Monday, November 30, 2009

Learning to Celebrate the Small Things

Learning to celebrate the small things is a practice and discipline in and of itself.

This is one of the things that I've observed about the team(s) that I have the privilege of working with at Palm Valley Church. Rarely a week goes by, where I don't hear someone talking about a person that jumped on board to be a part of the ministries at hand. Typically, it's just one person they're talking about. One person, in the midst of dozens that may be serving on a given Sunday. But, it is one person, with a name, passions, gifts and a story to tell.

The tendency is often to lament, "I only had one person sign up." And, that's understandable because dozens are needed. Yet, that often breeds a sense of un-thankfulness within us for the one who did.

Being able to see the "small things" and appreciate them is an under-appreciated gift all by itself, and a skill most of us simply forget how to do as we grow older and more mature.

Learning to celebrate the small things is a practice and discipline in and of itself... and it's one worth mastering... in every area of our lives.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Creative Inducing Stocking Stuffers

Looking for a stocking stuffer or gift for family members or co-workers?

Perhaps, you should consider a set of juggling balls.

Juggling actually increases learning and can serve to develop new neurosigntures and grooves in the brain. Juggling can actually enhance creativity.

Research has shown that working with one's hands while thinking, increases brain activity and generates greater creative flow.

Juggling is a fun clinical approach to improving one's mental, emotional and of course physical well-being. It is form of activity that works to balance both hemispheres of the brain (right brain & left brain) to improve motor-skill functions, reading, writing, creativity and ability to focus on tasks. It can help reduce and prevent the development of Anxiety, Alzheimer's and depression.

While you're at it, grab a classical CD. According to numerous studies have shown that classical music has a quantitative effect on us intellectually and emotionally. It's referred to as the "Mozart Effect."

It even works with cows.

Psychologists at the University of Leicester, UK, played music of different tempos to herds of Friesian cattle. Dairy cows produce more milk when listening to relaxing music, say researchers. They believe farmers could get an extra pint from their charges by playing classical music or smoochy numbers in the cowshed.

So, if your stumped for economical, actually useful gifts ideas. Grab a set of juggling balls and a Mozart CD and make someone in your life a little brighter, smarter, neurologically healthy, not to mention creative.

If you're cheap... The dollar store typically has classical CD's, as well as medium size bouncy balls. Do a little creative wrap-job and presto...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Juggling Enhances Brain Power

A study shows learning how to juggle can actually change the structure of the brain in adults and increase areas involved in thought and processing.

Researchers say the findings challenge the notion that the structure of the adult brain does not change except for negative changes caused by aging or disease. Instead, the study suggests that learning produces not only functional but structural changes in the brain.

Juggling Actually Boosts Brain Power

In order to see if the structure of the adult brain changes in response to demands, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to look at the brains of adults who have learned to juggle.

In the study, published in the Jan. 22 issue of Nature, researchers divided a group of young adults who had no experience in juggling into two groups. One group was given three months to learn how to juggle three balls simultaneously, and the others remained non-jugglers.

MRI scans were performed at the start of the study, after the jugglers became skilled performers and could juggle for at least 60 seconds, and three months later. During that three-month period, the jugglers did not practice or attempt to extend their skills.

Although the participants had similar brain scans at the start of the study, the second scan revealed that the jugglers experienced significant expansion in the area of the brain associated with the processing and storage of complex visual motion.

The amount of expansion also correlated with the juggler's performance. The more skilled they became, the greater growth they experienced.

The increased areas seen on brain scans among the jugglers declined by the third brain scan. The non-jugglers showed no change in brain structure during the study.

Researchers say the temporary brain structure changes occurred in motion-selective areas of the brain, and the mechanism behind these changes is unclear and merits further study.

[SOURCE: Draganski, B. Nature, Jan. 22, 2004; vol 427: pp 311-312.]

How's Your Neurosignature?

Our brain is a small amount of mass weighing about 3 lbs. It's a collection of 100 billion nerve cells, called neurons. Yet, it is estimated that the brain can store more facts, impressions and information than are contained in the entire nine million volumes of the Library of Congress.

Mark Twain wrote, "What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history."Jonathan Edwards put it this way:

“The ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them.”

Scientists, who study the brain tell us that when a thought is triggered, synapses fire and send the message of that thought to another part of the brain that influences emotions, responses, attitudes etc.

Any pattern of thought or action repeated many times results in a habit with a corresponding neurosignature, or brain groove. If a similar synapses fire happens consistently over a period of time, actual, visible grooves literally form on the surface of the brain. A brain groove is a series of interconnected neurons that carry the thought patterns of a particular habit.

After these grooves are formed, one’s thoughts begin to automatically flow in a certain pattern – they follow the groove. Before long, no matter what the situation. No matter how hopeful and optimistic the outcome may look. Our thoughts will still flow down the groove of lest resistance, much like water in an arid desert.

