A few years ago, my wife and I asked some friends to help us move. We packed our bags, rented a moving van, and assumed we’d be done by lunch.
It lasted all day.
It was exhausting and embarrassing – we had so much stuff. As I watched my friends sweat and struggle to haul out my possessions, I realized that my possessions had come to possess me. Right then and there, I promised myself that I would never put my friends through anything like that again.
We started by donating most of our wedding presents.
A few years later, my wife and I took the 100 Things Challenge.
The 100 Things Challenge was originally created by a guy named Dave. He eventually wrote a book about it, but his original article was simple: Reduce, refuse, rejigger. He believed that living without an abundance of personal possessions was the first step to realizing we could live well without them.
Leo Babauta picked up on the idea, and it exploded. He offered a few suggestions to get started: take inventory, mark the must-keep stuff, sequester the borderline stuff, get rid of the rest.
Courtney Carver took the challenge.The Minimalists gave an honest accounting. Tammy Strobel got down to 72 things. Colin Wright got down to 51 items. Leo got down to 50 items, but his not-to-keep list is equally informative.
Michelle and I were inspired by all that simple talk, so we pared down our number of possessions to a total of 88 combined items for a 5-month-long backpacking trip. It was one of the most freeing seasons of our lives.
How many things do you own?
My rule is that if I’m not able to answer that question with an exact number, then I have too many possessions.
These days, I practice the one-for-one rule: for every new item acquired, one item must be donated or recycled. It’s a great way to prevent us from hoarding.
It is in giving that we receive. It is in letting go that we have the strength to hold on to what really matters. By practicing a simpler existence, we can have a more meaningful life.
On March 2nd, 2015, A Year of Living Prayerfully hit bookstands around the world. It was the culmination of 2 years of hard work, and the fulfillment of a dream almost a decade in the making. To celebrate, I’m giving away 7 bonuses worth $297 to everyone who buys a copy. I’ll share the details in a moment.
I won’t spend time in this post telling you about the book. I’ve made a fancy landing page for that reason, complete with an endorsement from Moses himself. But seriously, I hope that this book makes you laugh. And cry. And think. And share. And serve. And pray. Above all, I hope it draws you closer to Jesus. This book is just the beginning…
I want to give you as much value as possible. I want you to have an experience. So keep reading all the way to the bottom, because there’s a gift here for everyone. If you buy the book this week, I will give you seven FREE bonuses:
1. A Super Shiny Video Interview with Mark Buchanan
Pastor, professor, super legit author, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, Mark Buchanan is a gifted writer without peer. A literary agent (not his own) called him “the next C. S. Lewis.” Mark is my writing mentor, and he’s published 7 books so far. In this interview, we talk about writing process, motivation, and hobbits.
2. An Exclusive Audio Interview with Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler is a Christian publishing powerhouse. With over 40 years of experience in editorial, marketing, and management at 3 publishing houses, Ann has seen it all. She was the literary agent for such works as Sally Lloyd Jones’s The Jesus Storybook Bible, Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, Jerry Sittser’s A Grace Disguised, and dozens of other highly acclaimed titles. As an author herself, Ann has written almost a dozen books – including Women of the Bible and Praying the Names of Jesus, and has sold over 3 million copies so far. In this interview, we talk about writing, publishing, how to land an agent, industry trends, and prayer.
3. Author Outtakes
My first draft of A Year of Living Prayerfully clocked in at well over 113,000 words. Eight drafts later, I arrived at the final print with around 105K. Where did those extra 8,000 words go? For various reasons (theme, flow, timing, my editor disliking BBQ, etc), we excluded them from the book. Here are a few of those extra words, plus 10 extra images. The 9 bonus chapters include…
The Kosher Hotel
Yes – you read that correctly – it’s a real thing.
Inside North Korea
Your humble reporter and his dispatches from inside the hermit kingdom.
The incredible, powerful true story of how prayer saved a marriage. It’ll knock your socks off.
The Hometown Passover
In which Jared attends his very first Passover. This tale may or may not include diarrhea.
The very cool story in which I interview a woman who predicted that Francis would become the next Pope.
A Handy Guide to Jewishness
I had a lot of fun in Brooklyn,
Sabbath with the Angels
Red Bull and unicorns were involved.
The Holy Dragon Island
The story of my journey to the mystical land of Lindisfarne in Northern England. For history nerds only.
