Posts Tagged ‘practices’

Fear Keeps Us From Ourselves

July 30, 2015

The story of David and Goliath. We know it. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s interesting but somewhat inaccurate book, many more know it.

Little boy (probably not that little) kills giant warrior while the entire army of Israel cowers in fear.

Out alone watching the family flock of sheep, David learned to deal with his fear while protecting the flock from wild animals.

Is fear holding you back?

Sometimes we are not as successful at what we wish to do as we could be due to an underlying sense of fear that prevents us from going all out for achievement.

I was that way. There were people who encouraged me. They actually thought I was intelligent and could do the work. But I held back–for years. Insecurity, fear. Then one day it was gone.

There is someone now in my life who has all the trappings of success–spiritual background, faith, degrees (plural), position. Yet, something holds this person back from being everything God has laid out in the path of life.

Self-help gurus latched on to a little psychology research and preached this message since the beginning of self-help guru movements. Even so, it’s true.

How did David overcome the fear? Every day making the little acts that added up to larger acts that led to killing the mighty warrior of his enemy.

It’s not that he didn’t know fear. Read the rest of his story. But he could overcome his fears and become a great leader.

Is fear holding you back?

Take those little steps in faith to live out your spiritual gifts. Start today. Do one thing that moves you forward. One practice. One conversation. One gift given.

How Close To God Do We Wish To Be

July 22, 2015

Recently during a small group discussion one man in the midst of a discussion said, “You know, we can be as close to Jesus as we want to be.”

That was a profound statement that just passed over the group.

I brought it back up at the end of the time. It is worth careful consideration.

The doctrine of prevenient grace states that God is always pursuing us and ready to accept us.


The question for us to think and then act on is whether we are pursuing God.

Another man said that he had started a practice of praying at the office before work. The other day he forgot to in the busyness of getting ready for the day.

Guess what, he had a bad day.

Spiritual practices exist for a reason. Thousands of years of experience by seekers after God have shown that setting up a routine of study and prayer especially early in the day is a perfect way of reminding us to pursue God and his ways in our daily life.

We can get as close as we want. How close to God do we want to be?

Praying Your Way Out

February 19, 2015

There is one God, the Father,

From whom are all things, and we to him;

And one Lord, Jesus the Messiah,

Through whom are all things, and we through him.

–1 Cor 8:6 (The sh’ma rewritten by Paul)

One of the guys at last night’s Bible study asked about the situation when you aren’t as “on fire” in the spirit as you had been for a while.

There was a survey of 17,000 followers of Jesus where they asked that question. Did you ever feel away from the spirit, and, if so, what did you do to get back? More than 3,000 said yes. Reading the Bible daily and praying were the path back into the spirit.

We call those spiritual disciplines or spiritual practices. They are a means through which you can rekindle the fire of the spirit. They also should become so habitual that they form your character.

Paul, good Jewish boy and eventually Pharisee, no doubt prayed the Sh’ma every day. “Hear O Israel, The Lord, the Lord our God is one. And you shall love The Lord….”

Paul, after his meeting with the risen Jesus, “rethought” his Jewish teaching in light of the coming of the Messiah. Recorded in 1 Corinthians is a new prayer with which to begin each day. A new Sh’ma.

There was a man who lived in 19th Century Russia. He lost everything he had including wife and kids. All that was left was his Bible and a teaching from a priest quoting Paul, “You should pray without ceasing.” The priest taught him the “Jesus Prayer,”

Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

You can say that prayer with breath. Inhale Jesus Christ, son of God; Exhale have mercy on me, a sinner.

This peasant’s story is recorded in The Way of a Pilgrim. He tried to live praying without ceasing. And people kept coming into his life at just the right moment with just the right assistance.

The Jesus Prayer is powerful. I am now trying to memorize the “new sh’ma” and incorporate it into my life. It helps maintain focus when all around is chaos.

To Lent or Not To Lent

February 18, 2015

My mind was full of competing thoughts. All were bouncing freely through the brain. There are now three partially written meditations cluttering my computer–and my brain.

Then I noticed that it is Ash Wednesday.

I completely missed Fat Tuesday–Mardi Gras!

Oh, but that is OK. I don’t have to store up all the bad things in order to make it through 40 days of fasting. Among the traditions of my youth, observing Lent was not one that was observed. Most of the kids in my village did. Most were Lutheran, descendents of German-speaking Alsatians who came to America in the 1840s. We (the Methodists) sort of wondered about those Lutherans. Mom said to never marry one.

Mostly when we talked about ritual, we used the term “empty ritual.” This feeling was only strengthened when stories went around about what various people in town gave up for Lent. My favorite was the guy who gave up watermelon every year. Of course, we wouldn’t see any watermelon for another six months! Talk about empty.

We also didn’t have church and get ashes. Didn’t have a clue about that.

