Good Words

Web Site: Wing Clips – free inspirational movie clips from a wide range of films

Article: How a pastor and a faith played a role in Jackie Robinson breaking the baseball color barrier.

Video: 60 Minutes visits the sacred Mt. Athos

Tweet: @louiegiglio Just in case my tweets give you the impression I’m always “all-together” spiritually, that’s not an accurate picture of me…

Best of Christian Life Hacker: Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

Since the past month and a half has been pretty intense here on Christian Life Hacker, I thought it might be good to revisit some of the posts that epitomize the Christian Life Hacker faith style.  This post talks about how passive barriers can derail our spiritual life and how to overcome them:

Removing Barriers To Spiritual Growth

I have recently come across some personal finance articles that discuss how passive barriers prevent people from making effective choices with their money. A passive barrier is an inconvenience in our life that makes doing what we know we need to do more difficult.

For example, the other day I was going to workout during my lunch break but I forgot to bring a change of socks and since I dreaded to spend the rest of the day with sweaty dress socks, I said forget it. At our house, we never seem to have stamps when we need them and so things that need to be mailed often sit for days because we are too lazy or forgetful about picking up more stamps.

Spiritual examples in my life includes times when I didn’t feel like walking to the other side of the house to find my Bible; times I didn’t feel like taking the extra fifteen seconds to say a prayer with my kids before going to bed; or how meaningless internet activity seems to crowd out the opportunity to send an encouraging email to a friend.

Here are three easy steps to remove passive barriers from your life:

1. Track your life. For one day, pay attention to your most common routines. Is the first place you go to in the morning your coffee pot? Do you spend the majority of your day in front of a computer? Do you enjoy sitting on your back porch each evening? Track your routines and start strategically placing spiritual materials in these locations. I know of people who write scripture verses on bathroom mirrors using dry erase markers. I read of one couple who found a shower curtain with a map of the world on it so they would continually pray for the world. Place your Bible next to your computer or on your dinner table. Make it convenient to read.

2. Tell others. I am constantly trying new diets, exercise plans, and spiritual practices but I never bother to tell my wife what I am doing. Then I get annoyed with her when she messes up my plans or activities. How was she supposed to know what I was doing? By telling others that you are trying to remove passive barriers to your spiritual life, they can help you by not putting your Bible away when they are straightening up or not turning on the TV when they know you are trying to spend a few quiet moments in prayer.

3. Make a God spot. I talked about this idea last week but I think it is a great way of removing passive barriers. When you set a particular location as where you go daily for prayer or scripture reading you are developing a habit that will trigger spiritual activities and thoughts about God. Don’t be ashamed if your God spot changes; I can think of three locations in our house that I have used as a God spot.

Don’t start this week by letting the slightest things keep you from spending time with God. Make a few simple changes and let God have a more prominent place in your life.

Best of Christian Life Hacker: Eliminate to Illuminate

Since the past month and a half has been pretty intense here on Christian Life Hacker, I thought it might be good to revisit some of the posts that epitomize the Christian Life Hacker faith style.  This post makes the point that change starts with cutting out distractions:

Eliminate to Illuminate

If I am not careful, my stack of books to be read can grow by the day. I have never met an interesting website that I didn’t want to subscribe to. If I enjoy a blog or writer I am never satisfied with reading just a few things by them, I have to read their entire body of work. If I find a workout or nutrition program interesting, I want to follow it to the letter even though half of what is being asked doesn’t apply to me or requires too much money or time. Call me obsessive compulsive, a nerd, or even crazy, but what it really comes down to is that I consistently and foolishly think that I can add infinitely more to my life and that somehow that is a good thing.

The truth is, the only effective way to change is by first eliminating all that is a distraction, a burden, or time waster. No one followed Jesus without sacrificing something, maybe even something that was good. Even if we have many Godly things in our lives or Church activities that fill our schedule, we may need to cut some of these things out of our lives so that we can make room for God in an intentional way.