Church (Dis)Unity at Its Finest
The incredible true story of a 250-year argument on the doorstep of Christ’s tomb.
4. Photo Gallery
Includes 2 dozen of my favorite behind-the-scenes photographs from the journey, including the Vatican cafeteria, John Wesley’s prayer closet, my monk’s cell on Mount Athos, Benny Hinn’s private jet, and Mount Zion at sunset…
5. Twelve Free Ebooks
A Year of Living Prayerfully is a very wide, broad book on prayer and pilgrimage. After reading it, you’ll hopefully want to dig deep into prayer like never before, and these are the Christian prayer classics to help you on your journey. Twelve more books! Many of the authors are mentioned and quoted in my book, including:
- Brother Lawrence
- Teresa of Avila
- Charles Finney
- Andrew Murray
- Ignatius of Loyola
These 12 ebooks will provide you with many months of enjoyment and encouragement, and it’s all yours free with the purchase of a copy of A Year of Living Prayerfully.
6. Daily Inspiration
Want a daily reminder to pray? Your bonus pack include 5 gorgeous inspirational desktop background quote posters, in 4 different sizes each. Here’s a sneak peek…
7. Greater Good
When you purchase a copy of A Year of Living Prayerfully, you’re not just buying a book – you’re supporting a mission. My book is owned by a non-profit, and all my author royalties go to missions and ministry. My publisher, Tyndale House Publishers, is also owned by a non-profit, and they give away their dividends. (The Tyndale Foundation has given away over $170 million in today’s dollars, so I’ve got some catch-up to do!)
By purchasing copies of this book, you’re investing in human trafficking prevention, Bible translation, Christian education, disaster relief, micro-finance, and so much more.
In addition to all the bonuses above, head over to Facebook and LIKE my fan page and we’ll pay to plant a tree in the third world. Trees, as you know, are awesome: they replenish groundwater, improve air quality, renew exhausted soil, increase crop production, and providing income diversity for entire communities. We’ll plant a tree for every new FB fan between now and the giveaway deadline, so feel free to share this page with your friends so even more trees get planted.
But wait, there’s way more! Thinking of buying copies for friends, family, colleagues, employees, or ministry partners?
Sweet and simple: purchase 10 copies and I’ll record a personalized video to say hello to your group. Perfect for book clubs and small groups.
This one’s fun: purchase 100 copies for your church members or employees, and you’ll get a half-hour to talk about whatever you’d like, whether it be about beards, burritos, cheap world travel, prayer, or publishing.
Purchase 1000 copies for your conference attendees and I will give a 60-minute presentation at the venue of your choice in the continental United States or Canada. Date of keynote and presentation content to be mutually agreed upon.
We’ll meet in Hamilton and spend a jam-packed day together: We’ll have lunch and dinner, see Niagara Falls, go up the CN Tower, see the revival spots in Hamilton, and discuss whatever topics you choose. (Transportation to Hamilton not included, but I’ll put you up for 1 night at a Christian retreat center.)
By purchasing a copy of A Year of Living Prayerfully, you’ll get 2 exclusive interviews, 5 desktop backgrounds, 9 bonus chapters, 12 free ebooks, heaps of bulk goodies, a tree gifted to someone in need, and the book’s profits going to charity… all for the price of a super-sized Big Mac meal.
To get these FREE bonuses, you must take these three steps:
1. Purchase A Year of Living Prayerfully from your favorite bookseller.
You can chose from one of the online retailers below or your local bookseller, in hardcover/ebook/audiobook. The hardcover retails for $18.99 USD, but many retailers are selling it for less than $14.00.
2. Send me your receipt code.
Head over to the Bonus Signup page, enter your name, email, and receipt code, and click the button. It’s that simple.
3. Confirm your e-mail address.
I don’t want to accidentally spam anyone, so I use a standard double opt-in e-mail list process. I will reply to your e-mail and ask you to confirm your address before I proceed further. (Interbots do it for me, but you get the idea.) If you don’t see an email within 5 minutes, don’t forget to check your spam folder.
Once you’re confirmed, I will e-mail you the link to the special Prayerfully Bonus Download Page, where you’ll get access to all the rewards.
(Bulk purchasers should also complete this 3-step process, and then send a message through the contact form to arrange your additional goodies.)
If you have any questions about this offer, please check the FAQs.
If you’re serious about taking your prayer life to a whole new level, order your copy of A Year of Living Prayerfully today and get started.
