Coming Apart

Posted in Rest & Refreshing, Solitude by PCraig on October 19, 2017

Jesus on one occasion, at least, said to His disciples, “Come apart.”  The context was to get away from the crowds and get time alone.  I once heard an old preacher say, “If you don’t ‘come apart,’ then you’ll come apart!”  In other words, we need times of retreat.  I have found this important for the following reasons:

  • Reflection – I need time to process life, the future, goals and dreams, along with disappointments.
  • Refreshing – My soul is replenished in the times away from the crowd.
  • Renewal – My heart is restored by the quiet moments with Him (and often my family)

What happens to you in these moments?  Has it been so long that you’re uncertain?  I’ve learned the value of Jesus command to His disciples and am trying to be obedient to it myself.

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Running On Empty

Posted in Margin, Prayer, Purpose, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress, Victorious Living by PCraig on September 8, 2016

All kinds of information exists on breathing techniques for reducing stress. It seems most of us tend to breathe shallow and live pressurized lives. By breathing deeply through our nose, holding it for several seconds, then slowly releasing it out our mouths, heart rate and stress levels come down. So, you might try it and see what happens.

This got me thinking about how important it is to breathe in the experiences of life. How many of us just getting going in the morning and don’t stop until we hit the bed? God didn’t even do this. In creation, God set aside one day of the week to be a day of rest. In a culture that carries a device that is linked to the world in it’s hand, that is difficult for us to achieve.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Unplug for 15 minutes each morning to connect only with God. Read, pray, sing, meditate and establish connection. How your day begins has a lot to do with how it goes.
  • Set aside a few moments before you pull into the driveway and pray, “God, I’m about to go inside to people who need me to be present and a positive influence, help me to put all else aside to be what they need.”
  • Weekly orchestrate your schedule to attend a church service where you can recalibrate in worship, fellowship and discipleship.
  • Schedule monthly appointments with yourself that include getting away from the normal routine for a number of hours to ponder, pray and rest.
  • Annually take a day, or more if possible, to evaluate your life and the direction you are headed. Ask yourself, “Am I going toward my purpose?” If not, ask God to help you get in alignment with His purpose and create action steps for doing so.

What are some steps you currently take to reduce stress and realign your life to God’s purposes? If you can’t think of any, maybe try some of those I’ve suggested, or seek God to create your own. You can’t live a fully charged life while running on empty.

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The Power of Pondering

Posted in holiday, Margin, Perspective, Solitude, Time, Wisdom by PCraig on December 11, 2014

What would be your reaction to an angelic appearance and message from God, experiencing a supernatural birth and a bunch of strange men (shepherds) showing up at your door to worship your son?  Especially when these men explain that they have also seen angels who told them their Savior had been born in Bethlehem.  Strange occurrences.

Here is Mary’s (mother of Jesus Christ) reaction:  she treasures up all these things and ponders them in her heart (Luke 2:19).  What kind of person does that?  I think the answer is a wise person.  Foolishness often coincides with rashness.  People hurry up and get married, then later talk about how they should have waited.  Or, we quickly quit our job and jump out and take another to realize the grass isn’t any greener over here.

There is power in pondering.  Maybe it’s one of the reasons Mary was chosen to give birth to God’s Son?  David is another biblical character that pondered.   In Psalm 111:2 he writes, “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them.”  Maybe that’s how David came up with so many great Psalms? He must have trained his son how to ponder as well to have come up with all the wisdom of the Proverbs.  He wrote, “haste makes mistakes”, maybe you’ve heard of that one?  It comes from Proverbs 19:2.

In the hustle and bustle of the season, let’s take some time out to ponder.  It’s in these times that we can come up with our greatest thoughts, make better decisions, and live with fewer regrets.  Sounds like a superior way to live.  Maybe God will choose us to do something great for Him, as we take time to ponder?  It may not be to birth the Son of God, but maybe we can birth a new business.  It may not be to become a great general of an army, but maybe we can generate people to follow Christ.  It may not be to wear the title of the wisest king, but we can still be known for making good decisions.

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Set Your Pace

Posted in Books, Personal Growth, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress by PCraig on October 10, 2013

I’m taking our Elders through the book Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft this year in our monthly meetings.  In today’s reflection, we focused on the leader’s pacing (not just walking back and forth in your living room).  Our attention was concerning the attitude of most people today on their lives: “I’m so busy.”

Jesus was the most influential person to ever walk this planet and yet I don’t think of Him as being in a hurry.  When I read about Jesus, it’s hard to picture Him as stressed out, in a fizz, and running in every direction like I am often times.

