Celebrate Discipline :: PRAYER


Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at the point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. ~ Henry Nouwen


SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: habits that nurture spiritual growth; exercises unto godliness

PRAYERpersonal conversations with God; expressing our concerns and listening to His response.

The season of Lent is a wonderful time to consider our prayer life. Most of us would be embarrassed to admit how little time we spend praying. With all the advances of our day it seems we could find more time for prayer. However, today’s technologies often bring more distractions unto madness. Rather than bring guilt, I come with possible solutions and maybe a new perspective that can help usher us into a place of solace where The Source of Peace awaits.


Sometimes it seems like praying is a waste of time; we feel like our thoughts are floating out into the universe. But as our prayer life goes, so goes our spiritual growth. Prayer isn’t just about our own godliness. As warriors in the spiritual battle, without prayer we fight unprepared and defensless. Something that has been very convicting to me is to think about people of other religious beliefs… Hindu and Muslims pray multiple times per day at set increments.

Shouldn’t we Christians be as devoted to our prayer time?

For the last year I’ve been learning about Benedictine Monasticism. As a way of living out the command to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) the monastic pray the Liturgy of the Hours seven times per day. St. Benedict teaches that by returning portions of our most precious gift of time, we are practicing a basic form of hospitality to God; making room in our schedule for the entertainment of God’s Presence. It is from that divine foundation that other forms of hospitality derive. Wow! How can we not want to pray after that?

This apparent “wasting” of time on God is the wisest possible use of this precious gift!

Often we do everything but pray. We want something more “substantial.” Even studying the Bible, going to church, talking to the pastor or receiving counsel seems more tangible than prayer. But it’s time to roll away the stone of prayerlessness. It’s the most prohibitive obstacle on the road to a believer’s victory. ~ Beth Moore

Types of Prayer

There are many ways to pray but today we are going to focus on Contemplative prayer.

Contemplative Prayer: a receptive waiting with hearts awake to God’s presence and His Word.

Breath Prayer: is a form of contemplative prayer that is linked to the rhythm of our breathing. When we breath in we call on a biblical name or image of God, and when we breath out a simple God-given desire. This is one of my favorite types of prayer to use as I’m going to sleep at night.

Breath in: “Holy One,” breath out “keep me true.”
Breath in “Lord Jesus,” breath out “have mercy on me.” 

Centering Prayer: is a form of contemplative prayer where one seeks to quiet the scattered thoughts and find stillness in Christ’s presence. By centering prayer on simple words like Jesus, Father, love, peace, or a phrase from Scripture. With these words we linger with God and open our hearts to His presence.



Postures of Prayer

In what position is it best to pray? Here are a few biblical postures for prayer:

  • Walking: a nature walk can be a sweet time of companionship with the Father.
  • Standing: is a way of giving honor to the majesty of God
  • Outstretched Arms: opens the core of our body up toward God.
  • Prostrate: lying face down puts us in a place of submission and obedience.
  • Kneeling: expresses reverence and humility before God.


Final Thoughts

I’m not here by any means as an expert in prayer, quite the contrary. I am on my own spiritual journey and only wish to share the things God teaches me.

As for prayer, I have found that setting aside a specific time helps me tremendously. If it works out today, great. If not, I’ll try better tomorrow. Another thing, when God brings a certain person to my mind, I take that as a prompt to pray for them.  A few helpful points…

  1. Set a regular scheduled time for prayer.
  2. Before praying, listen for guidance first.
  3. Pray with expectation!


We each have to find what works best for our schedules, personality types and temperament. The most important thing is that we take time to companion with our heavenly Father. 

As we put these habits into practice prayer continues within us as we are go about our day. Prayer become the active presence of God’s Spirit guiding us through life.


