Prayer and Verses on Self-Discipline

Dear Lord: Please don’t let me continue putting off until later what I can do today. I do not know what tomorrow may bring or how many days I have on this earth. Please instill in me a sense of urgency and help spur me into motion rather than squandering my free time.

I know that I need to meditate and recharge to be able to have  the right mindset, but please help me find a balance or help me do small things then rest, or think of small rewards which I can look forward to in order to make the things I don’t want to do more bearable.

Help me not just to make lists, but to also do the things on the lists whether it takes a day, a weekend, or a month or longer to complete.

When I’m trying to break a bad habit or cultivate a new better habit, help me to get a few successes under my belt so that I do not want to throw it all away for a momentary and usually dissatisfying experience.

Dear Lord, thank you for being strong when I am weak. Thank you for being a rock that I can cling to.  Thank you for giving me courage in my storms. Please help me to call on you in my times of temptation and when I feel that I can’t go on or can’t do something.

Please help me put those negative thoughts away and know that I can do things and that you will help me and never leave me. Please help me know that I have great strength inside of myself and that if I can get my mind and attitude right that I can resist the things that are bad for me and stick to my plans and goals to help me achieve great successes in my life.

I know that times will be hard and I will want to give up, but please help me to keep fighting the evil forces and naysayers and those who try to thwart my attempts, and help me to block out Satan’s stumbling blocks and things that get me off track or divert my attention from the prize.

Please help me to think of my goal as not only selfish things to make my life better, but also ways in which I can glorify your kingdom and be a better witness to others: both other Christians and non-believers.

Help me to set a good example for others and be an inspiration to those who need it. Please help me find motivation and energy to tackle the things I dread.

Please give me wisdom and send angels of mercy in whatever forms you deem necessary who will help give me encouragement when I am down and help me refocus when I have temporary setbacks.

Please help me not to think of my setbacks as failures but rather as learning experiences so that I know what not to do next time. Please give me the motivation and willpower to be the best that I can be for myself and for you.

Thank you Lord for all you do and are for me. I ask this in your Holy name. Amen.

Here are ten Bible verses about self-discipline and self-control to meditate on:

They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. Hebrews 12:10

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13:14

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.1 Corinthians 9:24-27

But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.  Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.  I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.  Revelation 2:10

Self-Discipline

I have recently written a couple of articles for Prayer Igniters International’s website http://www.prayerideas.org/. A portion of this post first appeared on their site. And, as you can see, I just figured out how to do hyperlinks.  I hope I’ve done them correctly & you can see what I’ve referenced for yourself if you choose.

A Bible verse I found when writing my Weight Loss Prayer is: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12: 11.  This really resonated with me.  It reminded me of the discipline I found when I quit smoking then a few years later quit drinking and what I am trying to tap back into to lose weight.

What is self-discipline? Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.”  You can almost use the words self-discipline and self-control interchangeably.  Self-discipline takes a lot of self-control stringed together.  Self-control is “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires, especially in difficult situations.”

I googled “How to develop self-discipline” and two articles by Forbes were the first to pop up.  In the first one by Jennifer Cohen titled “5 Proven Methods for Gaining Self Discipline” Cohen wrote, “There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but there is only one that begets sustainable, long term success in all aspects of life – self-discipline. Whether in terms of your diet, fitness, work ethic, or relationships,  self-discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately, to be happy.” I believe that she is on to something.

Her five methods are: “remove temptations; eat regularly and healthily; don’t wait for it to “feel right”; schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself; and forgive yourself and move forward.”

In the second Forbes article, “6 Ways To Develop The Self-Discipline Necessary To Reach Your Goals” Amy Morin lists her six strategies as “acknowledge your weaknesses; establish a clear plan; remove the temptations when necessary; practice tolerating emotional discomfort; visualize the long-term rewards; and recover from mistakes effectively.”

