Archive for spiritual disciplines

.:: A Prayer from Solitude for My Students

Posted in adolescence, disciplines, Prayer, spiritual disciplines, Theology with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by Walter

One of the courses I teach is Spiritual Disciplines and a significant portion of that class is actually practicing the disciplines when it is feasible in class.  Today I got to share in practicing solitude with them as we dispersed across the green on campus and spent a hour in solitude on an amazing fall day.  Here is a prayer that I wrote for my students during this time:

My prayer for them is that they could be FULLY PRESENT with you God as we commune together in Solitude.

May the peace of Christ dwell in their hearts as they declutter their lives from the noise of the start of a busy week.

May they be taken to the dark parts of their souls and do the difficult work of self-reflection.

May they see you God in the delicate beauty of Autumn that is breaking through.

May their souls be still.

May they be taken from loneliness to intimacy as they experience Your Presence.

May the warmth of the Autumn sun be a gift and reminder of Your Grace.

Father, they are so busy-they had tremendous amounts of stress bearing down upon them–please come near to them in this time.

Give HOPE to those struggling with classes, grades, homework.

Give PEACE to those with problems with family, friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates.

Give HEALING to those with health issues and medical problems.

Give RELEASE to those with financial struggles, job schedule issues, and those who need just another hour in their day.

As they encounter Your Presence in solitude whisper into their souls that You are Fully Present with them.


.::What is Technology Doing to Our Souls?: No Cell Zone

Posted in adolescence, church, disciplines, Life, rant, spiritual disciplines, Tech, Technology, Theology, What is Technology Doing to Our Souls?, what matters, youth ministry with tags , , , , , , on November 11, 2011 by Walter

Several years back I had a really interesting conversation with a mom in my youth group.  She came up to me and said, “I am so tired of my daughter getting woken up in the middle of the night with her friend’s texting her.”

I replied, “Why don’t you have her charge her phone downstairs in the kitchen?”

“But it’s her alarm clock.” She said.

I thought, “If only there was some magical device you could purchase that would make a noise at a predetermined time of day . . . ”

What does it do to the soul to have ourselves connected to our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, year after year?

According to Time Magazine Online,  “35% of Android and iPhone owners in the U.S. fire up mobile apps before getting out of bed, according to a survey by Ericsson ConsumerLab.”  Maybe this points to the fact that we are overconnected?  Do you feel like you and your students are TOO connected?  Is there a time when you or your teens is not able to be reached by the outside world?  Didn’t Jesus have to get away from everyone just so he could listen to his Father?

We haven’t set up barriers that tell technology to keep out.  This is “Me” Time or “We” Time.  I remember only having a landline in our home and having dinner together as a family, whenever the phone rang during dinner, mom would proclaim, “Let it ring! This is family time.”  Which begs the question:  Do we even still have a time like this when we just let it ring?  Do we have family time?

What if your family had a no cell phone zone?  For your fmaily it might be the dinner table, or the living room when you are all watching TV together.  For some of you it might be the bedroom.  Have the entire family charge their phones far away from their bedrooms so they can sleep without being interrupted.  Might this become a solitary place like Jesus often needed in order to refocus.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

Luke 5:16

Over and over we see time when Jesus gets away from the frenetic pace of life so He can just LISTEN.  Is it possible that our cell phones actually keep us from LISTENING?  Might the Verizon mantra, “Can you hear me now?” have been a prophetic voice warning us that these shiny little devices would actually KEEP us from listening to God’s voice?

What other places might be Cell Free Zones for you?  Church? Restaurants? Movie Theaters? Friends homes?

What I mean is that you might still have your phone on you at these places, but you might actually turn them OFF so that you aren’t unnecessarily interrupted when you are at these places.  Simply power it back up when you are leaving and resume your connection to the rest of the world.

So I challenge you to find ONE PLACE that will be a Cell Free Zone in your world this week.  

.::Why Can’t It Be Easy?

Posted in church, disciplines, Teaching, Theology with tags , on October 27, 2009 by Walter

How great would it be if the spiritual life was something that was EASY to do?