The question then becomes, what does our individual "neurosignature" look like?

Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly has done years of research in which thousands of subjects are given pagers that go off at random intervals. People have to write down what they are doing and thinking and feeling when that happens. One of the most striking findings of these studies involves the effect of solitude.

When people are alone, undistracted by noise or activity, their minds naturally drift toward an awareness of discontentment, a sense of inadequacy, anxiety about the future, and a chronic sense of self-preoccupation.

Csikszentmihalyi writes,

Contrary to what we tend to assume, the normal state of the mind is chaos… When we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing t do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing… entropy is the normal state of consciousness.

To avoid this condition, people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings. This explains why such a huge proportion of time is invested in watching television, despite the fact that it is very rarely enjoyed.

The good news is that we can actually restructure our own neurosignatures.

"The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death,

but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."
(Romans 8:6)

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

(Philippians 4:8)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Effects of Thanksgiving

One of the things that I love about children is their unending ability to simply become excited about the smallest of things. Just last night I walked in the house and shouted "Taco Rico...." (Translation: I'm home and I got tacos from Taco Rico). Within moments there were three little ones moving around the kitchen like starving vultures. My youngest let out a yip, "YEAH.... TACOS..." I could give endless examples from yesterday alone. Moments of excitement and thanks welling up from within a child.

Interestingly, as we get "older" and more "mature" one of the things we forget how to be is thankful. We become too sophisticated to be excited and too responsible to be thankful -- we simply forget. Somewhere in between mortgage payments, car loans and moving the yard we lose the wonder of a child. Thanksgiving has the ability to begin reversing these effects.

I've noticed, at least in my own life that Thanksgiving:

1. Helps bring things into perspective.

Philippians 4:6-7 says,

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

There are times in life where things just don't make sense. There are seasons were there seems to be a residual funk that lingers. Thanksgiving has a way of bringing perspective into these times. I love what Asaph wrote in Psalm 73:16-17

"Still, when I tried to figure it out,all I got was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.Then I saw the whole picture."

2. Thanksgiving helps us to identify God in the midst of Life.

Where's Waldo?
I enjoy looking at Where's Waldo? pictures.

In these images, Waldo is always there - somewhere. We don't always readily see him at first glance. In fact, more often than not, it takes a little searching, looking, even waiting for him to emerge from within the crowd before our eyes.

He's always in a busy scene with lots of movement, walking stick in hand.

In life, God is a lot like Waldo. He's always there in the midst of the busyness, yet its in the midst of such busyness that He becomes lost - at least to our awareness. Yet, He is still present in the midst of the chaos, if only we can pause, breath and once again become aware of His present-nearness. Paul wrote to those in Philippi that God was there in their midst, working within them, even when they were unaware.

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13)

Thanksgiving helps us to become more aware of His presence. It helps us to identify God in the midst of life.

3. Thanksgiving helps us remember that ultimately it's not about us - but God & Others...

When I pause long enough to reflect on where God is working within my life, circumstances and relationships, I become thankful. In the midst of such thankfulness, I'm reminded that life is so much bigger than me... We all need reminding of this, sometimes more often than others. Nonetheless, in thanksgiving, we become aware of God, His provisions and the others who are a part of our life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Forming New Grooves

Our minds are fascinating and complex.

The average human process over 10,000 thoughts a day. Interestingly it's said that, “as much as 77% of everything we think is negative and counterproductive and works against us,” writes Dr. Shad Helmstetter, in his book, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself.

This week, as we continue tracking through the Book of Philippians, we explore what the Bible says about our thought-life, the power of meditating on Scripture and its correlation to our growing to become more like Christ.

Forming New Grooves from Jerrell Jobe on Vimeo.

Capuring Creative Ideas with EverNote

Often as I'm out at a store, a park or simply riding around town, I see something that sparks an idea. Sometimes someone will say something that resonates deeply within. Or, perhaps a book is mentioned. In each of these scenarios, my mind is flooded with thoughts, however the time and space of the moment don't give ample time to reflect or develop the thought further.

During these moments, I always pull out my smartphone (which most days isn't all that smart) and send myself an email with the idea. At other times, I'll jam the thought into my calendar or simply write it on a piece of paper or a napkin.

Imperative to the creative process of a communicator, or anyone for that matter, is developing a system that allows you to capture thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and the like.

All of the world is a canvas and each individual is an interesting story to be read. I love what
Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance Man wrote,

“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lighting becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life.”
If you're looking for a way to capture ideas, check out EVERNOTE. It synchronizes your notes to any Mac, PC, iPhone and Windows Mobile, or you can use the web interface. And it recognizes handwriting or printed text in images. Once synced, which is a simple process, you can view the information from you desktop, laptop, cell phone or any other computer. It's fabulous for capturing thoughts and ideas on the go, or simply brainstorming at your desk.