In an article I found by Z. Hereford, he calls self-discipline “The Foundation for Success”. In the opening paragraph of their article on the subject much like the Forbes articles, it states, “No personal success, achievement, or goal, can be realized without self-discipline.  It is singularly the most important attribute needed to achieve any type of personal excellence, athletic excellence, virtuosity in the arts, or otherwise outstanding performance.” The article lists the ways to develop self-discipline as “start with baby steps; learn what motivates you and what your bad triggers are; make certain behaviors a routine; practice self-denial; engage in sports or activities; get inspiration from those you admire; and visualize the rewards.” The benefits this article lists (paraphrased by me) are building self-confidence,: being able to accomplish more and maintain a higher tolerance for frustration; conquering obstacles and handling negative emotions; obtaining better health and finances; developing a good work ethic; and finally, being able to reach your most difficult goals more efficiently and having life become easier for you.

So all this sounds good, but is self-discipline really the one most important thing we need to be successful? I would argue that the most important thing we need is God.  We need his love, forgiveness, strength, encouragement, grace, mercy, example of sacrifice, and His disciplining us so that we can learn to discipline ourselves. God is the fountain we should be drawing from to help us so that we can obtain self-discipline so that we may then succeed with our goals and aspirations, find God’s best for us, reach our full potential, and thrive.

I have been reading Your Great Name: Discovering Power for Your Life in the Awesome Names of God” by Michael Neale as part of my morning devotional.  One of the names listed for God is Jehovah Ez-Lami which means The Lord is My Strength. The scripture that accompanies this chapter is Psalm 28: 7,9: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him… Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Neale also quotes Mother Teresa, “I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do.  Sometimes I feel so helpless and weak. I think that is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on Him twenty-four hours a day.”

Isn’t that how we all should be???  But, if you are like me, I often rely on my own devices and strength rather than seeking assistance from God who can help me do what I cannot do on my own.  Because I do not ask Him for help, when left to my own devices, I often fail when attempting to exercise self-control and use self-discipline.

One of my favorite Bible verses is, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:2-4 Perseverance requires self-discipline and it can often feel like suffering. It seems ironic to actually rejoice in suffering, but we can rejoice that it is only for a short time and that one day we will see the benefits which include building our character and giving us hope (not only for our remaining time here on earth but for the promise that all Christians have of paradise and an eternal life through Jesus’ love and sacrifice).

I found another translation of Romans 5:3-5: “Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.  And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.”  (The Amplified Bible)  I think it is interesting how different translations and reading just before and after a verse to get the context bring new meaning to scripture.

The Forbes thought of the day where I got some of the information I listed earlier, is a quote by John Quincy Adams: “Courage & perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” I don’t know what talisman he refers to, but I’d like to think of it as the cross.  The former President was a devout Christian and for many years was a member of the American Bible Society.

One area of my life that I have been (for the most part) faithful and successful in is giving up something for lent.  (But, not so much adding something.) When you put it in terms of Jesus denying himself things for 40 days in the desert despite being tempted by Satan to my small temptations, it’s easy to deprive myself for a little while usually of some type of food or beverage such as Coca-Cola, or chocolate, or this year jelly beans and French fries, or one year pizza. Sometimes I continue well beyond lent, but sometimes the last days before Easter I’m chomping at the bit to taste whatever I have given up.  I wish that I could harness that strength and self-discipline every day and always think of it in terms of Jesus. But in reality, that is much easier said than done.  It is something I will have to practice.

I guess if you look at it as something you’re doing now, then create a habit and get momentum and build on your successes, then maybe your chances of success are greater. I quit smoking numerous times, even for one year and nine months once, but would always pick it back up.  Until, finally, when I was 29, I thought to myself, “I’m about to really be an adult. I need to quit this childish stuff.” I smoked the last 5 cigarettes in the pack in a row and got a nice little buzz. Then I thought I’ll just see how long I can go without one. It has now been 12 years that I have “stayed quit” as I call it. Do I still think about it? Yes, occasionally when I’m stressed out or have had a big meal and want something to top it off, but it’s not something I seriously want to act on or go back to.

