Rebuilding With Nehemiah, Chapter 8 Day 7

Sunday:

Text: 18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.

Teach: Ezra read and the people listened. And they celebrated.

Neh 8-7 holy habits

Take: Consistency. Repetition. The experts say it takes repeating a behavior for twenty-one days to create a habit. New habits are much easier to break than old ones. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately, as I try to establish a healthier lifestyle. It’s much easier to be lazy and to eat poorly. But my physical body craves health and wholeness as much as my spirit craves the holiness.

Neh 8-7 spiritual disciplines

Task: Are there healthy and holy habits you want to establish in your life. God desires those things for you, too. Jesus claims he came that we would have live and life abundant. Paul teaches that God is in the business of making all things new. Let’s pray for a greater spirit of obedience and consistency.

Welcome Aboard.

WP triptik

I think Lent comes at a very good time of the year.

Typically we start the year out with great resolve, high hopes, and a few plans for improving life. And we usually make it for a few days, maybe weeks…and then we peter out.

My spiritual word for this year is habits. I started out amazingly. I was exercising daily, eating well, and reading through my Bible. The only habit I have faithfully maintained is reading my Bible. Both my healthy eating and my exercise have been inconsistent at best for the last couple weeks.

What has made the difference with my reading?

I’m not doing it alone.

In my church we were challenged as a congregation to read through the Bible this year. But as nice as that challenge is, it hasn’t motivated me. It’s not personal enough.

The difference is I have an accountability partner. I have someone who not only asks, “So have you read your Bible today?” We also discuss some of the interesting, surprising, familiar, and favorite things we read.

My partner? My husband. It’s handy and it’s a blessing.

I have accountability partners for my writing, too.

Why? Do you want the long answer or the short one? You get the short one. When I’m not accountable, I can make all kinds of poor choices. When I am accountable I find I am more successful. And I want to succeed.

There are numerous examples and admonishments to be accountable in scripture.One for today as we think about this faith journey: Encourage one another and build up one another.(1 Thessalonians. 5:11)

It’s not that we can’t or won’t see Jesus on our own, but let’s look together.

There’s joy in the journey…together.

WP group travel

PRAYER MOMENT: God you are our leader and guide. Your Word tells us you go before and follow behind. You led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of fire and a cloud. A map or sign might be nice, but more than that we want to feel you beside us as we maneuver the hazards of life. Thank you for the encouragement we can receive from other travelers and help us to be encouragers as well. Create good habits in us this Lenten season as we seek to see you, know you, and find you daily. Amen.

My writing friend, Ginger Solomon, nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

Now for the blog award. Having accepted, here are the rules I now must follow:

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

So here are the 10 questions from Ginger:

1. What does it mean to you to be a living sacrifice?
It means to me that my sacrifice is a daily and conscious choice. It’s about “being bought with a price” and honoring God with my body. I also love the way that God promises to care and feed me daily.

2. What are your writing plans for 2015?
I’m pulling together material for three professional critiques at FCWC and working with Shellie Arnold to begin a chapter of Word Weavers in Ohio. Out of that I hope to complete a devotional collection, a Bible Study, and a non-fiction book.

3. What are your long-term writing goals?
I would like to write a Bible Study on Philippians and see it published. And I would like to complete my book on the Prodigal Personalities.

4. What would you do with a million dollars?
I would invest it so my husband and I could retire and live off the interest.

5. Was 2014 what you expected it to be?
No. I expected to be a prolific writer.

6. What would you change about 2014, if you could?
I would pull out of my mental funk much earlier so that I could have written enough that I didn’t have to go back to work.

7. Your word for 2015 is habit. Name a good habit, besides exercise (it’s on your site), that you plan to implement in the new year.
Accountability. I know I need it so I have hooked up with individuals (thank you Ginger!), and face to face and online critique groups through Word Weavers.

8. What one book do you plan to read in 2015, besides the Bible?
I’m going to finish Steven James’ Story Trumps Structure.

9. What is your favorite season? Why?
Spring! I love the way the earth seems to wake up after winter. I love the greening. I love flowers…especially lilacs.

10. What is your favorite food? Why?
Just one? I love yummy food. I just turned to Nelson and asked him what my favorite food is and he answered exactly like I would: it’s a toss up between lobster bisque (he picked that because of the way my face looks when I eat it) and good pizza. He’s right.

Now you know more about me than you probably wanted. I nominate Mary Scro whose blog can be found at http://www.lifeisnotaformula.blogspot.com . Here are your questions, Mary, if you choose to accept.

1. If life is not a formula, what is it? Can you sum it up in 25 words or less?
2. What are your writing goals for 2015?
3. Are you a plotter or a panster?
4. Where is your favorite place to write?
5. What was a highlight from 2014 for you?
6. How do you decide what to write?
7. Cats or dogs?
8. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind is best for you?
9. What’s your best stress reliever?
10. Tell us about your retreat ministry.

Habits

Each year I ask God for a theme or word or verse to guide me–sort of my spiritual mission for the year that I seek to hang everything I do. Next year’s word came to me this morning as I was reading: habit. I have a feeling I’ll be addressing some bad habits and creating some good and healthy new ones. I’m especially excited to see how this will fit with my “circle” (heart, soul, mind, and action)

What is a habit: a dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality; or an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary (thank you dictionary.com)

But I also liked this definition, tucked way down on the list: mid-14c., “to dwell,” from Old French habiter “to dwell, inhabit.

