The Death Of The Sacred

I have a confession to make.
Well, it’s really not much of a confession, more of a revealing of my nature.
Here goes, I love technology.
I love how it makes things convenient for me. My schedules are synced to my computer and my phone, I can create presentations from most of my mobile devices (of which I have multiple devices), and I can take striking photos and create beautiful banners that look like art…all because of technology.

The Dangers
Despite the fact that I love technology, I have become more and more aware that I can become too dependent upon it for everything. My car even tells me where to go these days, so rarely do I acknowledge or recognize the direction in which I am going – my mobile GPS does it all…well, except drive (but I can’t wait until it can!…Okay, I digress).

Despite all of these technological advances in our age, I truly feel like we run the risk of losing the ancient and the sacred. What do I mean by this?
Our attention spans have grown shorter since the introduction of cellular devices. You don’t believe me? Can you go an entire hour without looking at your phone, either to check for new status updates on social media or to see if that special someone has texted you? It is becoming increasingly difficult even for me to divorce myself from the tech all around me and I fear I am losing the sacred even in my own life.

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How about you?

Can you put your phone down?
Can you close your laptop, tablet, other devices without feeling the ‘itch” to check it again?

What do I mean by ‘Sacred’?
If you were to study the spiritual disciplines, these things that I consider ‘sacred’ would be:
Meditation
Prayer
Fasting

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Solitude and Practicing Presence

Study
Simplicity
Solitude
Submission
Service
Confession
Worship
Guidance
Celebration (In God’s Presence)
(Source: Renovare )

It is very difficult to do any of these sacred things when our attention spans have grown short and shorter. For some of you reading this right now, you might even get hung up on the word ‘sacred’, because some of you perhaps have an issue with the practice of anything liturgical or what some might consider “high Church”…needless to say we can become so distracted that the sacred has died in our age, or is in its death throws as we speak.

Perhaps the next question should be:
How do we revive the sacred in our lives“?
Here are my suggestions to help you with this process, but as a caveat to this, each person is different, and if you find that something works better than something else, do what helps you to revive the sacred in your life.

1) Make a list
Make a list of all the distractions in your life.
This will help you recognize the things that prevent you from entering into those sacred moments. Remember, that the elements are not the desired goal, but rather the fellowship with our Father in Heaven should be our desire. It is in the moments of the sacred that we encounter the Divine.

2) De-clutter a space.
After you have acknowledge and listed the things that distract, find a specific space to de-clutter and prepare. No space is holy, it is our attitudes and focus that allows us to tune into the presence of God. So, if a closet is the space you choose, the so be it. God’s presence isn’t fixed in specific locations, because the Holy Spirit resides in His people. The space we de-clutter is for us, that we might focus and prepared to receive and listen.

3) Sit in Silence (Try not to fall asleep)
I saw this partly in jest, because I have, at times, placed myself in silence and have struggled with slumber. Other times, your body is telling you to get more sleep, and perhaps we need to listen to that. A time of silence can help us enter into the sacred, although I openly acknowledge (as an extrovert) that this practice is much hard for me. Perhaps you will find it easier…if you do, please enlighten me by commenting below.

4) Converse with God.
You don’t need special words, or a litany of things to bring Him…have an honest conversation. After all, He knows you better than you know yourself – He made you, so He understands your intricacies and nuances. He is aware of your situations and the things you struggle with. Be honest, because you can’t fool God – He already knows. What this conversation does is opens our lives before Him as we acknowledge elements of it verbally.

5) Begin with one of the above mentioned disciplines…study, read and apply:
The last one will take patience.
This isn’t an instant gratification, fast food type of habit.
You must acclimate yourself.
This will take discipline and acknowledgment that it will not occur over night, but rather gradually as you apply yourself to this task.

