What Do You Practice?

I recently reviewed a book about daily practice (The Power of Daily Practice by Eric Maisel–Book Review).  Maybe you think you don’t have one.  The truth of the matter is, we all practice the things that are truly important to us.  For example, I love to read, and even if I don’t have time during a busy day, I read my book for a while in bed before I fall asleep. When my children were small I always read them a bedtime story, because reading is important to me, and I wanted them to share my love.  A while back, I became concerned because my blood sugar was inching toward the “prediabetic” range.  Staying healthy is a goal I have, so I took a class that encouraged me to count calories and exercise.  I’m still doing that.  These sorts of things are daily practices, and when we practice we form habits, and become more proficient in those things.

 

So, I’m asking our readers to think about the things they practice — if not daily, then regularly.  Is attending worship on your list?  Reading the Bible?  Prayer? Serving others?  If we are Christians, these things should be valuable to us, and we should be practicing.  If you are working or have young children, it may take some thought and discipline to fit them into your schedule, but it can be done.  After all, don’t we find time to prepare food and eat?  These things are our spiritual food and they are needed to nourish our soul and give our lives meaning.

Here are some suggestions I’ve learned from my own experience with establishing  a practice:

  • Start small.  If you have limited time, setting a goal that is too high will lead to frustration and quickly giving up.
  • Have a cue to remind you of your practice.  For example, I spend 10 minutes in prayer after I shower every day;  I read my devotional while I’m having my morning tea.
  • If you mess up, don’t give up.  Just start again tomorrow.

There are many rewards from having a daily or regular practice.  You’ll be healthier spiritually;  your faith will mature;  you’ll find you are accomplishing more for God, and maybe encouraging others!  Start one today!

For more on spiritual disciplines, see these posts:

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Lenten Discipline

 

Clothed With Christ

We’re studying the book of Colossians in our Adult Sunday School class, and this week I’m teaching.  The theme of our lesson is “clothed with Christ” taken from these verses:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience.  Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them together in perfect harmony.”  Colossians 3:12-14

Clothing ourselves with Christ’s nature is something we need to do every day.  Unlike the atonement, it’s not once and done (although we might wish it to be so!).  This quote from my devotional reading describes how to go about this:

“Nothing so purifies the thoughts, shuts out self, admits God, as in all things, little or great, to look to Jesus.  Look to Him, when ye can, as ye begin to act, to converse or labor;  and then desire to speak or be silent, as He would have you;  to say this word, or leave that unsaid;  to do this, or leave that undone;  to shape your words, as if He were present, and He will be present, not in body, but in spirit, not by your side, but in your soul.  Faint not, any who would love Jesus, if ye find yourselves yet far short of what He Himself who is Love saith of the love of Him  Perfect love is in heaven.  When you are perfected in love, your work on earth is done.  There is no short road to heaven or to love.  Do what in thee lies by the grace of God, and He will lead thee from strength to strength, and grace to grace and love to love.”

Edward Pusey

So, dress yourself in Christ every morning.  Let Him lead you.

For more another quote by Edward Pusey see this posts:

Victorious Faith

For more about being clothed with Christ see:

A New Suit of Clothes

 

 

Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst–Book Review

Lysa Terkeurst is no stranger to pain.  She was a victim of childhood abuse by a neighbor, and her husband of many years betrayed her by having an affair.  She uses her own life story to illustrate both the need to forgive and the difficulty in forgiving those who have wronged us.

Her approach is both practical, empathetic and biblical.  The Bible tells us to forgive others because God forgave us.  It does not tell us that we will be able to forget or that we will always be able to reconcile with the person who has hurt us.  Sometimes we must establish boundaries for our own peace of mind and to avoid enabling the other person to avoid the consequences of their actions.  Sometimes the other person involved will never ask for forgiveness or desire reconciliation.

Often a lack of forgiveness leads to bitterness and the desire for revenge that only hurts us. Painful events from long ago, can continue to fuel anger that makes us easily offendable.  As Lysa says,

“Holding on to thoughts of resentment is like pulling a belt so tight across the middle of our thoughts that it prevents us from ever completely relaxing and resting and certainly makes future growth near to impossible.”

She emphasizes that forgiveness is a decision, but also a process. Even after we have forgiven a particular person and let go of resentment, it may surface again when we encounter a trigger that reminds us of the event or situation.  We need to learn to forgive over and over again, and to forgive daily.  She encourages using The Lord’s Prayer each morning to prepare ourselves for the times we will need to forgive that day.

