Category Archives: Spiritual Disciplines

Like all things worth being involved in, there are disciplines. Think required reading, not punishment and being grounded.

Too Busy

I came across this quote from Pastor R.A. Torrey recently.

We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions, much machinery but few results.

The first sentence makes such an impact. Too busy to pray=too busy to have power. The truth is that we can get “too busy” with a lot of “good things.” Even if it is considered a “good thing,” such as helping a neighbor or volunteering at a soup kitchen; it becomes a problem if it keeps you from the most important thing of praying and spending time alone with God. Where do you think you get that power to help and volunteer?

We get so wrapped up in busyness and wonder why we don’t feel connected anymore, even when we are doing good things. We fail to realize – we aren’t connected anymore. Don’t get too busy.

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Superstar

Vacation Bible School is always so much work, but full of so much fun and blessings! We’ve been planning for this week’s VBS for months. My job is helping with the motions to the songs and a couple of weeks ago, someone asked me how it was going. My response? Greta is my superstar and she’s doing great. The same person asked the lady in charge of the up front program the same question and her response was: Sharon and Greta are my superstars.

Last night after our first opening session of VBS, one of the volunteers remarked that Greta was doing great in leading the motions to the songs, it is her gift. The truth is, Greta loves motions to songs so much that if a song doesn’t have motions, she’ll make up her own!

Our little part of VBS is going great because we are recognizing something: Spiritual Gifts. What God has gifted someone with, let them do that! Everyone is blessed when people use their gifts for God’s honor and glory. Yes, even a little girl can use her talents, given by God, to help others.

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Praying for the Wrong Thing

“Please pray I don’t get kicked out of my house.” When we hear a request like this, our first response is to do exactly that. We may even implore God to soften the cruel heart of the person that wants to evict such a kind soul. Later on, we learn that the person asking for prayer was being kicked out for a reason – a very good reason. Were we praying for the wrong thing?

It is not always our place to know all of the circumstances around a particular request for prayer, but God makes it very plain that praying for others is a duty we should embrace wholeheartedly. How do we know we are praying for the right thing? What if we pray for money, like they asked for, and it gets used to harm that person or others?

I’m trying a new (to me) practice in my prayer life. As a pastor’s wife, I get a lot of prayer requests. When you break it down to the bare essentials – a request for prayer means something isn’t right and the person is wanting help. So when I’m unfamiliar with a person or their situation and not sure if I’m praying for the right thing or not, I pray for what they truly need – for God to act in their lives. God knows what they really need. Perhaps getting kicked out of the house will wake them up to changes that need to be made. In the end, it could be the best answer to prayer they’ve ever had.

Some might say, oh that’s nothing but a cop out, a generic prayer. Really? What is wrong with asking for someone to be covered by the righteousness of Christ, paid for by His own blood, and allowing the Holy Spirit to move and act in their life – and praying for that person by name? Taking it a step further and saying this is what they are asking for, but God, You know what they need most and I’m asking that You meet their truest needs. Generic?

Any prayer can become generic, flippant or so casual the angels must wonder why we even bother. I’m happy to pray for people, by name. But if I don’t know the full situation (and I don’t necessarily need to know) and there isn’t someone I trust who does know the whole situation and vouches for them; I pray for that person by name that God would make Himself known in their life in the way they need most.

Prayer is a spiritual discipline, not a magic vending machine.

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The Discipline of Confession

Through the marriage seminars my husband and I present, I’ve learned a lot about personality types and the differences between men and women and the way they think, act and react. From the study of my Bible, I see that God knows our personalities and puts them to the best use if we are willing to surrender (of course He knows us because He created us). However, God is clearly not limited by our personalities. The good news is that we don’t have to be limited by our personalities either. Yes, it is good to know our basic starting point on how we perceive and relate to life on a daily basis, but because of the grace of God, we are not limited to only that.

Why is this important? There is one very strong personality combination – which Mark Gungor, of Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, refers to as the world’s strongest willed people. Is there a place for the world’s strongest willed people? Yes. Are these people often misunderstood. Again, yes. So what’s the big deal? Confession.