I am certain I want to be “dwelling” more intentionally in the Word. The deacons at our church have challenged the congregation to read through the entire Bible in the coming year. I’ve done it before, but it will be encouraging to know others who are on the same journey.

One of the other areas I intend to develop habits in is exercise. I laid a good foundation in 2014, but I have room to improve. Yesterday Nelson and I watched the video for our new exercise investment: a Bowflex Ultimate2. This is going to be good!

I am making myself accountable, not just by writing it here, but by seeking out accountability partners. Iread an article this morning about the importance of knowing ourselves: our strengths and weaknesses. Without accountability, I am nothing but weakness.

So I have no specific resolutions and no real goals…I just want to focus this year on creating more healthy and holy habits. How about you? What goals or resolutions or themes will guide you through this new year?

My prayer is that no matter what our driving force will be, we will find the courage and strength, the grace and perseverance, to come out at the end of this year in a ways which bring greater glory to the One who will enable us, and a deeper joy and peace with Him, one another, and ourselves.

Routine

Do you have certain things in your routine that you just have to do or you feel disjointed or incomplete? For some, they have to read the morning paper or watch the early news first thing in the morning. Some can’t get going without their first cup of coffee. Others have a bathroom routine that is scripted down to the minute. The same can be said for how they face the things of work or how they wind down in their day.

Right before my husband and I got married we saw a movie about an ice skater who went blind. It was called “Ice Castles.” The young girl practiced with her partner, over and over, to drill the performance into her body. He constantly reminded her that she could do this. As they skated out on the ice at competition, he squeezed her hand and whispered the word, “Routine.” This made quite an impression on us and when Nelson and I were married he had the word “Routine” engraved on the inside of my wedding band.

Now, there are some who might see that as negative or sarcastic. I mean, really, who wants their relationship to become “routine”? People are always looking for fresh and new. Manufacturers understand that and are always seeking to make their product “new and improved.” Routine typically carries with it connotations of complacency and boredom. I don’t happen to see it that way.

Having a routine helps me feel grounded and safe. I like the predictability and security of knowing what is supposed to come next. Thankfully, though, I’m not completely locked into that. Some people absolutely loose it if you change their routine. In their minds, the whole day is shot if their routine is disrupted. Somewhere along the way I developed the ability to toss my routine and be adaptable and flexible. It’s helped me survive.

I believe that God wants to offer us this balance between predictability and adaptability. We can count on him. The Word tells us that he is the same “yesterday and forever” and that he will “never leave us or forsake us.” Because we know that we learn to trust him in the “no matter whats” of life. When we are hit with an unexpected curveball in our health, finances, career, or relationships that require we adapt, we can because there is a source of stability that will get us through the uncertainty back to what feels “routine.” And it may be, that we learn to create a new “routine”, new patterns and rituals based on the new growth we experience as a result of trust.

There’s an old hymn that reminds us: “We have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll. Fastened to the rock that cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.” As you move through your day and your daily routine, be thankful for what you can count on and open to the possibilities.

He Uses Everything

The other day my husband brought me home a surprise. In the past, surprises included apple fritters, chocolate bars, DVD’s, and one time a diamond ring…but that’s a story unto itself.

This day he brought me home a sprinbrush toothbrush. He had bought one for himself and really liked it. Since he had a coupon and they were on sale, he thought I would like to have one, too.

And like it I do!

But this morning, I realized anew just what a creature of habit I am.

I squirted the toothpaste on my new brush. Put the brush in my mouth. And proceeded to manually brush my teeth.

The bristles aren’t designed for this. The brush moved sluggishly across me teeth…then it dawned on me…I forgot to turn it on. And the Spirit niggled my heart…I ended up giggling out loud.

God decided to use my toothbrush to remind me to do more than go through the motions and rely on habit.

This little reminder came as I was getting ready to head out to the funeral service for the woman I had cared for the past five and half years.
Relying on habit would mean that I put on my pastoral mask and face the folks with a demeanor of peace and confidence. Behaving this way has carried me through some really tough services in the past. But it seemed clear that I was to leave my mask at home.

The power I was to draw on was not the usual thing. The power source available to me would work much better. It was up me to access it.

I heard the words of Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

My habit or standard mode of operation would have been stiff upper lip, show no emotion, tough it out…hang strong. God was inviting me to leave that habit behind and “come clean.” I meekly said I’d try.

I sat at the funeral and wept. I sang the songs, prayed the prayers, remembered…and wept. That may not sound like much to you–doesn’t everyone weep at funerals? Not people who are in control. Not me. I didn’t anticipate weeping. But there I sat soggy and snotty and totally sans tissues. I had to get up and go retrieve some from the narthex.

I can’t remember a service that touched my heart as much as that one. Living into the multiple layers of loss, feeling the pain, I came heart to heart with the Great Comforter. I would miss this lady, but I was able to focus on the many gifts I had received from her. I would miss having a job, but I had an indescribable peace that God would lead where I needed to be.

God used a toothbrush to remind me to rely upon Him. What is He using in your life?