Our recent rains have cooled things down a bit. It is showering outside as I type this, and I find myself in an early Monday morning reflective mood of sorts. I am a flaming extrovert if there ever was one . . . yet, I find that lately I have been drawn to practice a bit of early morning meditation and prayer.
I have been journaling my morning prayers this past couple of weeks. Re-reading them has brought into perspective, for me at least, a better personal understanding of Christian ordinances.
An ordinance is any kind of regular daily spiritual practice which keeps you close to, and in love with God. Journaling is an ordinance for me, yet I only journal is "seasons." I only tend to do it when I know, or expect to have a time of trial, or when I know a big decision is coming up.
My oldest daughter's wedding is September 20.
The key to journaling for me, is re-reading the journal. Re-reading my handwritten entries is a challenge in and of itself, because my handwriting is simply horrid. Yet, I don't really know why I would put for the the effort to journal, if not to re-read my previous entries.
In re-reading my most recent journal entries, I find that I am trusting in God more than I ever have in my life. And, the closer I get to God within the context of relationship, the more I seem to want to sing and praise Him. The closer I am with God, the more I desire His presence on a regular basis.
What happens as a result . . .
1) I think I am calmer over all,
2) I think I am more focused these days on the things that really matter to me:
-my personal faith
-my family and friends
-my calling and ministry
When I am closer to God, I find that my circle of friends begins to expand. As I re-read my journal entries, I am realizing that I am starting another period of physical, spiritual, emotional and relational growth.
From my experience, this means:
-More books to read
-More conversations and sharing with people who are different
-A broadening of the lens through which I see God alive and active in life.
When I journal, I discover that I have made God too small. These periods of growth and personal/spiritual interspection is almost always about the fact that when I learn something new and profound about God and His grace . . . I tend to shut it down . . . I want to be at the point where I "finally know all there is to know about God!"
Well, that is never going to happen.
I feel like God is telling me . . . "Rick, you've grown a lot, especially in these last 5 years. I am proud of you son! But, I need to tell you . . . you ain't seen nothing yet. So hang on to your Tilley hat, Bible, guitar and fishing rod . . . I am so much more than you ever thought . . . my love for you and for others is more than you have ever thought . . . and your understanding of me, my love and my grace . . . IS TOO SMALL! I am going to show you more!"
I have been studying the Bible and theology full time for over 20 years. And despite my so called "seminary approved" knowledge and wisdom . . .
-I am coming to understand that I am just scratching the surface about what the Bible contains, and that after over 20 years of study, that I am still wading in very shallow water when it comes to my understanding the scriptures.
Oh my God, please, please show me more!
-I am coming to understand that my knowledge of the great historic doctrines of faith, is to shallow as well, that my understanding of them is too narrow, more often as not to suit myself and my sometimes selfish motives, or to support my own agendas.
Oh my God, please forgive me!
-I am coming to understand that what I know about God's grace and love . . . is also very narrowly / shallowly focused. As we work as a church family to intentionally minister to our neighbors within one mile circle around our church . . . I see that I am going to have opportunity after opportunity to witness Christ to people who are a different color than I am, who speak a different language than I do, who may believe differently than I do. These are people whose trust I am going to have to earn, because in their eyes, I am affluent, and they are struggling to survive. I am seeing more clearly that God's grace is freely offered and given to all people, yes, even the ones very different from me . . . even the people I may be uncomfortable being around, because they live, speak, or believe differently than I do, about both life and faith.
Oh my God, please give me your strength to witness Christ in my life!
I encourage you . . . discover your own "Christian ordinance." Practice it in season, or every day. Draw closer to God . . . and be dragged along by His love to discover just how shallow your faith is . . . and how much more we can learn from God through His love for us.
We can never, ever learn it all about God, religion and faith. There is no short-cut. The journey will no doubt be painful, for in truth, all growth is painful to some extent.
But, God will provide, and He is worthy of my complete trust.
Ever forward . . . ><>