You see, some of the strongest willed people refuse to say they are sorry or admit wrong. That’s just not in their mojo. You’ll find Sasquatch in Atlantis before you get one of these folks to admit they were wrong and apologize. The burning question of the day – if I can’t apologize to a fellow human being that I have wronged, how can I confess/apologize to¬† God?

Well Sharon, I have nothing to worry about, because that’s not my personality type. Great! So you practice confession on a regular basis then, right? Perhaps all of us are in need of a little more grace, not just the strong personality types, to soften our hearts and cause us to be willing to admit wrong and apologize. Why is confession so important? Because a contrite/broken/confessed heart God will not despise. He has promised that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just. He will forgive and cleanse.

You know that chafing you feel because you know you wronged a family member, but you don’t want to admit it and eat humble pie? God can cleanse away that chafing feeling. Confess, because He is faithful and just. He will forgive and cleanse.

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The Perfect Card

Picking out cards can be monotonous at times, until you find it: the perfect card! I have a brother-in-law that appreciates an intellectually twisted sense of humor and Karl and I both enjoy finding just the right card for him. We laugh as we read the card and as we imagine what his reaction will be.

At my last birthday, I got a couple of cards that were perfect! I knew the family members that picked the cards out must have known, without a doubt, these are for Sharon! Whether it makes you laugh, cry, stand in amazement or even a mixture of the three, it is wonderful to enjoy the perfect card and the love and relationship behind it.

In my Bible study time this morning, I ran across this description of what it means to be close to God, by regularly getting into His Word: “Imagine knowing God so well that you could buy Him a greeting card you knew He would just love.” I thank Lisa D. Hermann for writing this. How much time is spent in God’s Word? Do I know Him enough that I could pick out the perfect card for Him?

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Drift Vs. Discipline

Just to set the record straight – discipline is training, not punishment. A well disciplined soldier is a well trained soldier. A well disciplined child is a well trained child. So when I think about Drift vs. Discipline, I’m thinking about when we get out of training and just kind of drift along. It is failing to follow through on what we know will help us achieve our goals and just sort of hope it happens naturally. Are we messed up in our thinking or what?

There are four spiritual disciplines that share a unique relationship: fellowship, study, prayer and solitude. Fellowship and solitude each enhance study and prayer, but they are opposite of each other. These are also four of the first targets of drift. We tend to drift out of fellowship with like believers, drift out of that quiet time each day with God. We know we should study and pray, but we choose to drift along because the schedule is tight today. Eventually, due to the lack of discipline or training, we become out of shape. We become spiritually out of shape.

There is a saying that faith walks out when fatigue walks in. Drift can happen quickly during times of ill health, stressful situations, financial crisis and so forth. Things that wear you down and wear you out – fatigue – can wear down your faith; unless of course you are well disciplined. Even if the crisis causes you to miss a few days of Bible study and prayer, your training will eventually draw you back to what has given you strength.

So what’s the answer for drift? Discipline! Be well trained during the times when things are going well. Get your mind and body used to times of fellowship. study, prayer and solitude when there is no temptation to follow the lure of the drift. When things go wrong – and they will – you will return to what you know and the strength you receive from that training.

It is football season and I love watching those long passes. The quarterback sees his best shot and throws. The receiver is still running, not even looking at the QB and just at the right time, he turns around to make eye contact and catch the ball. Think that happens by accident? It’s called training. It’s called discipline. That play has been rehearsed so many times that it comes naturally to the receiver to turn around and catch the ball at the right time. The ball doesn’t accidentally drift into his hands. He’s been trained to catch it.

The spiritual disciplines are there for your training and development, because a continuing relationship with the God of the universe doesn’t happen by accident. Don’t get me wrong. Let me say it loud and proud right here – Jesus did it all and there is nothing we can do. It is all Jesus, reaching out to us and starting that relationship with us. It is all Him. But once that relationship is started, He wants you to grow and develop and follow Him. That happens with discipline, with training as you choose to stay in that relationship that Jesus has initiated.

