Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Discipline of Worship

Worship.

What does this bring to mind for you? Do you see church building on a Sunday? Do you see people singing together or maybe do you "hear" music that lifts up God's name? Of course, these things are an aspect of worship, but you maybe be surprised (and/or challenged perhaps?) to consider that when God says worship, he isn't just talking about Sunday morning or singing all five verses of "Just As I Am".

When the word "worship" is used in scripture it is usually used in a context of a life of choices and actions. It is part of a life-style of God-driven decisions.

Consider when Joshua says to this Israelites, "choose this day whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:14) and note their response "We will worship the Lord our God and obey him."  (24:24, NLT). God's people people understood that a life of service was worship to God. To worship God meant that they had to chose whom they would serve.  Joshua challenged them that if they were to make such a bold statement that it mean giving up their idols and their way of rebellious living. Worship means service. To worship God means that you are living a life of service to him.

Look at Romans 12:1, "Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (NIV) The word for "worship" in english was originally "service" in Greek.  Offering our bodies as living sacrifices is an act of worship, a reflection of a life of service to God.

See how Paul follows up this challenge, this "spiritual act of worship" involves more than just singing on Sunday morning ..."Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (vs.2)

To imagine that how I think reflects whom I serve and worship ..wow, what a challenge!

When we are called to offer ourselves as living sacrifices as worship, we are being called to living a life that is fully committed to service to God. It considers how every aspect of our life reflects whom we serve, how every word shows who we worship. To consider that my life is the worship that I give to God gives a whole other sense of importance to me.

Emily Freeman, in her wonderful books Grace for the Good Girl shares these thoughts that bring me to tears every time I read them:
"We breathe in air and breathe out worship. We receive love and extend worship. We embrace children, offering worship. We comfort, we laugh, we mourn, we dance, we read, we dream, we exist - all worship. We pay bills, we run on the treadmill, we enjoy a good movie, we make dinner, we welcome friends with open arms - worship, all worship. We send money and offer prayer and sit with a lonely neighbor in Jesus' name. We wait for love, we long for home, we pour out our hearts and hope and fears and longings; we create with words and photos and colors and food, all beautiful acts of worship."
Amen.

In what ways are you worshiping this day?


Monday, May 13, 2013

Discipline of Service

Have you ever considered what the role of intimacy plays in serving others?

I hadn't really considered it until starting to study the spiritual disciplines. As with all the disciplines intimacy is that factor that takes our efforts from a "to-do" list for the Christian life to being something that changes us. When intimacy motivates us it changes our focus from checking things off our mental list to an inward drive that we cannot help but submit to.

Consider your most intimate relationships, your husband, children or best friend. A to-do list is not your motivation to talk to them daily, spend time with them or serve them. You need not ponder long on what you should do for them on a given day, you just know. You are moved by the power of your connection to them, not because you "should".

When we are intimate with God, we have a connection to him that draws us naturally closer to his children. We love others because we love him. We serve others because we love him.

Often our intimacy with God and others reflects in how we serve each other, especially in moments of crisis. Moments of crisis are those times when we find ourselves vulnerable and often frustrated. We may feel overwhelmed, anxious and panicky. So do others. These moments allow for God to show himself through the service of others, when we both accept the leading he offers and accept the service of others.

When we serve and allow ourselves to be served in these moments we can find that we draw near to God and his people. Have you found that to be true?

Here are some friends that shared their experience with service:

Brook said, "When I lost my voice after thyroid removal surgery. Literally people I'd never met watched my dog for a few nights, people that I NEVER spoke with anymore contacted me through facebook with person stories/information and being able to physically feel the prayers of people was powerful. You just feel it almost in a physical way.

Amy said, " I miscarried at home while I was caring for my then 18 month old. It came on so suddenly and forcefully! I called my neighbor, a nurse, who immediately ran over to help care for my kid and tackle my immediate medical needs. I think it would have been more than I could bear at that moment to keep my head in the crisis, alone, all while dealing with the heartache. I am forever grateful to her."

Erin said, "When my father's condition in ICU suddenly turned even further south at midnight, I remembered my friend saying, "you know I'm your middle of the night friend, right?" I KNEW I could call her to come to my aid at any time. She rushed right over, stayed with my kids through the night and took them to church for me the next AM. I was able to be with my family right after and for unlimited, non rushed time for hours after his death. I also had another friend take my kids, and constantly let me know she was in no rush to return them to me for the days he was in ICU before his death. This is time I could never have gotten back, had I missed it for caring for my children. My friends are such a blessing to me!"

