Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Becoming One With Light

Union is as if in a room there were two large windows through which the light streamed in
 It enters in different places but it all becomes one.”


St. Teresa of Avila



Rule of Life ~ Reclaiming Sabbath

In my desire to learn to live fully awake in Christ I knew this would not be possible without also pursuing Sabbath.

I don't think one is possible without the other.

Without a deeper understanding of Sabbath I would continue to live out of my own resources and strength rather than out of the overflow of Christ in me.

As I entered into the practise of this rule of life, God quickly began to reveal the importance and benefit of remembering to keep the whole of Sabbath. 

Even though I believed that Sabbath was more than just going to church for a defined amount of time to worship God, my actual practise of this truth was inconsistent at best!

God shed light concerning this issue in regards to how I was spending my time as Sunday evening approached.   


When I began to see the weekend fade, panic, fear and dread would begin to set in.  Sabbath rest was up and gone!

I can't tell you how many Sunday evenings I have lost over the years out of fear of the unknown.

The reality is I can never get back the Sabbath time I gave away to worry and anxiety.

After talking to many friends and colleagues over the years I realize  that I am not alone.

Many of us fear that we are inadequate to carry out the responsibilities we have been given.  We dread having our failures exposed or that we will disappoint those who are counting on us.  We imagine the worst possible outcomes regarding projects, audits, exams, or difficult conversations that we know we must face. 

Anxiety can be paralysing.  Sin has a way of choking the peace, rest, and life out of us.  Essentially, fear steals Sabbath.  

What I am slow to grasp is this...

most of what I worry about is either completely out of my control or insignificant in the grand scheme of God's Kingdom.

Not only is worry and dread counterproductive, but ultimately it demonstrates my lack of trust in the reliability of God and His faithfulness.  

I thought this quote from St. Teresa of Avila was a wonderful reminder as we come to a close of another Sabbath and begin our week together.


Union is as if in a room there were two large windows through which the light streamed in
 It enters in different places but it all becomes one.”


When God's light streams in we are never alone again.  We become one.  

I love how she describes the beautiful connection between light and oneness.


When the light of Christ streams in we no longer have to operate from our own strength, wisdom or effort.

As a recovering type A, I am relieved to learn that living awake is not about striving for perfection or being focused on outcomes.

In fact, living in Christ is about learning to leave outcomes in God's hands. 

That is really hard for me at times.

Being awake is about living in this union with the Trinity.  

I am trying to absorb what it would be like to live every moment in oneness with Jesus, the true light.

Not just in spiritual theory or when things appear to be going well.

I want to live in constant union together, with the garment of Christ, His light upon me.

Matthew 3:16 speaks to this in the account of the baptism of Jesus.

(Side note... can you imagine being the one to baptize the actual Son of God?) 

The passage says that when Jesus came up from the water …

“He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him."

Some translations say “alighting on Him.” 
  
It was this spectacular event of the very Spirit of God coming down from heaven lighting on Him that preceded the incredible ministry that would follow in the days ahead.

Sometimes I wonder if this is why we see so little transformation in our lives, ministry, or churches.

Perhaps we are trying to operate in our own wisdom, strength, and understanding.

Let this truth seep into the core of our being.

The very same Spirit that came down from heaven alighting on Jesus that preceded his transformative ministry is the same light and Spirit that resides in you and me.  


If you are like me and start to feel the anxiety as Sunday evening commences and the weekend begins to fade, I urge you to take back the Sabbath!

As children of light, delight in and embrace the gift of constant union with Christ.

Allow the light of his Presence to continue to restore and give you rest.    

Put aside the temptation to worry.

Give thanks that the Spirit that is in you has everything that you need.

Be still and know that God is in control of the week.

He is able to take care of whatever is going to come your way.  He is already on it!

Remember His light and Spirit remains on and in you.

You are never alone!

Let his light stream in...abide in the gift of Sabbath and the gift of union with Him.

Until next time....



Thursday, 28 January 2016

I Sense A Theme!