Ready for training?

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Affirmation

Watching “Aha!” moments on the faces of husbands and wives as they start to “get it” about their marriage is one of the many reasons my husband and I love presenting marriage seminars. One area in particular deals with the essence of who your spouse really is and the tool we use to discover that is “The Flag Page.” We recently interviewed a couple where the wife came to tears, finally understanding her husband and why he did what he did. Those moments are priceless and rewarding.

While the Flag Page is web based and designed for adults and teenagers, a board game version was also designed to be used by younger children. I recently helped a mother and young son do his flag page and again the lights suddenly came on and there were “aha!” moments. This young man is very special. He is the baby of the family, the youngest of five children, yet born with strong leadership skills. That’s a tough job.

How does the baby of the family get affirmed for who God created him to be? How do parents hone those God given leadership skills while still maintaining loving parental control? It’s not an easy task. I know from experience because we have the same version in our family. Our youngest child is the one with natural leadership personality and skills and she’s a girl on top of that!

Did God make a mistake? Did he mess up when He decided to put these leadership qualities in the youngest children in these two families? I don’t have too many problems with the atmosphere, animal life, foliage and landscapes – except for any damage we’ve done to them; so I think God did a pretty good job. If He did it right on these big things, I’m sure He got it right on the small things as well, even down to putting leadership skills in the youngest child in a family – even if she is a girl!

Affirm people for who they are, for who God made them to be. I’m not talking about helping people continue in bad habits and choices because we’ve all got rough edges that need to be polished. I’m talking about the basics of personality, the essence of who God created them to be. Affirm that. Be intentional about affirming the peacemakers, the managers, the leaders, the artists, the make it happen folks and those who make sure everyone is included and accepted.

This mother and son, life is going to be different for them from this point on. Take the time to learn about those you interact with and help them be all God created them to be. The Bible calls it one of the spiritual gifts – the gift of exhortation, strongly encouraging someone to do what God has called them to do.

 

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Costly?

“Salvation is free, but discipleship is costly.” Kenneth W. Osbeck.

When I read these words early this morning I knew it wasn’t talking about pennies, inflation or returns on an investment, at least not in the general sense that we would normally expect. Discipleship cost me this morning. It cost me a half hour of sleep that nearly caused parts of me to mutiny. I did manage to get my whole self to my quiet place to spend time with my Creator and I was glad.

Discipleship is costly. That’s a nice piece of typical Christian jargon to throw around, but let’s make it a little more practical. Spiritual Disciplines are costly. That hour of Fellowship with like believers, it will cost me that time I wanted all to myself to be a bit lazy. That discipline of Sacrifice will cost me that pedicure I was so sure I absolutely needed. The need to be in Service to others will cost me time I could have spent watching the latest lineup on my favorite television network or satellite channel.

Salvation is free. There is nothing we can do to earn it. Praise God! After we have received this amazing grace gift, God calls us to get to know Him better, closer. He calls us to discipleship and that is where it can get costly. But God is a perfect gentleman, so He never forces. You can choose to practice the disciplines of simplicity, meditation, humility, frugality, confession and fasting, among others; but you are never forced to do so. Love that is demanded ceases to be love.

Discipleship can be costly, if you choose not to draw closer to God. What? Isn’t that just opposite of what I already said? Nope, not a bit. You see God has promised many things to us, powerful and wonderful things that come about in our relationship – read discipleship – with Him. Failure to be in discipleship will cost you the peace that passes all understanding. Failure to turn your lack of control over to the One who promised to give you grace whenever needed, could cost you that promotion you were hoping to get. Tossing aside prayer and reflection as unnecessary will rob you of moments of awe and praise to God; for answered prayers and moments of deep revelation.

“Salvation is free, but discipleship is costly.” A question for each one of us today is, which side of the equation am I on at this point in my life? Am I worried about the costs of my time and money? Costs to my pride, career and advancement? Or am I in that stage in my life where I worry more about missing out on the peace that comes from practicing silence and the joy that comes from the discipline of celebration?

