Monday, August 24, 2009


My new non-fiction book is Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?, by Philip Yancey. In this book he promises to explore whether prayer changes us, God or both. Is God listening? Why should God care about me? Why do prayers go unanswered? Does prayer matter?

I was particularly drawn to this book because I so desire to be a pray-er, yet I struggle so much with it. I go through periods of regular, consistent prayer and then I'll go through a period of very little prayer. Even so, when I am regularly praying I still feel ineffective, stupid, and like I'm basically talking to myself. Fortunately for me (?), Yancey says that most people feel this way.

I want to pray. I want to talk with God. I want to hear from God. But I guess I struggle because I feel like I don't know how to do any of these. I grew up with this prayer: God, be with... In the last few years I've wondered what that means? What does it mean to ask God to "be with" someone? I avoid that phrase as much as possible and now I ask people for specific things to pray for (I guess thats also just me - I have a difficult time dealing in generalities rather than specifics). Sometimes I feel like this presents an awkward situation - like I'm digging for more information or gossip about a person or his/her situation... oh well, at some point I have to get over worrying about what other people *might* be thinking about me and just be me.

Anyway, I want to pray. I want to be aware of God throughout the day and not just during my designated prayer time in the morning. I struggle with that as well - and I even pray about it! Somehow, my mind ends up shutting that out throughout the day. Why? Bugs me - a lot.

I've read the first four chapters of this book and here are some things/quotes that have stood out to me so far:
"We can hardly pray with sincerity, 'Give us this day our daily bread' when the pantry is stocked with a month's supply of provisions."

"...the Lord of the universe has many things to manage, and in the midst of my self-pity I would do well to comtemplate for a moment God's own point of view." This is basically what God reminded Job of. Yancey sites this as an example of how we need to see ourselves from God's point of view - we need to remind ourselves that we are not the center of the universe with everything revolving around us... we are but a tiny speck in the midst of it all. This view brings us a sense of humility - not groveling, self-hate - that is necessary for prayer.

"For most of us... prayer brings no certain confirmation we have been heard. We pray in faith that our words somehow cross a bridge between visible and invisible worlds, penetrating a reality of which we have no proof." I feel this - a lot.

"In order to overcome self-deception, I need God's all-knowing help in rooting out hidden offenses like selfishness, pride, deceit, lack of compassion." This is definitely something I need help with - I think of myself as a good person and actually have a hard time identifying my specific sins rather than acknowledging my sinful nature. I have been working hard at the practice of confession, trying to confess specifics rather asking for a blanket covering (although as Kim and I discussed last time she was here - I hedge my bets and do both:)

Yancey discusses what happens when one has a shallow relationship with another person - it ends up fading or dying off. He also talks about how God wants our authenticity in prayer - the REAL me, not who I think I ought to be. "...unless I level with God - about bitterness over an unanswered prayer, grief over loss, guilt over an unforgiving spirit, a baffling sense of God's absence - that relationship, too, will go nowhere." Ugh. The part that hits me the hardest: God wants the real me rather than who I think I ought to be in his presence. Why is that so hard?

"Who one believes God to be is most accurately revealed not in any credo but in the way one speaks to God when no one else is listening. - Nancy Mairs. That quote took several read-throughs for me to "get it" and now has me thinking about how I talk to God. I wish I talked to God like I talk to Dave or Kim or Cara or Carissa. I don't - how do I get there?

"I have learned to see prayer not as my way of esablishing God's presence, rather as my way of responding to God's presence that is a fact whether or not I can detect it." "God is already present in my life and all around me; prayer offers the chance to attend and respond to that presence." Exactly what I struggle with throughout the day. After reading this, I also realize that I struggle with this during my actual prayer time. I guess there are times that I actually realize God's presence during the day moreso than during my prayer time... seeing the girls learn or see something spectacular for the first time, being awestruck by something in nature, recognizing answered prayer, etc. etc.

"We learn to pray by praying." Ouch. "To begin, I need to think more about God than about myself when I am praying." Double Ouch. Yancey talks about transactional prayers - our wanting God to do stuff for us. So pretty much while I am proud of myself for establishing a regular prayer time (confessing that specific sin: pride), I am humbled by the fact that my prayer time is spent asking God for my perceived needs or wants.

