The Art of Journaling

Psalm 19:6

For years I’ve tried to keep up with a habit of writing in a journal. I’ve been successful with a journal in a hit-or-miss sort of way. I have a few journals stacked neatly on my desk and I have yet to finish one. I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as each journal has a specific purpose. But possibly that is the problem. I have too many journals.

For example, one journal is to write thoughts from the day, or comment about a Bible passage, and sometimes I write prayers such as, “A prayer for more grace,” which I posted on this blog.  There is also the creative journal for the times when I am inspired to create … to sketch and paint. I jot a few notes about the sketch or watercolor painting just to keep the memory fresh. I want to remember what inspired me to draw or paint at that moment.  I also use Evernote to save a collection of quotes from authors and favorite bloggers.

In January of this year, I began a quest to read a Psalm or a portion of Psalm every day. To keep me on track and consistent with this daily reading plan, I turned to The Songs of Jesus ~ A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms by Tim and Kathy Keller.

Reading through the Psalms for 26 days has informed consistency of keeping a journal.  Actually, reading the Psalms has transformed the way I journal. The Psalms are not just a matchless primer of teaching but a medicine chest for the heart. [1] Psalms is a prayerbook that has every emotion known to man and gives us the freedom to pray those same words, with those same emotions, back to God.

Reading Psalms is teaching me how to pray. What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God. [2] This is pure grace, that God tells us how we can speak to him and have fellowship with him. [3]

The Psalms fire our imaginations into new realms yet guide them to the God who actually exists. The Psalms have encouraged and inspired the way I make art. There is a reason and purpose to make something beautiful.

I may have discovered the art of journaling by reading through the Psalms. This journal is beginning to resemble a story … my story. I see my story, my life, woven into the words of the Psalmist. I find that amazing and truthfully, frightening. It is a journal of joy, sorrow, worship, repentance, hope, frustration … peace and assurance that God will keep me as the apple of [his] eye and hide me in the shadow of [his] wings. (Psalm 17:8)

What about you? Have you read through the Psalms or do you enjoy keeping a journal?

sunflower

[1] The Songs of Jesus by Tim and Kathy Keller; Introduction, {viii} | [2] | Ibid. page {ix} | [3]  Psalms:The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

By His Wounds: A Prayer for Good Friday

Good Friday

Dear Lord Jesus,

Where do we begin to offer our gratitude, love, and praise in response to what you did for us on the cross? We refer to today as, Good Friday yet we cannot fully fathom nor comprehend the immense goodness of your love for us.

You cry out for God to forgive us as God forsakes you. The vast goodness of this day is that we are fully forgiven because you were fully forsaken. Open our hearts to see you as Savior, to believe quickly…receiving your grace and a living hope just as you promised the robber hanging on a criminal’s cross next to you.

You came to rescue us, to give us life by giving up yours. “It is finished”, was your cry. The old has passed away and the new has come. In you do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame! In your righteousness, deliver me and rescue me for you are my hope, my trust.

Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

In your holy and powerful name, I praise and pray.

Amen.

I’ve never understood why people call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.” What was good about it? It looks like a tragedy to me. You’re right, up to a point: If all we had to celebrate was that final Friday when Jesus was put to death, there certainly wouldn’t be anything good about it. In that case, the term “Good Friday” would be a mockery. Instead, that final Friday would be the greatest tragedy in the history of the human race. Satan would have won, and any hope the human race might have had for the future would be ended.

But that Friday was not the end! Two days later, the tomb was empty, and Jesus was alive! And that’s why we can call it “Good Friday” … because on a day that first seemed tragic, something incredibly good happened … Christ gave his life for our salvation. [1]

Many of us, as we learn to know Christ in his sufferings, can only begin to have the moral imagination, the faith, to truly recognize that it was our sins that caused his death and necessitated the utter and absolute separation from his Father. Those of us who have been brought to the end of ourselves through life’s difficulties, personal failure and providential discipline can appropriate, by faith and repentance, the full measure of Christ’s redeeming grace. [2]

Still & quiet & bow slow & see Him now…
By His love — you are held,
By His mercy — you are washed clean,
By His relentless grace — you are saved.
And by His wounds — you are healed. [3]

DSC_0971[1] Billy Graham | [2] Adrienne Shore | [3] Ann VosKamp

Let the Children Come — Dreaming big wonderful things for our kids

children 2 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13–15)

This very familiar passage of scripture is a beautiful portrait of a gospel-centered ministry to our youngest generation. The bar is raised high. Let the children come. Let us not hinder them.

The purpose of children’s ministry is to assist families in building a spiritual foundation that will lead a child to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Statistics tell us that a person is most receptive to giving his or her heart to Jesus prior to the age of 14. Suddenly, the hour or so we have each week with our kids becomes more significant. There is no ministry more worthy of huge investment than our ministry to children. [1] From Nursery to fifth grade our desire is to see each child be cared for in an individual way. We want kids to learn about God in a fun, safe, loving and nurturing environment.

There is something just a little exciting at the thought of a new adventure in children’s ministry. Maybe it can be a place that kids love so much that they don’t want to miss a Sunday and maybe it’s an experience they enjoy so much to invite a friend to come with them. [2] Yes, we are dreaming big wonderful things for our kids.