The following clip shows some of the practical uses of EVERNOTE.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Family Activities for the Holidays

Interactive Family Ideas for the Holiday

(Please note that each idea has a graded code at the end. P is for Preschool children, E is for Elementary children, T is for Teenagers, and A is for Adults.)

1. Using large sheets of paper, everyone in the family draws pictures of things they're thankful for. Keep the artwork for next year and display them side by side. (PETA)

2. Create a Thankful Box, in which family members put slips of paper telling what they're thankful for. After dinner, read the papers out loud. (ETA)

3. Encourage each person to bring some special object to the table that represents what they are thankful for this year. Let each take a turn to share their object and how it represents their thankfulness. (ETA)

4. Experience dinner together with only candlelight. Reflect on what it would be like to be without lighting, heat, shelter, etc. Spend some time praying together, thanking God for all that you have, as well as praying for those in need this season. (PETA)

5. Write a card to someone you are especially thankful for. Be sure to allow time, material and stamps so this project will work. (PETA)

Friday, November 20, 2009

An Inconsequential Life

About seven years ago, I stood about three feet from a grown man on the verge of tears, as he shared with a group of about seventy-five colleagues in academia. He was a philosophy professor, who had recently returned from Oxford University, where he had spent the summer engaged in post-doctoral studies. Tears welled up in the corners of his eyes. And, his lips quivered as he spoke forth these words, “my greatest fear is that I will live an inconsequential life.”

A desire to make a difference. Leave a mark on the world. To live and when one’s life is over, for that life to simply have made a difference in the world in which it breathed, moved and walked.

I haven’t thought about that talk, nor the phrase much in the past seven years, though I’ve talked about purpose and destiny on a number of occasions. Yet, recently, this phrase, or rather, the essence that lies at the core of this phrase has been echoing from deep within. Once and a while, it will creep in to my thoughts. Each times it makes entry into my mind in unique ways and within diverse situations.

At the center of my being, I know God has purposed my life to make a difference. I can reflect back through the past sixteen-years, even further and vividly see the hand of God, as the Psalmist said, directing my very footsteps.

God has been so intimate, specific and generous to me. There’s a longing to somehow capture that story so it can be known by more than just me and a small handful. There’s a desire to do something with my life, that when I’m gone, the influence will still continue. It’s less about being “somebody,” and more about simply wanting what God does and speaks into my life to bring life and direction to others. I want to make a difference. I don't want to live an inconsequential life.

Perhaps, this is part of my inner motivation to begin writing more -- to simply capture these elements of the journey. I’ve been pondering this for a while, but as I was reading this evening in the book Organic God, the thought emerged again. Margaret Feinberg, in the book, does a fantastic job of simply telling her story and journey with God. She’s writing about various attributes of God, but it’s more than that, I suppose God is always larger than an attribute of sorts. In the telling though, she authentically weaves her own story into the plot. Part of her writing is so powerful, because as I read her stories, I find myself.

I’ve had those same stories. God’s taught me similar lessons.

Yet, have I deeply reflected, captured and written about them?

Could I?

Should I?

If it did, would this aid in living a life that has consequences beyond myself...?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

God is Closer Than You Think

In a recent post, I wrote about the wonder of a child in pursuit of God and how God is often closer than we are aware of.

One of my favorite authors Frederick Buechner in his book
Listening to Your Life brilliantly writes,

“There is no event so commonplace
but that God is present within it,
always hiddenly, always leaving you room
to recognize him or not…
because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
and life itself is grace.”

(Frederick Buechner)

Paul instructed the followers at Philippi to look around them and out of everything that could be observed in the world in which they found themselves to simply, find "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise." Once they were able to begin to see these things, they were to dwell on these things.

For Paul, as Henry David Thoreau penned, "It's not what you look at, but what you see." In this text from Philippians, Paul is simply encouraging us to develop a heart to discern, an eye to see and a mind that cultivates the capacity to "think" upon these things. Unfortunately, more often than not, when we look at the world around us we are more prone to see what's wrong with it, rather than what's right. We see that which is broken, fallen and needs to be fixed, rather than that which God is presently redeeming.

If we posture ourselves as Paul exhorted, we will begin to see “every creature will be to you a mirror of life," as wrote Thomas à Kempis, "and a book of holy doctrine.”

This phrase found in Philippians 4:8 is in the present tense and imperative mood, which notes, in short that it commands a continuous action…

Further, the middle voice is reflexive which means that you yourself are to continually initiate this action and participate in the effects or results thereof.