When we repeat ourselves it is usually for one of two reasons...

either we do not think we have been heard and hence feel the need to repeat our point

or

we are getting older and simply forgot what we already said!

In the Bible, there are particular words or phrases that are repeated, such as "holy, holy, holy" or "praise the Lord His love endures forever."

We also see themes that reoccur in Scripture, such as suffering, grace, and redemption.  

Therefore, it is no surprise that in our own lives God may emphasize a specific message that he wants us to hear for our own benefit.

God may want to reveal something about himself or about our relationship in him.  That is why it is so important to take time to be attentive and still in the chaos to lean in to hear God's voice.

Well God, you certainly have my attention!  Let me explain.

On the weekend I was meditating on Romans 13 and the call to awake and put on the armour of light.  After writing in my journog (yes, my own made up word!) on arils and castles I did some long awaited housework.  In the evening I settled in with a book and found myself in the midst of one of those God moments.  

The chapter I open starts to speak once again to the theme of light.

My interest peaks. I perk up to pay closer attention.  Then the author draws the reader to a passage from Ephesians...




"you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light...find out what pleases the Lord...
Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them... 
for it is light that makes everything visible.  This is why it is said:

"Wake up, O sleeper
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you." 

Ephesians 5: 8, 10, 11, 14 


Sound familiar?

It echoes exactly the same theme from Romans 13.

Live in the light, please the Lord, put aside the fruitless deeds of darkness and of course...WAKE UP!  

Well there you have it.  I guess the theme of 2016 is... Wake Up!

Who knew that the phrase, "Wake Up" was so prevalent in the Bible?

I can't say it was the message that I wanted or hoped to hear.  Truly, who wants to hear God tell them to "wake up!"

Just a tad embarrassing...what does that say about me?

Worse yet, what does that say about what God thinks about me?

None the less, apparently God has a message that he knows I need to hear in this season of my life.

I urge you to lean in and listen to what God is saying to you in this new year.

It may not be what we want to hear, but I guarantee it will be exactly what we need!

Thank you so much for the comments you have been sharing. I love to hear from you and how God is speaking to each of you.  May His light continue to shine brightly upon and through you. 

Heavenly Father,

Who am I that you would speak to me? Thank you for revealing yourself as the true light.  Thank you for my identity as a child of your light.  Help me to find out what pleases you and teach me how to live constantly awake in your light.  

I love you.

In the powerful name of Jesus, the true light who illuminates all things,

Amen












   

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Live Covered In Light

I am usually freezing cold (no surprise for those of you who know me).  My nephew Caleb and I are kindred spirits in this regard.   Although we are Canadian, we are not ashamed to admit that our preference is to enjoy the winter cold and snow from the “great indoors” with a cup of hot cocoa.

I love to seek out the warmest place in the house to hibernate where the light streams in.  I have a favourite chair by our front bay window where the morning sun floods the room.





On other days I stow away on our tiny porch to soak in the warmth of the sunlight as I meet with God before the world awakes.






Light seems to have this ability to bring my body and mind into a place of true restoration.  

After reflecting this week on the verses from Romans (that I shared in my last entry) it began to make a lot of sense why I tend to seek out places where I am surrounded by light.


"it is full time now for you to wake from sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now...cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light...put on the Lord Jesus Christ."
          Romans 13: 11,12, 14


I am convinced more than ever that we are wired in our DNA to be drawn, covered, wrapped, and filled with light.

We are created to live in the fullness of the light of his presence.  We are designed to have his light illuminating upon, in and through us.

Psalm 104:2 beautifully speaks to this...

 “the Lord wraps himself with light as with a garment.” 

There it is again.  The image of light being a garment, clothes, or armour that we are called to put on as a covering of protection.

If the Lord wraps himself in light...then so should we!   


Awake My Soul

To practise my rule of life this weekend I am going to begin my day by intentionally reclaiming Sabbath to renew my mind and body in Christ.  

I am starting my weekend morning in meditation and prayer. I am going to bask in the warmth of his light and wrap myself in Him.