The sacred is not dead…yet.
Don’t let it perish because of our distractions – at least in this generation.
Perhaps we have to eliminate the distractions in order for us to return to the sacred. Perhaps it is within our own busy minds that this war needs to be waged. Where ever the distractions lay, confront them and carve out those intentional moments in which we might encounter the Divine.

Something more to ponder today.


Faith Lessons From The Ocean – Lesson #1 “The Trench Of Fear”

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” -Psalm 56:3

They say that you should never underestimate the power of the ocean.
It can be a dangerous place, and many a person has been lost beneath its currents and waves.

With that thought in mind, for the next few installments of Pastorsponderings.org, I want to explore what I want to call ‘Faith Lessons From The Ocean’, and how it might apply to our daily living:

Lesson #1 ‘The Trench of Fear’
I recall, on numerous occasions being a hapless victim of its tides.
I have never drowned, mind you, but I have faced some scary moments while within the ocean’s grasp. One such day occurred when I was a child. I remember it vividly. I was wading out into the surf, feeling the salty sting on my eyes and lips. I had not gone out very far when all of a sudden I found myself in deeper waters where I could not reach the bottom. The normal ocean floor shelf was further out, but I had stepped into a sand pit that was much deeper than the surrounding area. I momentarily panicked, I recall that my head went under the ebbing waves, and I choked on some of its spray.

For a brief moment, dread filled me and I was frozen in fear. This probably only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity had gone. I was a helpless victim and no matter how hard I tried, I was caught in the rip current of this small ocean trench.

When I came to my senses and pushed my panic down, I remembered the pull and push of the ebb and flow of the ocean waves and so on the next in coming wave, I stretched out my arms and paddled like I have never paddled before. I rode the wave out of my trench of fear…and I was finally free!

Our faith journey can be a lot like that trench of fear.
We will be cruising right along, enjoying life and riding the waves of success, then suddenly we find ourselves below the waves…and panic sets in.
In a sudden crisis, we might quickly forget God’s promises to us.
We might forget that He promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)
We might forget that God always keeps His promises to us.

So we might be traveling in life, and all of a suddenly we come up against an obstacle that we feel has no bottom and we are drowning beneath its weight. Have you been there? Have you felt the powerful pull from the riptide? Have you lost your firm footing and have been forced to tread water? Perhaps you are at the point of sheer panic, because we do not know what will happen next when another large wave of life spills over you.
-Breathe.
You aren’t alone.
Don’t Panic.
This trench may seem to be your doom, but you will survive…you were made for more than this, and God is with you…trust Him!

Fear can be debilitating.
It can hold us captive and in chains.
Fear will lie to you, and reveal to you all of your weaknesses and insecurities. It will make you think that you can’t go on and that you are all alone in your struggles.
Fear is also tool of the Father of lies…and he loves it when we are held paralyzed in its awful grasp.

Fear is a Liar Music Video

Have you been to this place?
It’s a cold, desolate wasteland where hopelessness lives and is neighbor to unfulfilled dreams.

Don’t live there.
Don’t waste your time.
The trench of fear holds many souls captive…don’t let it hold you!

Where are the trenches located in your life?
What causes you dread and holds you captive?
Perhaps it is time to cry out to the Father.
He hears us, and He will not let your foot slip, even if you find yourself treading water from time to time amidst waves that seem determined to do you in. You will survive, and He will provide you the path by which you can thrive.

“When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down.” -Psalm 94:19

Silence is a Killer…A Devotional Pondering.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let’s face it, we all encounter difficult days…some more difficult than others.
There are days that we can manage on our own, and then there are days when we are completely floored by the problems that come our way.  The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…

I know what you’re thinking, “that doesn’t sound very encouraging to me”…let me finish:
The pressures may seem impossible to overcome, and sometimes that may be true…but we were never meant to handle it all on our own.

