Tuesday, March 28, 2017

…From Strength to Strength … “Spring Training”…Have You Started?

This afternoon I was caught by surprise at the sound of robins singing (loudly) outside my front door.  I actually looked toward my new phone thinking it had to be a “ring” that somehow had been programmed accidentally.  What a rush of joy I experienced, discovering this early herald of Spring in late March!  What a blessing…and what an opportunity I had to praise God.

James Bryan Smith considers consciously counting our blessings as a very powerful opportunity and a spiritual exercise.  In his book, “The Good and Beautiful God” he suggests starting a list of all the wonderful things with which God has blessed us.
“Pay attention to the details in your life.  Look for the hidden things…start small…come up with a list of 10 things…keep adding to it each day...most of us are accustomed to waking up thinking about our problems.  This exercise will help us shift our focus…to the many things that are beautiful and wonderful.“
A daily practice this simple can change our total outlook.  It can change us.  It’s soul training that can transform our hearts just as athletic training strengthens our bodies.  This ongoing habit will then turn into a lifestyle.  The same author quotes musician and author, David Crowder:
“When good is found and we embrace it with abandon, we embrace the Giver of it…every second is an opportunity to praise.  There is a choosing to be made.  A choosing at each moment.  This is the praise Habit.  Finding God moment by revelatory moment, in the sacred and the mundane, in the valley and on the hill, in triumph and tragedy, and living praise erupting because of it.  That is what we are made for.“
“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable…”  I Corinthians 9:25
Start your list.  Start your Spring Soul Training.  The robins are already singing!
Resources for Going Deeper:
​​"The Good and Beautiful God, Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows"  by James Bryan Smith

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

...From Strength to Strength..." Hurry...and Slow Down

John Ortberg asked Dallas Willard what was the one thing Willard could recommend that would bring new energy to Ortberg’s spiritual life. Ortberg says that Willard’s reply was ‘shocking in its simplicity.’ Dallas Willard looked him in the eye and said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.”

Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Formation  November 20, 2013

Coming out of a refreshing Sabbath, it can often feel a bit shocking to step back into the pace of life as we know it.  Hurry and busyness have become a norm that affects our souls, our thinking and our communication with one another.   We have become a society infected with “Hurry Sickness.”

It’s no stretch to assume we all are conscious of the ever increasing speed of technology and travel.  In addition, have you noticed any straining in order to catch what is being said today?  This is especially relevant in the entertainment industry.   A quick Google search confirmed that the average optimal speed of speech is now 180 words per minute, while most of us speak and comprehend comfortably at approximately 125 words per minute (in English).
Eugene Peterson, editor of The Message has this to say: “ In all language silence is as important as sound.  But more often than not we are merely impatient with the silence… Why do we talk so much?  Why do we talk so fast?  Hurry is a form of violence practiced on time.  But time is sacred.  The purpose of language is not to murder silence but to enter it, cautiously and reverently.”

Ahhh, but how do we thwart the effects of hurry sickness?  How do we preserve the delightful refreshing of the Sabbath as we necessarily enter back into life?  How do we stand against a culture that is spinning out of control?

We do it with intentional slowing.  We do it by practicing the present moment in real time.  We do it by deliberately slowing down our speech.  We do it by listening.  And we do it by yielding to the directive of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”

Other very simple practices that can thwart the deadly effects of this contemporary illness are:
  • Re-establish the family dinner hour (at least a couple times each week) and linger longer in the company of those you love.
  • Oh, and how about simply chewing your food slower?
  • Purposefully drive in the slower lane (because you’ve made the effort to allow enough time).
  • Breathe deeply, look, and really listen when someone is speaking to you.
  • Smile and engage with the cashier as you check out at the grocery store.
  • Examine your schedule and add some buffer time between meetings.  Even 10 extra minutes will have a cumulative effect.

This past week I was directed to Biola University’s “Center For Christianity Culture & the Arts” and was totally blessed by their series:  The Lent Project. http://ccca.biola.edu/lent/2017/

As you contemplate this modern dilemma, please take time to watch the introductory presentation from that website.  It will definitely cause you to ponder the value of slowing.

Introduction to the 2017 Lent Project 

Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  
Resources for Going Deeper:
​​"Spiritual Disciplines Handbook" by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
"Answering God" by Eugene Peterson
"Soul Keeping: Caring For The Most Important Part of You" by John Ortberg