Discipleship is costly. Tossing aside the blessings of spiritual disciplines is costly.

The God that made salvation free and available to you wants to get to know you better. Take the time to practice some spiritual disciplines today, but remember, discipleship is costly. You may even lose your tastes and desires for fleeting things and long earnestly instead for worship, submission, intimacy, guidance and study of God’s Word. You may even choose to be a life long disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

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Making it Practical

If I were to try to share many of the blessings of my few days away for pastoral family retreat, I would probably start gushing like Old Faithful. Wow. Had a chance to connect with a ministerial leader one on one about spiritual retreats. This is one of my favorite, though unfortunately not often practiced, of the spiritual disciplines. He also shared with me a getting started on spiritual retreat kit, so I have no excuse. Is there time? There is never enough time, but I will make time for what I truly value.

In the midst of all of these great presentations that focused heavily on family – pastors take care of your families – came a very practical application. Pastor Rigacci was assigned the task of speaking about making improvements. We could all relate to his charming story of how he and his wife never argued when they were dating, but somehow after they were married, they found many things to have strong discussions about.

What none of us were prepared for was his very practical demonstration. Pastor Rigacci shared very personally about how one of the arguments that keeps resurfacing in their home centers around his moustache. He keeps it neat and trimmed. His wife wants it gone. I quickly gave Mrs. Rigacci my condolences. I do not like kissing facial hair. I want to kiss my husband’s lips. I appreciate him keeping his face clean shaven, but the truth is – he wants the kisses! I’m not sure what Mrs. Rigacci’s reasons were for wanting her husband to be clean shaven, but I was on her side.

I was too slow with my iPhone to get Mrs. Rigacci’s jaw dropping stare as she watched her husband, from his position of being on the platform in front of all of his peers, reach under the pulpit he was speaking from and pull out a razor and a small towel. She was soon on her feet clamoring for a position in the center aisle with all of the other smart phone cameras to catch the historic moment. When he was clean shaven, she practically jumped onto the platform and planted two big kisses on him.

It was a simple thing, but it was demonstrated to us all that sometimes the most loving thing we can do is make an improvement that will please our spouse. Did this practical demonstration have any impact? On the way home from the retreat, my husband asked me what was his “moustache.” I had to think about it and I told him what it was and he has promised to do something about it. I think he’s hoping to be rewarded with kisses as well. That can definitely be arranged.

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Retreat?

So why does a pastoral family need a retreat anyway? They have all these perks and benefits already, right?
Now that I’m done laughing, I’ll tell you what a blessing the first meeting was – great praise and worship music with the pastoral leader for our area of Texas getting in on the musicianship himself. What followed was a power packed affirmation of pastoral families being exactly that – families. I was strengthened, encouraged and refreshed.
My next blog will be after I get back from this retreat, but in the mean time, I want to share this one thought. Retreat doesn’t always mean you are giving up. It is also a strategic maneuver to fall back to strengthen and prepare for another battle.
Have you sounded a retreat lately? Have you planned a day to get away from those things that distract you and be refreshed, encouraged and strengthened? If a day is not possible, what about a couple of hours? Go ahead, fall back and be strengthened for your next task.

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The Discipline of Celebration

I was enjoying (yes, that is an accurate statement) a book on the values of Spiritual Disciplines when I turned the page and saw a chart – a table showing the various disciplines and which well known Christian author dealing with disciplines dared to tackle that particular one. I found it very interesting that in his book, “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God,” Dallas Willard lists Celebration as a classic discipline. Willard also noted that two of the three other authors he was charting also dealt with the discipline of Celebration in their writings.
At first glance, those words can seem incongruous. The discipline of Celebration? Children are actually some of the best instructors in this particular area. Don’t forget their birthday. Don’t forget Christmas. Don’t forget the swimming party at their friend’s house. These things are much too important to vanish from your grey matter.
When my child brings home a good report card and I don’t celebrate it, it is as if his efforts weren’t good enough. Likewise, my kids see right through me when I pretend to celebrate something mediocre or even sub-par in an effort to keep from hurting their feelings. They know very well there is a time and a reason to celebrate.
When you have one of those “God moments,” where everything goes perfect and you can almost see His signature on the day, practice the discipline of Celebration. It’s a way to stay connected.