“The best time to forgive is before we are ever offended.  The next best time to forgive is right now.”

At the end of the book there are other resources including:

  • What the Bible actually says about forgiveness (this lists and explains many verses on forgiveness)
  • Lysa’s most asked questions about forgiveness
  • How to get the help you need
  • Important notes to consider on abuse
  • Online resources at http://Proverbs31.org/forgiveness

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  A bit repetitive at times, but certainly helpful for those who are struggling with the issue of forgiveness

For more on the topic of forgiveness, see these posts:

The Opportunity of Forgiveness

A World Without Forgiveness

Forgiveness: It Does a Body Good

 

Waiting For God

I found this quote by Andrew Murray to be appropriate right now as we are waiting for so many things — the end of the virus, the resolution of political conflicts, and more importantly, waiting for God to speak to us as we ready ourselves to celebrate the birth of His Son.

“In praying, we are often occupied with our own needs, and our own efforts in the presentation of them.  In waiting upon God , the first thought is of the God upon whom we wait.  God longs to reveal Himself, to fill us with Himself.  Waiting on God gives Him time in His own way and divine power to come to us.  Before you pray, bow quietly before God, to remember and realize who He is, how near He is, how certainly He can and will help.  Be still before Him, and allow His Holy Spirit to waken and stir up in your soul the child-like disposition of absolute dependence and confident expectation.  Wait on God till you know you have met Him;  prayer will then become so different.  And when you are praying, let there be intervals of silence, reverent stillness of soul, in which you yield yourself to God, in case He may have aught He wishes to teach you or work in you.”

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray (9 May 1828 – 18 January 1917) was a South African writer, teacher and Christian pastor.

For more on the topic of waiting see these posts:

Worth Waiting For

Weak and Waiting

Patiently Waiting?

 

Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown — Book Review

I’m not often a fan of Christian fiction, but this book was just delightful.  It’s an easy read, and you’ll soon be caught up in the story of four women:  Hannah, a pastor on sabbatical;  Meg, a widow and empty nester;  Mara, caught in an unhappy marriage, and Charissa, an ambitious and high-achieving graduate student.  They meet during a weekly spiritual retreat and find themselves becoming friends. You’ll probably see a bit of yourself and your own spiritual struggles in each one.

You’ll also learn something about spiritual disciplines, as the author discusses walking the labyrinth, the daily examen, lectio divina, reading the Scripture with imagination, having a rule of life and spiritual direction.  Since I’ve done most of these things in the past, it was a good refresher course.  It brought back many good memories from my own spiritual journey and encouraged me to think deeply about the disciplines I’m currently practicing and what changes I might make.

Each character develops and changes through their interaction with one another and with God.  You’ll find yourself drawn into their lives, and pondering the landmarks of your personal faith journey.  There are discussion questions at the end, making it a good pick for a book club.

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  I’ve already requested the second book in the series from the local library!

For more book reviews of Christian fiction see these posts:

The Beloved Daughter by Alana Terry — Book Review

a long time comin’ by Robin W. Pearson — Book Review

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

 

More on Character

Recently I posted about the distinction between personality and character (Personality or Character?).  Today I came across the quote that further illuminates the topic.

“The great sterling duties, the exact truth of word, the resolute refusal to countenance wrong, the command of temper, the mastery of indolence, the unstained purity –these, and such as these, form character, and fashion our souls into instruments in God’s hands for high and heavenly purposes in His Providence.  But the carefulness over details, the watchfulness against faults which we know to be faults, but which, notwithstanding, seem venial, the devout regularity and attention in our private prayers, the invariable good-humor of our manners, the seeking for occasions of kindness and unselfishness, the avoidance of little temptations, the care not to cause little annoyances and little troubles,–to attend to all this for the sake of Christ our Master is the natural and fitting expression of a loving heart.”

Frederick Temple

For more quotes by Frederick Temple (English academic and Bishop of Canterbury) , see these posts:

Easter Victory

Questions for Lent

Do You Serve Cheerfully?

