Breaking routine

th-1My morning routine has been severely interrupted. The lid on my Starbucks coffee mug that keeps my coffee hot fell to the bottom of the dishwasher and rested on the heating element so that it now has a bubble in it where the plastic melted, making it impossible to use. I can still put the lid on, but when I try and drink from it, coffee comes out at me from three locations at once. Not a good thing where hot coffee is concerned.

So the best I can do is keep the lid on to keep the coffee as warm as possible and remove it when I want to drink. This requires two hands to grip the mug and remove the lid and a plate to put it on so I don’t get coffee on the dining room table, and, of course, every time I remove the lid, precious steam is released, cooling the coffee much more rapidly than I like.

Now some of you are thinking I am nuts and probably need a psychiatrist, and you’re most likely right, but I can’t help how I am. Routine is vital to me. Marti treats this as a flaw in my character and makes it her responsibility to get me to change my routine whenever possible. In some instances she is right; in other things, like coffee mugs, it doesn’t really matter.

Where it matters is when the routine is a bad habit that needs to change – a selfishness that needs to be overcome, such as walking away from a responsibility simply because I don’t want to face into it. Avoidance can become a routine. Selfishness can become a routine. Unclean thoughts can become a routine. Daydreaming can become a routine. I could stand to lose the lid on any of these to the heating element in my mental dishwasher. These are routines that are not good for me; they need to change.

It’s timely that I am writing about this because, in fact, I am seeing a psychiatrist today and change is the main thing I want to talk to him about. Fundamental Christians like me have a hard time with things like this because change falls under the category of that which I shouldn’t need anything but the Holy Spirit to do. Going to a psychiatrist is a sign of disbelief. Anything that has to do with the mind is off limits to anything but a spiritual solution.

Here’s what I think. When it comes to overcoming well-ingrained bad habits, I can use all the help I can get. The psychiatrist isn’t going to be able to do anything for me, anyway. When it comes down to it, I’m still the one who is going to have to do all the work here, but if the psychiatrist is smart enough to see around my own tricks, rationalizations and manipulations (and he is), I may be able to have some answers for those things when they come up. In other words, he might be able to help me see a way around my own well-worn excuses.

However, regardless of what I find out today, I am going to have to initiate any change I seek, and when it comes to that, the Holy Spirit is my source of power. I am not usurping the Holy Spirit’s work in my life; I am merely giving Him some more tools to work with.

However you cut it, I’m still the guy who has to do this. Change doesn’t happen to you. (I wish it did.) Change is not passive. It’s active.

So here’s the end result: I’m going to replace my coffee mug, but I’m going to seek change in areas where it matters most. New tricks don’t come easy for old dogs, but with God, all things are possible.

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16 Responses to Breaking routine

  1. Deana says:

    Good morning John. Now you’ve done it! You had to go and talk about change and how it’s an active process. I got excited when you said, “New tricks don’t come easy for old dogs, but with God, all things are possible.” But then you had to include the part about change not happening to us, it’s an active process. Kinda takes away all the excuses, doesn’t it? I do have lots of bad routines – avoidance, selfishness, unclean thoughts, daydreaming…the list feels endless. I am constantly reminded of the bad habits that I have taken refuge in all these year. I have wanted to change these things for a long time, but I was guilty of wishing there was a magic pill that I could take that would make these necessary changes possible. I haven’t wanted to do what it takes to make these changes happen in my life. I’ve just wanted them to magically occur. I look at my life every day and I don’t like a lot of what I see, but I haven’t been willing to put out the effort I think it will take to make changes. I might just need to read this post of yours every morning for awhile. From one “old dog” to another, I really am thankful for the reminder.

  2. Carole in Midland says:

    The importance of the correct mug can hardly be overstated to us coffee fanatics (I’m a 12+ cup-a-day addict), so I not only sympathize, I empathize and mourn your loss with you. They don’t MAKE MY favorite mug anymore and I am clinging to the last 2 I have as if my life depends on them…Now, on this change business… I recently emailed your wife seeking prayer for my bum knee and being the wonderful marvelous Marti that she is, she immediately wrote me back offering help from all avenues from help finding the $$ for the surgery (that I don’t want – I came into this world with this knee and I’d just as soon go out with it), to calling on local Catch fans and believers in my neck of the woods who might help with the more mundane, but necessary tasks of life during my recovery. Now here’s the rub – my immediate reaction was not relief and joy that the cavalry was on the way, but panic over HOW the heck can I get OUT of this! I’ve been raised to “do it yourself” – it’s good to GIVE help, but not ask for it and heaven forbid that I actually accept it! I think that’s why it took me SO long to come to Jesus in the first place – that was no easy thing for me, either – but just look how well THAT’s going!! 🙂 Change is a process – doesn’t happen overnight (or even over 30 years necessarily), so at least I have the asking for prayer and willingly accepting THAT down-pat…and I need to learn to accept physical help as well. Maybe that’s the reason the Lord has my back to the wall so to speak… I think there are a lot of us frogs who have made the decision to jump in the pond, but are still sitting on the log, waiting for someone to push us in. John, I think you and I are being pushed.

  3. Ann says:

    John, as big of a customer as you are to Starbucks, I would bet they have a spare lid laying around they would give you! Doesn’t hurt to ask. 🙂

  4. Peter Leenheer says:

    It was interesting how you highlighted how small unwanted changes can matter so much and how that indicates how much we dislike change period. If there is change we want it now, without the price of suffering ie. killing the workaholic behind the barn, the procrastinator, or the addict of some sort or other. The ‘killing’ usually takes a lot of effort.

