Our Daily Bread

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,[a]
    but deliver us from the evil one.[b]

– Jesus teaching disciples to pray, Matthew 6:9-13

One discipline many of us struggle with is dedicated time for our spiritual practice.  I pray daily while I’m doing things and sing along with every worship song on the radio,  but I don’t get into the Word of God nearly often enough.

A lot of my early life was spent as part of the church. It helped that I grew up in a tiny little town. There were two entities that had events: the school and the church. There was only one school in town and 2 churches. Half of the people in my church also worked at the school, so there’s no getting things by on the church. You’re held to a higher standard in rural towns.

My parents are strong believers. They went on some short term mission trips and came back on fire for God’s calling. They included teachings of God in much of our lives. There were many mornings that my dad would pull out Our Daily Bread and read it to us while we ate breakfast. It was a nice start to the day. We went to church as a family most of the time. My father even got a chance to preach at times.

I was a very active member of our church. I was part of the youth group, the bell choir, the Christmas drama, and often ended up part of any other thing we had going on. I also took part in the youth group from the other church in town. Like I said, rural town; not much to do.

When I became an adult, my time was now in my own hands. I also moved to a place that had LOTS AND LOTS of events. I could go to a different event every single day if I wanted to. I also could be part of 90 different groups if I wanted. Church and school were not my only options any longer. Slowly, my spiritual practice time got chewed away at.

I was lucky that I transferred my junior year to a school with a fairly active Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I got involved in their Bible studies, their events, and even the gospel choir on campus. I didn’t need to do a lot of my own creation of spiritual practice time; this group created a lot of that for me. They also gave me accountability and “homework” to keep me up to speed.

Out of college, I got a job at a Christian camp. During their off season, they hosted retreats, so I became their retreat hostess. Once again, I was in direct service of God. My job included prayer, honest vulnerable talk about beliefs, and events that included the worship of the One Whom I Love.

Then, I married and got a job in my field. We haven’t had a “home” church for about 6 years. In this time, my resolve to spend time in my Bible and in worship has flagged. I’m blessed enough to have a great local radio station that offers worship music. There’s an AM station that has talk shows and sermons that gives me some learning when I crave it. I still pray whenever I’m led. The radio has sustained that “alone time” feel most of the time; it still felt lacking.

And then I discovered podcasts. In particular,  Our Daily Bread. I know that some might not like this publication’s format. That’s fine.  I may not relate to the writing every single day.  That’s fine too. The encouragement that I get from these 5-10 minute devotionals is worth every minute that may have seemed wasted at the time.

Commutes can be brutal. Something to listen to can be the difference between road rage and a calm ride. Radio stations lose signal at times. They also can air songs or sermons that get my ire up. The memory of a specific song being used to abuse someone can make me change the station. A sermon that highlights hatred or bigotry can do the same to me. That has been when I turn to the podcasts lately. Your church may have a podcast; many churches have gone to offering them. Getting a serving of the Bible is helpful for me. If you feel similarly, I included a link to the podcast I listen to for Our Daily Bread below.

Link for Our Daily Bread Podcast on Google Play Music: https://play.google.com/music/m/Ijpqyhygtcg63n5iutxzgt46cye?t=Our_Daily_Bread_Podcast_Our_Daily_Bread

I don’t know how many other sites have the podcast. I’m sure you can just search it in your software of choice. Either way, I hope you find a podcast or group that can offer you something to fill the static between your road rage and your craving for more in this life. While you look, keep moving; we’ll see you on the road.

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40 days to Easter

“Lent is a time to renew wherever we are in that process that I call the divine therapy. It’s a time to look what our instinctual needs are, look at what the dynamics of our unconscious are.” –Thomas Keating

Last weekend, we attended the baptism of my niece. While listening to the pastor’s sermon, I thought of all the Lenten seasons past that I’ve “fasted” from something in my life. I’ve given up sugary foods, soda, chocolate, pizza, video games, TV, and much much more. Some years, I have given up nothing but increased Bible reading, church attendance, journaling, or some other Spiritual discipline.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season in the Christian church. I wondered to myself if I should participate this year and how I will participate. The hardest thing for me sometimes is choosing what might be a fitting “sacrifice” and discipline for me to partake in. I try to make it something that will benefit not only my Spiritual health during the season, but might stick with me in my physical, mental or spiritual health later. 40 days from now, I may have had a different experience than I think.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”

40 days, the length of the Lenten season, is a significant number of days in the spiritual world. It’s the length of time that Jesus spent in the wilderness before his ministry started. It’s the length of time the Bible says it rained to create the “Great Flood”. 40 years is how old Mohammad supposedly was when he received his revelation of the arch angel, Michael. The planet Venus forms a pentagram in the night sky every eight years and returns to its original point every 40 years with a 40 day regression, leading astrologists to talk about anything from bad behavior of dogs to infertility to engagements.

