships.
The conference was motivated by questions many parents are asking:
Breakfast: 8:15-9:00 a.m.
Conference: 9:00-11:30 a.m.
To learn more about the conference, to register, and to request childcare, please follow this link to the registration webiste.
Christian brother Mark Kakkuri at 360 Writing has been putting out some really helpful posts. If you need inspiration to write or want a wise and wonderful way of framing the value of writing for a young person, read this extended quotation by Harvey Newcomb that Mark posted. I plan to borrow heavily from Newcomb as teach my children how to approach the writing assignments they are starting to get in elementary school.
A reporter from the LA Times interviewed me on Friday about how I use mobile applications in my spiritual life. She was particularly interested in Prayer Journal, and the effect that putting your most intimate needs and desires on an iPhone has on your relationship with the device. The conversation was interesting, and at some point I plan to post more thoughts about the risks and benefits of using technological tools for toil and the "relationship" one forms with the tools one selects.
But for today, I thought I'd just explain how I'm using Prayer Journal right now. I have been using the app for about a month. I have not totally committed to using this application for my prayer life, but I have benefited from using it so far. Please note, I have looked at but not tried any other prayer apps; there are about half a dozen in the iTunes store. I can't say that Prayer Journal is better than these other options, but it has been a useful little app to me so far.
I use Prayer Journal a little differently from how it is set up by the developer. The application is set up to enter prayer requests by person. The prayer request dialog gives you a text box to enter a person's name and a text box to enter the prayer request. When you go to pray, you have the option of seeing your entire list, praying through a portion of the list (there is a setting to specify how many requests you see when you select a "Pray for Portion of List"), praying for a specific person, or praying for a randomly selected person from your list.
As I have described previously, I have found it fruitful to order my prayer life to pray in concentric circles with daily themes. I have certain people (including myself, my wife, and my children) for whom I seek the Lord's mercy every day, and other people and institutions that I pray for once a week. Of course, I feel complete freedom to deviate from this order (the structure is there to serve me, not me it), but I find that I am often most faithful and fervent when I follow this structure.
Prayer Journal's simple interface does not have the option of adding a day-of-the-week layer to the prayer structure, so I have modified how I enter names to accommodate that additional structure. Here is what I do (See screenshots below): When I add a prayer request, instead of just entering the name of a person or institution (Like, "Me", "Work," "Martin" or "Reformed Forum") I write the number and day of the week (2Mon, 3Tues, 4Wed), followed by a dash, then the name. For daily requests I type #Daily instead of a day of the week. There is a setting in Prayer Journal to sort your list by name or by date. I sort by name so the app alphabetizes the list. The three requests above would appear like this:
Each day, with my Bible still open, I can open the app, and pray through the @Daily prayers and the prayers designated for that day of the week. Needing to do the # and numbers is a little janky, but it serves.
What I like about Prayer Journal:
Wishlist for Prayer Journal:
It is too early to say whether Prayer Journal or any other application will replace a good old-fashioned paper prayer list. I'm pretty sure there is no replacement for a paper journal for actually praying and reflecting in writing. At least for me, typing or dictating does not create the kind of unselfconscious flow that I think it best for journaling.
I'm still trying to figure out what combination of digital and analog tools will serve me best as I serve the Lord in daily disciplines--and at the same time, trying not to focus too much on the tools. The Word is living and active, and Jesus did not need a computer. He did create all things for Himself (Col 1:16-17 ); so here were are, seeing dimly, toiling to use all things digital, analog, animal, and mineral for their created purpose.
Tim Challies, a brother whose work on the web I admire and appreciate, has a relatively new podcast called the Connected Kingdom (iTunes link). This week (episode 9) he hosted Matt Perman, the senior director of strategy for Desiring God. Matt blogs about productivity and other kingdom work at What's Best Next. The discussion between Tim and Matt this week will be a great interest to readers of this blog. These two godly men tackle many of the themes I've blogged about here, and do so from an intelligent, gracious, and measured way.
Here are some of the topics they discussed and the approximate timecode when each starts:
Near the end of the episode, Matt mentioned that he is writing a book this summer on productivity in the context of the Gospel. That is a book that I have desired to write (and read!) for a long time, but which I've never believed God had called me to commit to. I'm thrilled that God has given a reformed brother like Matt that desire, and the resources to accomplish it. I will pray for him in this effort. Please do the same--the Church needs it!
About a week after my last post about my four year-old son using Mommy's inbox for a birthday request, I found this index card on his dresser. I guess he's getting the checklist habit as well as the inbox habit!
