Monday, August 23, 2010

Memory Book

On our honeymoon in South Haven, we stumbled upon this collection of books in MacDonald's Drug Store along the main street:

These are from the Write It Down! Journals series, and they are pretty amazing for keeping track of whatever you might want! I found out that there are 63 titles (thanks to Desperately Seeking Deals, also previous picture source), with topics ranging from vacations, pets, dieting, and devotions, to name a few!

The journal that Peter got me is called "Memories: Our Family Journal."
I really like the format: On one side of the page is a spot for who is writing the entry and the date, and then the rest of that side of the page is divided between these 6 prompts: "News/Weather/Happenings & Events:", "Today I/We:", "Good things that happened to me/us today:", "I/we are looking forward to (Plans):", "My/Our concerns are:", and "Special thoughts, favorite moments, ideas:". At first I was using them a lot, and now I just write and use them as a suggestion. The back of the page has just this prompt, "Family Notes:" so it is just a page for writing whatever you want. 

The amazing thing is that Peter and I have worked together (him reminding me and giving me the awesome incentive of new pens for being consistent with it) and I have written at least a sentence every time I've written in what we call our "Memory Book"! To my credit, I only wrote less than a paragraph when I had gotten behind and was catching up on 3 or more days in one setting. I write about what we do, where we went, who we saw, and sometimes the weather and what we eat--mostly just "details" of the day, rather than my moods, thoughts, or opinions (those mostly end up here as blog posts I suppose!). I am proud to say that as of yesterday I have written for every day since our wedding! 

I'm hoping that eventually I can turn some of our more eventful days into blog posts so you can get more of a glimpse into my life, especially now that I will be able to flip through the pages and easily remember our adventures!

Do you keep a journal? If so, what kind of journal is it?

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Friday, August 20, 2010

ACTS Prayer

Wow! I can't believe how much time has passed since I last updated. There isn't the nice satisfaction of posting a blog post to the internet when you write a post in word first, so the incentives to write have been a little less apparently! (Not to mention I'm pretty busy!)

As I promised in the last post, I am going to cover the ACTS pattern for prayer, that I was first introduced to in the book "Too Busy Not To Pray." I have been writing out all my prayers that I use with this pattern and it has been helpful for staying focused and it is cool to look back on what I'm talking to God about!

To begin your time in prayer, you start with Adoration.  This is when you praise God for who He is and the great things He does. A suggestion for inspiration on this topic is reading some of the many praise chapters in Psalms. Personally I've noticed that meditating and declaring how holy God is really helps me focus in on His glory and truly adore Him. Often I find my self writing or saying "You are Holy, Holy, Holy!" over and over again, and I often get that feeling of being in the presence of something truly awe-inspiring when I focus this way, which is amazing.

Next is Confession. In the book Hybels emphasis how powerful it is to be specific with your confessions and how it can help you truly change faster. (As Hybels says, it gets old real fast to repent of the same sin a few days or weeks in a row and that can help you be aware and work on changing!) For example, rather than saying, "I am sorry for not treating my husband well yesterday," you should name the fault--"I'm sorry for speaking sharply to my husband and putting my comfort before his needs." It has really helped me be more honest with myself and with God and to be more aware of my actions.

After confession, comes Thanksgiving. I love thanking God, so this one often slips into my prayers in the other categories too. =) It is so powerful and helps me acknowledge my blessings when I thank God for all the great things he is doing in my life! Hybels took all of his areas of life and found that they could fit into four areas in which he could give thanks: answered prayers, spiritual blessing, relational blessing, and material blessing. A cool testimony here is that within the first few days of following this pattern, I had prayed for Peter to get more private lessons students. Since then, he has had 2 more people out of the blue sign up for private lessons, and 4 more have said they are seriously considering starting lessons (and one family said they would refer Peter to another family with 4 kids)! It is so exciting to see God answer prayer!

The last item in this pattern is Supplication. This is when you ask God for whatever is on your heart. Hybels again divided his requests into categories that covered his life. First he prays for his ministry (I call this one ministry/work, so that it covers our jobs as well as our churches and the things we believe God has called us to). Then he prays for people--his friends, important or influential people, or anyone else God has placed on his heart. Next is family, which is pretty self explanatory--your immediate and extend family and their needs, be it provision, salvation, or whatever God leads.

Finally, he prays for his own personal needs. At this point you have adored God and confessed, thanked Him and prayed for others in your life. This approach often changes your perspective and attitude regarding personal requests. I have found it to be excellent and that I pray for more important things in my own life after I have this broader perspective through thinking about how great God is and the needs of others around me first.

I have found that a lot of freedom works better for me when I follow this pattern. At first I would try to write a paragraph for each topic and subtopic, which was really great, but took a lot longer than the 20 minutes I'm trying to do every morning before work. So when I have more time, I do a longer prayer, but if I'm short on minutes I simply make sure I hit each point with at least a sentence. I also don't worry as much now about making sure all my "thanks," for example, stay in the thanksgiving spot. I'm treating it more like  guidelines rather than a strict form, and it has worked excellently for giving more structure to my prayer time!

Do you have a pattern you follow when you pray? What does your prayer time look like?

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Monday, August 2, 2010

“Too Busy Not To Pray”

Peter and I went to the lovely UP earlier this week to Cedar Campus, a retreat center run by InterVarsity. While we were there we discovered that their book selection is excellent, and we both bought a new book as our “souvenir,” even though they really are more like investments into our lives, rather than a piece to spur nostalgia.

I choose “Too Busy Not To Pray” by Bill Hybels. Whenever I have thought about advancement in my spiritual life for the past year or more, I have been drawn to focused prayer time and the fact I need more of it in my life. Though I have taken small steps in the past to pursue this, I really haven't done much since I graduated and got married—for the understandable (but not excusable) reason that wedding preparation tends to swallow your entire schedule! In the past month, of course, life truly hasn't slowed down at all. I have felt too busy to pray as much as I feel like I should, so this book seemed like a good place to start.

Let me tell you, it has been a fantastic place to start! This book in one word: solid. Currently I am almost halfway through it, and I have learned so much about prayer and been so encouraged to push into it more!

The first three chapters are all about God—how He is the God of peace and power, how He is willing to answer our prayers, and how He is able to answer our prayers. They really set the stage for entering into prayer with the right foundational ideas in place, and I was so encouraged by his testimonies and the scriptural truths Hybels shared.

The next three chapters, which is where I am, are about the actual act of prayer—the importance of building good prayer habits, “Praying like Jesus” (an outline of the Lord's Prayer), and finally, “A Pattern for Prayer” which has been the most impacting so far personally. I have been learning practical ways to pray and to stay focused. One of the biggest things that struck me is the fact that if we want to get good at something we must make it nonnegotiable, and we must exercise good habits to obtain it. For example, take exercising or eating well—if we slack off at any point and/or don't have a solid structure for obtaining our goals, they don't happen. If we can't get fit without a structured schedule, its isn't likely we can pray powerfully and consistently without structure in our prayer life.

A specific pattern for structure in prayer that Hybels shares about is called ACTS. Because it was so helpful and impacting, I'm going to share in more detail about it in an upcoming post. For now though, have you read anything recently that encouraged you in your prayer life?

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