Yes, I love the music group Selah. I had the pleasure of having lunch with them last summer and bringing them to Maranatha for a concert. I knew their name was taken from the Bible because I remember having to read scripture in school and seeing it in there. At the end of the passage I'd read, I said Selah out loud but I pronounced it see-la. My teacher told me I didn’t have to read that word. After she said that, I probably decided (knowing me) that it meant something like ‘page break’ and it was not important. Now I know it means “pause and reflect.”
That is exactly what I am doing this week. Selah. Still meditating here too. By here, I mean in Orange Beach, AL. I made a last minute decision to head south on my own and take advantage of some time alone. It is no coincidence that it is deer hunting season so let's just say timing was good.
It is a gift to be able to get away by myself and spend some much needed time alone and you know, pause and reflect. I have a lot of writing to catch up on too. I haven’t done much writing (okay none) since the writers' conference in September. Now I am planning for next year's MCWC.
Have I mentioned that I accepted the position of Executive Director for this conference? I did, and I went into it kicking and screaming a big NO but by the end of the conference God gave me a resounding YES! So along with my girl, Lieza, we are deep in the planning stages of the 2018 conference. It is challenging, exciting, tedious, and rewarding all at the same time but I must say I am loving it. The correspondence I am having with other writers, speakers, editors, authors, publishers, and agents has been uplifting and educating in many ways. I love being a part of this new world and pray that we can continue to grow this forty year old conference. To grow this so the stories that God is writing in so many, can be written.
I have learned though that whilst being alone always sounds like a great idea, it can get lonely too. I did a few things out of my box this time. I signed up for a few drop in classes at a local studio here. Barre, Rowing, and TRX. All classes I had never done before but I’ve always wanted to try. I tried to schedule something every day that would give me a little people interaction other than relying on the clerk at Publix for social stimulation. It keeps me from getting homesick too. Thank goodness for FaceTime! It’s not the same, but it definitely helps.
I am definitely a morning person from about October through March. I know it’s because of the darkness so early in the evening. I am most productive in daylight. Here in Alabama daylight comes an hour earlier but also darkness descends an hour earlier. That means by 5:00 pm the sun has set and I am in my sweats hunkered down for a night of reading, writing some more, and catching up on Netflix. Most nights I am asleep by 9:30 and back up at 5:30. A freaking party animal. Yeah right. I am still grateful for waking up everyday feeling like I can conquer the world. Excited to drink my coffee whether I am in my lazy boy at home or on a chaise on the balcony here. After years of hangovers, I always wake up thinking about how good it feels.
It was also a good week to really dig into this week's discipline in the book: Prayer. It was also last week's discipline but I had some catching up to do. This is one I really wanted to spend some time on. To do anything quiet without wandering thoughts is super hard for me. A therapist told me once I had a busy mind. I totally agree. I have to work really hard to stay focused on whatever I am doing - which can make any task challenging. Like writing, whose idea was that?! My main issue is that I am always thinking and planning the next thing. I feel like I am always at least an hour ahead of what I am doing in the moment. Does that make sense to anyone else?
Thus, praying is difficult for me. It's easier than meditating because at least I am having a conversation. Meditating, you have to keep clearing your mind which for me is an endless chore. I have improved though and its been a good segue into more intentional prayer. Prayer is simply conversation with God. So that’s what I am doing but with a bit of structure.
The chapter on discipline started out with this story:
The desert elder named Agatha once taught, “Nothing needs so much effort as prayer to God. If you want to pray, the demons try to interrupt you, because they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them. All the other efforts of a religious life have room for a message of rest. But we need to pray until we breathe out our dying breath. That is the great struggle.
The struggle is real - how many times haven’t you heard that?! It definitely applies to me. Prayer takes enormous effort for me. I get mad at myself because it seems like it should be easy. I have a tendency to make things that should be simple much harder. It’s not because I don’t trust that God is hearing me or anything like that, it is like that story above. The devil loves to attack where we are weakest and for me that weakness is staying focused. I want to do better in all things by staying more focused, but especially prayer. I used to worry that I fried too many brain cells with all the drinking, but I have come to the conclusion that this has always been a “thing” for me. Hence, the reason I really wanted to dedicate some time to this chapter.
There is no right or wrong way to pray but this book reminded me of the acronym A.C.T.S: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (petition for ourselves and intercession for others.) I started with this handy dandy little prayer guide I picked up at The Found Cottage (of course) and write my prayer list as I do my devotions in the morning. After I am done praying, I rip out the list and put it where I can see it for the day. Each page also has a verse on it relating to prayer. I have found it a valuable tool in my morning prayers this past week.
I’ve also started getting into prayer mode with music. Setting my Pandora to Hillsong Worship and whatever song is on, is the one I focus on. Putting my earbuds in to tune out distraction and closing my eyes. For me, that's the best way to start my prayer time and stay focused. When my mind starts to wander I bring it back to the song. When the song is done I turn the music down and talk to God about my list.
I am looking for ongoing change in my prayer life just like the book is asking me to do. I don’t want to learn these disciplines and then leave the last one behind to move on to the next one. Meditation preceded Prayer for a reason. The next one is Obedience. I always need prayer for that.
I am going to challenge you this week to go to God in the morning before you do anything else. Of course, get your coffee first, kiss your hubby or your dog good morning but then DO NOT check Facebook, Instagram, or email. Let God have the best of you. Every single time I scroll on my phone first I get sucked in and those things start to control my day from the very start. The emails I have to return, the recipe I should try for dinner, free shipping - are you kidding me I better look a second! Get the idea? The moment is gone. I am trying and I repeat trying to go to God first. So far this week I am 3 for 3.