If you don’t read your Bible, start.

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“How many of you have a personal quiet time?”

Crickets could be heard in the room.

“Any of you?”

Silence.

Then, one of the boys spoke up.

“As part of my homeschooling curriculum, I have to do Bible in the mornings.”

I looked around the room, “Anyone besides Steven?”

Again, silence.

< – – – – – – >

Parents, I teach junior high boys on Sunday mornings. The above is based on a real conversation we had a few weeks ago that left me dumbfounded.

We can bring our kids to church… but if we aren’t having them reading their Bibles, praying, having a personal quiet time, then they are hearing the Gospel one day a week. That’s one day to:

  • Minister
  • Transform lives

One day to build fellow brothers in Christ up.

It is not enough.

A personal quiet time starts with one day, you, God, and His word. It morphs out of that one day to become multiple days where you spend time with Him.

All I can say is if you don’t read the Bible, start.

Prayer Is Not My Strong Suit

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Can I admit that prayer is not one of my strong suits? I can read the Bible all day. I can teach through the Bible with ease. When it comes to prayer though, prayer is something that I have to work at.

Chuck Lawless posted “8 Ways I Pray for My Wife“. #5, on his list, is what stood out to me:

That God would maximize Pam’s incredible gift of hospitality—and that I would be fully supportive. I add that latter phrase because I’m an introvert while Pam’s an extrovert. I love seeing Pam’s joy when she serves others. I just need to love it more….

Tabitha also has an incredible gift of hospitality. A gift that I too push against with my introvert nature. I need to work on being supportive when Tab wants to invite others over. Even when that invite pushes me out of my comfort zone.

God has been speaking to me a lot about prayer these past couple of days. A friend posted a quote, to Facebook, that I’ve been thinking on:

The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own. – H.B. Charles Jr.

Got me thinking about:

  • How I’ll often talk more / write more on certain topics than pray over them.
  • How there are some prayers I don’t think God will ever answer–me being honest here–, so I quit praying over them due to lack of answer.
  • What type of spiritual legacy, I’m modeling, for my wife and son.
Photo by Peggy Paulson on Unsplash

Tabitha has always told me that God answers prayer in 3 ways:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not Yet

Reminds me of how long I prayed for my wife before we even knew one another. How I went through years of thinking I’d never find someone. Only to meet Tabitha when I was least expecting.

Reminds me of our current adoption process. How I find the silence and slowness of the process to be heart breaking. But I realize also that I need to pray more over the process as God says not yet.

Prayer is that unused tool, on my spiritual tool belt, that I need to actively use more. Not use in order to get what I want, per se, but use to communicate with my Heavenly Father and deepen my relationship with Him.

How about you, do you find the spiritual discipline of prayer to be easy?

From Across the Net – “Stop and See the Unseen”

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Eric Anderson, over at Nerd Chapel, wrote this excellent piece titled “Stop and See the Unseen“. I especially like the way he seamlessly works a conversation between Tony Stark and Dr. Strange into the mix.

Tony had no clue that the threats dealt with by the Sorcerer Supreme even existed. While the Avengers were publicly acknowledged and posted all over social media, popular media, and the news, nobody talked about what Strange and his fellow sorcerers do. Nobody knew that threats from other dimensions were coming; even Thor did not know about the Sanctum Sanctorums or the group that runs them on Earth until Strange invited him to come for a visit.

You can read more here

Dr. Strange

An Update: Week 18 of the 5 Day Bible Reading Program

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Photo by Elvis Bekmanis on Unsplash

Drove to work this morning in the rain. As I watched cloud-to-ground lightning, I listened to a list of names being read. I am currently in Week 18 of the 5 Day Bible Reading Program. Lost in the overwhelming tide of genealogies that has been 1 Chronicles. Learning about how “Phinehas fathered Abishua; Abishua fathered Bukki”. If one was looking for a unique baby name, 1 Chronicles would prove to be a valuable resource.

“Hey Bukki, it’s time to come inside for dinner!”

One of the best things about The Bible App, is that you have the option to have the Bible read to you. I find myself marveling over the narrator, as he skillfully pronounces strange Biblical names. The dude is good at what he does. The reading option has made passages, where I’d normally find myself skimming, easier to digest.

The Bible App - 1 Chronicles

As I’ve read through Scripture this year, God has been teaching me that it is easy to read the Bible (gain knowledge) and miss out on the relationship (engaging with God through prayer, etc.). I’m working on the engagement part and trying to overcome my “check off the list” tendency.

How about you? What tools, resources, or apps, do you use, as you read the Bible?

