Tag Archives: spiritual disciplines

Be Inspired! Conversation with Julia Roller (part 2)

Be inspired! I’m excited to launch a special focus in June featuring interviews with Christian women whose stories, thoughts, ideas, and choices inspire me—and will inspire you—to love more deeply, to seek God more passionately, and to live more abundantly.

be inspired
To kick things off, we’re continuing the conversation with Julia Roller about motherhood and the spiritual life. (Click here to read part 1 – you’ll love it!). Julia’s new book Mom Seeks God honestly depicts the ups and downs—and the hidden beauties—of her journey as a mom toward experiencing God in new and different ways.

At the end of this post, read how you can easily enter a drawing to win a free signed copy of Mom Seeks God as well as a free, signed copy of my Bible study guide Awaken Your Soul!

Here’s part 2 of our conversation.

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Your book Mom Seeks God chronicles your experiences with different spiritual disciplines & practices and how they fit (or sometimes don’t) with the reality of motherhood. How has your faith-life (practices, etc.) grown and changed as a result of being a mom? What practices or disciplines seem to “work” best for you in this stage of life?

Julia Roller lowres

My faith life has changed in many ways, most of them for the better. I find that I see God more easily these days, in my children as they grow and learn, in my husband, in those around me. I feel less pressure to get everything right and more of a feeling of confidence that God can make beautiful things out of my broken and imperfect efforts.

 

The disciplines that are most dear to me right now are some of the disciplines of abstinence (of taking away rather than adding): simplicity, silence, fasting (from all kinds of things in addition to food). One of the overall things I realized after that year was that I was trying so hard to DO MORE. In order to be a better parent, to be a stronger Christian, I thought I had to add more stuff to my list—more activities, more books, more prayer, more time. No wonder I felt so exhausted all the time!

It surprised me how much I benefited from and felt close to God through the disciplines that involved doing less. As I was able to turn things off (in the practice of silence), give something up in order to increase my focus on God (fasting) and try to do one thing at a time (simplicity), I found that I was able to open up some space in my life to slow down and listen for God’s voice.

Mom Seeks God jacketWhat practices or disciplines might you recommend for other moms to try–especially those who may be new to the idea of spiritual disciplines?

Prayer is always a great place to begin. I think we often put prayer off—to a time when we have more time, when we have quiet, when we can really focus. For moms, that time may never come! I am a big fan of praying short prayers in the moment. When I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do it right then. When I find myself in a moment of frustration or anger, I try to take time out to pray right then. This gets easier with practice. I also encourage moms to look for that time of day that can be the best time for them to have a consistent daily time with God. For me it’s at night before bedtime; I know for many other moms, the early morning works best. I love the idea of coming before God when I am at my best and since I am a night owl, for me that time is at night, when I can reflect on my day and look forward to the next one.
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A Blessed Collision — Mom Seeks God (part 1)

Friends, to wrap up our “Be Mom” focus in May and to launch into our “Be Inspired” series for June, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Julia Roller. She’s recently written a great new book looking at two of my very favorite topics: that blessed collision between motherhood and spiritual disciples. It’s called Mom Seeks God. Join me for a two-part conversation with Julia about the spiritual side of motherhood.

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Julia, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Julia Roller lowresMy husband, Ryan and I have two boys, ages 4 and 7, and live in San Diego, where we are often busy driving to (seemingly) every soccer and baseball practice and game in town. I love reading so much that I do it while I’m cooking (which is probably why I almost invariably burn the garlic bread). I often wish I were more crafty, but alas, I use Pinterest mainly to find quotes about reading and new ways to trick my children into eating vegetables.

I love the title of your new book, Mom Seeks God, because it sort of describes my everyday life. Can you tell readers more about your book? What motivated you to write it?

