Tag Archive | spiritual disciplines

Refrigerator Prayers

sorrow bwI have friends who are preparing for ministry overseas, and recently they distributed prayer cards. If you’ve been in the evangelical world for any length of time, you know what I’m talking about–those cards that look like photo Christmas cards with a photo of the family and then the family’s specific prayer needs. I put them on my fridge so I’ll remember them.

Because this family is in preparation mode with another year or two here in the States, the card was filled with prayers that might apply to anyone. Prayers for family unity, marital unity, spiritual growth, financial needs to be met, and transitions to go well. Now, lest I sound like I’m putting down these prayer cards or the specific prayers, I’m not. However, as I read the card, I wondered what it might be like to have a prayer card for everyone in my church.

The idea behind the refrigerator card (my term, by the way) is that a family that’s out of sight is out of mind, and we need to see them to remember to pray for them. Makes sense. But a lot of my church family I see on Sunday and no other times. I have to admit I fall into the out of sight, out of mind mentality a lot. Sure, my body rallies around one another in times of need, but sometimes, in times of regular life, we’re absent from each other’s lives. I don’t like it, but that’s the culture we live in.

I wish I was better at regular, organized prayer. I get that Satan hates us praying, and it is one of the most intense battlefields out there, but I am a child of the King, and I should be able to overcome. Too often, though, I get lazy and don’t include regular prayer in my life.

But what if I did? And what if I had a prayer card in front of me for every family in my church? What if I knew my church family had a prayer card for me? What if once a year I could let someone know what struggles are forefront in my life, and I could know that maybe once a week or once a month or even just once a year everyone in my body would lift those prayers to God on my behalf?

My friends’ prayer card is on my fridge. I need to find a better place for it, a place devoted to prayer, a place devoted to God. I need to arm myself and fight for my Bible reading and prayer life. My friends will soon head into a new world with new difficulties, and they need to count on my prayers to get them through. Right now, I’m not reliable.

And in lieu of a booklet of prayer cards for the rest of my church family (Wouldn’t that be awesome?), I need to find a way to keep each of them in prayer. Not just during the times of struggle, but during the mundane times. Why do I limit my prayers to big items and not pray for my friends’ children’s salvation, their marriages, their personal walks with God? And how can I remind myself and push myself and be the prayer warrior my church family–and my biological family needs?

We just had a wedding at our house, and in a few weeks my oldest will be purchasing a house, so two of my crew will be leaving. Only three of us will be left here. My life is going to slow down. I will have even fewer excuses than before for the lazy state of my life with God. As we transition, I hope and pray that I will put new safeguards into place and once again reorganize my life around my main priority, the God who loves and rescued me. The armor has slipped, and it’s time to cinch it up, get serious, and head back into battle. I’m not sure what that looks like since I fail more than I get it right, but I have to try again. Every failure must be followed with another try. I’m so glad God covers us with grace so we can always, always, always start again.

Fat Caterpillar Times

fat-caterpillar-timesIt had been a strange week in our house. First, we had raccoons. For a few nights they were under our house in the crawl space. I heard them banging the underside of the bathtub and rattling around the pipes. I was really afraid they would ruin the pipes and I would hear free-running water under there.

A couple days later they were in the attic. Sounded like they were doing gymnastics up there. I would love to have a video camera set up to see exactly what a raccoon does in an empty attic. Our cats kept wandering the house staring at the ceiling, because raccoons are not quiet. They don’t seem to have any kind of stealth technology. When they were under the floor, I would find all of our animals sitting in a circle staring straight down, like they were expecting a demon to come up through the floor at any moment.

Meanwhile, we also got a letter that week from the water company. It was addressed to Occupant, and I almost threw it away. Glad I didn’t. They wanted to inform me that they realized water was coming into this house, and since we weren’t water company customers, that water would be shut off soon. We’ve paid a water bill in this house for seventeen years now. We were definitely water customers.