I’m not an alcoholic, but have definitely abused alcohol in the past and finally realized drinking was something I shouldn’t do.  I do sometimes want one, but luckily, God has provided things such as smoothies, fruit drinks, and non-alcoholic beer which let me have the taste I like and would miss, without having the unwanted alcohol too.  That makes me happy. I’ve learned that a lot of times when we sacrifice something, God provides us with something just as good or even better to replace it.

I often make lists of what I need to do and then find satisfaction in checking things off as I complete them.  It may take a long time to get to things. Sometimes I have to create a second list for more long term items or I keep making new lists and the same things wind up on the new ones.  Making lists helps me prioritize what needs to be done first and is most important from things that can wait.  It also helps me group like tasks together so that I can maximize my time and am not running back and forth across town. It helps me develop a strategy and plan to get things done.

Often times, for me, just getting started (like doing work at home, or studying, or chores, or especially mowing the lawn) is the hardest part. Most of the time once I’m doing it, I end up enjoying what I thought would be unpleasant or seemed to be too large of a job.  Once I actually get started I can spend hours happily doing the task and it is not as bad as I envisioned. Procrastination and inactivity only makes the dread worse and builds up the anxiety and makes it seem more daunting than it really is.

In the past coming up with a schedule for working out and sticking to it was what helped me be the most successful. I try to do that now, but all too often life seems to get in the way of my plans. Sometimes it is other obligations, but more often I think I’m too tired to exercise.  However, when I push myself to do it anyway, although I’m still tired afterward, it’s different.  I feel invigorated and energized and healthier.  When I string several days together at the gym I feel better and begin to really see the difference.

I think and have read that self-discipline is doing things we know we should do even when we don’t want to or feel like it. It’s also self-deprivation which is not fun but necessary. It doesn’t have to mean you can’t be nice to yourself by moderation or finding other rewards, but sometimes moderation is not possible because we can’t handle it and will backslide and sabotage ourselves because yes, we are just that weak.

But self-discipline is not just about changing bad habits. It is also necessary to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves such as finishing a degree or getting a certain job, saving for a car, paying off debt, or any number of things which make our life better or are dreams we have which may have seemed unlikely in the past. With hard work, determination, and self-discipline, we can do most things we set our mind to if they are part of God’s plan for us.

Well, this is getting pretty long, so I’ll post the prayer and the Bible verses that go along with this in my next blog.

Learning to Trust God When He Speaks to Me

A few weeks ago a new friend said she was adding me to one of her answered prayers list after she had prayed for my interview which went well.  Since she told me about her list, I’ve been thinking of writing down my own list of answered prayers.  (I already write 5 things I’m thankful for each day in a gratitude journal after reading about it in a devotional.)  I finally decided to begin a list of answered prayers Wednesday  after noticing all the check marks I had on my prayer list of things that had come to pass.  I ended up with 39 answered prayers!   

Also, that morning I was using a technique I had read about (writing to God then writing down what He speaks to you).  I’ve done it a couple of times now but wasn’t sure whether I was really hearing God.  This time He told me a lot of  reaffirming things He’s already said and showed me but that I have stubbornly questioned whether it was really Him speaking or what I wanted to hear (whether it was my will and not His will). Near the end of our conversation, He told me “I will show you a humming bird today so be looking for it”.  (I hadn’t seen one at the feeder at my house all year.) 

I thought He meant at my feeder, but as I sat in my swing on my deck (which is on the other side of the house from the feeder and where I have also seen them) I realized He could have meant anywhere and not just at my house.  I wasn’t sure what I needed to do for it to happen. Later I realized I couldn’t make it happen, but it turned out I had to do my part by putting out fresh nectar.

It wasn’t until late in the day that I realized the feeder was empty. I didn’t get to spend much time looking at the feeder because I took a long nap in the afternoon.   I had also been afraid to change the nectar because I thought the hummingbirds may not find it in time for it to come true that day. 