Over the last few years, I have stopped following every sport that showed up on Sports Center and streamlined the teams and events that I will let myself get fanatical about. I have tried to keep the list of books that I am reading at one time down to two so that I can take notes and fully consider what I am reading. I have stopped checking email obsessively and have become okay with emails gathering in my inbox or going unanswered. I no longer feel the need to read a magazine from cover to cover. I have been known to take whole months and devote them to one area of interest or activity instead of being thinned out by trying to keep up with multiple interests.

I mention all of this to possibly help you realize that if you have visions of including more prayer in your life, or reading through entire chapters of the Bible, or being more consistent with your Spiritual Enrichment Workout, you are going to have to eliminate something that you currently do. Piling on things to your already busy schedule cannot be sustained and will only lead to frustration and guilt.

Best of Christian Life Hacker – Quiet Time Has Got To Go

Since the past month and a half has been pretty intense here on Christian Life Hacker, I thought it might be good to revisit some of the posts that epitomize the Christian Life Hacker faith style. This is one of the first post from back in December:

Quiet Time Has Got To Go

I have a confession to make. I don’t have a quiet time. That’s right, the standard for evangelical spiritual growth is not in my vocabulary. Not because I dislike the idea of having a time of the day set aside for being quiet but because the term “quiet time” has turned into something powerless and reeks of church speak (terms that have very little meaning outside the church).

I am sorry, but my time spent talking to, listening to, and learning about God and his kingdom needs a term that packs a little more punch than “quiet time”. This term sounds like something I would do to my daughters to punish them or settle them down before bed.

Also, for anyone who has grown up in the church, the term has been used so frequently and with such “preachiness” that it instantly conjures up feelings of guilt in individuals who have failed to live up to all the requirements of a ‘quiet time’ (at least 15 minutes, first thing in the morning, chapter a day, etc.). I don’t know if I can come up with a better term, but the one that I have started using is “Spiritual Enrichment”.

To me, the term Spiritual Enrichment accomplishes two things. First, it helps explain the goal of the activity – to grow, to be enriched, improved. Second, it reminds us that what we are doing during this time is a spiritual activity and not just a time when we try to be alone with our Bible open. We are spiritual beings, that is part of the life that God breathed into us in the Garden of Eden and later at Pentecost. Evangelicals get nervous when talk turns too spiritual but denying our non-physical side is denying what makes humans unique and what made God so proud in creating us.

So, on this blog at least we will not use the term “quiet time” but will replace the idea with the term Spiritual Enrichment. I am not sold on this term so if anyone else has an idea on what we can call it please let me know.

Final Thoughts on Apprenticeship With Jesus

We have completed the 30-day challenge of working through the book Apprenticeship With Jesus: Learning To Live Like The Master by Gary W. Moon. I have a few more things to share about what I learned through this activity. Thank you for sticking with me through this as you may have felt disjointed if you were not reading along with me. Here are my thoughts:

1. Apprentices are with their Master – I cannot be an apprentice of Jesus if I am not willing be with him, drawing near to him, and observing him. The thing is, I can’t be with Jesus physically, like his original disciples, so how do I go about being with Jesus? Prayer is a good way to be with Jesus. Also, spending time alone with Jesus so that you can listen to his voice. But you have to live your life and you can’t be reclusive, meditating on Jesus all day. This is where scripture memorization comes in. If I can memorize a part of scripture, then I can recite the scripture to myself throughout the day, inviting Christ to be with me in whatever I am doing. Today, I am trying to memorize Romans 5:1.

2. Telling others about what God is doing – My spiritual life is obviously important to me but sometimes I find myself living what Parker Palmer calls a “divided life”. This is where what is important in my heart does not translate to my more public life. Since beginning this study, I have found myself more open to show and tell people that I am an apprentice of Jesus and I am seeking to be Christlike in all that I do.

3. Being accountable – This kind of goes along with #2. Because I am prone to being a loner and experience much of my spiritual life by myself,  I find myself cutting corners and taking the easy way out of challenging aspects of spiritual growth. Through the process of chronicling my experiences with Apprenticeship, I had a built-in accountability process that forced me to ask tough questions about what I was truly dealing with and what was working and what was not. I need to find more ways to keep myself accountable to others. This blog helps but I can still manufacture some things that portray me in a certain light. I need to be more authentic in my approach to this blog and in other efforts.