In the Apostle Paul’s day, the new believers in Thessalonica were encountering all kinds of trouble.  Thessalonica was the largest city in Macedonia which boasted over 200,000 people.  This city was known for being a military and commercial port city.  So within this large city in Macedonia, these young Christians were encountering all sorts of trouble – even persecution and death because of their new-found declarations of faith.  In the midst of their living testimonies, they longed for the day of Christ’s return.  What does that mean?  They lived in fear every single day, and couldn’t wait for Christ to come back.   And so these young Christians lived expectant lives while encouraging each other onward.

The persecution in Thessalonica must have been fierce for the Apostle Paul to remind them that they needed one another and they ought to continue (“just as you are doing”) to encourage one another.

Let’s put this into perspective:
We might not be facing certain death for our faith, instead we might be struggling to pay rent, finding funds to feed our families, enduring a tough problem at work or at home…all of these situations are arduous and, at times they keep us up at night.
The killer is silence. 
What do I mean?
We think no other Christian is struggling, and if they are it must mean that their faith isn’t strong enough.  This could not be further from the truth.
We have this idea that we shouldn’t let other Christians know how discouraged we really are, because we don’t want them to think less of us.  Because we don’t want others to talk.  Because we fear judgment of others.  Because we believe in the perfect Christian life that really doesn’t exist…because we’ve bought the lie that to be a Christian means we don’t struggle with these things anymore.

And so, silence is a killer.
No one knows.
We don’t share.
And our hurts go unchecked, unnoticed, and unaddressed.

Dear Christian,
How can we encourage one another if we aren’t being honest with each other?
How can we carry each other’s burdens if we allow silence to slowly kill our souls?
We cannot continue to buy the lie that everything is fine when we face times of trial and we keep it private.  (Some will laugh at this and say, but church is full of hypocrites and gossipers…then find REAL believers in whom you can confide!)

Healing can begin with out this kind of encouragement, but long is the process and deep the scars.  When we have others who will journey beside us, and encourage us, we will find added strength, hope, abundance and encouragement.

Don’t let silence kill you.

What Are YOU Waiting For?

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Acts 9:8-9

We probably know the story.
Saul was a Pharisee, who lived out his religious convictions by punishing members of “The Way”.  He was a devout Jew, and was very popular amongst his peers.  He did what he thought was right…he did what he perceived to be God’s will.  But he was wrong.  On his to Damascus, God intervened.  His truth was the light that blinded Saul but it also seared his heart.  A divine course correction took place, and the person known as Saul died on that road.  No, he didn’t die physically, but the road marked out the conclusion of that identity, that mission, that chapter.  To many of his devout followers, he would be dead in their eyes for he was set on a new path by God, that of which they could neither follow or believe in.

Those with whom Saul traveled with led this now blind man into the city of Damascus where we waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Whole sermons and sermon series’ have been preached on with this story – mostly focused on that road and God’s intervention and even Ananias when he arrives…but what about the waiting period between the two chapters?  What happened within the span of those three days?  I believe the soul searching that took place with this blind man once named Saul is just as important and has a lot to teach us.  This is not necessarily reading between the lines of the text, this is merely speculating, extrapolating and mulling over this human metamorphosis.  A blind man named Saul – Christian persecutor and sometimes executor went into Damascus, a transformed man on a mission named Paul exited that city with divine purpose, intent and a new found passion in life.

BUT…
What happened in those 3 days between blindness and commission?
What changes transpired there?
Is there something teachable in this narrative for you and for me?
I believe there is, so please allow me to share this with you now.
waiting3
“METAMORPHOSIS” 
3 Lessons from 3 Days of Blindness

1st Lesson:  Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching
Saul thought he was doing what God wanted him to do.
He was fighting for and defending his faith…but he was, in fact, persecuting Christ.  He had passionately taken up his cause with vim and vigor and knew he was in the right…then God turned his whole world upside down.  He was confronted with his own failures…he was confronted with his own mistakes, and it must have hurt.  Saul spends three days of blindness not eating and drinking.  It is a sobering response to the Theophany he had just experienced.  Within the words of Jesus, there was a course correction and for three days Saul had to have replayed that scene over and over in his head.  He must have prayed and fasted.  He must have explored every action that had led him to this place, like a movie playing in his head for three long days.