My Church Is Not A Ministry Competitor

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I was recently listening to a podcast when the host presented a thought:

The Church is more concerned with getting people plugged into the organization’s ministries (children’s ministry, youth ministry, greeter ministry, etc.). And is far less concerned about equipping believers to minister in their everyday lives.

This thought of competing ministries, the Church versus the believer, floored me. Made me shake my head for a moment. You see, by serving within the local church, we have a safe place to learn how to minister to others. As we learn how to minister to others in the church, we can take that experience and apply it to our lives. Think of it as building spiritual service muscle memory. I then use this muscle memory as I go throughout my week.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Service has taught me a few things:

  • That no task, big or small, is beneath me.
  • To slow down and listen even when it feels inconvenient.

I do not see my church as a ministry competitor. I see my church as a partner, a group of people God is using to develop me. He uses situations that arise to challenge my ways of thinking. Situations that cause me to pray and ask discernment. God uses our churches to grow us in the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

What about you? Do you think that the Church is more concerned about itself versus helping/equipping believers? AND/OR What has God taught you about serving in the church that you then take into your daily life?

Controlling Devotional Time – You’re Doing It Wrong

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I am not sure why but talking about what one does for their devotional time can get weird. Have you ever noticed how a discussion can go from a simple conversation such as:

  • “For my personal time with God, I’ve been reading a few verses a day and then praying.”
  • “For my personal time, I’ve been reading through a devotional book.”
  • “For me, I’ve been reading through a read the Bible in a year plan.”

To more of:

  • “Dude, you should slow down, savor but a few verses a day.”
  • “You’re not reading enough. I read 15 chapters yesterday. Gold star for me.”
  • “Devotional books are for babies. Man up, read the Bible!”

We Christians can be a controlling lot. We love to tell fellow brothers and sisters in Christ what their devotional time with God should look like. Instead of pushing our own way, why can’t we practice encouragement instead?

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

An obvious question

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Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you    – Matthew 6:33

I have been reading through a devotional book for awhile now; A devotional book that I have quoted numerous times on this blog. I haven’t been happy while reading about grace for what seems like the millionth time. Nothing wrong with reading about grace. I need grace. You need grace. Grace is good. But I feel like I have been going through the motions during my morning quiet time. Bored with the daily:

  • Read – Check
  • Pray – Check
  • Move onto the next thing – YUP!

I often feel like I am not doing enough. As if reading a single daily entry is lacking. Distracting thoughts…

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Talked with a good friend this morning. Maybe more like I dumped a load of thoughts on him (thankful for you, Travis). At one point, in my jumble of texts, he offered: Have you asked God for direction with your quiet time?

“No”, I replied.

What a question. So obvious and yet something I haven’t done.

Gotta fix that.

As Matthew 6:33 says, seek the kingdom first, and everything else will fall into place.

What do you do for a personal time with God?

What has God been teaching you?

Adoption Update – Level One A

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I was telling Tabitha last night that if adoption were a video game, we have finally reached the first level. The tutorial and character creation process were the initial first steps:

  • PRIDE Training (40 hours of state-mandated classes)
  • FBI Database Fingerprinting
  • Fire Inspection
  • Health Inspection
  • Home Study

With our home study approved, we are now certified by the State of Texas to adopt. We can now put in interest requests through the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE); we can also now go to meet up events (where you can interact with kids available for adoption) as well as have our caseworker alert us to children available for adoption who are not listed online.

The adoption process is weird. A mixture of buying a home and speed dating. Level One A, of the adoption game, looks like:

  • Looking through pictures of children in an online database
  • Going to a meet up event
  • Our caseworker notifying us of a potential match

After initial inquiries are made, which includes our caseworker “selling” another caseworker on our family via telephone conference (home buying), we then enter the speed dating phase. Level One B includes:

  • Our family driving to whichever region the potential child is located in and then going on a day outing with the child.
  • The following weekend, a follow up over night visit (probably in a hotel room, especially if the child lives out of town) with the child.
  • The following weekend after that, a day trip/overnight visit again?
  • Eventually these visits shift from being on neutral ground to the child coming to our house.

The biggest hurdle of Level One A is going to be finding a match. We have to agree on the match; our caseworker has to agree on the match. Already, we are learning that:

  • It’s good to have a caseworker who says no and is looking out for our family (versus just trying to place a child and move on).
  • That descriptions of children, on TARE, do not include all the details. Sometimes even surprising our caseworker…
  • That there are not a lot of younger kids (ages 7 and younger) up for adoption online.

Bottom Line: We know that God has a child in mind for us. We just have to wait, trust, and talk, as a family, through the adoption process.

