Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Using a Prayer Notebook

Are you ready to learn the most important secret to my personal spiritual life?

I have a deep sense- I believe that it comes from God- that our congregation is to focus on spiritual growth for 2012. This does not mean that we will neglect worship, or mission, or the administrative parts of the church. It just means that I am going to spend the rest of this year encouraging you to grow spiritually. In reality that's the most important part of my job anyway. I am supposed to convince pre-Christians to accept Jesus and join the faith, and to get those who are already committed to the way of Christ to grow in it.

There are a lot of ways that we can do this. One of the easiest is to join in our congregational resolution of reading the New Testament this year. By reading God's word it will become clearer how we are to live, behave, think and believe. But Scripture reading focuses on the intellectual part of spiritual growth. There is more to it. We also need to be praying.

So, here is the big moment. This is the secret to my spiritual life and growth. (I hope you are sitting down as you read this.) I pray in a spiral notebook. Revolutionary, huh?

Most days I write my prayers to God on one page in a regular spiral bound notebook. I know this is anti-climactic, but it makes a huge difference in my life, and I think it could in yours as well.

  • Writing my prayers forces me to slow down. I write more slowly than I talk, so when I am writing my prayers I often hear God speaking to me about an answer, a solution, or even something else altogether.

  • Writing my prayers forces me to be a little bit organized. I cannot just sit down with my notebook and make words magically appear on the page. I am more intentional about my prayers.

  • I limit myself to one page of prayer. I never want praying to seem a burden or an overwhelming obligation. I write one page each day (which gives me 15-20 minutes with God) and then I close my notebook.

  • I use a variety of types of prayer in my notebook. On Monday I might use a prayer list and pray for needs of friends and family members. On Tuesday maybe I will write a love letter to God. Wednesdays might be used for writing Scriptures that I have memorized.

  • I do not limit my prayers to my notebook. I pray way more than my 20 minutes of notebook time. I pray for needs that arise throughout the day. I pray for meals and for other things. When I close my notebook I am not done praying.

Give notebook praying a try. It is pretty inexpensive and can change your life.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Favorite Books: 2011

I used to make a list of my ten favorite books of the year. For the past few years, because of various things happening in my life, there has not been as much time for reading. Therefore, I could not find ten "best" or "favorite" books. I read a lot more than 10 books in these years (including 2011) but too many were unmemorable, or merely filler books.

So this year I am again offering my favorite books. These are not the best books of the year, but the ones that I enjoyed the most. That means that they made me think or feel in a new or exciting way. Most of these books were not written or released this year, but I read them for the very first time. Let me know what you think of my list. What would you add? What would you take off?

  • "The Simple Faith of Mr Rogers" by Amy Hollingsworth
  • "The Confession" by John Grisham
  • "The Woman Who Wouldn't" by Gene Wilder
  • "An Object of Beauty" by Steve Martin
  • "Love Wins" by Rob Bell
  • "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg
  • "Sold" by Patricia McCormick
  • "CS Lewis, My Godfather" by Laurence Harwood
One more thing:

I was given a Kindle for my birthday in March. I will write soon about what I see as the shortcomings to electronic reading, but for now suffice it to say that I love reading digitally. In fact, two of the books on my list of favorites were on my ereader. My reading habits are changing, and I don't foresee them ever changing back.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Favorite Movies: 2011

It is time for round two of my end of the year (beginning of the year?) recap of pop culture. In 2011 I watched a lot of movies. Some were great, several were alright, and there were some that were so bad that I will deny having seen them. What follows is my list of my favorites.

These are movies that:
  • I saw for the first time in 2011.
  • Entertained me more than any other movies I saw last year.
  • Were not necessarily made or released in 2011.
  • Are not necessarily the best movies of 2011.
  • Are listed in no particular order.
So, here is my list of the top 10.
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • Cyrus
  • The Wrestler
  • True Grit
  • Secretariat
  • The Rat Pack
  • Bottle Rocket
  • Get Low
  • Black Swan
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Favorite Music 2011

It is time once again for my year end (or beginning) analysis of the pop culture trends that caught my attention. As usual, my lists are completely subjective. I am including on this list the albums that I enjoyed most in 2011. That means that several of these- most, in fact- were not recorded or released last year. However, I heard them for the first time in 2011. (There is one album that I heard several years ago, but this year's listening was like a revelation, a completely new thing.

Another thing, I do not have any notion that these are the best albums of the year. These are merely the ones that I enjoyed the most. They made me think, or they made me happy, sad or angry. In any case, I will be listening to all of these for many years to come. Finally, I put these in no particular order.
  • Joan Baez- Noel
  • 77 Sunset Strip- Soundtrack
  • Smith- Minus-Plus
  • Jim and Jesse- Berry Pickin' in the Country
  • Bruce Springsteen- 18 Tracks
  • Roots of Rock: 1945-1956 - Various Artists
  • The Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble- The Wild Field
  • Huey Lewis and the News- Soulsville
  • Mumford and Sons- Sigh No More
  • Etta James- Matriarch of the Blues

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Resolutions 2012

It is that time of year that I look toward goals for the coming year. Each year I try to improve my life- like many others, I am sure. Often the results are mixed at best. Recently, I have been posting my resolutions here in the hope that it will increase my accountability, and therefore, cause the likelihood of my success to improve. It has not worked over the past few years, but I am ever hopeful.

* In 2012 I will continue my 'writing the Bible' project by copying Hebrews, Habakkuk and Obadiah.

* I will read the King James Version of the Bible.

* I will attend more concerts (of all types).

* I will read more consistently than I have recently.

* I will continue to study prayer and to pray more consistently.