Posts Tagged ‘practice’

Achieve a Decent Existence

March 3, 2016

How do you become a great scorer in basketball?

You shoot a couple of hundred jump shots a day.

How do top golf professionals get there and stay there?

They hit a few hundred shots a day.

But it is not mindless repetition. It’s taking a shot. Thinking about it. Making slight adjustments. Practicing the same motion every time so that when they’re in the game it’s natural.

Same in our daily lives–both how we live and our spiritual life.

Why do you think Paul so often compares spiritual life to training in the gymnasium? Dallas Willard writes in The Spirit of the Disciplines:

But thoughtful and religiously devout people of the classical and Hellenistic world, from the Ganges to the Tiber, knew that the mind and body of the human being had to be rigorously disciplined to achieve a decent individual and social existence. This is not something St. Paul had to prove or even explicitly state to his readers.

We must discipline ourselves in the sense of developing those routines of daily life including prayer, study, gathering together with others such that they become natural. The difference is that we are not practicing for the game–we’re in the game and practicing at the same time.

I set up routines such that it is only natural that I do certain things–rise early, read, have my coffee, think, plan the day. I try to do these when I travel, too. I crave routine.

My “virtual friend” Jon Swanson wrote today about Solomon who built a great and magnificent house for God. But he forgot the daily life of walking with God. And, in the end, it all came apart for him and his heirs.

It’s not the temple we build, it’s the daily practices that eventually build the temple that matters–our lives in service with God toward other humans.

Practice? I don’t need no stinkin practice

March 2, 2016

Daddy wrote to me, “Can’t you just send a badge (to referee)? She knows the rules better than anyone. She’s just too busy to come to a class.”

She took one class at 15 years old. I’ll guarantee you that she’d be lucky to get an 80 on a closed book exam of the Laws of the Game. (We don’t have “rules” in FIFA based soccer; we have laws. Except of course for the ex-president of FIFA who thought that both rules and laws were for other people.)

I’ve been the point person for referees in western Ohio for almost 30 years. I hear this several times every year. Worse, I’ll get 50 emails a year from parents–at least. I trust the kid to go out and referee a match, yet he/she cannot communicate with me. Daddy or Mommy must do it.

How am I supposed to help the kids grow up when they have parents like that?

I have one referee who is almost 20 (actually, I have four come to think of it) who still have difficulty with responsibility and commitment after having “helicopter” parents.

Talking with a piano teacher today. She says kids will drop the class (parent calls, of course)  for the slightest whim. Five minutes before class. The teacher is paid by the class. Now she has an unpaid void in the calendar.

Practices help us compete better, perform better, learn better.

Spiritual practices, done in the proper attitude, bring us closer to God. It’s no different than soccer or piano. We must discipline ourselves to stay with it. To learn the basics and then the advanced.

There is no shortcut to life in the Spirit. We must be open while we practice and learn to live every day.

Teach Us To Pray

January 14, 2016

“Lord, teach us to pray.”

Writing about prayer yesterday dredged up some memories of teaching people to pray. Paul has much to say that is practical. Jesus’ disciples asked him point blank one day. He responded with the “model” prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer.

Once in my idealism, I offered a class on how to pray to my church. There were a few takers. My idea was to, well, er, teach them how to pray. As in, let’s see an example of a type of prayer, then spend the rest of the class practicing that prayer. You know, contemplation, intercessory, supplication–the whole thing.

The trouble was–they didn’t want to practice. They wanted what we call “book knowledge.” But they were uncomfortable actually praying.

Did the same thing with a class on spiritual formation. We gathered a dozen people into our family room and I led them through Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. What I tried to do during those 10 weeks or so was to get them to start actually practicing some of the “Spiritual Disciplines.” Did we pray daily? Study daily? Fast regularly? Worship? Serve?

They just wanted to learn the words from the book. I don’t know if any actually changed their life practices by incorporating a daily habit of spiritual practice.

Funny thing is I read constantly. But when I find something worthwhile, I try to add it into my daily or weekly (depending) habits. I’m far from perfect, but it would take a book to discuss the growth in my life due to spiritual practices. More even-tempered. Discernment. Ability to recognize the needs of others.

I think when Jesus taught his disciples to pray that he expected them to actually pray. Pray to recognize God’s holiness. Pray for our daily sustenance. Pray for God’s kingdom. Pray for others. Even pray for ourselves.

So let’s lift up our hands and actually pray–and follow Paul’s advice to do it without arguing or anger. Prayer is so powerful; it will change your life.


Finding a Rhythm For Spiritual Practice

March 16, 2015

Every community has a rhythm. A rhythm to rising from sleep, praying, eating, working, studying, eating, relaxing, and sleep.

As an outsider, you notice the rhythm. If you are of a sympathetic nature, you find yourself adapting your natural rhythms to those of the community. If you are more self-centered, you try to impose your rhythm or at least complain about the community’s.

Last week, I was with a small team working and growing at the Tijuana Christian Mission. The orphanage at Soler in Tijuana has its rhythm to which I just sort slipped into.

This is the home of the older children–junior and senior high–served by the mission. They rise before 5 am. Martha, the founder of the orphanage who is in her 70s, is up with them. She leads a Bible study at 5:40 for about a half hour. They eat and are in vans on the way to various schools by 7.

I slipped gently into their routine, since my normal rhythm is to rise around 5:30, study, mediatate and pray. Then have a small breakfast. 

My adjustments were small. Breakfast was prepared for me by Karla and Alma. It was much larger than I’m accustomed to. It was not extravagent. Healthy and prepared by loving hands. And there was no place for a motning run. But work replaced that.

I recently heard Nancy Ortberg talk about the rhythm of spiritual practice. As someone trained as a percussionist, I immediately adopted that metaphor. 

Have you found a rhythm to your practice? Is it a hard-driving on-beat like The Beatles? Moving like a Mozart sonata? Or discordant like a work by John Cage?

In this case, I prefer Mozart.

Coaches Help Us Train

January 26, 2015

Athletes even at the highest levels practice constantly. They train both their bodies and their minds. They intentionally develop “muscle memory” such that the muscles act and react in the heat of the competition in the correct way just as trained.

Minds must also be trained. Focus on the important things is required. The higher the level of competition, the more intense the focus. An offensive lineman in American football may be trained to focus just on the position of the feet of his opponent whom he must block before the ball is put into play.

Many athletes have talent. Many also never develop that talent. They don’t practice. They fail to focus. They don’t care to learn.

There are few things more disappointing than to see someone who has talent, gifts, and opportunity, and fails to achieve what could have been.

Often it is simply due to laziness. They just don’t do the work. Sometimes, it is due to a misplaced or mistimed word. Someone says something negative that the person just cannot overcome.

If we know someone who is not developing, it is our duty to mentor that person. Say the appropriate word. Give a supporting comment. Or give the appropriate “kick in the pants” to get them off the lazy, unfocused path.

At the end of Chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about being aware of our brothers. Instead of thinking “it’s all about me,” he encourages us not to do something (or say something) that would cause a brother or sister to fail. I think this applies often to us today. We know the power of words and relationship. We know that by considering others instead of just being wrapped up in our own cares we can save many a person from a path of destruction and despair; instead freeing them to fulfill their potential.

All great athletes have great coaches who guide them; all Christ-followers need a mentor to encourage them.