Spiritual Formation Part 3

So you found your way to part 3 – that’s good! I hope that means you’ve read part one and two. If not I want  to encourage you to  do that now.

As we continue our journey together we’ll explore various ways to grow spiritually through an intentional spiritual formation path.

Years ago I  had the opportunity to hike in the Smoky Mountains, specifically Mt. Laconte. I always chose the Rainbow Falls trail head as my starting point. In reality I could have chosen a multitude of  trails as they all went to the Lodge which as my chosen destination.  The same can be said with spiritual formation. There are many ways to grow spiritually and not all will resonate with you – at first. Some practices will be foreign to you, other will old friends while some will  be those that frustrated you so much in the  past that you’ve written  them off!

Let me insert a bias disclaimer in my writing and approach to spiritual formation… I believe there is  only one way to God the father and that is through his Son, Jesus the Christ. I believe in a triune God – God the  Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit – three in one.  So to try to read anything else into this series would be in error. Nor do I subscribe to all of any author’s body of work or thoughts that I may quote. I see many authors thoughts and body of work like an old school album or CD. There are usually several excellent songs in between some that you just don’t care for. So as I encourage you to read with this in mind – agree or disagree. Try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

While there are many historical ways to spiritual formation, traditionally it has been approached through spiritual disciplines. That’s the approach I will take for the most part throughout this series.

Those disciplines vary  from person to person.

Henri Nouwen really parked on 5 -Reflection, Lectio Divina, Silence, Community, and Service.

Richard Foster has these:

The Inward Disciplines – Meditation, Prayer, Fasting and Study.

The Outward Disciplines – Simplicity, Solitude, Submission and Service.

The Corporate Disciplines – Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration.

Spiritual formation will become all about habits. It’s about becoming disciplined. As Nathan Foster says, “It’s hard to remember that seeing the results from our habits takes time. Lot’s of time. We don’t gain 50 pounds or learn to  smoke two packs a day overnight. Growing fruit takes time.”

In my next post we’ll explore the importance of the heart in spiritual formation and the importance of the “heart” in the bible. The heart was once viewed in a very different way than it’s viewed today. We’ll then explore the spiritual discipline of prayer and a method of prayer that  many have never heard of.

Until then, here is what you need to do. Try setting a time that you pray each day. You choose when that happens  but stick to that time. Pray about anything, just stick to that time. We’re on our way!

Until  next  time…

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Formation Part Two

So where are you on your spiritual formation journey? Are you just exploring? Are you in process and interested in knowing more? Have you tried it before and became frustrated? Are you serious? Are you willing to put in the time?

Are you sure what it actually means?

A cursory Google search will render multiple ideas on what spiritual formation is and looks like… So I want to express my biases on how this series will proceed… I will approach this topic with a heavy slant from a Wesleyan tradition, as I am Methodist. In addition to that, I also approach my spirituality from a more conservative slant. So as we proceed, agree or disagree with this series or parts of it, because the Wesleyan tradition is big on tolerance. Take what’s useful and feel free to question and explore further what you believe is not.

In this post I will provide a working definition of spiritual formation so that we can all work from the same blueprint.  I will approach this in a systematic way through scripture, personal experiences, thoughts from John Wesley in the Wesleyan tradition, and  other authors and theologians.

So let’s begin with Wesley’s Quadrilateral…The late, Albert Outler of SMU coined the term” Wesley’s Quadrilateral.” The 4 components of the Quadrilateral consist of, Reason, Experience, Tradition and Scripture. I remember these as “RETS”. In Methodist circles we approach these in this order:

  1. Scripture – we always go to God’s word first to see what it has to say.
  2. Tradition – we value the early church traditions that consisted of many councils throughout history that debated Christian doctrines. So we believe that if something has withstood the test of time through these councils, then they should carry some weight. It’s not  the end all of end all’s but certainly must be considered.
  3. and 4. Reason and Experience – We believe that God gave us a mind that we have the ability to reason – think. So we’re open to, “what do you think about this?” We are also big on, “what has been you experience?” Your live experiences also have value.

 

With that in mind, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 provides a good foundation for what spiritual formation can be:

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 The Voice

17 By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. 18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

As we progress in our journey we’ll consider spiritual formation as the process of becoming more like Christ – lives transformed into something better than the life we started with.

Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the The Two Halves of Life, notes that Scott Peck once told him…”…he felt most Western people were just spiritually lazy. And when we’re lazy, we stay on the path we already are.”  While studying under Roberta Bondi, at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, she once said, “the hardest part of prayer is just showing up.” which she echoed  in her book, To Love as God Loves.

So as we move forward on this journey, know that the hardest part of spiritual formation may be just showing up!

In future posts we’ll be exploring prayer, the spiritual disciplines, monastic asceticism, christian perfection, and so much more! When all is said and done I hope to have  given you the tools to help you transform your life into something more like Christ’s life, no matter what spectrum you may be presently on in your journey. Or as scripture states, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

Stay tuned…

 

Spiritual Formation Part One

What have you done lately to grow spiritually in your Christian faith? Seriously, something intentional. Something past  just phoning it in.

It’s my opinion that many protestants don’t seek an intentional Spiritual Formation path. This is based on what I’ve observed as a minister for over 25 years.

So I’ve decided to write a series on Spiritual Formation in hopes of stirring something in your heart. Something that inspires you to seek Jesus in new and proven ways. Spiritual practices that  could have an  incredible impact on your spiritual life.

I believe that many believe Spiritual Formation is something that happens to us verses something  to be  intentionally pursued. Pursued with a passion!  Many leave their Spiritual Formation to others. They seem to limit their spiritual growth to worship and the message given by their favorite minister – online or in person each Sunday, etc…

While one can grow spiritually in worship and through the message on Sunday, this series will be  about other time proven Spiritual Formation practices that have been around a long time but maybe not practiced as much as they once were by early Christians.

So I’ll leave you with a  question: What are you intentionally doing to grow in your spiritual life? Something that is seriously drawing you closer to Jesus? Are you depending just on Worship and the message – which are great, and continue to do so! Corporate worship is uber important – Remember the Sabbath – it’s  one of the 10 Commandments. But in addition to that, are you passionately seeking spiritual practices in addition to Sunday that creates a deep love for Christ?

If you’re not even sure what those Spiritual Practices are for your Spiritual Formation, then this series is  for  you! Stay tuned…

My Walter Mitty Life

I’ve always been amazed at what people have been able to accomplish in their lifetime. I enjoy reading about people that have done a lot of crazy things in search of adventure. I loved the movie the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  So in light of this, I decided to write down all the crazy things that I’ve been able to do – so far in my life. I would encourage you to do the same because you probably have lived an awesome life that others might enjoy reading about!

These may not be in a chronological order but here we go:

Once lived in Cuba – dad was in the Navy

Registered myself for the first grade without my parents knowledge – walked to the school and went to the office to register – who does that?

Owned several motorcycles – Suzuki Trailhopper, Yamaha 100, Honda XL-125, Honda CR-125, Suzuki RM-250, Yamaha FZ-1, Yamaha V Star 1100

Started college at 17

Earned a private Pilot License just after High School

Ran a small sport airport on weekends for free flight time

Flown in homebuilt airplanes, flown in a world war II fighter – T6 and almost crashed

Once started building a homebuilt airplane – EAA Acro Sport II

As a child rode a Trailways bus to my grandparents

Set trot lines in a creek at night

Hunted quail on my grandfathers farm

Fished  in Ray Scott’s personal pond (founder of Bass Masters)

Was a Chimney Sweep apprentice

Held the ribbon for the Flying Mayor to tear while flying inverted – worked several airshows

Once searched for a skydiver whose chute failed to open while attempting a state record high dive

Got lost on my first cross country solo flight

Got to go whale watching in Boston

Visited the John Lennon memorial in Central Park New York

Saw a play on Broadway

Visited the Rocky Mountain national park

Saw Cirque Du Soleil’s – La Nouba

Been on two cruises – Nassau Bahamas,  Cozumel

Visited Key West – saw Hemingway’s House

Have vacationed in Disneyworld

Visited Elvis’s – Tupelo home and Graceland

Visited Beale street in Memphis

Attended a Superbike race at Barber motorsports park

Crashed a motorcycle on the street while skipping school

Was a passenger in a car that was totaled in a crash

Have seen a Gutenberg bible in person

Walked down Wall Street

Walked around Times Square

President Carter lectured in one of my Seminary classes

Attended a Professional Bull Riding event (PBR) with VIP tickets – was in room with Ty Murray

Had my picture made with Evil Kenevil and Roy Clark at a celebrity golf tournament

Was a High School softball and basketball official

Have coached basketball

Have been with rescue team while dragging bottom of a river looking for a body

Have been a Police Department chaplain riding with officers on patrol

Graduated from Candler School of Theology

Served multiple churches

I’ve run a 65 acre ranch for delinquent boys

Worked at an all girls treatment facility

Ultrarunner – Longest race was 50 miler, multiple races of 31 miles, marathons, etc…

Non-christian concerts that I’ve attended – Styx, KISS (in the early days),Commodores with Lionel Richie, Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Bob Dylan, Elvis – yup, Elvis!

