axioms add up

I've been thinking lately about how I live my life. It all began to surface when I was listening to Bill Hybels at the Leadership Summit in August. He was talking about leadership axioms. If you're looking for some ideas and insight in leadership, you might want to check out Hybels' leadership book called, axiom.

axiom (ăk'sē-əm)

a word or phrase that particular
people use in particular situations; "pardon the expression"

You know those sayings, expressions or 'isms' we all have.

Bill, my father-in-law would reply to difficult situations with two sayings... This too shall pass. and It's just a glitch. I must admit I often did NOT want to hear this Bill-ism. But we could count on him helping us gain a bit of perspective through these axioms of his. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago however his words and wisdom lives on -- not because he always said those words but more importantly because he lived those words.

On my desk is a crumpled typewritten saying he carried in his work portfolio. It is entitled, The Best Day of My Life. I have no idea who said this, or when he added it to his treasured pieces of paper yet I am thankful for what he left behind.

As I sit and look at this piece of paper I wonder what my kids, my husband, and my friends will say about me. What will I leave behind? What will they remember of what I said and how I lived? Will these two things be the same? Boy, I hope so.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

A person is made by a lifetime of living -- a series of small and large decisions that combine to create a life. We are building our legacy each and every day.

Here's a few things I am trying to remember about the cumulative effect of a living:


  • There is a cumulative value to investing small amounts of time in certain activities over a long period of time.

  • There is rarely any immediate consequences for neglecting single installments of time in any arena of life. HOWEVER, neglect or continually choosing to allow urgent things to interfere with the important will have a negative cumulative effect.

Remember the story about the rabbit and the turtle who run a race? I have to admit I've always liked the rabbit's energy but not his attitude. Today, I'm learning to accept and even embrace: slow and steady wins the race! Who knows, maybe it will become a Corinne-ism someday.

What are you saying these days? What are you living these days?

Caution! Community may require a leap of faith.

It seems everywhere we turn we are being asked to be part of small group, serve on a team, or get involved in a worthy cause. Like most of you, I’ve seen and experienced the best and worst of community and groups. Yet, my heart and soul has been transformed in ways I would have never expected as a result stepping into community or being part of a team. Even though I love a solo challenge -- I am learning to leap (okay, lean) toward community because I know spiritual transformation takes place best in community.

In community, I've found encouragement, support and often a clearer perspective about God and myself. In community, I've given a part of myself and received so much more. In community, I've been able to be part of something larger than myself. In community, I'm becoming visible and known. In community, I've experienced connection and meaningful interaction. In community, I've been lifted up through prayer - and been honored to pray for others. In community, I've faced hard questions. In community, I've found sticking around is worth it. In community ,I'm learning to listen more and talk less. In community, I'm getting a chance to increase my awareness and openness to people who are different than me. In community, I'm seeing more and becoming more like Christ -- slowly but surely.

Community Challenge!
  1. Commit to finding community or staying connected in community.
  2. What have you seen, learned, or experienced in community?
  3. How are you better for being in community?
  4. Think of a person who has been part of your community and has made a difference in your life -- send them a handwritten note of gratitude.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25

Friends are made along the journey.

Practice makes Perfect? Not exactly.

I've been thinking about the word practice today. You see part of my story is being a high school and college athlete. As a result, I am well acquainted with practice. I played volleyball and just like in any other sport or athletic endeavor -- athletes practice in a gym or field without any spectators or fans a whole lot more than they play in a game.

Practice is part of practically everyday and is often designed around fine tuning a skill, learning a new technique or strategy, strengthening your core, and building endurance. When an athlete practices, she is either trying to maximize her greatest strengths and/or working to improve in an area of weakness. For team sports, practice includes learning to work together and play together in order to compliment each others strengths and compensate for each others weaknesses.


As an athlete you would never think of just showing up for a game. Athletes know you must prepare and practice in order play well.


I think this is true in the spiritual sense as well. This morning I was journaling and reading Isaiah 61:1-4 and some other surrounding passages. I decided to look at another passage in Ephesians chapter 6. I'd encourage you to read all of Ephesians to see the context of the letter.


