After writing blog posts about “right things” (see Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Right and Doing Right Things), I was asked by a couple of people that I mentor what doing right things has looked like in my life over the years. Hmm…great question! I sat down one day a month ago and jotted down things that came to mind. What a great experience! I am going to list them below in bullet form without a lot of explanation and in the order they came to mind (which is roughly chronological, because we engineering types tend to think linearly)…
- Spontaneous dates with my wife, Barb.
- Shopppppping with Barb, as opposed to just shopping – i.e. it’s about the hunt, not the capture. (Thank you, Gary Smalley)
- Regular times of Pondertude – usually at coffee shops, scheduled and unscheduled. (Pondertude is my term – a combination of pondering and solitude)
- Continuous reading of the Gospels.*
- “Stopping what I’m doing to play catch” – the point being, if my kids wanted time with me, I tried to postpone what I was doing if at all possible.
- Similarly, “Let my kids crawl on me while fixing the dishwasher” (and now, my grand-kids!).
- Camping with the kids. I often took each of our kids camping one-on-one for a 24-hour overnight – no agenda, no plans (we usually stopped at the grocery store on the way for the necessary supplies!).
- Incorporating a mantra (Abba, I belong to you) into the rhythms of life. (Thank you Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and others)
- Create memories. (Thank you, Tom Scheuerman)
- Go to our kids’ (and now, grand-kids’) stuff. (Again, thank you, Tom Scheuerman)
- Just show up. (Thank you, Young Life)
- Lead from a servant’s perspective. (Thank you, Robert Greenleaf)
- Focus on a few things, and do a few things well.
- Likewise, focus on a few people – The “Jesus way” (He poured most of his effort into a few – Peter, James, John, Mary, Martha).
- Keep learning. (Thank you, Dad)
- Know Him and make Him known.
- Be good news to those around me.
- In more recent years (i.e, the last 15-20 years):
- Learn gratitude
- Learn submission – I don’t need to be right, I don’t need to get my way. (Thank you, Richard Foster)
- Pay attention to the other – People that are culturally different, the one that doesn’t look like me.
- Talking to God about what we are doing together – the best description of prayer ever! (Thank you, Dallas Willard)
- Everything’s a surprise – Allows for spontaneity and is theologically accurate.
I noticed a few things as I went through this experience. First, most of these items have a faith and family focus and are not outcome-based. However, as I pondered this, I recognized an integration of the practices into all aspects of life – faith, family, ministry, job, career, etc. And any outcomes were up to God (see the Seed Scattering post).
Secondly, please know that I have not practiced all these for the past 40 years. If someone had shown me a list like this 40 years ago, I would have thrown up my arms in surrender, knowing I couldn’t incorporate all these into my life. In reality, they showed up as needed and, I assume, as God deemed them necessary (here I think of Acts 15:28 – it seemed right to us and the Holy Spirit). Simple math tells me that one of these right things showed up every couple of years.
Finally, I discovered that over time, a number of these practices have become second nature, to borrow a term from NT Wright. I was watching the Twins game the other night, noticing the right things players did that had become second nature, things they didn’t need to consciously think about anymore. (One could argue that Rocco Baldelli’s success as a manager has been the encouragement of players to do the things that have become second nature for them.) Same thing when we practice doing right things (the operative word here is practice). To be clear, some of these practices are NOT second nature for me. They still take a lot of thought, intentionality, and practice on my part. Maybe, just maybe, 20 years from now a few more will have become second nature.
Note: I am fully aware that the explanations for these right things are brief. I can certainly expand on any of them – just ask and I will do that (after all, it was a couple people’s asking that led to the creation of this list).
* ADDENDUM 1/31/2023: Annie F. Downs has created a podcast that will help the listener experience all four Gospels twelve times during the year 2023. It’s called Let’s Read the Gospels. Enjoy!