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LENT: a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar of many Christian denominations that begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.”
I learned a world of prayer traditions as I traveled around our beautiful planet. As we mark the beginning of this season of Lent, let’s see it as a “New Year” for our prayer lives. Prayer doesn’t have to be a boring routine or tradition – it can be full of creativity and movement and action. Like any relationship, it’s a free-flowing dialogue. Prayer is about being in love.
Feel free to print this infographic and stick it on your fridge, copy and paste it on your blog, or share it on social media.
Author’s note: An earlier version of my article first appeared on RelevantMagazine.com. This one’s new and improved for 2015.
There was an old man with a beard, who said: ‘It is just as I feared! Two owls and a hen, four larks and a wren have all built their nests in my beard. -Edward Lear
I spent the past year of my life on a 37,000-mile prayer pilgrimage around the world. As I trekked around our giant planet, I discovered an entire world of interesting prayer traditions- silent prayers with Quakers, loud prayers at a Benny Hinn convention, dancing prayers with ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews, desperate prayers as I walked across a bed of hot coals, and prayers of thanksgiving while eating lunch at the Pope’s house.
As I experienced the vast array of incredibly beautiful Judeo-Christian prayer traditions, I discovered one powerful thing that unites the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox worlds…
I had the opportunity to visit Mount Athos, an all-male (animals included) ‘holy mountain’ in Greece. I was surrounded by Gandalfs and Dumbledores, each with an average beard length of about 8 inches. One particularly godly monk had a knee-brusher so long that he stopped wearing clothes.
Speaking of Gandalfs, do you remember the dwarves in Lord of the Rings? All bearded. Otto the Great swore great oaths by his beard. In the Middle Ages, touching a dude’s chin wig was grounds for a duel. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m also pretty certain that Vikings were born with beards.
Regardless, it’s time to set the record straight: if you’re a man, here are 10 reasons why you should grow a beard this year:
1. A Strong Start
Consider this fact: Men have been growing facial foliage since the beginning of time. While it’s not officially mentioned in Genesis, I’m pretty sure that in the Beard-ginning, God created the heavens and the beard.
For further proof, see: Abraham Lincoln.
2. For the Bible Tells Me So
Speaking of Abrahams… did you know that the Abraham had a beard? So did his son, Isaac. Though not as hairy as his caveman brother Esau, Jacob is often depicted with a manly mane. King David wore a beard, as did his wise-guy son, Solomon. It goes without saying that Moses’s face was well-forested, and Aaron’s beard is specifically mentioned in Psalm 133. Technicolor-dream-coated Joseph also had a crumb-catcher, until the Pharaoh turned him into a sassy Egyptian. Noah/Russell Crowe had a beard, obviously. And let’s not even pretend that Methuselah was baby-faced. Job, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezra, and the Apostle Paul- all bearded. Though I couldn’t find any women in the Bible who had a beard, there’s no version that says that they didn’t have a beard. So that’s something.
Do you know who else had a 24-hour-o-clock shadow?
Jesus The Man Christ.
And, if we believe the (bearded) Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel, then we know that even God Almighty Himself proudly displays Santa-like plumage.
Is there a connection between hairiness and holiness?
One might even say that we are justified by face. Every hair is a prayer, every collar cover an offering of love. Beards teach a man contentment- when you have a beard, you have enough. Throughout history, Christian men have gloried in male pattern magnificence. Saint Benedict of Nursia wore an superb double forker. The benevolently-bushed Euthymius wouldn’t allow cleanshaven monks to enter his Judean Desert monastery. St. Francis of Assisi had a beard, and now there’s a Pope named after him.
This article isn’t the first piece that’s been written in defense of beards, of course.
According to Ted Olson, Abbot Burchard of Bellavaux wrote Apologia de Barbis in 1160, as “a treatise on the biblical, theological, moral, social, and allegorical implications of beards.”
In 1531, Piero Valeriano Bolzani wrote Pro Sacerdotum Barbis, after the (beardless) Pope Clement VII thought about forcing priests to manscape their forested faces. Little did he know that a beard covers a multitude of chins.
There’s a reason that time is measured in weeks, months, and beards.
Of all the great Christian men who wore beards, none stands so highly as the headless martyr Sir Thomas More. On the day of his beheading, the tufted knight supposedly positioned his beard away from his soon-to-be-severed neck, saying:
My beard has not been guilty of treason, and it would be an injustice to punish it.
