Monday, March 20, 2017

what kind of boat are you?

When I was in high school I once used all of my hard-earned babysitting money to buy an entire volume of books that took you through the Bible - Genesis to Revelation.  I was a dorky responsible kid and believed I had some major responsibilities when it came to my faith in God. 

I never made it past the second book.  

I would always get busy or distracted.  Too much time would pass so I would decide to start all over again.  That seemed like the responsible thing to do...the first time, and second.  By the third time I felt like a complete failure but I could practically recite the book of Genesis after having re-read it so many times.  

I carried a tremendous burden when it came to being disciplined in my faith.  Even though I knew my salvation was a gift of grace, I thought spiritual disciplines were necessary to earn God's favor.  I wanted to be a favorite.  Who doesn’t?  So I sped forward through life like a motorboat trying to get ahead by my own hard work and perseverance.  I burned that motor out so many times.

After years of doing the 'right' things, I went off to college and decided it was high time I got rid of the heavy load I had been carrying.  For heaven’s sake, the Bible says it is for freedom that we have been set free!  I needed freedom from the guilt and burden I carried for years!  I suddenly turned into a raft just floating along wherever the waters carried me.  Unfortunately, the waters carried me into some pretty stagnant places.

It wasn't until much later in life that I learned disciplines of faith are not really anything like a motorboat or a raft.

I moved from the east coast to the west to attend graduate school.  It was a season of darkness and clambering back towards the light.  During that season I participated in my first real bible study.  The study was led by a woman named Mary and, interestingly, our curriculum was a book by Dr. Larry Crabb entitled – The Pressure’s Off.  Hmmmm.  A life without pressure?  Sounded impossible, and yet appealing.

It was the first of several studies with Mary and the more time I spent with her, the more I observed something.  Mary practiced spiritual disciplines in a way I had never seen them practiced before.  It was as if she constantly held her hands cupped open waiting for God to pour something into them.  I saw the overflow of what she received in the radiant way she loved God and loved others.  For Mary, spending time in prayer or bible study or any other discipline was like a gift she couldn't wait to unwrap.

It was not something she felt she needed to earn.  It was something she gratefully received.  It was not a burden she avoided.  It was an invitation she accepted.  It wasn't something she tried to cram into the corners of her life.  It was a consistent way of life.

In Mary I began to see the practice of spiritual disciplines more like a sailboat.  God sends the winds of His Holy Spirit and we set the sail to receive it.  We position ourselves to be moved and used by God - everyday, all the time.

Our goal isn't to earn.  Our goal is to receive.

In my race to the finish line I was always focused on where I was going.  God has been teaching me that sometimes life is less about where we are headed tomorrow and more about what we are building today.  He has also reminded me, he draws the blueprints for that building.

If we really are trying to build something in our lives it may be helpful to have some tools and a little preparation, but there is something of far greater importance.  More than any tools we accumulate or techniques we hone,  there is one simple step that must be taken.

We must choose to begin.

Sometimes more information leads to less transformation and what we really need is to just take what we've got and get started.

Several years ago I began taking bites of different spiritual disciplines - prayer, study, solitude, silence, frugality.  As I tasted them and experienced the nourishment they offered to my soul, I wanted more.  I think you will too.  But I don't want you to get ahead of yourself.  I want you to take bites too.  I want you to savor what God has for you.  I want you to simply begin.

I have written a new book because I want to take your hand and lead you there.  I know beginnings can be scary and overwhelming.  I know sometimes it's easier to stay where we are.  But my world has been widened and my souls has been strengthened with every step I have taken in this direction, so I've come back for you.  I want you to join me along the paths of spiritual disciplines that lead to the heart of God.  At some point we will both head off in different directions but for now, let's begin together.

This is your invitation.

Remember, you are a sailboat.

All that is required is for you to push out from shore, set your sail, and wait for the winds of the Spirit to move you.  I promise they will.  

How would that change our hearts and minds?
How would that change the way we interact with our family and friends?
How would that change the impact we have on our community?
How would that move us away from the temporary things of this world to the eternal, enduring things of God?

begin. will give you the basics of spiritual disciplines and then get you quickly on your way to actually practicing them.  Following a few non-bossy suggestions, you will be provided with 40 days worth of readings to help you tend to your soul - that inner life that so often goes unnoticed and neglected, and yet is the most important part of you.