Biblical scholar Gordon Fee in his volume one Philippians, Paul's Letter to the Philippians, points out that Paul is using language the Philippians would have known from their youth, he singles out values held with the best of Hellenism. He states,

Paul is using language the Philippians would have known from their youth, he singles out values held in common with the best of Hellenism. But as v.9 implies, these must now be understood in light of the cruciform existence that Paul has urged throughout the letter…

Paul is telling them…
to “take into account” the good they have long known from their past, as long as it is conformable to Christ.

Paul is encouraging
the Philippians that even thought they are presently “citizens of heaven,” living out the life of the future as they await its consummation, they do not altogether abandon the world in which they used to, and still do, live. As believers in Christ they will embrace the best of that world as well, as long as it is understood in light of the cross (Fee, 416).

The most common response
to such a culture is not discrimination, but rejection. This text suggests a better way, that one approach the market-place, the arts, the media, the university, looking for what is “true” and “uplifting” and “admirable”; but that one do so with a discriminating eye and heart, for which the Crucified One serves as the template (Fee, 421).

How skilled the Church has become at "rejecting" everything, rather than exercising the discernment of "discrimination." May God help us to engage the world in which we live in with eyes to see it from the vantage point of the Crucified One.

As Jean Pierre de Caussade wrote in his book The Sacrament of the Present Moment, may “each moment is a revelation from God."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gotcha God...

One afternoon, when our son was about three. My wife and him were out on the back patio. It was a refreshing fall afternoon. As he looked up, the look of child-like curiosity became immediately apparent as he noticed the limbs of the tree moving above him. He was puzzled. He looked at her and said, "Mommy, where's God?" After a few various attempts to break down the Divine into three-year-old lingo, she, looked up at the limbs blowing in the wind and said, "Do you see the limbs moving?... They are moving, because the wind is blowing them... Can you see the wind?" To which, he quickly responded, "Nope..." She continued, "We can't see the wind, but we can see the effects of the wind... Likewise, we don't necessarily see God with our eyes, but like the wind, He is always here with us, working, moving, etc..."

Just then, a gust of wind blew threw and a few leaves rustled in the air. Without a flinch, my son jumped up and began running around the patio. His arms began to wave this way and that, along with a skip and a jump, not to mention a joy-filled smile on his face and a giggle that brings life even to the numbest of souls. Then he stopped, looked over his shoulder, turned around and in one giant swoop of the arms, as if grasping the very wind before him shouted, "Gotcha God..."

What if we could approach our days with the same child-like wonder of faith? Looking, listening, reaching, skipping, and most of all "swooping" to capture the God-moments of our day.

God’s Voice
is speaking, resounding, even echoing all around us.
Can I sense it?

Fleeting thoughts, feelings, impressions, mental images, even billboards.
Did I see them?

Obscure verses embedded in Scripture, the whispering of a friend, the comment of a spouse, even the babbling of a young child.
Do I hear it?

The old poem of Elizabeth Barrett Browning still ring true,

“Earth's crammed with Heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes.

The rest sit around and picks blackberries.

Or, as John Ortberg wrote in his book God is Closer Than You Think, “God wants to be known, but not in a way that overwhelms us, that takes away the possibility of love freely chosen… He often shows up in unexpected ways. He travels incognito… You never know where he’ll turn up, or whom he’ll speak through, or what unlikely scenario he’ll us for his purpose.”

“For over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call,
a premonition of richer living…”
~Thomas Kelly

The question becomes, how do/will I capture the “whisperings” of God in my life?

"Thoughts disentangle themselves
when they pass through the lips and the fingertips."
(Dawson Trotman)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spiritual Transformation is...

Spiritual Transformation…

…is essential, not optional, for Christ-followers.

…is a process, not an event.

…is God’s work, but requires my participation.

…involves those practices, experiences, and relationships that help me live intimately with Christ and walk as if he were in my place.

…is not a compartmentalized pursuit. God is not interested in my spiritual life; he’s interested in my life - all of it.

…can happen in every moment. It is not restricted to certain times or practices.

…is not individualistic, but takes place in community and finds expression in serving others.

…is not impeded by a person’s background, temperament, life situation, or season of life. It is available right now to all who desire it.

…and the means of pursuing it, will vary from one individual to another. Fully devoted followers are handcrafted, not mass produced.

…is ultimately gauged by an increased capacity to love God and people. Superficial or external checklists cannot measure it.

From the small group resource Fully Devoted by John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson, & Judson Poling.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Philippians: Too Many Minds_Week Nine

Our minds are amazing and complex. This week, as we continue our study in Philippians, we explore some of the battles that play out in the arena of our imaginations. Paul said to "be anxious for nothing." In this context, what is anxiety and what's a biblical response to it?

Philippians: Too Many Minds_Week Nine from Jerrell Jobe on Vimeo.