Except we weren’t. The computer said no, they’d never heard of us before. So, my husband paid a small fee for us to become brand new water customers. It was completely surreal.

That week I also started my twenty-first year of homeschooling. I have two years to go before I graduate all four of my kids from home. In years past I had more of a support network than I do this year. I am one of two home school moms in my church–the other is doing pre-school–and it’s very strange. I definitely keep my feelings on education to myself. Teaching at home is a lifestyle that touches everything we do, and it’s hard being alone in that lifestyle. Cultures clash sometimes. But since I’m the minority, I take the silent role. It’s a shift, but it’s not a big deal. Just something to think about as I deal with people in my immediate community.

Life ebbs and flows. Good days, bad days, strange days… It’s always new. Always an adventure. God sets our days up, and we live them out. Sometimes life can be devastating and filled with grief. And then some days the biggest threat is a raccoon punching through the roof. I don’t really mind the raccoon days. They’re the breathing times, when the rhythm of life is slow and lazy. Right now we’re experiencing a lazy time in our lives, and I rather like it.

I wrote a book where a character called these the Fat Caterpillar times, those times when we munch on leaves and don’t worry about much. In the book the character suggested using the lazy times to grow. Spend more time during those days reading the Bible, praying, creating a solid foundation. Because harder days are always on the horizon. My character said every one of us on the spiritual path will eventually become a butterfly, and change is hard. It’s those quiet munching times where we fatten up with everything we’ll need to feed us during the lean times, the shifting, changing times of hardship.

I’m not sad to be experiencing a fat caterpillar time right now. I have to work hard, though, to remember to cling to God during these times, to feed and drink deeply from His Word, to develop habits that will get me through the harder times, because they are inevitable. During the lazy, easy days of life it’s easy to let my growth routines fall into disrepair.

Meanwhile, we got the raccoons out of the attic. I need to keep an eye on the water account in case something strange is going on with our digital identity. I need to focus on this brand new school year with my final child and student, who is about to make big decisions for his future.

And mostly, I need to make sure I develop strong habits now to support me. Eventually I will need them, and times of change are so much easier to handle if this fat caterpillar has a belly filled with truth.

Organizing the Scattered Soul

scattered soulBecause I’m a homeschooling mom of four, people think I must be organized.  I’ve had people ask me questions that assume a person who successfully educates her children must have lists and routines and tips and tricks to make things run smoothly. To which I always laugh, because really, there’s not a whole lot of organization going on here.

Not that I haven’t tried. I adore lists. When I’m writing lists, I don’t actually have to do any real things.  Lists are easy.

I organize my computer all the time. In fact, just this week I organized all the images in my computer–those that go with books, with blogs, different folders and files, and it’s a work of art. And I did it because all that takes is a few clicks.  Clicking is easy.

Yes, I’m really a very lazy person. I like life slow, slow enough that I don’t really have to be organized. If I’m so busy I need a day planner, I’m too busy. I tend to plan the day’s school lessons on the fly, while my kid does his math problems. I have no idea what we’re having for dinner tomorrow, and there’s a good chance that will still be the case five minutes before dinnertime tomorrow.

Being organized is great. I spent years wishing I was organized.  But, I’m not wired that way.  The thing is, I’m organized enough, in a way that works for me and my family, for our schedule, for our level of busyness. Or that’s what I tell myself. But maybe there are instances where a little organized, mindful living is in order.

First, I know I have to develop some routines. I am the worst at routine. Fortunately, my Chihuahua Sparrow has been teaching me in this area. This little guy thrives on routine. At night he moves through the house and brings each toy to my bed, until they are all safely settled around us. (My husband, second shift, climbs into bed in the middle of the night and ends up sleeping on dog toys, poor guy.)

