Tuesday, November 29, 2011

how to pray, part two

dan here.  today's post comes from my good friend, and fellow seminarian, matt rittgers.  enjoy.  
Praying is hard--Or so probably most of us are convinced. We all know we should pray. We try again and again to get into a good prayer habit. We create lists of prayer requests for those we care about, we try praying early in the morning, or we recite ancient prayers again and again. But, for the most part, these often end up seeming hollow, don't they?

Thus, we find ourselves trapped in a seasonal cycle. We desperately want to pray- we buckle down and  force ourselves to pray- we get distracted or bored- we stop praying- we feel guilty- we desperately want to pray...

I think that there's a better way. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with lists, or trying to carve out special "prayer-time" each day. Nor is there a problem with wanting to recite the same prayer at meals or at bedtime. It's just that it's easy for out minds to feel like they are completing the task of prayer (checking that box off our list), while our hearts are disconnected.

So, if you're like me, you end up convinced that prayer is hard, or that you are a bad pray-er.

Yet, I bet all of us who have walked with the Lord for any length of time have had some very intimate moments of prayer at one time or another. Yet, since we are often so limited on what we consider to be prayer, we miss these moments.

For Example:

I vividly remember tossing and turning for weeks in bed, filled with stress about career and ministry choices. My mind was empty of anything but desperation. My heart cried to God for answers.
Or, I can recall several times I've been so overwhelmed with the goodness of life that I would randomly burst out talking/screaming/singing in my car. 

Both of these examples don't fit the formula of "Jesus, take care of so and so" or "God please bless me today." Yet, they still are prayer--and maybe even better prayers.

I am becoming more and more convinced that God wants us to be people that pray by allowing God into the moments of our lives. Things like telling God that you're frustrated when you get stuck in traffic. Or allowing God into your first sip of coffee in the morning. Or praying for your friends as you drive past their parts of town. Or thanking God for His faithfulness as you drift off to sleep.

This type of praying has been transforming my life. My prayers have become less and less "scripted" and more and more natural. And, slowly I believe I am becoming someone who is closer to God and better with communicating with Him.

dan again.  check back tomorrow as i share some thoughts on "how to pray, part three."  ml.

the power of prayer, part one

i believe in the power of prayer; i believe it has the power to change lives, to transform people, to break addictions, bad habits, to bring us closer to god.  in fact, i've experienced the power of prayer in my life (and hope you have too).    

over the next few days, i'll be posting a couple of blogs on the topic of prayer.  i hope you're as excited as i am!  

part two
my good friend, and fellow seminarian, matt rittgers, will be guest blogging.  he'll be writing his thoughts on prayers and how to break the staleness most of us find from time to time.  it'll be great, i hope you'll check back!!  

part three
i'll be sharing a more formal way to pray.  i'll introduce some structure, that's based off of the lord's prayer (matthew 6), that i've found to be really helpful in my prayer life.

this is a huge topic but is there anything you'd like covered?  any specific requests?  post a comment or contact me!  

catch ya soon!!  


Sunday, November 27, 2011

throwin' rocks

this weekend i watched forrest gump. it's a great movie, don't judge me.  ha.

there's a lotta memorable lines and scenes in the movie but for some reason one in particular stood out to me.

do you remember the part where jenny sees her childhood home?  the home where her father abused her as a child?  to remind you: when she sees the house she kinda freezes.  then she runs at the house, picks up rocks, and starts throwing them at the house.  finally, after throwing a buncha rocks at the house, she crumbles to the ground and just starts sobbing.

and forrest, while narrating the story to a stranger on a bench, says, "sometimes, i guess there just aren't enough rocks."

i was struck by that.  it's probably because, in my life, i've been hurt.  and if i could, i would throw hundreds of rocks at the person(s), the thing, whatever.  but that wouldn't change things.  it wouldn't fix things.  even if i had a million rocks, there just aren't enough rocks to fix the hurts in our life.  and let's be honest, those rocks aren't gonna fix the problem anyways, they're just a temporary solution.

that's where, in my opinion, god comes in.  i think it's only in his goodness, love, and his forgiveness that we can find a permanent solution to our pain and our hurts.  it's in god where we can find the ability to forgive those who've hurt us.  so that we can move on in our life.  so we can stop feeling anger, hate, and resentment.  so that we don't keep looking for rocks.  

believe, it doesn't seem fair.  like, why should i have to feel this?  why should i have to forgive after he/she/it did that to me?  why me?  when i look at my own life, i can't answer those questions...and i'm guessing you can't either.  so i think it's time that we pick up our rocks, forgive, and move on.

i don't know about you, but in my life, forgiveness is a continuous process.  most of the time, i don't just forgive once and move on.  sometimes, depending on the depth of our pain, forgiveness has to be a daily occurrence (matthew 18:21-22).  sometimes, it's a choice.  a hard choice.  but the right choice.

another thing that's been really helpful for me is to ask other people for their help in the forgiveness process.  it's as simple as telling them about the hurt and asking them to help you forgive the offender.  outside of the fact that i think it points to our deep desire to be fully known, i can't really explain why it helps.  but trust me, it's helped me.

can you remember a time where you've chosen to forgive?  who do you currently need to forgive?  who can help you?