You receive a lot of warnings about life after becoming a mom—you’ll be so tired, so covered in spit-up that you won’t even care that you may never lose the baby weight, etc.—but no one ever warned me that becoming a mom might lead to a time of spiritual dryness. As much as the incredible love I felt for my new baby taught me about the inexhaustible nature of God’s love for us, I also struggled to feel connected with God after becoming a mom because my new life seemed to leave little time for prayer and Bible study the way I had practiced it before. Mom Seeks God is the story of my journey to figure out how to reconnect with God in the middle of the busy life of a mom with small children.Mom Seeks God jacket

Yes, I totally get that. The same experiences led me to write a book too! Like you, initially, as a new mom, I found my spiritual desires sort of colliding with the reality of motherhood. The practices I wanted to do didn’t seem to fit with my reality. What are some of the specific struggles or spiritual challenges you faced as a new mom? Continue reading

The Hard Work of Worship — Sharon Hodde Miller

As we wrap up January’s theme “Awaken Your Soul,” I’m excited to invite you into a conversation with Sharon Hodde Miller. Sharon is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog and has written for a variety of other resources including Relevant and Today’s Christian Woman. Her blog, She Worships, zeroes in on a critical theme we’ve been looking at this month: worship.

Welcome, Sharon! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

DSC_0886(1) copyHello everyone, and thanks Kelli for inviting me to be here!

I guess I’ll share a few highlights. I am a southern gal. My husband and I are both from North Carolina, but we moved to the Chicago area about 3 years ago for school. Now we’re both working on our PhD’s and raising our 17 month-old son, which means that our lives are a lot of fun and also totally insane.

In between all that, I write.

Your blog has the theme “She Worships.” Why did you pick that focus? What does it mean to you?

I started my blog about 7 years ago. At the time I was teaching and discipling college women, and I wanted another avenue to reach and encourage them. That’s how I began blogging, and eventually it morphed into a larger ministry to women (although a lot of men read my blog too!).

As for the title, I picked “She Worships” because it’s what we were all created for. If you could boil our existence down to one thing, that is it. Romans 12:1 tells us that worship is not confined to the walls of a church, but is instead a lifestyle. Everything we do, from Sunday morning hymns to marriage, to parenting, to going to the grocery store, to cleaning the toilet — it can all be an expression of worship.

I have tried to write my blog with that broader theology in view. I cover a lot of topics, but all with an eye to worshiping and glorifying Christ. 

What has God been teaching you lately about worship?

Lately God has been teaching me just how hard it is. Not hard in the sense that it’s grueling, but in the sense that it is not the natural inclination of my flesh.

Actually, when I think about it, my flesh IS inclined to worship, but it is not inclined to worship God. Instead, I find myself constantly tempted toward lesser, false gods.

I have found that if I don’t keep the gospel directly before me, I will chase after other things: the approval of others, my own fame, a comfortable life, etc. Continue reading

Flourish . . . in Worship

“Awake, my soul! . . . I will awaken the dawn.” (Psalm 57:8)

AwakenYourSoul-CVR1As we explore worship and prayer this month, I’m excited to share with you an excerpt about worship from my brand new Flourishing Faith book, Awaken Your Soul.

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What do you love about God? What leaves you in silent, wonder-filled awe? What is it about God that stirs up gratitude joy, delight, and devotion in your soul?

As we grow closer in intimacy with God, the character of God absolutely compels us to respond. And that response? It’s worship.

In English, worship comes from Old English weorthscipe1It simply means worth-ship. In this sense, worship is declaring God’s worth; it’s focusing on, delighting in, and living by the truly awe-some reality of who God is.

There are many biblical words that mean “worship;” one is is proskuneo which means to kiss toward, to bow down with forehead to the ground, to prostrate oneself, to give homage.2 It describes a physical act of profound reverence. The “kiss” isn’t a kiss of romance—it’s the “kiss” of face to floor, kneeling or laying flat in a posture of utter reverence.

