Cultivating Discipline

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Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
How does one cultivate discipline in oneself and spouse? I have so many ideas and desires, but nothing ever gets accomplished. I want to get up early, read my Bible, pray, eat a big breakfast and sip coffee with my husband before I go to work. Instead I'm running out the door every morning while my husband is still asleep in bed. After supper, I have the same problem. The (stupid) TV gets turned on, or the (stupid) computer games are turned on, or I waste my time reading books that, while not bad, still do not profit. My mind's passion is writing children's books and writing choral music, but my body doesn't want to cooperate, so nothing gets done.

Where do I start in disciplining my life? Any practical advice?
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
The answers to your questions are not easy to put into practice, but it all begins with one step - take the first right step and the next one is easier. Why not try "no TV" nights once or twice a week? Replace that activity with something that will profit the soul. Then, increase those nights, and soon you might be watching none at all and getting some good reading time and conversation time with your husband in that you never knew you had time for.

Same thing in the AM. Start by taking baby steps - and then you can move onward. Don't expect to make brilliant progress right at the start, but just ease in. It's the only way - whether one is talking spiritual disciplines or other needful habits.

But Pray. That is really the starting point. Pray for diligence and discipline - nothing will work without that.

Sorry to make it brief, but I've got to go teach :)
 

FenderPriest

Puritan Board Junior
I agree with toddpedlar's advice, except I would reverse the post - pray first. (That's not to say he's indicating it's last, just a point of emphasis I would like to make.) Any true advance in discipline stems from the truth of the Gospel - that Jesus Christ has already done all things necessary to make God happy with you. Strength for advance in discipline stems from that first, and prayer is how we begin the process of seeing discipline grow, and is how we keep the cross, not personal discipline, as the main thing in our lives. Our discipline should reflect the value of Jesus Christ and the importance of the work of the cross in our lives. We shouldn't desire to be disciplined to reflect an image, make ourselves better, or be more spiritual. As a practical note here, "Discipline of Grace" by Jerry Bridges might be a very helpful book to read in getting this perspective in your life.

As for practical advice, I'd have to know your lives to make particular suggestions, but I'll make a few assumptions, and you're free to correct me if I'm wrong. First, I'll assume that your TV is in the (a) main room in your house. It could help prevent nights from being consumed with the tv if you simply moved the tv to another room in the house. If the tv is in the main room you spend your evenings in, then its not going to be helpful to have the tv in the same room that you're seeking to detach from the tv and spend more family time in. For us, our tv is in the corner of our bedroom, and I hull it out whenever we want to watch it. For some friends, their tv is in their basement (which we have up north, most southern homes don't). If you desire good family time in the main rooms of your home, make decorative decisions that will reflect this.

As for breakfasts, I'd encourage you to open your desire to your husband and discuss it. Do you both work? Do you both leave at the same time? Who would cook breakfast? What's the aim? Sometimes just opening up the conversation can reveal hidden idols in our hearts that hinder our growth in areas we desire. Maybe the idol is the amount of sleep one gets; or, conversely, the time they go to bed, and what that means for them.

As todd said, make realistic goals. It's unrealistic to say that you want to go from no spiritual disciplines to an hour of scripture in the morning, 30 minutes of family worship every night, game nights twice a week, date nights once a week, etc. in just a few short turns of the clock. It takes time. And again, that's where the cross comes in - we don't discipline our lives to prove anything to God; we do it out of adoration for Jesus, and a desire to reflect his glory in our now redeemed lives.

I hope this helps!
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
We all struggle with this.

A few practical things might help:

1) regularly ask God for strength to do what you do not want to do (confess, I do not want to read my Bible for 30 minutes, please give me grace to just do it)
2) work especially on developing a priority of Lord's Day worship- a pattern of trying to take thoughts and conversation off entertainment and work and self and focus on worship the whole day. This means discipline to minimize distractions (e.g. phone calls, travel, internet, etc.) and say a set time for Bible reading at home. Before you know it, this will spill over into other areas of life.
3) make "to-do" lists and give yourself a goal, or even a reward for getting say 10 things done that day
 

TaylorOtwell

Puritan Board Junior
I agree with the others. Take small steps at a time, and don't expect to accomplish Puritan level spirituality in a week (or years).