 

 

 

My Unruly Brain

I’m not a logical thinker.  I picture my brain as a boiling pot — I throw ideas in and after a bit, something bubbles to the surface.  Here’s where it’s been taking me lately.  I’m reading a book that suggested thinking about our images of God. This led me to the hymn Jesus, Lover of My Soul and then to the Song of Songs (I’ve going through it carefully in a devotional way).  Last night’s section contained this verse:

“The voice of my beloved!  Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills”  Song of Songs 2:8

Isn’t this a beautiful picture of God as our lover, seeking us?  Better yet, there’s a song about it.  I remember it from Via de Cristo gatherings.  Listen this morning and ponder the greatness of God’s love for you.  See where your unruly brain takes you.

For more Via de Cristo songs, see these posts:

Wind, Wind Blow on Me

The Lights of the City

Peace Is Flowing Like a River

 

 

 

The Power of Daily Practice by Eric Maisel–Book Review

You will probably disagree with the world view of this author (he espouses a contemporary philosophy called kirism).  However, in my opinion, there are still a couple of good reasons to read his book.

First of all, as Christians, most of us have, or hope to have a daily practice.  This could be prayer, meditation, reading the Bible, or journaling.  The general information given by Dr. Maisel about starting and maintaining a regular practice is quite helpful.  He begins with elements of practice;  things such as initiation, regularity, discipline, honesty, intensity, innovation, self-trust and completion.  The second section lists different types of daily practices;  creativity, recovery, performance, health and so on.  Some may not be of interest, but others will.  Finally, he enumerates the challenges we may face in sticking with a daily practice:  restlessness, conflict, lack of progress, personality, circumstances and more.  After each listing there are some questions to ponder.

The second reason to read this book is to get a taste of kirism, because it is exactly the kind of philosophy described in another book I reviewed recently (The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman–Book Review).  Here are some examples of what Dr. Maisel believes:

“… there is no single or singular purpose to life…”

 

“Meaning, rather than being something to search for … is in fact a sort of subjective psychological experience….”

 

“It is possible … to upgrade our personality and become our desired self.”

What a perfect description of “psychological man” and the type of “logic” that is now rife in our society.  It’s all about you.  You create your own meaning, and you can even create your perfect self.   It was fascinating to see this very clear illustration of Trueman’s analysis.

VERDICT:  3 Stars.  The information provided may help you develop and maintain a daily practice;  ignore the philosophy.

 

A Thorn in the Flesh

Do you have a thorn in the flesh?  I alluded to mine in a previous post — I have trouble sleeping.  When I don’t sleep well, I’m irritable, cranky, and find it hard to focus.  I often don’t accomplish all the tasks I had planned for the day.  My daily practices of exercise, devotional reading and journaling become chores.

The apostle, Paul, had a problem like this, too.  He describes it in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

We’re not sure what Paul’s illness or disability was, although some have suggested he had poor eyesight (he was described as squinting).  Whatever, it was, it bothered him, and he reports that he prayed a number of times for God to remove it, without avail.

I, too have prayed and tried every suggested remedy I can. I’ve read the books and followed the dos and don’ts.  I’ve tried herbal remedies and OTC sleep aids;  deep breathing and relaxation techniques.  Nothing works consistently.  My doctor’s conclusion is —  it’s simply age-related and something I’ll have to learn to live with.

According to Paul there are a couple of reasons God may allow us to suffer from such small annoyances.  The first was already mentioned in the verse above:

  • To keep us from becoming conceited

We are all too prone to take credit for our good works, becoming puffed up and vain.  The second reason is related and expressed in the verse that follows:

  • “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

In other words, we need to learn to depend upon God.  Whatever we accomplish is only possible through abiding in Christ.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  Any strength that we have comes from Him.  When we find ourselves in a position of weakness, we realize that.

So, give thanks for everything during this month of Thanksgiving, even your aches and pains and weaknesses.  God is at work, and you can lean on Him.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

 

 

 

Jesus, Lover of My Soul

In our adult Sunday School class, we’ve been studying the book of Colossians.  This verse was in lesson from last week:

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Colossians 3:2-3

Ever since then, I’ve been pondering what it means to be hidden with Christ.  This isn’t easy to grasp.  Our union with Christ is not just something to look forward to, but something that has already happened.  We can be at peace because the work of atonement is completed.  Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” Sin can no longer overpower or condemn us.  Whatever happens to us in this life, our place is secure.  As I thought about that, the hymn Jesus, Lover of My Soul, popped into my mind.  It also talks about Christ “hiding” us and maybe I remembered that unconsciously.  At any rate, listen and give thanks that you are a new creation and you are in Christ.

For another hymn by Charles Wesley see these posts:

Rejoice!