Tag Archives: Mount Carmel Ministries

Coping With Stress

Yesterday, I read an article which elaborated on a problem that occupies my mind frequently: the stress level of contemporary life in the USA and the price people pay because of it. People cannot respond to my email or answer my phone call or call me back, because they are so busy. When they do reply or call back, they can’t answer my questions or comment on issues I raise, because they need to vent about the stress in their lives.

I have wondered from time to time if I were misinterpreting the problem, but David Kupelian’s article reports statistics that make it clear I did not make a mistake. Americans are extremely stressed, and most of them do not know what to do about it.

I was extremely interested in Kupelian’s suggestions for dealing with the stress. Here they are:

  •  Regular exercise
  •  Healthful food
  •  Daily time for prayer and reflection

These suggestions are not complicated. It seems as if everyone should be able to do these three things. I am not a specialist in either exercise or nutrition, but I think I know enough to do some physical exercise, and I loved the recommendation not to eat anything my grandmother would not have recognized as food.

The suggestion that really caught my eye was the third one: daily time for prayer and reflection. Do you have time set aside for this purpose? Even friends I thought had long ago adopted this discipline tell me they just don’t have the time, and this is disturbing. Why do so few people make time for prayer? Why do people claim Christ as their Savior, and then never again make any time to talk with him?

Let’s think about it this way. How is it that we say that Christ has rescued us from horrors in this life and the next, and yet, we have no time to talk with him?

So, skipping the judgmental question, let us move on to the real question. What do we do when it seems we have no time for the most important relationship in our lives?

If you doubt that your relationship with Christ is important, think about people for whom it has become everything. In Iran, Pastor Saeed Abedini is the most visible example of people who have been imprisoned for their faith, people who suffer daily torture with the objective of persuading them to recant. For these people, Christ is not an abstraction they conflate with an argument about whether we sing praise songs or ancient hymns in worship. Christ is the center of their lives. Christ is all they cling to. Their food is inadequate. They are beaten or worse every day. When someone persuades their jailors to take them for medical treatment, the doctors and nurses refuse to touch them because Christians are “unclean.” Talk about phobias! Terrorists with what they call holy agendas burn down their homes, slit the throats of their children, and throw bombs into their churches. These Christians, in Iran, Laos, China, and Kazakhstan and other countries around the world, suffer daily. The only way they survive is by being in constant close communion with Christ.

Those who simply struggle to survive twenty-first century multi-tasking and taxes and oppressive work schedules and claim no time for prayer or reflection are fooling themselves. Someone who claims the name of Christ and yet makes no effort to step aside and stop running in place and take just a few minutes to say, “Thank you, Jesus. I am yours,” is missing the one thing that might make a difference in the daily chaos.

There is a simple way to get started. If you don’t have time for prayer, stop where you are right now and simply pray, “Lord, please open my eyes to your gift of time.” Pray that prayer right now. Let go of the stopwatch. Rest your feet on the floor, take a deep breath, and pray the prayer that Martin Luther’s spiritual mentor taught to him. “Jesus, take me. I’m yours.” This is the place to begin. This is the time to begin. You may think you do not have time, but your life, now and hereafter, will be different if you don’t do it.

That is Step One. Step Two is easy, too. Buy a copy of the Daily Texts for $9.95 plus shipping. (I receive no commission on these sales. I just know how grateful you will be if you do this.) You will receive a book with two verses for your prayer and reflection every day. You can do this. Two verses, one prayer, five minutes. Time for prayer and reflection every day. You need this, more than you know. The Christ who saved you from your sins is ready to save your daily life if you let him be part of it.

Why don’t you make time for him every day? Who do you know who is like you, too busy to take any time for prayer and reflection? Do it for yourself, and do it for somebody else. Then please let me know how things work out. I believe you will be grateful that you set this time aside. If you don’t do it, why not?

 

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How Can I Start Praying Every Day?