I find it interesting that 3 days pass.
3 Days that seem like a real death and a real resurrection.
3 days of emotional and philosophical death until God’s messenger arrives to offer new life again.  In a very real sense, Saul is in his chrysalis transforming and arriving at a new physical place.

Do we have chapters like this in our lives?
Has there ever been spiritual correction in your life that has hurt?
God doesn’t enjoy hurting us, it is more for our benefit and growth that these corrections take place.  There’s an old phrase – “no pain, no gain” and I think it applies here.  If we don’t experience some discomfort in life from time to time we might remain stagnant and planted in incorrect spiritual patterns.  God doesn’t want us to remain there, He sees in us the potential for something better, greater and far more substantive that what we have settled for now.  He wishes to adjust our paths, and help us grow into maturity within our faith.  But we have to be willing to accept these corrections which, hurt, but are meant to help us grow…and sometimes set us on a new, more holy path than what we have settled on.

2nd Lesson:  There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord
waiting4Abraham was an old man before God’s promise of being the father to many nations was actually fulfilled, and certainly Abraham tried to speed up the process with his wife’s handmaiden Hagar.  But the waiting was necessary.

David was anointed as king and successor to king Saul, but he did not become king right away, he had to endure hurts, the loss of his best friend when he had ran for his life.  But he did not stop being faithful to God – he persisted and eventually the waiting produced the crown in God’s appointed time.

Waiting on the Lord can be tiring and frustrating, and we may sometimes question if God will really show up in our lives and our situations, but in those moments of waiting we grow.  These times of waiting produces in us perseverance, endurance and fortitude.  You might not believe that you can wait on the Lord.  You may question your own strength, but rest assured you are not alone – the Holy Spirit is with you giving you the strength that you need.  When we wait, we must recognize our finite while we wait for the Infinite to enter our stories.  Saul waited for the appointed time.  He wasn’t told how long it would be.  He wasn’t told who would show up as God’s ambassador…he just simply waited.

Are you waiting right now for God to show up?
Are you growing frustrated with the “waiting game”?
Maybe we will someday declare as David did in Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him…”

Maybe we can declare this today!

3rd LessonThere is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present. waitinghospital
Have you ever visited a doctor’s office?
I am sure that you have.
Most of the time there are two places that you find yourself waiting.  First, you have to wait to be seen by the nurse on duty at the front desk as they take your insurance card and all of your vital information.  Sometimes they even take your blood pressure.  Then they call your name and the nurse takes you through the waiting room door into a hallway which leads to another, more intimate waiting room.  Sometimes the nurse asks you to take off your clothes and put on a gown…and then wait.  This is sometimes the longest wait that you may have at the doctor’s office.  That uncomfortable time dressed only in a thin paper gown, sitting on an examination table while some elevator music is droning on and on in the background.  But we cannot speed up that time.  We have to simply wait, even when it’s not comfortable or the most desirable thing to do – we still wait.  Finally the doctor in a white coat comes in and then we get down to business and the present can then be moved into the future.

If we believe that God sent Jesus to die for us, that Jesus resurrected and went to prepare a place for us, then we already understand what it means to wait.  We aren’t in some doctor’s waiting room or anything but we must acknowledge that Jesus promised to return one day – and so His people anxiously wait for his return
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But what about the little things of life?
What about the prayers we utter in the hope that God will answer them?
What happens in the in between time of God encounter and fulfillment?
We wait.
Sometimes we wait and wait.
Saul didn’t eat or drink for 3 days.
This parched, blind man waited for God’s fulfillment.
He didn’t know when it would happen, but it WAS going to happen.
He didn’t know WHO God was sending, but in the present moment he waited.