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 30

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus by Gary W. Moon. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 30:  The Best Way To Apprentice Others

–   Jesus’ focus is on product development – produce people whose hearts truly are renovated and the world will want in.

–  Do the best job at producing what everyone craves

– The best way to do outreach is to do an outstanding job of inreach

– The best way to apprentice others is to be a passionate apprentice

I am a firm believer that American Christianity lacks personal models of apprenticeship. We see, in our churches, a brand of Christianity that is reasonable and rational; a brand of Christianity that lacks sacrifice, surrender, and dedication. We need more models of Christians who are earnestly seeking renovation of their spiritual life. We need more examples of what it looks like to be Christlike in the 21st century. The norm in our churches does not need to be the status quo because that is not working. The norm needs to be a collection of people whose lives are being daily impacted by the work of Jesus Christ.

Apprentice Activity: A Final Assessment

–  Step 1: Apprentices are with him, learning to be like him. – In what ways are you with Jesus?

– Step 2: Apprentices are being immersed at all levels of growth in the presence of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. – How do you experience God as your Father, teacher, and healer? What differences has these experiences made in your life?

– Step 3: Apprentices begin to act like Christ because they are becoming like him through inward transformation. – What personal changes have you seen that can be attributed to inward transformation?

– Read Colossians 3: 1-17 and then ponder verse 16 –  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

I love Colossians 3:16 and have used it has a guide to some of the ministry attempts that I have been involved in. I like to teach but I want to make sure that I teach the ‘message of Christ’ and not my own. I want this message to be such a part of my own life that it just spills out on every other aspect of my life. And then to be able to teach with wisdom that comes from rich sources just sounds so appealing to me.

What is Jesus teaching me? The Easter story just reminds me how weak I am and this has been confirmed in some of my daily encounters. Judas, Peter,the sleeping disciples, the enraged crowd, the Pharisees, and Thomas all just seem so weak and limited in their ability to handle tough situations and I know that I would have been right there along with them. But then to hear Jesus from the cross say, “Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing,” just overwhelms me. What care, compassion, and mercy is shown by Jesus on the cross. It leaves me breathless. My limitations next to the immensity of Jesus’ love puts my life in proper perspective. I should be on my knees daily in humble praise for my Savior.

Have you ever measured up your limitations next to Jesus? What about the Easter story affects you the most?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 29

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus by Gary W. Moon. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 29:  Becoming A Master Craftsman: It’s All About The Vim and Vigor

–   VIM is an acronym created by Dallas Willard in his book, Renovation of the Heart. V stands for Vision, I stands for Intention, and M stands for Means. Willard calls this a “reliable pattern of change” that can be found in virtually all successful programs working on changing patterns of behavior such as AA or Weight Watchers. I have used VIM in changes involving fitness, career, and spiritual matters.

–  Baltimore Catechism – “Why did God make me? God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him and to be happy with him forever.”

This comes from a posts I published on Jan. 24 regarding the VIM pattern: From 2002-2006, my wife and I did intense work at an inner city ministry. Leah ran the kitchen and I volunteered with various ministries and efforts. One thing that I tried to do was meet with some of the men who had recently become followers of Christ. We tried to meet a couple of times a month to read scripture and learn more about what it means to follow Jesus. As so often happens, our meetings kind of fizzled out and we were not meeting regularly. A few months later, one of the guys, who I had not seen in several months, came back around and reminded me of some of the things that he learned from our small group. This guy was barely literate but the one thing that he remembered was the VIM pattern of change.

Apprentice Activity: Personal VIM Statement

–  Use the following questions to help form a personal VIM statement:

Vision – What can you envision yourself becoming through the renovation of your heart into Christlikeness?

Intention – Have you decided that your vision of your transformed self is important enough that you will do whatever it takes to see it become a reality?