I welcome you to join me.  

I am choosing a quiet sacred space - the chair by my window where the light steams in.

Find a space if possible where you can be surrounded by light.  Do not worry if it is evening and you are just reading this... simply light a candle or sit by a lamp so that you can see and feel the light.

Take a few deep breaths

Still your mind and focus on the breath and the light of Christ

Feel the warmth of the light

Allow the light to wrap you like a blanket

Inhale slow and deep

As you inhale, breathe in His light and Presence

Exhale the deeds of darkness

What sins this week do you need to confess and put aside...withholding love, quarrelling, pride, failing to offer belonging, judgement, jealousy, complaining, worry, or a lack of trust or gratitude...

As you inhale give thanks that He is faithful to forgive us our sins

As you exhale acknowledge your need for his help to put aside the deeds of darkness and to live in His light

See His very Spirit descending and alighting on you.

Picture Him covering, wrapping, and filling you with His light.

His light is renewing you with His very own resurrected life.

Give thanks for His very Presence, His light dwelling in you

As you meditate on the passages from Romans 13 or Psalm 104 - what images come to your mind?  What is God revealing or saying to you today?  Write down any thoughts that come to mind.

Give thanks you are not alone to meet the needs that will arise today

Picture putting on Jesus, the armour of light as your garment

Ask Him to shine the light of his love through you to those you meet today

  

Now let us go forward in our day in faith that we have the garment of Christ and his light upon and in us.  


 May He wrap you in His light




Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Wake Up!

Awake …

to arouse from a sleepless state, to make active, stir up

from my friend wikipedia




In one of the first posts on arils and castles I shared my desire to live intentionally awake in Christ.  I admitted that I was tired of being stuck in maintenance and survival mode.  

A few days after I wrote that entry I came across the following verses...


"The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber...put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light...
clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ."

~Romans 13: 11,12,14

I just love God's timing and sense of humour!

I reluctantly admit to the world that I need to learn to live awake in Christ and what does God have to say?

"Wake Up Nicole!"

A little embarrassing, bordering on the obvious and absolutely hilarious!  

Humour aside, you can hear the urgency in this verse for us to wake up.  The time is now.  Do not wait and linger.   

The chapter continues to provide directions on what we need to do in order to awake from our slumber.

We are to put aside the deeds of darkness, the things that do not reflect Christ.  Get rid of our old self, the flesh.

Putting aside the deeds of darkness will be impossible by our own effort and strength.

That is why we are called to put on the armour of light.  We are to clothe ourselves with Jesus.  He is our garment.  He is our armour of light. 


"In him (Jesus Christ) was life,
 and the life was the Light of men." 



John 1:4  




Please join me in this prayer or adapt it to make it your own.


Father of heavenly lights,

Awake us from our slumber.  Bring to mind the deeds of darkness that we need to put aside.  (pride, jealousy, withholding love from our neighbour...).

We need you to help us to put to death our sinful nature to live led by your Spirit.  Forgive us for actions that have dishonoured you. Show us how to put these deeds aside and to clothe ourselves with you.

Thank you Jesus that you are our armour of light.  That you cover, guide, and protect us with your light.  May we reflect your life and light to those we meet.

In the name of Jesus who is our life and light,  

Amen    


Breathe on me, breath of God, breathe on me

Awake, awake, awake my soul,
God resurrect these bones
From death to life, 
For you alone
Awake my soul

Chris Tomlin - Awake My Soul





















Saturday, 16 January 2016

ROL ...Building Daily Intentional Habits

I want to thank those of you who have courageously reached out to share your own rule of life.  I appreciate your vulnerability and will continue to lift you in prayer.

Formulating a rule of life is one thing, but sticking with it is quite another.  That part is usually my downfall!

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit:  Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business says that "habits are an accretive process."  In the beginning our habits take a great deal of concentration and effort, but overtime they become an automatic way of life.

Essentially, we become our habits.

