The Family Man’s Bookham Pattern

C.S. Lewis was the first Christian author I read. I don’t know how I got his Mere Christianity, but when I became a Christian as a high school senior, I read it with interest. I went on to read just about everything he had written. My faith has had a Lewis-shape since.

Sorry; I couldn’t find a free photo of C.S.

In his spiritual autobiography, Surprised By Joy, Lewis describes when he was around sixteen years old and lived and studied in Great Bookham. He developed a habit of life and study that he called the “Bookham Pattern.” This routine served as the archetype for a “normal day” for the rest of his life: “For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there.”

Here is his original:

0800 Breakfast 1 hour
0900 Reading or writing at desk 2 hours
1100 Tea ½ hour
1130 Return to desk 1 ½ hours
1300 Lunch 1 hour
1400 Walk in the countryside 2 ¼ hours
1615 Tea ¾ hour
1700 Return to desk 2 hours
1900 Evening meal, talk, lighter reading 4 hours
2300 In bed 9 hours

He had some caveats. He typically took his afternoon walks alone, because if he took a friend, they would end up talking, and while walking and talking are both great, “it is a mistake to combine them.” Eating and reading, however, are happily combined. Not any book will do though. “It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table.” The table is also not for study, but for “a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere.”

Now, let’s all admit this: Lewis was not a normal guy (even at sixteen). He had a ridiculous intellect, a rip-snorting wit, and was, for most of his life, a bachelor.

Now for me to have a regular Bookham day, as a husband and father of four, I would likely be disqualified from the ministry for neglecting family and work. What father can wake up at 8am? What employer will let you fit in a 2 ¼ hour stroll in the middle of every work day?

So, I did some tinkering and trialing. And here it is, The Family Man’s Bookham Pattern (FMBP), for your use and enjoyment:

0615 Breakfast with kids, dress, tidy up 1 ¾ hours
0800 Bible reading and prayer with coffee 1 hour
0900 Reading or writing at desk 2 ½ hours
1130 Lunch ½ hour
1200 Return to desk 2 hours
1400 Walk in the city, coffee, prayer and reflection 1 hour
1500 Return to desk 2 hours
1700 Evening meal, shouting, insane flurry to get kids ready for bed 1 ¼ hours
1815 Worship with family (sing, read, and pray) ¼ hour
1830 Read Lord of the Rings with older kids 1/3 to ½ hour
1900 Exercise, date night, lighter reading, odds and ends 3 ¼ hours
2215 In bed 8 hours

The FMBP can be used when you’re in school, if you’ve got a desk-heavy job, or if you work from home. Odds are, with meetings and emails and appointments, you’ll rarely follow the FMBP with absolute purity. But that’s okay. I’ve found that even a thirty minute walk has helped some of my thickest sermon tangles unknot.

So have at it, and let me know what you think.

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