Take a moment to pray with this beautiful song by Celine Dion and Josh Groban  http://youtu.be/jhxIjRO6Wj


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RESOURCES:

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook  by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
So You Want To Be Like Christ? by Charles R. Swindoll
The Way of the Heart by Henri J. Nouwen

BOOK Pre-VIEW: The Purpose Driven Life ~ What on Earth am I Here for? by Rick Warren

This isn’t a typical book review but a preview because I haven’t read the book yet.  

Because The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? is designed as a 40-day study, my husband and I have chosen to study it through Lent this year. I hope you will take this opportunity to prayerfully consider what you will do during this upcoming season to prepare your heart for Easter. Blessings…

The Purpose Driven Life: 

What On Earth Am I Here For?

by 

@RickWarren

10 years ago, Rick Warren wrote The Purpose Driven Life, which became the bestselling hardback nonfiction book in history, and the second most-translated book in the world, after the Bible. Without a doubt it has inspired and changed countless lives.

Now, Rick has updated and expanded the book with new chapters to help give our life even greater purpose. One thing I find very exciting about this new version, is the QR codes at the beginning of each chapter that link to a video introduction, an audio message and notes for deeper study.

I’m really looking forward to reading The Purpose Driven Life: What On Earth Am I Here For?

Here’s a short video introduction by Pastor Rick Warren… http://youtu.be/rjD7PGBAwxc

Virtues ~n~ Vices :: GENEROSITY


VIRTUE:  a valued principle of good moral behavior; a holy habit.

Generosity: a habit of giving without expecting anything in return.


VICE: a practice of wrong doing, corruption of virtue; an unholy habit.

Stingy: reluctant to give or spend.




During the Christmas season Generosity is the perfect Virtue to study. While most of us would consider ourselves generous people, I think this is an area that’s easy to get lazy in and not realize it. As always, we can point out our weaknesses better by looking at the opposing vices. Let’s consider a few more opposites of Generosity

  • miserly
  • gluttonous
  • covetous

What picture comes to mind when you read these words? I see Scrooge and The Grinch. No doubt two movies you’ve seen at some point this holiday season. But seriously, when we see these two awful characters, do we see any part of ourselves? 

To a cold and calculating person, being generous seems costly. To the generous, being stingy seems incomprehensible. It is greed that creates poverty not generosity. True generosity enriches us!

The true spirit of generosity comes in giving but not expecting anything in return. But more than that, we must give sacrificially. It isn’t generous to give something that’s old and worth discarding. We must give out of our abundance, something maybe that we want to keep. Certainly, when giving a financial gift it should be an amount that goes over and above what we might normally give.

With the Christmas season upon us, God’s generous gift of Jesus Christ is top of mind.  Because God made us in His image, His generous character is also built into our nature.  In practicing the Virtue of Generosity we come closest to resembling the creative God in whose image we have been made.

Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. ~ Luke 6:38 MSG

Let’s go forward, not just at Christmas, but in the year ahead,  let’s commit to be intentionally generous. If we actively look we will find many opportunities to give freely, fully and joyfully!  http://youtu.be/yhmmeFuzGRk

Virtues ~n~ Vices :: R-E-S-P-E-C-T


VIRTUE: a valued principle of good moral behavior; a holy habit.

re-spect: noun 1. a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, their qualities or ability.

VICE: a practice of wrongdoing, corruption of virtue, an unholy habit.

con-tempt: noun 1. the state of being despised; dishonor; disgrace.


Our family of origin may not have practiced loving behavior. Parents, grandparents, or siblings might have said they loved us with words, but their actions were anything but loving. As a result we began to believe that we were less than valuable, unworthy of love, which led to self-disrespect

Negative self talk sets in and before long our own behavior becomes less than loving toward ourselves and others. Self-destructive habits take on varying forms: substance abuse, eating disorders, self-injury, etc…

At the root of these problems we find a simple lack of respect; which we were never properly taught to begin with. So maybe we can take a step back and learn something for ourselves that most likely our parents never learned for themselves.

The best place to start… The Beginning, with The Creator and His creation.