Our choices, words, and actions (also know as our habits) reflect what we truly believe about ourselves and God. Scary thought some days!

Here are some practical tips so that the rule of life becomes a living document to help shape us into His likeness.

Repetition Is Key

Review your rule of life each morning to set your mind and day on Christ. 

Keep it with you to refer to throughout the day.

Mine is on my phone and in my journal so I am less likely to forget once I am faced with the demands of the day. 









Plan and Schedule

Schedule time and stick with it!

If I wrote down everything I did this past week what would it reveal about my true priorities?  Did I really need to watch that new series on Netflix, play that game on my phone or spend as much time as I did on the computer last night?

What time can I reclaim by rearranging my priorities? 

Be realistic about the best time of day to engage in your spiritual disciplines that makes sense for your personality and life circumstances.  My optimum time is early in the morning before I run into people!  (Spoken like a true introvert!) 

If we believe that everything belongs to God then that also includes our time.

Plan To Avoid Distractions

I get easily distracted.  Just ask my husband.  When we are out together Ken whistles to find me in the crowd as I get swept away by every shiny object.  His words, not mine!

Unfortunately, I am no different when it comes to engaging in spiritual practises.  When I set aside time to be with God I can almost guarantee that concerns about family, work or the toilet paper I forgot to purchase while I was out will flood my mind.  

I now keep a journal or paper beside me so that I can write down what I need to surrender to God in prayer or take care of later in the day.

Find or create your own quiet sacred place to focus on God and limit distractions.    

Unplug.  Yes, that is not a typo!  The compulsion to respond to every pop up is often a losing battle!

A Posture of Humility

Anything new or worthwhile takes time, practise, and patience.

I am easily prone to discouragement when I try something new and fail to see tangible evidence of progress as quickly as I would like. If I want to grow in Christ then I will have to get my pride out of the way!

As disciples, we have permission to learn and even make mistakes.  Therefore, we can let go of the need for perfection.  

I am going to take a huge step for me this year.  I am going to leave the progress and fruit production up to God.

I am going to cease the striving and shame when I fail.

I am going to enjoy being with Him instead of focused on results.

Disciplines help us to learn a posture of humility and surrender to God.  When true submission takes place we become less so that God can fully reign in and through us.

God gives us generously His grace.  When we miss the mark (and we will) let us simply review our rule of life, pray for help and start again.

Dare to Share!

Most authors on the subject encourage sharing your rule of life with a trusted pastor, spiritual mentor or friend.  If you are an introvert and private person like myself this stage might terrify you.

Think of it this way.  When you have a friend to meet you at that fitness class or bible study it gives an extra push to show up, rather than crash on the couch with a bag of Lime Tostitos.  

Same principle applies.  The accountability of a trusted confidant is a gift to spur one another on to grow together in Christ.


Heavenly Father,

Thank you that you have chosen us to be your disciples. Forgive us for the choices and habits that do not reflect and honour you.  Help us to humble ourselves to hear, learn, and obey.  Thank you for your promise to help us in our weakness when we get discouraged, tired, or fail.

Please use this rule of life to make us into your image that we would know and reflect your love.  Give us wisdom as to the right person to share our rule of life with who will encourage us to grow together in you.

In the powerful name of Jesus,

Amen


I would love to continue to hear from you.  You can use the comment section to share your own rule of life so that we can inspire one another along the way.  If you would like to receive automatic updates from my castle to yours simply enter in your email address to journey together.  Until next time...

  

     

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Nicole's Rule Of Life

I love to learn from spiritual leaders and the disciplines they embed into their daily lives.  Here are a few that have inspired me.

Reading a psalm and a proverb each morning, remaining in one passage of Scripture for a full year, reading through the entire Bible each year, meditating each day on the teachings of Christ, fasting one day a week, choosing to completely unplug on weekends, conscious eating, and daily interceding over local and global issues in the news. 

Since it is my tendency to lean toward and linger in the contemplative disciplines I made the decision to refuse to avoid practises that address the other areas of my life. After all, I would not want to be accused of favouritism!