When I realized the feeder was empty, I looked at the bottle of nectar I had.  It was yellowish and I thought it was supposed to be clear.  I looked for an expiration date because I had it a few seasons and realized it had expired in August of last year.  I felt bad that was what I put out this spring and what they seemed to be drinking because the liquid had been going down in the feeder. 

 I decided I would try making sugar water rather than buying more nectar.  It was my first time making it. I called a friend and asked her what ratio of sugar to water she uses.  I didn’t  have much of the day left because it was after 5 p.m. and I had to eat and get ready for a Bible study. It didn’t take long for the sugar to dissolve after heating it and then for it to cool and me to fill up the feeder and put it outside.  I was hoping while I showered, the hummingbirds would be finding it.  I looked for them before I left, but was running late so I didn’t get to look for long.

 It was 8:30 p.m. when I got out of class and it was sprinkling and almost dusk.  (I had forgotten about it and spent time talking after we got out of class.) When I got in the car I remembered God’s words so I eagerly drove home to see if I could see a hummingbird.    I wondered if I still had time for God to show me one.  I wanted to believe and I was afraid of what it would mean to me if I didn’t see it.  My friend had mentioned she never sees them in the early morning or late evening so I was worried.

 When I got home, I stayed in my car which faces the feeder. In past years I have usually seen hummers when I am in my car.  I finished my drink and listened to the radio while I watched. Sure enough, after about a minute, through the raindrops on my windshield, I saw the tiniest of hummingbirds come to feed there.  It came back several times.

I was so happy! And, what God had been telling me was about my future spouse and children which I have waited on and prayed for a long time.  And, I have heard that hummingbirds mate for life, so I thought it was a very good sign that God gave me. 

It helped me realize that I can and do hear God talk to me and that it is not just my voice in my head.  It was a bit of a breakthrough on my hope, faith, and belief journey. I slept really good that night feeling like I was wrapped in God’s loving and comforting arms.

Now I just need to remember this when I start doubting what He tells me.  I pray that what He said about my husband and children will happen like He’s said and that I can have faith and believe that it is true while also being patient and letting it happen in His time.

I hope you hear God speak to you today and that you find your hummingbird.

 

 

My Prayer for Weightloss

This is much longer than a normal blog, but it is what came out as I was journaling this morning. I didn’t want to cut it down because I felt that this is what God laid on my heart so this is what I should say.

I have struggled with my weight all of my life.  In my adult life, I have to take medication which has a side effect of weight gain.  However, a lot of it is because of my bad habits and the bad foods that I put into my body as well as my lack of physical activity.

I have had successes. In college I lost 50 pounds, but I gained it back then more.  In the early 2000s I lost 90 pounds over a couple of years. But, over time for many reasons, the weight crept back on again till this summer when I realized I was 12 pounds away from my maximum weight.  I have gone to dieticians/nutritionists in the past and am going now, but I know what I need to do. Putting it into practice and making it a part of my daily routine and finding the will power and self-discipline to sustain it is my problem.

Over the last 6 months I lost 26 pounds. That is not as fast as I would like, but it is progress.  I even lost 8 pounds over the holidays.  But, this last month, I have struggled with the same 6 pounds up and down.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I have a goal and I want it really badly, so why can’t I get it together and lose the weight?

The nutritionist said to reach my desired weight, I needed to lose 109 pounds. I had already lost some before I began seeing him.  I have mini goals and I was seeing progress and had momentum, but then it stopped. I have prayed about it many times before, but today I sat down and wrote my prayer asking for God’s assistance in helping me reach my goal.  I hope that it can help you as well.

My Prayer:

Thank you Lord for Jesus Christ your son who died on the cross to save us from our sins. Please, Lord, forgive me for my sins.  I realize that gluttony is a sin and it is something that I am guilty of and want to change, but I need your help.

Dear Lord, help me to get my self-discipline, self-control, and personal restraint back.  Please help me to focus on my goal of getting healthy and losing weight and toning my body.  Please help me find the time to cook so that I can control what goes into my food and my body rather than eating foods that are bad for me such as fast food or over- indulging at restaurants.

