Passed a test

I’ve just spent a few days visiting my father. I visit him every so often for a few days to see how he his: he is getting on and lives alone since his wife / my mother died three years ago. Dad is well and we enjoyed our time together.

In the past these visits have provided lots of opportunity for shopping and dressing up:

  • The train station where I have lunch on the way out has a branch of Accessorize, where I have often bought knickers
  • I would not take any extra male underpants with me and I would wear knickers every day
  • It’s a cold rainy part of the country so on shopping trips out I would often wear a bra as well
  • I would wear knickers and bra on the way back. The train journey breaks at a county town with branches of Accessorize, New Look and Marks & Spencers and I would enjoy shopping. I would change out of the bra before arriving home

In fact, shopping and dressing up was an integral part of the visit (although one that only I knew about). So, having said goodbye to my dressing up habit last August, this visit was a bit of a test.

I certainly felt pangs, especially walking past the Accessorize on the way out. On the way back I went to Marks & Spencers and bought some men’s clothes, and felt the same pangs as the escalator took me past the lingerie department. I think the pangs were more of nostalgia than actual temptation. The appeal of dressing up is still there — but that appeal reminds me of the despair and even panic I felt last August, so it doesn’t develop into temptation.

I got back home without taking that detour. I passed that small test. I don’t feel like I was under the yoke of a new rule. This post is a little celebration.

Sleep, Exercise, Eat, Tidy: tweaks

The “Foundations” chapter in “Better than Before” is about establishing good habits in these four areas. My behaviour is ok I think but could probably do with some tweaks.

This post is a record of ideas for me to refer back to. More ideas welcome!


I am a “Lark”. On work days I get up at six, or even 5:30 if I’m cycling into work. On home days I love a lie-in but it ruins my day.


  • On my days at home (one or both days of the weekend, often a day during the week), don’t overdo the lie-in (9am is too late).
  • We are invariably in bed well before 11pm, invariably reading. I should (a) read an actual book rather than the web; (b) close the book and lie down no later than 11 (my wife M is in charge of the bedside light).
  • I don’t always remember to pray but I do think praying helps me get to sleep. I need some kind of trick to help me remember to pray after lights out. I have a book of Christian Verse by the bed. If I made sure the last thing I read was out of that (or similar) that would put my mind in the right space.


I cycle to work most days. It’s only a couple of miles but our house is at the top of one hill and my office is at the top of the next hill, so it’s a reasonable workout. I am quite good at getting up from my desk every hour, but I could get a bit more fresh air.


  • The office is in a park so, as winter turns into spring, there’ll be opportunities to go for walks. I could take the “scenic route” to the cafe where I buy my (usually late) lunch.
  • Cycling is good aerobic exercise, but not so good for flexibility. I need to find somewhere to fit in a bit of yoga or other stretching.I could probably swap twenty minutes on twitter for twenty minutes on a yoga mat most days.


My eating is fine, except I drink too much coffee at the office. I don’t especially like coffee — for example, my morning drink is a pot of tea — but it seems to go with “work”.


  • monitor coffee drinking in my work diary — jot down a little “c” in the margin.
  • decide which coffees are “allowed” (e.g. when I arrive, with food)
  • make pots of tea — I have a pot and some nice tea at the office

So here, as well as — or instead of? — a negative goal of “drink less coffee”, I have a positive goal of “drink more (nice) tea (instead of coffee)”. The monitoring can attach to (and reinforce) the positive goal.

Thinking back to other habits I want to cut down on, I could rephrase an avoidance tactic as a positive goal: pray more during the day; reach out for God more; don’t wait until a designated “prayer time” — call on Him “in the moment”. As “monitoring” I could tweet “I just prayed”, and after a while, the monitoring tweet could become the prayer itself.

Tweets are timestamped and archived so I can do whatever kind of auditing I decide to, just as it I’d been monitoring on paper.


There are some things I am dogmatic about — kitchen must be immaculate before end of evening (dishes washed or in dishwasher); all office crockery must be cleaned before hometime — but everything else basically piles up until it is too annoying. At home that’s things like ironing dusting, vacuuming (everything apart from the dishes :D; At work it also includes things like admin & accounts that I think of as the same kind of tidying.


  • Perhaps I could give myself set times for this kind of work, and noting those times on the household “agenda familiale” and in my work desk diary. e.g. at work, last half hour of every day, and all Friday afternoon, is for admin & accounts.


I am reading “Better than Before” by Gretchen Rubin. I’ll review elsewhere, once I’ve finished (I like a lot, and I dislike a lot). For now, I’ve just read the chapter on monitoring. I found it inconclusive, so I thought I’d write up some of the ways I am using monitoring and where it seems to be effective.