Jennifer said, "When I had PPD, I had one of my mentors show up at my door and force me to take a nap while she watched my baby. I didn't know how to accept help. Her persistence in that moment made me realize that there are times when you absolutely have to admit weakness and accept help. I have learned through paying-it-forward that when you are the one serving that you receive the bigger blessing. It makes me sad to think how many blessings I denied those who wanted to serve me in the past."

Misty said, "In our first year of marriage I was diagnosed with Graves' disease. I took iodine radiation to destroy my thyroid. Immediately I spiraled downhill. I was so weak and tired. Had lots of muscle spasms. I could barely get out of bed. My wonderful husband served and showed more compassion than I have ever experienced. He worked and yet came home during the day to make sure I was okay and eating. Most of the time I was sleeping when he would get home from work..he would make dinner and wake me to eat. Jody made sure I had everything i needed and more. I don't know what I would have done without him. God gave me the most amazing man that took his wedding vows seriously."

Cyndi said, "I have many dear friends who have been there for us.. In 2009, we had no income due to the financial crunch... One sweet friend wanted to pamper me.... She offered me a day of pampering: a haircut, mani/pedicure. She offered to give me $100... But said it had to be used frivolously. Then she decided to use gift certificates"

 1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each of you should use whatever gift he has been given, by doing so you are administering grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do it with the strength God provides so that  in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ." 

God uses service to administer grace to his children. Service is no small thing.

Have you ever been served, especially in a moment of crisis? Did it draw you closer to God in that moment of vulnerability? What role has service on your behalf done for 
your relationship with him? 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Discipline of Solitude


This was first published on April 26th of 2011. I smile to know I was tuning my ears to hear God's challenges for these disciplines. The challenge for silence and solitude is as great today as ever before!

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I am always amazed with how God takes a heart, and through the Spirit guides us to learning more of one aspect of Him at a given time. My heart has been especially open to considering quiet and stillness lately.

I have discovered a book that I have actually had sitting on my shelf for awhile now. I have no doubt that reading it now is perfectly timed for the lessons I have gained from it :) I am reading the classic "Celebration of Discipline" by Robert Foster.  I have found some wonderfully inspiring encouragements in those timeless lessons.

I have been challenged by all the disciplines: meditation, prayer, study, submission, service and fasting (so far)..but one of them has really stood out to me. The Discipline of Solitude.

He speaks of our fear of silence, our fear of being alone. He speaks of how we have replaced quiet solitude with noise, filling our ears and thus our minds and hearts with other than godly things.  He contrasts solitude versus loneliness,  "Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment."

He stresses the importance of quiet to the spirit of solitude..."without silence there is no solitude."

He clarifies that it is not just the absence of noise or speaking, but a state "listening to God." He says, "Though silence sometimes involves the absence of speech, it always involves the act of listening. Simply to refrain from talking, without the heart of listening to God, is not silence."

He challenges me when he asserts that using words or noise for the sake of filling silence can take us away from listening to God, or being in a state that allows us to hear Him.   I am totally guilty of that!

I didnt realize how much so I was guilty of it until feeling challenged in this area - I started realizing how often I dispel quiet moments with music, talking or with allowing my mind to wonder. More specifically, how I dont take advantage of the moments in my day where I can take hold of silence, if even for a moment.

I found that when I did have a moment or two (which happened more often than I realized!) where the noise is dispelled for a blessed moment (naptime, or when the kids are outside and occupied) I look to turn on music, reach for my phone or jump on the computer. I didnt really realize how often I am guilty of this, and have since realized how many little moments in my day that have potential for quiet, silence and solitude.

It may be literally 2 minutes, but it DOES happen ...who knew?

He especially challenges me when he talks about when we use words to dispel quiet. He goes so far as to reference Ecclesiastes 5:1, "To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools." 

 Hm. How often have I given a "sacrifice of fools"  when I try to get my words out and heard? Uh, ouch. He continues the assault on my pride when he states "one reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust."  Ouch again.

Yesterday, I really tried to embrace this idea. I resisted filling up my quiet moments with noise, and found I had more moments that I thought possible to meditate, pray and consider things of God. I prayed more for family and friends, I thought more of things that were "pure and lovely."

Honestly, that was way easier for me that will be the next opportunity I have to chose between keeping my trap shut and sharing my vast wisdom with someone. But, he challenges through Thomas a Kempis, "it is easier to be silent altogether than to speak with moderation."  Sheesh, my toes hurt. :)

I am going to keep working on this - truly the moments of quiet and listening were well worth the "sacrifice" of noise.

What do you find more difficult...embracing quiet or being quiet? ..being okay with less noise, or keeping your tongue stilled?