When I do go out, please help me to make wise choices and not over-eat because it tastes good.  Help me to think of food as something I need to live rather than something to be consumed while celebrating or using it to comfort me.  Please help me to find my comfort and consolation in you.

Please help me to want to eat healthily because it is satisfying and tastes good and makes me feel better both physically and emotionally as well as giving me more energy.  Please help me to remember that all of the extra chemicals and additives and processed food make me fat.  Please help me to consume natural foods with simple ingredients closest to the way that you created them.  Help me not to crave fats, sweets, and salt because eating them makes my body crave them more and it becomes a perpetual cycle of bad eating and cravings.

Please give me the desire, energy, and time to work out and exercise even when I don’t want to.  I always feel better and refreshed after I do exercise even when I think I won’t. Please help me not to injure myself, but to challenge my body and not reach a plateau.  Please help me to vary my workouts so that I do not get bored, and so that I work all of my muscles.

Please help me not to worry about what I look like while I am exercising and help me not to compare myself to the others I see. Help me not to be embarrassed or ashamed of how I let myself get this way and help me remember that I am doing something about it now.

Please help me remember that most of my weight gain was my fault, but that there have been other factors such as medication and health issues that have contributed to it.  Please help me not to be too hard on myself and feel guilty. Help me to remember that it took a while to get here and that it will take a while to get back to where I want to be.

Please help me not to give up or lose focus, but to have faith in myself.  Please help me to regroup and begin again when I do overindulge or have setbacks or don’t meet my own expectations.  Please don’t let me give up or get frustrated, but help me to see where I went wrong.

Help me to see the results of my efforts on the scale and in the way my clothes fit.  Please help me to be happy with myself and love myself throughout this journey and always, no matter what my weight is.   Help others to look past the extra pounds and to see me for who I am rather than what I look like.

Please, Lord, help me to do these things and help me remember 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Help me to treat my body well and make it the best it can be.  Help me to be the best version of myself and honor the body you gave me.  Help me to be heathier so that my physical infirmities will lessen or go away completely.  Help me to treat my body in a way that will glorify your creation of me and prevent me from destroying myself.

Please Lord, help me remember “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)  Please remind me of 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

When I have moments of weakness, temptations, or self-loathing, help me to seek you and pray so that you can encourage me. Help me to remember that you love me no matter what and that you are there to help me as I work to better myself.

Please help me find friends and family to encourage and support me and notice my hard work and celebrate my successes so that I do not lose hope of reaching my goals. When people do not notice, it makes me think my hard work is for nothing. Please help people not to cut me down or point out how much more I have to lose/ how far I still need to go, but help them tell me they are proud of what I have accomplished.  Please help me to use that encouragement and momentum to know I can succeed and keep working at it.

Please help me remember that I am setting a bad example for non-believers and that they will wonder why I do not have my life together and why I seek food rather than seeking God to fulfill me.  Help me keep Romans 14:17 in mind: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” and Matthew 4:4  “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

I hope that this prayer will help others too, as we petition you to help us.  Please let us know that we are not alone and that a lot of people have this same struggle.  Please help us know that it does not mean we are bad people, but help us know that we can make a better version of ourselves by becoming healthy with our diet, exercise, emotional health, and body image.

Please help me have a shapely body that gets me back to where I want to be and helps me feel better about myself and appear more attractive to others as I try to find a marriage partner.  Help me to know that there was a time and a reason for me to be this way, but that I do not have to be this way anymore.

Help me to know the role that I played in getting to this point and that it is up to me to do something and change my habits in order to live up to my potential.  Let Hebrews 12:11 keep me going. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Thank you, Lord, for all you do for me and for the many blessings that you have bestowed upon me. Please hear my prayer.

American Sniper

I still stand behind my prior post “Sniper”, but I feel like I need to add to it.  I wrote it coming from my personal point of view and what I would want to do.  It is not out of disrespect or judgment of others.  I know I am different.  I don’t agree with the death penalty either for the same reasons.  However, I cannot count the number of people who have told me over the last year and a half that they could not do what I do, just like our military service men and women do things that I and most of the general public could not do.  I do believe Ecclesiastes 3:1 that “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens”.

