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Under His Wings

Under His Wings

Our family enjoys watching nature shows. Imagine you’re watching a mother bird in her nest with her babies. I picture the nest on the ground, with tall grass all around it, and the babies scurrying every which way. The chicks are completely dependent on their mother for food and protection. Their very survival is dependent on her.

Now picture a hungry lion creeping through the tall grass. He is hungry, powerful, ready to eat, and he’s headed directly toward this mother bird and her babies. Who do you think is going to win? The mom might be able to fly away, but those babies are going to be delicious.

 

What lions are you facing?

Sometimes I feel a bit like those babies, with hungry lions prowling all around me. Lately I’ve been waking up at 2:00 AM, with the opening lines of of Wendall Berry’s The Peace of Wild Things rattling in my imagination:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be….

Those words get me every time, and it almost feels as if the lions are ready to pounce. What chance does a little bird like me possibly have?

 

Lions vs. Birds: what would the psalmist say?

If you were to ask the psalmist that question, you might find a different answer. There’s a handful of psalms that describe God’s people finding refuge in God, as a baby bird finds refuge under its mother’s wings (Psalm 17, 36, 57, 61, 63, 91). Of those six psalms, three of them (17, 57, 91) all contrast a lion attacking the psalmist and a mother bird protecting him. Psalm 91 includes a cobra and serpent joining with the lions and in Psalm 63, it is the jackals who are attacking us.

In each place, the contrast is similar. The baby birds stand no chance on their own, yet they are safe under their mother’s wings. The psalmist is up against excessively powerful enemies, is completely outmatched, but they are unable to touch him.

In Psalm 57, the literal enemy is the powerful and vindictive King Saul. David is hiding in a cave, and he writes these words:

 

Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,
for I take refuge in you.
I will seek refuge in the shadow of your wings
until danger passes.
I call to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He reaches down from heaven and saves me,
challenging the one who tramples me.
God sends his faithful love and truth. 

It’s such a picture of trust, but then, David describes his enemies. As you read his words, imagine the lions in your own life:

I am surrounded by lions;
I lie down among devouring lions—
people whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
God, be exalted above the heavens;
let your glory be over the whole earth.
They prepared a net for my steps;
I was despondent.
They dug a pit ahead of me,
but they fell into it! 

David is being trampled. He’s surrounded. Even their tongues are like deadly weapons. He’s despondent. It’s a bad place, and I know some of us have been there. When despair for the world grows in me…in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be… .Yet even so, David builds to praise:

My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident.
I will sing; I will sing praises.
Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
I will wake up the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your faithful love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches the clouds.
God, be exalted above the heavens;
let your glory be over the whole earth. 

 

Good for David—but what about me?

Read that first verse again, slowly: Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in you. I will seek refuge in the shadow of your wings until danger passes. 

I’ve always been a pretty independent person. It’s difficult for me to ask for help or admit that I need something. I want to fix my own problems and keep myself safe. At the same time, When despair for the world grows in me…I recognize how much I need his wings.

When I imagine what God is inviting me into, I want it. Take just a minute to look closely at these pictures.

 

 

Don’t just glance at them, think about what you see; think about how it makes you feel. Imagine yourself as the baby bird and our good God as the mother hen. Don’t rush this.

This is our home as God’s people—always safe, hidden under his wings. It looks pretty good, doesn’t it? That’s where I want to live. So how do we do it? What does it look like to live under God’s wings? Let me suggest three things to remember.

 

The storms and the lions

First, we have to remember, the storms will still come and the lions will still attack. This isn’t protection from the storms. It’s protection through the storms. David still feels trampled, and in each of these psalms, the threat is very real and very scary.

None of us knows what the future holds, and the lions are out there. There are nights I will still wake up at 2 AM. Where does worry tend to creep into your life? What are some of the scary things you’re anticipating? Close your eyes and picture those things for a moment. Now look again at these pictures and remind yourself, as one of God’s people, this is where we live—under his wings.

 

Our Mother Hen

Second, our Mother Hen will be with us through it all. While God most often refers to himself as our Father, I love that he also compares himself to a mom. I grew up with a good relationship with both my parents, but when I was hurt or afraid or sick, who did I call out for? My mom. God offers us the same gentle, nurturing presence.