Many times we might feel stuck in the present while we wait for God.
We might grow frustrated and even weary in our waiting, but let me encourage you today:  The present waiting room of your life IS where God meets us.
We might not yet know it yet, but He is already present and with you right here and now.  We do not need to pine for the future in a “some day” mindset when we understand that God is sitting with us in our present waiting rooms.

Saul met God, then we he had to wait, then when God’s appointed ambassador arrived the commission was given and a much transformed Paul emerged to do the will of God.

Are you waiting right now for God?
Remember this while you wait:
-Sometimes Spiritual Correction Hurts and We Must Do Some Deep Soul Searching.
-There is Growth that Takes Place that Only Happens in Our Waiting on The Lord.
-There is a New Chapter in the Future to Embrace, but First We must Embrace the Present.
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Something more to ponder today.
God Bless you!  

Walking at Midnight on the path of restlessness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

I have another confession to make – I am restless…like pit of my stomach-aching restlessness.  Some days I can put my finger on it, while other days it is as elusive as an honest thief.  I am usually successful at pushing it back down, repacking that box that it lives in and stowing it away in that shadowy corner that I seldom travel to.  Still, I know it’s there…and it weighs on me as if an elephant had decided to perch its rotund bottom on my chest.

I wonder if you feel this way sometimes?
Do you have to push it back down as well?
Do you have to re-tape that worn-out box and pretend that dark corner doesn’t even exist?  Does it keep you up at night – blinking at the ceiling fan, counting the rotation of its blades as shadows dance off reflections of streetlights lit only for 3rd shift workers and insomniacs out for a stroll?  I repress the urge to join them, to open the front door and walk barefooted down the now cooled, uneven sidewalks as I imagine myself trying to avoid the spiny round pods that fall haphazardly from the large gum tree in our front yard.   I have stepped on these awful spiky seeds a time or two while walking barefoot down our path and even in the cool darkness of the night thoughts of the surprise pain causes me to recoil my feet from the lower spaces of my bed.

I wonder if David ever felt this way?  The pre-murder and adulterous David…the one that tended sheep and slew predators to the flock.  I wonder if he ever felt restless in his heart?  I am sure he did when, later he was being pursued by jealous King Saul and his men.  As David hid from cave to cave and village to village, I imagine him laying down on an uncomfortable uneven floor hoping to rest his weary head.  I can picture his deep sadness as he yearned for his best friend Jonathan.  Yet David trusted in God…but I would venture a guess that there were moments in which he was restless and he too had to push it back down and re-tape his box.

It is said that there is a season for everything…and yet Jesus told the people of his day not to worry about anything, yet I can’t help but find myself in the season of worry from time to time.  Doe that mean that I am not heeding His words?  That, despite my best efforts, I am not trusting in Him?  Perhaps you have thought this also> I worry, but Jesus said not to, and here I am still worrying.<  What do we do with these seasons?  How do we find the glimmers and glints of hope in the mess of our minds?  Sometimes we do believe the lie.  What lie you ask?  The lie that Jesus wasn’t really talking to us when He said those things, that it was just for the disciples and people around Him right then and there… The lie that we are broken people beyond fixing, and that the restlessness that we feel in the pits of our stomachs and the weight of our hearts is what we deserve for being fallen, sinful people.

Don’t live there.
Don’t wallow in that muck and believe that damning lie.
The son who turned his back on his father and spent his entire inheritance on partying, prostitutes and comfort found himself feeding muddy, fetid pigs.  Day in and day out he was covered in mud and pig excrement.  He definitely smelled as bad as they did.  He had lost everything – squandered a small fortune on foolish, regrettable things, and the stink of his life went much deeper than clothes and skin.  He lived there.  He wallowed there.  That pen of stench became his home for a period of time, until he came to senses.  As Jesus told this story of prodigal son, I imagine some who were listening felt that he was telling their story.  The prodigal son came to his senses, got up and devised a plan to return to his father.  He formulated a plan in his mind, he believed he would be unwelcome to return as a son, but maybe, just maybe his father would let him return as a servant.  Can you imagine that restless journey home; The endless loop of things he would finally say to his father in order to stave off the reprisals and chastisements?  As each dusty step led him closer and closer to the home he once knew, thoughts of doubt and fear must have crept in.  “Master, just let me work for you.” (For surely he would never be worthy to call him father after what he did).