Yesterday in my Spiritual Disciplines class, I had my students practicing the discipline of Solitude.  This entails giving them the bulk of the class hour to actually BE in Solitude with God out in nature.  Up to this point in the class we have covered all sorts of ways to BE in solitude such as lectio divina, meditation, and silence so they aren’t just thrown in to it, they are asked to marshal their resources and do it themselves.  I really enjoy GIVING my students this GIFT.  I realize for many of them the idea of spending extended time with God in silence and meditation and reflection is foreign to them.  However, my hope is that they find something Holy, something Sacred as they enter into Solitude with God.

The main point I am trying to get them to practice with this hour is the idea of being “Fully Present” with God.  I want them to make their entire being available to God:

  • Their Mind—by blocking out any distractions like the traffic, people walking through campus, the buzz of a text message in their pocket, etc.
  • Their Heart—by dialing in to the amazing created order that is surrounding them such as the turning leaves, the gentle sunlight and the singing birds.
  • Their Strength–by giving an hour doing something that seems like “wasting time,” being silent in a noisy world, and listening when we like to talk.
  • Their Soul—by really, truly being transparent and completely open and bearing their sould to God.

I am a realist.  I know some of my students probably wasted their time by studying Calculus or Psychology.  Others texted away with their friends about the most recent episode of “The Office.”  One probably slept their way through the hour.  While this saddens me, I also know that one cannot be FORCED to practice the disciplines.  One must go willingly.

Granted, there have been a few times when I have been dragged to practicing the disciplines and ended up in a place where I NEEDED to be.  So hopefully, many of my students ended up at a place they needed to be at the end of it all.  It is a delicate balance with these required courses of introducing students to spiritual practices that they are REQUIRED to practice and INVITING them to enter in to it willingly.

On the one hand, I wish the Disciplines were EASY so that I could introduce them to my students in a way that is easy to digest and palatable.  However, I am glad they aren’t as that makes them so much more precious and beautiful.


Posted in church, disciplines, Ministry, spiritual disciplines, Teaching with tags , , , on September 11, 2009 by Walter

Recently on a friend’s Facebook wall I posted this,

“it is in silence that we are confronted with our weakness, frailty and fallenness…we can either face those weaknesses or ignore them by drowning them out with more noise.”

Now I am sure that these are not my words, but subtly plagiarized/paraphrased from a combination of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Jesus, Earl Lavender or Gary Holloway.  Nevertheless, there is so much NOISE in our lives from iPods, Computers, Cell Phones, Text Messages, Billboards, TVs, etc. that we don’t get to confront silence easily anymore.

In silence, we truly are confronted with our scars, our failures, our weaknesses, our frailty, our humanity in such a way that we are forced to either confront it and let God work in our souls, or we simply turn up the volume on the noise in our life and ignore the significant spadework of the heart we must endure to heal from that pain.

I have the privilege of taking classes of student through the journey of discovering the spiritual disciplines most semesters.  I find the disciplines like study, worship, prayer and quiet time easier for them to practice because they usually require them DOING something.  However, I always sense their hesitation with the disciplines of solitude and meditation where the participant is required to BE and to LISTEN and not do so much.

BE-ing and LISTENING are far more difficult for Western Christians as it doesn’t require us DOING. . . we must be passive and we have distilled our faith down to action.  By doing this, we have stripped our faith of the work that God desires to do in our life.

For it is in the silence that God perhaps does the best work.

It is in the silence the pruning happens.

It is in silence that we are confronted with a “Holy, Holy, Holy God” and we realize we are a man/woman of “unclean lips.”

It is in the silence that we realize that we are NOT God and the we ARE dependent upon God for everything.  It is much easier to think that we ARE God.

It is in silence that we hear the “still small voice of God” that may call us to dangerous places, make significant and painful sacrifices, or actually do the things the Bible calls us to that we have drowned out with the voice of our surrounding culture.

May you be SILENT some this weekend. . .