Here is a bit of what I noticed this morning in the last part of this letter (specifically chapter 6, verses 10-20). Listen to these excerpts....


Finally, be strong in the Lord...

therefore put on the full armor of God, SO THAT when...



Okay, I am not one for pulling scripture out of context and focusing on a few words. But these words stuck me today. SO THAT when... Spending time with God through spiritual practices is SO THAT WHEN whatever comes our way, we can stand strong.

On the very day I wrote these words, one of my closest friends called to let me know that she was facing one of her deepest fears head on that very morning. Without hesitation, I rearranged my schedule to be by her side. Just to be with her to walk alongside her through this unexpected detour.

You see I am thankful for two things --

  1. I'm continuing to develop a relationship with God that I've been "practicing" for years and as a result I know I can trust him in all things and
  2. I've been building a relationship with my friend that you might say I've been "practicing" for years and as I result we will walk through this side by side.

Life is coming at us in all directions. Sometimes we can anticipate what is coming around the corner. Other times we are knocked to the ground with life's unexpected challenges. Although I can't predict the outcome, I can be strong and faithful as a Christ follower and friend because I've been practicing for years.


Practice doesn't make us perfect nor does it make life work out perfectly. Practice makes living in sync with God possible and helps us live in ways that are God honoring.

Making it Your Own
What character of God do you find the easiest to rely on?

What character of God do you find the most difficult to rely on?

Which scriptures or Bible passages have you found most helpful in building your spiritual muscles and endurance for living?

Commit to building up your weaker muscles. Devise a practice schedule that includes a variety of spiritual practices. Make sure to share you ideas with each other!

I encourage you to spend time and energy connecting with God through spiritual practices.

Looking Outward and Living It

Spiritual Practices go beyond the work of God in our own lives. Our faith requires us to follow and live our beliefs. We participate in God's work as we live in a way that is representative of God's heart and his desire for our world.

Think of it this way, expressive spiritual practices are activities or ways we express our faith, hope and love in our world.


Essence of the Practice

Here is a list of what might be included in the Expressive Spiritual Practices:



  • Compassion -- feeling what others feel, extending mercy and help in extravagantly practical ways.

  • Control of the Tongue -- turning the destructive way of words into authentic, loving, and healing words.

  • Humility -- becoming like Jesus in his willingness to choose the hidden way of love rather than the way of power.

  • Truth Telling -- living an authentically truthful life by speaking in a way that does not exaggerate, minimize, deny, rationalize or manage the truth.

  • Justice -- loving others by seeking their good, protection, gain, and fair treatment.

  • Stewardship -- living as a steward of God's resources in all areas of life -- knowing that everything belongs to God.

  • Care of the Earth -- the practice of honoring the creator by loving, nurturing and stewarding his creation.

(Spiritual Discipline Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun)

As I write this list I wonder how, if ever, I can live up to this standard. Then I remember it's not a standard or a list, it's a result or by-product of being connected to Christ.

Jesus says in John 15:5, Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

It is through this living relationship with Jesus we can live as expressions of our faith in our world. In the illustration Jesus is using in John 15, God is described the gardener. I imagine it this way, my responsibility is to tend to my "soil" or soul so that God can work in and through me.

Making It Your Own:

How do I do this? I need be in scripture. I need to take time to process and journal my journey with God. I need a few trusted friends to process what we are finding and what God is doing in our souls. I need to be part of community of followers and participate in worship. I need to be stretched and fed by other followers and leaders. I need to spend time in nature and enjoy God's creation. I need to see the ocean and be at the beach at least once a year. (Okay, so I don't need to, I just love smelling the salty air, feeling the breeze off the water, curling my toes in the sand, and disconnecting from the list of things I have to accomplish when I am at home. Sorry, I'm missing the beach. :) )

When I keep my soul well cared for, my life is increasingly more expressive of God's heart. I begin to care more deeply about those things God cares deeply about.

Questions To Consider or BLOG about:

What do you do to tend to your soul?

How are you doing expressing your faith in your world?

Of the list above, which one or two do you desire to grow in?

Teachability

Consider carefully what you hear. Mark 4:24

I want to be a lifelong learner.