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...
“Praying Hands” (study for an Apostle figure of the “Heller” altar) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of my Christian friends bemoan the fact that they do not pray faithfully every day. I have known them long enough to know that they pray, because we have prayed together, or they have told me about praying in a crisis. Still, they want to have a daily time apart, and it doesn’t happen.Here’s a fact: daily time for devotions will never happen. If you commit to do it and then do it, you will have that daily time. But it will never just happen. You will never get up and discover that you have fifteen extra minutes with nothing to do before you need to leave for work. You will always find that you are in the car on the way to work aware that you ran out of time to do many things that needed to be done, and you will never see the day when you just accidentally have time for prayer and Bible study.

There is never a good time to start a diet. There is never a right time to start exercising. If you plan to get together with friends once a month, you will never simply look up one night and discover that they have all accidentally joined you at a fine restaurant. Anything you want to accomplish requires commitment and planning, or it will not happen.

I discovered the Mount Carmel Daily Texts online in the late nineties. I really don’t remember exactly when. I loved that site from the beginning. I read the two verses and thought about them and prayed. It was very nice, but I didn’t do it faithfully. In those days my computer was a desktop unit on a large wooden workstation. I had to go the kitchen in order to use it. If I were rushing around in the morning, I usually forgot even to turn the computer on, so I often did not read my verses. The website today still displays the verses each day, but it has expanded its scope and changed its style over the years. The texts are only one ministry of the Mount Carmel Retreat Center.

When I began traveling every week for work in 2000, I started buying the annual Daily Texts devotional book. I packed that little book, a small Bible and a notebook in my bag every week. Even though my workdays were 12 hours or longer, I could still find time each morning, just 15 minutes or so, to read the day’s verses and then pray.

The ministry of the daily texts goes back to a Moravian settlement in the 18th century. Their practice of meditating on a single “watchword” verse from the Old Testament each day was later expanded by the addition of a verse from the New Testament. The texts were selected annually by a committee. The selected texts were then printed for distribution to congregations and their member. Today, the daily texts are used around the world, translated into 50 languages, and available in a wide variety of formats. Everyone who uses the daily texts reads the same verses on the same day.

I buy Daily Texts through the Mount Carmel website . The emphasis is the simple presentation of two texts and a prayer for each day. Busy, overstressed Christians can find a brief comforting retreat from the chaos by limiting their focus to the basics. However, time permitting, there are other features to enrich the private worship experience.

The list of daily texts is changed annually, and each year’s devotional book is printed with weekly calendars. Each week’s readings are headed up by a list of the lectionary readings and a watchword text chosen from those selections. A hymn thematically related to the gospel reading is also printed for personal meditation and inspiration.

The daily entries include the two key texts, printed in full. You don’t need to search for them in your Bible. You can always choose to read them from your own Bible, and you may even want to read the context, but if your time is limited, you can read them as printed in the book. After the text, there is a printed prayer, focusing on the theme of the verses. Nothing prevents you from praying your own prayer, but when time is short, or when you feel too depleted or frantic to choose your own words, the printed prayer is a wonderful guide for your thoughts.

Monday through Saturday, after the prayer are suggested readings for two Bible reading plans. Notice that there is no reading on Sunday. You get to take a Sabbath from your Bible reading plan on that day. The lectionary readings for the day can replace the plan readings on Sunday if you wish. One plan takes you through the Bible in a year. The other takes you through the Bible in two years. I have used the two-year plan and found it more comfortable than the single year. It is completely optional. Mount Carmel also posts a blog with a three-year Bible reading plan. You have choices.

The slim little book of Daily Texts somehow crams in a wealth of additional material for your personal growth and study. You can learn three different prayer methods which may enrich your prayer time. You can learn how to share the daily texts in family prayer time. There is an article about Martin Luther’s prayer life, a guide for daily intercession, Luther’s Small Catechism, and a guide for personal confession and forgiveness.

