January 8, 2023
Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!
You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.
Precept 93: Legacy vs. Temptation
Here's something many people – especially men – don't realize about building a legacy: legacy can serve as a powerful shield against temptation, particularly the nasty Ls of laziness and lust. For example, let's say that you have heeded the sage advice shared with me on this podcast by legacy expert Rich Christiansen and woven together for your family an impressive family crest that perhaps hangs proudly above the fireplace; a mission statement of family values displayed on the family living room wall; a family financial trust and family banking system; rites of passage clearly defined for the children; deep traditions built around Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays, and so on. How likely are you going to be to throw that all away or to violate everything that legacy stands for by deciding you are going to shirk providing for your family and fueling that legacy with hard and deep work and opt to instead sleep in or spend a little extra time on TikTok at the office? Or worse yet, trade your entire marriage relationship and parenthood for a few pleasurable moments in the sack with an attractive woman you met while traveling?
Yes – a sense of pride in the family name, a deep love for preparing and providing that is rooted in equipping your progeny and loved ones to survive, a sense of purpose and meaning derived from having other human beings who you are responsible for caring for, and a mental, spiritual, and biological connection to the thousands of human beings who will bear your image in future generations to come – are all highly advisable and perhaps even crucial elements to being prepared for and protected against the temptations that the world will inevitably send your way, don't you think?
As Deuteronomy 28:1-6 says,
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl…”
Precept 94: Your Art
You have your own unique art inside you, and you don't need to be self-conscious or feel as though you have imposter syndrome if you decide to express that unique art in a way that feels authentic to you. Of course, I'm a bit nervous to share this thought, as I'm fully aware of modern artists who have taken this concept to its most ridiculous of conclusions and declared their art to be something like smearing pink-colored elephant dung onto a stretched canvas with the petrified butt bone of a monkey. Expression of your unique art does not by definition mean that you declare the right to vomit meaningless, offensive, trite, or shocking drivel onto the world's palette. Rather, what I'm saying is that the unique skillset God has given you, combined with your own diverse and original set of experiences, combined with your personal outlook on the world and the filter through which your senses assimilate and subsequently disseminate information dictates that you are capable of creating original masterpieces of song, paint, writing or cuisine that are different, that are fresh, that are new and that is unlike anything the world has seen before, and you don't need to be embarrassed about that or feel the pressure for your art to fit neatly into some specific category or genre.
The art that lives inside you, just waiting to be expressed, is our own unique gift to share with the world. It doesn't have to be like any other art. Your music doesn't have to fit into the genre of country or rock or folk or hip-hop. Your art doesn't need to fit into the category of contemporary or realist or modern or surrealism or minimalism. Your cooking doesn't have to be vegan or carnivore or fast or slow or colorful or bland. Just march to the beat of your own drum and create the art that gets you excited and inspires your retina, ears, tastebuds, and neurotransmitters, just so long as you are loving others and loving God in the process. See, most people live in the world, put up with the world, and accept the world's neat, tidy little buckets rather than modifying the world and creating new buckets. Sure, there are universal standards of beauty that appeal to all humans, and it's highly possible that some of the art you create is just bad art that doesn't meet those standards, but 1) the standards of beauty are far more diverse and broad than what you'd expect and 2) you not meeting those standards doesn't mean you're no good or you don't really have good art to express, but rather that you may simply need practice and refinement for the process of creating your art.
My friend Rick Rubin is a perfect example of an artist who marches to the beat of his own drum, expresses his true authentic self, and, as a result, has created some of the most unique and successful modern music in existence. To fully grasp and learn more about how to express your art in as full and authentic a way as possible, read Rick's book The Creative Act. Everyone's art may be different, but mark my words: if you give it your all and give it your best while staying tuned to the voice of God, your art will touch the world in a very special way: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Precept 95: Liturgy/Devotions
Have you ever just “showed up” at the gym without a plan? I'll hazard a guess that you may not have had your best, most effective workout. Have you ever sat down to a meal without thinking ahead as to what you will eat, how you will eat, how full you will be, etc.? If so, you likely have not experienced the health benefits of mindful eating practice. The same goes for your spiritual life. If you struggle to prioritize or find direction for your daily spiritual practice, then it may be that a healthy dose of structured liturgy is missing from your practice. Liturgy is simply a pattern for worship, and though most often recognized as something experienced in the act of public worship – such as at a church on Sunday morning – it can also be applied to your own personal and private routine. Think of the liturgy of a workout as your warm-up, main sets, number of reps, tempo, cool-down, etc.; or the liturgy of a meal your glass of water, digestive enzymes, seasonings, and spices, chewing, swallowing, bite of dark chocolate afterward, etc.
For example, as a Christian, I am hyperaware of the importance of daily quiet time with God, including leading my family in devotions, prayer, and worship. But for a number of years, I often experienced “seasons” of my spiritual life that could tend to feel dry, mundane, or routine, sometimes leading to me somewhat mindlessly skimming a couple of Bible verses or praying the same rote prayer over and over, and this usually happened because I simply didn't have a plan…a liturgy. Then, I began to introduce structure, such as starting with the playing of music via a Soaking Worship channel, then burning incense, then doing 1-2 minutes of breath work, then reading a devotional (this past year it was Restoration Year), then reading Scripture, then praying. That became the “structure” of my morning quiet time with God, and my teenage sons now join me in that practice. For our family spiritual routine, we have for years used the Spiritual Disciplines Journal, and we begin with a Scripture reading, then turn to breathwork with a focus on gratitude, continued breathwork with a focus on service, then tapping (also known as “EFT”, or emotional freedom technique), then the Lord's Prayer. Now, this year, we are turning to a new devotional entitled Be Thou My Vision, which is a 31-day liturgical guide designed to provide structure to the daily worship of individuals and families. Each of the daily readings – designed for a 15-20 minute experience – include deeply liturgical elements, such as a call to worship, adoration, confession, assurance, creed and catechism, the Gloria Patri, a prayer of illumination, Bible reading, intercessory prayer, and the Lord’s Prayer.
How about you? Do you have a plan for worship or for entering the throne room of the greatest Deity the world has ever known? Or are you just making it up as you go? Which do you think or know in your heart is the right move?
That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!