Became a PADI(Professional Association of Dive Instructors) scuba diver with multiple certifications – Open, Advanced, Rescue, Nitrox, Divemaster

Lettered in tennis in High school

Set several state records in competitive powerlifting

Was once a personal trainer

Have participated in multiple sports – Jr. High basketball, baseball, softball, football

Taught myself to juggle – 3 and 4 ball, rings, Diablo, various balancing tricks. clubs

Owned several cool cars – 72 Chevy Nova,Datsun  240 Z, 55 Chevy 2 door hardtop, 68 Chevy Camero

Married to the same wonderful lady for 33 years as of this writting

Great kids and son in laws

Had throat cancer but survived – at least as of this day!

I’m sure there is a ton I’ve missed. But I have tried to take John 10:10 seriously when Jesus said I have come so you can live the abundant life.

Accepting Christ was the greatest thing I’ve ever done. Getting married and raising kids has been the second greatest thing I’ve ever done.

Take time at some point and write down all you’ve been able to accomplish, you might be surprised at how good a life God has given you. As a bonus others might be interested in reading it – I know I would.

 

Time Management Tips You Can Actually Do!

Time management is usually an “on point” topic for everyone. It’s one of those skills that many strive to master. It’s one that those who always joke about being late all the time (BTW, it’s sad if being late is what you’re known for – and it’s rude to others that are waiting on you, and often disruptive to the group function you’re going to), secretly desire, or should be embarrassed if they don’t.

Sure, there are going to be those days that we just get behind. Yes, we will never be “on time” for everything in life. The question is, are we striving to become better at time management? Do we realize the incredible benefits of it?

Here are a few benefits from timemanagementninja.com

1. Less stress

2. Get more done

3. More free time

So if you’re interested in better time management here are 7 tips from Healthways.com:

1. Ditch multitasking

2. Take a single view and prioritize

3. Carve out ‘me time’

4. Prepare for delays and downtime

5. Schedule and use a to-do list

6. Leave extra time

7. Practice saying no, in a nice way

Becoming a better time manager is always a skill worth mastering as best as you can.

Now that you’re saving time you can get that workout in you’ve been meaning to do!

Bears, Chainsaws, and a Life that Matters…

Recently I found myself in Colorado on vacation. While visiting one of the mountain towns I noticed a man who had cut bears out of raw wood – with a chainsaw! I’ve always been fascinated by those that have such skills.

Not long ago one of my daughters asked a man cutting bears from raw wood how he did it….  He responded that it’s easy, I just look at a piece of wood and cut off everything that doesn’t look like a bear!

When it comes to living a life that matters I believe that the same philosophy applies… Take a look at your life and cutoff everything that isn’t adding value. Leaving a life that matters.

Life is too short not to be living a life that matters.

Are you allowing distractions to impede the bigger issues of life? Are small things tripping you up? Are you taking your eye off what’s really important? Are you getting caught up in the fray of life?

Or, are you living a life that matters?

If not why not?

Why not be honest with yourself and cut off the things that aren’t adding value to your life and start living a life that matters. One that you’ll be remembered for – in a good way! 🙂

Less Knowledge – More Motivation!

Last Sunday at the church I serve, our worship leader brought the message. It was a very inspiring message encouraging everyone to accept responsibility for growing the church and the kingdom of God for all the right reasons.

We were encouraged to take action, accept responsibility, for growing disciples. We were then reminded that we were responsible for the souls (not numbers) that should be in the empty seats in our worship space. We were reminded of the importance of the invitation to others to attend worship – as they were God’s children (my interpretation) and were important to God.

But when all was said and done I had a problem with the message. A huge problem with what was said. But not by our worship leader but with those of us saying amen and nodding in agreement to what he was saying – and rightly so – it  was an inspiring message. Yes, I too was nodding and saying amen!