Enough preamble, here is the essence of my rule of life...

To know God (beyond head knowledge) and love Him (with body, mind, and soul) and reflect His love to others.

To live awake in the fullness of Christ with pure and simple devotion to Him.

To begin with, I plan to continue to build upon the two spiritual disciplines that I focused on in 2015.  

Simplicity and Solitude/Silence.

The art and habit of simplicity and solitude has taught me how to declutter (physically and mentally) to create space to hear and respond to the Beloved.  Learning to practise these disciplines over the past year has been the beginning of a beautiful relationship that I cannot do without!

I will also add the following sacred practises in 2016...

Self Care: 

To increase energy

Re-claiming Sabbath, Increasing sleep, Eating nourishing meals, Walking (preferably in nature)

Monthly personal retreats with God


Renewing My Mind & Heart:

To learn to love God with my whole mind and heart by relinquishing thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours that are not aligned with God's truth.  I want to learn to live consistently led by the Spirit, as a new creation, rather than by the flux of emotions and circumstance.

Daily - Reading and living the word

Daily -  Devotion to prayer

Daily -  Self-examination

Soul Care

Weekly - To be attentive to God's love, beauty and wonder all around me

Weekly - To create like my Creator

Community and Relationships

Weekly - connecting to a diverse community through arils and castles to share God's love and encourage others to live in Him.

As I was praying about my rule of life I felt God's nudge to include my relationship with my husband.  That one I will keep for us!

Well... so much for following my own advice of starting small!

Remember the rule of life is not about perfection it is about being in Christ and allowing Him to transform us. 


Glorious Father,

I thank you for speaking into various areas of my life that need renewed and transformed.  I ask that you may use this rule of life to reveal yourself and to enlighten my heart and mind with understanding to make me a new creation in you. Help me to trust in you when I get discouraged from mistakes or a lack of progress.  I want to live awake in the fullness of your love in order to live with pure and simple devotion to You!

In the powerful and gracious name of Jesus,

Amen












Sunday, 10 January 2016

Creating A Rule Of Life

"Desire has its own rhythms.  Sometimes it ebbs and sometimes it flows.  But in the end it is the deepening of spiritual desire and the discipline to arrange our life around our desire that carries us from the shallow waters of superficial human wanting into our soul's movement in the very depths of God.  Sometimes the tide brings us closer in to shore and the soul frolics in the waves.  But increasingly we find our life to be hidden in the depths of God, and whatever is seen on the surface springs up from those depths full of beauty and grace." 
Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms


Sacred Rhythms was one of my top ten pics of 2015! 



Highly recommend this book if you are longing to learn more about spiritual formation and disciplines.

I promised we would delve deeper into the art of creating a rule of life...so here we go.

Ruth Haley Barton uses the term cultivating sacred rhythms to speak to the intentional arranging of our lives, attitudes, and habits to create space in our soul (our inner castle if you will) to be transformed by the living God.

I imagine she must also struggle with the idea of following rules.

By the way, huge thanks to my friends, the Fletchers.  They researched the character from Downton Abbey who doesn't "give a fig about rules."  No surprise, the quote was from none other than Lady Mary of course.  Unlike Carson, (and more like me) Lady Mary is not opposed to bending a rule or two. 

I have gathered some recommendations from my own personal experience and those I gleaned over the years from various spiritual directors of mine to help get you started on formulating your own rule of life.  (Thank you to St. Benedict, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Ruth Haley Barton, and Marjorie Thompson) 

Everything in Prayer

Sounds obvious, but this is the step most of us rush.  Due to my passionate nature I have to resist the urge to jump right in with the "doing."  

Transformation begins when we are completely dependent on God to direct and make us new. 

Without prayer, the rule of life will be yet another goal setting venture that will likely lead to the dissatisfaction and longing for something more.

Pray for God to illuminate His truth to draw us into deeper communion with Him.  Without this step we will create a rule of life based on what we think we need.