Practicing the discipline of worship is a way we blink and rub the bleariness from our spiritual vision and, in sharp clarity, see the world as it really is. Continue reading

Freedom: Expanding Prayer

Prayer, I think, is right up there on my list as one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines. I’ve always struggled with it. I’m such a do-er that the be-ing aspect of prayer (stillness, quietness, waiting) has always been a struggle for me.

birds flying peachBut I’ve also found it easier and easier over the last few years. Not because my personality has changed or I’ve somehow just gotten better at it. Instead, it’s because my understanding of what prayer is has grown, changed, and expanded. I’ve begun to learn, a bit more each day, that prayer is a lot more expansive than the narrow, this-doesn’t-fit-me-well, version of it I’ve so often struggled with. Continue reading

Being (Redux)

fernsThis month we’ll look at the word “be.” I’m excited about what we’ll be discussing over the next few weeks and I’ve got some great new content to share with you. But we’ll start with a re-posting of a blog entry from a year or 2 back called “Re-Learning Be-ing.”

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Perhaps the title of the post should instead be “Un-learning Do-ing.” Doing, of course, is not a bad thing. What we do is very important to God in many ways and is part of who he made us to be–and we will explore that in an upcoming month.

But in our discussion of be-ing, do-ing can be a real danger. It is dangerous when what we do entirely defines who we are. It is even more dangerous, I think, when doing becomes inextricably linked with how we “use” time–When everything must be utilitarian, practical, or some sort of accomplishment. And it can be especially dangerous when doing = contentment and goodness while non-doing = discontent and discomfort that must be avoided at all costs.

This is certainly not a personal campaign for laziness! That is not the non-doing I’m talking about. For me, this comes down to the practices and disciplines that strip away, for a moment, the protections and habits that insulate us from seeing our real state — the busynesses and myriad of to-dos that cocoon us in a spiritually static state of preoccupation.

There are many practices that help us learn to be — practices I need because they are in a sense so hard at times and thus reveal how necessary they are. Continue reading

Grace, Hope, and Presence — Meet Charity Singleton Craig

Readers, I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Charity Singleton Craig. Charity is a writer-buddy of mine who is a big blessing in my life! Along with her day job, Charity edits for The High Calling, writes for TweetSpeak Poetry, and crafts great essays on her blog (CharitySingletonCraig.com) and other places. 

Charity, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

charityI am a writer who tells stories of grace and hope. I recently got married for the first time at age 42, and I’m also a step-mom to 10-, 12-, and 14-year-old sons. My life is all about transition these days.

This month we’ve been exploring how we can experience the presence of God. What’s one way God has “shown up” in your life recently?

It’s not a new way, but he has been showing up in His Word. With all of the transition going on in my life, I haven’t been experiencing devotions or quiet time at the same time each day like I have in the past. Instead, I reach for the Bible app on my iPhone when I can’t sleep and find Psalm 127, or I listen to a sermon while I am running and hear about Moses’ impossible calling, or I read to our sons out of the Teen Guys Bible Devotional at dinner. I am not just finding truth in those instances. I am finding God and Him guiding me precisely in the way I need in that moment.

We often tend to think of amazing spiritual moments when we talk about experiencing God’s presence – but we can also encounter him in “little” ways. In normal life. In regular circumstances. In average experiences. Do you agree? How have you encountered or interacted with God in “normal” life?

Lately, my encounters with God have all been in normal life. Recently, I was pulling weeds in the flower beds for the sixth or seventh time this summer. It feels so pointless, pulling the same weeds over and over. In that moment, God appeared, reminding me that sin can sneak up if I am not continually rooting it out of my life, teaching me that caring for things or people requires leaning in close and getting dirty, and calling me to persevere when life feels tedious. All of that, right there on my knees in the landscape.

You’ve journeyed through cancer. What encouragement would you have for readers going through similar difficulties for ways they can experience God’s presence during fear, pain, or heartache? Continue reading

The Busy-Mom Life . . .

Connecting with God can be difficult in many stages of life, but I must say, the stage of young kids is an uber-tough one! Gone are the long times of quiet prayer . . . replaced by utter, blessed, beloved, mind-numbing family chaos!

And yet, through it all, courses a deep desire: For real intimacy with God. For meaningful connection . . . somehow!

Busy Mom's Guide coverWhat happens when the spiritual ideals of Brother Lawrence collide with the realities of mom-of-young-kids-life? Consider this excerpt from my book The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival.