So what was the problem? The problem was what has become an inherent problem, in my opinion, throughout the Christian church and Christianity in general…   Was all the head nodding and amening the only action that would take place as a result of the inspiring message? Or, would there actually be anyone to take the message  to heart and with the love of Christ actually invite anyone to worship this week and next and the next? Will anyone actually step up on behalf of Jesus and care for his sheep?

You see, the Christian church doesn’t lack knowledge. The majority of everyone present on that Sunday had heard the message before, from Jesus, from other ministers, and in other churches. What our worship leader did was  to remind us that Jesus is still calling us to reach others and invite them to church.

I recently heard someone say that most people already have plenty of knowledge but lack motivation.  People wanting to get into better shape know how to do it, they have the knowledge but lack the motivation.  If that weren’t true we’d all be rich and skinny. We all have the knowledge to do both but most are out of shape and would  like more money because we lack the motivation to do anything about it.

So what will it take to motivate you to take what  you hear on Sunday morning and go beyond  the action of amening and nodding to the action  of invitation and growing the kingdom of God?

My motivation is that Christ died for me and doesn’t want to see anyone not living the abundant life that  only he can provide. A message shared every Sunday in worship. A message shared to to many empty seats throughout the world.

So I decided to move past the amening and nodding and I’ve already invited several to be in worship this Sunday. Have you?

When people let you down – my thoughts on Joel Osteen

At the time of this post hurricane Harvey has invaded Houston, Texas.  Houston just happens to be the home of Lakewood Church, whose minister is Joel Osteen – maybe you’ve heard of him!

The internet is exploding on Joel Osteen saying Lakewood lied about being flooded and therefore weren’t letting any of the many homeless find shelter there – Lakewood holds around 13,000 people each Sunday.

Internet haters had a field day on Joel’s alleged hypocrisy.  Apparently this high profile minister had let them down.

So, here are my thoughts on the Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church and Hurricane Harvey incident…

First, I  do not  know the man. Secondly, I don’t know the church. Thirdly, I don’t know the real situation other than what I read and hear through news and the internet. If you have been living under a rock lately – spoiler alert – there have been recent accounts of less than true news.  I know, hard to believe – right.

So ultimately I don’t have an opinion on Joel Osteen and Lakewood church.

But I do have some personal thoughts… (What follows in no way is a reflection on my thoughts on Joel Osteen. Seriously, I don’t know him or the situation and if any of it’s even true!)

In general, when people let  me down in big ways (lying, cheating, stealing, affairs, etc..) and it’s legit, I always remember that people have been letting people down since the great storytellers uttered the words “In the beginning.”  (The bible was originally an oral tradition)

I don’t put people on pedestals, as people will always let you down at some point. I certainly don’t allow it to crush my faith when someone lets me down. As my faith is built on God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and not  people.

So if anyone has ever hurt you so much,  that you felt your faith was damaged, please realize your faith shouldn’t be built on that person or  that event.

God is still on the throne and His word is still true even when people  let us down in big ways. Make sure our focus is on Christ and not people.

Parenting – My 44 Thoughts

What you’re about to read  are just some of my thoughts – not all of them, just 44. So what’s the point going to be? Parenting is an art, the more you practice it, hopefully the better you become. But the fulcrum lies on how you define the art of parenting…

Technically, I suppose you could just go through the motions as a mother or father, and it would be considered parenting. But, not necessarily good parenting. I leave the definition of “good or bad parenting” to you.

So what I’m about to write are just my musings about parenting, as a parent. You can agree, disagree or be indifferent. I just hope you’ll take an inventory of your own parenting style. I hope you’ll think about areas in which you might enhance your own parenting style.

I’ll do this in a list fashion but in no certain order… I will also refrain from saying thinks like “I believe” or, “in my opinion”  every time, and just preface it with the fact that this should be understood – in other words this is just my take and nothing else – no science or studies are  involved. Some of my thoughts may inspire you to say things like, “What a prude”, and that’s fine, form your own opinion.