In the morning, the dog and I get up first, and Sparrow heads outside and then eats breakfast. Usually Skye the cattledog pup is part of this. But then, once Skye is outside looking for cattle to herd, Sparrow stands at the door to my bedroom and whines. He wants me to get all his toys off the bed. We call it the Morning Toy Rescue, and it happens every morning. I sneak into the darkened bedroom and try to dig toys out of the comforter without rousing my husband, the dog prancing at my feet for me to hurry.

Yep, I was never good at set nap times with my kids, but my dog is whipping me into shape. Go figure.

I’m about to make some changes in my life with respect to my time. I’m about to finish teaching at co-ops and focus on writing a little more, work toward some marketing, see if I can make writing pay a little better. But I can keep limping along as I am and survive. However, there is one area where I have to stop limping and start thriving, one area where I need to organize, one area where I know I’m failing, and failure in this area means failure over all.

It’s why I’m clearing my house and rethinking my schedule and making lists I intend to read. It’s why I’m soaking up information about clearing my spirit and learning disciplines. Quite simply, I need to remember God. Not once a day. Not once a week. But all the time. I need routines that force me to read his Word, pray, reach out to those who need me, write words he wants me to write, etc. And I’m not doing it. In all my years of disorganization, I’ve gotten other things done, but not this one.

Because this one matters. Because there is an acute battle against this one. This one can change the world, and so all the forces of the world oppose it.

I’m reading and listening to podcasts about scheduling and time management. My schedule is open and ready. My home is clearing out of extras that weigh me down. Now I need to put a few routines in place, organize a few things, make physical places, time places, and soul places where regular communion with God happens.  Morning routines, evening routines, whatever it takes.

Having a perfectly clean bathroom and set dinner times are nice, but I can get along without them. But having a casual, whenever-I-get-around-to-it relationship with Jesus?  That’s not going to cut it. This year I’ve tasted the sweetness of being close to God, hearing his Spirit. I don’t want to taste it. I want to eat deeply, every day of my life. I want to choke on it until I’m breathing it and living it with my entire spirit.

And for that, I need to get serious, strategize, and give up my love of randomness, at least in a few areas.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Next week I finish teaching. I just downloaded some courses on time and schedules. My book on spiritual disciplines is out and waiting. I can do better than I have been. Lord willing, soon I will be.

Worksheets and Discipline

sunset rays MGD©Prayer. Worship. Hospitality. Meditation.

Spiritual disciplines. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about spiritual disciplines. Then, in a completely not surprising move, a woman at church offered a short group study on spiritual disciplines. Really, the Spirit has tossed all subtlety out the window lately when it comes to speaking with me. Like I’m three and he has to speak in short, simple sentences with big gestures. And if you think I’m complaining, let me assure you I am not. I love it. I’m not proud, and I’d rather be a three year-old who hears than a sophisticated adult living clueless.

Anyway, the spiritual discipline study started with a worksheet to try to discover where my heart is right now, where I want to meet God, what the Spirit might be saying to me. I love worksheets. I sat down with it and realized right away that at the moment I’m living in a bit of a spiritual fervor. I want to try ALL of them. Now. Today. Cancel all my prior engagements, like making dinner and cleaning the bathroom and preparing for teaching tomorrow, so I can delve into God’s Word, into his heart, learn about my heart, hear from him, bask in him…

This is a change. This is a huge change. I know it’s huge enough that it can’t last, not the way it is now. Life isn’t a constant spiritual high. But right now, suddenly feeling God in ways I never have before, suddenly able to ignore the voices in my head that try to convince me I’m not good enough, not really his daughter, I feel so free to get close to God. It doesn’t feel like a burden. It doesn’t feel like I’m giving up anything to spend time with Him. The Spirit, who has been peripheral in my life at best and ignored for the most part–I want to know him. I want to listen to Him. I want more of Him.

And he seems pretty happy about that. I’m seeing connections in my Bible reading. I’m also connecting with a few people with my writing and in friendships, so it’s both inward and outward. It’s exciting.

