Violent and original work

Some of you might have read about Jim Collins spending 50% of his time on creative work, and wondered, “How does he do that?” The Harvard Business Review provides the answer in Manage your time like Jim Collins:

“I block out the morning from 8 am to noon to think, read and write. ” He unplugs everything electronic, including his Internet connection. Although he has a reputation for reclusiveness, when asked about this, he replies: “I’m not reclusive. But I need to be in the cave to work.”

One of his favorite quotes comes from the famously disciplined French novelist Gustave Flaubert: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” For Collins, high-quality work requires long stretches of high-quality thinking. “White space,” as he calls it, is the prerequisite for fresh, creative thought. It’s the time that he spends with nothing scheduled, so that he can empty his mind, like the proverbial teacup, and refill it with new thought.

He aims to spend 100 days next year in the white space. “As a great teacher, Rochelle Myers, taught me, you can’t make your own life a work of art if you’re not working with a clean canvas,” he says. (Another smart bit of Collins philosophy: “Speak less. Say more.”

So how much white space do you have in your life? And how do you secure it?

5 Reasons to Study Old Testament History

Shakespeare said that history is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Christian view of history is quite a contrast; we believe God ordained it, organizes it, and moves it towards a meaningful, definite, and certain purpose.

However many Christians entertain a negative view of Old Testament History, of its usefulness and even of its accuracy. It is often regarded as “far away” and “distant” chronologically, geographically, socially, and theologically. “What can it do for me?” and “Why study it?” are common questions. Here are five reasons to study it and benefit from it.

1. OT History is True History

Israel’s neighbors expressed their beliefs through fantastic, elaborate, “out-of-this-world” myths In contrast, Old Testament narratives about Israel describe real events in real time involving real people and a real God. The reality of Israel’s faith rested on the reality of Israel’s history.

Similarly, if we lose or give up the truthfulness of the Biblical record, we lose and give up the Truth. We also lose our Christian faith because it is founded not on detached philosophical speculations but on God’s acts in human history.

Approaching Old Testament narratives with unshakeable confidence in their accuracy and truthfulness will build up unshakeable faith.

Read the other four reasons at the Ligonier Blog.

Targeting creativity

Many years ago, Jim Collins, author of bestselling business book, From Good to Great, decided that his “big goal” in life was to spend half of his working time on creative work — thinking, researching, and writing — a third of his time on teaching, and then cram everything else into the last 20%.

Using a stopwatch, he tracks his current time allocation on an office whiteboard. How’s he doing? Here’s the latest figures I can find:

  • Creative 53%
  • Teaching 28%
  • Other 19%

Lessons for Pastors?

Check out

Puritan Reformed Seminary Conference 2012
This year’s theme is “The Glory and Beauty of the Father.”

How to become a better leader
Miscellaneous challenging thoughts from Justin Buzzard.

How we die in America
Not the cheeriest of posts, but interesting nevertheless.

How should a full-time pastor prioritize his time?
Brian Croft lists three priorities in order.

The Unfortunate Link between Cultural Castigation and Pitiful Preaching
Strong but necessary words from Ed Stetzer.

How to turn a nightmare into a dream

Let me break the first rule of writing, by starting with a dream. With a nightmare, actually. In it, one of my daughters was riding a scooter along a path, lost balance, stumbled over a low fence, and plunged over a cliff edge – you know, the ones that suddenly appear from nowhere in our dreams.

Dream heroism
With “dream heroism” I stripped off my loose clothing and threw myself over the cliff to rescue her. At that moment, thankfully, I woke up with popping eyes, desert mouth, thumping heart, and a strange mixture of gratitude and regret.

Obviously I was thankful that it was only a dream, and that my daughter was warm and snug next door, rather than fighting for her life in a cold and deadly sea. I was also grateful that I was still alive; as I don’t think my daughter’s chances were much improved by my Superman impersonation.

Happy ending?
And amidst the gratitude, one regret – I’d like to have known if the dream had a happy ending. Did I reach the water or was I smashed on the cliff wall? Did I survive the 100+ mph water contact? Did I rescue my daughter? Did I win Superhero of the year?

But there was also that nagging question: in real life, would I really have jumped? Would I have calculated the risk, the probabilities, the chances of either of us surviving, and decided, “Eh, let’s phone 911!”

I mean, what if my daughter is maybe already dead. Even if I found her, could I get us both to shore? A bird in the hand is worth two in the sea, surely?

Will I? Won’t I?

Wide awake in the early morning, my mind drifted to the Lord’s Supper that I would soon be enjoying in a few hours time. I pondered Christ’s own heart and mind as from His heavenly vantage point He saw millions of sinners jumping over the cliff edge of sin, being smashed on the rocks of disobedience, drowning in the sea of guilt, and being carried away by the current of justice.

Will He? Won’t He?

Advantage Jesus
There’s no question is there? He will. He did. But there are two main differences between Jesus and me, apart from dream v reality.

First, unlike me jumping over the cliff in relative ignorance, Jesus jumped with full knowledge of every blow, laceration, pain, and sorrow that He would experience. Whatever terror I dreamed, His terrors were real and far worse. Yet, still He jumped.

Second, He knew that despite all the terrifying suffering He would endure in the rescue, He would succeed. What greater motivation to take the plunge into pain than to know that He would live; and that drowning sinners would live also.

That knowledge of certain success made Him all the more willing to endure the greatest pains. If an athlete knows that he’s certain to win gold, he’s more willing to push through the searing pain of the final bend to win. So, Christ’s assurance of ultimate victory enabled Him to push through the greatest pain and worst death ever, without which all of us would be sunk without trace.

The guaranteed rescue of millions, and the certainty of His own resurrection, made up the joy that was set before Him, as He despised the cross and endured the shame. With that sure knowledge He plunged, He sank, He fought the Serpent, He grabbed His drowning people, and swam to shore with every last one of them.

That’s how to turn a nightmare into a dream! And faith in Christ turns it into a reality.

Check out

Are sin and sickness linked?
“Those who are sick among us are very gracious. They hear lunacy from the body of Christ but usually take it in stride.” Ed Welch provides samples of “helpful things said to a sick friend of his.

How to create more margin in your life
Your life is probably not like Michael Hyatt’s. Yet I’m sure most of us can learn something from this transparent post.

The first day of the rest of my life
Poignant post from Kim Shay on her youngest son finishing up High School.

Awe puts us in our place
Paul Tripp: “It is hard to overstate the importance of functional awe of God to your ministry. Awe of God is one thing that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation.”

The Blackenthorn defection on Gay Marriage
Like Denny Burk, I haven’t given up, but as the ultimate argument against gay marriage is Scriptural, there is less and less hope of successfully opposing it in a society that has become untethered from the Scriptures.

5 Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness
I’m amazed at how few Christians really get this. No excuses if you’ve read this excellent short post.