Archives For discipline

Reading, like anything else worth doing, requires intentionality. It’s a discipline. People who view reading as a leisure time activity are not, in my estimation, actually readers at all. For only someone who doesn’t read could so readily overlook the commitment of time, mental acuity, and emotional investment that reading requires of the reader.

It may be passive in the sense that one is typically not up and moving around while reading. But there is much activity occurring underneath the cranium. To look at a reader is akin (in a sense) to look at someone suffering from a chronic illness: just because one doesn’t see something going does not mean that nothing indeed is going on.

Think of all the time people these days put into binge watching Netflix, for instance, and multiply that 100x for a reader engaged with a beloved book. There is an investment there. It takes discipline to tune out: the T.V., music, Twitter, Facebook, etc. It takes commitment to continue. The characters become in a very real sense friends–we live, laugh, love, suffer, and die with them.

They become family.

Which is why this Lenten season I’m committed to reading as many books as possible which confront in my comforts, skewer my denials, challenge my assumptions; in short, bring me up short, showing me my abject poverty, mortality, and my utter need for Christ.

Who’s with me?

Prayer is like working out; the muscle it exercises is faith. Like going to the gym, or spin class–or anything, really–it’s a discipline we develop. And it can only be developed in the doing.

Thinking about doing a thing (like prayer) is very much different from actually doing that thing. I could, for instance, stare at the muscle mags at the bookstore all day, and not put on any new muscle. The difference lays between the very great gulf betwixt intention and action. The gentleman in the top photo didn’t lift all the weight upon the back of his intentions; no, he put in the work. He trained.

In other words, intending to pray is akin to intending to exercise: not worth a hill of beans. Prayer is the active exercise of our belief, our communion with the unseen. It’d where the rubber of life meets the road of faith. It’s part and parcel of our spiritual disciplines. It’s part of our training. Remember the verse from Hebrews? “He that comes to God must first believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

Prayer–like exercise, like writing, like the arts, like honest work, requires this: diligence.

Have you prayed today? If not, when’s the last time you did?

There’s no time like the present. Don’t put it off anymore. Exercise your faith (and not just your body).

Alright. I need to get this off my chest. It’s been seething inside of me since I read it (in one sitting!).

I “hate” Bryan Allain’s new eBook, 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo.

Continue Reading…

>Reactable at Creators Seriesphoto © 2007 Alex Barth | more info (via: Wylio)

A few weeks ago, Jeff Goins included in a post an anecdote about Pablo Picasso, in a seeming fit of pique, destroying what appeared to be perfectly good works of art.

Good, in his manager’s estimation–but not great in Picasso’s. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is indeed what distinguishes a good artist from a great one: the willingness to revise, the ability to distinguish the merely acceptable from the extremely sublime.

Writers have a phrase, “kill your darlings,” which implies a certain detached ruthlessness with they must view their works.
It means that if there is anything that one things is good–great, even–but which does not fit within a story, it must go. Kill your darlings.

This is what Picasso did in the example above: he killed some darlings–many labors of love, which he’d spent perhaps days, or weeks, of his life’s energy creating. Because they did not meet his exacting standards, he exercised his sovereign right to destroy them.

Taken in this light, much of the Old Testament makes a whole lot more sense to me. With God as the artist–the Master Craftsman–and the world as His canvas, the stories of genocide contained therein become a tale of an artist, The Artist, becoming dissatisfied with the life that His works have taken on. And as a creator–The Creator–He exercises His sovereign right to kill His darlings, weeping all the while.

But I digress.

The artist, writer, creative must be willing to be ruthlessly holy about rooting out the merely acceptable. Yes, at the core, there must be talent, but talent is a distant second to the self-discipline required.

Unlike God, the artist must be willing to constantly reinvent himself–daily, if needed–to create the best art.

The chaff, the fluff, must go, so the cream may rise to the top.

Kill your darlings. Your art is worth the pain.

>masterpiecephoto © 2006 sookie | more info (via: Wylio)

Art–all the best art–is subversive. Not in weird, spooky ways necessarily (although it could be), but in the sense that it always makes demands of us to see the world, and thus ourselves, in a different light.

This applies whether we are considering recordings, written works, paintings, sculptures, etc. The artist, I would argue a “sub-creator” (to borrow Tolkien’s phrase), out of an idea creates something that didn’t previously exist. How like God! Who, into the void, spoke creation into being.

Thus it is that art represents an ideal, or even an idealized representation, presented in a physical, visual, or written medium. We who feel the burning need to thus create, do so because we have something to “say.”

And what we say–whether spoken, sung, written, painted, sculpted, or photographed–involves the subversion of an ideal, the manifestation into physical space what was once “merely” an idea. To borrow Rob Bell’s words, “this” becomes “that.”

And “that”–the work of art–always focuses with laser-like intensity on one thing: life. Or an aspect thereof. If, as I said above, all the best art is subversive, then the best art subverts itself into life. Indeed takes on a life of its own–separate and distinct from its creator.

Who has not gone back to edit, view, or listen to one’s own work(s), and not discovered something therein that was never consciously intended to be there?

That is life. (In sense, like Creation itself, which for good, or ill, has seemingly taken on a life of its own).

All the best art is about life–what it is, isn’t, could be, should be, might be. Else why, for instance, have Stephen King’s books sold so well? We buy so deeply into the macabre scenarios precisely because his characters “feel” real. They could be us. His art is thus about our life. The actual is subverted into the ideal.

It is the same with other art forms as well: the artist is inviting us in, to share their vision, and to, in turn, turn a new eye towards the world, and ourselves.

All the best art is subversive. This is that is life is art is us.