A while back, I had a pastor friend of mine say that he had been told by a Christian Psychologist, Dr. Richard Dobbins, to take time off every quarter of the year.  That pastoring a large church was an extremely intensive career and so he said you need to rest and replenish each quarter.  Since hearing that, I’ve really tried to plan quarterly breaks where I can be refreshed and rejuvenated.

God instituted the Sabbath for a reason.  Here’s the four practices that Kraft gives in his book that he tries to follow:

  1. Take a full day off each week and limit my work hours.
  2. Plan a full day alone for spiritual retreat on a monthly basis.
  3. Make sure I have some fun each week doing things that make me laugh.
  4. Limit the number of evenings I am not at home.

I heard someone say, “If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you may not be as bright as you think you are.”

If Jesus took His disciples away to rest and retreat, God created a Sabbath day, and health, spiritual, and mental experts agree that you need to control your pace, then who are you and I to argue?  Are you setting your pace?  Does your schedule honor God?

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Slow It Down

Posted in Hearing God, Margin, New Year, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress by PCraig on December 13, 2012

Slowing down.  Doesn’t that sound good?  Then why don’t we do it?  I think some of us are addicted to the adrenalin rush of feeling important; running from meeting to meeting, talking on the phone in our cars, texting while walking, and over-booking ourselves.  Many of us have a need to look important and busyness, we think, gives that appearance.

The problem is that God has mandated we take time in our week and reflect upon Him (called a Sabbath – see the 10 Commandments).  Also, Jesus seems to suggest a daily getting before God to request His assistance in our lives (“Give us THIS DAY our DAILY bread”).

Here are just a few things taking time to slow down will do for you:

  • Calm your nerves (your family & co-workers will thank you)
  • Centering or regaining balance to your life
  • Greater focus
  • A word from God (you can’t hear Him well on the run!)
  • Reflection on what’s important (realigns priorities)
  • An awareness of beauty around us (creation, people, our blessings)

Especially during this season, let’s make sure we take time to delight ourselves in the Lord.  In the New Year, I’m encouraging us to all make a daily practice of reading the New Testament through slowly and with contemplation.  By picking up a Crossroads Scripture Journal at the iCenter, you can have a plan to slow down and hear from God in 2013.  I hope you’ll join me!

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The Importance Of Getting Off To A Good Start

I loved watching the recent Summer Olympics.  Like many Americans, and perhaps many outside the U.S., I was intrigued with Michael Phelp’s march to Olympic history.  In every race, the announcers seemed to make comment about the importance of getting off the block quick to obtain a good start.  The feeling was that the team or individual who got off to a good start had a better chance in the race.

Perhaps the most important part of anyone’s day is the start?  The first moments of each day can set the tone for how we perceive the rest of it.  For example, if you get up thinking this day is going to be lousy, you’ll probably be right.  If you get up and read emails from work, read the bad news in the paper, and think about what’s not right in your life, then you’re getting off to a bad start.

What are some ways to get off to a good start?

  • Don’t check your email first thing.  If something’s that important, they’ll actually call you.
  • Be grateful.  You’re alive, there’s possibilities, hope and promise for today.
  • Read the Bible.  Start off with some good news.  Underline the promises you discover and claim them for yourself.
  • Meditate on things that are good.  Surrender your day to God in prayer.  Gain peace as you sit in silence before Him.  (Phil. 4:8; Ps. 46:10)
  • Exercise.  Get your blood pumping, your heart rate up and science confirms that you’ll feel better about yourself.
  • Don’t eat junk.  Garbage in garbage out – no brainer.
  • Try to do something for others as early in the day as possible.  Nothing makes you feel more confident and good about yourself than serving others.

There’s nothing like getting off to a good start.  So, what do you do to start your day?  Tell about it in the comments below.

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Solitude

Posted in Hearing God, Prayer, Solitude by PCraig on October 20, 2010

We live in a noisy, busy culture that applauds those who go faster, demonstrate neurotic busyness, and a flurry of activity.  Yet even though these individuals are covering a lot of territory, how deep are they?  Sure, they tweet alot, are all over Facebook, and have more fans and postings than you can imagine, but is that what’s important. 

Jesus never had a Facebook page, never tweeted, and didn’t watch cable.  But there’s something He did that many never do – take time for solitude. 

There would be times in which Jesus was missing and His followers would wonder where He was and they would find Him in solitude.  These times were what gave Him the depth, poise, and strength for the next challenge. 

It’s also in these moments that we hear God.  Do you need to hear Him?  Are you willing to unplug from the frantic noise of our culture to get in a quiet, lonely place with your Heavenly Father?  Instead of complaining or asking why God never speaks to you, are you willing to clear the space so you can listen?  Solitude isn’t popular, but it sure is powerful.

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