It’s a little scary to think out of the box and to have a prayer list that begins with, “What if…” What if we had a children’s worship for three year olds? What if we had a “buddy” for every child with special needs? What if there was a rotation of teaching teams to give adults more flexibility to serve? What if…

You are invited to participate in the privilege of introducing children to an awesome God that loves them … what if you watch and experience powerful life change in their lives. What if you become the beneficiary of a child’s faith and prayers?

“The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer [3]

The words Jesus spoke in Matthew 19 and the action that followed quickened the hearts of his disciples to value children. The same resounds for us today. Let the children come … for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.  children [1] George Barna | [2] Making Your Children’s Ministry the Best Hour of Every Kid’s Week by Sue Miller. | [3] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

Come Away and Rest

Gift 9 Rest

Solitude is very different from a ‘time-out’ from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other. — Henri Nouwen

You are in God’s care, no matter what.
He is in control, not us.
He knows what being afraid feels like and tells us not to fear.
He has promised you will know His care and comfort.
He will not abandon you in your time of need.
He will let you rest. [1]

Gift 9

40 Gifts of Lent | Come Away and Rest: Gift 9 | [1] Emily Gibson,  https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/lenten-meditation-i-will-give-you-rest/

When Children Pray

The Prayer

“Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This evening, my four year old granddaughter asked if she could say the prayer before our meal. As we held hands while she prayed, I was grasped by the sweetness and simplicity of Gods love and grace for her and our family. The faith of a child is rich and unencumbered by worries or unbelief. She set the bar high for some tired weary adults.

I’ve been reading the remarkable biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Mataxas. While reading today, I discovered the context of the above, well known quote. I was surprised that Bonhoeffer said this in response to the prayers of children. I was awed by this primarily because I have devoted most of my work life to children’s ministry and can relate to being grasped by God when children pray.

Bonhoeffer was about to leave Berlin and embark on a new mission as a vicar of a German congregation in Barcelona, Spain. He presided over his last children’s service at the Grunewald church and later wrote this account in his journal:

I spoke about the man with palsy and especially about the assertion that your sins are forgiven, and tried once more to disclose to the children the core of our gospel; they were attentive and perhaps a bit moved, for I spoke, I think, with some emotion. Then came the farewell … The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness. [1]

I am encouraged by the gift of prayer from my granddaughter and yes, even the children that I spend time each week in the beautiful place that is church. Where a people prays … there is never loneliness.

DSC_0994

40 Gifts of Lent | When Children Pray: Gift 8 | [1] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Mataxas; Chapter 5.

Sunday Respite | Show Them Jesus

sunday respite_2

”This is what the Lord says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will call themselves by the name of Jacob; still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and will take the name Israel.” Isaiah 44:2-5

Dear Gracious and Loving Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this amazing scripture that gives us great hope for our future generation, our children’s children. I am thankful that you formed them in their mother’s womb and you promise to be their help. I pray that you would pour out your Spirit upon them and that your name would be written on their hand. With anticipation, I long for them to say with confident assurance, “I belong to the Lord.”

Please keep them thirsty for your love, for your truth, for your word. I pray that you would make the gospel of grace compelling and irresistible in their lives.

Help us, their parents and grandparents to be faithful to pray for our next generation to spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams. This is a beautiful portrait of a life rescued by your grace. Please pour out your blessings on our descendants and help us to remain faithful to show them Jesus.

Amen.

sunday respite 1

When a Lonely Place Becomes the Best Place

the best place 2

I wish I could say that my heart has been consistently joyful and at peace when I’m faced with an unexpected interruption, however my first inclination is to worry, fret or to be annoyed by the inconvenience. How I respond to an upset in my plans reveals the condition of my heart.

My heart needs to be turned towards caring. My soul needs to be softened and molded to show God’s peace and joy.

Unexpected events are not simply interruptions of our daily work but the way God molds our heart to be more patient, more caring, more selfless. I need a holy intervention to move gracefully through interruptions, to see the beauty of community with friends, the importance of sharing life-on-life.

It’s there right in front of me … this holy intervention. I need to be quiet, to withdraw from breathless activities. To pray. This is when a lonely place becomes the best place.

I love this photo of my daughter sitting next to her daughter, talking quietly while comforting her daughter and meeting her needs. When I realize that people are the primary cause of interruptions my perspective towards being inconvenienced changes. My prayers shift from being self-focused to people-focused … a concern for others is motivated more by their needs than my own.

In the morning, long before dawn, [Jesus} got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. (Mark 1:35)

In the lonely place, Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own. It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. ­[1]

He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. (Isaiah 50:4)

A lonely place becomes the best place for God’s goodness and care to be displayed. It is in the lonely place that I find peace that God will answer prayer.

[Jesus and his disciples] went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many recognized them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, “This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:30-44)

Jesus is in a lonely place with his disciples and five thousand other people. It is in this best place where God overwhelmingly answers Jesus’ prayer through a young boy’s simple gesture of giving away his meal of five loves and two fish.

When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. Then your concern for others can be motivated more by their needs than your own. In short: then you can care. Let us therefore live our lives to the fullest but let us not forget to once in a while get up long before dawn to leave the house and go to a lonely place. [2]

“I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.” Henri Nouwen

Receiving more grace in the lonely place indeed becomes the best place.

the best place[1] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 18  |  [2] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 30.