And when this beaten-by-life man, who had squandered everything and had hit absolute rock-bottom crested that last hill, and his home was in view…he saw someone running towards him.  Perhaps it was a servant instructed to chase him off.  Perhaps it was a warning not to come any closer…he would have deserved such a welcome.  Instead, it wasn’t any of those things…it was his father that he had wished were dead, running to embrace the son he thought he had lost.

Don’t live in the home of restlessness.
Don’t believe the lie of shame and guilt.
Be forgiven, let your Father embrace you and welcome you home…and when you are finally hope, re-tape that box and then throw it away.

The prodigal son is me.
The prodigal son is you.
But once we have been embraced,
once we have witness our Father running to us,
Once we have been forgiven and returned to our home (where we belong)
don’t even entertain the lie or the box any longer.

But sometimes…we still walk at midnight, say hello, I’ll be waving.

Something more to ponder today.

Day 15 – When The Going Gets Tough…

“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way;…” 2 Corinthians 6:3-4

Have you heard the phrase “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”?  There are no promises of easy living and smooth sailing in the Christian experience.  Jesus doesn’t say “follow me and everything will come up roses!” No, this decision to Live for Christ is one of the hardest life decisions one ever makes!  It is a promise to live for Him no matter what comes our way.  Through the good and bad times.  In so doing, our witness becomes more than just  The words we choose to say to those around us.  Instead our first witness is seen before we ever open our mouths.  Our actions speak louder than words!  

So let me ask you, what kind of witness are your actions displaying for those around you?  

I must confess that there have been times when I know that my actions have been a stumbling block to others.  I’m not proud of that, but it has happened, and will likely happen again.  Have you had similar experiences too?  I would venture a guess and say yes you have.

In all seasons…in all days of this coming week…in our shopping, leisure, work, hobbies, family and public interactions – may our witness be seen and then heard!  May we never become a stumbling block to those around us!  We are living for so much more than just our lives now!  What we say in what we do actually matters.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for this day and the blessings that this day has offered.  Help me tomorrow to be your witness in all that I do and say!  Guide me so that my words and my actions are pleasing to you, and are a sweet aroma for others!  Help me in those spaces where my witness is not evident.  Strengthen me for the difficult moments of my day!  I want to serve you with more than just my words, but with my life as well.  Show me what that looks like today!  In your name I pray these things.  -Amen!

Day 14 – All Your Anxiety

Philippians 4:6  (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
I know what you’re thinking, easier said than done, right?  We spend a lot of time consumed with worry and stress over things that we cannot control.  That doesn’t mean we don’t stop trying, but is it comforting to know that we have One who intercedes and hears our prayer?!  

Stress can become our prison if we allow it to consume us.  The anxiety that we may feel can also bring about other health concerns.  Letting go isn’t easy, but perhaps we have to begin by taking a step back from the problems at hand.  Get some perspective.  Look at something else instead of the trouble of stress you are facing.

Could it be that even within this moment it is a test of your faith?  Do you trust God to help you through it, even if He doesn’t deliver you from it?  In the grand scheme of things, how bad is your trouble really?  Has God not overcome worse in our world?  What makes you think that He won’t be there for you now?  

Paul tells us to bring everything to God through prayer and petition in a spirit of Thanksgiving.  That seems crazy to thank God for your troubles as well as your joys, but in so doing, we will experience His very real presence and power.  So make a list of your troubles, both big and small, and bring them before God in prayers of Thanksgiving.  Thank God for the challenges and for His presence.  Perhaps this could be an opportunity for you to test your faith (and perhaps your patience).  