Someone just tried to define a ritual as something we do to change God, while a practice is something we do to work on ourselves. But I know many who gain great spiritual comfort from the traditions of ritual. That is not a bad thing.

It is good to set aside time to reflect on Easter. That is the single day/single act that sets us aside from all others. The day that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. He was alive. He was hope in person.

It was good to be reminded. I need reminders.

If you give up something, do it wisely and reverently. I have a friend who gives up fried food, desserts, and (hardest of all) beer every year for Lent. He loses 15 pounds. But then comes Easter 😉 But he does it out of reverence for the season. He’s 85. Has been doing this for at least 20 years. It reminds him of why we have Lent.

What will we do in remembrance?

Trust As Faith Foundation

September 30, 2014

Yesterday I was meditating upon why it is that some people display such insecurity and lack of confidence.

Then I listened to Andy Stanly discuss trust as a foundation.

When Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, he faced the leadership challenge of introducing a people who had known only slavery for 400 years to freedom. He had to form a nation. At every step of the way from God’s first call to Moses to his entire leadership God just told them, “Trust me.”

The introduction to the 10 Commandments and then the first Commandment dealt with trust. “You shall have no other Gods before me” and “I am the Lord your God”.

It important that we come to deeply understand and feel this presence of God. Through this we should be able to gain confidence and trust.

How do we get to that point if we are not already there?

  • Read, study, meditate on the Bible and other spiritual writing
  • Spend time daily in silence focusing on God and inviting God’s presence
  • Join a community of worshipers for celebration, worship and support

Daily Spiritual practices will get you back on track if you have slipped off the rails. They will also fortify and deepen your existing faith.

Pattern Recognition for Growth and Success

September 3, 2014

Our brains are excellent at pattern recognition. Except, that is, when we’re looking at the patterns of our own lives.

The premise of Henry Cloud’s latest book, “Never Go Back”, is that successful people come to a point where they see a pattern in their lives that is not working out. When they see that pattern “they go through a door and never go back.”

Or, to state the inverse, Proverbs contains a statement, “A fool returns to his folly.”

It seems like every time I’m in some sort of transition period, Cloud releases a new book that speaks directly to my condition.

It was four years ago this week when I found myself in the hospital for the first time since I was born with a painfully torn quadriceps muscle.

That event seemed to be the start of some necessary transformations, and Cloud released “Necessary Endings” which spoke directly to the situation. I needed to find a end game and start something new.

But then I repeated a pattern by getting drawn into another dysfunctional business relationship. Andy Stanley recently talked about decision-making–if you feel a tension stop and reflect. I felt the tension, but I didn’t stop. That was a pattern repeating. It had happened several times before.

I’ve gone through that door, hopefully to never return.

Sometimes the pattern is breaking a habit–more properly stated as replacing a dysfunctional habit with a new, healthier one.

There is a spiritual pattern we can fall into where we sort of “lose” the spirit. We can leave that situation through intentional spiritual practices–reading the Bible, prayer, join a small study group.

Others we break when we realize the dysfunction and never go back.

Learn By Copying First, Then Creating

December 26, 2013

I’ve had several days with the grandkids over the past five weeks. They are old enough, especially the oldest who is six, to start playing with a little more sophisticated toys.

Have you noticed how some of the “creative” toy companies have come out with more structured toys? Specifically Legos. You used to get a box with maybe a couple of examples on the lid and then you just let the kid start creating. Now, there are specific toys. I’ve been helping Wyatt build Nijagas (or something like that–I’m afraid that I’ve lost touch with kid culture).

Originally I’d have had a negative attitude about such structure. But I’ve discovered that he’s learning some tremendous lessons that are appropriate to his age.

He is learning to follow instructions on how to build something. In so doing, he’s learning about the different types of blocks and what they do. As he masters these, then, if he is so inclined, he’ll move on to creating his own masterpieces.

Every artist I’ve ever studied has begun by mastering all the techniques that came before. The great ones then extend the practice by adding their own insights and techniques.

Leaders study other leaders. Practice what they learned. Study some more, and become eventually great leaders.

Even spiritually. I think a lot about the very short scene we have about Jesus’ life where he was 12 (which was “older” than today’s 12 in developed nations) and studying with the greatest teachers at the time in his culture. Even Jesus didn’t just drop in a spiritual master. He was human, too, and had to learn. He was just predisposed to focus on the right questions.

That is the value of learning and practicing the traditional spiritual practices. You practice, and practice, and practicce.

Almost no one is born a master craftsman or spiritual guru. But we can all become a master at something. Just by spending 15 minutes first thing in the morning developing the practice of study and meditation will, over a lifetime, bring you to spiritual maturity.

Start by learning the basics and copying someone or something good. Then add to the practice and become a master–even a spiritual master.