Curt Thompson, in his book, The Deepest Place: Suffering and the Formation of Hope, makes the case that our brains can handle a great deal of suffering…as long as we know we don’t have to do it alone. And we are never alone! Not only do we have each other, we have our Mother Hen—our good and gracious God—always with us.

But we forget, don’t we? This is a major reason why we need the daily spiritual disciplines of solitude, prayer, and Bible reading. Perhaps when you engage in those disciplines, begin by taking just thirty seconds to imagine God holding you close, like a mother hen with her chicks. And the next time you rush toward worry or self-defense or self-protection, do the same. Let Jesus gather you under his wings.

 

Gratitude and praise

Third, let this confidence lead to gratitude and praise. Confidence shouldn’t lead us to arrogance or triumphalism, or even a further bitterness toward the lions. Rather, like the psalmist, let it lead to gratitude and praise. As you thank God and praise him for always being with you, reflect on this old hymn by William Cushing.

 

Under His Wings

Under His wings I am safely abiding;
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him–I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me and I am His child.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.


Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Je­sus, I’m safe ev­er­more.

Refrain:

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Encountering God through Contemplation: Listening for the Spirit | POD 026

Encountering God through Contemplation: Listening for the Spirit | POD 026

WATCH

HOSTS & GUESTS

Nydiaris Hernandez-Santos – Guest

Gabe Coyle – Guest

Bill Gorman – Host

 

Show Notes

Encountering God through Contemplation: Listening for the Spirit

Have you ever wondered how to find a moment of divine peace in the chaos of daily life? Together with our guest, Nydiaris Hernandez-Santos, we explore the transformative journey through the discipline of contemplation—distinct from prayer and meditation—and how it can lead us to a more profound awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our daily lives. Drawing from Psalm 63, the wisdom of Christian mystics, and stories from our own lives, we uncover the power of contemplation to connect us more closely to God. We confront the modern challenge of silence in a noisy world and consider how the practice of contemplation is both the road we travel and the destination we seek. Join us for a conversation that promises to enrich and realign our approach to spiritual disciplines and our understanding of what it means to truly be with Jesus.

 

THREE KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  1. Understanding Contemplation: Begin by setting aside regular time for stillness to engage with God. Embrace the art of contemplation, distinct from prayer and meditation in its focus on simply being with Jesus. Pay loving attention to His presence and let the Holy Spirit’s influence become a perceptible force in your life. Minimize distractions and commit to this discipline with intentionality, allowing the peace and presence of God to suffuse your being.
  2. Real-Life Experiences: Open your heart to the possibility of encountering God in all aspects of life — from family interactions to personal reflections inspired by art. Take inspiration from our guest’s stories and be prepared for unexpected moments of spiritual revelation. Encourage yourself to stay alert and responsive to the divine presence in seemingly mundane experiences.
  3. The Value and Practice of Contemplation: Acknowledge contemplation not just as a practice but as a lens through which you view the world. It is a holistic approach that calls for extending grace, compassion, and empathy towards others, drawing on examples like Psalm 63 to seek God earnestly in all circumstances. Let the practice of contemplation guide you to a deeper level of communion with God, and let that connection inform your interactions and perspective on the world.

#RomansContemplation #SpiritualDisciplines #HolySpiritPresence #PrayerMuscle #TransformativeJourney #ChristianMystics #ContemplativePractices #ScriptureMeditation #theFormedLifePodcast #BeingWithGod

 

RESOURCES:

The Practice of the Presence of God | Brother Lawrence

Interior Castle | St. Teresa of Ávila

Dark Night of the Soul | St. John of the Cross

Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings – Annotated & Explained by Christine Valters Paintner

The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence  | Henri Nouwen

Psalm 63:1-5 | Scripture Reference for Meditation

 

GUEST BIOS:

Nydiaris Hernández-Santos grew up in a small coastal town in Puerto Rico, surrounded by mountains and a beautiful community of people that deeply shaped her faith. A fascination with science led her to pursue a B.S. in Biology/Microbiology at the University of Puerto Rico, which resulted in a two-year internship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda M.D. Her passion for germs and the immune system led her to pursue a Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Pittsburgh and subsequent postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nydiaris loves to learn and study! Her life turned one hundred and eighty degrees when the Lord asked her to pursue ministry and her passion for preaching in a more traditional way which included pursuit of an M. Div. degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Nydiaris loves meeting new people and deep conversations. She also loves music, particularly her beloved Latin American tunes. If you are a passenger in her car, you will likely hear some salsa or Latin jazz playing. A long walk, good food, a nurturing book, and passionate prayer are her version of spa treatment.

 

QUOTES:

“So that there is something that contemplating God does that grounds you so that when hardship comes, when difficult times come, you’re not tossing around like a wave. You have something, a foundation to be grounded in and so you can do life with God.” — Nydiaris Hernández-Santos

 

“There is a reason Jesus said that we had to pray for our enemies, and that that is hard. Yes. But I’m thinking when I think about contemplating God through people, and I’m like, oh, that’s why. Because you will end up loving them after you contemplate God through them.” — Nydiaris Hernández-Santos

 

 “What it really is is to sit in prayer with no other objective than to be with Jesus. Yeah. You have no agendas for intercession, no list. Yeah. You simply have a phrase and the other day I did this… with the sole purpose of sitting there being with Jesus, and that’s that’s all there is.” — Nydiaris Hernández-Santos

 

CHAPTERS:

00:00 Exploring transformative journeys through Romans 6-8.

05:57 Attend to God, notice, and contemplate him.

10:02 Contemplation grounds, provides strength, approaching spiritual disciplines.

12:11 Love nature, art, and contemplation of God.

16:29 Finding direction and quiet in a noisy world.

18:45 Symone Wey leaned in and found God’s presence.

21:02 Finding hope and purpose in everyday life.

25:13 Revelations about God’s love for people.

29:42 Contemplative prayer teaches being with God, impacting relationships.

32:17 Contemplation: image, love, engagement, discipline, transformation, road.

The Joy Of Prayer: 5 Ideas to Cultivate Joy in Your Prayer Time

The Joy Of Prayer: 5 Ideas to Cultivate Joy in Your Prayer Time

What is the first image that comes to your mind when you think about prayer? Someone on their knees with their hands clasped together toward heaven? The prophet Daniel praying three times a day with his window open toward Jerusalem in defiance of the government? A monk or a nun in deep contemplation? Or, is it someone falling asleep out of boredom? I get it, some days prayer is rough, particularly in the afternoon after lunch!

But what if I told you that prayer is joy? What if I told you that prayer is movement and breath, a labor of love in the presence of the One who is with us in lament and in dancing, in painful sobs and belly laughs, when the spirit groans and when it soars with delight? Would you believe me? In case you don’t, let me share with you the image that comes to my mind when I think of prayer.

When I think of prayer, I remember a former pastor of mine with fondness, particularly the way in which he nurtured his prayer life and intimacy with Jesus. I often saw him pacing back and forth talking to God, and if you happened to find yourself next to him during a long drive, you would hear him murmuring as he talked to God. He woke up early to read the Bible, journal, and pray for an extended period of time before he went to his office at the church. At the elder meetings we prayed for a while before we did anything else. And on Tuesday nights at 6:30 PM you would always find him at the weekly prayer meeting.

I learned much from watching my pastor and other servants of the Lord tend to the presence of God with such diligence and delight. The strength of their faith, their zeal for the Lord, and their desire to be with him was evident. They always wanted more time to pray because they never get enough of Jesus! I am indebted to these saints, intercessors, and prayer laborers for everything they taught me as they shared their prayer lives with me.

What is the “secret sauce”? How do they do it? How is anyone able to cultivate a consistent prayer life and find joy in it? Building a consistent prayer life is not always joyful. It starts with discipline! One minute seems like an eternity when you are trying to concentrate in prayer but the mind keeps wandering. Did I switch off the stove, add detergent to that last load of laundry, will I ever finish that project at work, will God ever bring Prince Charming? Don’t fret, keep at it; this is all part of learning to give God our full attention. Over time you will notice that discipline has turned into joy and time begins to fly in the space of prayer. Here are some things I have learned throughout the years that have helped cultivate joy in prayer.