Prayer: Dear Lord, I confess that I have troubles and stress in my life.  Help me to have some perspective on these things.  Allow me to have a deeper faith as I wait on you to lead me through.  Be with me now as I lay these petitions of Thanksgiving at your feet.  Today I pray for (list your troubles, anxiety and stress – name them, even say them out loud).  Close by thanking God for leading you through your past stresses and have faith that He will deliver you through these very present troubles.  -Amen.

The Breakfast Table

-Thoughts on Prayer-

Prayer is vitally important.
Prayer is also a spiritual discipline that should be spoken of frequently and taught to our children.  It is a constant conversation that takes place with Creator and we the creation.

cardsI remember when I was a young boy.  We had a small dining table located in the kitchen.  We didn’t have much.  My parents were missionaries and so we lived off of what was provided to us.  We were happy though, and the simple pleasures of life often occupied our small household.  At that breakfast table in the kitchen we had our humble meals.  Many times we ate fish at least five times a week.  But one thing was constant in that small room in which we gathered for our meals.  On that breakfast table sat a clear plastic stand with cards in it.  The cards were nestled in their place, they were small, sometimes multi-colored.  These cards looked like playing cards of one kind or another, but in fact they were scripture readings and a devotional thought for the day.  Most days my father or mother would select one of these multicolored cards, sometimes my sister and I would help pull them from their place.  Usually my father would read the card selected for the day.  My sister and I would listen,though admittedly as children tend to be,  I was often fidgety and sometimes would not hear what was being said.   But those devotional cards directed our day.  After the reading was finished we would pray.  Right there in that little kitchen, my sister and I first encountered this discipline of prayer, which was being modeled for us by our parents.

When I was a College Student.
Later in my life, I recall visiting relatives.  talk
We stayed in their home and talked into the late hours of the night.
There was laughter and tears only found and formed in the deep bonds of family.
In the morning, when we were ready to set off on our long journey home, I remember sitting at their breakfast table.  And much like our breakfast table long ago, there before us were those little multicolored cards resting in that clear plastic stand .   A card was selected from the stand on that morning, and as a part of a now much larger family, we read and prayed together.  It felt strangely  familiar and yet almost alien to me then.  I had been attending a Christian college, but if truth be told, I was further away from God than I have ever been in my life.  But sitting at that breakfast table, I was once again transformed into a child.  I was once more caught up in a glimpse of simpler days.  Sitting at that table early in the morning something fantastic happened to me.  I was reminded, I was renewed, I was plugged back in – because of family, because of the bonds of prayer, fellowship and relationship.

I recalled all of those times when I sat at that little breakfast table as a child, how I would fidget, how I would often dread having to sit and listen.  How, sometimes I loathed those little cards…and here I was, at another kitchen table, and hearing the same kind of card being read once more.  How I wished I could stop time and sit here for a little while longer.  How I wished I could go back to that little kitchen as a child and soak it all up again.  Perhaps this time I would listen.  Perhaps this time I would understand its importance.  Perhaps I would finally get it.  There, within my heart was this deep longing to reach out and touch the Master’s hand.  The intent of creation itself – to fellowship with God.  And how many times have we ignored, been too busy or too distracted to even stop and experience such an encounter?

This brief pause in the day wasn’t a ritual.  This breakfast table reading wasn’t devoid of meaning.  This little moment in a big day meant something far beyond my grasp at the time. But as I have grown older, and have children of my own, I now look back and can finally see how it shaped me.  I see how it molded me into who I am today.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Parents, don’t underestimate this time that you have with your children!
Take the time, even if you don’t always feel up to it.
I must confess that I haven’t always done this, but I now see how vital it truly is, and a part of me wishes I could go back for a moment and sit at that breakfast table once more and to encounter our times a family prayer again.

Something to ponder today.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Today is National Prayer day.
So let’s talk about prayer shall we?!