    My wife and I also went to a psychiatrist. He gave us an assignment and at the next session we told him how we had fulfilled his wishes. I have never seen a man so elated. We inquired why he was so happy. He told us that most people pay to see him, don’t do the assignments he gives them and that we were one of the few who actually did what he asked. He said people come to him to fix their marriage but aren’t willing to make changes. I guess it is always somebody else’s fault. He told us that in his practice doing what he asked was the exception rather than the rule. In fact he gave us a 80% + failure to do the work.

    John please indicate to us how you are making the changes that need to be made. My prayers go up for you. Unless you are seeing the psychiatrist for something else?

    For me change happens whether I like it or not. God has hit me on the side of the head with the proverbial 2 x 4 many times, in order to make changes in my life. He has cornered me as to where I had ‘no choice’ but to make changes. Man am I a slave to sin! Letting sin die in me has become enjoyable. However it took 65 years of my life for God to get to that point, am now 69 and still am not always willing. The benefits are absolutely wonderful so change bring it on!

    • Carole in Midland says:

      Aren’t we a silly lot? We KNOW that God is not going to drop us on our heads, but we kick and scream, pout and stomp our feet before going along with His program. We are SO like the Israelites turning back for the leeks and onions instead of running to the milk and honey.

      • Deana says:

        I think I’d like the milk and honey but I know what to do with the garlic and leeks:) I can see how things would probably be better if I put some change in motion, but I feel too tired to do it when push comes to shove. Thankful for God’s grace that He’s not trying to hit me with a 2X4 every day to turn me around. Will it be easier to accept change for the better when I choose it myself?

      • Carole in Midland says:

        Gosh, Deanna! My pot is as black as yours! That’s Southern for we are in the same place. I have the feeling that when the change is inevitable, we accept it because we HAVE to, and THEN decide it was for the best anyway….when change is a CHOICE? I’ll let you know if I ever get that far!

      • Deana says:

        Understand the phrase Carole, southern bred if not southern born. I haven’t been very accepting of changes in my life over the past few years, like divorce and empty nest syndrome, but do find I have to try to live through it. Haven’t been so good about making needed changes that last. Always start out with good intentions but then they drop by the wayside.

      • Carole in Midland says:

        We should chat via email or phone… maybe John & Marti could facilitate that for us! If we can’t run to the prize, we can still crawl for it, and guess what? He will STILL be there… sometimes I think God is like my 5th grade teacher – she gave us “opportunities” to do things over and over until we figured them out… Man, I HATED that! 🙂

      • Deana says:

        I’d be willing to connect by email or phone and give John/Marti permission to give you my information if that will work. I am at work between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday so maybe email will be a good way to start out. I sensed we are kindred spirits:)

      • Carole in Midland says:

        Same, same! I work out of my home, and often until 3 to 4 AM, but being my own boss has its advantages – breaks whenever I want them! Okay J & M – do your stuff – send Deana’s info to me and mine to her if you will… don’t y’all just LOVE it when stuff like this happens???

  5. Jessica says:

    John as usual I am impressed with you and your willingness to be real.
    I am so thankful that God is perfect because I am so not. There will always be something to work at in our lives to become more like Jesus and less like our normal. (selfish human) I am so thankful that he is willing to put up with all our faults, laziness and just plain stubbornness and is still willing to continue to mold us into who he wants us to be.
    I once prayed to become a robot and do exactly what He wanted me to do and say only what He wanted me to say. But then I realized how would I ever learn anything that way. How could I become more compassionate, loving or even more reliable.
    Thanks for being you. Thanks for being real . And thanks for being willing to change into the best you God is molding you to be.

  6. Lisa in Sunland says:

    Thank you for being willing to mention the dreaded word “psychiatrist”! So many people feel that they aren’t “good Christians” if they feel they would like (much less actually seek) help from a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or even a therapist. Doing everything we can to tune up our lives and our mental health and habits is a good thing – even when it involves a “mental health professional.” Emphasis on the “health”! If we are God’s temple, I am sure He wants the attic to be as healthy as all the other rooms. 🙂 Thank you for all you (and Marti) do and your honest perspective on Christianity.

  7. Cathy says:

    Thanks for your honesty John. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments; guess it all just shows that we all have the same kind of struggles with change. Personally, I hate change…it can be threatening and even fearful at times. Just when I start to get “comfortable” with life that doesn’t involve change..which is really “code” for, “relying on self, my family, routine, my false sense of what happiness is to me etc…” change comes along and forces me out of my comfort zone. When several special people in my life were taken out of my life…due to unexpected circumstances and one death, I realized I had placed such importance in them as the source of my happiness, self worth and a need for them more than a need for God. I was kicking and screaming at the change forced upon my life…and it scared me facing life without them. With a Christian mental health counselor’s guidance, I am getting the extra help I need to cope. What I discovered is God wants me to grow…grow in Him instead of grow in self reliance or other reliance. This process involves change, and relying on Him to get me where He wants me to be…not letting me stay where I want to be. I didn’t think good could ever come as a result of this change, but I can see it has.

  8. Priscilla says:

    John, we have a good NY Yankees mug we could send you! Just sayin…

  9. Bill R says:

    John,when you are ready I know you will let us know how things went. In the
    meanwhile as always you are in our prayers.
    Keep up the good work which helps so many of us learn where we need to change.
    Bill R

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