I’ll keep y’all updated. Maybe not so much in this Level One A stage… but more IF we make it to Level One B. Prayers are appreciated.

Bryan

Adoption Update – Home Study Completed

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During our PRIDE Training, Tabitha and I were told that the interview/home study was going to be:

  • Thorough (expect 4 hours, at least)
  • Invasive (questions could/would be asked about things like frequency of marital relations, etc.)
  • Deep (we were warned that every one of our drawers could be opened/inspected)

Once we found out that our home study was going to be scheduled for this past Saturday, Tabitha and I kicked into cleaning overdrive… even though the house already looked great.

Saturday morning arrived blanketed with heat and humidity. Our Independent Home Screening Assessor pulled into the driveway 30 minutes early. Tabitha and I were nervous. We had no idea what to expect nor what questions were about to be asked of us.

Our interview ended up covering basics such as:

  • Upbringing
  • Discipline
  • Family
  • And what types of things Tab and I can and cannot handle when it comes to an adoptive child (the gamut ran from learning disabilities to types of abuse)

An hour later, we were finished with the interview. Our Home Screening Assessor took a few pictures, told us that we were great, and that she would text us when she turned in her report to our caseworker with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. And with that, we were done.

Not all monsters are cute.

I cannot stress enough how God showed up in this moment. I was sick to my stomach. And yet what I am learning, through this adoption process, is obedience. When God calls us to something, we have to be obedient and step out in faith. It is through that process of obedience that we see God work. Seeing Him fight our monsters, our giants, and stretch us in our faith.

I am excited to see what happens next. Our Home Study is due to CPS July 10. We should hear more soon! Will keep ya’ll posted.

Bryan

From Across the Net – “When They Call In The Night”

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God is such a better dad than I am, and I think that’s what Jesus’ point is. When his followers wanted to know how to pray, yes, he gave them a template they could follow, but he gave them something so much more. Instead of giving them the magic formula, the special incantation that will bring God out like a genie from a bottle—Jesus gave them something so much better. When asked about how to pray, Jesus gave them an example but then said, “I want to let you in on a secret—you want to know how to pray, but let me tell you about the one to whom you are praying.” Jesus was saying that when we call in the night, it’s good to know the character of our dad.

You can read more here

 

From Across the Net – “Praying for a President Is Not that Radical: Platt, Prayer, and Polarization”

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Had meant to share this article by Ed Stetzer the other day. Man, this has been a long week already.

Furthermore, we can and must recognize that many hold different views and see things in different ways. Where some see praying for a president, others see a celebration of values they do not hold. We can acknowledge that people can and will experience such moments differently in the body of Christ.

Yet, the degree of ire directed towards Platt reveals that at times we can allow the same polarization and fear to grip our hearts in failing to extend grace to those with differening views. Likewise, the attempts to use Platt to endorse Trump fail to grasp the nuances of his prayer and inject meaning he was careful to avoid.

You can read more here

Whichever Shoe Fits

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Back in February, Tabitha and I were sitting in the auditorium at church listening to a guest speaker. I was having trouble paying attention, my mind wandering, until the speaker started talking about the Stages of Hurt:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

God spoke to Tabitha and I in that moment. We both realized that we had been cycling through those stages for years. Years. Not always in that exact stage order but something quite like it. You see, we have been trying to have another child for about 9 years now. Seeing what ultimately are the Stages of Grief, written down on the conference handout we were attending, did something. I could finally see the bigger picture. I could see how a friend’s baby announcement would suddenly shoot me into anger or even bargaining over not being able to have more children; I could see why, at times, I’ve been depressed.

In that moment of epiphany, Tab and I both felt that God was calling us to step out of those stages. We felt Him calling us to more.

So we talked and met with wise counsel at church. My church’s youth pastor and his wife sat down with us over dinner. They listened to our story and shared their own (I can’t put into words how much this meant to us). We learned that we weren’t alone in our experience. After meeting with them, we decided to contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. We attended an informational meeting (which was awesome). Soon after, we signed up to take adoption certification classes (PRIDE) which lasted a few weeks. We have since finished up:

  • Turning in financial information
  • FBI Database fingerprinting
  • Having a fire inspection of our home

We have a:

  • Health Inspection for the house
  • And an Home Study/Interview left before we are certified to adopt. We are almost there!

If you think about my family, as we move forward in this process, we are asking for:

  • Prayer (if you are not the praying sort, positive thoughts then)
  • Discernment
  • Wisdom
  • That God would lead our adoption caseworker to the child He wants

Excited to finally share this news with ya’ll. More to come.