We have these images in our minds when we think about the word “Prayer”…perhaps it looks like this:  handsor maybe maybe this:
gardenThese iconic images of prayer are okay, but are they really what prayer looks like and should be for us today?  Don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting some of us might fold our hands like this when we pray, but by and large our prayer life probably looks more like this:

car.jpg

Driving back and forth from home to work, only to repeat this process.  Perhaps after a really good, challenging Sunday service we might feel compelled to be more intentional about prayer and so we turn off the radio and simply talk to God.  Realistically, the World around us seems to be a constantly busy place and our prayer life can begin to be measured out in how long it takes us to get to work.

Still there are some of us whose prayer life resembles this:
sleep
We work hard all day long and when it comes time for us to go to bed we think about prayer.  So we pray, and we are serious about it, but at the end of the day we are completely spent and so our prayers fall into sounds of deep breathing and even snoring.

I don’t say this as a guilt trip, because I’ve been guilty of this too.  We mean well, it’s just that our bodies and our minds are tired and we drift off to sleep.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer:
This will probably be unpopular among many Christians, but we are too soft.  We are not as disciplined as we should be in regards to prayer.  Instead of looking like this in our prayer life:  runing

(We don’t take the intentional time we need.  We aren’t focused.  We lack the discipline to keep going.  We struggle with many distractions such as TV, cell phones, social media, websites, books, video game…etc. )

So we end up looking more like this in regards to the discipline of prayer:
couch
And the only time we pull out our prayers, our conversations to God, is when we are in need of something.  Could it be that THIS is why we feel as if God isn’t listening?  Perhaps because we haven’t really disciplined ourselves enough to have a constant conversation with Him?

It’s like the couch potato suddenly gettingug up from the comfortable sofa and putting on their shoes and attempting to run a marathon without any training.  Sure, some might actually finish, but by and large most would fall flat on their faces in utter exhaustion.

Prayer takes work.  
Real prayer isn’t a bunch of “Thees” and “Thous” thrown into some fancy sentence full of flowery meaningless words.  God doesn’t want our ritualistic prayers.  He doesn’t want us to be something we’re not.  He wants our authenticity.  He longs for us to be completely candid with Him.  He already knows us, there’s nothing hidden from Him…so why do we feel as if we have to put up a wall or limit what we say to Him?

Brother Lawrence, in his little book called “The Practice of the Presence of God” said this; “Do not be discouraged by the resistance you will encounter from your human nature; you must go against your human inclinations. Often, in the beginning, you will think that you are wasting time, but you must go on, be determined and persevere in it until death, despite all the difficulties.
― (The Practice of the Presence of God)

True prayer requires concerted effort.
It might require us to become uncomfortable.
Discipline is required to spend time conversing with the Almighty.
It is not a waste of time.
He does hear us.
He will speak…but the question is are we actually listening?

Do we need prayer?
Absolutely…BUT perhaps prayer isn’t what we have always been taught it is.
Could it be that our prayers should resemble more of a constant invitation for God to hang out with us?  Could it be that instead of kneeling at our bedside,  we continually begin to think and speak to our Creator?  Perhaps we’ve been taught prayer is all about closing our eyes…maybe we should open them instead.  God longs for our fellowship, and a part of that fellowship is our constant communication with Him.  He is nearer than we think or realize.  But perhaps could it be that our hearts are not completely in tune with Him?  Perhaps we are out of sync due to our random, undisciplined prayer lives?

The Discipline of prayer is more than just a notch in the “Christian” belt of accomplishments (hopefully we don’t think of it like that), it is connect ourselves completely to the Divine.  It is a part of Holiness.  It is a part of the complete surrender the Holy Spirit is desiring from us.  For many of us, a complete surrender is really scary to think about.  Instead of thinking about the things we will give up, think about the life that we will gain and the peace and knowledge that brings.

I’m not there either, but I want to be.
Something more to ponder today.

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