The reason I like snipers so much is because my favorite character in “Saving Private Ryan” was the sniper.  I liked how he quoted the Bible before each shot. Spoiler Alert!!!If you’ve ever seen it, you know that one of the Americans lets one of the Germans go.  That German ends up finding them again and killing a lot of Americans.  I haven’t seen it in a long time, because I don’t like to cry (I cry every time I watch the ending when they are at the grave site).  If I remember correctly, the enemy who was spared ends up killing my sniper. That is why my romantic view of not killing is impractical for the military.  When you let someone go or only shoot to injure, the enemy can end up killing Americans even though the enemy may lie wounded and bleeding.

I watched American Sniper today.  I went in knowing very little about it. I like Bradley Cooper and it was a sniper movie, so instead of going to the gym today especially since I didn’t feel all that great (I ended up getting pink eye because of all the crying I did at the end of the movie).  On a whim I went to the theater that was in the same shopping center.  I thought that maybe it was a true story because I thought I remembered hearing something about it in the buzz before it was released, but I didn’t really know for sure that it was about a real Navy Seal named Chris Kyle until the end. I did begin to believe it probably was true when I recognized some of the names of the bad guys.

I rarely go to the theater these days and am not very up to date with my movie watching.  I haven’t seen any of the other Academy Award nominees, although I would like to see “Wild”.  However, I hope that Bradley Cooper wins best actor this year.  He really did a good job.  I guess I’ll have to write another blog about Oscar Snubs if he doesn’t win.

I like and respect him (even more now) and appreciate his choices of roles and portrayal of PTSD in “American Sniper” and Bipolar Disorder in “Silver Linings Playbook”.  I hope with the recent death of Robin Williams and movies like these that mental illness will stop being so taboo and instead become something that society addresses  with compassion so that we recognize all of the good things that people who suffer from them have done and still do, rather than remembering all of those who become criminals because they do terrible things after they go off of their medication and become psychotic.

PTSD is real.  I cannot imagine NOT having it after being in a war zone.  I am thankful for programs like “Wounded Warrior” and especially “Team Rubicon” whose mission is to use veterans’ special training and skills to mobilize disaster relief efforts while helping the veterans transition back into civilian life. The founder of Team Rubicon actually lost his battle with PTSD and the resulting depression and ended up taking his own life.

We MUST avoid that. ESPECIALLY for those who make this nation what it is and protect us.  The United States would be nothing without our military and we need to protect them even better than they protected us because they have seen some pretty horrible things in order to let us sleep peacefully.  I feel like life can be a war zone for anyone if we’re not careful.  We need to pray for peace for our country for our people and for our world.

I’m thankful for war movies that make me think about and truly empathize with our troops and their families.  It is an incredible sacrifice and burden that they must carry in order to keep us safe and warm in our beds each night.

God Bless Them.

I missed Christmas this year

Before I got ready to go to church this morning, I was listening to my country gospel CD.  I haven’t listened to it in several months.  My favorite songs are “Peace in the Valley” and “Beulah Land”.  I began thinking again that I would want those played at my funeral. Death sounded nice. I don’t really want to die, but in this Christmas season, I have been thinking of Jesus’ death, instead of his birth.

For the longest time I’ve been going to church only in time to hear the sermon.  I like the music at the beginning but it just seems to last too long so I skip it. It’s not that I don’t wake up early enough to get ready. I’m usually up hours before the service begins. I just get caught up with and carried away doing things then don’t leave enough time to get ready.  Today I had to prepare to teach the Sunday School lesson so I was not distracted with other tasks except preparing.   There were only three others there besides myself due to the holidays. I stumbled my way through, but I think we all learned something from our discussion.

