Are You A 10-Thousand Hour Christian?

Are you a 10-thousand-hour Christian? In his book Outliers (a book I found fascinating but one that's not written from a Biblical perspective), author Malcom Gladwell explains that becoming an expert in any given field generally requires ten thousand hours of practice.  Since the book covers such areas as music, sports, and chess, I never thought about applying the "10-thousand-hour" principle to anything other than occupations and hobbies.  But when blogger Catherine Gregory built her entire platform on the premise of becoming a 10-thousand-hour mama, wheels started turning in my head.  Where else could the 10-k principle be applied?

This past July 3rd marked my 29th year as a Christian.  I did the math, and it turns out that I've been a Christ follower for over 254,000 hours.  Even if you subtract all the hours that I've slept through (since I can't really work on my faith while asleep), I've hit the prized 10-thousand-hour mark over and over and over.

I know many other Christians who have been saved for a lot longer than I have, meaning they have even more faith hours under their belts.  But there seems to be one common thread between every single believer:

I don't know any Christian who feels as though he's excelling in his faith.

Why is that?

Part of it could be that although we've been saved for years, we don't actually spend that much of our lives actively cultivating a deeper walk with Christ.  Were we to count only the hours we actually spend in prayer, Bible study, and listening to sermons, there would be far fewer believers who've hit the 10-thousand-hour mark.

More than that, though, is the fact that no matter how hard we work, how much time we devote to study and prayer, and how faithfully we attend church, there is infinitely more to learn about the Christian faith.  We could never exhaust it in ten-thousand lifetimes, let alone 10-thousand hours.

That's why the concept of an endless Eternity spent with Christ is so fascinating to me.  Once we're in Heaven with the Lord, we will have all the time in the world to study the Glory of God.

But in full disclosure, I haven't always thought that Heaven sounded amazing.  As a kid, I kind of wondered, "What will we do with all that time on our hands?"  Thankfully, my perspective on and attitude toward Heaven have changed drastically over the years as I've matured in my faith and come to a deeper understanding of God's holiness.

I may not feel like an expert Christian, but I can see the growth I've made over the years.  And I want more growth.  I would love to feel like a 10-thousand-hour Christian some day - not out of pride, but because it is the most worthwhile pursuit I could ever undertake.

With that goal in mind, I'm currently working on 5 key areas to help foster a deeper faith:

Study the Word daily.

When I was growing up, my parents had me read my Bible on a daily basis.  This became a habit for me, and I now rarely miss a day.  (On those days when I do miss, I'm very thankful for grace.)  That doesn't mean it's always easy, but if I work at it, I can stay fairly consistent.

Since the Bible is the foundation for my entire faith, starting out by reading God's Word is an excellent starting point for better spiritual growth.  If we don't know what the Bible says, how can we put it into practice?

Pray frequently.

I love to pray.  It's something simple, free, and very needed that I can do for both myself and for others.  Even though I've been faithfully praying for years, though, just recently the Lord showed me the need to pray not just for the removal of trials, but for spiritual growth as a result of those trials.  Maybe most Christians already know how important this kind of praying is, but it's new to me.

Fellowship with other believers.

The Bible clearly teaches that we are to stay in fellowship with other believers (see Hebrews 10:24-25).  When at church, we sing praises to God, hear His Word preached and taught, and find encouragement through other believers.  It's a win-win-win situation!

Another great way to be in fellowship is to find a Godly Christian older lady to mentor you.  You can think of it as "finding your Paul," as Chip Ingram puts it in Good to Great in God's Eyes.  Several years ago, a friend of mine had been encouraging me to find a mentor in my church.  I was reluctant for a while, but after her continued, gentle pushing, I asked one of our church ladies to be my mentor.  It's been excellent for my spiritual growth, because my "older lady" is willing to ask me hard questions in order to help me expand my faith.

Read solid Christian literature.

Many, many Godly people have walked before us on this journey of faith, leaving behind some fantastic Christian literature for our benefit.  As long as we're diligent to read things that are based on God's Word and that don't take liberties outside of what the Bible teaches, reading solid Christian literature can help us grow tremendously in our faith.

And it isn't only fallen heroes of the faith who have worthwhile things to say; there are many newer books available now, too, that are just as good.  Blogs, videos, and podcasts can offer other sources of Godly material, too.  Just use discernment as you go through things to make sure that everything lines up with the Bible.

Minister to unbelievers.

Ministering to unbelievers is an excellent way to actively look for ways to share the Gospel.  It puts feet to our faith.  And it provides a great reason for us to make sure we really know what God's Word says.  If we're going to be sharing the Good News with others, we first need to know what that good news is.

We also need reminders to keep ourselves humble as we pursue the world for Christ.  The Bible promises that the Gospel is going to be offensive enough just on its own.  While we can't do anything to change that, we can read Scripture and ask God's help in staying humble as we share so that our own actions don't add to that offense.

I won't ever feel like a 10-thousand-hour Christian until I reach Heaven, but I can take steps to increase my faith.  By studying God's Word, praying frequently, fellowshipping with other believers, reading good Christian literature, and ministering to unbelievers, I hope to increase my Christian walk - with the Spirit's help.

