Monday, October 18, 2010

Words Are Powerful. Try Journaling

Yesterday in Sunday school, we talked about journaling, and how useful it is in our walk. We learned three basic ideas:

Writing is a record and a reminder.By keeping a journal, we are able to look back and see where we have been, where we have come from. It's also a good way to see just how God has worked in our lives - a nice little reminder for those times we are feeling down or feeling like God isn't or hasn't worked in our lives (you know those times, it's when the enemy gets hold of our thoughts and tells us that we are such a bad person and how can we call ourselves Christian because we've done such and such and if that's the case, why would God love us or work in our lives). In other words, journaling can help us grow in our walk.

Some people keep prayer journals. Back when I felt such fire for the Lord, felt passionate about my gifts and talents and what I wanted to do, back when I was in the first year of my first degree in university (way back in 2002), I kept a prayer journal. I would record the date, the person I was praying for and the situation. I would write a notation at the bottom such as "Answered: (insert date answered here). There were times I wasn't sure if a prayer had been answered, but I did my best to keep up with the journal and recording the dates they were answered.

I came across that journal a couple of months ago, and I had a quick glance through it. I remembered many of the situations I had prayed about, the people I had prayed for (several were people from school), and was able to see just how many answered prayers there were.

 The type of journal I'm writing about today is more of a day to day (or if not daily, then frequently), journaling our thoughts, etc. of what we have read in our devotions or Bible reading.

Writing is a retreat - the secret places of our heart and mind (our ups and downs). We did a "practice" journal entry in class with a limited amount of time. When that time was up, many people agreed that the time seemed to go by quickly. It's a good way of voicing (in print) our thoughts, feelings, questions, etc. about our walk, about what the Lord may have revealed to us in the Word, how the reading applies to us, what we may fear.

I know some people have a difficult time talking with others about matters of their heart (with regard to their walk with the Lord). For me, there are times when I don't want to talk to someone because I know tears will be involved, and I don't like crying in front of people. Journaling gives an outlet to express our fears, thoughts, etc. in a safe environment. We can record the times we've failed, the times God has brought us out of the "depths of despair" (to borrow a phrase from Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables).

Several of the Psalms, Chronicles and Job examples of recordings of times when people have had ups and downs in their lives. We don't just want to focus on the good things (the ups), because we all know life is not made up of just good times. We will have struggles and troubles along the way, and it's also good to record those as well as the good times.

Connection with God. Journaling can connect us with God. It can be another form of prayer - written as opposed to spoken. Sometimes God will give us a revelation and we can record that in our journal. Look at Revelation 1:1, for example: "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him (John)..." We can also see in the Old Testament that the revelations given to the prophets were recorded (2 Chronicles 33:19) "...all are written in the records of the seers".

So, you've decided you want to try journaling. Here is a good "formula" (for lack of a better word) when you sit down to write:

 1. Always start with prayer
2. Use a passage or verse
3. Write it out
4. Summarize it
5. Write your responses to it (good, bad, questions, etc.)

If you haven't tried journaling, go ahead and try it. Let your thoughts and prayers go out through your fingers!

Have you journaled? What as your experience been? If you haven't, is this something you would be willing to try? Let me know in the comments section!

*** Edited to add: Seems I somehow lost a big paragraph I had before the questions (in green). Not sure what happened with that, but if I can remember what I wrote, I will go back and add it later.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wake Up Call

I'm sitting here this morning, in the living room. I'm on the couch, and the cat is sleeping in the chair across the room, occassionally snoring (or what sounds like a snore). It's quiet except for the fishtank in the dining room.

I've been trying to come up with a something to write about here, but not much was coming to mind. I surfed some other blogs, reading and hoping to spark some ideas along the way.

I just finished reading Michael's post and had a thought. I has totally nothing to do with what he wrote about though.

If you've been reading this blog for the last while, you'll know that I've been in a valley with a lot aspects in my life (I'll spare you the details). While writing my comment for on Michael's post, something popped into my mind.  Here's my thought process, however weird and jumbled it might be:

1. I need to learn to just "be" with God in those times, just "feel" His presence, and know that He's there - and then turn off my thoughts...or give them to Him. (this is part of my comment from Michael's post)

2. I seem to have been going through this valley for some time now. Why?

3. Maybe this is a test - I'm supposed to be learning how to rely on God, not myself or others to fill me up.

4. I think I might have a great photo to go with part of the verses I read in the Bible this morning. I should upload it in Elements and add the scripture to it ("As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer." Psalm 103:15-16).

