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  • Crafting a Rule of Life

    Last week my wife and I attended the Renovare National Conference in Houston, TX. It was a great few days being exposed to new ideas, insights and practices around spiritual formation. On the first day, I attended an all-day intensive titled, "Crafting a Rule of Life." It was led by Steve Macchia of Leadership Transformations using material from his book of the same name.

    For those not familiar with a "rule of life," it provides fences, safety, or perhaps boundaries within which we can roam freely and enjoy LIFE. Not intended to be harsh or burdensome, it's instead life-giving as it brings clarity to the life that God desires for us. 

    "Discovering one’s personal rule of life will change the trajectory of your life. It will realign your days. It will focus your attention on the Author of life and will create for you the deepest possible connection to God’s assignment for you."

    I deeply desire that for my life with God. My wife and I plan to begin this journey together and invite our three adult sons to join us. I'll be posting some thoughts about our experience in this space in the weeks to come.

  • A Morning Prayer

    Over the last few months I've spent some time composing a prayer based on various sources, that I've used in the mornings to jumpstart my daily walk with God. It's a launching pad for me that guides me into the areas I really want to give attention. I'm posting it in case you might want to use it or tweak it for your personal needs.

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    Prayer of Adoration

    LORD, I lift up my soul to you. Help me to understand your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation. My heart says, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I now seek. I will watch for you all day long. Give ear to my words, O God; listen to the sound of my cry as I pray to you.

    Confession of Sin

    Lord, please bring to my mind my failures of faith and holiness. I acknowledge that I am a sinner and in need of forgiveness. Both consciously and unconsciously, I fail to live up to your truth and righteousness. Trusting in the sacrifice of Jesus as the atonement for my sin...

    • I confess both what I’ve done wrong and what I should have done differently:
    • I confess my struggles with weakness and temptation:

    May your mercy and grace, purchased through the eternal blood of Jesus my Savior, wash me of all my guilt and renew in me the joy of your presence.

    Prayer for Spiritual Formation

    Mind

    Lord, grant me the ability and grace to keep you before my mind at all times. Help me to replace destructive thoughts with thoughts that are pleasant to my soul and allow me to apply my thinking to the Word of God and experience the renewing of my mind.

    Feelings

    Father, help me to realize that my feelings do not have to be fulfilled. Help me to turn quickly from feelings that lead to temptation and sin. May my feelings be my servant, not my master, and may I cultivate feelings of love, joy and peace and extend those feelings to others.

    Will/Heart

    Father, help me to have a will that is single-minded and joyously devoted to you. Help me to constantly be aware that my heart is open and transparent to you. May I find contentment with the will of God and in the circumstances that have fallen to me, and may this produce gratitude and joy in my life.

    Body

    Father, I present my body to you as a living sacrifice and act of worship. My body belongs to you. Therefore, I will not worry about sickness, aging or death— for those things are in your power. I will not use my body- my hands, voice, eyes and feet, to satisfy the desires and sins of the flesh. Cause the peace of your Spirit to bring true rest to my body throughout the day.

    Social Dimension

    Father, help me to love my wife and family physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Help me to find and nurture deep connections with others that nourish my soul. Through humility, lead me to abandon all practices of trying to “look good” to others and instead seek ways to serve them. Keep me from being indifferent to the well being of others and help me to remember that all my relationships affect my relationship with you.

    Soul

    I acknowledge my soul as the inner stream of water giving strength, direction, and harmony to every other element of my life. I acknowledge its wounded condition through sin and disobedience, yet I pray that my mind, body, feelings and will can be coherently drawn together by my soul to form a life that is whole and devoted to you. Teach me to hear the cries of my soul and to nurture it wisely with humility and the Word of God.

    Intercession for Others

    Father, I know that you are committed to me and you’re concerned about my life and world. As I keep company with you, help me to have your perspective on the world around me and the people in it. Help me to listen to your Spirit as I intercede, and I trust that my imperfect words will be filtered through the Holy Spirit. As I pray for people and their needs, I picture myself bringing them to you and leaving them in your care.

  • Sacred Routines

    What are the sacred routines of our faith in Christ? i.e. things that we are called on by God to do routinely-regularly, willingly, spiritually, sacrificially?

    Let’s start with the obvious…One would be church.

    Being in church each week is a sacred routine--which is what is demonstrated in the Book of Acts and what’s instructed in the other Epistles.

    What other routines set us apart as Christ-followers?