Turns out I monitor quite a lot.

Some things I monitor

Read the full post »

Making and Breaking Habits in 2017

This year I want to be more organised. That’s partly because of my “work” – my work is the impetus – but I’d like to be more organised in my “life” too. That is part carrot and part stick: I’m starting to feel the benefit of regular praying, and other kinds of self-management; on the other hand I fall back occasionally and it is horrible to feel out of control.

** Some habits I’d like to cultivate in 2017:

*** pray every morning and every evening

I enjoy praying, and I do pray often, but I’d like my praying to be more regular. I want to pray morning and evening as a matter of course.

I am also thinking of my mental idle times. In those times I want prayer to suggest itself to me. As well as prayer, Psalms and other Scripture, ideas or even images I’ve read in Christian social media. This will help with the habits I want to break.

*** write something every day

I am thinking of writing longhand here, although I am trying to teach myself touch-typing. I have just written a report for a client and I was shocked at how difficult I found it to write. This daily writing could be a prayer or diary, or anything really – just to practice writing coherent narrative.

I want to learn touch-typing for work, but I much prefer writing longhand (I spend most of my working day at the keyboard).

** Some habits I want to stop:

*** looking at porn

I thought I was out of that but it crept back in (or rather I crept back to it) over Christmas. It was a very nice relaxing Christmas but it did have its longeurs. The shock was how quickly it returns to being a habit. I am out of it again (now) but I want to ensure I have other resources (or “expectations”) for when I hit the same kind of boredom.

*** ogling women

I realise that with long years of looking at porn I have effectively trained myself to look at women in a certain way. Even the sound of heels tapping, a woman’s voice can put me on the alert. Again an expectation of an opportunity to see/think in a certain way.

*** mindlessly surfing twitter

I like my Christian twitter account, and I have a work-related project with twitter, but it is too easy to waste time. I want to be more purposeful when I go to twitter.

2016: a felix culpa of a year

In January I set myself the target to read the twelve minor prophets: twelve books, twelve months — easy. I didn’t read any.


My Word of the Year for 2016 was “Pivot”. It took me till February to think of it, and I don’t remember thinking of the word again until I saw Lisa Notes’ post on her Word of the Year.


In March I opened a Facebook account for the first time so I could join Beth Steffaniak’s reading group on 1 Samuel. Now the group is a fair way into 2 Samuel. Reading as part of a group, I am learning much more than I would be reading alone, I am being challenged and put on the spot in surprising ways, and it is just nicer.

In August, I went on a shopping spree which plunged me into a fortnight of restless anxiety and almost despair, until at the end of the month I methodically and systematically threw everything out.

In October, I prayed my way through Psalm 145, verse by verse. I have learnt the Psalm by heart and now I pray it at least once every day. “Every day I will bless you”.

I have enjoyed this year. I am looking forward to next year.

Praying Psalm 145

Well I enjoyed that!

Thank you to Beth for the idea of praying by writing.
Thank you to Lisa for the “31 Days” idea.

The Psalm

Here are my prayers, verse-by-verse:

  1. I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever.
  2. Every day I will bless you and praise your name for ever and ever.
  3. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
  4. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
  5. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
  6. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.
  7. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness, and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
  8. The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  9. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
  10. All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
  11. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power,
  12. to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
  13. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
  14. The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
  15. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.
  16. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
  17. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
  18. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
  19. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.
  20. The Lord preserves all who love him, but the wicked he will destroy.
  21. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.


I loved praying by writing. It meant I prayed consciously and with focus. I meditated on the verse and let it inspire me. I loved adoring God and Jesus.

The days I couldn’t manage to write, I felt it. I felt itchy and unhappy, like missing a new lover.

I wouldn’t like this to be a “habit”, but I would love to do it every day. Keep a little notebook with me I can pray in.

I love my silent praying too. Perhaps I am developing a repertoire of different kinds of praying: adoration (writing); meditation (my morning quiet times); reflection (my bedtime prayer). [in case I sound like a nun I should say I don’t always manage or remember to pray every day!]

I think a longer form of written praying might be powerful too, for supplication or for confession of sins (not for posting here of course!). I have kept a diary on-and-off since I was a kid and I have always found that helpful (my wife too, often tells me I am calmer when I write regularly). Writing to God instead of to myself would be interesting.

Next steps

  • Make sure I have the Psalm safely learnt. The first dozen or so verses are safe I think.
  • Keep writing to my new penpal.

My mouth will speak

The wicked he will destroy

Save me Oh Lord

The Lord is near