Will you join me?

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Are you a 10-thousand-hour Christian?

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Finding Beauty in the Fall

Finding beauty in the fall

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love everything about it:  the crisp morning air; the fresh start of the school year; the promise of the holidays just around the corner; and, yes, even Starbucks’ over-priced Pumpkin Spice Lattes (though I’d like to try this healthier, do-it-yourself version).  My dad once commented that October would be the perfect time for a wedding since the outdoor colors are dramatic, the weather isn’t too hot (the air conditioning died at my parents’ June wedding – in California’s Central Valley – so temperature is something he and Mom always think about now), and no major holidays are there to impede date setting.

While Jon and I didn’t get married in Autumn, I still think of it as the perfect season with its cool temperature and beautiful colors.

Part of me wonders, though, if the beauty that I see in Fall is actually a result of The Fall.

After all, isn’t the brilliant display of gold, amber, and crimson really the death of the leaf?  And if death did not enter the world until Adam sinned, it begs the question of whether or not we would have had the beautiful Autumnal colors that many of us eagerly wait for every year if The Fall had not occurred.

There is no human way to discern this, but it is something that I often think about.  It’s very possible that leaves would have changed color for a season and simply returned to their green peak of vibrancy without falling from the tree.  Yet, scholars theorize that seasons likely did not change until after the Flood, meaning that there would not have been cooler seasons to induce the amazing color-changing phenomenon that preempts Winter.

I think it’s quite possible that Fall is one of many ways in which the Creator has made something lovely from what was otherwise broken and ruined.  Perhaps He brought beauty from ashes once again by providing yet another instance of His creative genius despite the ruin that sin brought upon the world.  We still have death, and leaves still die and fall from their branches, but God allowed them to do so in a breathtaking way that only He could have thought up.

However Fall came to be – whether originally designed from the beginning of creation or added later after the tarnish of sin had left its mark – it will always be my favorite season.

Your turn:  Which season is your favorite and why?  Have you ever thought about what it might have been like before the Fall of Man?  Let me know in the comments.

Finding beauty in the fall

Grandpas Weren't Supposed to Die

Grandpas weren't supposed to die

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Last weekend didn’t go the way I had planned.

At all.

I was planning for Sunday to be a busy day:  Jon and the kids had coffee fellowship setup at church; I was scheduled to play piano; and we had commitments in between services in preparation for our church’s annual Christmas Sunday the following week.  To get ready for all of our church activities, I thought that Saturday would be a good day to take things easy and to rest up.  It seemed like a perfect plan.

Saturday morning, I had a great visit with my dad.  He was doing yard work while Mom and my sister were at a baby shower, then they all planned to drive down to see my grandparents and to take them out to dinner.  That sounded like a lovely plan, too.

Plans are good – necessary, even.  But just because you plan on something doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone.

I wasn’t expecting a text from my sister telling me that Grampie had collapsed and hit his head on the concrete kitchen floor moments before they arrived for that planned-on dinner.

I knew it was bad even before she followed up with the doctor’s report after he’d been taken by ambulance to the nearest trauma center.  As the hours wore on and the news grew increasingly grim – a stroke, two brain bleeds, broken bones, and punctured lung – I saw my pretty little plans crumbling.

So I made new ones.

We’d go to church for setup and piano playing and find volunteers to take over the rest of our obligations so that I could pop over and see Grampie at the trauma center, “just in case.”  Sometime in the middle of service, we received more detailed information, including the doctor’s suggestion that family needed to come if they were going to do so, and the sooner, the better.

I thought I would make it in time.

I didn’t.

I would have dearly loved to have seen him alive one last time.  But that’s the thing about God’s ways:  His ways aren’t mine.  They’re far better.  Even when I cannot see how that can always be, I can trust that they are because He has promised me that it is so.  Maybe He knew that I couldn’t handle being there to see Grampie slip away.  I may never know the reason He prevented me from one last hand squeeze, but I do know that God is good and that He has my best in mind in every situation.

Although death comes to all living things on Earth now, it wasn’t that way in the beginning.  When the Lord God first created the Heavens and the Earth, He said, “It is good.”  But when sin – and therefore death – entered, it was no longer good.  At all.

Flowers weren’t supposed to wilt.  Animals weren’t supposed to perish. Leaves weren’t supposed to fall from the trees.

Grandpas weren’t supposed to die.

Grandpas weren't supposed to die
Grandpas weren't supposed to die

As hard as it is to lose a loved one, Death is inescapable.  It is not good.  It is not as God originally intended.  Yet, the Lord can and has redeemed even Death by offering us Eternal life through Christ Jesus.  For those who believe in the finished work on the Cross, Death can remind us of the beauty of Heaven, where Death will be unknown, where sorrow will be forgotten.  That’s how the Lord can be glorified even in something as sad, unpleasant, and awful as Death, because it still points toward Him and Heaven and Eternal Life.

Sorrow may last for a night, but for the believer, joy comes in the morning.  He brings forth beauty from ashes once again.

Your turn:  Have you lost a loved one?  If so, I’d love to pray for you.  Let me know in the comments.

Grandpas weren't supposed to die