Tag Archives: Discipline

God 52 – Week Twenty-three (4/6/2013)

5 Jun

?????????????I’m writing this from the midst of sermon prep. What this tends to involve, is a lot of silence, some browsing the internet, a myriad of unconnected ideas and a significant number of prayers that basically go ‘God, can you tie this all together somehow. Amen.’ Anyway, I’m constructing this preach on faithfulness, and it’s a bit all over the place, but the one bit that really sticks out is this, from Mother Teresa, ‘God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.’

And that’s our challenge for this week.

23: Keep going with or re-start something that’s been really difficult.

We’re surrounded with the pressure to be successful, to only do things that produce tangible results. I believe fruit is important, but sometimes I think God is just calling us to develop ‘stickability.’ So the challenge for this week is to keep going, even when it hurts, even when it’s difficult – because if God’s called you to it, that’s what you need to be doing.

We’d love some guest blogs this week on the subject of Bible study – if you’d like to write one, please read our writing guidelines, then drop us an email.

The problem of consistency, by Ryan Cartwright

28 Apr

A second guest blog on this week’s challenge subject – praying consistently – from web developer and cartoonist (hence the avatar) Ryan Cartwright.

stewI was once told that sport is about consistency. Apparently to achieve greatness at a sport you need more than talent, you need to produce that talent time after time. My dictionary says consistency is “Reliability of successive results or events” and here is my problem with consistency when applied to prayer. If consistency is about achievement, if consistency is measuring results against each other then how can it apply to prayer? What is an achievement or result in prayer? How do we measure prayer and therefore how can prayer be consistent?

As it happens, my prayer life is consistent. It’s a consistent struggle, it always has been and I have come to terms with the fact that it always be. I’ve done the snoring-at-the-sunrise quiet time, I’ve read the books, tried the plans and my personal prayer-life remains like an engine that needs new spark plugs: it refuses to start. Through all this, that scripture has nagged at me: “Pray without ceasing”. I’ve always known it didn’t mean every sentence I said needed to end with “Amen” but still felt the pressure to pray every day. I often feel there’s too much emphasis on prayer. We make it sound like everything God does depends on something we usually forget to do.

The truth is we can’t measure prayer anymore than we can define what makes a good tune and of course God doesn’t depend on prayer: he cares that we do it but it is we who have made it a necessity. If we free prayer from the shackles of duty and measurement we are free to pray. Realising this changed my life. I am able to tell people I will pray for them without feeling guilty for a start. That’s because I am no longer promising a stream of regular incantations but offering to remember them to God. I find I best do this by bringing God into my thoughts when I suddenly remember them. This can happen at any time of day, at the traffic lights, in the bath, walking the dog, watching a movie. Yes I try (and fail) to spend dedicated time with God most days but I no longer put such an emphasis on it because I know I can stay in touch with him through the day. Funnily enough I realised recently that this is something I can be consistent at.

Ryan Cartwright is a web developer and cartoonist who has been blogging since before the term was invented. A Father of two and youth worker based in Essex, he has a passion for freedom and a weakness for Haribo. You can find him at http://www.crimperman.org and @crimperman

Carefully and Thoughfully Attentive, by Tim Bechervaise

28 Apr

Writing in response to this week’s challenge, this guest blogger reflects on the struggle and the joy of regular, disciplined prayer.

timmybechEver since I became a Christian, the discipline of prayer, particularly in the morning, has been encouraged by my church, the example of my parents and, of course, Jesus (Mark 1:35). Initially, seeing it as boring and simply another ‘religious’ exercise, I was a reluctant follower, but gradually I have come to treasure the 10-15 minutes I spend praying each morning – sometimes a little wearily. Normally I wake-up and proceed to have a shower, get changed and eat breakfast with a myriad of anxious, rushed and tired thoughts – ‘Oh no, I need to do that today / How will I get everything done?’ But at that moment of stillness, I have come to realise that Jesus sits with me, not only hearing my requests, but also prompting me to hear from Him through the Bible or directing my prayers in a way that my focus turns from me and onto Him.

As time wears on, however, I have found it easy to get lost in the demands of the day, to the extent that I sometimes forget about the prayers offered and thus lose an appreciation of how God has answered them.

So, at the end of each day, I am now attempting to sit on my bed for a few minutes (I used to pray lying down in bed, but too often I never finished my prayers, something which I am sure God smiles at) and recall those early morning prayers. And what’s amazing is the way I realise the way in which God has been so carefully and thoughtfully attentive to the cries of my heart.

