Prayer Disciplines Part 1

This is from a reflection paper I wrote years ago while attending a two year program on spiritual direction. It mentions my personality type as revealed through the Meyers-Briggs testing method.  For those who are not familiar with this, you will find more information by following this link:

https://www.mbtionline.com/

 

As a INFJ the routines of church attendance and Bible study come fairly easily to me.  I love the ritual of the liturgy and the church seasons.  This is the “J” part of me coming out.  The “NF” part of my personality, however, identifies with a character in the novel “Absolute Truth” by Susan Howatch.  She says:

“… my busy over-educated brain is a positive hinderance to prayer, and far too often my thoughts speed off on tangents that are intellectually fascinating, but quite irrelevant to the task of praying….”

In consequence, times of inner silence and contemplation elude me.  I’ve discovered that while it is easy for me to be quiet, it is difficult to be “still.”

In 1990, after attending a Via de Cristo retreat, I got serious about prayer as a discipline and since that time have sampled numerous prayer techniques which seem to work for a season.  Shortly after the retreat, I started going into work early.  I would spend a few minutes each day sitting in my car and praying with the “Pilgrim’s Guide” we were given on the weekend.  At times I’ve walked regularly, using that as my time alone with God and nature. For a while my Saturday morning housecleaning routine became a time of prayer.  I played Christian music and dedicated the time to God or sometimes to a particular person or event.  One summer I spent time almost every evening in my backyard, sitting alone in an adirondack chair and praying directly from Scripture.  I’ve used devotional books as a daily aid to prayer and meditation.  None of these routines really seemed to “stick” on a long-term basis.

To be continued ……

 

The Good Shepherd

Years ago my husband gave a Via de Cristo retreat talk entitled Study.  He spoke about the many ways we study without even realizing it, and one of those ways is through art.  He said that when he was a boy there was a huge painting of Christ, the King on the church wall behind the altar.  He gazed at that picture week after week during worship and it’s now deeply engrained in his mind.  It has influenced the way he sees and thinks about Jesus.

I realized that he was not the only one to have that experience.  My childhood church had the same sort of design, but the picture I saw every week was Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  In it, Jesus carries a lamb, and there are other sheep around Him.  I have come to believe this is why, for me, the image of the Good Shepherd has deeply colored my experience and understanding of Christ.  When I imagine myself meeting Jesus, this is the image that comes to my mind.

Christ the King depicts Jesus in His glory, surrounded by clouds, a crown on His head, with upraised arms. This is Jesus as God.  As the Good Shepherd, Christ appears to be very gentle and approachable. This is Jesus the man.  One emphasizes power and holiness, the other love and compassion.  Both are equally valid and parts of the same person, but each can influence our emotions and understanding of Jesus.

So, I’m interested.  Readers and authors, what is your dominant image of our Lord?  Is there a picture in your mind?  Where does it come from?

The Lights of the City

I assume that this song by Michael Murphy refers to these verses from the book of Revelation:

The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” Revelation 21:23-24

Following the second coming of Christ, the New Jerusalem will be established.  At that point, believers will need only the light of God.  We can look forward to that day and even now, we can almost see it.

I learned this song on a Lutheran Via de Cristo weekend.  Listen and enjoy imagining that city of heavenly light.

 

 

God’s Word, Our Light

 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

Nothing enlightens and directs us more clearly than God’s Word in the Holy Bible.  This song written by Amy Grant and Michael Smith is often used on Lutheran Via De Cristo weekends to introduce the talk on Study.  It’s a good reminder of the blessings we receive from studying the Word and allowing it to influence our daily lives.

For more music by Amy Grant, go to this post:

Mary, a Servant

Lord I Lift Your Name on High

This past Saturday I attended an ultreya.  If you’re not familiar with this term, you can go to my previous  post Persevere Upward.  At an ultreya there is fellowship among those who have attended a Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend, and normally LOTS of singing.  One of the songs we sang on Saturday has been in my head ever since — Lord I Lift Your Name on High.

This song is the best known work of composer Rick Founds, and from 1997-2003, the most used song in American churches.  Founds reports that on a particular day, during his devotional time, God impressed upon his heart the cyclic nature of Christ’s redemptive work.  He came from heaven to earth to show us the way to his Father.  He journeyed from the cross to the grave, paying our debt to God in full.  Then he rose from the dead and went back to heaven, completing the cycle of salvation.  Rick picked up his guitar and the song came very quickly.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord:

for His name alone is excellent;

His glory is above the earth and heaven.”

~Psalm 148:13

You’ve probably heard it before (it’s been orbiting the world for a while now), but like me, you’ll enjoy it again.  It’s certainly appropriate for the Thanksgiving season!

 

 

 

Make a Friend, Be a Friend, Bring your friend to Christ

My recent post, The Rub, made me think about a song we often use on Via de Cristo retreat weekends — “Shake a Friend’s Hand.”  Part of the weekend message is that we influence people for Christ only when we are willing to become a friend.  We have to rub against them in a tangible way.  This song is a childish one that is often used on Saturday evening when we’ve all become tired and a bit silly.  However, it expresses the theme well.  Enjoy it and become childish in a good way, by accepting everyone you meet as a possible friend.

And Speaking of Retreats …..

“To be on a Pilgrimage is to go through Christ to the Father under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, bringing others along with you.”

The quote above is on the first page of Pilgrim’s Guide which you will receive if you attend a Lutheran Via de Cristo Weekend.  While some retreats are quiet, maybe even silent, this one is very social.  There is singing, group discussion, and sometimes even skits and jokes.  It is definitely about Christian community and being with others.  If you’re an introvert like I am, it’s doesn’t seem particularly restful.

My husband and I made our original weekends in 1990.  Recently I was part of a group of cursillistas (this is the term for someone who has made a cursillo, or 3 day retreat of this kind — the movement originated in Spain and so many of the words used are Spanish) who showed up to help with a weekend retreat in progress.  I got to see some “significant others” from my past Christian walk, others who “came along with me.”

I’ve heard it said that every Christian needs a Paul (mentor), a Barnabas (peer/encourager) and a Timothy (someone to mentor) in their lives.  The first person I ran into was Doris — Doris is older than I am, and a Christian I have always admired her calmness, good judgement and maturity.  Definitely a Paul.  Then I saw Mary.  Mary and I are close to the same age, and our children grew up in the church together.  We shared so many experiences as we matured spiritually and became leaders in the congregation.  Mary is a Barnabas.  Finally, at the end of the evening, I got a hug from Amy, Mary’s daughter.  “My mentor” she exclaimed as we embraced.  Wow!  I never knew Amy thought of me that way.  I guess she’s my Timothy.

While helping with the weekend was not a traditional “rest” experience, it was rejuvenating to reconnect with others who have influenced my life, and who have been influenced by me. It’s a way of taking a break from the day to day and gaining some perspective by looking back.  We don’t always see what’s being accomplished while we’re in the midst of things, but God is always at work.  Whether you’re resting or relaxing, on retreat or celebrating the sabbath, remember to take someone along with you.  We’re not meant to journey alone.

For more on Via de Cristo see these posts:

Persevere Upward

A Prayer of Personal Dedication (Obedience)

My Via de Cristo Experience