Loving Enemies With Your Thumbs

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I have been previewing Wyatt’s devotional book we just started for the year. Prereading so that I:

  • Can ask questions for bedtime discussion/prayer
  • Know what he is reading/accountability

The devotional entry for today was titled “It’s all about the Thumbs”. It talks about how we act and ultimately behave on social media. I thought the entry was bit funny as Wyatt isn’t on social media (Facebook has a rule where you have to be at least 13 years old to open an account). I am thankful we have not had to go down that road yet.

Verse of the Day:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. – Luke 6:35 (NIV)

After surveying the entry for today, I wrote down some questions for him to think on/answer before we talk tonight (he writes his answers down in a small notebook):

  • How can you show kindness to others while playing video games (which IS something he does with his thumbs)?
  • What makes you mad when playing video games?

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Having a devotional time with your kids doesn’t have to be long. The key is moving forward and doing something while being intentional. Already, in the few days we’ve been going through this new bedtime routine, I’ve noticed that the discussion questions have given us specific needs to pray over. This is a good thing as I’m often not sure what to pray over with him.

362 days to go. Habits take 2-3 weeks to take hold. Why not start a devotional time, with your own kids, and join me?

Big Dreams, Big Prayers Bible for Kids, NIV

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The Big Dreams, Big Prayers Bible for Kids is a hardbound children’s Bible for ages 9-12. Features include:

  • Reading plans that both introduce and offer a guided tour of the Bible.
  • Highlighted verses to memorize, engage, and pray over.
  • Devotions perfect for personal or even family discussion.
  • Prayer journaling pages to help begin the practice of recording prayers and answers to prayer.
  • Glossy inserts explain how to use the Bible, how to pray, and how to be a Christian.
  • Easy to use Topical Index.

I enjoyed the overall focus and theme of Big Dreams, Big Prayers Bible for Kids. The hardbound cover provides durability; the size makes it easy for kids to hold. The print is clean and simple to read. Color choice is mature yet eye-catching. I will add that this Bible does not include maps to provide location context.

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My family and I enjoyed the devotions. They are quick and thought-provoking. Perfect for after dinner discussions at the end of the day. But also applicable for personal use or small group teaching.

My wife and I both agree that this would be a perfect future Bible for our son. We’d definitely recommend Big Dreams, Big Prayers Bible for Kids.

I was given a copy of this book by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

That Dragon Cancer drove me to prayer

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Tabitha and I experienced That Dragon Cancer together. With Wyatt tucked away in bed for the night, we hooked the laptop up to the television. Light’s dimmed, we entered the world of the Green family. The musical score comforts like a warm blanket. The woods around full of promise and wonder. In this setting we meet the Green’s son, Joel, who is feeding a duck. Joel laughs, a lot. After a transitional time at the playground, we meet the dragon of this story, cancer.

Cancer, represented in jagged distorted shapes of hate. Always lurking like a monster in the night. Howls reverberating as a heartbeat of a sick boy.

That Dragon Cancer is a series of vignettes, brief flashes of hope and dark nightmares. Narrated at times by Ryan and Amy Green, we follow their family on their journey with Joel. Tabitha and I appreciated the depth of honesty in Amy’s comments on doubt. Doubt is normal, she says. A contrast to the modern Church whispering “hush” in such moments.

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No matter how dire the situation became. No matter how hard Amy and Ryan prayed, their faith stood out to us. A faith that allows for questions, doubts, and even fears. Media, as a whole, has a hard time portraying faith. The video game medium allows for an unknown level of intimacy. Allowing us to partake, in some small way, in the Green’s suffering. I’m thankful for that.

As the game ended, I found myself in a contemplative mood. That Dragon Cancer reminded me of my need to pray. I prayed for Amy, Ryan, and their family. I fell asleep only to wake up sometime later. Praying over life, direction, and meaning.

I would like to thank Ryan and Amy for being real. For sharing Joel’s life and opening up their family to the world.

Wave SplinterTitle: That Dragon, Cancer
Developer: Numinous Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, OUYA
Reviews on: PC
MSRP: $14.99

*A review copy was provided for this review. 

Something happened on the way to school

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Today Wyatt had a math test. We were running late. Test anxiety, tiredness, and general panic filled the car as we drove to school. It is on mornings like this that I am happy we have a short five minute drive. But still, there is traffic. Other parents rushing their children about. A regular suburban war zone of cars, humanity.

As we got closer to school, Wyatt asked if he could pray. I told him sure. He prayed for the usual things, family safety being key. I navigated us into the parent drop-off lane. Reminding him that there was nothing he could do about the test this morning. All he could do is do his best.

Student-Drop-Off-Area-Sign

Driving through the final drop-off area, my grown-up six year old melted before my eyes. He was crying. I reassured him that he was going to have a great day. The door opened, he gave me a hug and got out.

