7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Prayer Journaling

in the morning I lay my requests before and wait expectantly.

When my mind is filled with confusion and agitation, when my heart is filled with anxiety or disappointment, there is one habit that I turn to again and again: prayer journaling. Pouring out my soul to God on paper untangles my thoughts and connects with the Father who calms my soul.

Why journal my prayers instead of just voicing them or thinking them? Putting a prayer in a little book does not mean God is more attentive to it. Writing it out does not make it more spiritual. But there are three reasons that prayer journaling is helpful to me:

7 HABITS #6Using a prayer journal keeps me focused. I don’t know about you, but when I try to pray silently, it doesn’t take long for my mind to wander off. I start thinking about what I’m going to make for supper, an odd comment a friend made, or even the strange dream I had the night before. Writing out my prayers helps my mind concentrate.

Using a prayer journal helps me untangle my thoughts. When I put pen to paper, suddenly things seem less confusing. The Lord helps me see solutions and ideas that I never thought of before.

Using a prayer journal gives me a record of my prayers. When confusion starts to creep in again, I reread my prayers and regain peace. I can also use the journal of a written record of my prayers and rejoice in God’s answers.

I encourage you to try prayer journaling. You might be thinking: But where do I start?

Using the book of Psalms for inspiration, I came up with eight journaling prompts especially designed for soul rest.

  • Psalm 5:3:  Listen to my voice in the morning, LordEach morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Lord, today I bring my requests to You and lay them at Your feet. What I need most today is…
  • Psalm 4:1: Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! Father, I thank You that You hear me when I call. What I am distressed about is….
  • Psalm 22:11: Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. Oh Lord, trouble is near. I need Your presence now more than ever. Let me tell You about all that is happening…
  • Psalm 25:4: Make me to know your ways, O Lordteach me your paths. Father, I am feeling confused. Right now I need Your guidance about…
  • Psalm 51:1: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Jesus, I messed up. I need Your mercy and unfailing love. Forgive me for…
  • Psalm 56:3: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Spirit, help me put my trust in You. Fear is threatening to take over my emotions. I am afraid…
  • Psalm 31:14-15: But I trust in you, O LordI say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand. O God, things are not looking good. But I’ve decided to leave the matter in Your hands. Today, I give You my concerns about…
  • Psalm 31:19: Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you. Father, I thank you for the many blessings You have given me out of Your abundant goodness! Right now I thank You for…

Give prayer journaling a try. In prayer we give our burdens to the Father and the Spirit gives us peace through God’s Word.

Next step: Find a journal. Grab an empty notebook. Or open up a Word file. Pick a prayer prompt and start writing. Don’t worry about proper grammar or pretty handwriting. Just pour out your soul to a loving Father.

7 Habits That Promote Soul Rest: Daily Meeting with God

dailyappointment

My dad loved meetings.

And that was a good thing because he needed to attend a lot of them. After retiring from his job as a radio station sales manager, he ran for city council and won. In the city he lived in, it wasn’t a full-time job, but it involved a lot of council meetings, board meetings, and committee meetings. And he loved attending them all because they connected him with people.

I don’t always appreciate meetings. But there is one meeting time I always try to keep: my daily appointment with the Lord.

People use a variety of terms for this kind of meeting: Quiet Time. Daily Devotions. Personal Bible Study.

Whatever you call this time with God–keeping this daily appointment is the number one habit for soul rest.

Why? Because soul rest is only available from Jesus. In Matthew 11:28 He invites us:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Now you may say, “But Sharla, I’ve had a quiet time for years and I don’t think it has helped me experience soul rest.”

To which I would say, “I can totally relate.”

7 HABITS #1For years, I faithfully opened my Bible and had a devotional time in the morning. I love God’s Word so it didn’t seem like a chore. But I often viewed it as something to check off on my to-do list for the day. It was not so much a time for meeting with God as it was an intellectual exercise.

You see, I was looking at my meeting time with God like I viewed other meetings. A time to get something accomplished. (Which is why I don’t like meetings: often there is lots of discussion but not much action.) I needed to view meeting with God like my dad viewed meetings: a time to connect.

We can view our time with God as a duty to be checked off. We can look at it as a time to accomplish something: Read three chapters of the Bible. Memorize a passage. Finish the lesson for Wednesday night’s small group.

But that won’t give us the soul rest we so desperately need.