What we actually need are His thoughts, His wisdom, and His divine counsel.  We need Him to reveal the things in us that we are not even aware of that are inhibiting our life and joy in Him and with others. 

Lasting spiritual formation is a precious gift only God can give.

Ask & Seek  (not hide and seek!)

Prayerfully ponder some of the following questions.  This is a starting place not an exhaustive list.  Take your time.  Write down your thoughts and anything that speaks directly to you.

Remember a rule of life is not meant to be a legalistic list of do's and don'ts.

Here we go...

Ask God to reveal what rules you are currently consciously or subconsciously following.  Trust me, we all have rules we live by and some of them are best to leave behind us in 2015.

What spiritual practises help you to see and experience God?

Recall any specific places where you tend to sense the presence of God in your life?  (in nature, at your desk, in communal activities etc...)

Ask God about the longings of your heart.  What is most important to you?

Ask God to reveal your true priorities over the past year.  What has taken the most time and attention during this season of your life?

Are there relationships or activities that need attending to or that you need to let go?

Ask God who He wants you to become.

Are there areas or attitudes that you have been struggling with?

What do you most what to change about yourself and what area has been the greatest challenge to see progress?

Ask God to reveal what areas of your life require some pruning or nourishment.

Ask what particular disciplines would help you to grow in that specific area of your life to live more fully in Him.

Ask God to reveal any current spiritual practises or disciplines that that ignite energy and joy within you as you cultivate your relationship in Christ.

Most material on the subject of a rule of life suggest to begin with exploring disciplines that match your natural personality or bent.  It may be contemplative practises such as, prayer, meditation or memorization of Scripture, solitude, journaling, simplicity, or self-examination.  If you are extroverted you may lean toward practises of hospitality, justice, service, or unplugging from technology to connect personally with others.

The monastic way of life believes in having a healthy balance of both contemplative and outward practises.  I have particular disciplines that I tend to avoid so that is where I need to stretch myself in this new year.


Listen, Expect & Document His Voice 

Be attentive.  Listen for God to speak into your rule of life. As you pray, read the word, or are in conversation with others I urge you to pay close attention to particular words or thoughts that leap out at you.

Eagerly expect that He will guide and answer your questions.

Record what you notice, see, read, hear and anything that you think God may be bringing to mind.  

Start Small & Be Practical (not something I am good at!)

As I mentioned above, my tendency when I am excited about something new is to go a tad overboard expecting a whole new me by yesterday.  So I urge you to start small and be realistic.

You can always add more rules or adjust them as you go along in the year.  It is meant to be a living and breathing document.  Do not be afraid to adapt if you sense God is leading you in a new direction to explore.

I recommend to start off with two or three rules rather than give up after a week because your list is too daunting and unrealistic for your current season of life.  Learn from my mistakes!


So put the kettle on and pour yourself a cup of tea.  Find a comfortable place in the quiet with a journal or computer by your side.  Ask God to speak into the creation of a personal rule of life specifically for you.  Give thanks in faith that He will direct your paths, reveal His truth and make you new.  

I look forward to hearing about the unfolding of your personal rule of life uniquely written for you!

I haven't forgotten, I will share some of my own rule of life for 2016 with you next time.    






Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Rules To Intentional Transformation!

I am a huge Downton Abbey fanatic.  I love the character development, the wit, and of course, the fashion. You cannot watch this series and not fall in love with the beloved butler, Carson.

Carson's character has a deep loyalty and respect for the Crawley family, who he faithfully serves.  This head butler takes his role, honour, tradition, and rules very seriously. 

Unlike Carson, I confess that in certain circumstances I sometimes live like rules are more of a guideline than absolute...after all Christ did come to set us free from the law!

Here is a pic of my birthday gift from my sister that highlights my love of Downton and also speaks to my temptation to occasionally break the rules!  (Thanks Jan...I love it)



I thought the Downton fans out there would appreciate this particular piece of fine china!

Over the past few days I have been pondering some rules of my own.

