Among the sermon topic requests I received for the summer preaching were several requests relating to prayer, deepening one’s faith and deepening one’s discipleship. It’s too big a topic for one sermon. So I’ll also share some things that help me via this blog.
Begin each day with a centering phrase. I have found that saying a centering phrase over and over first thing in the morning helps me begin the day with centeredness and balance. Some mornings I wake up feeling stressed and pressed. Maybe I went to bed the night before feeling anxious, or, years ago, I was awakened by the children several times during the night, or I had a big day coming. But if I say my phrase, “Let me feel your presence, Lord,” over in my mind several times before I get out of bed in the morning, my head feels much clearer, and I feel more positive and less anxious. Choose a phrase the feels right for you and try it.
Pray daily. Prayer is a critical practice when it comes to balance. It is the original, calming practice that Jesus taught and that connects us to God. Prayer calms, refocuses, and provides the spiritual strength we need to find balance in our days. There is no one way or time to pray. I say quick prayers in the morning; I use driving time to talk with God; I set aside time in the office; and I pray at night after the lights are out. Find your own routine. And remember that prayer includes listening for God.
Care for your body. God has given you one body for this life. Caring for it allows you to do your work and to care for others. I haven’t always done this well. Eating healthfully is important. Especially when we are traveling or working hard, we tend not to eat so well, but our diet contributes greatly to our health. Exercise has great rejuvenating effects. When I am feeling stressed and out of balance, even with bad knees, some exercise helps resettle me.
Simplify your life. Jesus had access to all the riches of heaven but chose to live simply and called on his disciples to do the same. Figure out what is most important to you in life and hold on to it dearly. Let the rest go.
Invite the Holy Spirit into each activity. We are at our best when we invite God’s Spirit into each activity of our lives. I try to take a moment to mentally say, “Lord, thank you for this opportunity,” as I work. It’s especially helpful when I get the unanticipated phone call or drop in conversation. Thinking of the routines of life as spiritual practices can make these moments sacred and can allow us to be more fully present with people at work, or with children and spouses, rather than viewing routines as obligations one has to get through.
Praying the bulletin. I take a bulletin home with me after church and keep one in the office. At home, at least a few times a week, I read the prayer of confession at the end of the day and ask God to help me be better tomorrow. Daily, often at the office, I will read the calendar and announcements. I will say a prayer that God help our plans go well. I also lift a prayer of thanks for the people involved in projects and events.
Take a break each evening before bed. There is an old saying, “Don’t go to bed angry.” I think we should add, “Don’t go to bed right after doing work.” When I have worked or read and studied late into the evening, I have had trouble sleeping and didn’t give myself enough time for sleep. However, I got to the point where I knew I needed more sleep. I decided to put a limit on my evening work or work-related reading. My grandfather used to say, “This is enough for today. That’s what the good Lord made tomorrow for.” I take a break, admittedly a shorter one on nights with evening meetings.
These practices have made a difference for me. I am not perfect in following them, but when I stick with them I find them most helpful. Annie Dillard said, “How you spend your days is how you spend your life.” If we add some healthy spiritual habits to each day of our lives, we will find that those practices and the disciplines that flow from them will bring us greater health, spiritual and physical.
Rev. Bill Schram began his ministry with Westminster in March 2018 and is the current Interim Minister. Bill attended McCormick seminary in Chicago and met his wife Jenny there. They have served as co-pastors and in separate positions. He has served churches in urban, near suburb, small town, county seat towns in various positions such as pastor, associate pastor, interim pastor, and hospital chaplain. He and Jenny have two natural and one foster daughter. Delightfully, they now have a granddaughter to enjoy.