I prayed God would open my eyes to the needs of others. I now recall bumping into the same person three times today. Perhaps God wants me to pray for/reach out to them in some way.

I prayed God would help me have a hospitable attitude. I now recall a few people came and spoke to me whilst I was working. Perhaps God is prompting me to be hospitable when I least expect or want to.

I prayed God would make me aware of His love for me. I now recall the quiet walk I enjoyed earlier in the sun and the coffee my colleague bought me. Perhaps God was showing His love for me, not through grand gestures, but in life’s small details.

Whilst I understand that some answers to prayer aren’t always as straightforward, reflecting on the answers I can see reminds me that each day has been held together by Jesus, who was carefully and thoughtfully attentive to the cries of my heart. And for that, I am very thankful.

The discipline can be hard, but catching a glimpse of its effect in my life each night inspires me to begin the next day in prayer.

Tim Bechervaise is 26 years old, works in the finance industry and heads up his local church’s 18-30s group. He is passionate about coffee, doughnuts and Spurs. He is even more passionate about Jesus. He tweets at @TimmyBech

God 52 – Week Seventeen (23/4/13)

24 Apr

First of all, an apology – things are a little flat out for me at the moment, and I’m really aware that I’m writing this about 30 hours than a lot of people expected it. Sorry. I’ll try not to let this happen again.

15-minutesDiscipline. It’s not a very nice word, is it? If you’re subject to it, then there’s likely to be some degree of pain or discomfort to you as a result; if you’re required to practice it, then you’re likely to be attempting something counter-cultural.

Because of course, we live in a world of short-cuts, short attention spans, and short tempers. We pace in front of the microwave; we get frustrated if BBC iPlayer takes too long to load. And in that cultural context, it’s sometimes hard to behave consistently. To return to the same behaviour, day after day, because doing so is good for us. It’s much more intuitive for us to flit around, to jump from one activity to the next, to follow distractions and pursue whatever interests us.

So regular, disciplined prayer is perhaps a different proposition in the age of distraction. In simpler times, with less things and individuals competing 24/7 for our attention, it was arguably easier to set aside regular time to pray and reflect (or maybe it was just difficult for other reasons). To do so today requires discipline; an effort of the will. So here’s this week’s challenge:

17: Pray for 15 minutes a day, at the same time for five days.

It’s a little exercise in discipline and consistency – but it also might yield some exciting results. This idea has slightly been stolen from Jackie Pullinger – and look what she’s achieved!

Pray about whatever you like, although I’d suggest you make it the same topic or situation.

We’re always on the look out for guest bloggers. If you’d like to write a guest post this week on disciplined prayer, please read our writing guidelines, then drop me an email.

Hardcore simplicity? by Mina Munns

12 Apr

Children’s worker Mina writes in response to this week’s challenge by sharing the story of what happened when she tried to be a nun… and then wasn’t.

MInaI’m a bit of a zealot if I’m going to be honest.

My favourite saints are always the ones who give it all up and go to live in the desert.

I want to be hardcore. I want to do what the rich young ruler couldn’t. I want to be uncluttered by things. I want to be the one who relies on God and not on my bank balance and my possessions.  It’s just not turning out the way I’d planned…

I did try.  A few years back, I gave my stuff away and went to live as a novice in a religious order. I had no choice but to live simply.  It helps when they take your credit cards away for safekeeping. It was scary but there was also something strangely wonderful about it, something massively freeing. Everything was held in common, most things were homemade and little touches became things of beauty: a small vase of flowers in your place to mark a special anniversary, a homemade or recycled card, a single chocolate to celebrate a feast day. My eyes were opened to things I’d never noticed or valued before. People, not things mattered most. God had more room to show Himself and I was freer to be with Him.

But when I found myself returned to life outside the convent, suddenly the stuff came back to bite me.  How could I be hardcore about living simply when I needed to be accessible to people by email and phone and no longer had a habit to simplify my wardrobe choices? Plus, with the best will in the world, I’ve always been a sucker for shiny things and novelty items (I do work with children!) and now I had my credit card back. I needed things but I needed freedom too.

I’ve decided it has to be a journey. I’m not making giant strides, but little steps seem to work:  recycling Christmas cards for sending next year, regifting things I won’t use, making and baking instead of buying, scouring Pinterest to find a new purpose for the broken objects, trying to buy clothes only from charity shops (with a ‘one in, one out’ garment policy when I’m feeling most strong).