I don’t have these moments too often, moments where I want to swoop in and protect my kid. But this morning, this was a morning where I wanted to do just that. I wanted to protect him, reassure him, let him know that the world is an okay place. It is on mornings like this that I wonder if my wife and I should homeschool. Academically challenge him in ways public school is failing at. Another discussion for another time though.

My heart hurt this morning. It sucked. I had to trust that Wyatt would have a good day. Knowing that he is a super smart kid and would do just fine on his test. I had to let go… and I didn’t want to.

Being a dad can be hard. Understatement of the year.

We can do this.

Jesus at the table

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My wife and I started reading Paul E. Miller’s A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World tonight. I wanted to share a quote from the book:

When Jesus describes the intimacy he wants with us, he talks about joining us for dinner. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20).

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect with God.

I don’t think that I ever noticed the part of the verse that talks about Jesus eating with us. How cool! If you were to have dinner with him, what would you talk about? Your struggles, hopes, dreams? Miller says that prayer is supposed to be this way. Can’t wait to read more of the book. I’ll make sure to share as we progress.

Rewind Wednesday: Ask, Seek, Knock

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Note: My wife and I made a rather difficult decision last night. One of those “burn the ships” sort of decisions. I thought this post from the past was appropriate as its truth is timeless.

This morning I read in Matthew 7. Something that really stuck out to me was in verses 7-8:

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. – Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

Ask = Prayer

Seek = Actually Look/ Gather Information

Knock = Test/ Forward Motion

Surf Report – 3/4/2013

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Surf Report

Welcome to the Monday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God :

On Sunday nights, my church has been going through a series called P-52. Two weeks ago, our speaker for the evening, Brent, talked about the concept of silence. Brent talked about how we are constantly bombarded with audio and visual noise. He said that this noise can serve to distract us from our relationship with God, specifically in the area of prayer. I don’t know about you, but I struggle with prayer. I’d much rather listen to something on my commute to work than sit there uncomfortably and talk to God. Why?!? This is another one of those areas, in my life, that requires discipline.

I want to encourage you to take some time to be silent.

.: Life :

Life is complex. My wife and I are on the brink of making several decisions which impact our future in a great way. These decisions require us to step out of our comfort zones and trust God. Is God who he says he is? Prayer would be awesome.

.: Gaming :

Fire Emblem: Awakening and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood have been my distractions lately. I finally fired up AC and completed the Passion Play mission. That finished off Memory Sequence 7 which leaves me with two more sequences to go until the game ends. Best $20 I’ve spent in a long time.

Fire Emblem has become my go to lunchtime game. I love portable games! I’ve been plugging my 3DS into my car’s stereo and gaming the lunch hour away. Good times so far.

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That’s it for this weeks Surf Report. Make sure to comment below and have a good week!

Game Plan: Daily Bible Reading

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Imagine being in a relationship and only talking to your boyfriend/ girlfriend for 10-15 minutes a day. Do you think you’d end up being married in a years time? I don’t think so. This week, I’ve been struggling with my daily Bible reading, my alone time with God. As a result, I have felt the impact of my non-reading physically, mentally, and spiritually. I feel like I am drowning and it is only Tuesday. Tuesday! So, I have decided right this moment to come up with a game plan to actively recommit myself:

1. Being Purposeful – I need to actively schedule a time, everyday, to sit down and read God’s Word. I know that mornings are hit and miss for me. Which leaves me with 2 choices:

  • Reading over my lunch break, or…
  • Reading right before bed. I would definitely have to commit to developing a better bedtime routine to make this happen.

2. The Prayer Perspective – Prayer, communicating with God, is not a one time deal sort of thing. Prayer, in my mind, is something that should be continuously flowing throughout the day. Everyday, I need to be praying for a God perspective. That is to say that I view the world through God’s eyes. When we step out of our own perspectives and see the bigger picture, it allows us to pray about things beyond ourselves.

On my way to work, there is a sign posted in a neighborhood yard that says, “Pray for John”. Now, I have no clue who John is. John could be the elderly man I see sitting in the garage watching cars go by. Whoever John is, he needs prayer. I find myself often randomly praying for John as I drive by. Do I benefit from this? No. Does John? Yes. I need to be in prayer daily not only for myself (overcoming temptations,etc.) but for the world around me. I need a God perspective and NOT a me perspective.

That’s it! By committing to a specific time of day (and remaining flexible) and engaging in prayer through God’s eyes, I should be able to radically change my messed up week. Should be simple enough to follow right? I’ll let you know how it goes as the week progresses.