Instead, view your meeting with God as a time to connect with Him. Keep your daily appointment with Jesus knowing He promises to give you rest. Come weary–receive strength. Come disappointed–receive hope. Come distracted and anxiety ridden–receive peace

The number one habit that promotes soul rest is a daily meeting time with God. But only if we view time with Jesus as a time to  relax in His care. A time to experience His peace. A time to receive His love.

Your daily appointment with God is a time to relax in His care, experience His peace, and receive His love. Click To Tweet

Next step: if you don’t already have a daily appointment with God, start one now. (Check out this post on making quiet time a habit.) If you already have the habit of a daily quiet time, add the habit of viewing it as a time to connect with Jesus and receive His rest. Write Matthew 11:28 on a card and post it where you have your quiet time or keep it in your Bible.

For more ideas on soul care, check out my free resource–Soul Spa Kit: 59 Ideas for Creating Your Own Spiritual Retreat. Just sign up for my newsletter in the form below!




 

When Your Spiritual Growth Seems Stalled: Think About Going To The Spa Instead Of The Gym

 

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This blog post is part of the Soul Spa blog tour. You can start reading it here and continue over at my friend Bronwyn’s site!

After church one Sunday, a member of our congregation jokingly announced that our services would be much shorter if he gave the sermon. He would edit the message down to a few key words:

“Listen up people—do good stuff.”

If he wasn’t joking, I think he may have missed the point. Yet, at the same time I think many of us view the Christian life as a life of doing. I know I did. Even though I received the gift of God’s grace, I still had the feeling that I had to do more in order to please God. To grow spiritually, I needed to put in the time. Ramp up the effot.

I think this was because I viewed Christian life as a gym. Subconsciously I felt a certain repetition of prayers or a prescribed number of memorized Bible verses would automatically make me a stronger Christian. After all, daily doing a few dozen reps of bicep curls inevitably results in stronger arms.

Find out why Christian spirituality is more like a spa than a gym.

But lately, I’ve been thinking that Christian spirituality isn’t actually like going to a gym. It’s much more like going to a spa. At the gym you work. You run. You lift weights. You sweat.

But at a spa everything is done for you. Experts rub the kinks out of your aching back. They soften your rough skin and make your calloused feet look pretty again. All you need to is show up. You don’t have to drag out your determination and willpower to perform your workout routine. Instead, you need to loosen your resistance and ambition for a time and simply receive.

Of course, Bible memorization and prayer and service are all good things—things God instructs us to do. But as I’ve gone a little further in the journey of faith I realize that it isn’t my effort that makes me a stronger Christian—because all of Christian life is a life of reception. No matter how many minutes I spend in prayer or how many chapters of the Bible I read, I cannot make myself more spiritual. It’s God’s Spirit who works out the kinks in my faith. He softens my heart and makes my spirit beautiful again. All I have to do is show up.

It’s the difference between pulling on my resolve to catch up in my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan and sitting down with God’s Word, simply asking Him to give me what I need to make it through the day. It’s the difference between checking off “Daily Devotions” on my to-do list and actually connecting with the God of the universe.

Our Christian growth doesn’t depend on us, but we do need to show up. We need to carve out time in our busy, noisy lives to receive the comfort and love God is continually holding out to us. We need to excavate space in our crowded hearts to receive the grace we so desperately need.

Christian spirituality is a not a life of doing. It is a life a receiving. Receiving from the persistent, compassionate, and tender God who calls Himself my Father.

Next step: Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God that your spiritual growth does not depend on you. Ask Him to show you what you need to receive today.

Soul Spa Kit003If you would like more ideas about connecting with God, check out my free Soul Spa Kit: 59 Ideas for Creating Your Own Spiritual Retreat. Simply fill out the form below to sign up for my e-newsletter and receive this free gift.




Is Meditation Dangerous?

This post is part of the Soul Spa blog tour. My new book is taking a tour around the Internet. You can catch the rest of this post at Natalie Eastman’s website.

Christian meditation focuses on filling

I remember clearly when a friend mentioned he was seeing a counselor who recommended meditation.

“Clear your mind,” the counselor instructed. “Try to empty it completely.”

Red flags immediately shot up in my own mind. “Empty your mind” did not sound like good advice in light of Jesus’ warning that an empty mind may be an invitation for evil to take up residence (Luke 11:24-26). So I warned my friend that this kind of meditation could be dangerous.

But not all meditation is alarming and unsafe. Christian meditation doesn’t aim to empty the mind. Instead, Christian meditation focuses on…

Click here to read more at Natalie Eastman’s site.