In the biological world, 40 days is also far past the 21 days necessary for a human brain to fully accept a new habit. You could almost start a habit twice in that time!! Also, 40 days gives you a chance to try out this new habit in multiple scenarios. The time of year that the Lenten season is in even gives you a chance to try the habit out in multiple seasons if you live in the Midwest like we do. This week alone, we will deal with rain, snow, and sunshine on days that are anywhere from -4 degrees F to 57 degrees F. This new habit will be thoroughly embedded in your psyche and maybe even change your life for good moving forward.

I’ve always thought of the 40 days of Lent as a way to transition from winter to summer in a healthier frame of mind and physical state. So, this year, I am going to give up one thing and add two. I will be giving up all electronic games. I am adding more exercise and writing.

For some, electronic games mean nothing. It would be a minor sacrifice for some. For me, this will be the biggest test. It is such a habit to play games on Facebook and my phone that it would take up hours of my day if I let it; and I have let it before. If given the opportunity, I won’t even play console games, which are a particular weakness of mine since we got rid of our TV some years ago. This will be the hardest part of the Lenten sacrifice for me and counts as two in my book.

As far as exercising, I’ve done well in the past. I have a specific goal in mind for this Lenten time. I want to begin training for a Spartan Sprint race. To do this, I will need to increase my strength training and my running back to levels that will really get my muscles in shape to take on the obstacles. I plan to do 3 workouts a week featuring strength, 3 featuring cardio, and 3 featuring flexibility. I also want at least 1 full day off each week from all exercise so my body can heal. Some days will be short workouts of 30-60 minutes total, others may add up to 2 hours or more, depending on what needs to be done.

Writing has become sporadic for me. I used to write in a journal every day, write at least 2-3 letters a week, and write in a blog 2-3 times a week. In the last year, I’ve gotten to where I’m lucky to write in the blog once a week and a letter once a month. My journals have fallen off entirely. I’d like to get back to at least writing something every single day. I won’t be writing here that often, but know that I will probably write here more often. It becomes a solace and a helpful decision making tool.

With those changes, I feel that I’ll be growing my spiritual health. My relationship with myself and with God grows by my writing and it’s hindered by distractions like my games. Exercise is mostly for my physical health, but mental health is always helped by “burning off the crazy”. So, whether I’m out running or here writing, I’ll see you on the road.

God’s Plan

I’m a very spiritual person. Whoa… whoa… don’t run away yet. I swear I’m not going to start badmouthing anybody. I love people, whether you’re spiritual or not; atheist, agnostic, dont-care-ist… I accept you where you are and would love to hear your side and thoughts of anything we talk about.

I’m a born-again Christian. (Again, please don’t leave…. hear me out) For those of you that the term “born-again” sounds weird to, it is. Those of us that say that don’t mean we entered back into our mother’s womb. The idea is that we had a second “birthing” or awakening to God’s plan in our lives and that Jesus of Nazareth is our Messiah that will build and maintain the relationship between us and God. We have accepted this awakening as truth to us and apply it to our life.

I used to be very religious. I went to multiple Bible studies, church every single week, volunteered as a greeter, taught Sunday school, and attended Women’s retreats. I studied my Bible every single day and got down on myself if I didn’t. It’s been a waxing and waning kind of style throughout  my life. But this style of “religion” was not fulfilling to me. I felt like I was looking outside myself, outside the Holy Spirit, for my beliefs. There are verses in Hebrews 5 & 6 that talk about being yet a child and needing to be reminded of the basics over and over again. The most powerful for me in these chapters are Hebrews 5:11-13, “11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” I was doing all of these things, spending hours and hours and hours being taught by others. What I really needed was to lead myself; I needed to mature past being fed by others and start feeding myself. Let God carry me some instead of my faith in the schooling and leading of other people. 

I’m not very religious anymore. I want to know why we do the traditions we do and I still do some of them if I like them. I don’t regularly go to church. I do often watch and listen to podcasts from good preachers that are teaching more than the basics. I weigh what they say against what my study of the Bible has shown me. I feel reading my Bible, praying, and living my life the way Jesus would have is what God plans for me right now. I try to live every day of my life in a way that makes people think “There’s something different about her. I need to know what it is.” I will talk about my faith if people show some openness to it. I also will not often share the other parts of my religious beliefs with someone who doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world from Hell and the grave unless they ask me.

Whatever you do with your spiritual life, do it because it’s right for you. Talk to your higher power (mine is the triune God of the Bible) or yourself if you don’t have one and really decide if this ambiguous “religion” that you’re practicing matches your values and beliefs.

For my own spiritual health, I need to be relying on God for my teaching and my growth. I felt I needed space from organized religion. I’m glad I’ve taken it. I have learned so much about myself in relation to God and His world through this process. I’ve learned to assess the reasons for a Bible book’s writing before I apply it to my life. I often ask myself “Was this written for all of humankind, including me? Or is this more of a history written for the people of that time?” That’s a big question. If you don’t know, maybe find that out before you read a book. There are so many things I’ve learned from asking that question. And ask yourself “Does the God/power that I’m modelling myself after show any of the traits I’m being told are part of my ‘religious duties’?” That’s an important one too. Celebrate with your spirit and you’ll find truth. Be kind, be patient, and show care. Stay safe, my friends, and we’ll see you on the road.