Honing Skills

This morning, I was struck by something, as I was reading Margret Feinberg’s Organic God. It’s not particularly a new thought, but nonetheless, one that penetrated through the veneer of my day and spoke to something deep within my soul. Doesn’t it seem that the most penetrating messages aren’t the new insights from afar, rather simply, those truths we’ve long known, yet desperately need to be reminded of. As C.S. Lewis often said, we often need to be reminded more than instructed.

Feinberg in her chapter “surprisingly talkative” is reminiscing about how God spoke to her - directing her into that which she was to do with her life. The Voice spoke more in silence than that of a sonic-boom. Later, she reflects on this process and her perspective and posture now towards this “gift,” and this is what caught my attention. She writes,
“In his silence, God allowed me to discover the gift that he had woven inside of me. That process has given me a deep sense of appreciation for the gift, so that I just can’t walk away when things get tough. Because of God’s silence, I recognize writing as one of those things I was created to do. that’s why, like an artisan, I spend long hours honing my work - praying for the beauty to emerge” (Organic God, 85).

As I began to reflect on these lines, it caused me to look at my own life and gifts - those things - that thing - that I’ve felt God’s nudging on most in my life. I began to wonder, “how am I ‘honing’ my gifts?” I practice using them a lot, but am I honing them?

Teaching and preaching can often be a touchy subject to ask such a thing. It’s as if, there’s this mystical-sacred force behind it, that to ‘hone’ in and practice the art of communicating would in some way contaminate the gift itself. Yet, I’ve heard some really dry, boring, and in need of some serious ‘honing’ preachers. I often wondered when listening to such aforementioned preachers, “who are you talking to?” and, “have you ever listened to yourself talk?”

Yet, if one were called to be a musician, a writer, or even a plumber, they would do everything possible to stay up with their particular field of discipline. Why wouldn’t we do so with teaching and preaching?

I often have paid attention to various forms of communicating and read up on a number of authors perspectives, yet deep within there’s a sense that “to practice” and developing such skills is in some way less pure.

After all, all we really need is the ‘anointing.’ Right? Just two weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours in Barnes and Noble perusing through a half-dozen communication books. Every book was trying to tell me how to “get people’s attention,” “prove my point” or what have you. Part of it just felt so mechanical, predictable and well honestly, manipulative. I don’t want this. I do want to engage the minds and hearts of listeners, but not by the means of some trite, slick or mechanical persuasive skill.

At the end of the day, there must be a balance between our personal integrity and our intentional and development of the skills and gifts that God has entrusted us with. I love what it said of David,

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
with skillful hands he led them.
(Psalm 78:72)

What does it look like for you do intentionally develop your skills and giftings?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is Spiritual Formation...?

What exactly is Spiritual Formation?

This is
a question I get asked quite often. In some circles its a "buzz word" of the latest discipleship-lingo, while for others, it's a word of apprehension, held with no small level of suspect.

Below, is a sampling of various authors and their attempt to conceptualize and define the essence of spiritual formation in a couple sentences or less. As you read through them, note the various nuances particular authors make or emphasize.

What make each unique? Look for the common themes that emerge throughout them. As you reflect on what others have written, begin to ask yourself, what's truly imperative, essential and beneficial in a person becoming "formed" into the "image of Christ."

  1. “A process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” (Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey 15)

  2. “Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God's spirit, for the transformation of the world.” –from The Upper Room (

  3. “Thus, we can define spirituality this way: Spirituality is about what we do with the fire inside of us, about how we channel our eros. And how we do channel it, the disciplines and habits we choose to live by, will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds, and souls, and to a greater integration or disintegration in the way we are related to God, others, and the cosmic world.” (Rolheiser, The Holy Longing 11).

  4. “Spiritual formation is the continuing response to the reality of God’s grace shaping us shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith for the sake of the world.” --Toward a Definition of Spiritual Formation by Jeffery P. Greenman and Donald Goertz (Tyndale Seminary)

  5. “The dynamics of shaping the human spirit toward maturity and consonance.” (The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation 107)

  6. “The end of all Christian belief and obedience, witness and teaching, marriage and family, leisure and work life, preaching and pastoral work is the living of everything we know about God: life, life and more life. If we don’t know where we are going, any road will get us there. But if we have a destination—in this case a life lived to the glory of God—there is a well marked way, the Jesus-revealed Way. Spiritual theology is the attention that we give to the details of living life on this way” (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 1)

  7. “My condition is called a desire for God’s ‘habitual presence’….In spiritual theology this condition is not merely recognized; guidance is provided on how that hunger may be satisfied.” (Diogenes Allen, Spiritual Theology, 2)

  8. “Spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.” (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, 22)

  9. “Scripturally speaking, the spiritual life is simply the increasing vitality and sway of God’s Spirit in us. It is a magnificent choreography of the Holy Spirit in the human spirit, moving us toward communion with both Creator and creation. The spiritual life is thus grounded in relationship. It has to do with God’s way of relating to us, and our way of responding to God.” (Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast, 6)

  10. “Christian spirituality, then, simply put, is God’s passionate embrace of us; our passionate embrace of God.” (Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace, 16)

1. What features you deem most important as you create a definition of Spiritual Formation.

a. It’s a journey…process…continuous…ongoing…
b. It’s intentional.
c. It’s relational. True formation can’t happen void of community.
d. It’s influential (to others in our community and the world at large).

