8 reading practices I used to finish more books

For a number of years now, I have tracked the books I’ve finished each year. Some years it was barely over 20 and most years it was in the low 30’s. But in 2015, I read the most books ever – 43!IMG_0915

Reflecting on how my I was able to finish more books, I distilled 8 reading practices that have helped me. Some of these I’ve done for years, but others were new for me. When combined together, these practices pushed my reading up.

If you want to increase your reading of books in 2016, why not put some, if not all, of these into practices in your life?

1.Read on a basic Kindle
When my wife, Josephine, gave me a basic Kindle without access to the internet, my reading increased dramatically. One of the keys to my increased reading is eliminating distractions and without a web browser, Facebook or Twitter, this little machine lets me focus on reading.

2. Read multiple books in multiple genres
By no means do I consider myself well read, but I have tried to read across several genres. The past few years, I’ve added classic literature to my list – The Grapes of Wrath moved me deeply this summer. This past year I have tried to keep books going in theology, practical theology, history, social science/business, and fiction.

3. Read according to your plan
This year I decided ahead of time what my next few books would be. Once a book was finished, I just picked up the next one. This also gave me incentive to finish what I was reading because the next book was already setting on my self or on my Kindle.

4. Read and then keep track of the books you finish
As I mentioned above, I’ve been keeping a list of books that I’ve finished for many years now. As I see the list grow over the year, this has been an incentive to finish the books I’m currently reading. Sometimes, I challenged myself at the end of the month to finish a book or two so that I could add them to my list and start “fresh” in the new month.

5. Read the book that’s with you
I made it a habit this year to carry a book or Kindle with me whenever I left the house. Yes – sometimes it was never opened, but so many times, I found that I had 15 minutes to kill that I hadn’t planned on. By being prepared to read, I was able to snatch those times that came available during the day. Obviously, carrying a book to read on public transport was also a good way to redeem the time this year.pexels-photo

6. Read on your phone
Smart phones are great for Twitter and Facebook, but I also found this year that I could get a few pages of Kindle reading in while I was out and about. Sure, I carried a book or Kindle with me most places, but there are times when I forgot or it was awkward to carry a book. By having the Kindle app on my phone synced, I could just continue reading where I left off on the Kindle.

7. Read in the morning and before bed
My life during the bulk of the work day doesn’t allow for much reading except for the snippets I mentioned above. Of course there are days off that I can read during the day but most of my reading is done in the morning and at night. The biggest difference for me this year was a cut-back on the amount of TV watching I did. I love my grumpy mid-aged British detectives (Rebus, Wycliffe, etc.) but those had to go if I was going to increase my reading.

8. Read but be willing to stop
There were a couple of books that I started this year which didn’t connect with me for various reasons. After 50 to 100 pages, I decided to put them aside and not finish them. Don’t let your commitment to reading get in the way of your reading. If a book doesn’t grab you after you’ve given it a chance, drop it and move on.

Quick Book Review: “Listening to Hear”

I just finished reading a short book, Church in a Blues Bar, by Al Dayhoff, who’s a pastor outside of Washington D.C.  He tells the story of sneaking into a local blues bar, embarrassed that patrons would figure out that he’s a minister.  Over time, as he made friends and listened to people’s difficult stories, “Pastor Al” became 51A6q7q2azL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_an accepted member of the group who gathered weekly to hear the blues sung.

As he listened to the bikers, the drinkers, the outcasts and the outlaws at the bar, God slowly opened up doors for the gospel.  Not quickly nor dramatically, but little by little, opportunities opened up to pray with people who were experiencing lost love and tragedy in life.

Dayhoff encourages us to listen. Listen to the stories of life.  Put away our 15-minute evangelism presentation and spend time getting to know people.  Give time for the Spirit to work.

Towards the end of the book, he lists five questions to ask those we meet.  And as he states, “We do not need to do the talking in every conversation. We can ask the big questions and then listen to hear – not to reply.”

Question 1. Where do you believe the world came from?

Question 2. What do you believe about God?

Question 3. What do you believe about Jesus Christ?

Question 4. What do you believe about life after death?

Question 5. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

As you meet people today, are you listening to hear?  Or are you listening so that you can respond with truth?

May we truly hear those around us. May we embrace the pain of life.  And may the Spirit use us, in His time, to bring new birth.


Waiting with Expectant Hope

This morning I read a sermon based on Luke 2 when the baby Jesus was presented at the temple. Verse 26 states, “And it had been revealed to him (Simeon) by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Simeon, an old Godly man, was waiting for the Lord’s Christ. And in God’s perfect time, the promised Messiah came so that his frail eyes could see the baby. Did Simeon know that this baby was born of a virgin and would die on a cross? No. But did Simeon understand that God’s time had come? Yes. Simeon knew that the Lord Almighty, creator of heaven and earth was up to something good.

In many ways, I feel like Simeon these days. Do we understand all that has happened over the past 10 years in London? No. But do I understand that God is at work in me and through me in London? Yes.

I know that the Lord Almighty, creator of heaven and earth is up to something good.

I pray that you too would know this in your life. And know that through you, God will use you to bring His blessings to those in your community.

I love the Christmas carol “Joy to the World” and especially the 3rd stanza: “He comes to make his blessings flow, Far as the curse is found”.joytotheworldWHITEsm

This baby Jesus has come to make God’s blessings flow as far as the curse is found. Yes, we know these blessings are centered on the death and resurrection. But exactly how God is going to work this out in us and through us in the future? We are all like Simeon – waiting with expectant hope that God’s time has come and He is up to something good.

Happy Christmas!

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