  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. ~ Psalm 33:8


Respect is godly and a form of reverence for God, the Creator of our universe and everything in it. If we can’t respect Him, we might as well give up. Respect should and must start here.

“We learn very early as we start to know who God is, that He respected us into existence by making us in His image and likeness. Knowing that love is the powerful flowing virtue that gives respect its strength, God’s love gave us breath and the right to be called his heirs and children. He expects us to reflect back to Him what He has given us as an act of reverence in gratitude for His gift of life. He is our sole reason for existence.” ~ Patty Woodmansee

God said His creations are good. Who are we to argue with God? If God said we are good, shouldn’t we believe Him? We must respect His creations and that includes ourselves!

Respect recognizes value. Before we can respect ourselves, another person or material things, we must recognize their value and acknowledge it with appropriate treatment.

Take These Few Steps to Respect Yourself:

  • Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Be honest, don’t harm or insult.
  • Recognize when others disrespect you. Don’t be afraid to take a stand for yourself.
  • Take care of your body. When you make an effort you always feel better about yourself.
  • Get to know yourself. Take time to be alone, find out what you enjoy, pray or meditate. 

Love your neighbor as you love yourself! But first we must love God before we can even begin to love ourselves! 


What will you do to show yourself love today? 

Let’s Love God and Love People with Israel Houghton http://youtu.be/m_ywWqDa-aI

Resources:
Loving Yourself for God’s Sake by Adolfo Quezada
Christian Virtues by Patty Woodmansee
Wikipedia
Character-in-action.com
WikiHow.com
www.pickthebrain.com

VIRTUES & VICES: 6 Steps to Humility




These last few months I’ve been reading books written by revered monks in Christendom: Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Benedict of Nursia, Saint Thomas Aquinas, along with modern Christian mystics Thomas Merton and C. S. Lewis to name a few. I’ve learned that no matter what century people live in, they have the same personal issues and temptations we have today and those start and end with pride and humility.


VIRTUE: excellence of character that helps us live well as human beings; holy habits.


humility: noun 

1. the modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.


Humility is ultimately about our struggle to be fully human; to be rooted in our earthly self vs. deceived by our prideful false self.  


This becomes clear when we look at the origin of the word humble. The root is the Latin word humus, which means “soil” or “earth.” From this follows the practical definition: to be humble is to be down-to-earth. This root connects humility to humanity because to be human is to be made from the humus. After all God created the first man from earth. 

When we examine relationships gone wrong, we usually find a lack of humility or an excess of pride at the root of the problems.

VICE: corruptive habits that undermine our character and ability to live well.

pride: noun

1. an inflated sense of one’s personal status; the love of one’s own excellence.


Pride seen as the original sin is really the root of all vice. If we let it take hold, pride can get us in a world of trouble. 


Pride wants to be “number one,” head of the class, superior to others. Climbing over others in our ambition, we’re often acting out in greed, wrath, lust or other vices. Pride can also be a false front designed to protect an undervalued self.

How can we replace pride with humility?


Like most things connected to the inner workings of our heart, humility isn’t something we can make happen on our own; it’s a process that takes time and must start with God. Here are a few things I’ve learned to help us get started…

  1. Center Our Lives on God: By recognizing God’s presence in our lives and accepting His will, we learn our place in the universe and can embrace awareness.
  2. Find Power in Weakness: Appreciating others in the universe and learning from their wisdom and gifts, we find spiritual direction and gain strength to persevere.
  3. Shed False Images: Acknowledging our faults and living simply, we’re free to drop the masks and ignore the social pressures of consumption and indebtedness.
  4. Bond Our Relationships: Once we stop pretending to be what we’re not, we find the freedom to accept ourselves and others as well; creating harmony in our relationships.
  5. Quiet the Noise: Silence enables us to hear the noise within, brings us face to face with ourselves, tempers our arrogance and makes us kinder to others.
  6. Live in God’s Presence: A gentle presence brings a sense of the sacred to life. When we walk with God others are able to experience our serenity. 