Here we go…

  1. Parenting is hard
  2. Parents are called to be parents and not best friends with their children. That’s why your title is “parent” and not “best friend!”
  3. A parent’s job is to teach their children what they need to know so one day they can leave.
  4. A lot of “right decisions” are  going  to make you feel terrible for some odd reason – they shouldn’t!
  5. It’s OK to say no if you have nothing more than a “gut feeling” that something just doesn’t seem right.
  6. Take your kids to church – they are depending on you and so is Jesus.
  7. Your children are God’s gift to you, so give thanks often.
  8. Teach your young men to open doors for ladies. If you’re a dad – model that behavior yourself.
  9. Teach your kids to say “yes sir, yes mam and no mam and no sir”. Maybe seems old fashioned but I believe it’s timeless.
  10. Teach your kids to say “thank you” and to say it  liberally.
  11. Tell your kids “thank you” often.
  12. Tell your kids “I love you” often and don’t take for granted that they know that.
  13. Don’t ask your kids if  they want to go to church – remember that you’re the parent. Lead like one.
  14. If there is an age level appropriate program for your children on Sunday mornings in church – make sure they attend it. They’ll learn more there.
  15. Teach your children to make their bed as soon as they are old enough and have them do it – everyday.
  16. Teach your children to cook and clean.
  17. Have them learn how to change a tire and check the oil.
  18. Teach them to tie a tie.
  19. If you say something will happen the next time they act that way – follow through.
  20. Spend quality time with your children – they grow up fast.
  21. Make sure they learn to eat vegetables – boiled okra and raw celery excluded.
  22. Teach them how  to wash and fold clothes.
  23. Have your sons mow the lawn as soon as they are old enough.
  24. Once they are old enough, make sure they have jobs, at least in summer and part time the rest of the year, when possible.
  25. Teach them the Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, so they will always be grounded in their faith.
  26. Teach them how to wash/dry dishes by hand.
  27. Make sure you know they have completed their homework.
  28. Make sure they are ready for school – the night before and early enough that corrections can be made without being up too late.
  29. Don’t take something your child has done wrong that belongs on the value menu and then supersize the discipline.
  30. When your child does something wrong, try asking yourself – will this make any difference a year from  now and discipline accordingly.
  31. Be careful when allowing your child to be in so many  extracurricular activities that it effects the family, finances, grades and church attendance.
  32. Explore the possibility of learning a musical instrument early.
  33. Model the behavior you want your kids to copy – they’re watching
  34. If you’re married, make sure you tell your spouse “thank you, I  love you”, etc – your  children are watching.
  35. Take your family on vacations – they don’t have to be extravagant.
  36. Love = Time- spend time with your kids. They will never forget it, and neither will you.
  37. Don’t scream at your kids – remember they are God’s gift to you. So, Discipline them appropriately.
  38. Teach  them how  to polish their shoes.
  39. Teach them what matches when it comes to clothes.
  40. It’s OK to tell them that certain clothes may not  be appropriate for them – goes for guys and gals.
  41. Teach your boys to be gentlemen.
  42. Teach your daughters to be ladies.
  43. Did I mention, take them to church, say I love you a lot, model the behavior you want them to copy?
  44. Teach them to keep their rooms clean. Keeping yours clean will go a long ways.

Agree, disagree, or be indifferent, but maybe just one on the list may resonate and create action. These are my 44 thoughts – for now.

Speed Reading Pt. 2

Hopefully you’ve already read Speed Reading Pt1. and have practiced a little! If not, that’s OK keep reading.

What I’m about to tell you will hopefully help with your comprehension as you read at the speed of light (not sound! Light is faster than sound!)

Books

  1. Read the entire index first. This helps get an overall direction to where the author is about to take you.
  2. When you begin each chapter see if there is a chapter summary – if yes, then read it first. Some authors provide a bullet list for you.  If you’re in a bind for time, this may suffice in lou of reading the entire chapter. If a chapter summary  doesn’t exist, then try reading the last paragraph as it’s probably a summary in itself.
  3. After checking to see if a summary exist,s then see if the chapter includes highlighted/bold words. Again if they exist, the author has done the work for you. They’ve told you what’s important. So read those before reading the chapter.
  4. Before or after reading the book you might also find a summary of your book already available on the internet.  Just search to see, then speed read your book. Your comprehension should improve.
  5. When reading, don’t read a sentence more than once. We often read a sentence more than once which slows your reading – quit going back over stuff you read until you’re finished with the chapter.

Remember, some material doesn’t lend itself well to speed reading but most does.  Try these new tips to help you speed read with better comprehension.