Recently I’ve begun reading Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. Wow, what a breath of fresh air this book has breathed into my heart! This really is the book I’ve been looking for, something that focuses on changing the heart of a Modern Proverbs 31 Woman, instead of just habits. If you’re looking for a Bible study to do alone or with a group, I really recommend this book as a fabulous resource.
Here are couple quotes that I think are so important, and really strike to the heart of the book’s message:
Suddenly all of my good intentions about worship disappear, swallowed up by what Charles Hummel calls “the tyranny of the urgent.”
“We live in a constant tension between the urgent and the and the important,” Hummel writes. “The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study can wait. But the urgent tasks call for instant action–endless demands pressure every hour and day.”
So where to we find the time to follow Mary to the feet of Jesus? Where do we find the energy to serve him?
How do we choose the Better Part and still get done what really has to get done?
When we put work before worship, we put the cart before the horse. The cart is important; so is the horse. But the horse must come first, or we end up pulling the cart ourselves. Frustrated and weary, we can nearly break under the pressure of service, for there is always something that needs to be done.
When we first spend time in his presence–when we take time to hear his voice–God provides the horsepower we need to pull the heaviest load. He saddles up Grace and invites us to take a ride.
And all of that is just in the first chapter!
Doesn’t that feel familiar? I know I can’t be the only one out there that feels Joanna is describing me to a T. The never-ending to-do list, the pressure to get things done, the battle between urgent and important, the stress of it all. Can I get an Amen here? And the most frustrating part of all this is that the struggle never ends. Just because I got it right yesterday or last week doesn’t mean I’m all set for today. It’s like laundry (which reminds me, I need to go flip a load downstairs), the basket is only empty and done, until everyone takes a bath again tonight and it starts all over again. Just like that, we must accept that our spiritual basket is never “done;” it’s a task that needs to be “kept on top of” so you never get over burdened.
Just this week, the sermon at our church was about “prayer without ceasing,” – basically living your life in a constant state of prayer. Easier said than done, right? Yet this is something I have really been attempting to accomplish the past few months. (Though it might not be proven by the number of posts on this blog at the moment.)
Here are a couple of practical ideas that work for me.
- I’m blessed that the local Christian station here is a great one. It plays contemporary Christian that is easy and pleasurable to listen to. It is constantly on in my car, every time I get in it. I’ve noticed I drive with a lot less “road rage” and with a calmer, more patient spirit. Also, I’ve noticed my children are calmer in the car.
- When the radio gets tiresome, I’ve got an Ipod full of Christian artists. And because my husband loves digging into the Christian music scene, he’s constantly finding new artists to download and add to our collection. I play the Ipod in my room while I’m working sometimes, and occasionally I’ll bring Itunes up on my computer and play the music from there. And when I’m energetic enough to get outside and attempt to walk/jog/crawl through some exercise, I always have my Ipod strapped on my arm and ear buds in.
- YouTube. Whenever I hear a song that just strikes me – often by the praise team at church – I will try to get the name of it and look it up on YouTube to find out more. This is how I found the song, “Overcome” that I posted about recently. Also, it is a great way to share songs among my friends on Facebook when something is just pulling at my soul. And by clicking on the links when they share songs, I find new ones all the time. And while I’m checking out one song from an artist, I’ll often click-through and check out their other works. That is how I discovered JJ Heller and “Only Love Remains.”
As you can see, music is completely enmeshed in my life and is a huge part of how Christ opens up my heart and speaks to me. Part of that is because of my background as a singer, but also I think music reaches into subconscious parts of your brain that analytical study just can’t get to.
A Set Place
- I’ve posted in the past about having a prayer closet in my last home. Unfortunately, in my current house that’s just not possible. I’m still working on finding that perfect little spot in my home and while nothing has found me yet, I’ve heard of other ideas that folks have suggested.
- Go outdoors. One of my favorite things to do is to go sit in sun, on our pier overlooking the bay, and soak in God’s Word while soaking in some vitamin D. The only negative is that it’s sometimes difficult to force myself to come back inside! So I encourage you to finds a peaceful, restful, spot outdoors that you can go to in good weather. If you’re working outside the home, this is also a great way to spend your lunch break at work! This is also made easier by having an organized prayer bag.
A prayer/Bible bag.
- The idea behind this is that everything you need for your Bible study time is organized in one place. That might be a bag or a basket beside your bed or chair in the living room.
