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3 tips for preachers.
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I am also a pastor, and have found the practice of walking prayerfully for one hour each Sunday before our worship gathering helps to relieve my anxiety and focus on Jesus. I have kept this practice for 7 years now, and it has been profound. I look forward to it each week, and plan to continue going forward.
Centering prayer is my life-line to God. It is my gift of time and space to Him. It is me saying, 'You are important to me and I want to spend time with You to get to know you better and on a more intimate level. I enjoy hanging out with you!" God speaks to me most often in small whispers. I find that I can't hear him if my mind is revving at 1000W or whatever that equates to in energy! The external noise drowns out His voice. Centering prayer teaches me to quiet my mind and to slow down my life so that I can redirect my focus to what really matters in life - God. This prayer teaches me to be alert and to pay attention to God's small still voice.
When I lost my thyroid to cancer and wound down physically, I wound down emotionally too. I was empty.
For a decade I had hiked in the coastal mountains almost monthly to solitary places with space to meditate and pray. I will never forget the beauty of the sun setting over the jagged and glaciated peaks, the change of colours at sunset from orange to the darkest indigo; a double rainbow that stretched from one end of the Fraser Valley to the other; the sight of a bear munching berries just 20 feet ahead; all these things nourished the sense of awe in my life.
Without awe, the spirit dries up.
Even when I was in no condition to hike, I knew I needed exposure to things of great beauty and power. Things that went beyond my ability to control. Things that had the ability to inspire.
I have encountered awe in art and in intimacy, in literature, music and in silence.
Though it need not come from the same place for each of us, the experience of awe is life-giving.
I also find that exercise is a "keystone" discipline in my life. While I run or walk briskly, I begin with listening to worship music and scripture then silence as I exercise and pray. When I get home and stretch, I try to silently listen to the Holy Spirit at the same time. I begin my 24 hour Sabbath with a long run or bike ride. Some of my biggest "God Encounters" have been on a trail run.
When I exercise regularly I also eat and sleep better and I am also more likely to say no to TV and social media in favour of spending time with my family. I am more conscious of God throughout the day, too. This results in a healthier ministry life.
The best tools I enjoy is a combination of prayer, meditation, exercise and healthy food choices. Prayer and meditation help keep my life centered on The Lord. I thank Him every day for the blessings He provides in my life. As many people have iterated, meditation is not always easy. I try to take advantage of fitting meditation time in when I have a few moments to myself, rather than trying to force a particular time or schedule. These activities in turn help me to focus on what the important issues are each day versus the many things that are not all that important in the scheme of things. I found this focus worked very well as a parent raising 3 children, as well as in the work environment managing groups of people.
I must admit exercise and better food choices came later in developing my life practices. Both contribute exponentially to my health and positive well being. This is reflected in willingness to pray more for others as well as supporting The Lord's work where He leads
I have over the years collected many Daily Bread which I use for my meditation time. I find that starting with a prayer of thankfulness at the beginning very important. Then while I am doing my devotional, if anyone or anything in my life relates to the passage I am reading I will stop and pray for them or that situation. I also pray at the end of my devotion. Sending out arrow prayers throughout the day keep me centered and at peace.
I cultivated a practice of giving thanks while I drove to work. I would keep the radio off and thank God for the little and big things in my life as I drove along. Most of the time I would not start out with a thankful heart, and I struggled to come up with meaningful things to say. I would look around and say, "Thank you for my car. Thank you for the rain. Thank you for the job I'm going to." But after a minute or two things would begin to flow. It felt good to start my working day reminding myself of what I'd been given.
Nature draws me closer to God. For me, being inside the forest is like being inside a cathedral. One of my favourite things to do is to hike the trails on Grouse mountain. There is something about climbing a mountain that brings me closer to God. You feel like you're in a completely different world and are completely removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is a contemplative experience. Very life giving. A breath of fresh air that clears the mind and gives one a new perspective on life. When this journey is taken with a spiritual friend, the conversation can go to a much deeper level. Incredible ministry takes place on the trails. And healing too. And all it takes is 1h + or - 15min to climb up to the top. What a refreshing way to start the day or to wind down after a busy or particularly stressful day. Just need to remember that it is God the Creator who refreshes you, does the healing and gives you a new perspective on things and not the forest (the creation).
I think spiritual friendship is also a good spiritual discipline. You see and hear the Holy Spirit working through the lives of believing friends.
I find it life-giving to make a time in my day to remind myself of His Grace for me, that it doesn't matter how many times I exercise or sit in silence, and doing my best to apply that Grace onto myself without need to assert function to my day.
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