“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down
...And run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
- Hebrews 12:1
I have been reading several books recently, each having themes saying something like this… “Our minds are always being filled with something, they are never empty. We become what we fill ourselves with, so what are you filling your mind with?”
Now, if I ever get free time, I have found myself in the habit of going straight to watching TV shows. I’ll usually put on Netflix and more often than not watch several shows, one after another. Time somehow slips past and before I know it my night is over and rarely am I rested more than before the evening started.
Now hear me when I say, there is nothing wrong or even bad about watching a show (in general). In fact, there have been several with themes or characters that have reminded me of truths about God. But just because I can watch shows doesn’t mean I need to spend as much time as I have in the past.
At the same time as these thoughts were bouncing around in the corners of my mind, I was chatting with a friend of mine who is a nutritionist. She said she encourages people not to go on “diets” that completely eliminate one food group. She explained that Chocolate, ice cream and even chips are ok (in small doses) if you are also having plenty of healthy foods and exercising regularly. The point she was making is, it is healthier to have a balanced intake than to take on extreme diets (which usually don’t last).
In light of these things, I decided to see what I was actually filling my mind with, a sort of science experiment. I didn’t want to fully cut TV out of my life because at times it is really relaxing to sit with my wife and watch a movie. I simply wanted to take note of what I was filling my mind with. So I set myself a small task during the month of September.
The challenge to myself was this... what if I spent the same amount of time taking in God’s word as I do zoning out on TV.
Simple right? The basic principle was to be balanced - if I watch 30 Minutes of TV, I should try and read scriptures (or christ-centred literature) for 30 minutes too. And “SAMEtember” was birthed.
Now a week into it, this is what I have found…
Because I was literally timing how long I was reading or watching TV, I noticed two things at the end of this first week.
WEEK ONE results of SAMEtember: Mon 1st - Mon 7th.
TV Time - 6 hours 33 minutes
Reading Time - 5 hours 25 minutes.
Next update will be in a week. I wonder if you could try it for a week?
Two weeks into it and I have realized I’m nowhere near to being as balanced as hoped...
At the beginning of September I decided to take note of what I was filling my mind with. I knew it was mainly netflix, TV and movies. So I thought I would try to make my reading time the same as my screen time - 30 mins TV + 30 mins reading. Well if there is one thing I have learnt this week, it would be that Mind, Body and Soul really are entwined! Each one affects the other.
My wife has had a bad case of sleep insomnia over the last few weeks, but this week has been particularly bad. For obvious reasons this has affected my sleeping patterns and regular weekly rhythms. I have been averaging about 3-4 hours of sleep a night - with nights full of prayers together and deep conversations, while days are filled with work, caring for our 2 year old and trying to keep the house in order.
Here is what I have become aware of this week. As my body becomes more and more worn out, my mind wants to zone out even more than usual. Physically - I haven’t been eating well or even exercising this week. Mentally - I haven't had the head space to read heavy content/information or even the strength to keep my eyelids open as I’m reading the bible. This obviously has implications on my spiritual growth (soul). Because of my physical and mental exhaustion this week, I have taken the easy road and stacked up a heap of screen time while missing out on the reading time.
Now here is the kicker! The very little rest I have found this week has not come from my many moments in front of the TV. I have only been refreshed as I have stopped and listened to the spirit, meditating on his words even just for 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there. You would think then that I would seek more of that time, finding true rest, right? Well for some reason I kept turning to unrestful, waste-of-time tv shows.
Being brutally open and honest… I think I was hoping that I would smash this out all month, getting better and better at this (inspiring others in my victories). But God in his wisdom has decided to use this as a great humbling moment! If my motivation to reading his word was just so I can write down more minutes, then it would not be a true motivator. In other words it would fail and I would choose something else. That is what has happened this week.
My week did not reflect the SAMEtember ethos as I had hoped. In my tiredness I thought “forget SAMEtember, I’ll do what I want to do” and in doing so I forgot the motivation behind the “who idea” - to spend more time with the only one who refreshed, to find rest in my maker and to soak up his inspiration and energy as I face this world. That is what my soul needs and that is truly what my mind and body also need.
WEEK two results of SAMEtember: Mon 7th - Mon 14th.
TV Time - 8 hours 45 minutes
Reading Time - 3 hours 50 minutes
Next update will be in a week. I wonder if you could try it for a week?
After a crazy week of sleep insomnia, doctor visits, planned events, work and managing our 2-year-old, my wife and I were ready for rest. This week we found it.
Now back on my feet, somewhat well re-energized physically and mentally, I began this third week looking forward to finding rest in God. I started this month, hoping to map out and keep track of what I put into my mind. The point is to balance my “zone out time” with my “equipping time”. And to be honest, no great revelation came this week, nothing exceptional happened either, except I actually saw balance.
Research shows that after repeating something for 21 days, a habit is often formed. I caught myself several times this week, turning off the TV when what I was watching finished… That may seem logical for most of you, but I had previously been in the habit of lingering. Before I knew it another show had started and I was sucked into another 1-2 hours of mindless zoning out. But this week I saw less of that.
With this “extra time” I had found, I was able to start and finish a book called Fruitful Church (highly recommended) and my wife and I also started reading 2 Psalms (chapters) a day, separately, whenever we had space, and then talked about it in the evening. That along with that, plus other readings, I found myself pausing more during the week and reflecting on things. I have definitely enjoyed SAMEtember this week and been refreshed by the spiritual discipline I have put on myself.
WEEK three results of SAMEtember: Mon 14th - Mon 21st.
TV Time - 6 hours 10 minutes
Reading Time - 7 hours 55 minutes
I want to encourage you to try, even for a week, to keep track of how you spend your time.
Don’t Keep Scratching the Itch, Kill the Mosquito.
Looking back at the last four weeks,I feel like I have just begun to notice the effects of an eternal itch. Something I have been subconsciously scratching and scraping at for years, but never finding relief. It has been so long, that I stopped noticing the irritating sensation and simply scratched automatically.
I’m talking about the annoying desire to zone out to the world and get lost for hours in mindless TV and shows. It is always there and for a moment or two I desperately want to give in and scratch that pesky “mossie bite”. But that never fixes the problem. I will need relief in another 10 minutes.
The Spirit isn’t about quick fixes. He doesn’t want to just cover up the desire to zone out with a band-aid. Yes, it will stop you from scratching, but the itch remains. What the Spirit does is attack the “mosquito” itself. But how does he do it? Well, this month I have been able to experience it a little.
2 Cor 10:5b - “...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NLT)
1 Cor 6:12 - “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (NLT)
1 Cor 10:23 - “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. (NLT)
Phil 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.(NLT)
The Spirit reminds us and strengthens us to be aware of everything we fill our mind with. Spiritual disciple is so important–I have experienced the benefit from just one small change of behaviour. He prompts me and it has become automatic now. Everytime I start reading I subconsciously start timing and consequently I take note of when I start watching TV (netflix). The Spirit has begun to show me how to take hold/control of what I am filling my mind with.
He fends off the “Mosquitos” by equipping and training our minds to close the windows, shut the fly screens and find rest under “mosquito nets”. We must be aware of not only what we are letting into our minds, but the very dwelling place of God.
I encourage you to take note of what you spend your time on. I haven’t cut myself off from TV or netflix, I have simply made sure I balance that with listening to God. And it has been a very healthy and helpful habit I hope to continue.
WEEK four results of SAMEtember: Mon 21st - Mon 28th.
TV Time - 3 hours 10 minutes
Reading Time - 6 hours 35 minutes.
SAMEtember Month Total
TV Time - 25 hours 38 minutes
Reading Time - 23 hours 45 minutes