 

1. Establish rhythms of time and place

Luke 2:37 says, “[…] She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers.”

That is what the evangelist tells us about Anna, a widowed prophetess, who had spent all her life serving God in prayer. I imagine she fervently interceded for the coming of the Messiah, whom she was now seeing with her very own eyes as a babe being blessed by Simeon. I imagine everyone knew exactly where to find Anna at particular times of the day. If anybody inquired about her around the temple, one of the priests might have said, “You know, this is her regular prayer time, so she will be at her usual spot, follow me. But you better brace yourself to wait a few hours because it’s gonna be a while before she is done praying.”

You and I need regular rhythms of prayer in order to be consistent. Pick a time of the day when you are most alert and a quiet, peaceful place to pray. Make this an appointment that you cannot break, and always show up. Do not concern yourself with the length of your prayer time, focus on being with Jesus.

 

2. Devise a strategy

It can be daunting to arrive at our prayer appointment without an agenda. It can feel like staring at a blank page on a computer screen with the cursor flashing, reminding us that we haven’t written a single word. In order to avoid that sensation of being stuck without anything to say, make a plan for your prayer time. Here is a basic outline of my prayer times.

A schedule will help you focus and avoid exclusively self-centered prayers that ignore neighbors and the work of God’s kingdom. Note that a schedule serves as a guide and is not written in stone. The Holy Spirit will often change our plans by reminding us of someone’s name, or bringing to mind a particular situation. Follow the lead of the Spirit! There is no need to be legalistic about the schedule. This is how we learn to listen to the voice of God as we pray, obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

 

3. Bring your Bible to your prayer appointment

1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have before him: If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked of him (emphasis mine).”

John tells us that one of the keys to effective prayer is to pray according to the will of God. How do we know the will of God? The will of God is written in the sacred Scriptures. Thus, knowing our Bible is the most productive thing we can do to cultivate joy and effectiveness in prayer. When we pray Scripture, we pray God’s very word back to him!

How do we pray Scripture? The epistles are filled with rich prayers. One of my favorites is Ephesians 1:15-19, as Paul prays for a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, for an opening of spiritual eyes, so that the church would understand the nature of the marvelous inheritance they have in Jesus. Ephesians 1:3-14 tells us that such inheritance is nothing less than “every spiritual blessing.” In Christ we have been chosen, redeemed, adopted, forgiven, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Paul was praying that God would grant understanding to his church, so that she could grasp the glorious gospel she had received in Jesus!

In addition, the Psalms are a treasure trove of ancient, liturgical prayers that often feel as relevant today as they have felt throughout the history of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Psalms give language, voice, and imagery to the whole range of human emotions. In joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, in mourning and in dancing, in lament and in praise, we can pray the Psalms. These poems help us say to God the things our heart knows but cannot speak. They communicate that which our souls long for but cannot name.

 

4. Incorporate a variety of prayer types

Isn’t it fun to experience a variety of foods throughout the week? One of my favorite things about going to my mom’s house in Puerto Rico is that she cooks all my favorites when I am home. Oh the flavor, oh the variety…what a gift! If you sense your prayer life growing stale and each day it feels like a burden rather than a joy, try a different prayer type. For instance, instead of interceding, try contemplation: spend time worshiping God and thanking him, pick a passage of Scripture, meditate on it, and pray it back to God. I like to employ a variety of prayer practices in one single prayer time. It takes me a while to get to a space of stillness in prayer because I am usually thinking about the many tasks ahead of me so, during the first few minutes of my prayer time I listen to worship music, praise God out loud and thank him. Other times I sing until it turns into prayer. Then, I start interceding. Other times I write in my journal or type in my computer.