Nevermind that clean-shaven John C. Maxwell fellow. John Knox, Menno Simons, and George Muller founded entire denominations, most likely on the strength of their beards. The well-bearded General William Booth founded an army on the strength of his food saver. Hasidic Jews, Quakers, Greek Orthodox, hipster pastors and worship leaders… all bearded.
A beard confers instant leadership. It’s the difference between Mr. and Sir.
7. A Great Cloud of Bearded Witnesses
Just look at the history of Beard-ianity: St. John Chrysostom, Lactantius, James the Greater, Saint Nicholas, Saint Patrick, Gregory of Nyssa, Charles Finney… beards, beards, beardy beards. Why do godly men choose to grow their own neck scarves?
Because it’s the right thing to do.
Yet, despite a clear Biblical and historical bias towards beardliness, a number of Christian institutions and Bible colleges have, throughout the years, created policies that expressly forbade the cultivation of facial manliness. Historical anti-beards include Bob Jones University, Moody Bible Institute, The Salvation Army, and Pensacola Christian College. Liberty University’s dress code stills insists that “facial hair should be neatly trimmed.” So much for liberty.
8. God-Given Genetics
Hear these words, baby-faced college deans: Dihydrotestosterone, the chemical that promotes beard growth (and sadly, balding) is God’s gift to man-folk. For it is by grace we are saved through face, not of ourselves, lest any man can boast.
Beards or baldness…choose this day whom you will serve.
But don’t take my word for it- we barbates stand on the shoulders of elegantly bearded giants…
Growing a beard is a habit most natural, Scriptural, manly and beneficial. –C.H. Spurgeon
The beard must not be plucked. ‘You will not deface the figure of your beard’. -St. Cyprian (Even his statue has a beard.)
The nature of the beard contributes in an incredible degree to distinguish the maturity of bodies…to contribute to the beauty of manliness and strength. -Lactantius
The beard signifies the courageous… the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man. -St. Augustine
How womanly it is for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor… to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them! [God] adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood…a sign of strength and rule. -Clement of Alexandria
I also suspect that this is what Jesus meant when He told us to “re-mane” in Him.
10. Scriptural Support
You need Biblical proof, you say? Then let their be no shaves of grey about it. I willl give you three, but be forewarned: if we hear the Word of God, yet fail to do what it says…
“If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.” -Judges 16:17
“The men were greatly ashamed. And King David said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.” -2 Sam 10:5
“You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.” -Lev 19:27
“The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” -Genesis 2:18
So there you have it. We, like sheep, have gone astray- shave henceforth at your own peril. And so I exhort you, as Paul did the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Men of God, grow your beards!
“I don’t believe in making resolutions.”
“Oh, I haven’t thought about it yet.”
“I don’t make resolutions because I never keep them.”
“I think New Year’s resolutions are stupid.”
“I like to set goals all the time, not just at New Year’s.”
Please stop. It’s boring.
In the past two weeks, I’ve asked at least 50 people (including strangers) if they have a New Year’s resolution. Inevitably, almost every single person said one of the five statements list above – often verbatim.
Only 2 people had a resolution ready.
While I set goals year-round, there’s something special about resolving to make a yearly change. I believe in resolutions. I’m a fan of resolve. Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a total sucker for New Year’s resolutions.
So where did New Year’s resolutions come from, anyway?
According to Wonderopolis…
[tweet]The tradition of New Year’s resolutions dates all the way back to 153 B.C.[/tweet] January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward, one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past. The Romans also believed Janus could forgive them for their wrongdoings in the previous year. The Romans would give gifts and make promises, believing Janus would see this and bless them in the year ahead. And thus the New Year’s resolution was born.
According to 1950’s sociologist Isidor Thorner…
New Year’s Resolutions may be a tradition rooted in watch night services, which were popularized by the Methodist church in 18th century England as a way to ring in the New Year in a more spiritual, contemplative way, as opposed to raucous, all-night partying.
The key to New Year’s resolutions is definitely simplicity.
And in the past few years, I’ve actually been able to keep my resolutions by using a smart little trick, inspired by the The SMART Method. SMART stands for…
Michelle used to make resolutions like “eat less candy,” but it wasn’t working out for her. So two years ago, she decided to go on the offense: to eat more greens. Simple. Eat more greens.