Discipline of Simplicity

Simplicity.

It has become somewhat of a buzz word for many of us in the bloggisphere the last few years. I think it's largely because we all love the idea of making things more simple, I think we all crave a little more simplicity in our lives.

This blog was largely due to my desire to embrace a form of simplicity all those years ago. My bible study, Everything You Need (currently out to publishers, fingers crossed!) was really inspired by a desire for the more simple life. So, I felt like when I started reading Foster's take on simplicity in Celebration of Discipline I shouldn't have been surprised by what I found there. I was a bit more surprised and challenged than I thought I would be.

I have considered simplicity to be something that I did purposefully to make room for the things that should be the most important in my life. It includes getting rid of things, organizing my home and schedule, learning to say no to things and creating a hard line of priorities that I direct my daily tasks. I think it is those things, still.

Foster, however puts a God-spin on the concept when he challenges that godly simplicity is to seek God first.  Seek God more than stuff, more than acquiring wealth, more than reputation, more than a job, more than a nice car, more than an image, more than security, more than ...anything.

To seek God and his Kingdom first means that we weigh everything on a scale of worthiness. Is our pursuit of wealth, achievement and more stuff worthy of the Kingdom of God? Do we have the time, money, energy or desire to do what the Kingdom of God asks of us?

I know for me as I learn to incorporate these spiritual disciplines into my life my biggest struggle is finding the time to do it. I want to practice mediation, study and prayer but I struggle with finding the energy, motivation and resources to make it happen. A lifestyle of simplicity allows us the resources to make it happen.

If we were to, for example, look at our schedules be brutally honest about which things are helping to advance God's Kingdom and which are not, I wonder what we would find? What if we asked ourselves how God would have us spend our money, or be entertained? If we are seeking God first, and we were willing to take another step what things would we let go of?

Would our schedules change? Would our spending shift from more for ourselves to giving to others? Would we consider more carefully what we were entertained by, what we studied on a day in and day basis through that entertainment?

We can just think of simplicity as just organizing and decluttering, or we can look at those things as ways to free up resources for the life God has for us. The implications are eternal, but the rewards are very much for the here and now.

What kind of changes would you be willing to make in order to live a life of simplicity for his sake?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

a little tip: A Study Bag

I originally posted this in June 2011. I updated it a bit, but it's still a great tip so wanted to pass it on while we are focusing on study this week!

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I am in my hiding place again today, and I brought with me something that just dawned on my as being a wonderful tool.  Even after my hiding place goes away (a.k.a., when the neighbors get home from vacation) I am going to keep using this tool as a great way to store and tote my study stuff.


The last two days I have been using a "study bag".  This morning, it was so great to grab my coffee that I had set up on an automatic timer, my Study Bag and head out the door to go hide :)

I am recalling now, Emilie Barnes, in her book Spirit of Loveliness encouraged a woman of God to have a "prayer basket". This is a basket that holds all you need for your prayer time, so that these quiet moments with God can be anywhere that you can carry your prayer basket.

The same idea, I filled up my Study Bag with the things that I would use in my quiet time, and the things that would help me get my mind working in the right direction this day.  I used my every faithful Organizing Utility Tote by Thirty One. I chose this one because it can handle my slue of books without falling apart. It also has a ton of pockets, so I can put my pens, highlighters, small notebook and phone (for when my hiding is more than my family can bear :).

I didnt read or even look at all the books in my bag in one sitting, but because I never really know which way my quiet time will lead I make sure to have lots of options :)

Currently, on the menu is: a couple versions of the bible (today, its the NIV and NLT),  What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancy (because our study on grace has really sparked an interest in the topic!), Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis (for Sunday School), a couple books by Dallas Willard (havent started these yet), and my scripture study notebook.

[Update: Currently I have the Celebration of Discipline, 7: an experimental mutiny against excess (bible study and book!), Intimate Faith: a woman's guide to the spiritual disciplines, and of course my NIV and NLT!..cool to see what I was looking at/studying/thinking about about 2 years ago!]

Having this bag ready to go helps me be able to take my quiet and study time anywhere in a moments notice - to a hiding place, to my bedroom, or to Starbucks for a cup of coffee with God :).

I am also loving that I have a place to store my stuff, instead of all of it just being stacked all over the table all the time :)


The only problem, is that the bag I am using  for my study bag is the one I use ALL the time for other stuff also ...SO, I think I just found a great excuse to get another Thirty One bag! :)

What do you do to make your study time mobile? What do you use in your study time?...what versions of the bible do you use? What books are you reading right now? Tell us about your study time ..I would love to hear all about it!

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