I want to be open to God's promptings and the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life.

I want to listen, hear and respond. -- well, most of the time.

Let me explain.

Just yesterday one of my friends and team members in ministry left a message with regard to a meeting our team had early that day. I usually love hearing from this friend and co-laborer. The message began with words of encouragement and praise for our time together. The message continued with a word of caution and guidance. In a direct and loving way she told me to trust our team to complete the task at hand and that I needed to really listen to the team's comments and opinions.

I listened to the message rather quickly. To be totally honest -- I "skimmed" over her words hoping to capture the key points and move on. I was half listening. Oops! I was doing it again. Then when I paused and considered her words, I realized she was right.

My default is to jump to the bottom line and PUSH ahead when the pressure is on.

I am thankful for a friend who knows me, loves me and cares enough to help me grow. And, I am thankful for God who knows me, loves me and cares enough to help me keep growing.

The first step is becoming aware of my need to change and then I must lean into the hard process of actually changing. For the past few days I seem to keep bumping up against opportunities to apply what I've been learning! I guess this is what it looks like to practice being teachable.


Essence of the Practice
  • listening more, talking less
  • refraining from snap judgments
  • an appropriate openness to new ideas, opinions, styles, and people
  • curbing the know-it-all attitude
  • asking questions that lead to a deeper God awareness

Making it Your Own

  1. Ask God to give you a teachable heart and a will to listen.
  2. Think about a time you learned something from someone who wasn't an authority or an expert. What did you learn? What was it like for you? Tell that person what you learned from them. (For example, my 11 year old son continues to teach me what it looks like to be an encourager. He gave me a high-five the other day as I walked through the kitchen.)
  3. Become aware of your compulsion to let others know what you think. Notice when you're composing what you will say next rather than listening to the one who is speaking.
  4. Get comfortable with saying "I don't know".
  5. Keep a log of the new things you are learning and experiencing with God.
  6. Who do you want to be five, ten, twenty years from now? What will you have to learn to become that person? Ask God to help you become this person. Make a list of those things you need to STOP doing and those things you need to START doing to become that person.
  7. Ask a trusted friend to help you see and hear more clearly. Invite this person to discuss your current aptitude in listening, hearing and responding. Then invite them to walk alongside you as you learn to become more teachable.

some of these ideas are adapted from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook


How teachable are you?

How do you respond when you hear an opinion you don't agree with?

What are you learning about God and yourself these days?

The Shack and Room of Marvels



I love to read. I enjoy hearing what others are thinking and processing.




I go through spurts of reading fiction and honestly I don't read very much christian fiction. BUT, a few years ago I read a book called Room of Marvels and just recently picked up a copy of the book, The Shack. Both books are fiction. Both books press in on really hard subjects of pain and loss. Both books profoundly impacted my view of God, our world, and eternity.




Any readers out there? Have you read either of these books? Would love to hear your thoughts?




Growing our Picture of God

Interesting how our childhood experiences have a significant impact on our view of God and our world. After thinking about the practice of gratitude, I realized how much my upbringing has framed my thoughts and behavior.

What kind of picture of God do you recall growing up with? How has this picture impacted your faith over the years? How has this picture changed?

Gratitude

Do you see a cup as half empty or half full? Does it depend on who is holding the cup?

Many research studies and articles have been written about temperament and personality traits. They show that people have different natural inclinations. Think about it right now. I bet you can make a list of people in your life who always seem to see the positive side of things. Conversely, I bet you can make a list of people who always seem to see the negative side of things.

I remember early on in life being taught to be content and thankful regardless of the circumstances of my life. My mom and dad were masters of encouraging (sometimes demanding, that's for another post) gratefulness. Their tactics included a threefold strategy in responding to my requests (literal translation... my demands and whining):

  1. They'd begin by rattling off a few selected phrases from Philippians chapter 4 -- "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation...."
  2. The next step in their strategy entailed a reality check. This line of reasoning included challenging me to make observations. Look around, granted there are people who have more than you or have it easier AND there are many more people who have less or are facing harder circumstances than you.
  3. Finally, my folks would ask me where I had focused my eyes. Had I decided to look at what I had been given and be grateful or would I choose to whine, complain, and be miserable? (This doesn't sound like much of a choice... duh.)