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Picture for a moment what it might be like to live as a “Mother Lawrence.” Constant communion with God through diapers, wiping runny noses, cleaning toys, disciplining, dealing with continual interruptions—could it be possible?

Yes.

This isn’t about doing anything outwardly; it’s simply a re-focusing of our inner perspective. My friend Amie describes her mind-set shift this way: “I can’t count the number of times in the past six months that I have sat down to read a passage from Scripture or to pray or to enjoy a quiet moment when the cries of my son have broken in.

“I used to think that God wanted us to pencil him in—that he was as linear and Western-minded as myself and that he was really much more pleased when I had ‘prayer time’ and ‘Scripture-reading time’ and had my life sufficiently organized so that as long as he occupied a certain percentage of my day planner he was appeased and all was well. But he breaks in like a crying child. He is in the interruption. He shows me that he is always there—on the subway, while I am changing a diaper, in the supermarket, behind the window where the widow sits alone. And whether I choose to acknowledge him or not is up to me.”

Amie has zeroed in on the foundational idea of practicing God’s presence: simply recognizing the truth that as a result of our salvation, God’s presence is continually with us. We just need to attentively focus on this truth and not lose sight of it even in the midst of interruptions and distractions. Though outward demands of work or home can draw our minds away from God, “It is the heart…whose attention we must carefully focus on God.” Developing this type of mind-set (maybe “heart-set” would be a better term) requires some effort on our part as we constantly remind ourselves: God is here. God sees my life. God hears my heart. God knows my needs.

God doesn’t require that our prayers be “deep,” well-formulated, or profound; God doesn’t mind if on some days 99% of our conversation with him is made up of S.O.S. prayers: “God, help!” In the presence of our loving God, we can just be real. Our conversation with God can be as simple as speaking phrases to God like…

“I feel stressed right now. God, please help me to calm down”

or “Thanks for my son, God. He’s so adorable”

or even “Potty training drives me crazy! God, show me how to help my child learn this!”

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Consider reading, praying through, and trying out more of the ideas in my book The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival. You CAN connect with God and experience his presence during this stage! It just may look quite a bit different than other stages of life.

Train

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word discipline? As a mom of three, I think of child-tears, frustration, time-outs (or worse), and me feeling frazzled and worn out. Discipline, if we’re honest, is not fun. Rewarding in the long run? Sure. But not exactly a word with a positive connotation.

So when I talk about spiritual disciplines? Well, the danger for you and for me is that we can bring this somewhat negative connotation into the conversation. But Scripture uses several words that are translated at “discipline.” One means to chastise, correct, or instruct (see Hebrews 12:6-7). But here’s some good news: God’s Word uses entirely different words to talk about discipline in terms of our spiritual formation. Consider this excerpt from my book, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival:

trainersAs we look at the spiritual disciplines, we’re instead aiming for the concepts of gumnazo and askeo. Gumnazo—from which we derive the English word gymnasium—means discipline in the sense of athletic exercise and training. We’re talking about a spiritual sweat here: regular “workouts” that keep our faith in shape. This is the word Paul uses when he urges Timothy, “[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, emphasis added). This is the same connotation the writer of Hebrews intends when he prods his readers by saying, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14, emphasis added).

Askeo means the discipline of a master craftsman who employs skill, persistent determination, and great effort to turn raw material into a piece of art. Continue reading

Soar!

What do you want your relationship with God to be like?

[Wrong answer:] I want it to be a facade; a guilt-ladden bustle of busyness; a bunch of checked-off spiritual to-do list boxes; a set of facts I affirm; a lonely emptiness; a worn-out, passionless routine;  a low and neglected priority; a long-lost, now-distant friendship; a stuck-in-a-rut sameness; a label I wear.

flyNone of us would say this, of course! But sometimes, if we have the courage to stop and really look at our lives; we realize that our faith has become one of these. Somehow, without intentionally steering this way, we find ourselves at a spiritual place we don’t like. And we realize: This is not where I want to stay. Continue reading