As you can see, humility begins and ends with God at the center of our lives. Unless and until we have His presence present we will be miserable within and without. Humility seems like a simple thing because it’s a common word. Though simple it’s not easy, but so very important to our world.

“Humility connects us to the world and makes the world connected, a good and gracious space. Humility calms us and and calms others. It inspires, assures, enriches and enables. Humility gifts us with happiness and graces the world with peace.” ~ Joan D. Chittister 



God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6) When Christ came He brought grace. So the humble person who knows the Truth will be given grace. Grace is also another word for favor or reward. Here are a few rewards for our humility:

Wisdom: Humility gives us the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.

Wealth and Honor: The humble person has God’s favor which often means wealth and honor. 
Long Life: A humble person is teachable and more willing to live a healthy lifestyle.

As we listen to The Maranatha Singers http://youtu.be/sU8MAQKSbEI let’s ask God to reveal what’s keeping us from being the humble person He wants us be. 



Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up in honor. ~ James 4:10 NLT

Resources:
Christian Virtue by Patty Woodmansee
Virtue and Vice: A Dictionary of the Good Life by C. S. Lewis
The Heart of Virtue by Donald DeMarco
Finding Sanctuary: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life by Abbot Christopher Jamison
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan D. Chittister
The Twelve Steps of Humility and Pride by Bernard of Clairvaux
The Rule of Saint Benedict by St. Benedict edited by Thomas Fry
The Greatest Virtue: The Secret to Living in Happiness and Success by Pat Robertson
Biblical Counseling Keys: Pride and Humility – The Prescription for “I” Strain  by June Hunt
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humility  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride 

Photo Courtesy 123rf.com

Virtues ~n~ Vices :: GRATITUDE

Virtue: a valued principle of good moral behavior; a holy habit.


Vice: a practice of wrongdoing, corruption of virtue; an unholy habit.

GRATITUDE: the gracious response to a kindness performed or gift given. 


ENTITLEMENT: the state of being entitled; believing one deserves certain privileges.


We don’t hear much talk about gratitude unless it’s near Thanksgiving, then it’s an expected topic. What does it say about our culture, when gratitude is only discussed once a year?

On the other hand, entitlement is rampant, in conversation or not, it’s everywhere… big corporations expecting the government to save them from consequences of poor management, individuals filing for bankruptcy to avoid paying off debt, single mom’s having multiple babies to get more government subsidies, students expecting new cars at 16 and full college tuition from their in debt and over-worked parents.

This may be a soapbox topic, but it’s no laughing matter, it’s a serious problem in our culture, government, businesses, schools, and families. Most importantly, what is it teaching our children?

Addicts are some of the worst with a sense of entitlement and a lack of gratitude. Many addicts are dependent on others, rarely does an addict supply their own drug of choice. The worst thing is taking life for granted, escaping from reality by slow suicide in some form.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… it turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~ Melodie Beattie

When we are grateful we take nothing for granted, we are constantly awakened to God’s goodness around us. Gratitude cannot be feigned or faked, it in itself makes us sincere. It comes only by personally experiencing the hand of God’s love and mercy working in our life.

Our knowledge of God is perfected by gratitude: we are thankful and rejoice in the experience of the truth that He is love. ~ Thomas Merton

Many traits and emotions are important to our well being, but gratitude is unique. In studies it’s been found that people who are more grateful are happier, less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and relationships. Grateful people are less likely to avoid problems, blame themselves or cope through substance use. They sleep better because they focus on positive thoughts before going to sleep.

Amazing that such a simple thing, an attitude of gratitude, can effect so many areas of our life!


How can we live with Gratitude?

  • Thank God every morning for the new day, commit to live it well.
  • Focus on the good in our lives and on the good in others.
  • Recognize all the good we have in ourselves and while trying to improve daily.
  • Don’t complain about what we don’t have or what we’re not.
  • Think of others and use the gifts we have to help them.
  • Thank others for the work they do.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thess 5:18

What can you do today to improve your Gratitude quotient?