I've learned this threefold strategy and must admit I've used it a few times with my three children. What I missed along the way is that genuine gratitude can indeed coexist with sadness and disappointment.

I learned this as one of my children experienced something difficult and was sharing his disappointment and pain with me. You see I quickly moved to one of my foolproof tactics -- and this child spoke real truth to me. His words continue to echo in my ears, Mom, can I just be sad for a little while? I guess I'm still learning we can experience difficulties, disappointments, and pain in the midst of gratitude and don’t have to deny either the gratitude or the pain.

I believe gratitude comes from a heart that is open to God. A heart that is open to see with new eyes and trust in ways that do not always make sense. I believe gratitude is learned over time and can be expressed at even greater depths as we allow God to meet us in our disappointments and pain.

Focusing Our Attention

Read through Philippians chapter 4. Find a place where you can read this chapter aloud, better yet have someone read it to you. This letter, written by Paul was likely to have been read aloud among the community of Christ followers. These words were placed right before a brief and final greeting at the conclusion of the letter. No doubt their placement left a lasting impact and continued to ring in the listeners' ears long after they'd been heard.

What do you notice in your reading?

What words or phrases stand out to you?

Essence of the Practice

If the only prayer you say in your life is "thank you," that would suffice. --Meister Eckhart

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Real life isn't always going to be perfect or go our way, but the recurring acknowledgement of what is working in our lives can help us not only to survive but surmount our difficulties. --
Sara Ban Breathnach

Making It Your Own

This week practice gratitude.

  1. Pray using these phrases: Today I am grateful for... AND God, thank you for this day of life and for...
  2. Make a list of all the things you are thankful for...
  3. Begin each prayer with Thank you for...
  4. Express your gratitude to your family or friends over a meal by calling them by name and citing one specific thing you are grateful for about this person's character.
  5. Express your gratitude to a family member, friend, co-worker, teacher, coach, etc. who lives in a different city by calling them or writing them a letter. (I just did this for my dad on his birthday. I thought it would be one page and it ended up four handwritten pages. I had a lot of things I needed to acknowledge and he needed to know I noticed.)
  6. Take several pieces of paper and write down one thing on each paper you are thankful for. Place them in a gratitude box or bottle and review them from time to time. You could use post-it notes and place them on your mirror or on a wall.
  7. Make it a daily practice to record one thing you are grateful for and write it on your calendar. Review the list with God at the end of each week.

Note: You could even incorporate this practice of gratitude and thanksgiving with the breath prayer we talked about earlier.

Which one of the ideas did you try? How did it go? What did you notice about yourself and/or your relationship with God as you practiced gratitude this week?

What has been your experience with practicing gratitude?

Shaking the System

Here at Grace Community Church we just finished a four week series entitled Shaking the System. If you missed any of these -- you can listen online at www.gracecc.org/sermons.html

How did this weekend series stir you?

What questions or concerns did it raise in your heart and mind?

This past week Dave Rod gave us some ideas for personal engagement -- have you or are you planning to take any steps to personally get engaged in social justice issues?

Praying as We Breathe In & Out


By offering a simple prayer with every breath, we can be reminded "for in him we live and move and exist" (Acts 17:28).

Although rather simple, this practice requires a connection between the unconscious act of breathing and a conscious expression to God.

A Bit of History
The church has practiced breath prayer or "prayer of the heart" for millennia. The Eastern Orthodox Church, in particular, has seen breath prayer as a way of living out Paul's instruction to "pray without ceasing."



        Examples

Jesus Prayer
Take a moment to become aware of your breathing. It might help to find a quiet place -- close your eyes and notice your breathing.

As you breath in -- bring your thoughts to Jesus.
As you breath out -- express a word of gratitude or need.

For example, breath in -- saying "Lord, Jesus Christ" -- breath out saying "have mercy on me."

Throughout your day -- as you notice your breathing -- take note and express your gratitude to Jesus Christ.