Recently, I arrived at one of my prayer appointments during the week and my soul was heavy; all I could do was cry. And when I say cry I mean ugly crying, shaking violently, snot coming out of my nose, deep sobs crying. I think, perhaps, the Holy Spirit was interceding through me with “unspoken groanings” (Romans 8:26). I could not utter a single word. At that moment, I felt compelled to type on my computer, and God was gracious in granting me language to give voice to the things that were in my heart but I could not express. Don’t be paralyzed by a long list of prayer requests; incorporate variety in your prayer time and let the Holy Spirit carry you!

 

5. Be creative

I think one of the reasons prayer sometimes appears boring is that we have a narrow view of what it looks like. There is no need to be inside a room, still, and on our knees when we pray. Stillness in prayer is a posture of the heart, not the body. I routinely pace while I pray. Yes, I look a little crazy, but the movement helps me stay focused when I am tired, and it reminds me that prayer is not a static activity. When we pray, we accomplish the work of God’s kingdom and the angels get their marching orders. Prayer is movement! This is why long walks, which are a favorite pastime of mine, are a fantastic time to pray.

Another way to add creativity to your prayers is to write them. I write them in my journal or type them on my computer. Slowing down to write my prayers helps me think carefully about the words I say to God, the theology that is in my heart, and my deepest desires. This practice also allows me to encourage those for whom I intercede with the words God lays on my heart to pray on their behalf.

There are many other ways of engaging the discipline and joy of prayer. I know some people like to draw as they pray and others engage art as a way to cultivate their imagination. Do not let the thought of a bland room paralyze you and rob you of the joy of praying, and growing in depth of intimacy with Jesus.

May you pray earnestly and freely, in mourning and in dancing, in lament and in praise, at home and at work, for you and the world. May the Lord grant you peace as you pray, and may you know the deep joy of keeping company with Jesus in the space of prayer. Amen.

Experimenting with the Disciplines

Experimenting with the Disciplines

by Tyler Sadlo

In Dallas Willard’s masterpiece, The Spirit of the Disciplines, he encourages the reader to approach “those activities that have had a wide and profitable use among disciples of Christ…in a prayerful, experimental way” (my emphasis added). Experimental? That was a word I hadn’t heard applied to the disciplines before. So, about two years ago, with that encouragement in mind, I decided to engage in the discipline of fasting. What follows here are reflections on my “experiment.” I hope they offer practical encouragement that shows the fits and starts of experimentation, but also the unexpected fruits. The spiritual disciplines need not be dry. Rather, they can be an entry point into the vibrancy of life with God.

I didn’t know what I wanted out of fasting when I began, but I knew that it was a discipline I could do without a lot of startup cost, and at the time I wanted to get started on what was within reach. I had two things in mind when I began: 1) I did not want to disrupt family dinnertime (this conclusion was reached through previous trial and error), and 2) I was compelled by Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline to fast for 24 hours each week over an extended period of time. Ultimately, that extended period added up to 20 consecutive months of weekly fasting (with maybe 1 or 2 “skipped” weeks).

 

An instructive journey

It began as most practices likely do: it was difficult not to eat; I was extremely low on energy; I made mistakes when ending the fast and sometimes hurt my stomach or my mouth (yes, the process of chewing food was actually painful). I’d like to say that I quickly learned from this, but it was an ongoing struggle to keep my post-fast meals light. Over time, my energy on fasting days increased, but the path was not linear. More than a year in there were still times when I had very little energy in the afternoon. But without question, I gradually became more skilled in the practice.

I learned early on that fasting was a considerable disruption to my schedule. I had to reshuffle priorities in order to make it work. But this was one of the great, hidden benefits of fasting: I was taking steps to build my life around the practices of Jesus rather than fitting some of them into my life where it was convenient. For example, my lunch hour on fasting days was free so I could walk, pray, and read. This eventually became the most appealing part of fasting, and the anchor that kept me coming back week after week. Nowhere else in my schedule was time set aside for extended prayer, which meant that fasting was helping create space to engage in another spiritual discipline. That benefit was unexpected, but I don’t think it was a coincidence.