- It contains everything you need, so that you can pick up and go wherever is convenient. (It also solves the organizational problem of having to stop and look for everything, which can distract you from original purpose.)
- So, this would include your Bible, whichever devotional book/s you’re working through, maybe some lighter reading when your brain can’t handle the deeper analytical stuff, a notebook for you to journal and work through passages, pens or pencils, post-its (I find that’s a great way to deal when to-do items pop in your mind in an inopportune time. Write them down on a post-it and hold it to add to your to-do list for later.), kleenex just in case, and 3×5 cards.
- I love 3×5 cards because when you get that verse that God is using to speak to you (or sometimes feels like he’s hitting you over the head with a sledgehammer), I find it great to take a minute and write it down on one of these cards so you can post it up somewhere you will see it. (If your handwriting is atrocious, you can also print them out from your computer, which is what I prefer.) I’ve got 1 Chronicles 28:20 taped above my monitor and Psalm 19:11-14 taped on my bathroom mirror.
Incorporate Into Your Family Life
- Make Bible study part of your family’s daily ritual and routine. I know this is hard to achieve. I got the idea from this homeschooling blog and website. No, I don’t home school yet, but I really believe in the idea of intentionally instruction and playtime.
- One of the main reasons I really focus on this is because I want my girls to see Christ as fully incorporated and invested in their lives. I want them to practice it in their lives and see it molded into mine. I don’t want them to have to figure out how to do that all on their own. And I don’t want them to think that just attending Church on Sunday is “enough.” I don’t want them to rely on the Church for their growth as I did, because once I got into college and “Church” wasn’t around or easily accessible, I really floundered. I want them to find that Rock at an early age. But don’t we all want that for our children?
- Don’t worry, I’m starting this in very small steps, both for my children’s sake and mine! We have small children, so we are currently focusing on basic tasks. (One day, I’ll go into much more detail on this topic) Praying before bedtime, starting our day with a hymn (Right now this is a silly cheerful rendition of “This is the Day” in Spanish that I wake them up with in the morning), reading Bible stories out of our toddler Bibles.
- Incorporating Bible lessons into behavior lessons. When we had problems with obeying and disobeying, we pulled out the story of Jonah and how he disobeyed God, and the consequences of his actions. When we wanted to learn about being a helper, we read about Miriam and how she helped her Mommy by watching over Baby Moses in the basket. At this stage in our kids’ lives, we’re talking basic. But I pray that this will feed into their lives as they grow up, how the Bible applies to their daily life as well.
- Bible verse memorization. I know, this is always what my parents relied on the Church to teach. But, because of how much we move around, I just can’t count on their being a strong children’s Sunday School program at whatever Church is available to us. So, my husband and I have made the decision that we must take over the responsibility for this ourselves. And I’ve come to believe is that this is how it should be. We have just begun using two books from Scripture Memory Fellowship, Bible Forget Me Nots and ABC Memory Book. I can’t tell you how much my 4- and 2-year-old have taken to this! They-LOVE-it. They are so proud of being able to memorize these verses, and I am astonished at how amazing they are at it! (I like this program because it comes with rewards you can give your children as they complete sections of the books.)
- Do it. This is my hardest one, and this is where I’m really struggling right now. I just have to make myself do it. That’s what it boils down to. If I believe this is my priority in life, and I want my girls to believe that, I have to practice what I preach. And oh, gosh, is it hard.
- Do it first. This has been something that has been hammered into my head since the beginning of the year. As my preacher said on Sunday, if you leave it ’til last, ’til everything is done, ’til the end of the day, then what you are doing is giving Christ your leftovers. Isn’t that harsh? But yet, so true. And still, if I leave it until a,b, or c gets done, well, I never get to it and it never gets done. So, while I might not be getting up at 5am to do it, I do push myself to do it first in my day. Before I even sit down to write my to-do list. I’ve found if I write my to-do list first, then I stress and worry all during my prayer time about getting things done.
- Do it all day long. As I’ve progressed in the past few months, I’ve found that I’m getting closer to living in that “state of continual prayer.” The place where I want to be. The place where I can stop in the middle of a chore (like that laundry that still needs to be flipped) and just pray for whatever is on my heart. I’m not there yet, and it’s definitely not a habit thing yet, but I’m working on it.
I hope these ideas help you work on it too.