2. What issues are at stake?

a. Spiritual Formation (and the quality of my life) is always transforming… is it “integrating” or “disintegrating”?

"Each day we are becoming
either a creature of splendid glory or
one of unthinkable horror."
C.S. Lewis
b. others…?

3. What categories re-surface in the definitions I provided?

a. It’s a process…
b. It’s our response to God’s initiative…
c. We’re being formed to the likeness/image of Christ.
d. It influences others…

What are some key elements to spiritual formation from your perspective?

Which of the above definitions do you like best and why?

Philippinas: Rythms of Life_Week Eight

“If you are weary of some sleepy form of devotion,” wrote Frank Laubach, “probably God is as weary of it as you are.”

This message explores various ways of engaging God in rhythmic seasons of life. In it, we look at the role of spiritual disciplines and a Rule of Life in the process of our spiritual transformation.

Philippians: Rythms of Life_Week Eight from Jerrell Jobe on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Developing a Rule for Life

We all have rules like "Do your best." "Never give up." "Never say never." "Just do it." These mottos tether us to certain behaviors and attitudes so we can, in the words of another rule, "be all we can be." They help us live toward what we most want. Developing a "rule for life" is a way of being intentional about the personal rhythms and guidelines that shape our days.
One of the early Christian rules for life is found in Acts 2:42. Here we find that believers "devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." This rule shaped their lives and hearts in the circumstances they were in. It acknowledged the impossibility of becoming like Christ through effort alone. The rule offered disciplines that made space to attend to the supernatural presence of the Trinity at work in and among them.

A Rule for Life is a simple statement of the regular rhythms we choose in order to present our bodies to God as our "spiritual act of worship" (Romans 12:1). Each rule, or rhythm, is a way to partner with God for the transformation only he can bring. Rules keep our lives from devolving into unintended chaos. They aren’t a burdensome list of do’s and don’ts, enumerating everything you might do in a day. Life-giving rules are a brief and realistic scaffold of disciplines that support your heart’s desire to grow in loving God and others" (Adele Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook).

To develop your own Rule for Life. Start by answering these questions. From the answers begin to write your Rule for Life:

1. When and where do you feel closest to God? How do you experience God’s love for you?
a. Pay attention to experiences, practices and relationships that draw you toward God.
b. Are there particular practices that open you to God?

2. What is most important to you?
a. What gives you a sense of security and self-worth?
b. What would people who know you best say it’s like to live and work with you?
c. What/Who receives the most attention in your life? (Your job? spouse? Family? Friends? Hobby?)

3. What practices suit your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly rhythms and cycles? (prayer, Bible reading, silence, contemplative walks, retreats, etc)
a. What limitations are built into your life at this moment?
b. What longings remain steady throughout?
c. What responsibilities and rhythms change with various seasons?

4. Where do you want to change?
a. Where do you feel powerless to change?
b. What can you ask the Holy Spirit to help you do through grace what you cannot do through effort alone?

5. Which disciplines can you choose that arise from your desire for God’s transforming work and that suit the limits and realities of your life? Begin your practice.

*The above explanation and questions are found in Adele Calhoun's book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. Though "spiritual discipline" combined with the word "handbook" may seem a bit dry and boring, I've found this book to be a personal favorite. Calhoun's descriptions of various disciplines are clear and concise, not to mention very practical and applicable. This is a great resource for someone wanting to explore what it looks like to integrating spiritual disciplines into their daily rhythm of life.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Regarding a Rule for Life

Here's a few things to be mindful about when considering on a rule for life:

A rule of life is different for everybody. No two individuals will have exactly the same rule of life. We have a lot of latitude in a personal rule of life. A rule of life should be diverse, reflecting the needs and spiritual aspirations of the person.

We are have been called “heavenward in Christ Jesus.” As we said last week, spiritual growth is for all of us. God desires that each of us in engaged in the process of becoming transformed into the image of Christ.

We all have the same goal,
and though there will be many similarities,
each of our journey’s toward Christlikeness is unique.

Thomas à Kempis writes,
“All cannot use the same kind of spiritual exercises,
but one suits this person, and another that.
Different devotions are suited also to the seasons [of life]....”

A rule of life should take into account your personal circumstances at this point in your life. A personal rule of life can change with the seasons in your life.

