A Disciplined Life

Many of you know that since May, I have been enrolled in a “Prevent Diabetes” class offered by the Department of Aging at the local Senior Center.  I thought I’d give this a try after lab results that showed my blood sugar levels were rising and I was very close to being classified prediabetic.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stick with the class or what results I would see, but having a diabetic sibling, I wanted to avoid the health complications that come with the disease, if I could.

Here’s what has happened.  I’ve lost weight;  my blood pressure (which was not a concern) has gone down;  I’ve added exercise to my routine, and my doctor says she’s very confident that my blood sugar levels will now be much lower!  I feel more energetic, and pleased with what I’ve accomplished.

Much of the work that has gone into these results has been tedious — counting calories, logging exercise minutes.  However, because I was working with a coach and a couple of other people with the same goal, it’s also been fun.  The changes happened bit by bit.  It’s been a process, but along the way, I’ve learned healthier habits.  Those disciplines have paid off, in some ways that are obvious, and others that are unseen.

It strikes me that the same kind of disciplines are needed to have a healthy spiritual life.  Here’s where the small groups we are forming at St. Paul’s come in.  Together we’ll be learning not just Biblical facts, but how to live a Biblical life.  We’ll have someone to coach us during our discussions;  we’ll encourage one another and hold each other accountable;  we’ll gradually develop healthier spiritual habits.  We won’t change overnight, but we will change.  I know it can work because I’ve already seen it happen in my physical body– I can’t wait to see what will happen in our spiritual body, the church, as we journey toward health together.

Workplace, Team, Business Meeting

Our first small group meeting is later this month.  This will be a “practice” round for new facilitators to get their feet wet, and for all of us to start developing our spiritual muscles.  I’ll keep you posted, as things move along.  Friends and readers, we need your prayers!

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Be Thou My Vision

“Be Thou My Vision”  is a traditional, Irish hymn written in the 6th century.  The author is believed to be Irish poet, Dallan Forgaill.  It was originally chanted by monks, and the tune with which we are familiar was composed much later.  I think fits well with the concept of the ideal, which I wrote about earlier this month.  As Christians, our ideal is to grow more Christlike.  He is the only true ideal, the “author and perfecter” of our lives.  Listen to this hauntingly beautiful song as you begin your day focused on the One Who Made You.

The Silent Noisy Night by Jill Roman Lord — Book Review

Was the night Jesus was born really silent?  Since this blessed event occurred in a stable, the odds are, it was filled with quite a variety of animal and human noise.

The Silent Noisy Night (padded)This sturdy, colorful board book will delight both parents and small children.  Illustrated by Kelly Breemer, cows, horses, goats, donkeys, chickens and more parade across the pages along with their appropriate sounds.  I can easily picture myself reading it with my new granddaughter-to-be next Christmas.  It’s a bit short on details of the Biblical Christmas story, but for toddlers, it could serve as a nice introduction on which to build in subsequent years.

VERDICT:  I would recommend this book to parents of very young children and give it 4 stars!

If you are interested in more information, or to purchase the book, go to the link below.

https://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/the-silent-noisy-night-padded-2/

A Quote on Serving

This was part of my devotional reading this morning, and I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d share.  The writer is Elizabeth Charles, who was an Anglican.  She wrote over 50 books, but her best known was a story about Martin Luther, The Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family.  It was published in 1862 and subsequently translated into most of the European languages, Arabic and many Indian dialects.

“Surely none are so full of cares, or so poor in gifts, that to them also, waiting patiently and trustfully on God for His daily commands, He will not give direct ministry for Him, increasing according to their strength and their desire.  There is so much to be set right in the world, so many to be led and helped and comforted, that we must continually come in contact with such in our daily life.  Let us only take care, that, by the glance being turned inward, or strained onward, or lost in reverie, we do not miss our turn of service, and pass by those to whom we might have been sent on an errand straight from God.

In other words, there are opportunities to use our gifts and serve God all around us, every single day. Open your eyes!  Don’t miss your chance!