My four-year-old son seems to have adopted at least one part of the GTD workflow. My wife found this note in her Inbox yesterday. This made me smile. He's watching our habits and he likes what he sees! He sees stuff go in to Mommy's box--notes from Daddy, party invitations, educational articles, church bulletins. He watches Mommy faithfully process these many inputs onto action lists each day (note the InboxZero state in which he found her--what a wife!). And then he has the privilege of seeing the whole process culminate into action as she diligently works her lists. The boy knows a fruitful process when he sees it. He figured out that his chances for a "higHer Bascetball hoop.For my Birthday" are best if he presents the request to Mommy in a context in which she put it on an action list.
He has also started to put his preschool work into my box when he gets home at lunchtime each day. I think he enjoys having a place to put things where he can (a) trust I will see them soon and (b) not have to clutter his brain or room with things that can't be acted upon until I'm home from work. When I get his little treasures, I bring them to him so we can enjoy them together.
Now, all of this asynchronous communication through inboxes could lead a person to object, "OK, you're getting things done, but isn't this a sterile form of communication? I mean, is he your son or your employee?" Fair question. I can imagine scenarios in which children can only communicate their needs and love through the inbox of an absent parent. Daddy works 14 hours a day, so the kids can only share their drawings by placing them in an inbox where they get processed along with the utility bills. Mommy is so preoccupied with her own life that she wouldn't remember her son's birthday if he didn't put it on her list.
The sin and sadness of those scenarios don't have to do with the inbox, of course. The problem is in the parents' hearts and lives. My wife and I are not immune to such selfishness. We need the gospel everyday to cleanse us and turn our foolish hearts back to the superior pleasures of God. As that happens, though, He does orient us toward nurturing, teaching, and encouraging our children. And as they experience us pouring ourselves out for their good, the inbox becomes an extension of a trusting relationship--a symbol of affection meeting action. The inbox and project lists bring the security that Daddy and Mommy guard their attention and keep their commitments.
Speaking of project lists, my wife and I have an active project to carve out some space in our home for each of our children (turning 3, 5, and 7 year-old soon) to have their own in/outboxes, files, and work surface. Although they are so young, God is bringing inputs into their lives all the time. They have ideas and goals and responsibilities. We keep a wiki for my daughter of writing ideas for her 1st grade assignment--our goal is for her to take that over some day. Whether our children will ultimately adopt these habits as their own, only God knows. But we're trying to share with them as much of what we've learned as we can. Whatever their habits, may they be productive for the Kingdom!
Related Posts:A Heritage of Habits: GTD for the family
Nothing drives me to be more careful or thorough in my study of doctrine than teaching children--my own or other children that I love. Recently, I've been so helped by a couple of works in a genre of catechesis with which I was previously unfamiliar: fictional dialog. I don't even know if that is the official name of this genre of literature, but the idea is that the author teaches doctrine through an imaginary conversation between two people--one is usually a naive but interested young person or seeker and the other is a wise and learned saint. The dialog is not meant to be realistic, but rather is intentionally contrived to bring about all of the key aspects of a given doctrine. The two works in the genre that have helped me lately are The Child's Book on Repentance by Thomas Gallaudet and a A Primer on the Atonement, by John Gerstner. The Child's Book of Repentance is an old puritan book that imagines a dialog between a Christian mother and her children, who crave to know what true repentance is. A Primer on the Atonement comes from a larger book of compiled primers by Gerstner, portions of which Ligonier Ministries has been posting as a series (now on Part 5). Both of these are wonderful and have sharpened me to teach more faithfully and thoroughly.
In John Piper's moving explanation for his upcoming leave of absence, he acknowledged pride in his life:
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me. How do I apologize to you, not for a specific deed, but for ongoing character flaws, and their effects on everybody?
This touching acknowledgment of pride made me think about something he mentioned in a sermon about greatness and humility several months back:
A Yearlong Focus and Lifelong Passion. One evidence of how crucial we feel this to be is that the pastoral staff small groups this coming year will be reading and praying over and applying C. J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness. The five of us who lead those small groups agreed on this so that the quest to put to death our pride and all its ugly fruit would not be a passing interest with this sermon, but a yearlong focus for us—and then a lifelong passion.
I have no idea how God used the small-group study of Humility to sanctify Pastor John and others in the group. But it made me know that I want to let the good books I read really have an effect on my life. God is doing a million X a million things in ordaining that we pick up a godly book to read. And when he moved men of God to write them.
On my shelf right now I have three unread books that could change everything if I take them as seriously as I imagine John Piper takes a book like Mahaney's: DA Carson's A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Richard Phillips The Masculine Mandate, and Timothy Witmer's The Shepherd Leader.
What books are on your shelf? Will they make it to your life?