The Forever Part

If you aren’t stubborn in your quest for a life that matters, you’ll waste a lot of it building hype and hope on things that won’t outlast a goldfish. The difference maker seems to lie in one’s understanding of “the Forever Part.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11
 [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. And He has put eternity into the heart of man.

There’s a Forever Part of every human heartbeat. God put it there. Even those who don’t believe He exists still have the Forever Part. It’s just hard for them to hear sometimes.

Jesus came so that we could see that death isn’t the end. He offered eternal life. It’s the life we always knew, in our heart, was the truest life. In the Forever Part. 

But Christians many times forget about it. We can work and think and stress on things that rob our attention from what makes our lives matter. The forever stuff.

I try each day to hear the Forever Part of my own heart. There are dozens of ways it stirs to life. Little reminders help the most. For instance, there’s a clock on my desk. It’s frozen in time at a quarter to 8. Each time I sit down to write she tells me, “Unless this is linked to God’s Word and stirs the Forever Part of someone, you’re wasting your time.”

This blog post will fade and be lost soon, but you won’t. God and His Word won’t either. And if reading these words reminds you of that, then I’m doing something meaningful. Something that will, in a way, last forever.

Find little, everyday things that do this. For me, it includes reading (and writing) fiction. G.K. Chesterton was absolutely right when he said, “[Fictional stories] are more than true. Not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated.” Short stories are a favorite because I can read them in one sitting.

I’ve written a few that were inspired by the Forever Part and included it below. Perhaps they will inspire you as well:

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Practical Rest

It seems most people are beginning to realize how often our rest is poached by distraction and constant connectivity. I wish there was one place we could throw all of the blame. That would make it a quick fix. But there are just too many layers.

Social media, email, text messaging, and expectations surrounding our value of busyness all play key factors in our inability to rest well. I believe there is a foundational component to all of this, and have written about it here.

When our lives begin to show cracks in the wall, it’s usually a clue that something is wrong under the floorboards. The first step, therefore, in finding true rest is testing our foundation to see if it’s stable. I’ve found that if I start here then rest becomes possible, but not always probable.

Psalm 127:2
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.

It is possible to both trust in the Lord and distract yourself to death. Sometimes, we simply need to take a step back and evaluate ourselves and our work.

I’m a pastor. That’s sort of like being a doctor who’s on call 24/7 every single day. I’m never further than a text away from rushing out the door to a counseling session or hospital or confrontation. Any time. Day or night. Every day. There are two things I can choose to do with that weight:

  1. Use it to justify never being able to rest
  2. Or believe Psalm 127:2 (and realize that most weeks are emergency free). Either way, I don’t have to bear the responsibility of always being accessible to everyone.

About 6 months ago, I started doing the second one and it changed my life. It took weeks of evaluating my schedule and heart. But I finally got practical with my rest. After 5:00PM, I stopped checking email until right before bed (11:00PM). In fact, my phone stays away from me. No texts. No social media (until bed).

The first few weeks were really weird – especially on Friday when I didn’t check email all day. Try it. Go one day without checking social media or email. It surprised me how many times I was doing something aimless like walking down the hall and would automatically try to check my phone for new information.

This habit of constantly distracting ourselves with connectivity limits our ability to shut down and rest. So, take a step this week and get serious about it. Here are some practical things I’ve done this year that have helped tremendously:

  1. Spent one day a week away from technology (no email, social media, etc.).
  2. Downloaded a free app called Moment that tracked how much I was using my phone.
  3. Planned my weeks really well (including scheduling tweets and Facebook posts through Hootsuite) so that I could shut down “work-mode” in my brain .
  4. Read and listened to many resources that helped me think well about rest and productivity. (They are listed below)

Pick one of them and look at it this week. Pull up the floorboards of your heart and find out what’s causing all the cracks in the walls. It’s worth the time.