I recall a conversation perhaps nine months into the practice when I tried to explain its benefits to some friends. I was very clear that I could not apply a direct relationship between fasting and any outcomes in character formation or the like. Usually there’s some direct connection between fasting and self-control that’s touted, but I did not experience it that way. I experienced being forced to slow down, both physically and mentally, and I enjoyed the freed-up time that was meant to be dedicated to one-on-one time with the Lord.

 

A change in the journey

Eventually, though, things started to lose their savor. For example, instead of replacing breakfast preparation with meditation and reading, I slept in. I had seen real progress toward becoming a more thoughtful husband, a more patient father, and someone who experiences God’s presence without interruption, but I had been focused on this specific discipline for so long that I had started hoping it would be a silver bullet for these benefits, benefits that one discipline was never meant to provide.

Multiple times in the months that followed, I contemplated pausing my weekly practice of fasting. The reason was simple: it was becoming stale. I was not waking up to take advantage of the mornings. I was running errands instead of praying and reading. I was not experiencing the transcendence that had sometimes accompanied fasting days in prior months. But could I really just stop? Staleness felt more like an excuse than a valid reason. I began to wonder if any reason could rise to the level of “valid,” or if they would all seem like excuses. It was important for me to realize that this language and thinking had a flavor of legalism and guilt, and I certainly didn’t want fasting to be built on that.

Enter Dallas Willard and his encouragement to approach the disciplines experimentally. He adds to that a reminder that what “prevent[s] them from becoming a new bondage…is [the] love of Jesus.” The disciplines are for no more and no less than moving us into deeper union with God. 

Which is why, about two months ago, I decided to pivot. I chose to skip just one meal a week, leaning into the draw of fasting that still resonates deeply: lunchtime prayer and reading. I affirm the value of fasting, and I honestly wish I could recapture some of the feeling (the transcendence, the feeling that I was moving closer to God, the eagerness to use the freed-up time) that I had before. For now, though, I’m hoping to remove some of the drudgery and legalism from the practice, and maybe re-sensitize myself to its benefits. 

I’ll conclude with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Breakfast of Champions, that crystalizes my mindset: “I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.” I look forward to continuing to engage in this and other practices in experimental, adventurous ways that grow both my obedience to God and my relational closeness to him and other people. I want to retain what brings me closer to God, and I will throw over my shoulder that which does not.

A Prayer for Runners

A Prayer for Runners

If you like to run, what are your routines for run prep? Stretching? Coffee? Mapping out your run? What if running could strengthen your soul as much as your body? How do you prep for that?

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the blog you were expecting from your pastor. I know this topic may feel niche, but even if you aren’t the “running type,” I invite you into an exercise to expand your perspective of the ordinary aspects of your life. Life with God is an adventure that predominantly dwells in the riches of the mundane, and there are few things that remind us of our ordinary, earthy existence like a morning run. The body is cranking sweat out of every pore. Muscles, joints, lungs, and heart are burning. The spirit seems to grow silent at the screaming of the body. 

And yet, what if this is one of the ways God meets us? What if the joy at the end of a run doesn’t merely have to be a dopamine hit, but a moment of embodied encounter with God? Would we be ready? Do we even have to be ready for it to be true? 

I wonder if some of the greatest acts of cultivating our attention toward God’s always-and-forever presence is not merely by rehearsing good ideas but rather by entering recurring prayers. What if the same way we put on the same shoes for a daily run, we prayed the same prayer, slowly allowing our souls to mold into its repetition? What would we notice about God? What would we notice in ourselves? Who would we become mile by mile?

For those who run or walk, for those who have been meaning to run or walk, for those who want to care for their bodies and souls, I wrote a prayer that opens our eyes when we open our strides. May this prayer be a resource for the Holy Spirit, leveraging your senses to better feel your run with God.  

 

A LITURGY FOR 

An early morning run

This prayer is best when coupled with the physical act of putting on running shoes, paying attention to the well-designed grip of the shoe on each foot and the tightness of the laces. 

Lord, you have crafted these toes reaching out from these feet connected to these ankles,
syncing with calves, knees and hips to run as you move all of me. Today I join the wind, a sacrament of your invisible presence gracing these quiet streets.