*photo credit: creative commons, flickr
**photo credit: beks cassinari


Friday, November 25, 2011

unreleased cribs!!!

did you ever see the show cribs on MTV?  basically, a famous person would give a tour of his/her mansion.  i actually kinda liked the show...but would never really admit it.

well, when i was on the world race, i decided i'd film my own cribs episodes (with holland cox doing the behind-the-lens work most of the time).   if i'm honest, we put together some doozie episodes...some of which i'll probably re-post on here from time to time.

but, just because i appreciate you all so much, i thought i'd release a never-before-seen cribs episode!!  this episode was from my time in paidha, uganda.  paidha is in northern uganda, miles from the congo border, and we were some of the first white people to ever visit the village!!  i'm not kidding, kids would see us, scream/cry, and run away.  it was crazy.

as you'll see in the video, i had malaria in paidha (or at least that's where it's side effects hit me) and i spent about a week laying in a grass hut, wishing i was back in america and/or dead (i'm kidding...well, kinda).  because the internet was so bad in africa, i never released it!  so here ya go!  i hope you enjoy it (the bathroom and the awkward african interactions, haha)!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

choosing to give thanks

awhile ago, i wrote about choosing to focus on the good things in life.  for me, it's important because a lotta times i find myself focusing on the bad parts of life.  it's really too bad because the bad parts are far less in number then the good parts of my life.  if you wanted, you could read the blog here.

a small part of focusing on the good for me is focusing on the blessings in my life, the things that i often take for granted, and choosing to be thankful for them.  if you don't mind, let me tell you a quick story: last semester, while sitting in a seminary class, i was down.  i mean down, down.  like thinking i just wanted to scrap the whole seminary thing and move on in my life.  i was focusing on all the bad things.  then it hit me, sometimes i have to choose to focus on the good things, the things that i take for granted, and give thanks.  so, i literally looked out the window and started making a list of things i was thankful for: the flying birds, the leaves, the blue sky, electricity, denver seminary, the sunshine, grass, etc.  those are pretty basic things, right?  right.  but they still pulled me outta that funk.

a couple of months ago, i was reading through the good and beautiful god (james bryan smith) for a spiritual life class we were doing at new denver church.  smith challenged me (well, technically anyone who reads the book) to make an "on-going list of blessings."  so i did.  i admit i haven't gone back to the list much recently but i should.  especially on thanksgiving.  i'm sure you can see in the picture that some of them are really basic.  but that's the point, i don't wanna take those things for granted.

here's a list of a few of the things i'm thankful for (in no particular order):
coffee, sunshine, shade, big trees, baseball, playing sports, spicy food, air conditioning, heat, books, worship music, fruit snacks, grace, my brother, encouraging emails, love, the newspaper, new denver church, to-do-lists, sweats, loving parents, flip flops, my supporters, the book of james, comfy jeans, the nile river, warm showers, baby wipes, mountains, the smell of clean clothes.

i think you get the point.  it's really simple but it's been revolutionary for me.  and the cool part is when i start noticing the small blessings in my day-to-day life that i would've usually overlooked.  

maybe you could start today?  make a list of 10 blessings that you're grateful/thankful for.  add 10 more tomorrow.  or maybe add one a day, i dunno.  whatever works for you.  i just think it's really important to look for the blessings in our life, rather then the negatives.  and, if you're like me, i think it's important to give god thanks for blessing our lives so abundantly.


Monday, November 21, 2011

how do you connect with god?

sometimes i find myself kinda irritable, short, easily upset, etc...in short, i'm crabby.  i'm learning to be okay with my crabbiness, not try to just change it, or beat myself up over it.  it is what it is.  i can thank my counselor for that little bit of wisdom.  

for me, there's a lot that causes my crabbiness but typically it boils down to me feeling one (or more) of these three i's: incompetence, impotence, or insignificance (thanks jason martinkus).  when i'm feeling one of those, i get crabby.  or worse, i act out.  i'll explain more about those sometime soon.    

but anyways, the point of this blog...how do you connect with god??  because, honestly, and i'm not just trying to jesus juke you here, when i'm feeling crabby i often just need to slow down and connect with god.  many of us have been taught we need to pray and read our bible to connect with god.  while that's a great starting point, it's not the only way...or, if i'm honest, not the best way (for me anyways).

most of the time, i best connect to god through music.  you know how sometimes you hear a song that can just instantly bring you back to a time, place, feeling?  that's what certain music does with my relationship with god, it's an instant connection of sorts.  and most times it brings me out of my crabbiness and helps me feel: competent, powerful, and significant (the opposite of the three i's).  

one of my pastors shared this link with me and it helped me understand how i best connect with god.  it's not the end-all-be-all but it's a great way to consider how you best connect with god.  it's 45 questions.  i pray it helps you discover how you best connect with your creator.