5. My past is that flower in the field and the wind has passed over it. It's no more, and I'm at a point where I can start over again. At least that's how I feel. Everything I've learned and done (regarding my walk, my  ministries, etc.) reached a point in time where it needed to rest, to learn to trust - to start over.

6. I need to start over. Sure things went well in the past, but that's just it. They are in the past, and I need to stop living there and let God take me into the future - and more importantly, the present. If I keep holding onto the past, onto what was, how can I experience the present and the future?

7. I need to start over. I need to start from scratch (if that's possible) and relearn the basics. Maybe that's what I need to get me out of this valley. Start from the beginning, start with the cross.

So, that's where I am. I do know I need to put more focus on the Lord in my life. I guess I've let other things become more "important" than I should have. I guess I've replaced what is most important to me - and that is so sad. Hmm, maybe that is the source of my problem! I've created other gods (little 'g') in my life and gave them God's (big 'G') place.  Unlike Daniel (from a couple posts ago), I have defiled myself by eating at the king's table (not the King of Kings)...

Wow, what a wake up call!

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Canadian Thanksgiving myspace graphic comments
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We have so much to be thankful for. So many in the world go without the basics: food, shelter, clothing, clean water. Others live in awful conditions. Still, others don't have the things we have. And many in the world don't have Jesus. What are you giving thanks for?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Not Crossing The Line

Monday night we had our weekly Bible study group, and we began delving into the book of Daniel. We started it briefly last week, and this week looked at verses 8 to 16.

One of the things we talked about was Daniel's resolve to not defile himself by eating the king's food, and drinking his wine. In order to be defiled, the act must be in regard to a moral situation - something that comes from God.

Since Daniel was a Jew, he would have followed laws with regard to they types of food he would eat, and the way it would have been prepared. Since Nebuchadnezzar was not Jewish, he would not have had the same requirements for eating or the preparations for meals.

In verse 9, we can see that God is at work in the situation - He granted Daniel favour and compassion in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar's chief official. Daniel asks to just be served only vegetables and water, but the official is scared of having his head cut off because he thinks Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are going to wither away to nothing, compared to those who would be eating from the kings bounty.

Daniel asks for ten days, a trial period of sorts. At the end of that time, the four boys were actually in better health and appearance (my version says fatter), than the others who had been eating the kings' food.

Daniel trusted God. He held fast to his beliefs about not eating the king's food. That was simply a line he would not cross. We can also see that when Daniel was presented with the problem (of being fed the king's food and wine), he did not rebel against the situation - he didn't fight it, but merely asked permission to try it his way first. We can see the trust Daniel has for God in this situation; he doesn't even give a condition - there is no "let's try it this way first, and if it doesn't work I'll eat the king's food". Eating the king's food just wasn't an option for Daniel.

We are often faced with situations and temptations which can ultimately defile us, and we have a choice to make - give in to the temptation and defile ourselves, or not give in, not cross the line. We are called to be holy, to be set apart. As Christians, we are different from others, and that is OK. We are to be different in the way of Jesus - be in the world, but not of the world. 

We need to be wise and make choices for the right reasons, to not rebel simply because we want to, but because we follow God. When we wisely stick to what is right in holiness and for the right reason (following God), we are not being different (or rebelling) simply because we want to. We are doing it because we follow God. Daniel didn't decide to not eat the kings food or drink his wine simply because he (Daniel) wanted to or felt like it, He resolved to do this because he followed God's laws. He wanted to be obedient to God.

Daniel was different from the others, and he stayed true to who he was by continuing to be obedient to God. He wouldn't cross the line, wouldn't give into the temptation, wouldn't defile himself. He stayed true to his beliefs.

How are you different from your non-Christian friends and co-workers, and what lines would you not cross when you are with them (even if it means you will be chastised for your beliefs)? What do you do in order to not defile yourself?