Tag Archives: study

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

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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

Spiritual Variety

In  a healthy Christian life, we need the “essential vitamins” — the main practices of spiritual growth that are usually heavily emphasized in church (such as Bible study, prayer, and worship). Like essential vitamins in our diet, we need these building blocks of spiritual life so we don’t become fatigued and spiritually emaciated.

But I also really need variety. I need more than only the basics to live a full and happy life. Too much of the same, same, same can get boring. God didn’t design us to thrive via rote, worn-out routine.

And the good news is that Scripture and our rich tradition of Christian spirituality throughout church history offers us many ways to grow and connect with God in addition to these essential basics! Variety can help us flourish! That’s why I’ve included a wide variety of spiritual practices in my new devotional series for women, Flourishing Faith. Here’s a quick overview of the types of practices included in the books — consider using this list to add variety to your own spiritual walk this week.

• Act: Apply Scripture’s challenges to your life through concrete action.

• Create: Use art, drawing, poetry, or another hands-on project to interact with God.

• Examine: Explore Scripture using investigation, research, and study.

• Interact: Connect with another person as part of your spiritual journey.

• Internalize: Interact with Scripture using Christian contemplation, meditation, and memorization.

• Journal: Reflect on your journey and record your thoughts in creative ways.

• Ponder: Read and think about Scripture, historical information, or an insightful quotation.

• Pray: Speak to God and listen to him.

• Symbolize: Use an experience or a common object as a metaphor to help you contemplate a spiritual truth.

• Worship: Express gratitude and praise to God.

Cultivating Vitality

Last week I posted about the drought here in central Indiana and the spiritual dryness we can easily fall into in the Christian life. There can be many causes of spiritual drought, but the main ones are probably spiritual neglect and difficult life circumstances. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control — stuff in life that makes our schedule crazy, happenings that break our heart. Sometimes, no matter what we do, God seems distant.

But often times, we can change the conditions that are causing spiritual drought in our lives. Often the spiritual neglect or the vitality-sapping conditions in our life are under our control — and can be quickly changed by some simple choices, habits, and mindset shifts. We can flourish.

Consider these ideas . . .

Stay rooted: Connect with God through his Word. Dig in deep. Perhaps this may mean re-cultivating a long lost habit of daily Bible study. Or maybe it means changing things up and approaching God’s Word through a different angle such as Scripture meditation; memorizing a simple passage; singing, praying, or speaking Scripture back to God; reading Scripture’s narratives imaginatively, picturing the events and the thoughts and feelings of the people involved. Long periods of immersion in the Bible are wonderful, but I also contend that even just 5 or 10 minutes spent daily rooting yourself in God’s Word WILL make a difference in your mindset and your soul’s vitality.

Refresh: The main reason my lawn is dead-looking isn’t the oppressive heat — it’s the lack of rain. It needs a cool soaking of refreshing water. And it needs it again and again and again. And so do you and I. We need to be refreshed! Continue reading

Resources for Creation Care

Thanks so much for journeying with me this month through the topic of environmental stewardship. As we wrap up our month focusing on creation care, I’ve only just touched the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you, with all my heart, to explore this topic further. Here are some resources I’d recommend:

• Want more ideas on creation care in the context of everyday life? Check out this interview I did with author Tracey Bianchi.

• Interested in reading about how environmental stewardship is actually an old-fashioned and quite conservative value? Read this really great and honest article about old-fashioned stewardship and simplicity.

• Want to study this issue in greater depth? Check out this informative and inspiring Bible study resource by Dr. Cal DeWitt.

• Interested in joining with other committed evangelicals who care deeply about environmental stewardship? Check out the Evangelical Environmental Network and Blessed Earth.

• Caring about creation is a powerful way of caring for the poor. Read this very informative, thoughtful, and provocative pamphlet “Loving the Least of These” from the National Association of Evangelicals.

• Unsure what to think about climate change? Did you know that the world’s leading climate change scientist is a devout Christian? Learn more about Sir John Houghton and his concern for creation care here. (Or check out the interesting book Global Warming and the Risen Lord by Rev. Jim Ball.)

• Want to take practical action steps and hold yourself accountable? Check out this free helpful stewardship worksheet from Christian organization Blessed Earth.

Formation 15: Enter Ruth’s story

The Formation 15: Do you feel drawn toward spiritual disciplines and long to spend time in spiritual formation, but your life feels more like a circus than an abbey? I know how you feel! You may not have hours of quiet, but hopefully you can carve out 15 minutes. Here’s a short idea you can use this week to prompt a meaningful soul-connecting time between yourself and God.

Bible study is great.

Let me say that again: I believe studying the Bible is a great thing. It’s wonderful to dissect the text, verse by verse. To explore the context, history, and original language. To learn from commentaries. To join in with great Bible teachers through helpful Bible study tools and discussion guides.

Bible study is great.

But there are seasons in our life in which it’s difficult to find the time to really study.

And, in addition to that reality, sometimes we miss out on Scripture’s message to us by over-studying things. Analysis has it’s place — but sometimes the best thing to do is just step into the narrative and read it as a story. Let the events, the voice, the words and actions of the “characters” (aka real, historical people), the amazing plot twists draw you in. Rather than asking “How can I apply to this to my life?” sometimes we simply should just take it in. Enjoy it. Let the story have it’s natural, life-changing effect on us.

Have I convinced you? Maybe, maybe not.

But my formation 15 suggestion for this week is simple. Take 15 minutes to read through the book of Ruth. It’s just 4 chapters long, so you should be able to do it. Or, if needed, take two days to read this story. Imagine you’re watching it all happen — like you’re reading a novel, seeing a play, or watching it as a film. Let the story of Naomi and Ruth’s journey affect you at a deep, emotional level.

And don’t study a thing. Just live in the story.

Thy Word

This month we’ll be focusing on the discipline I call “Scriptural learning.” Many books about the spiritual disciplines call this one “study” or “Bible study,” but I prefer a more broad term. Study is certainly a key aspect of spiritual growth, but there are many other key ways we can interact with Scripture in addition to study and I think it is important to include them all. Some, like study, require about thirty minutes or more of focused time; others may be done in three or five minute “spurts” throughout the day.

Here’s a quick (but not exhaustive) tour of ways we can interact with Scripture as we learn and grow spiritually:

1. Study. I’ll keep this as number one because it is, for many, the main avenue of approaching Scripture. In study we engage the faculties of our mind, especially the logical and rational parts, to dig deeper into Scripture and understand its meaning. Often Bible study is devotional in nature—we’re interacting with Scripture with a focus on being personally moved and changed by it; we expect to practically apply it’s truths to our lives. On the other hand, sometimes study is of a more “scholarly” in nature as we’re seeking to learn more about the historical or cultural context of a passage and are interacting with it on a more intellectual level. I personally find scholarly study to have great value in my spiritual life, even if it seems on the surface to be more about the “head” than the “heart.”

2. Devotional reading. Rather than having a traditional “study” mind-set (asking questions, examining the text, discussing it, finding practical application), devotional reading is when we combine prayer and our imagination in our journey through the text. We read a Bible story from a literary perspective; we let the story speak to us. We use our imagination to consider the sights, smells, sounds of the scene. We invite the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us experience the story in a new way. Through this creative approach to Scripture, we can be moved and changed in different ways—our hearts and souls are touched deeply by our prayerful, imaginative pondering of the passage. Continue reading