God loves you and so do I,

Joan

 

 

Fanning the Flame #21 More on Small Groups

Last Saturday a number of our members gathered to learn more about what our Small Group Task Force has been learning and planning.  Members of the task force and our pastor gave brief talks on topics such as:

  • The Biblical basis for small group ministry
  • The Importance of small groups
  • What small groups will look like at St. Paul’s
  • Qualities of small group facilitators
  • Group dynamics
  • Relationship evangelism
  • Doctrinal issues which may arise

and more!  There was plenty of time for questions and discussion.  There were some important take-aways.  One for me was:

Relational structures like Biblical small groups are an integral part of “being” the church and not just “doing” church.  The consumer mentality rampant in our culture has distorted our understanding of community.  People tend to focus on what they are going to get out of going to  church …. rather than what God is going to do in us and through us …

I hear many people talk about finding the right church which has the best programs and services that will help them.  Instead we need to remember that the best church is the one where we can serve effectively!

Another thing I learned is that a good small group facilitator does not have the same qualities as a good teacher.  Here are the differences:

Teaching                                                               Facilitating

Teaching                                                                Leading

Teacher Centered                                                  Student Centered

Passive for Group Members                                  Active for All

Ownership belongs to the Teacher                        Ownership is shared

Telling                                                                     Asking

I’ve always felt that although I can teach, it isn’t my strong point.  Now I know that my spiritual gifts make me a much more gifted facilitator.

We’re going to be forming a couple of “practice” groups that will meet and give participants a chance to try out being a facilitator, and also see the benefits that will affect all the participants.  I’m looking forward to being a part of that, and learning some things that will help me as one of the Adult Sunday School teachers (Sunday School is, after all, a small group).

Look for more as we proceed, and keep praying for us, readers!

 

 

First Things First

This Christian song has been on my mind for days now.  When that happens I can’t help but think that God is trying to get my attention.  It was written by Rick Founds and from 1997-2003 was the song most often played in Christian churches across the country.  It’s not a surprise that Rick wrote it during his morning devotions.  It reminds me of something a friend of mine often says:  the first part of prayer and worship should be praise.  January is the right time to think about our priorities and putting the most important things first in our lives.  So listen, praise God and make Him your priority in 2019.

Knowing Our Ideal, part 8

People can have an ideal for themselves, for their family, for a group, their country or even mankind.

I work for a hospital.  Our workplace ideal is to be the healthcare provider of choice in our county.  My husband and I have an ideal, as parents, of raising our children to become responsible, productive and contented adults.  A national ideal in the United States is to offer freedom and opportunity to every citizen.

Our ideals can be characterized by our goals.  If a person seeks a certain set of goals, her ideal will be different from someone pursuing other goals.  The person whose primary goal is career advancement will have a different ideal than someone whose goal is to raise and nurture a large family.

We also need the recognize the difference between the ideals we actually hold — our real ideals–and those we like to believe we hold –our apparent ideals.  Too often we tell ourselves we hold a very worthwhile goal, when, in truth, the way we live points to something very different.  I find my teenage daughters are very good at picking up on this tendency.  We recently had a very heated discussion about why I thought they should attend our church youth group meetings.  I saw my ideal as helping them to make Christian friends and grow in their faith.  They felt that since they attend church and already have Christian friends, my true ideal was to look good in the eyes of others, especially my friends, the youth leaders.  Know what?  They were probably right.

The time has come to consider the question, “What is my ideal?”

Compare your life to a boat.  Your ideal — what you are trying to become–is the mast.  Your personality–what you are–is the keel.  These two elements determine what your life will be like.  If the mast is too large, it will swamp the boat, but if it is too small, the boat will not travel as far as it could.

Think about your life.  Where do you direct your thoughts?  How to do you spend your money?  What do you do with your spare time?  The answer to these questions will reveal your true ideal.

Hoping this will raise some questions we can post about this month.  Authors and readers, what is your true ideal?