Thursday, July 27, 2006

Taking Stock

For a few years I’ve been using (in an extremely uneven way) the Franklin Covey system for managing my time. It is an inspired system, what it requires of the user is a great deal of discipline and attention. This is where I find my greatest challenge. I’m not quite disciplined enough to use it effectively, however, I do get some use out of it. One of the elements of the system that is particularly powerful comes from Steven Covey’s work and it is referred to as Sharpening the Saw. This reference begs the story of the two lumberjacks that undertake a challenge to see who can chop the most wood in a given period of time. The first lumberjack dives into the forest with almost reckless abandon and because of his great stamina is able to chop for long periods of time with very little rest. The second lumberjack stopped frequently through the day in full view of the first. At the end of the day, the first lumberjack was crestfallen to discovery that he had lost the competition. In his dismay he confronted the second lumberjack with great skepticism about how he could have won the competition when he was taking frequent breaks. The second lumberjack told the first that his success came from the work of sharpening his axe every time he stopped.

I’ve come to believe that our spiritual disciplines are a “saw sharpening” activity. It is when we take that time during our day, on an ongoing and intentional basis, to connect with God that we keep our edge against the world.

This has been a week of reflection for me. I’m preparing to return for the 4th Week of the 2 Year Academy. I’ve spent time preparing for what it is that God will do in my life next week. Unexpectedly, though, I think I’ve spent more time taking stock of where I am now with everything that God has done in my life thus far in my Academy experience. What I’ve discovered as been somewhat surprising. As I’m beginning to think more about how to share my learning on a broader level in my ministry, I’ve lost my edge for spending personal time with God. I don’t find myself back where I started a year ago, but I can see that point from here. It is much closer than I want to be.

The press of the world and the demands of life, ministry and work are quite insidious. There is always the temptation to be relevant, to be productive and to be obvious in our productivity. In our obsessive need to be seen as productive it is far too easy to lose the edge and far too difficult to value and be intentional about sharpening that edge. I suppose I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn about the discipline of the spiritual life. At the root of this learning is once again the discipline of silence. That has been the missing piece in the first last few weeks. It always seems that there is something that breaks the silence. There is always some need, some idea, some concern, some anxiety, SOMETHING that is insinuating itself into my time of silence. That is the classic problem of the spiritual life. I’ve yet to discover any technology that stems that tide; there is no silver bullet. There is no quick and easy solution. It’s all about learning focus over the long haul and giving up all of the distractions in those moments to God. Let God hold on to them for that moment of silence…if you need them back, I’m sure that God will give them back.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Manna From Heaven

I’ve taken some much needed down time in recent weeks, so I’m a little behind in sharing my journey. While I’ve been down, it has still been a very fruitful time. As I reflected and then wrote in my journal yesterday and interesting image came to mind. I remembered the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert and receiving the gift of manna. The gift of the manna to the Israelites was a daily gift from the God who walked with them and cared for them everyday. Each day the gift was not only the physical sustenance for a wandering people but it was the spiritual fulfillment of the covenant promise of God. Each day’s feeding was the reminder that God was not going to leave them.

I’ve come to find a special place in my heart in this story. It links me powerfully to the reminder of the Lord’s Prayer of God’s sustaining power when we pray “give us this day our daily bread.” It is neither mistake, nor a random inclusion into the prayer when Jesus included this beautiful phrase to His instructive prayer. Whether we are remembering the manna or praying each day for daily bread we are called into remembrance that it is the Providential God that we’ve come to know in Jesus that can and desires to meet our daily needs for life and sustenance.

As I reflect on and pray through my devotions, I’ve come to understand this story in a deeper and more nuanced way. I’m growing more and more into a discipline of daily worship and prayer and more regular journaling and reading in spirituality. I’m beginning to discover that I need to do this not simply because regular practice helps build th