Always Amending, YBH?

Many Christians will agree with the idea that we should be “always amending” our lives, but there is still what I call the YBH question — yes, but how? In order to become a better person, a more worthy disciple, we must take some action. What should we do and how?

I think the key is to form habits. If you’re dissatisfied with the time you spend in prayer, reading your Bible, or serving others, you can work to make these things habitual parts of your daily routine. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Start small. Read a chapter of the Bible a day, pray for ten minutes, take on one ministry that really interests you.
  2. Have a “cue.” For example, tie your activity to something you already do regularly — for example, I will read the Bible while I enjoy my morning coffee, or I will pray every evening right before I get in bed.
  3. Need to make time? Some people get up earlier, stay up later, or use their lunch hour. If you start with a small goal, this will work.
  4. Have a Plan B, if you miss your regular “cue” when will you fit the activity in?
  5. Do it with friends. A Bible study group, prayer or ministry team, or an accountability partner will help you not just have a plan but stick with your plan.
  6. Don’t give up! When you fail (and you will), just get back to your routine as soon as you can.
  7. Don’t expect immediate results. Take stock after six months or a year, and you will probably see that some things have changed. Then you can set a new goal.

We all have limitations, and we’re not perfect. We won’t be able to achieve complete sanctification in this life. but we can always improve. Thankfully, our salvation does not depend upon our works, but on God’s grace! He loves you and so do I!

For more about developing spiritual disciplines see these posts:

What Do You Practice?

Fanning the Flame #16 Personal Spiritual Discipline

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

Media Distinctio

Yesterday I posted about the medio distinctio — the pause in choral psalmody that allows those chanting to take a breath. Today, I thought it would be helpful to actually listen to that type of music. See if you can identify the pause, and think about how you might work short pauses into your own life — pauses that allow you to rest, to pray, to think, to wait for God’s timing.

For more about music and how to use it in your spiritual life see these posts:

Music Teaches

Music as Prayer

Music as a Dynamic

Take a Breath

I learned something interesting in a book I read recently (Peace Is a Practice by Morgan Harper Nichols–Book Review). You probably know that Benedictine monks are known for choral psalmody. But did you ever realize that in the middle of each verse there is a pause for taking a breath? This is called the media distincto.

Maybe we should apply this idea to our own lives. I don’t know about you, but it seems like I am constantly rushing from one thing to another. “Multi-tasking” is the order of the day. It’s not enough to do one thing well — we have to be juggling two or three or more things at the same time. If we allow our attention to falter, even for a second, all the balls are likely to come tumbling down, causing us to feel that we’ve failed colossally. This isn’t a good way to live. It leads to anxiety and all sorts of mental and physical symptoms of stress. It just isn’t healthy.

So, what’s the alternative? Slow down. Work on one task or attack one problem at a time. When you’re not sure, wait. Rest a while. Pray. Learn to trust God. It won’t be easy when we’ve become used to living on high alert, but we can practice it for one hour, one day, one season at a time.

Take a breath!

For more about slowing down and resting see:

Slow Me Down

Taking A Break

When is it time?

A Prayer for Unity with Christ

O most merciful Jesus, grant to me Thy grace, that it may be with me and labor with me, and persevere with me even to the end.

Grant me always to desire and to will that which is to Thee most acceptable. Let Thy will be mine, and let my will ever follow Thine, and agree perfectly with it. Let my will be one with Thine and let me not be able to will or not to will anything else, but what Thou willest or willest not.

Grant that I may die to all things that are in the world, and for Thy sake love to be condemned and not known in this generation. Grant to me above all things that can be desired to rest in Thee, and in Thee to have my heart at peace. Thou art the true peace of the heart; Thou its only rest; out of Thee all things are hard and restless. In this peace, in this selfsame thing, that is, in Thee, the chiefest eternal good, I will sleep and rest (Psalm 4:8). Amen

From Of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis

For more prayers see:

A Prayer to be Taught by the Holy Spirit

A Prayer for Our Friends

Martin Luther’s Prayer about the Word

Sinclair Ferguson and Union with Christ

The material for our Bible study class on union with Christ includes a series of videos. The speaker is Sinclair Feguson (born 21 February 1948), who is a Scottish theologian known in Reformed circles for his teaching, writing, and editorial work. He has been Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary since 2017. Here is one of his quotes:

The knowledge of our union with Christ…gives us confidence in prayer. It was when Jesus had begun to expound the closeness of this union that he also began to introduce the disciples to the true heart of prayer. If Christ abides in us and we abide in him, as his word dwells in us, and we pray in his name, that God hears us (Jn 15:4-7). But all of these expressions are simply extensions of the one fundamental idea: If I am united to Christ, then all that is his is mine. So long as my heart, will and mind are one with Christ’s in his word, I can approach God with the humble confidence that my prayers will be heard and answered.

If you would like to purchase this teaching series, or for more information about it follow this link:

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/union-with-christ

For more posts about prayer see:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Prayer and Charity

Prayer Disciplines Part 1

The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan — Book Review

I enjoyed this book so much I read most of it in one day! It’s the story of how Andrew Klavan, author and secular Jew, converted to Christianity. It was a long time coming.