Marjorie Thompson in her book, Soul Feast, says,

“Whatever your circumstances, it is always possible to include some form of spiritual discipline in your daily priorities.

If you want to become and remain physically healthily, you eat sensibly and exercise regularly. If you want to become spiritually healthily and remain replenished, you practice spiritual disciplines regularly.”

Be careful not to become legalistic about your rule of life. If it becomes a legalistic way of earning points with God, it should be scrapped.

"Our primary task is not to calculate how many verses of Scripture we read or how many minutes we spend in prayer. Our task is to use these activities to create opportunities for God to work. Then what happens is up to him. We just put up sails: "The wind blows where it chooses..." (Ortberg, 51-52)

John Ortberg in his book, “The Life You’ve Always Wanted,” says this about our attitude toward spiritual formation,

“But God’s primary assessment of our lives is not going to be measured by the number of journal entries…. The real issue is what kind of people we are becoming. Practices such as reading Scripture and praying are important – not because they prove how spiritual we are – but because God can use them to lead us into life.” (Ortberg, 39)

Barton suggests that, once we have developed a rhythm of spiritual practices, that we should have a great deal of flexibility. This is not a once and for all time decision. A rule of life needs to be realistic in light of the stage or season of our life. We should avoid being rigid and legalistic.

This is a rhythm not a law.

Remember, the Spiritual disciplines are a means to an end; they are not the end.

The definition of spiritual transformation is the process of being changed into the likeness of Christ for the sake of others . . . that is the end.

Don’t try to take on too much at once. The 5 Minute Room Rescue

To spend just 5 minutes clearing a path in your worst room. You know this area of your home: the place you would never allow anyone to see. Just 5 minutes a day for the next 27 days and you will have a place that you can be proud to take anyone!

5-Minute Soul Rescue: There's a principle we can learn from Fly Lady here as it relates to our spiritual growth. Many, often set out to do too much, too long, too fast, only to end up discouraged and disheartened. Small, practical, doable steps are the best first steps, regardless of the venture (engaging Scripture, prayer, serving, etc).

If the rule of life contains too much, albeit good stuff, it can soon turn into drudgery and we won’t follow it.

The question is: What can I realistically commit to? This is about honoring personal limitations. It is better to commit to a single practice and stick with it than to take on five and quit altogether because you cannot keep up.

Barton also suggests that an effective rhythm of spiritual practices will be balanced; a balance of disciplines that come easy to us and disciplines that stretch us.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your rule or rhythm. It can easily be changed and revised, but it shouldn’t be subject to whims. Give yourself time to settle into your rule of life so that it has time to shape your life.

“If you are weary of some sleepy form of devotion,
probably God is as weary of it as you are.”

~Frank Laubach

Resources and Further Reading:

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual TransformationMarjorie J. Thompson, Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual LifeJohn Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary PeopleDallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes LivesCelebration of Discipline: The Path of Spiritual Growth – Richard Foster

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Rule for Life

St. Benedict, in the 6th Century, initially constructed what is known as a Rule of Life (often also referred to as a Rule for Life).

The Latin term for “rule” is regula. From it we get our words regular and regulate. Very simply, a rule of life, is a pattern or rhythm of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness.

A rule is not meant to be restrictive or legalistic. However, it does require a commitment. It is intended to help us establish a rhythm of living.

A rule of life gives us a way to enter the lifelong process of personal transformation.
The concept is called different things by various authors, but the core of it is essentially the same.

Ultimately, a rule will help you love God more.

St. Benedict simply called it a “Rule of Life.”
Ruth Haley Barton in her book Sacred Rhythms refers to it as a “rhythm of life.”
Dallas Willard, author of The Spirit of the Disciplines refers to it as “Curriculum in Christlikeness.”
John Ortberg in The Life You’ve Always Wanted calls it a “Game Plan for Morphing.”

Adele Calhoun, in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook writes,
“A rule for life is a simple statement of the regular rhythms we choose in order to present our bodies to God as our ‘spiritual acts of worship’ (Romans 12:1).”

Each rule, or rhythm, is a way we partner with God for the transformation only he can bring. Rules keep our lives from devolving into unintended chaos. (So we don’t cast off restraint) They are a brief and realistic enumerating everything you might do in a day. Life-giving rules are a brief and realistic scaffold of disciplines that support your heart’s desire to grow in loving God and others.”

Practically, draw square with four quadrants. Label the top left one Daily, top right one Weekly, bottom left one Monthly, and the bottom right oneYearly.

Ruth Haley Barton has suggested that a rule of life seeks to respond to two questions:

Who do I want to be?
How do I want to live?

Barton has combined the question to:

How do I want to live so that I can be who I want to be?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Boats, Rafts & Sailing in the Wind

Growth is a byproduct of grace, effort, and discernment.