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

Books

Zeal Without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice by Christopher Ash

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown


Sermons

Rest by Blake Hudspeth (me) – available for free here

Work and Rest by Tim Keller – available for free here
Blog Posts

When Rest Won’t Come

Phone Smart: How to Live Untethered (Realistically)

Good Reads for The Fall

I’m always on the lookout for a good book. The best ones I’ve come across were recommended by someone. I’ve written before on the importance of reading, and want to throw out a few that I’ve found helpful or interesting. If you’re looking to add to your list this fall, consider…

  1. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller (254 pages)
    Keller gives approachable answers to deep philosophical questions about Christianity. If you’re struggling with whether or not the teachings of Jesus are true, this is your book. If you’ve never critically evaluated your own faith in Christ, get it.
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    “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life to busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”

  2. “Why an Historical Adam Matters for a Biblical Doctrine of Sin” by John W. Mahony (17 pages)
    This scholarly article published in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was a short, helpful explanation of the importance of a real Adam and Eve. With the rise in popularity for evolutionary theism, understanding the various interpretations of Genesis 1-3 is critical.
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    How essential is it, given what the Bible says about sin, to maintain that Adam was a historical figure? What do we lose if we deny this point? In order to answer these questions I will proceed in three steps: (1) I will survey the biblical view of human sin; (2) I will discuss the various interpretive options proposed by current evangelicals who are questioning the actual historicity of the Genesis account; (3) I will conclude by arguing that the biblical doctrine of sin requires an original image bearing couple, rooted and grounded in history.”

     

  3. The Problem of Pain: How Human Suffering Raises Almost Intolerable Intellectual Problems by CS Lewis (154 pages)
    Although I disagree significantly at points (i.e. Lewis’ Darwinian view of humanity), he lands in orthodox places and forces you to face tough questions gracefully.
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    “Pain would be no problem unless, side by side with our daily experience of this painful world, we had received what we think a good assurance that Ultimate Reality is righteous and loving.”
  4. Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Betrayed the Reagan Revolution to Win Elections (and How It Can Reclaim Its Conservative Roots) by Matt K. Lewis (219 pages)
    I listened to Lewis on a Podcast recently and was interested in his assessment of the current political world. He pushes back on the conservative “echo chamber” and suggests that our society has become polarized in Washington because of it. Read it before November’s election.
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    “New technology allows us to avoid coming into contact with opposing viewpoints. There is no common culture or consensus. It’s entirely possible nowadays to go through a day and avoid hearing information that challenges your assumptions.”

     

  5. Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. (224 pages)
    Every Christian should read this. Moore analyzes the Bible Belt South with aggressive clarity and refocuses Americans to the original message of Christianity.
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    “We are Americans best when we are not Americans first. Therefore, we cannot build Christian churches on a sub-Christian gospel. People who don’t want Christianity don’t want almost-Christianity.”

  6. Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney (67 pages)
    Whether you have small children at home or are trying to figure out how to start family devotions with teenagers, this little book will be very helpful. Whitney takes away all the typical excuses by replacing them with practical (and realistic) suggestions.
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    “Husbands, fathers- if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today.”
     
  7. Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavin (336 pages)
    Sometimes, you need to read something fun. Klavin’s novel is about a cop who solves top secret crimes. It gets real interesting on nights with a full moon because…you know…he’s also a werewolf. You might find the gore a little much. Either way, find a Werewolf Cop for your reading list.712XqhTMN8L-682x1024

There’s one more that I’m excited about…

8. Dear Frankenstein: Letters of Hope to Pieced Together Families by Blake Hudspeth
I’ve been working for the last few months on a short, free eBook that will be available this month. My aim is to encourage families that need hope. The ones on the brink of collapse, or perhaps are now on the other side of divorce and just want to keep their head above the water. Watch for it on this blog in the coming weeks.
Ad Cover

My family didn’t become functional overnight. Each person made important decisions en route and learned many lessons through tears. You will find them embedded throughout this book. Every chapter is a letter addressed to you- someone who needs hope. They will not teach you how to build a healthy, blended family. But they will give you hope that it’s possible.”

Happy reading!

Phone Smart: How to Live Untethered (realistically)

Humans have existed for millennia without being accessible at the drop of a text. But knowing that red number sits on your message icon brings instant anxiety and our minds dart away from the present. Has the buzzing screen glued our attention to the point of no return?

In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each OtherSherry Turkle explains our new fascination with smart phones and social media as the illusion of community without the fear of intimacy. Have you ever felt the need to tell others you “won’t be on Facebook” for a period of time?  Do you believe people will miss your status updates? That’s the illusion of community without the fear of intimacy.