Essence of the Practice
Repeat a simple one-sentence prayer.
Connect the prayer to your breathing and return to it throughout the day.
Breath prayers can be short prayers of love, gratitude, desire, surrender, etc.

Making It Your Own
Choose a scripture or spiritual truth and meditate on it for a few minutes. Consider what you recently have read, significant messages you have heard, or familiar phrases from a song. Put together a few words or a short phrase that is easy to remember and flows gracefully.

Quiet your mind and begin to recite the phrase either aloud or silently. I recommend aloud unless you are in a public location (that might be a bit too awkward).

As you breath in and out -- simply whisper or say the statement over and over. You could do this while sitting at your desk, washing dishes, taking a walk, commuting to work, during your shower... then throughout the day try to remember to recite the statement as you become more aware of your own breathing and your connection with God.

Here are a few phrases I've created based on scripture to get you started:


  • I will praise you with all my heart. Psalm 9:1
  • I trust in you for protection. Psalm 11:1
  • I wait quietly for you (breathing out) for you will never fail me (breathing in). Psalm 62
  • Help me recall what you have done for me. Psalm 77:
  • You are the God of great wonders. Psalm 77:14
  • Bend down and answer me for I need your help. Psalm 86:1
  • I come to you (breathing out) Give me rest (breathing in). Matthew 11:28
There is no right or wrong way to do this. Breath prayers are short prayers of love, gratitude, desire, surrender, etc. Try this throughout the day.


Please share your experiences. What did you try? How did it go? What did you notice?

Atrophy

The older I get, the more I realize atrophy is innate and apparent in my life.
at·ro·phyætrəfi/ uh-troh-fee-uh
  1. a wasting away of the body or of an organ or part, as from defective
    nutrition or nerve damage
  2. degeneration, decline, or decrease, as from disuse
  3. to affect with or undergo atrophy -- wither, deteriorate, or waste away www.dictionary.reference.com

Think about it this way-- the natural consequence of doing nothing is atrophy. What do I mean by this?

I like to think of myself as a runner. But I must admit my thoughts and actions don't always coincide. Most weeks I jog 3 or so times for a few miles. I am not consistent. I have not followed a routine or found a rhythm I can sustain. The result of this unintentional approach is heavy breathing, tired muscles, slower pace, and overall lack of desire. Here's what I experience: when I lack attentiveness, my body pays the price.

I think atrophy affects my spiritual being similarly to my physical condition. When I choose to not be intentional and attentive, my soul pays the price. Not because God has lost interest or lacked in intentionality and attentiveness, but rather I become disconnected from the source of living.

In the New Testament's book of Acts, Paul, one of the early followers of Christ, talks about the relationship between humans and God.


He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn't live in man-made temples, and human hands can't serve his needs – for he has no needs.
He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need there is. From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.
His purpose in all of this was that the nations should seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him – though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.
Acts 17:24-28 New Living Translation
Just like my physical health, my spiritual well-being requires intentionality and attentiveness. I love the image of feeling my way towards God and finding him.. I love that he is not far.

As we begin exploring and experiencing spiritual practices together, may we find God and know that he is not far.

Thinking about your world and life, what evidence do you see or what experiences have you had that prove atrophy is alive and well?

Welcome Friends!

Using the word friend for an online conversation sounds a bit too familiar. I stand hesitant yet hopeful that just maybe we will mature to call each other friend as we grow together.

You see, I believe that growth is best done when traveling together. So I am inviting you to travel with me as we delve into spiritual practices and experiences in this space I am affectionately calling SoulCrossTraining

My goal is pretty simple. Together, lets create a sacred space enabling us to experience God as we weave spiritual practices into our daily lives. Who knows what can happen when we quiet our mind and listen with our souls?

Those of you who love an adventure and don't like to look too far down the path -- you might want to skip the next few bullet points and just jump in. For rest of you who need to know where we are headed, read on.

Between now and September 1, 2008 (that's just 3 months away) we have the opportunity to:
  • explore a variety of spiritual practices
  • come alongside each other and share our experiences
  • discover a rhythm for living
  • grow in our relationship with God
See you in the days ahead!
corinne