Practicing Lent: SACRED Reading

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This post is part of my Practicing Lent series where we will explore Spiritual Disciplines that connect us with Jesus in His Word. If you want to find out more about Spiritual Disciplines you can look here. If you have signed up for the Practicing Lent Facebook group, click here to share your experience with others. If you would like to participate in the group, click here to request to join.

One of the most memorable meals I ever had happened in Brussels, Belgium. My family and I were on a European tour–a bargain bus trip. One of those if-it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Germany tours.

We arrived in Brussels around 5:00 pm and were informed that we only had the evening to explore the city. Early in the morning, the bus would be on its way to Luxembourg. So my husband and two teenage kids strolled from our hotel to the city center. We had every intention of finding a nice restaurant for dinner, but then I saw it–the famous Leonidas Belgian Chocolate shop. I couldn’t resist a peek inside, thinking I would come back after dinner for dessert. But inside, I saw the hundreds of chocolate possibilities and had the bright idea: Why don’t we have chocolate for dinner?

So we all picked out a bag of our favorites and went out into the city square to savor our chocolate treasures. Each bite was so delicious I wanted it to last forever. I let each morsel melt until it was gone, enjoying each chocolatey moment.

SACRED Reading

SACRED Reading is a way to savor God’s Word like I reveled in those chocolates. It helps us to meditate on Scripture. As we savor God’s Word, it melts into our hearts and the Holy Spirit transforms us.

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To focus on Scripture in this way, I choose a short passage of no more than eight verses and use the word SACRED to guide the process:

Silence your thoughts. Begin by quieting your spirit. Call on the name of the triune God and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time of listening. At first, your wandering thoughts may seem to crowd out any quietness, but simply bring your thoughts back to the Father and eventually the cacophony in your head will die down.

Attend to the passage. Read your chosen verses. Ideally, you will read the passage out loud. Read slowly. Pause when it seems that God is drawing your attention to a particular sentence or phrase. Let the words resonate in your heart.

Contemplate the Word. Meditate on the passage, especially on any words the Holy Spirit seems to be speaking directly to you today. Do not hurry this time. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring up any feelings, doubts, or fears buried deep in the recesses of your soul. Thoroughly explore your soul for your most genuine response to these words of God.

Respond to the text. After you have taken time to listen, speak. That is, pray, pouring out your heart to God in response to what He has just spoken to you. If the passage inspired joy, offer thanks. If it brought a sense of conviction, confess.

Exhale and rest. Read the text again and rest in the love of God. Simply wait with the Lord who loves you more than you can know.

Dwell in the Word. As you come out of this restful state, ask the Spirit, “What truth can I carry into my day?” Think about a truth or promise you received that will help you live out God’s Word.

SACRED Reading helps me slow down long enough to hear God’s voice. It’s the difference between gulping down a sandwich and letting every bit of a Belgian chocolate melt on my tongue.

Savor and Receive

Let’s savor God’s Word. God longs to speak to us. In His Word we receive His wisdom and instruction for our everyday lives. We receive His unfailing love and His transcendent joy. We receive peace and stillness for our souls.

As we savor God's Word, it melts into our hearts and the Holy Spirit transforms us. Click To Tweet

Next step: Try SACRED Reading for the next five days. Click here to access a resource that outlines the SACRED Reading process and lists some Scriptures that you could meditate on this week.

204196 - Copy (2)This post is adapted from my Bible study book: Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal (CPH). This book examines Spiritual Disciplines as a way to develop intimacy with the Savior and to care for our souls. It is available here and here.

A Simple Way to Pray When You Don’t Know How to Pray

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I have to admit. Sometimes I struggle with prayer.

At times the struggle is to simply make time for prayer. Other times the problem is keeping my wandering mind on the prayer.

Sometimes I simply don’t know how to pray. I don’t have the right words to express my chaotic thoughts. Or I’m not sure how to pray about a complex problem. Or I’m feeling defeated in an area of my life.

That’s when I start praying Scripture. Taking my words from God’s Word helps me to focus on His will, His strength, and His care.

A few years ago I discovered a little book that Martin Luther wrote on the subject of prayer. The short volume, titled A Simple Way to Praywas written as in response to his barber’s questions, “How do you pray?” (Interesting topic to be discussing while getting that little bald spot shaved.)

Luther’s “simple way to pray” was to pray Scripture, specifically the Ten Commandments. In the book he told his barber, “I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

This method can be used with any Scripture. For instance, lately I have been struggling with my mouth again. Too many harmful words have been tumbling out of my mouth. And the verse that came to mind was Proverbs 25:11:

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

My words have not been gold or silver, but more like ashes and dust.

A simple way to pray PINSo using Luther’s model, I prayed:

Father in heaven. Your word instructs me that my words have value. They can be precious to the people in my life.

I offer thanksgiving for the gift of speech. Of all creation, you gave the ability to speak to humans alone.

I confess that my words are not always like gold and silver. Sometimes they are not something to be cherished and treasured, but something to be thrown out and forgotten.

But I want to change. Lord, give me appropriate words for every situation today—words that are as valuable as gold and silver.

When you are struggling with finding the right words to pray–try drawing your words from the well of God’s Word.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Martin Luther Click To Tweet

Next step: Pick a Scripture (try Psalm 56:3-4 or Psalm 57:1) and use Luther’s simple method to pray through the Scripture.

Three Steps To Take When Life Punches You In The Gut

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What do you do when life delivers a devastating blow?

2014 was a joyous year for us. Our son got married to a wonderful young woman. Our daughter and her family flew from China to join in the wedding. They spent two months here in the states–we had abundant opportunities to play with our grandchildren.

Then 2015 arrived–with news of cancer. My husband John was diagnosed with lymphoma. We are still reeling from this punch. Sometimes life hits you hard and you are totally unprepared.

I know that we are not the only ones who have been hit hard. Some of you have experienced your own illnesses, chronic pain, job losses, and financial difficulties. Maybe even all of these at once.

This leg of our journey is still very new, but this is how we’re handling this devastating blow so far. In addition to finding the best doctors and medical care I am:

1. finding comfort in God’s Word. I’m searching through Scripture, hunting down all God’s promises of His presence and peace. Some of my favorites right now:

  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13
  • My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14
  • Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

2. calling on others to stand with us in prayer. It has been hard to tell people this difficult news. We often break down into a puddle of tears. Yet we have felt incredible love and support from our church, our family, and our friends. One couple invited us over for chicken soup with a side of prayer when we first heard the news. Church members gave us innumerable hugs. A simple request for prayer on Facebook drew 100 comments.

3. taking time each day to focus on what really matters. Each year I choose one word for the year. Ironically, this year I chose the word focus. Well, there is nothing like shocking news to make you focus on what is truly important. For now, this is as simple as just sitting with my wonderful hubby and holding his hand. It’s as uncomplicated as sitting quietly and soaking in God’s love.

I pray that our heavenly Father will strengthen you in whatever you are going through today.

Romans 15-13

If you would like to learn more about avoiding distractions and living a focused life, check out a FREE lesson that shares the one habit that changed my life more than any other. 

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  • Take the first step toward living out God’s plan for your life and ignoring all the trivial paths that side-track you from your true purpose.

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