I am going to share five practices that have been helpful to me in cultivating freshness. Hopefully, at least one of these might be helpful to you as you prepare your mind and heart for a new school year.
Each July, for the past nineteen years, I have stepped away from my daily ministry/work duties for the month. Two weeks are vacation and two weeks are devoted to study. I do no public preaching or teaching during this month. The congregation that I serve has graciously supported this rhythm.
This month not only allows me the opportunity to rest and enjoy vacation, but has enabled me to spend focused time reading, praying, and thinking.
I want to share with you several practices that you might find valuable as well.
You may not be in a situation where you are able to practice this yearly rhythm. (Of course, if you are, I highly recommend this practice.) However, no matter what our circumstances may be, we can take deliberate steps in order to cultivate freshness. The following are a few suggestions:
1. Pray for a clear sense of your purpose and mission at this point in your life. Pray for a fresh sense of God’s love for you and his absolute inspiring majesty.
2. Read. Read. Read. However, it is important to venture out and stretch yourself. Read a different author. Live in a biography. Read about something which interests you which you know little about.
3. Intentionally place yourself in different and even unfamiliar environments. A few suggestions:
- Spend time in a coffee shop or cafe that you rarely frequent. A few months ago, I spent part of a morning doing my work in a cafe on the other side of our city. The different atmosphere was helpful.
- Choose to spend a day in several very different settings. For example, one year, I spent a morning in an art museum and then went to Bass Pro after lunch. For some reason, spending time in two very different environments was stimulating.
- Take a walk in an unfamiliar setting. Recently, I spent part of a morning walking around a large university campus. I listen, observe, and simply try to be present.
4. Create opportunities for conversation. In the last month, I had significant conversations with four people, outside our city, whom I really didn’t know very well. These conversations were stimulating and helpful. These conversations happened after I contacted each one of these people and asked them for an opportunity to visit with them over coffee/lunch. I wanted to talk with them in order to get their thinking on a couple of issues related to my ministry. When we met, I asked several questions that I had thought carefully about long before our meeting. These conversations were incredibly helpful.
5. For a season, post your detailed activities, observations, insights, and thoughts in a notebook. I purchased a new notebook to use during July. For me, July is about paying attention in different but intentional ways. I write my thoughts, impressions, opinions, and ideas. I do not worry about whether it seems important or not. I keep detailed notes. After all, the details are what gives color to life. I find that when I am keeping such notes, I notice even more detail than normal.
Let me suggest that you pick one of these practices to focus on right now.
Is there a particular practice here that really speaks to you? What has been helpful in your own life? Please include your practice or habit in your comment.