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My secret is ou…

My secret is out – I have a problem with Wal-mart. It’s not the stereotypical women love shopping syndrome. My problem is irrational fear. You see, I’m often afraid that when I go into the store, they’ll accuse me of shoplifting because I’m using the stuff that I bought the last time I was there. Please tell me I’m not the only one who experiences this!

If you are laughing now, my husband and oldest son will tell you it’s not that funny. Karl has to wait for me to go through my purse and pockets to make sure I don’t have anything that can be mistaken for something that was obtained with a five finger discount. How bad is it? I once made my son freeze on a cold winter day because I would not let him wear the jacket into the store that we had purchased at Wal-mart a few days before. I mean, come on, more jackets exactly like that one were still on the racks. Unless I could pull out my receipt, I had no proof we had paid for the jacket. My fear caused my son to shiver in the cold that day.

It all goes back to this one fateful day when I was an independent nine years old and ready to take on the world. I was with my grandmother and another relative that drove us (grandma doesn’t drive and you don’t want her to, trust me). We went to a Woolworth’s store that was closing out in our little corner of Oklahoma. I meandered through the cassette tapes, yes I said cassette tapes, and browsed through to see if any of my favorites were worth begging my grandmother to buy it for me.

I was busy being proud of my ability to have favorite music and actually act like I knew something about the artists and albums featured. I was also very proud of my cool lip gloss. My sister and I had each gotten one for Christmas some months before and they were so cool and different from the traditional cylindrical styles. We had the ultra cool tins with a sliding tin lid that revealed lip gloss you got to apply with your finger. Now how cool is that? My world of being a music lover and proud owner of ultra cool lip gloss soon turned into a nightmare as a loud and authoritative voice behind me made me jump when it demanded I return the merchandise.

I turned to face the security guard who insisted that he saw me put a cassette tape in my pocket. Petrified, I didn’t ask to have him escort me to my grandmother and have a witness to what he was demanding, I just did as I was told and emptied my pockets. Of course the only thing that came out was my ultra cool lip gloss of which I assured him was mine for quite some time, even opening the tin lid and showing the obvious indentations in the gloss showing use for some time.

He eventually left me alone with a stern warning after which I promptly went to find my grandmother. After we had checked out and went to the car, I calmed down and told her about what happened. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my grandmother so angry before. She marched back into that store and demanded to speak with someone for terrorizing a minor without parental or guardian consent. Way to go grandma! Let them have it!

So to this day, I still make sure there is nothing that could be mistaken for illegally obtained merchandise because that terrible moment at the store closeout when I was only nine years old is vividly imprinted in my mind.

You see, I never again want to be that little girl, trembling, scared and emptying my pockets with tears in my eyes and fear in my heart.

When you stop and think about it, there are a lot of people like me, but for a different reason. Somewhere in our past, we were told that we did something very bad, which we did and the only way God would forgive us is if we tried really hard to never do it again. So we go through each day of our life, checking our pockets to make sure we haven’t left an opening for temptation. We never again want to be that little girl, that little boy, trembling, ashamed, hiding from God in that garden so long ago.

I’m still known to check my purse and pockets before I go to Wal-mart at times, but I’m learning that there is nothing I can do in order to get on God’s good side and obtain His forgiveness. There’s nothing I can do to show Him how good I can be so He’s not mad at me for sinning again. The Bible says in Romans 5:8, that while we were still messing up and having bad days, Christ died for us. He didn’t wait until we got things in order first. He died for us when we needed it most. He is all I need and I don’t have to stand trembling and fearful before God when I’m covered in the blood of Jesus.

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January 17, 2012 · 6:15 PM