One of the things that has been helpful to me in understanding the process of growth (spiritual formation) and the inter-workings of “grace,” “effort” and “discernment” is comparing the differences between a motorboat, a raft, and a sailboat.

In a motorboat I'm in charge. I determine how fast we're going to go, and in what direction. Some people approach spiritual life that way. If I'm just aggressive enough, if I have enough quiet times, I can make transformation happen on my own. Usually that results in people becoming legalistic, then pride starts to creep in, and things get all messed up.

Some people have been burned by that kind of approach. So they go to the opposite extreme and will say, "I'm into grace." It's like they're floating on a raft. If you ask them to do anything to further their growth, they'll say, "Hey, no. I'm not into works. I'm into grace. You're getting legalistic with me." So they drift. There are way too many commands in Scripture for anybody to think that we're called to be passive.

On a sailboat, however, I don't move if it's not for the wind. My only hope of movement is the wind. I can't control the wind. I don't manufacture the wind. Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind.

John 3:8
The wind blows wherever it pleases.
You hear its sound, but you cannot tell
where it comes from or where it is going.
So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind. But there is a role for me to play, and part of it has to do with what I need to discern.

A good sailor will discern, Where's the wind at work? How should I set the sails? Spiritual formation is like sailing.[1]

Wise sailors know that their main task is being able to "read" the wind - to practice discernment. An experienced sailor can simply look at a lake and tell where the wind is blowing strongest, or look at the sky and give a weather forecast. A wise sailor knows when to raise and lower which sails to catch the wind most effectively.[2]

Where is the Wind blowing in your life right now? How will you begin to orient yourself to catch-the-wind?

[2] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 51.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Sin of Religiosity

"One of the books I've been working through lately is Thomas Merton's Faith and Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice.

This, along with a few other current reads, are stretching my understanding of "justice," or more accurately the prevalence of "injustice" in our world today.

The following two excerpts from Merton are particularly thought-provoking and penetrating. Especially considering they were penned in the 1960's.

"In other words there is a great danger in facile and thoughtless verbalizations of spiritual reality. All true spiritual disciplines recognize the peril of idolatry in the irresponsible fabrication of pseudo-spiritual concepts which serve only to delude man and to subject him once again to a deeper captivity just when he seems on the point of tasting the true bliss and the perfect poverty of liberation." (114)

"The sin of religiosity is that it has turned God, peace, happiness, salvation and all that man desires into products to be marketed in a speciously attractive package deal. In this, I think, the fault lies not with the sincerity of preachers and religious writers, but with the worn-out presuppositions with which they are content to operate. The religious mind today is seldom pertinently or prophetically critical. Oh, it is critical all right; but too often of wrong or irrelevant issues. There is still such a thing as straining at gnats and swallowing camels. But I wonder if we have not settled down too comfortably to accept passively the prevarications that the Gospels or the Prophets would have us reject with all the strength of our being." (117)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Influencing Others When We Least Expect It

For the next week, it's just me and Micah home at the ranch. Charissa and the girls ventured north early yesterday monring. It's amazing how excited Micah is to simply spend the next nine days with just me. I'm looking forward as well to being with him and hopefully experiencing some long-lasting memories.

All this got me to reflecting on the impact we have on our children and other's in general. What's daunting is that often the greatest influence we have on others happens when we're unaware its happening - when we least expect it.

The following videos vividly portray this reality.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Free Book :: The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

We each have areas that we "don't know" about and often perhaps, don't "want to know about." Such knowledge and insight is only the byproduct of a series of questions. Questions that cause us to think and re-think why we do what we do, how we do what we do, and so forth. It is so easy to follow the flow of the alternative, which is simply letting life happen to us, all the while, questioning nothing.

All of us, whether as a corporation, a business, a church, a family or simply our own individuals lives can benefit from beginning to throw some raw questions at who we are, what we do and why we do what we do...

David Dark, in his book "The Sacredness of Questioning Everything" begins to explore what it looks like to peel back the exterior layers and question what's beneath.

For a limited time you can download a Free Audiobook edition of this book

You can
read a concise, yet full book review by Joshua Neds-Fox here.

Table of Contents
1. Never What You Have In Mind--Questioning God
2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being Brainwashed--Questioning Religion
3. Everybody to the Limit--Questioning Our Offendedness
4. Spot the Pervert--Questioning our Passions
5. The Power of the Put-On--Questioning Media
6. The Word, The Line, The Way--Questioning Our Language
7. Survival of the Freshest--Questioning Interpretations
8. The Past Didn't Go Anywhere--Questioning History
9. We Do What We're Told--Questioning Governments
10. Sincerity As Far As The Eye Can See--Questioning the Future
End Note: That Means To Signal a World Without End