What I wanted to write about was the church service (the contemporary service comes before Sunday school at our church). The music was acoustic.  Normally there is a praise band.  Two of the students who I watched develop as musicians in youth group played and sang along with the praise band director as a trio with just their guitars. The young woman and man are both now freshman in college and had returned home with their first semester under their belts. They sounded beautiful. They sang songs that I knew from my time assisting with the student ministry so I was able to sing the words and actually feel them rather than trying to pick up a new melody and stumbling over the words which is often the case during the usual Sunday Contemporary Services.

The sermon was “Christmas… What’s next.” The associate minister who preached that day, Brenda Westmoreland, asked the congregation, “Did you miss it?” Were you too busy, did you not make time, did you not think about it?  I realized guiltily that I had missed it.

I brought my Christmas decorations out of storage over Thanksgiving break, but I didn’t decorate until mid December.  I debated whether to even go to the trouble of decorating since I had waited so long.  I remembered last year I went through the same dilemma. I did decorate last year and was glad I did, so I went ahead and decorated this year. I didn’t put that many things out though. I meant to put my nativity scene out but I wanted to dust where I was going to put it and never got around to it.  The boxes that I store my decorations in stayed in the living room. I never put them away, because since I waited so long I didn’t want to have to carry them down then turn around and carry them back up the stairs in a couple of days.

I listened to Christmas music by choice at home and in the car for most of the month, but I never really got into the mood.  My Christmas shopping didn’t take long.  It didn’t seem like it was really here. I went to Christmas Eve service.  The message there focused on Mary and her role in the birth of Christ.  I just really didn’t appreciate the significance of this birth this year. I’ve heard the story many, many times before. It was kind of like Christmas, yea, Jesus was born.  Instead, I was worried about what family members were going to be there and who would be missing when we celebrated, and forgot the reason we were celebrating.

I spent more time reading the Bible over the break. I spent more time praying. I spent time trying to hear God speak to me.  I watched a You Tube video of Third Day’s “Love Song” that has scenes from the movie “The Passion”.  I flinched when I saw Jesus being beaten and wanted to turn away when I saw the agony.  I pondered Jesus’ suffering and death, but it didn’t really hit me that he would not have been able to die for our sins if he hadn’t been born. That is the reason we celebrate. His birth actually probably took place in the Spring, but December 25th is the day that history has chosen to recognize and celebrate the miracle of him coming into the world.

People have sometimes made the connection we wouldn’t have the resurrection without the birth.  I remember hearing it, but I had to be reminded by our preacher today.

She said it’s not too late to celebrate Christmas and mentioned Epiphany. She said that Christmas day was only the beginning of the season. The wise men did not make it to see Jesus until several days later (we celebrate it on January 6th). I know that Catholics celebrate Epiphany (it’s only skimmed over in the Methodist church) but I’m not sure I ever really knew what it meant. If I did, I forgot.

The very busy minister told us as her daughter had said to her, “Be intentional about slowing down and leaving time and room for Jesus”. She said that business is a sickness. She said to pray, read scripture, and spend time with God in his living word.  She nudged us with Gods words, “Be still and know that I am God” and added “a small voice speaks love into our hearts.”  She challenged us to do something for someone else (not just family or friends). Jesus taught us to love one another as thy self.  She left us with the reminder that God comes near and calls us to Him and service in His name not unlike Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds.  We need to be listening for what He wants us to do and how we can make the world a better place.

Last night my roommate and I were discussing when to take the Christmas decorations down. Some say it’s bad luck to leave them up after New Year’s. Others say it’s bad luck to take them down before New Year’s.  I say take them down on January 1st so you’re covered, but in church this morning I had an epiphany of my own.  I decided I would put my nativity scene up when I got home and would leave my decorations up this year until after Epiphany so that I can enjoy them while I contemplate what Christmas means since I missed the point this year.

Sunday’s Lessons–Communion and Being a Christian

I’ve been wanting to write a blog about church last Sunday, but have been busy trying to get things set to start a new job.  I have been so stressed out about getting my references to respond and receiving a formal offer for the position, but now things are looking like they may work out today.  The company should have received my last reference this morning, so I hope to hear from them with good news today.  I finally feel a sense of peace, so I wanted to relax and write while I still have a little free-time.

