Optimize Your Commute

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Years from now, historians will look back at our day and observe — among other things — the disproportionate amount of time we spent commuting to work. I’m blessed with a commute that is only about 15 minutes each way, but I know many whose daily traverse eats up hours each day. I’ve recently been convicted that these hours should not be squandered away, but can and should be exploited. Your morning commute can become a very productive part of your daily routine.

Here are a few suggestions for improving your commute:

1. Listen to Audiobooks

If you’re like me, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything you want to. I’ve started taking advantage of several inexpensive (and even free) ways to listen to great books. I once listened to half of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers on the drive into the mountains. Another time, I listened to Dostoevsky’s 800-page classic The Brother’s Karamozov in about three weeks during my daily commute.

Most public libraries now have audiobooks on CD you can check out for free. I’ve recently discovered the iPhone app OverDrive that allows users to check out and download audiobooks to their phones and listen for 21 days. The biggest selection of audiobooks is at Audible. They offer audiobooks with a no-hassle return policy. I buy 12 credits every year.

2. Listen to Podcasts, Sermons, Classes, and Teachings

I also regularly use my iPod to listen to sermons, teachings, courses, and podcasts that are specific to areas in which I want to grow. You can use your commute to sharpen yourself vocationally and socially, as well as spiritually. Consider areas of your life you’d like to grow, and look for resources you might be able to listen to. Personally, I’m always looking for wisdom on interpersonal communication, leadership, teaching, and writing, and I have discovered several great resources.

3. Listen to Scripture

Keep an Audio Bible in your car and listen to the Scriptures. I prefer the ESV Hear the Word Audio Bible. This has been a great aide to my study and teaching. I was once teaching a class on James at church and listened to the book upwards of 20 times as part of my preparation. It was a pretty easy way to become very familiar with the book. I recently committed to a focused study of the Prophets. I’m going to start it by listening through a few times. Reading through the Prophets feels daunting. Listening to them feels much less daunting.

4. Some Time Praying

The daily commute can be a good time to pray for your day. I spend many mornings praying over my deadlines and projects. It’s amazing how quickly prayer can disarm worries and anxieties. Many blog ideas and solutions to problems I’m dealing with have come to me during a prayerful commute. Coincidence? I think not. (Disclaimer: Boundless strongly recommends driving with your eyes open.)

5. Spend Time in Silence

As a general rule, our lives are too noisy. Some avoid the uneasiness of silence altogether, but we are wise to remember silence has long been considered a valuable spiritual discipline. I don’t do silence well or as frequently as I should. But I do recognize that regular times of silence are beneficial. Take a morning once and a while, and spend a portion of your commute in silence.

There are certainly other productive ways to optimize your commute, but most will find a little intentionality goes a long way. If there are audiobooks, podcasts, sermons, classes or other resources you’ve recently benefited from, please recommend them below. I’m always looking for new resources to add to my own commute queue.

Recommended Devotionals

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Voices From the Past

Scholar Richard Rushing spent 10 years compiling these devotional bits from the the great Puritan thinkers (Baxter, Bunyan, Charnock, Edwards, Owen, Rutherford, Sibbes, etc).  I walked through it day-by-day a few years ago and always found fresh, deep, provocative reflections. This is one of my favorite devotionals available right now. I have a copy on my desk at work and another on my desk at home. It’s that good!

Morning by Morning (C.H. Spurgeon)

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Spurgeon was a master at balancing his sophisticated intellect and pastoral heart.  His daily offerings from various verses throughout the Scriptures are always practical and gospel-saturated.   Few share his ability to go so deep so quickly, never wasting a word.  This new ESV edition, edited by Alistair Begg is my personal favorite.

The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

Samuel Rutherford was one of the Scottish divines who lived in the 17th century. A significant part of his ministry included writing letters to those under his care. In them, Rutherford encourages his people by pointing them to take comfort in Christ. Rutherford was uniquely qualified to comfort the afflicted as he lost his beloved wife only two years into their marriage. Spurgeon wrote of these letters, “When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.”

Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister in the 19th century. He ministered faithfully for eight years and then died of typhus at age 29. His memoirs were published by his close friend and college companion, Andrew Bonar. Spurgeon said of this volume “This is one of the best and most profitable volumes ever published. The memoir of such a man ought surely to be in the hands of every Christian, and certainly every preacher of the Gospel.”

Letters of John Newton

I discovered the letters of John Newton when Tim Keller put them on his 2008 Summer Reading List. As Keller put it, “These letters are classics of spirituality and devotion.”  This famous slave trader once converted, became a minister of the gospel and wrote of the beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace.” These letters are worth reading and rereading.

The Valley of Vision

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This collection of Puritan prayers is excellent.   Capturing the tenacity with which the Puritan pastors and thinkers pursued their personal faith, they stir the heart with their depth of passion.  Much like the Psalms, these prayers will add vocabulary to your prayer life.  If growing in prayer is your aim, then The Valley of Vision must become part of your repertoire.