I continue to be struck by how much influence entertainment wields over our lives. It’s crazy, too, how I can pretty directly correlate my moods and emotions with what I’m reading, watching, and listening to. Crazy enough that I’d like to do a better job in 2016 of choosing what I fill my head with. After all, if we recognize the power that entertainment has on us, we can make informed decisions that will grow us as readers and harness that power for good purposes. But how can we do this?
First, I’ve resolved to filter my reading more effectively. This doesn’t mean reading fewer books than before — in fact, I’m going to try to read about double what I did in 2015. It’s usually not books that end up being a waste of my time, because they’re a significant time investment and I usually put at least a little thought into what I am going to read next. In 2015, I learned to read with more understanding, and that really slowed me down from my usual quick pace. In 2016, I’m hoping to keep up with the understanding, but also up the pace just a little bit, too.
So where will the extra time come from to read more? I’m hoping to cut out much of the “information-surfing” that I take part in my day-to-day routine. You know what this stuff is: the Facebooks and Twitters; Buzzfeed, Youtube, Ars Technica, The Verge, Royals Review, boardgamegeek, Under Consideration, Pinterest, Wired…the list goes on for a long ways, for me. Yours probably looks different, but you know the stuff I’m talking about: low-investment, low-return content that serves as cushy time-filler when you have fifteen minutes free.
There’s nothing wrong with these sites (enough people have made futile new years resolutions that I plan to quit while I’m ahead and not make one at all), but it troubles me that they’re my default time filler. Of an evening, when the time comes to relax, I’d rather spend the time in a book than spend two hours reading about the economy or the latest pitcher the Royals traded for.
“…what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” Matthew 15
By changing what you take in, every day, you can slowly reshape where your brain is each day. Input, output. If you fill your time with truth, your brain will most likely follow suit. One of my challenges to myself in 2016 is to take advantage of this to intentionally fill my mind with things that I want to be thinking of. Whether it’s a good book I’m hoping to read (such as Al Mohler’s “We Cannot be Silent”) or a fantastic series of novels that I know will be good for my mind and my imagination (the fourth book of Andrew Peterson’s “Wingfeather Saga,” which is an instant classic), or even a valuable book that I’ve been putting off (Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” which I’ve just finished) — I want my input to be intentional, and valuable, which will affect my output similarly.
Which brings me to my second goal for 2016: spending more time in God’s Word. I’m continuing through Blue Letter Bible’s excellent 1 year plan, which I started in August of last year. I’m excited to spend even more time seeking out the heart of God, and trying to bring my own heart in line with his desires and his will.
If what I’m reading and thinking over is what defines me, then I want to be defined by the greatest source of truth we have. I want to be saturated in the Bible, know it backwards and forwards, have it come to mind during my workdays, use it naturally in my conversations, and be shaped and guided by it in my decisions. It’s all well and good to control what we use to entertain ourselves — and we should. But when you think of your inputs, don’t neglect the most important one of all. My challenge to myself and to you is to live 2016 in the shadow of God’s word, and let that shape all your decisions: including what you read.