    • Prayer is a sacred routine.
    • Bible study is a sacred routine. 
    • Giving is a sacred routine.
    • Serving is a sacred routine.

    I use the word sacred because these routines aren’t mechanical or institutional--we don’t do them without thinking. They’re sacred--they’re infused with spiritual meaning because they flow out of our relationship with God.

    The ones mentioned above are very basic. Once we can get those embedded in our lives so that they’re part of the rhythm of who we are, then we can move on to other sacred routines:

    • Fasting
    • Journaling
    • Being in community in a small group
    • Contemplation
    • Scripture memorization
    • Solitude
    • Various other Spiritual Disciplines

    Our devotion to God through sacred routines is a doorway that opens us up to what God really wants to do inside each one us!

  • Spiritual disciplines are activities that are in our power and that enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort. We cannot transform our ideas and images, or even the information in our mind [in other words, our "heart"], by direct effort. But we can adopt certain practices that, by indirect action, will increasingly produce that effect.

    Dallas Willard;Donald Simpson. Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ's Pattern for Spiritual Transformation
  • Even in cases where, through no fault of my own, there must be a struggle between me and others, there does not have to be a struggle within me. I may have to resist others, for some good reason, but even so I do not have to make things come out right. I am not the one in control of outcomes. I do not have to hate those whose course of action I resist, or even get mad at them, and so I can always be at peace within myself as well as toward them.

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  • What does living with God mean to you?

    This question from a book I'm reading caused me to give some thought to what living with God really means to me. What is my vision for life with God? Here are some of my thoughts:

    Living with God means:

    • Walking in conscious awareness of his presence and free-flowing conversation.
    • Being ready to do his will moment-by-moment.
    • Quick repentance when I become aware of my wrong choices and sin.
    • Worship for every grace and gift I encounter throughout the day.
    • Breath prayers, acknowledgement of my need and trust in difficulties.
    • Creating “God moments” throughout the day.
    • Refusing “self” to prefer God and others whenever aware.
    • Cooperating with God through spiritual disciplines that shape my heart: Scripture, prayer, self-denial, journaling, fasting, etc.
  • The Challenge of Passing the Baton

    As I enter my 50's I'm becoming more and more aware of the challenge of letting go of power and position. Because I'm part of a staff that is mostly led by pastors in their 40's and 50's, I'm witnessing the season where the baton must be passed to the next generation. It's quite interesting to see how some people struggle with that season far more than others. 

    Some are passing the baton gracefully and intentionally, nurturing younger staff and giving them support and encouragement to lead on their own. They are finding their own sense of fulfillment in the success of their young counterparts. They are sensing the blessing of Paul passing the baton to Timothy and the joy of knowing their influence will live far beyond their presence. That is exciting to watch.

    Others struggle with the season of change. They have allowed their identity to get too tightly woven to their position, their power or their recognition. For them, passing the baton means loss of self, loss of purpose, and they can't envision how ministry can still be great without them being in their accustomed role. The danger is that a tenure of excellent ministry can end badly simply because of the inability to overcome insecurities.

    What makes the difference? Let me make some general observations. People who are able to pass the baton with grace and strength are people who...

    • have a healthy self-identity within and outside of their ministry responsibilities. "Who they are" transcends what they do.
    • are no longer trying to "prove themselves." Their expertise is already established and they are able to assume new challenges.
    • have an authentic humility knowing that God doesn't work because of them, but through them.
    • appreciate that all their education, talents and experiences are the gifts and the grace of God. Passing those gifts to the next generation can be their greatest legacy.
    • love the church and desire more than anything to see her sustained and effective. They see the "long view" of life and ministry.
    • know that God is able to make tomorrow as exciting and fulfilling as yesterday, if lived with open hands. 
  • 10 Pieces of Advice I Feel Like Giving Away Today

    As I'm sitting here at lunch enjoying some leftover cassarole, I was thinking about the people and circumstances I've interacted with today. So many times we'd like to hand out advice to people, but for all kinds of reasons-- some legitimate, some not-- we don't. Anyway, as a way for catharsis, here is the advice I would like to have shared today:

    1. Hold on to power and position with a loose grip.
    2. Dont manipulate things to create your own outcome.
    3. Invest in someone else's success.
    4. Be grateful for every small blessing.
    5. Create God moments.
    6. Lead the way you would want to be led.
    7. Put more work into the front end through planning and preparation so that you won't have to work so hard on the back end.
    8. Slow down and see people.
    9. Say "yes" more than you say "no."
    10. Recognize the difference between "nickel" problems and "dollar" problems.