It was taking a lot of my attention and time, so I decided to untether…at least a little. Sure, going “off the grid” looked attractive, but it’s not at all practical in our world. Here are three things I did, and it paid off:

  1. Be present. This is more of a mindset shift than anything. I make it a practice to not pull out my phone at every still moment. When I finally tried our city’s new Thai place for lunch a few months ago, it was by myself. Instead of scrolling Twitter, Facebook, or email, I did something antiquated. I waited for my food. No pressing notification stole that moment. Pad thai and silence were the shining stars. It sounds crazy, but when was the last time you just sat somewhere? I like what Jim Elliott said, “Wherever you are, be all there.”
  2. Install a landline. I have a wife, young children, and a church that needs access to me, but there are limits to everything. We decided to get a landline as a buffer. It did a number of things for us:
    • We can turn off our smart phones at home but still be accessed in case of emergencies.
    • We can limit who gets our number. Friends and family know they can call us if they want to chat or go grab last minute Mexican food. Remember the ’90s? It’s basically like that.
    • As our kids get older they can give the number to friends who might want to ask them a question about homework or invite them to a birthday party without giving out our cell numbers.
  3. I made guardrails for smartphone use. During work hours (8AM-5PM), it was game-on. A lot of my job requires email and text/calls. But after work hours, I have a system:
    • Emails: answer them the next day. People will be able to sleep not knowing what date a conference starts next month, but it could distract me from my family today.
    • Texts: check them before bed. I answer if it’s an emergency (which it never is…because they would’ve called our landline). Otherwise, I answer them the next day.
    • Voicemails: same as texting. 

Here’s what sealed the deal for us:

“Those lucky children who have intact families with stable incomes can experience other forms of abandonment. Busy parents are preoccupied, often by what is on their cell phones.”

Through research, Turkle explained how kids whose parents were constantly “connected” to everyone (except the people at home) showed signs of abandonment. Being home, but not being “present” is damaging. My kids should never have to compete with an iPhone.

Staying in a “be where you are” mentality and getting a landline helped. Remember, nobody needs you that bad. We’ve made it until 2005 without smartphones. It’ll be okay. At home, put that thing on Airplane Mode, stick it in the other room and live untethered.

This Helped Me WRITE Better

Good writing snatches you by the collar on its way to the next sentence. The content doesn’t matter. John Quincy Adams’ biography can grip you while the Normandy Invasion rings dull. It all depends on who’s holding the pen, and whether they describe their character as “obstreperous” or “a bulldog with a cocky haircut.”
But anyone who can write a book about writing that’s hard to put down might be the best in the business. If you want to excel at any level as a writer, invest in this:
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Here’s a blurb:
“Few people realize how badly they write. Nobody has shown them how much excess or murkiness has crept into their style and how it obstructs what they are trying to say. If you give me an eight-page article and I tell you to cut it to four pages, you’ll howl and say it can’t be done. Then you go home and do it, and it will be much better.
After that comes the hard part: cutting it to three…
The only important distinction is between good writing and bad writing. Good writing is good writing, whatever form it takes and whatever we call it.”
He’s a magician that shows the audience how every trick is done. And, like most books I read, a friend recommended it. What’s one you couldn’t put down? I’ll jot it on my list.

This Helped Me LEAD Better

Binge watching Netflix has its place, but reading shapes you. The relic idea seems to be picking up steam as we lurch forward in the 21st century. People are becoming less content with their small, buzzing screens and want something more gripping. Different seasons can create a perfect opportunity to slow down and give reading another try, but where do you start?

Having a plan is 90% of the work. Mine has served me well and might nudge you in the right direction. There are five genres of books I cycle through multiple times each year:

1. Leadership
2. Writing
3. Fiction (classic/contemporary rotation)
4. Spiritual Formation
5. Apologetics
Every time someone recommends a book in one of those categories, I jot it on my list. In 2015, I stuck to the plan and was able to read 4-5 books in each genre.
My favorite one on leadership is…
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Here’s a blurb: “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”
Whether or not “leader” is a word that describes you, this book is worth your time. What’s been a leadership book that has shaped you? I’ll jot it on my list.