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Disrupting Our Routines // M-Note 6.21.2019

Dear Gathering,

I have been away from preaching for one month. Some of you noticed! It is actually the longest I have ever gone without preaching since I started The Gathering nearly 13 years ago. I return on Monday. My time away has been a mixture of work (Mozambique mission trip and Missouri Annual Conference) along with some personal time off (vacation with the family, time at home). I love my work. In fact, I really mean it when I say that it doesn’t feel like work. Ministry is what I love to do, and being the pastor of The Gathering is an honor and a privilege that I never take lightly. For these reasons, it is actually hard for me to be away for very long (just ask Jessica). And yet, I have discovered that to remain energized, passionate, creative, and effective over the long haul, I need some time away each year, and every so often, I need to take a longer break, especially from preaching. It is a healthy habit that I am grateful to be able to maintain. Time away helps me in all sorts of ways, but lately I have been thinking about one particular way. The older I get and the longer I do this work, the more predictable it becomes, and therefore the more predictable I become. If I want to stay sharp, creative, and energized, it is critical that I introduce disruption and change into my life. Let me explain.

My life over time falls into a routine and can become rather predictable. This is true for nearly every one of us. Even if your work constantly has new challenges and tasks, chances are that you fall into patterns and routines. This is clearly evident in our behavior. For example, most of us have a morning routine. Maybe you wake up at a particular time, you exercise or drink a cup of coffee, eat something, take a shower, hop in your car to head to work or school – you get the idea. We all have behavioral routines. Well, neuroscience shows us that the same is true for our brains. When faced over and over again with similar challenges and problems at work or at home, our brains will form familiar and effective thought processes to respond to those challenges. As new challenges come up, we will revert to ways of thinking that we used in the past. When faced with a creative opportunity, our brains will often revert to familiar and predictable patterns of analysis. Most of this happens without us even recognizing it or choosing it.

Over time, just as our bodies get used to an exercise routine, our brains get used to thought processes that we use daily to solve problems and overcome challenges. There are a lot of benefits to this, but left undisturbed it can curtail our creativity and ability to see things in a new way. We can often skip opportunities for innovation simply because our brains apply old solutions to new situations. Therefore, it is healthy from time to time to change things up. To change where you are, what you do, what you have to think about, what you are reading, who you are talking to, or what your daily rhythm looks like.

Stepping back, getting away, and introducing change into your life can disrupt your routine and help you to see things in a new way. Change can help us exercise part of our brain that doesn’t normally get used. Change forces us to problem solve in a new way. Stepping back from our daily patterns can call into question our habits and routines and help us to see them in a fresh light. When we change things up, we begin to see our life from a different angle. We can think about what is working and not working. We can consider what we want to continue and what needs to go. Change can enhance creativity, give space for new discovery, and open up new possibilities. Changing things up for a specified period of time, can help us reengage daily life with a fresh perspective, new energy, and renewed focus.

So even though it is hard for me, being away from my daily routine, traveling to Mozambique, having space to think and write, and spending some time with my family has all helped me to gain new energy and fresh passion for the work I do day in and day out. I know it is a gift that not all of us have, and so I am grateful for it. You may not get a week off, or be able to travel very far, but wherever you are and whatever you are doing, find a way to disrupt it from time to time. Introduce change into your routine, and see if it doesn’t help you with your energy, perspective, and creativity.

While the time away has been a gift, I will be back soon. I am eager to continue the incredible work that God is doing at The Gathering. Have a great weekend, and I hope to see you in worship at The Gathering this Sunday.

Peace,
Matt

p.s. I want to thank those of you who came to my book release celebration last week for my new book Let Go: Leaning into the Future Without Fear. I really appreciate the support. If you want to grab a copy you can get it on Amazon or locally at the Novel Neighbor. If you have already read the book, I would love it if you would take time to leave an Amazon review for me.