As I run, may I remember I was made to run
with you.
Not ahead—as if I could leave you behind
Nor behind—as if I must try to catch up.
Only breathing—with.
The syncopated in—hale, ex—hale with each mid-foot strike
a reminder of your Spirit kissing my soul,
The sunrise and her shadows a reminder that you, Lord Christ, hold it all together,
The sound of birds, the reminder that the Father’s eye is on the soaring sparrow.

May my run be an act of devoted attention,
Not an escape from your world
But a seeing service in the world.

And so,
awaken my heart
passing in front of homes exhausted by an erratic world
while aching for homeless trampled by the world
awaken my mind
listening to podcasts, books, music,
and praying prayers with the world.
awaken my hands
surrendering what I must carry to be ok
freed to wave at each day laborer for the world.

God, in this early hour, I run
with you,
and I know you are with me
closer than these well crafted shoes
each step of the way. 

Amen.

For more prayers in this vein written by others around various ordinary aspects of life, check out the amazing resource, Every Moment Holy.

Five Reasons to Practice Solitude

Five Reasons to Practice Solitude

Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. John 16:12

We are afraid of being alone. So much of our self-worth and self-image is tied to what others think about us. We can so easily fill our schedules with other people and activities to keep us busy. Even when no one else is physically around, the whole world is just one click or swipe away. We can endlessly distract ourselves with noise and images from TV, social media, music, podcasts, and so much more in this digital age. We use other people, endless activity, and entertaining technology to keep ourselves from ever truly being alone.

The intentional practice of solitude can be scary, but it has deeply formed Jesus-followers for over two-thousand years. Here are five reasons to engage in the discipline of solitude.

 

 

1. Jesus practiced solitude.

 

As disciples of Jesus, our goal is to become like him. We must imitate our master Jesus or that to happen. He was not afraid to be alone because he knew his Father was with him. He practiced the discipline of solitude daily throughout his life to commune with God, even as others would clamor for his attention (Mark 1:32-39). As Jesus approached the most difficult week of his life that would culminate in death and abandonment, he ultimately trusted his loving Father to meet him there.


2. Solitude teaches us to rely on God for identity and not others.


Whether it be a positive review from your boss or your friend’s laughter after telling a joke, it is so easy to rely on the opinions of others for our sense of self-worth. Intentionally taking time to be alone and connect with God through prayer and Scripture reading can teach ourselves to find identity in Christ and not in others. This is what Jesus did even at the height of his ministry so that he would not be caught up in others’ expectations of him (Luke 5:15-16). Jesus’ identity firmly rooted in God’s love empowered his ministry toward others.


3. Solitude empowers us to be present with God and others.


If you’re like me, perhaps you’ve found that your attention span steadily decreased as you began carrying your smartphone more. Technology has complicated the practice of solitude because we are never more than a swipe away from superficial connections with others. The intentional practice of solitude to remove ourselves from distractions like technology can clear our minds of distracting thoughts, and retrain our brains to have longer attention spans. This enables us to be present with God while reading the Bible and praying. It can also change our habits and patterns so that we can be more attentive as we interact with others. 


4. Solitude can open us up to the Holy Spirit’s gentle correction.


Often the fear of solitude stems from unresolved guilt and shame. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order to not have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order to not have to look at ourselves in the mirror.” As God’s beloved children, there is no need to fear shame or judgment from him (Hebrews 4:16). When we are alone with God without anything to use as a distraction, God’s Spirit can reveal ways we are living and thinking that are different from the abundant life God wants for us. In solitude, we can confess these things and receive God’s forgiveness and empowerment to change.


5. Solitude develops contentment within us.


As we sit alone with God, we can develop a sense of contentment in him. Other pleasures or accolades can be seen in proper perspective to God. Practicing gratitude in this time of solitude can shift the focus from what you don’t have to how God has already blessed and sustained you. This contentment reminds us of God’s love for us and empowers us to say “no” to lesser things that ultimately won’t satisfy us.

As we enter this season of Lent, preparing to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, we invite you to join us in a seven-week journey to experience greater intimacy with God through the discipline of solitude. This study is available at theFormed.life, an online daily devotional resource to deepen your relationship with God and build habits of spiritual discipline. 

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