So hardcore is probably not going to happen. And while I accept that, it doesn’t mean that I have to let the things win. I had a glimpse of what it was like when God had more room and I’m not about to let that beauty pass me by.

Mina Munns is an ex-primary teacher, ex- novice nun and present day Children and Families worker from Nottingham. People tell her that if she was a dog she’d be a terrier or possibly a Jack Russell.  She prefers to think of herself as catlike.  Her Children’s work blog is http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk/ ; follow her on Twitter @mina_munns 

Johanna Derry on Burning Buildings

10 Apr

In our first guest post on this week’s challenge topic of Simplicity, journalist Johanna Derry explains how the 2011 London riots caused her to reflect on what she really needs. 

JohannaOther than your family and pets, what would you rescue from a burning building? It’s a classic hypothetical question, asked so you can work out what matters most to you. In theory once you know what you value, you can simplify or prioritise your life accordingly.

About 18 months ago, I found myself in the slightly odd situation of actually trying to decide what I to rescue if my flat were to burn. I lived above a Greggs bakery near to Clapham Junction in London and, in August 2011, a handful of Greggs’ in the city were burned to the ground, the carbonised product of a few nights of rioting.

That week I happened not to be staying at home, but house-sitting for friends around the corner. My flatmate was away, so our flat stood empty.

It was the third night of the riots, the night when there weren’t enough police to deal with every troubled hotspot. Friends watching the news in other parts of the country started texting me to see if I was okay. And then friends who lived near to me, started offering their spare rooms. Clearly living on a high street in London above a bakery isn’t the advisable thing to do in a time of civil unrest.

I wasn’t scared for my own safety, but I still got spooked. I decided to brave the streets and go home to rescue the things I valued most, in case my building burned that night too.

It’s weird staring at all your worldly goods, the tangible evidence of the money you’ve worked for and spent, and knowing you could lose it all. What DO you choose to save?

I filled one plastic bag with exactly these things:

two pieces of jewellery that belonged to my grandmothers

a picture of me and one of my sisters as children, painted by my aunt

two Bibles I had been given by family members as gifts

I hovered before I left, wondering if I should take more. I could have definitely carried more, but then where would I have stopped? Even then I knew that I didn’t actually need the stuff I’d put in the bag. I already had a place to stay. I knew my friends would feed me. In the bag were things that made me feel close to my family.

Shelter. Food. Love. That’s all.

Everything else can burn.

Johanna Derry is a journalist, editor and blogger who lives in London (not above a Greggs anymore) and who likes attempting to make bread (she missed the smell of it). She blogs at: http://meandthegirlfromclapham.wordpress.com/

God 52 – Week Eleven (12/3/12)

12 Mar

sky+plus_remote_300It’s week eleven here at God52 HQ and God continues to use this ridiculous side project from two guys who distract each other in an office to share stories of hope, joy and love changing situations across the world. Yes you read that right, the world. In fact, I’ve being doing a little bit of research and I am pleased to inform you that God 52 has become weirdly popular in Macedonia. (Any by weirdly popular, I mean that we had two different visitors from there on Monday.) We’ve had seven visitors from the Philippines in the last week and in the whole time we’ve been doing this, God 52 has been viewed 16 times in Bahrain, that’s more than Brazil, Belgium, Iceland and South Korea combined!

You may be asking yourself why I’m sharing this with you. It’s not a vanity thing, it’s linked in to this week’s task. You see, as I sat down to write this blog, suddenly the entire internet opened up to me: pages and pages of God52 stats, a lengthy piece on Rob Bell from last year, a discussion of what makes former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal funny and a series of emails between two writers, originally due to be published if David Bowie died.  My point – I have little to any self-control. I’m distracted easily, be it by the internet, other people or old episodes of Saved by the bell. Ladies and Gentlemen – I am the the person who doesn’t have enough self-control to write about self control. So, this week’s challenge:

11: Identify a weakness, be aware of it for the week, and be more disciplined.

This could be anything. A distraction, an area of weakness, temptation, the jokes you shouldn’t tell, the things you shouldn’t be doing with you know who, that thing that’s been playing on your mind for a while – this week, commit to keeping it in check. Here’s the great thing. This isn’t about judgement. This isn’t about all of us on our own, struggling to find some meaning in 2013, it’s about a community of us striving to be the people that God has called us to be. So this week, let’s be praying for each other, that in the midst of the next seven days, we allow God to mould, shape and refine us.

If you’d like to write a guest blog on this week’s subject – engaging with ‘other’ voices – please read the guidelines here, then drop Martin an email.