Last year I began to implement what is called a rule of life into my spiritual practice.  Since it was the start of a new year, I thought that I would create some fresh rules to continue to cultivate seeds to intentionally grow in Christ. 

Many of us start the new year making resolutions or setting particular goals to work toward.  This year instead of striving toward a particular accomplishment, I want to learn to be, rest and live consistently in Christ.

This is one of the most beautiful descriptions I have found of a rule of life.


"The caterpillar must yield up the life it knows and submit to the mystery of transformation.  It emerges from the process transfigured, with wings that give it freedom to fly.

...A rule of life gives us a way to enter into the life-long process of personal transformation.  It's disciplines help us shed the familiar but constricting "old self" and allow our "new self" in Christ to be formed - the true self that is naturally attracted to the light of God" 
Marjorie Thompson, Soulfeast
  

I believe that God graciously initiates and draws us to Himself.  I also know, despite my best efforts, it is only the hope of the power of God that can bring about true spiritual transformation in my life.  However, I am also responsible to make intentional choices to live what I claim to believe, to create space to hear from God in order to be transformed into His likeness, and to respond to His outrageous love.

A rule of life is simply a vehicle to explore a variety of disciplines that can help us to deepen our relationship with the Beloved and live in the freedom of Christ as a new creation in Him. 

If you want to write a rule of life of your own for the new year join me here this week as I share some of my own personal rules for 2016 and some helpful tips as you embark on this ancient spiritual practice.

If you have already implemented a rule of life of your own I invite you to share in the comments what rules God has used to transform your own spiritual life so that we can learn from one another.  I would love to hear from you.


~

Father, I am so grateful that I am a new creation in you and that you are the hope of transforming the things in me that do not reflect who you are.  Thank you that I am loved and accepted in my weakness, yet in your grace and gentleness you give the gift of new life in you.  Lord, I ask you to guide and shed light on the practices, disciplines or the adjustments I need to make in my life this new year to honour and live in you.  I do not want these to be a set of legalistic rules or routines, but that I may grow in your love, grace, and truth.

In the transforming powerful name of Jesus,

Amen    

















   

   

Monday, 4 January 2016

Living With Intent



Awake …to arouse from a sleepless state, to make active, stir up

Intentional Living....Intentional living requires one to be aware of their fundamental beliefs and to be willing to make an effort to have their behavior reflect these beliefs in a form of integrity in relation to his or her conscience and environment.


...thanks Wikipedia



Despite a multitude of blessings in my life I found myself living in maintenance mode rather than fully alive in Christ. 

Accomplishments did not equate purpose, joy, or living awestruck in Christ. 

Most of us can relate to going through a season at one time or another feeling spiritually, personally or professionally stuck. 

Some may feel imprisoned by painful circumstances that were either self-created or completely out of your control.  Desperate prayers seem to go unheard.

Life goes on for those around you as you are drowning alone in grief or fear consumed with the guilt of past mistakes.  As a result of the weight of shame you refuse to enjoy life out of some unspoken self-imposed form of penitence.

Maybe you have been overwhelmed walking alongside someone you dearly love who is deeply suffering and you can do nothing to take the pain away.  It seems offensive to enjoy life in the midst of their agony and sorrow.

Perhaps you have had dreams placed on the back burner while life passed by and therefore begrudgingly resign to remaining in a place that you never wanted or intended to be.


For those who serve in ministry as leaders there can be additional guilt and fear to admit when we are struggling with doubt, dread or discontentment.  We do not want others to judge us for not being grateful or content enough.  We fear being exposed that despite all of our head knowledge we are still desperately craving a deep knowing of what it means to daily live in Christ.

After all, leaders should have no excuse since we have read almost every leadership and spiritual formation book out there.  Yes, we are an exciting bunch!  If anyone should know how to get unstuck it should be us. 

Then comes the striving.  Perhaps if I was less sinful and more spiritual somehow God would hear me and help?  We are tempted to take control and start the next new thing hoping that will fix things.  We fast and pray harder, anything to be able to earn God's next revelation or blessing!   