However, I can’t do it all right away. For now, I have to make some choices. Because I have spent a lot of years lying to myself about who I am and whether God loves that person, I’m leaning toward spiritual disciplines like prayer, silence, meditation. I want to know what Paul hoped for me, that I would see the depth and height of Jesus’ love for me. I think that’s my starting point. Once I’ve got some background there, once that is settled in my head with Scripture backing and prayer time, then I’ll be ready for other things. More outward things.

Because, and I’ve said this before, I fear turning so far inward that I’m useless to God. I’m human. I am more than happy to be the center of my own universe. For now, I need to settle in God’s arms a little bit and learn from him. I need to find a place where I am hearing the Spirit on a regular basis, well beyond the spiritual high of this moment. And then it’s time to add things that reach those around me. Hospitality. Mentoring. Conversations with people about God’s love and his son. All those can happen because I am safe here in God’s love.

Baby steps. For now, I’ve got my spiritual discipline worksheet in hand, and I’m looking for ways God might engage with me to show me his heart and his love. Whatever he has planned for me, I’m pretty sure knowing his love will be the foundation, and I’m excited to sink further and further into it. Come, Spirit, come.

Diabetes, discipline, and being a pancreas

I’m a type one diabetic.  That’s the insulin kind, the one where the pancreas stops doing its job and the afflicted person must learn to think like a pancreas.  Even though a pancreas doesn’t have a brain of its own, it’s a smart little thing, and I’m not excellent at taking its job.

My life works better if it’s very routine.  If I eat at the same time each day, and I eat about the same foods, and I exercise about the same amount, and  the climate doesn’t shift, and my sleep schedule remains static, and I don’t get sick or experience stress, my sugar levels stay steady, and I feel good.

It probably goes without saying that I struggle to make that happen, and so I don’t always feel good.  My family has to stop sometimes and wait for me to correct a low or bring down a high.  They know sometimes we cut a shopping trip short so I can fix my levels, and sometimes we arrive someplace late because Mom isn’t able to drive when it’s time to leave.  Although I attend church meals–or other social meals–they never go well, so everyone knows to leave Mom alone afterward while she fixes what inevitably makes her feel terrible.

My spiritual life needs discipline, too, just like my physical life.  God doesn’t require me to read his Word daily for a set amount of time.  He doesn’t have strict rules about time spent in prayer or scheduled moments of meditation.  If I miss church one Sunday, I’m not thrown out of the family.  But, routines in my spiritual life make me feel better.  I need to worship and participate in communion to experience his power in my life.  I need to read the Bible and pray to know who God is and how to live the life he meant for me.  I need to meditate on him and avoid things that harm me so I have the resources to deal with anything he puts in my path.

The only way to be prepared for the life God has in store for me is to prepare, to train.  It isn’t exciting, but that means routine.  Physical routine is the best way for me to fight my physical limitation.  Spiritual routine prepares me to fight my spiritual limitations, namely being in sinful body in a sinful world.

Spiritual routine and discipline aren’t about legalism and doing things to make God love me or accept me.  It’s one reason there are no one-size-fits-all disciplines.  It’s why God never said “Open each day with thirty minutes of Bible reading followed by twenty minutes of prayer.”  It’s individual, but it’s important.  It’s how we feed and grow and remain healthy.

I will continue to struggle with diabetes, and I will continue to struggle with spiritual routine, too.  Sometimes I’ll let other things take too much time and attention.  Highs and lows in blood sugar come with symptoms that are hard to ignore, but when I’m spiritually out of balance it’s not always so obvious, so I have to be careful.  I need to watch myself, and it’s a good idea to have others regularly watch with me and help me stay the course.

Because in the end, I’m working toward a feast.  I’ll eat just like everyone else, with no thoughts of being a pancreas.   And then I will also see Jesus, for whom I trained with such discipline, and he will eat and laugh with me.  As I get older that day becomes more exciting, worth any difficulties along the way.  Discipline and routine aren’t always exciting, but my excitement over the rewards to come make it all worth it.