So I was tidying our bedroom today, putting my stack of CDs back into their cases and listening to Stravinsky, glorious music filling the room.
And though I had been in a bad mood, for no good reason, ungrateful girl that I am, my bad mood lifted. I unconsciously started praying in tongues. I started praying.
I put Beethoven on next, a CD with the Moonlight Sonata, Appassionata, and Pathetique, music my father had loved. It was his private refuge from the stresses of the day, sitting quietly in the living room, just listening.
And grace flooded the room. Common grace.
The love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit he has given us (Romans 5:5).
And sometimes, through the classical music he has given us.
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In my first decade or so as a committed Christ-follower, I honestly believed the only valid solutions to my problems were to be found in Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).
I even preferred diet books written by Christians–“Biblical diets” which, in practice, meant whatever the writer wanted to emphasise.
I felt dubious about psychotherapists who weren’t Christian, really believing that true happiness and joy were only found in Christ. (Though, in fact, my two most helpful therapists were not Christian. In the course of our moves, I’ve had one good Christian therapist–but tried dreadful ones who were Christian!!)
* * *
And then, I read this article on “common grace” in Christianity Today by David Neff– Why God Enjoys Baseball.
R. T. Kendall in his brilliant book The Anointing says the same thing. Because of God’s overflowing goodness, his blessing—anointing– is poured out on certain mathematicians and musicians and writers and artists and architects, whether they are believers or not. And He rather enjoys the work of their hands.
The goodness of God cannot be restrained. His sun shines and his rain falls on pagan and Christian alike. He is the true light that enlightens everyone (John 1:9). And he bestows the ability to write and paint and invent and suggest ways to increase the sum total of human happiness on Christian and non-Christian alike.
* * *
A Christian friend recommended Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. And I privately thought, “But happiness is found in God alone.”
But hey, I am a sucker for life-makeovers—being in that phase of creative upheaval called “mid-life”–and bought it.
And it is amazing how much applying Rubin’s simple tweaks increase happiness or decrease unhappiness, which is the same thing, perhaps. Increase energy by exercising, getting rid of the clutter which weighs you down, and going to bed an hour earlier. Deal with procrastination. Keep up with friends. Eliminate as much as possible from your schedule and experience free time again–all these greatly increase our happiness.
As Rubin says herself, after instituting these small changes, “Each day, I felt more joy and less guilt; I had more fun, less anxiety. My life was pleasanter with cleaner closets, and a cleaner conscience.”
* * *
I have recently decided that becoming more organized and efficient was really part of my Christian discipleship, and am becoming passionate about it as I make daily minuscule changes.
A practical blog I highly recommend which will probably make you happier is Leo Babuata’s Zen Habits. I have bought his ebook on the 52 tiny changes which will provide the most leverage and set up virtuous cycles in your life.
Since 2005, Babuata has lost 70 pounds, stopped smoking, gone vegan, started running marathons, started waking early, got out of considerable debt, tripled his income, written successful books and launched a leading blog, Zen Habits, all using a Zen technique called kaizen, used by Japanese companies like Toyota.
Kaizen brings about major change in tiny, incremental instalments. So if you wanted to wake at 5 a.m. instead of just doing it tomorrow, continuing a bit, then crashing (a familiar scenario) you would, tomorrow, set your alarm clock just one minute earlier, and so on, until you were waking at 5.
If you want to take up yoga or weights but are too busy, you’d do a minute of stretches on day one; two minutes on day two and so on, until your own body gets addicted, and becomes its own reminder system and alarm clock.
Babuata has simple wisdom on a way to incorporate fitness with our busy lives. Interperse it with work. Make it social. (For instance, I tweet my Runkeeper records whenever I have broken a personal record, and I tweet and facebook my Fitocracy achievements whenever I move up a level (now on level 6), and looking forward to the showing off is motivational.)
He is excellent on focus, decluttering, simplicity, and healthful living. And, as far as I tell, he’s not a Christian, though not lacking in the true light which enlightens everyone (John 1:9).
So, (though, of course this may have been perfectly obvious to you) if you are trying to lose weight, or declutter or become organized, because of the common grace you can learn just as much from Leo Babuata, or Gretchen Rubin, or Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist Blog as from the Christian Michael Hyatt’s splendidly practical blog—which will also, step by step, make over aspects of your life, (though don’t expect him to talk about housekeeping or cooking any time soon!!)
Books to check out
Gretchen Rubin The Happiness Project on Amazon.com