As a child, Andrew’s family recognizes the important rites of Judaism (Passover, the Day of Atonement, and so on) but they do this as a way to preserve their culture heritage, not as true believers. When he grows older, he considers himself an intellectual and an agnostic. He is first attracted to the Bible as literature and reads it because he wants to become a writer. Since Christian symbolism is everywhere he thought he should learn where the symbols came from.

As his life progresses, he becomes more and more depressed. He goes into therapy, and over the course of years experiences what he calls “epiphanies.” Later he realizes that each one represented a tenet of Christianity. He explains them this way:

  1. The truth of suffering was the knowledge of the cross
  2. The wisdom of joy was the realization of the soul’s relationship with God
  3. The reality of love was the revelation of God’s personality as seen in Jesus
  4. The possibility of clear perception was a sign that we are made in God’s image, having the ability to understand that His good is our good
  5. Laughter at the heart of mourning shows that we know this life is not what we are meant for

Somewhere along the line, he begins to pray. At first, just a simple prayer of gratitude (Thank You, God) but then more and more. Prayer changes him. He decides to be baptized.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. This book will make you laugh and make you sad, and in the end very grateful that you also have experience the great, good thing.

For more spiritual autobiographies see these posts:

Where the Light Fell by Philip Yancey–Book Review

In My Grandmother’s House by Yolanda Pierce–Book Review

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken–Book Review

New Month/No Theme

It’s February, and this month there will be no particular theme. Instead, I will be relying upon the Holy Spirit to guide me, and that always leads to an adventure!

Of course, as usual I’ll be looking for quotes, music and prayers that inspire. I’m an avid reader, so I’m sure there will be some book reviews and recommendations. I’ll clue you in on what I’m studying. Maybe we’ll even be blessed by some posts by other authors.

Keep the world in your prayers as we navigate the continuing presence of COVID in our lives and remember — God loves you and so do I! It’s still winter, but Spring is coming!

Prayer for a Teachable Spirit

Divine Spirit, illumine to me the words of the Lord. Show me the wealth of glory that lies beneath the old familiar stories.

Teach me the depths of meaning hidden in the songs of Zion. Raise me to the heights of aspiration that is reached by the wings of the prophet.

Lift me to the summit of faith that is trod by the feet of the apostle. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. Amen.

George Matheson (27 March 1842 – 28 August 1906) a Scottish minister, hymn writer and author).

For more prayers see these posts:

Martin Luther’s Prayer about the Word

Prayer to the Holy Spirit #2

A Prayer to be part of Christ’s Victory

A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller–Book Review

I’ve read many books about prayer, but I still got some new and interesting ideas from this one. The first is Paul Miller’s recommendation that we write our prayers on index cards, one for each person or category we are praying for. I’m going to try this. It should make it easier to add requests for the same person as things change, and also to remember exactly what my prayers for that person have been recently. He personally includes a Scripture verse that helps him to focus on what he is asking for that particular situation or person.

I could also relate to Miller’s insistence that we view our prayers and indeed, our life, as part of God’s story. Often we are disappointed when we our prayers aren’t answered in the time frame or way that we expect. When this happens, we need to remember that God see the big picture, and what we want may not be what is best for us and others in the long run. We’ll often be able to see God has been at work after time has passed. Suffering, for example, may not be what we want, but may result in a closer relationship with God, greater humility, or stronger faith.

The author also weaves stories from his own life experience into the narrative, with special attention to the challenges of raising his autistic daughter, Kim. This was of special interest to me as there are several autistic children in my own extended family.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. An interesting read with some new perspectives. Completely biblical

For more about prayer see these posts:

Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren–Book Review

A Father’s Prayer–Book Review

Every Which Way to Pray by Joyce Meyer–Book Review

What Happens After the Weekend part 2

After a Via de Cristo weekend we’re usually eager to leap into action, but we need to remember that Christian action must be accompanied by piety and study or our Christian life will not maintain a good balance.

First and foremost, we must pray. All of us, as part of our Christian walk, should continually ask God to lead us to the ministry opportunities that are both appropriate for us and pleasing to Him. In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul says:

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.”

Isn’t that exciting? God already has a plan for each of us, but if we don’t take the time to listen for His voice we may never discover what it is.

That doesn’t mean we can never be spontaneous. I remember once I was at a church council meeting when the newsletter was being discussed. It had been published sporadically and one member suggested we just discontinue it. Well, I really enjoyed getting the newsletter and I like to write, so the Holy Spirit only had to nudge me once. I volunteered to be the editor and did it for quite a few years. However, often we don’t feel so clearly led. If you are not sure, take some time to pray before rushing into a new area of service. There was the time, years ago, when the Via de Cristo community decided to try putting together a Co-ed weekend (up to this point, all the weekends had been either solely for men or solely for women). We knew that adding an extra weekend to the schedule would increase the need for team members, and our first thought was how fun and interesting it would be to serve together. After praying about it, we both realized the timing was wrong. Our daughter Kate, was coming home from her year as an exchange student in Germany around that time, and we needed to reconnect with her and help her with things like getting a drivers license and visiting colleges. God was calling us to put that responsibility first, so we decided not to serve on a team for a while.

For more about prayer see:

Beginning the Day with Prayer

Pray Without Ceasing

Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ–Book Review

Stay tuned for study .