When we feel stuck, the ministry that once brought us life can also become the very thing that drains us.  If we are not careful we can begin to resent the very sheep that God gave us care over. 

Resentment can also build if the ministry work is soaring, yet, personal prayers continue to go unheard.  You know God can use you, but fear He will ask you to sacrifice the desires of your heart.

Then there is resignation.  I don't mean that literally, although that can sadly happen.  Resignation is the easiest to detect. This is when we go through the motions, waiting for the day to finish hoping no-one will notice.  Have you been there?

When we feel stuck we can be tempted to compound the problem by allowing our pride to keep our struggles to ourselves.  When we lead others in ministry we fear others will question our ability to lead or follow if we expose our anxieties or discontentment.  Then we are isolated and cut off from the very encouragement and support we desperately need in the seasons of insecurity and waiting.

Maybe you too have found yourself waking most mornings to dread and fear rather than being fully alive in Christ.   

We all have a unique story, but I realize many of us are searching for the same thing!

An awakening.

A lasting transformation to something more.

And that is where this all began.

In the midst of the exhaustion and haze I kept hearing a faint whisper.  The word intent seemed to keep popping up.

I would read a book on spiritual disciplines and the word intent would leap off the page.  I would sit down at church and the Pastor would talk about living with intent.


I thought I was safe enough when I was reading an article online with absolutely nothing to do with spiritual matters (I realize that is a ridiculous thought - defining things as secular or sacred since the whole earth is truly full of His glory, but perhaps that is for a whole other post… sorry, I get distracted sometimes!) and guess what phrase appeared?

Live with intent!

Don’t get me wrong I desperately wanted to hear from God at this time in my life. However, I craved hearing a phrase or word, such as ...

“I love you …rest in me… or how about… retire early Nicole!” (Don't judge ... nothing is impossible with God, I can dream!).

I admit I was sort of annoyed.   The word "intent" seemed to imply more work and discipline.  Due to my exhaustion this was the last thing I wanted to hear.

If I go to the definition from our friend Wikipedia this "intentional living" is achieved through being willing to make an effort to have my behaviour match my beliefs.

So what is wrong?  Have I simply failed due to a lack of will or effort on my part?  If that is true, that suggests I need to keep striving harder and that it is all up to me.  


Surely there is something more?

I set aside some time in solitude to read His word and sit quiet before Him in order to finally face the “I-word!”


For days I read about life in Him.  I read accounts of those who walked with Christ who were passionate, living with purpose making a difference in the lives of those they encountered.

As I travelled along side the disciples I noticed they did not just "talk" about good intentions nor did they just put more elbow grease and effort into their ministry.


I was also comforted by the fact that these men did not all of a sudden stop screwing up in life because they were hanging out with this pure and holy guy.


Instead the disciples simply ate, walked and enjoyed life together with Jesus. 


This seems almost too simple to believe?


It was this intentional life together in Christ that gave significance to their lives.  The challenge with this is that we are often tempted to define our significance by our status, roles, and accomplishments (or the lack there of).  We have been taught to earn and produce, which then creates this dilemma with fulfilment in simply being with and in Christ.

To be honest I am not sure where to start, but it became clear throughout this past year that writing would be an intentional part of the process of learning to live entwined joyfully in Christ.



So that is where this journal/ blog (journog, blournal???) and you come into the picture.

Despite my personal insecurities such as, my limited skills in the craft of writing, the fear of being judged, being too self-focused, offending others, or simply being irrelevant ...just to name a few ... I decided to take a huge leap of faith to document this journey.  

I also chose to share my experience through writing online because there is power in community.

For those who know me I realize that statement is hilarious coming from me.

 
The idea of writing with my thoughts exposed to others frankly terrifies a 99.9% introvert like myself. 

The truth is God designed us to have loving, grace-filled sojourners to walk along side us on this camino called life. 

I invite you to join me and make this castle your home where we can discover together how to live intentionally awake, fully alive in Christ.