Conversations on a long road trip are often memorable, perhaps because desperation drives us to dig deeper—or at least to try harder. Somewhere on the Jersey Pike, we were talking about healthy habits and the difficulty of sustaining them. We lamented the hard work of Scripture memory and the need for continuous review.
Our thoughtful friend finally confessed, “I’ve been thinking about making a schedule, assigning a week to each of the passages I’ve memorized over the years. I just need to get started on making that schedule…”
Of course, her words started my wheels turning, but weeks went by with no schedule. Sometimes, though, we just have to go ahead and build the plane while we’re flying it. Sometimes, we can’t wait for the perfect beginning. We just have to begin!
I reviewed Psalm 46 in the car on the way to work that week. Then 1 Corinthians 13. The next week I brushed up on Romans 8, and I’m keeping track of all this in my calendar. By this time next year, I will have created a schedule!
Are there habits of holiness you embraced in January only to succumb to the mid-February Fizzle? Begin again!
What discipline beckons to you from the realm of wishful thinking? Start today!
Know, too, that you will not begin alone. God meets our slightest movement in his direction with his massive mercy and his steadfast, never-giving-up love. He is a profligate distributor of new beginnings!
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;Lamentations 3:22-23
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Resolve this minute to let God carry you into good routines, practiced imperfectly, but with perseverance. Even on the best of days, my own spiritual practices are what poet Denise Levertov would describe as “intently haphazard,” sort of a hen house built in a windstorm. Even so, I am learning to embrace the new beginning of every day with each small act of obedience a victory, and every step an arrival.
Holding you in the Light,
Have habits of holiness embraced in January succumbed to the February Fizzle? Begin again! What discipline beckons from the realm of wishful thinking? Let God carry you into good routines, practiced imperfectly, but with perseverance.Tweet
And now let’s talk books…
Reading is a great habit to establish in 2022, and this week I’m sharing two books rooted in hard times, hoping that if you are currently experiencing loneliness or if you are grappling with challenges around the aging process, you will find hopeful and healing practices to encourage you along the way.
The Loneliness Epidemic
If it seems to you that loneliness is a bigger problem than it used to be, if you find yourself inexplicably feeling alone, it’s not your imagination. In cooperation with the Barna Group, Susan Mettes has done the research to compare “a more normal time” pre-pandemic with the spring of 2020 when our lives began to be impacted by COVID-19 era isolation and social distancing.
Any study of feelings presents the challenge of being subjective, but because it is a chronic problem (1 in 7 Americans is chronically lonely), and because the surgeon general declared loneliness a national epidemic, Mettes took on the task of interrogating America’s loneliness. She observed underneath our loneliness problem an intimacy problem. We have fewer trusted relationships than we used to, and our privileged lives have insulated us behind walls of privacy. Even church attendance is not the solution to loneliness church leaders might imagine.
With that in mind, The Loneliness Epidemic takes on the most common misconceptions about loneliness including the stereotypes about who is lonely and who isn’t. Speaking directly to church leadership, Mettes identifies belonging, closeness, and realistic expectations as a three-legged stool “holding up a surface that you can rest on and allowing your loneliness to subside.” (114) Remove or shorten any of the three legs, and the stool just won’t set well.
Wading through data and charts is definitely worth the effort when the conclusions come crashing in with relevance and hope. Because we have a long road ahead of us, there will be no quick fixes in the last chapter. Instead, we must look directly and fearlessly at loneliness and fortify relationships on every level, one broken barrier and one solid connection at a time.
Our relational God who made us in his own people-loving image holds all the answers to loneliness in his good hand. Our only comfort will ultimately be found in right relationship with him.
If you are paying attention to your life, you know that you are aging. Growing older is a given; however, even though the process is not optional, we have all kinds of control over how we age. Alice Fryling has drawn upon her years of life well-lived and her experience as a spiritual director to commend to her readers the practice of Aging Faithfully.
In every sense, growing older is shot through with mystery. We do not know whether we will slide into our nineties with vigor or be stricken with early decrepitude followed by a slow decline to the end. Strong spiritual practices and a mindset that admits to the sovereignty and goodness of God are solid companions for the movement into the liminal space created by the aging process.
I appreciated Fryling’s observations that generative living involves both learning and unlearning. Credos that served me well in my 20’s and even into my middle years may become impossible to manage in an aging body. I may need to relinquish familiar roles and duties to make room for God the Holy Spirit to begin a new work in me. In any case, I want to embrace faithfulness as a healthful alternative to my current idols of productivity and control.
I have a full decade of living to do before I qualify for the biblical quotient for old age, but Aging Faithfully has fortified me for the journey into the unknown. I will be watching for evidence of new birth and opportunities to let go of the false self and faith practices that no longer serve me well. I will begin now to trust for grace to hold things loosely, for I know that loss will be on the horizon, and I must learn to grieve well.
I plan to lean into community for wisdom in assessing how the advancing years are impacting the exercise of my spiritual gifts and professional skill set. God offers the alternative of peace in a season of life that has every possibility of being dominated by fear, loneliness, or regret. Alice Fryling has created a resource to offer support as we address the questions and realities of aging in light of eternal values.
Two books rooted in hard times. If you are experiencing loneliness or grappling with challenges around the aging process, you will find hopeful and healing practices in #AgingFaithfully and #TheLonelinessEpidemic.Tweet
And One Last Thing…
Right now I’m offering two free gifts to NEW newsletter subscribers.
First, I’ve developed a free guided meditation to encourage you in a deep dive into the truth of Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I’ve found that the surest antidote for the poison of the lies we tell ourselves is LARGE doses of truth, and I’m committed to the process of helping women to become confident Christ-followers and students of God’s Word.
Second, if you are a bookish individual, perhaps you’d appreciate some help in writing book reviews? I’ve created a resource sharing some tried and true tips that have come from writing hundreds of book reviews for Living Our Days and other sites. I have loved pointing my readers toward the good stuff that’s out there, and if that’s your goal, too, I want to help you.
Simply click on the button below to receive one or both of these free gifts…
Many thanks to NavPress and Brazos Press for providing copies of these books to facilitate my reviews, which are, of course, offered freely, and with honesty.