Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Prayer

One idea that has helped me with prayer more than almost any other comes from a Norwegian Christian named Ole Hallesby.

In his classic book, simply called Prayer, I first encountered this idea:

"Prayer is simply helplessness combined with faith."

Hallesby says more to help us understand this simple, yet profound truth:

"Prayer and helplessness are inseperable. Only those who are helpless can truly pray."

"Your helplessness is your best prayer."

"Prayer is for the helpless."

I so often find myself facing things - either internal issues of the heart, or external circumstances - about which  I feel very, very helpless. And so often I don't know how to pray; don't even know what to pray. And then I remember Hallesby's admonition that it is this very helplessness that opens the door to prayer. I just need to combine that helplessness with faith the size of a tiny mustard seed and then offer my concerns to God. And trust He will hear and respond.

Now, anyone can do that!

What is it you feel most helpless about today? Know that your helpless feelings are the very heart of prayer ... they are one of the very profound ways in which God uses our weakness to demonstrate his strength.

Helplessness + Faith = Prayer

That is a math equation I will actually make use of my whole life!

Distractions ...

I have been noticing lately that I am much more distracted than normal. My mind seems to wander in ways that it never used to. I am having a harder time focusing on one thing for an extended period of time. And I am fairly confident this has nothing to do with turning 50 this summer.

For instance, I sit down to read and within minutes I find my mind wandering away from what I am reading and almost without conscious thought I step away from the book and am checking my e-mail, making a pot of coffee, or throwing a load of laundry in.

Or, I am watching television and am checking and re-checking my phone during the entire show or movie in case I might be missing something exciting that someone might want to tell me about online. Seriously?

Or, I am working on a teaching and find that I need to keep a notepad next to my computer in order to record all the tangential thoughts that keep pinging around in my mind while I am working.

I  have a feeling I am not alone in this.

I remember reading that our brains are being rewired to expect, and even desire distractions. We have become accustomed to being constantly interrupted by a link, a video, a notification of a new e-mail, so much so that our brains have simply come to expect and look forward to these interruptions.

I am not a technology basher. But I do want to stay awake to how I am living. And what I am noticing is disconcerting to me.

So I am engaging in a little exercise, which I hope may re-train my brain to stay focused for an extended period of time when I am attending to or working on things that matter. Let's say I am sitting down to read. Once I start, I set a timer for 30 minutes, and I simply refuse to get up and attend to other things during that time. My mind still tries to interrupt me ... "Check your e-mail!" "Google that piece of information you want!" "Get up and get a piece of gum!" but I simply refuse to give in. I stay focused for 30 minutes, no matter what. And after that 30, I take a little break, and start again.

This re-training practice will help me stay focused when I sit down to read and reflect on the Scriptures. I want to be able to be focused enough to hear God speak to me; to hear his words through His Word. I want to stay with a passage of Scripture or a set of passages long enough that I can plumb the depths of its meaning, or meditate on how it might intersect with my life. I can't do these kinds of things if I am constantly distracted.

I don't know if this will work. I tried it yesterday, using my phone for a timer, and within 30 seconds I got a text from one of my kids and then one from my husband, and I told myself , "I'll just check this one text ..." and before you know it I was in a full-blown texting party with my family.

So, I will try again today. I want a mind that can focus on the most important things. I don't want to give up that ability for something as shallow and relatively meaningless as spam e-mails or the next ice-bucket challenge video on Facebook ...

What if?

I've spent all day working on my teaching for the upcoming & Women's Conference at Orchard -- Rise and Shine Women's Retreat --  and I am just filled to overflowing right now with God's good heart toward his creatures. I am filled to overflowing with the knowledge of how much he wants for us ... and how very often we refuse his good gifts.

In some of my reading today, I came across this little bit of writing from David Whyte and it just struck me to the core with its painful truth:

“Sometimes reading … I look out at everything growing so wild and faithfully beneath the sky and wonder why we are the one terrible part of creation privileged to refuse our flowering.” (David Whyte)

What if we simply did nothing except refuse to "refuse our flowering?"

What might our lives look like then?

Poems

This poem by Mary Oliver pretty much describes my morning:

Just Rain

The clouds did not say soon, but who can tell for sure,

it wasn't the first time I had been fooled; the sky-doors opened and the rain began

to fall upon all of us: the grass, the leaves, my face, my shoulders,

and the flowered body of the pond where it made its soft unnotational music

on the pond's springy surface, and then, the birds joined in and I too felt called toward such throat praise.

Well, the whole afternoon went on that way until I thought I could feel the almost born things

in the earth rejoicing.

As for myself, I just kept walking, thinking:

once more I am grateful to be present.

(From Evidence,  a book of poems by Mary Oliver that my children gave me for my 50th birthday)

 I try to read poems often, and I especially enjoy poems that I can understand, that I can read without working too hard. I find they often speak to my soul in ways that other types of writing can't.

I especially love Mary Oliver's poems, and I enjoy a book of poems that Garrison Keillor edited, simply entitled Good Poems.

Give poems a try!  You just might like them!