One thing that may help is simply to consider simply getting rid of things that are a weight to your progress in grace. (Hebrews 12:1)

For us, our tv is in the corner of our bedroom, and I hull it out whenever we want to watch it.
Another good idea. Make time wasting activities difficult to do. I know a guy who kept his desktop computer disassembled and under his bed whenever he wasn't using it.
 

Ex Nihilo

Puritan Board Senior
I probably struggle with this even more than you do, so I don't really have advice to give, but I did want to share what I am trying to do to improve my discipline. It's difficult -- I have a big imagination, big enough even to visualize myself being very disciplined and productive. (I suspect you have a similar problem.) And yet, because of this, I am easily distracted, and when my grand schemes fall apart -- perhaps because I slept until 8:00 instead of getting up at 6:00 -- I am far too likely to abandon the endeavor for the day.

I am trying to avoid the mindset of waiting for the next fresh start. Discipline has to be worked out moment by moment, not just day by day or week by week. There is no excuse for giving up on the rest of some arbitrary unit of time and waiting until some later point (tomorrow, next week, next year) to really get serious. I slept late -- so I will still pray quickly before class, and then pray longer later in the day. I have to apply my imagination to seeing the intermediate steps between where I am and the grand vision. I need to take smaller bites! So these are my practical goals for myself, for whatever they may be worth to you:

1. Pray more. I am very bad at this, but when I do better at praying, everything else falls into line better.

2. Be more realistic. I am not going to get up at 5:30 in the morning and head the gym. But I could, and should, exercise in the afternoons. I am also not likely to spend half an hour a day keeping an insightful journal, but I can jot down some thoughts from my Bible-readings.

3. Create spaces for particular tasks. This is my one solid practical suggestion. For me, this means heading to the library at the divinity school when it's time to get serious about outlining. If I pretend I'm going to study in my apartment, I always find something to distract me. (Perhaps the real point is to take steps to avoid self-deception.)

4. Be hopeful. To the extent that my discipline problem is a sin problem, God is improving me! "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" -- and the Spirit is producing that fruit in me! My sinfulness keeps me from seeing that all the time, but I will, in eternity, be made much more righteous than I can imagine even in my grandest schemes, and that is an encouragement.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Sometimes being accountable to others is helpful. When we know others are praying for us, and they may be asking us how we're doing in a particular area, there's a motivation there to work on that area.

:pray2:

I've got a question to ask you...but I'll probably ask tomorrow, mid to late morning.
 

Jon Lake

Puritan Board Sophomore
Break your Bible study and Prayer in smaller chunks, like the others have said, things can go from there. Blessings.
 

Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
I've got a question to ask you...but I'll probably ask tomorrow, mid to late morning.

:drool: What? What is it? :drool: You know you can't put the bait out and then not tug the line when I bite!:lol:
I would ask the question early tomorrow morning, but I'm afraid/confident I may interrupt your Bible reading time.

Ahh. I see. :gpl:

Part of my problem is that my husband gets to sleep in really late every morning. He doesn't get up until after I'm at work. But we always go to bed together at night, so we go to bed when he's tired, which means late. So I'm perpetually sleep-deprived.
 

turmeric

Megerator
You'll just have to go to bed earlier. Turning off the TV may help; then you can have more together-time earlier in the evening. It sounds like something the two of you need to talk about.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Part of my problem is that my husband gets to sleep in really late every morning. He doesn't get up until after I'm at work. But we always go to bed together at night, so we go to bed when he's tired, which means late. So I'm perpetually sleep-deprived.
Sounds like for you evening Bible reading would be an easier discipline to cultivate.
 

Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
Sounds like for you evening Bible reading would be an easier discipline to cultivate.
My husband and I already do this together before bed. However, I would like to do it on my own as well. Hubby graduates in two weeks and will hopefully find a job, so perhaps our schedules will change then and allow me to get up earlier.
 

AThornquist

Puritan Board Doctor
I would ask the question early tomorrow morning, but I'm afraid/confident I may interrupt your Bible reading time.

Ooo...that was good! And slightly cruel. :D

I'm actually struggling with this same thing, Kim. In fact, today is my "start of a new life of productivity," haha. But of course, I am single and am preparing to be a husband (not that I have a girl in mind, but I want to be ready). Thus, our ends might be different but we desire a common mean. With that said, I will pray for you, sister. I know that it is difficult; I too get sucked into the TV and neglect to put out the effort to do the things that truly might be of benefit. May the Lord have mercy on us for our intermittent complacency and create a new wave of focus and discipline for His name's sake! Amen.
 

Ivan

Pastor
Rare is the person who doesn't get too involved with "lesser" activities. I know I have that problem, sometimes more often than others and it seems to be a bad time for me now. I know my plate is full with all I do but I still need to find time to do the things that will help me grow in grace.

That being said, I'm sure there are some among us that can give us more good advice. My only contribution at this point is that sometimes we get into a routine that needs to be broken. I guess I'm looking for some ways that bad (or less good) routines can be broken. I've had my routine broken from time to time in the past and on a number of occasion the way my routine was broken was not pleasant. I firmly believe that some of those experiences could have been avoided if I had been on the right track.

So....how do you change (or end) a routine that is not proving beneficial?
 

kvanlaan

Puritan Board Doctor
Pray first, then sell the TV. It's a whole lot easier to resist turning it on when it's not there. (Or at least cancel your cable.)
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
You'll just have to go to bed earlier. Turning off the TV may help; then you can have more together-time earlier in the evening. It sounds like something the two of you need to talk about.

Our lives have been radically changed since the plug was completely pulled on the TV (i.e. we stopped paying for cable). We would be nowhere near where we are in terms of time spent studying Scripture, etc., if we hadn't done that (good for finances too). It took us only a few discussions concerning how best to spend our time to decide the TV had to go. Not saying anyone is wrong to keep their cable... just reporting that it is 1) possible and 2) very profitable spiritually if you take hold of the "available time".
 

FenderPriest

Puritan Board Junior
You'll just have to go to bed earlier. Turning off the TV may help; then you can have more together-time earlier in the evening. It sounds like something the two of you need to talk about.

Our lives have been radically changed since the plug was completely pulled on the TV (i.e. we stopped paying for cable). We would be nowhere near where we are in terms of time spent studying Scripture, etc., if we hadn't done that (good for finances too). It took us only a few discussions concerning how best to spend our time to decide the TV had to go. Not saying anyone is wrong to keep their cable... just reporting that it is 1) possible and 2) very profitable spiritually if you take hold of the "available time".

The same goes for internet in the home from our experience. But we don't have children, which might change that in the future. No internet at home is possible and profitable as well!
 

Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
We don't have cable. But we get 11 channels without cable, which is still a distraction. So are movies. I've had to resign myself to the fact that movies will be a part of our lives together since my husband is fascinated with them and is getting his cinema degree. It will most likely be our livelihood.

We don't have internet at home either.
 

blhowes

Puritan Board Professor
Kim, I had a question I wanted to ask you. Is now a good time, or should I ask tomorrow?
 

Kim G

Puritan Board Junior
Kim, I had a question I wanted to ask you. Is now a good time, or should I ask tomorrow?
Ask away, I guess. :)
How was your Bible reading time this morning?
I actually took to heart what you said about evening Bible reading being better for my schedule. I read my Bible last night, and then my husband and I studied our Bible together again before bed. But this morning I read from Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening" and spent a little time in prayer. My husband and I also ate breakfast together for the first time in a long time. So, baby steps. :)
 
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