IS MEDITATIONDANGEROUS-

 

Three Simple Things to Help You Find Joy in God’s Presence

Lighted candle. Silver cross. Digital timer.

What do these three items have in common?

At first glance in might not seem they have any connection.

But all three items proved very useful in my quest for my joy.

I have been concentrating on finding joy in God’s presence. Because really, the Lord is the only reliable source of joy. Sunny days make me happy, but this past week we’ve had rain almost every day. Friends bring a smile to my face, but sometimes they are busy–too busy to get together. I love chocolate, but not what it does to my hips.

However, whenever I turn my attention toward God, I discover joy.

So I set out how to do that more often. I asked myself: How could I remind myself to stop and turn my heart to Christ at different times during the day?

Here are three things that worked for me:

1. I lit a candle during my devotional time in the morning. Somehow this made Jesus feel more present as I read His Word to me that day. Christ, the Light of the world, filled the room, illuminated Scripture, and chased all the dark out my heart.

2. I took a small silver cross that usually sits on a bookcase in the family room and started placing it in odd places around the house. Because the cross had sat in that one place on the bookshelf so long, it had become almost invisible. Now when I saw it in the kitchen, near my computer, on my vanity tray it reminded me: Jesus is here. My Savior loves me. Christ makes this place sacred.

3. I bought a new digital timer and put it near my computer. I set it for 20 minutes or 35 minutes or any other random time. When my new little gadget beeped, it reminded me to stop what I was doing for a minute, close my eyes, and put myself in God’s presence. Sometimes I would also take the time to listen to a Christian song that would help me see Christ in my mind’s eye. Another way to use this technique would be to set an alarm on your watch or phone to beep at various times during the day to remind you–God is here.

God is here. What an amazing thought! He is always near, but I don’t usually pay attention.

What I found was that when I did pay attention, I found joy. Joy in that moment. Joy that spilled out into all the other moments in my day.

Joy is found in God’s presence.

And these small items helped me to remember:

God is here.

 Question: What do you do to remind yourself that God is near?

5 Ways to Spend Time Alone with God

You don't have be a super-spiritual type to spend time alone with God. Here are five ways to experience solitude.

Last week I went to a park all by myself with the precise purpose of being alone with God.

Now I wasn’t completely alone. Runners passed by on the gravel path. Bikes whizzed past. Maintenance men mowed the lawn.

There was even one pesky horsefly that kept trying to take up residence in my hair.

But as I sat in the shade under some big, leafy trees there was no one there who expected me to talk to them. There were no phones to answer. It was just me and God.

In my last post, I talked about our need to be alone with God in order to hear the Divine Whisperer. And some of you might have thought that time alone with God seemed like it was only for super-spiritual types. After all, what would you do during this solitary time?

I know some of you were thinking that, because that was my first reaction. Thankfully there are some excellent books written on this subject. I gleaned and adapted five ideas to share with you.

1. Practice “palms down, palms up” prayer. Place your palms down on your lap and spill out all your concerns, worries, doubts, and fears to God. Let them fall out of your hands. Then turn your palms up, waiting to receive from God. Listen for His words of encouragement, love, and grace.

2. Take a walk. Use the time to meditate on Scripture (print up a verse or two to carry with you). Or with each step thank God for His many blessings.

3. View nature. Sit where you have a view of God’s creation. If it’s a nice day, you could go to a park like I did. If the weather doesn’t allow this, sit at a window with a view of nature. Consider the gift of God’s beautiful world. Thank Him for His display of might and creativity.

4. Read and contemplate a psalm. What is God saying to you in the words? Try Psalm 16, 19, or 62.

5. Journal. If you’re like me, writing down your thoughts helps to untangle them. Write down your concerns, asking God to reveal His perspective. Ask yourself questions like: Where have I seen God acting in my life lately? and When have I felt empty? Read a favorite passage of Scripture and write down how the Holy Spirit is making it personal to your life.

Take time to be alone to hear the Divine Whisperer.

Here are some of the helpful books I have read lately:

The Spiritual Discipline Handbook, by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival, by Kelli Trujillo

Spiritual Disciplines Companion, by Jan Johnson

Question: Do you have a favorite activity you use to connect with God?

What Will You Sacrifice?

eph 5-2

Lent is a time of sacrifice. I didn’t always see it that way. But in recent years I have tried to make some small sacrifice.

After all, Jesus gave up His cushy life in heaven to experience pain, weariness, hunger pangs, and mosquitoes. He willingly endured pain, rejection, and even death because He loved me. He sacrificed His life.