Enjoy this video as you Give Thanks with a grateful heart! http://youtu.be/IBpv-ZzcQD8

Healing Hurts :: 5 Steps to Overcome an Identity Crisis



Life today is lived at a break-neck speed. We’re sophisticated, educated, wealthy; going, doing, acquiring. Our cluttered minds are numbed with the social, news and entertainment media available at our fingertips every waking moment.


The world is off Center and dragging us with it. With lives so focused on caring and living for others, no wonder women wake up one day and suddenly find themselves dizzy with doubt about who they are.

Who’s got time to stop and think? 
To ponder self and life’s meaning? 

Identity Crisis shows up in all seasons of life, often brought on by sudden life changes and displays various external behaviors depending on the person.

Adolescence, midlife, empty nest, divorce, death of a spouse, career change, Perimenopause, sexual or gender confusion, etc… Let’s look at these tough times of life and find answers that bring relief and peace.


What is an Identity Crisis?

  • Conflict when the visible you doesn’t match the “real” you. 
  • Disillusionment when roles or relationships are removed or changed.
  • Confusion possibly brought on by childhood trauma or abuse. 

What Are The Emotional Symptoms?
Anxiety –– Who am I?
Depression –– My life is hopeless.
Self-doubt — I can’t do anything right.
Low self-worth — I’m no good.
Self-conscious — My body is unacceptable.

What Are Some Outward Symptoms?
Attitudes and behaviors turn negative 
Unhealthy friendships are prominent 
Sexual immorality / Substance abuse 
Poor choices and impulsive decisions 
Can’t set long-term goals for future

Women are always putting themselves at the bottom of the list. We’re so concerned with taking care of everyone else that when we finally do have time for ourselves we’re too exhausted to care anymore! Without realizing it, we find our identity in doing rather than being; life is about others vs. life with God. If continued long term these unhealthy habits may set us up for a hard fall.

Often people in the church give the pat answer, “If our identity is in Christ, we should be fine.” Well, that is true and sounds good, but even a believer can find herself suddenly drowning in life changes that bring about an emotional upheaval. 

How can a Follower of Christ stay strong during these troubling times? 

1. Examine Your Center
How do you start your day? Checking email on your phone before you drag out of bed? Try going to bed and getting up earlier so you can spend time with God in prayer and meditation first thing! I suggest at least 15-30 minutes of silence with the Lord before reading the Bible or a devotional. If we don’t fuel our spirit in silence and solitude, we’ll have no strength available when turmoil comes. 
2. Examine Your Health
Often our emotions get the best of us in times of stress because we are nutritionally and physically deficient. Too much sugar, caffeine and fast-food, combined with not enough sleep and no exercise can leave us vulnerable.
3. Examine Your Dreams
What about life brings you joy… bird watching, gardening, reading? Do you have old interests left unexplored? New ones unchallenged? Have you always wanted to paint, sky dive, go to college? What are you waiting for? “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than your think!” 
4. Examine Your Relationships
It’s possible that not all your relationships are healthy. Do you have co-workers or family members who are so negative that it drains you to be around them? Take a step back. Find people who make you smile or laugh. Spend more time with them.
5. Examine Your Self
If reading this you find yourself in a state of despair over your life situation, past mistakes or what appears to be a hopeless future, please find a counselor, trusted friend or family member to whom you can share your pain. Often just talking it out resets our mind, energies and path. As always, feel free to email me if you need a friend!

Your real life is hidden with Christ in God. ~ Colossians 3:3


Find strength for the journey with the @Newsboys   http://youtu.be/z8j-YLb37Yk




Resources:
Biblical Counseling Keys: Identity: Who Are You? by @JuneHunt www.hopefortheheart.org
Embracing Your Second Calling by @DaleHansonBourke 
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom by Joan Chittister www.joanchittister.org