Means – What tools and practices can you begin using to help achieve change? Are their items to read? Classes to take? Church ministries to be involved in?

– Read Colossians 3: 1-17 and then ponder verse 15 –  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

More from my VIM post from Jan. 24: Why is intention so important? We all can see ourselves changed and are well aware of the means that are out there for achieving the change but until we have made a firm decision that our changed self is worth pursuing then the means will do us no good. I can think back in my own life when efforts to change failed and point to a lack of intention as the culprit.

What is Jesus teaching me? That God answers prayer. I can think of two instances in the past few days where I prayed for something specific and my prayers were answered. I have tried over the last year to pay more attention to how God answers my prayers and to thank him for his answer. I am oblivious, or too self absorbed, most of the time to recognize that God has indeed answered my prayer. O Lord, may you open my eyes to all of the ways that you are providing for me, protecting me, and making your presence known.

What answers to prayer have you noticed over the last several weeks? How would you rate your ability to recognize God’s work in your life? What could you do to be more aware of God’s action in your life?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 28

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus by Gary W. Moon. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 28:  Eating A Balanced Diet: Six Streams of Christian Spirituality

–   There are six great Christian traditions and their emphasis can be traced back to Jesus and his practices. The six traditions are: Contemplative (prayer filled life), Holiness (virtuous life), Charismatic (spirit empowered life), Social Justice (compassionate life), Evangelical (Word filled life), and Incarnational (sacramental life).

–  Just as we need a balanced nutritional diet, we also need a balanced spiritual diet drawing from all of the traditions.

I came across the idea of the six great traditions about ten years ago when I was just beginning this spiritual formation quest. Richard Foster’s book Streams of Living Water details how a believer in Christ should cultivate all of the traditions and not just the one that they are most familiar with based upon their spiritual heritage or personal tendencies. Each tradition has a great gift to offer Christians and it has enriched my life to not only cultivate all of the traditions but to learn about them and how God has impacted the world through them. You will not be able to have a full Christian spiritual life if you do not have an understanding of  the life changing power of all the traditions.

Apprentice Activity: Eating a Balanced Diet

–  {I am going to modify Moon’s activity a bit for the purpose of this blog} Visit this site set up by the Renovare organization. Click on each of the six traditions and read the brief summary of the tradition.

– As you read the descriptions of each tradition, find the two that you least identify with and read one of the additional articles provided under that tradition. If any ideas or activities are mentioned for that tradition, make a decision to practice those this week.

– Read Colossians 3: 1-17 and then ponder verse 14 –  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

In this section of the book, Moon provides a scale, along with a description, for each of the traditions. The reader is asked to identify on a scale of 1-5 where they fall for that particular tradition. Surprisingly, based on the descriptions given, my two lowest scores were for the Evangelical tradition and the Social Justice tradition. I say surprisingly because I come from an Evangelical background and have spent many hours in a Social Justice ministry. Still, the emphasis on Bible reading in the Evangelical tradition is something that I struggle with and could improve upon; and the intentional acts of service to those less fortunate is something I often do not make time for. I am going to seek out ways to work on these two areas.

What is Jesus teaching me? There is just so much to learn. No wonder the disciples seem so dull and out of it half the time. They were having to learn so much in such a short amount of time that they missed the mark on some key items along the way. I am learning to be patient with my growth and to be in expectation as to what grand things I will be able to learn next. Frustration and impatience is not going to make me more like Christ. Trust and patience is the best approach to spiritual formation.

Do you ever think that you are making little progress with your spiritual life? Do you believe that the Holy Spirit is working around you and drawing you towards Christ?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 27

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 27:  The Need To Slow Down: Hurry is The Devil

–   “Hurry is not of the devil, hurry is the devil” – Carl Jung

–  All of life happens in the present moment.