And now I just remembered my reading from I Corinthians 13 this morning: Love thinks of others more than self. How do I become more like this? Less self-absorbed? More other-focused? More God-focused? At a certain level I feel smothered by children, so I feel like I deserve to be self-absorbed about certain things. Like I am owed a personal agenda/schedule and the following through of that rather than anyone else's.

I want to be a person who quietly hopes in the Lord (Lamentations 3:26). Quietly. Hoping. In the Lord.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

August review

1. Run 15 miles in one running session at least once.
Ugh, taking a break was a bad move. I've had a really rough month with running and have gotten pretty discouraged. When I ran by Lake Geneva I felt so good and strong and confident about running. Now I feel very intimidated by every mile. I worked out a training plan and have slightly decreased my mileage in the last couple of weeks. I am doing a long run every other week and am adding a mile each of those times. On the off week I will run 5 miles on Saturday. Today I ran 6 miles and it hurt. I suspect I do not have the right shoes, but I can't afford to buy another pair (just bought these this month). Next week I will run 7 miles (I'm doing a long run two weeks in a row because I missed the 6mile run last week because we were out too late on Friday night). If I stick with this training plan, I will run the 15 miler in November.

2. Write one handwritten note each month.
I think I'm doing an okay job on this since I've had a lot of thank you notes to write.

3. Spend the afternoon school time reading a non-fiction book.
My non-fiction book is The Bible Jesus Read, by Philip Yancey. He explores 5 books/sections of the Old Testament - Job, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and The Prophets. I have read Job and Deuteronomy so far. This book is fascinating and I'm loving the fact that it is compelling me to read and dig into the Old Testament. I read Deuteronomy this week - I have never read that book. It is certainly not the book that I thought it was. And there is stuff to learn and take to heart in that book. Basically, reading this book in addition to my personal Bible reading (Jeremiah and Romans) is prompting me to think a lot about who God is and how the God of the OT relates to Jana of 2009.

4. Start the whole flylady thing.
Yeah, I need to restart that. After school begins...

5. Repaint the foyer, front room/dining room, kitchen and family room.
Foyer - done. Kitchen - ceiling, walls and trim painted. My next project is to sand and paint the cabinets. I'm definitely procrastinating on this project since I know it is going to SUCK. In addition, I'm taking the girls to Michigan for almost a week in the middle of the month and I'm hesitant to get started on that project before then. I need to start, I just don't want to - I want it to magically be finished:) Not sure about whether or not the front room/dining room and the family room will be completed by my birthday - not likely, I assume.

6. Go on at least three city adventures with the girls over the summer.
Went to the Museum of Science and Industry in June. We didn't do anything in July. We need to do 2 more between now and school - 3 weeks until school, but 1 of those will be in Michigan. So we need to do 1 each week that we're home. I want to take them to the Lincoln Park Zoo this week. Not sure what the other adventure will be... Maybe the Children's Museum downtown.

7. Take a yoga class.
I've been investigating this a little more. I really, really, REALLY want to take yoga. However the price and the schedule really deter me. I WILL take a 6 week class before my birthday, though.

8. Write in each of the girls' journals at least once a month.
Nope - I still suck about this one.

9. Do a personal Bible study in the morning before all the morning routines begin.
I'm reading Jeremiah and Romans right now and am loving both of them. I've been doing this routine for a few months now (started before school ended) and I now actually look foward to reading the Bible. My bigger issue is remembering that God exists outside of that time... why do I forget that?

10. Do not add any new television shows to my regular watch list.
Doing well on this one since it is summer and if we turn the tv on it is for White Sox baseball.

11. Be consistent with not getting on the computer until my stuff is done.
This hasn't gone well this month. I've spent much too much time playing games instead of cleaning or doing laundry. Generally my house is picked up and my laundry is caught up, but there is no deep cleaning going on.

12. Drink 100 ounces of water on the weekends (total of Saturday and Sunday).
Some weekends are better than others with this goal. When I'm home I'm good. When we're out I'm not. And when we're out I'm drinking wine or beer which makes it worse. Need to continue to be aware of this and remember to do it.

13. Memorize Bible verses.
Had a two-week stretch of not working on my verse - had one picked out, but didn't put any effort into memorizing it. I restarted on Monday. Still very happy that I'm doing this.

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