So during the 40 days of Lent I have made a point of giving up something to remind me of His sacrifice.

One year we gave up television. One year I gave up all sweets. Because that proved very difficult–the next year I gave up just chocolate.

Last year I added something–I added more Scripture reading. In fact, I read through the whole Bible during Lent. I was inspired by one of my favorite authors–Margaret Feinberg–who challenged her blog readers to read with her. It was quite the Scripture marathon!

This year she is modifying the Bible reading program a bit. She has developed a 40 Day New Testament Reading Guide  and invited anyone willing to join her in this Lenten Challenge. I’ve decided I’m in!

Yes, reading these extra chapters will require that I give up some of my time. But I’m excited to reread Christ’s life journey on earth during the season we remember His death.

Reading His words will draw me closer to Him during this sacred time.

Reading about His sacrifices will help me to appreciate what He did for me.

Reading about His acts of love will help me to love Him and others more.

How about you? Will you join me in reading the New Testament during Lent?

Question: What will you sacrifice during Lent?

New Beginnings: For When You’re Not Sure You Want New and a Free Bible Study

Is 43-19

This post is an excerpt from a new free downloadable Bible study I wrote. To find out how to get the rest of the Bible study see the end of the post.

When my husband and I moved to Illinois, we lived in a fifty-year-old home that was full of problems. The basement leaked. The windows were painted shut and the well-water turned my laundry orange. I couldn’t wait to get out of that old house. I wanted something new.

After several years of waiting, God gave us the opportunity to build a brand new home. We bought a piece of land and hired a builder. To keep costs down, we did a lot of the work ourselves.

At the time our children were ages five and two. During the five months of construction they spent a lot of time at the babysitter’s house, but we tried to get them involved with the building process by giving them tours of the house at various stages of construction, getting them involved in small clean-up projects, and letting them pick out the paint for their new rooms.

As the house neared completion, we were all excited about moving in—or at least most of us were. One day I took the kids to the house for one last clean-up before the carpet installers arrived. We were sweeping the plain brown sub-floor of my son’s room when he piped up in his two-year-old voice, “Let’s not pretend that this is my room anymore.”

My son didn’t want to move. The new room was an empty space with a rough wooden floor. To him it didn’t look as appealing as his old room with soft carpeting and a comfortable bed. He didn’t want the new because he couldn’t envision the finished project.

Sometimes I act the same way with God. He’s continually transforming me into a new person. But sometimes I resist because I can’t see what that will look like.

God asks me,

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19a

Honestly, I can’t always see God’s new thing. When troubles seem to block my view of my Savior, I can’t see God working.

That’s when I need to remember what comes next in Isaiah 43:19:

I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

When God is starting something new in my life it’s to show me a way out of the desert I’m in and provide springs of water in the wilderness. His new thing is always good–even though I might not see it right away.

Once my son saw the finished room in the new house he was as excited about moving as the rest of us. The original problem was, at first, the new didn’t look as good as the old.

When we’re facing something new we need to remember that God is always working to make our lives better–even if that new thing still looks like an empty room with a plywood floor.

Question: What new thing is God working in your life right now?

Click here to get the rest of the free one-session Bible study:

A New Thing

How to Repair Your Soul

HowToRepairYourSoul

My daughter and her family live in China. They have been studying the difficult Mandarin language for almost three years and are quite fluent now. Which amazes me because when we visit them I am astounded at how anyone could learn such a beautiful, yet complex, language.

Recently I was reading about the phrase ling xiu. In Chinese characters the phrase looks like this:

 

灵修

 

and together they mean a Christian’s devotional time. I found it interesting that the two characters have different meanings when they are used separately. Ling means “spirit” or “soul.” Xiu means “to repair.” So fitting don’t you think? Our devotional time with God is our spirit repair time!

 

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Spirit repair.

How desperately I need this every day. The world shreds my soul. Stress tears at the seams. Worry tries to rip my heart apart. And when I try to mend it on my own, the rips just become bigger.

But when I sit in God’s presence and let His Word stitch me back up again, I feel whole. When His Spirit mends the holes my soul is once again intact.

Sometimes we think of our devotional time as duty or a dusty routine. But what if we saw it as our spirit repair time?

The new year is a time of new beginnings.

Take time to practice ling xiu or spirit repair time every day. God is waiting to heal your heart.

 

Question: How do you daily practice “spirit repair”?