She ate twice as many greens that year. And I ate twice as many greens that year. Now vegetables are a far more integral portion of our dinner plates. Last year, my work resolution was to write 3 daily MITs- Most Important Tasks. And boy did it help my productivity!
In 2014, I…
- co-wrote 2 film scripts
- wrote a 113,000-word book on prayer
- co-released a documentary and showed it in over 80 cities around North America
- started a second non-profit
- started this website
- wrote dozens of articles and got published in the Huffington Post, Esquire, Converge, Thought Catalog, and Relevant Magazine
- flew 37,000 miles around the world and visited 13 countries
- roadtripped over 20,000 miles through 38 states and provinces
- walked on hot coals, visited Mount Athos, celebrated New Year’s in North Korea, visited the world’s biggest church, emceed a wedding and stood as the best man in my brother’s wedding, testified before Canadian Parliament, appeared on dozens of TV shows and radio stations,preached at a dozen churches, met 100s of amazing new people, watched 40+ movies, read 40+ books, and met the Pope.
I did all these things without owning a cell phone, an iPad, Evernote, drinking coffee or energy drinks, working from a dedicated office, or even having a permanent address.
And, while it’s no longer 2014, I’ll continue to write down 3 daily MITs because it’s a bedrock habit at this point.
But why stop at one?
I make a couple resolutions each year, in four different categories:
1. Spiritual Walk
For my health resolution, I’m going to figure out how to be a good vegetarian. For my spiritual walk, I’m cycling through The Gospels every 40 days. For my 2015 character resolution, I’m tackling the hardest resolution I’ve ever met: To stop complaining and see the silver lining.
There was a running joke in my family growing up: “If Jay couldn’t complain, he wouldn’t be happy.” I’m an optimist, but I’m far too negative. With God’s grace, that changes this year. I’ve given my wife a keyword to use if she ever hears me complaining: silver. Because frankly, I know I can do better. My life is amazing. And so easy. Compared with the majority of the world (and the majority of history), I lived a charmed life. I don’t have any right to complain, not while people go to bed hungry, or are trafficked, or living in abusive homes, or can’t find work, or live under a dictatorship. Instead, I’d like to cultivate gratefulness and see all the good gifts that God has given me. (And then turn it into action, of course!)
But back to you.
Here are 10 reasons why you should make a new year’s resolution for 2015
Stuck in a rut? Keep doing the same things and you’ll get the same result… so shake things up! You’ve got 365 days to transition to a job that you love, have a far more simplified home, or be in a stronger financial position.
3. You get to challenge yourself.
It’s not easy to keep a resolution, not by a long shot. You’re going to have to push yourself.
4. You’ll become a bigger person.
Character growth is hard. [tweet]Resistance creates strength.[/tweet] Building a new habit is tough work, but it’s the work of life. One year from today, you could be more patient, loving, kind, or generous.
5. Stick it to failure.
Declaring that your resolution is bound to fail, from the very start, is so terribly fatalistic. Give yourself a fighting chance! Bolster your self-confidence by sticking to your resolution.
6. Fight fear.
Maybe you’ve been procrastinating or putting off something that you know needs to change.
7. Life’s too short to waste time.
Intentional living is a good stewardship of the only life that God has given you. Take advantage.
8. Because no one makes resolutions anymore.
[tweet] Live outside the box a little. Stop following the crowd. Swim upstream. Pick your own metaphor.[/tweet] Be a contrarian and do something unique and different.
9. It affects those around you.
Like my wife eating greens, your good habits could naturally start to wear off on those around you. If you start to walk or work out more, likely your spouse will join you. If you read and pray at the kitchen table each morning, your kids will see it modelled. If you clean up your front lawn, maybe your neighbors will finally throw out that old BBQ.
Making a resolution says “I’m not cynical- [tweet]I’m hopeful for the plight of humanity and for myself personally. I know can do better.[/tweet]”
Resolutions, especially those of a character or spiritual nature, take a lot of grace, truth, and time to achieve. But you’ve got a whole year to figure that out!
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before: Thoughts create actions create habits create character create destiny. Sticking with something for an entire year means you need to get to the habit stage. [tweet]A resolution gets you in the mindset to take a new course of action.[/tweet] My father has read through the Bible every single year since he was a teenager. That’s why I make resolutions- because if you stick with it long enough, it could change your whole life.
Happy New Year!