During the sermon entitled “A Stranger Becomes Known” the lesson was based on Luke 24:13-35 when Jesus first appears to the disciples after the resurrection and they do not recognize him. The things our preacher Jody Alderman said related to the verses were good, but what stood out most to me is Jody said: “We don’t control Jesus—Jesus is working in the world.”  And when someone says “They have found the Lord”, he said “Jesus is/was  not lost—we are/were.”

It was communion Sunday and I got to serve the congregation for the first time.  (I had served the youth during their summer “Teens Love Christ” retreat a few summers back, but this was my first time serving the church.)  I really enjoyed the experience, seeing everyone and saying “His blood poured out for you”.  I loved lowering the cup so children could reach it and smiling at my friends and those whom I don’t know their names.  I thought it was cool how Jody said that the servers would give them the bread because Christ gave his grace and forgiveness to us and we cannot take it by taking the bread.

On the third day, Jesus had not revealed himself yet, and the disciples were bummed out because they had been so sure that he was the Messiah but he hadn’t done what he said he would do.  However, they finally recognized Jesus later that day on what we now call Easter when he broke the bread to serve them.  The disciples had thought “the crucifixion was the end, but it was only the beginning”.

Jody also told the story about a reporter asking an abbot about the Christian experience.  The abbot replied that “You fall down, you get back up. You fall down, you get up.  You fall down, you get back up.”  Jody said we can’t get stuck.  We need the resurrection.  Jesus wants to unstick us and the resurrection is the whole point of the story—the heart of the gospel. He asked “We have heard it, but have we experienced it?” The crucifixion and resurrection were God’s deliverance of Israel.

Next, in Sunday school, we finished our study about world religions rounding it out with Christianity.  The preacher in the video (Adam Hamilton) that went with the series talked about the reasons that he is a Christian and what we should say if someone asks why we are one.  I thought it would be good to have ideas of what to say, so I took notes.

Because of:

  1. The eye witness accounts
  2. The picture God created—Jesus spending time with sinners
  3. The Christian ethic and Jesus calming the waves.  Jesus washing the disciples’ feet like a slave.  Jesus naked and bleeding on the cross with a crown of thorns on his head and the compelling picture that brings to mind. How Jesus was raised from the dead in triumph.  To the speaker, that is the most compelling picture of any religion.
  4. The price Jesus paid on the cross and its power
  5. The hope in Christ with life after death
  6. Our own experience of Christ—the peace, joy, meaning and richest moments we have experienced with and through him
  7. How it relates back to faith and how you can be a better spouse, parent, sibling, friend, etc., because of having Christ in your life
  8. Refusing Christianity is like getting an invitation to a party but choosing not to go.  But, what if someone doesn’t get the message in a language he or she understands or never got the invitation at all like small tribes in remote areas who have never been exposed to missionaries or the story of Christ? The speaker and I believe that God is love.  Jesus on the cross prayed for his Father to forgive them, “because they know not what they do.”  The preacher comforted me in saying he thinks God has a way of applying the merits of those who have never been exposed to the Gospel and looks at how they have lived their life—their works—whether they were like Christians even though they did not know Him.
  9. The speaker on the video left us with the question, “What will you say when you face Him? What will He say to you?”  I believe if you are exposed to the Christian message and God and Jesus as how I perceive them but refuse to accept them, that it means you will be sent to Hell.
  10. I hope that you believe.  I know there are a lot of questions that I have had and still have, but if we truly want the answers, we can find them out.   It’s hard to comprehend how “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16) Especially, when we are so unworthy of His love.  But, it is true.  I hope you have faith or can develop it, because faith is believing without seeing and trusting in the Creator, a Father, who loves us so much He sent his own son to die for us so that we could be reconciled to Him and our sins forgiven, so that one day we can live eternally in Heaven with Him. Peace out