–  “One of the greatest enemies to Jesus is service to Jesus. If you are not experiencing your yoke as easy and your burden as light, then you are bearing some other burden, but not the burden of Christ.” – Dallas Willard

– Jesus was never in a hurry

Our society has apparently determined that the present is not worth living. If we are always in a hurry then we are always living outside the present. James Bryan Smith says that, “In every waking hour a sacred theater is in session, played out before an audience that is largely blind.” Through hurry, we constantly miss what God is doing in our lives and in our world.

Apprentice Activity: Sleep, Play, Then Work

 Each week has 168 hours. There are equal amounts of time for sleep, play, and work

Map out your schedule to include 112 hours for sleep and recreation. That still leaves you 56 hours for work.

– Read Colossians 3: 1-17 and then ponder verse 13 – Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

I dislike this use of numbers to show that we have 56 hours a week for work and 112 hours for sleep and play. It makes life seem so doable and just a matter of scheduling and being intentional. On paper, we can make just about anything look doable. What is more important to me is how these three things work in conjunction with one another. How more sleep leads to better work and more enjoyable play or how working well leads to play that is free and relaxed. I need energy to work well. Where will this energy come from? It could come from a good night’s sleep or from play that removes stress and clears the mind. I am all for more sleep and more play but I need to pay more attention to how these three things interact.

What is Jesus teaching me? In Matthew 12: 46-50, Jesus got an urgent message that his mother and brothers were waiting for him and calling for him. Instead of rushing off to tend to his family, Jesus took that moment to teach his followers what it means be part of the family of God. Earlier, Jesus is asked by Jairus to heal his daughter but along the way the women with the bleeding problem touches his clothes and Jesus stops his mission to heal the young girl so that he could impact the life of another (Mark 5:21-43). Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach, heal, or minister. He was completely in the present moment. In my life, I am usually replaying in my mind things that have already happened or forecasting what will happen later. I know that I can live more in the present because that is the only place where I can experience God.

How often do you live in the present? What are some things that keep you from living in the present?

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 26

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Books and Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 26:  Working With The Proper Light

–   “Let it be the most important thing we do, then, to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ” – Thomas a’Kempis

– “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen

–  “I believe that apprentices to Jesus are learning to work in and with the light that comes pouring through the brokenness in their lives.”

Our youngest daughter, Joy, was born with a cleft lip and a cleft palate. As she has grown older we have also discovered that she has other medical issues such as scoliosis, strabismus, and a hernia. All of these conditions have required surgery or extensive care. Both my wife and I have suffered as we seek to care for her and help with her development. We have had moments where we have cried out to God and wondered if there was much more that we could take. Though it has been rough, I can tell you that we both have grown closer to God and that we have learned very valuable lessons such as trust, prayer, and sacrifice. God really does shine through the cracks in our life.

Apprentice Activity: Working With the Proper Light

–  Read verses that refer to Jesus as light: John 8:12; John 12:46; Matt. 17:12 

– Read verses that refer to us as “children of light”: John 12:36; Eph. 5:8; I Thess. 5:5

– Find a song or singer that puts you in touch with some element of emotional pain in your life. Let the song play several times.

– Invite God to shine through the cracks

– Make Eph. 5:8 your prayer for the day.

– Read Colossians 3: 1-17 and then ponder verse 12 –  12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Why do people like sad movies? My mom only seems to enjoy a movie that makes her cry and I only seem to enjoy songs that are about loss and pain. The chapter today talks about the cracks in our lives being the space where God’s light shines through. Maybe that is what is going on with me when I listen to a sad song. Perhaps the song is touching a part of me that only God can truly reach and my soul is searching for the light of God by drawing me towards these emotional songs.

If you want to hear a playlists of some of my favorite sad and emotional songs you can go here. Notice how a few songs discuss pain and hope in God at the same time. These are some of my favorite themes in a song lyric.

What is Jesus teaching me? I want to make this week special. I want to be intentional about recognizing and celebrating Holy Week. I am anxious to pursue some other things to read and discover but I am holding back so that this week, I can give more of my attention to thinking about Jesus and his sacrifice for me.

Why does there seem to be more of an enthusiasm from Christians over Christmas rather than Easter? What do you do to practice Holy Week?