Daily Essentials

I used to love reading scary books and watching horror movies. The books and movies were mild compared to other things that used to feed my brain. It wasn’t that I sought them out over “good” things that I might otherwise have been reading, watching, listening to, or doing; it’s just what I knew.

I used to love and do a lot of things that weren’t good for me.

When my world started to fall apart for the second or third time, I began to pay closer attention to those things and people that filled up my life. And I heard four little words that stuck with me, and that have made a difference ever since:

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Think about it. What goes in—to our minds, to our bodies—shapes what comes out.

  • Ice cream and cheesy garlic bread vs. fruit and vegetables.
  • Books, movies and music filled with four-letter-words and sexual innuendos vs. media that builds people up with life-enhancing sweetness.
  • Words spoken with sarcasm vs. words spoken with love.

I realized I had a lot of junk filling up my life. And it had impacted not only my habits and my thinking process, but also what I gave back to the world.

Garbage in, garbage out.

I wanted something different for myself and for the people whose lives mine touched. So I began to purposefully filter out the sludge and replace it with something better.

Here are five things that I find essential in feeding my reframed mindset that I think of simply as:

Good Stuff In, Good Stuff Out

1. A Good, Easy-to-Understand Study Bible

Study Bibles are different than the ones my family used to give and receive on special occasions. Those Bibles were always leather-bound, usually engraved with the recipient’s name, set prominently on a shelf and never touched again beyond the occasional dusting.

I never knew there were dozens of different translations in the English language alone, or that we Catholics had our own special Bible, uniquely different from all of the others. Until mid-life, I’d never opened up any of them except to sign the “presented to” page before giving them away as baptismal or confirmation gifts.

In 2010, my church handed out excerpts from the Bible they recommend and I was immediately sold on The Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation (NLT).

Don’t make the mistake I did thinking all Bibles are the same and that any translation will do. If you’re going to jump in to a 2000+ page book, you might as well understand what you’re reading. This one has clear language, book introductions and overviews, timelines, profiles, maps, and thousands of notes that explain Scripture in a way that is relevant and applicable to life today.

I’d also encourage you to access a good online Bible such as www.biblegateway.com. It’s free and simple to use, and it allows you to easily compare all 50+ English language translations of any given verse. The old me would have wondered why anyone would want to, but these days I love digging in deeper.

Once you’ve got a good Bible in hand, the next step is figuring out where to begin. You can certainly use one of the many “Bible Reading Plans” at www.biblegateway.com or elsewhere on the Internet or, better yet, try one of my favorite daily devotionals:

2. Daily Devotionals

There are plenty wonderful ones available, but the three that have sustained me for years are these:

Start your “quiet time with God” by getting still. Let go of your to-do lists and mind chatter.

Read your chosen devotional and the passage from Scripture that goes along with it.

Then grab a pen and your journal or sit down at your computer and write out the verse or two from the Bible that speaks to your heart.

If nothing jumps out at you, don’t give up. Keep your mind still, and keep reading. Sometimes I find that I need to put the entire referenced Bible passage into context, and it will be the snippet before or right after the cited Scripture that grabs me.

And that’s why I have three favorite devotionals that are emailed to me each morning. There’s rarely been a day when at least one of them hasn’t spoken directly into my life.

3. The SAP Method

You’ll then use the spiritual journaling practice of Scripture->Application->Prayer as explained in the About section to SAP your way to freedom.


Choose a short passage from the Bible.


What does the Bible passage mean to you?


Finally, wrap up your SAP with a written prayer.

4. Music to Nurture Your Soul

I started really listening to the language, tone and meaning of the songs that I knew so well, songs that I automatically sang along to without even thinking. I discovered that almost all were songs of sadness, anger, revenge; songs about relationships gone bad. While most of them weren’t necessarily “bad,” they sure didn’t fill me up with hope or even neutrality about love.

Garbage in, garbage out—remember? I came upon a passage from the Bible that spoke to this philosophy, though it was phrased a lot more eloquently there in Philippians 4:8:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Because “garbage in, garbage out,” right?

So I vowed to find and listen only to music that nurtures my soul. For me, that’s the Christian rock/pop music played on 98.5 KTIS-FM, a broadcast Christian radio station founded by Billy Graham. The sweet music they play builds me up just like my daily devotionals and Scripture. I haven’t listened to “normal” music ever since, and it’s made an incredible difference in my state of mind.

Try it. If you don’t know where to begin, pick up the mobile app at myktis.com and you’ll be able to listen to 98.5 KTIS live from your smartphone anytime, anywhere.

5. A Good Church

Finally, I encourage you to become a seeker. Go on a quest for a good church. Not because going to church is a rule. But because finding the right one—like good music and a good Bible, like those daily devotionals that flow into a daily SAP practice—a good church will build you up and nurture you, while teaching you more and more about God. And a good church will bring you into community with others who are seeking to find.

That idea of a church community was pretty scary for me. Because I had some invalid assumptions about what “church people” looked like: They were really old, always smiling, and way farther along on the spiritual plain than I would ever be. And sooner or later, they’d start preaching at me.

I loved discovering just how wrong I was.

Because a good church isn’t filled with know-it-alls. It’s filled with people who are—or were—just as broken and lost as me. Thankfully, a few are farther along on their journeys than the rest of us, and we count on them to help us along the the way. They do.

As you begin the process of finding a good church of your own, I hope you will try mine. The non-denominational Eagle Brook Church continues to be life-changing for me. And now our services are completely online, music and all, so that you can experience it from your own home.

Do you have these five essentials in your life? What else do you do to ensure that it’s good stuff—not garbage—flowing in and out of your life? Comment below.

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