The Mount Carmel Daily Texts is a rich resource for daily devotions in just under 200 pages. The pages are about the size of a 4X6 index card. You can use as much or as little of the options as you choose, but nowhere are you likely to find a resource better suited to your individual needs. What’s more, it is quite inexpensive. Currently, you can buy a single copy for less than ten dollars, and there are a variety of discounts for purchases of two or more. I don’t get any commission for referring you to Mount Carmel. This recommendation is simply my own experience.

Making time for prayer is like making time for exercise, or for washing dishes, or for anything else you consider important. Using the Daily Texts, however, makes it about as easy as it can be. You can use this simple, inexpensive resource to help you keep the commitment you want to make to a daily prayer time. There are many good devotional books available. I took the time to share this one because it has meant a lot to me.

What devotional resources do you find most helpful?

TRIP At Last

TRIP at last

I think I promised to explain the TRIP method for Bible study. Here goes.

The TRIP method was first explained to me in the book Daily Texts published annually by Mount Carmel Ministries. They borrowed their idea from Martin Luther. I somewhat modified their idea as I grew in study. Feel free to try it and revise it to fit your needs.

After I had spent most of a year simply reading and meditating in no particular form on the texts for each day, I decided to try the TRIP method. This method emphasizes an important truth about Bible study: Bible study is integrally related to prayer. You really can’t do one without the other. They belong together. They are two disciplines, but like the chicken and the egg, it is quite difficult to discern which comes first. The TRIP method incorporates them into one process.

You can read any text and use the TRIP method, although it would be best to use it for a relatively concise text. A long rambling story might be difficult to analyze and filter with this method, although it could certainly be done. You begin by simply reading the text, and you may want to read it more than once. Then you ask yourself four simple questions:

  • What in this text makes me feel thankful?
  • What in this text calls me to repentance?
  • What am I motivated to pray for after reading this text?
  • What do I plan to do today about what I have learned in this text?

The TRIP method is easy to remember:

  • T – THANKSGIVING
  • R – REPENTANCE
  • I – INTERCESSION
  • P – PROMISE (or PLAN)

I am an inveterate journaler, so I use a small notebook to write down my answers to the simple questions. Here is what a day’s journal entry might look like:

* * * * *

The texts: Proverbs 37:8, James 1:19

You can write out the texts if you think that will help you study and meditate on them, or you can simply note the reference. I have done it both ways. For this sample, I write the text to prevent the need for you to look it up.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret – it only leads to evil. Proverbs 37:8

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19

T – Thanksgiving

I am very thankful for this reminder that angry outbursts accomplish nothing good. I have a quick temper, and when I feel frustrated, it often bursts out against the very person I love most. Often we are both upset by the same circumstances, and hateful words only make things worse. I am also grateful that with the warning comes the solution – listening. Whenever I am patient enough to listen instead of blurting out my anger, the situation always improves. I need this reminder. (I happened upon this reading the day after a key engine part on our boat failed to work, and we were stuck buying a new one while in a foreign country. Yup. I was angry.)

R – Repentance

It is easy to see what I need to repent of. I need to ask God and my husband to forgive me for shouting and pouting. That is no way to treat someone I love who is in the same boat – quite literally – as I. We have a problem. We don’t need to rag on each other about it. We need to help each other. Solving this problem will not be easy. I am very sorry I spouted off in anger yesterday.

I – Intercession

I need to confess my sin to God and ask his forgiveness. I need to do the same with my husband. I’m using the word sin advisedly. Worshiping self is the major sin of all humans, and until I topple SELF off the throne of my heart, I will continue to feel entitled to be angry about the way this situation is a big pain. O Heavenly Father, please forgive my hasty, angry words, and please put it in my husband’s heart to forgive me as well.

P – Promise

I like to use the word “promise” instead of “plan” because I want to be committed to do it. I promise that today I will listen attentively to God and to my husband as we work through the solution to our problem. Make me a servant listener. May my listening spirit be inspired to serve God and to serve people more faithfully today and into the future instead of focusing on my ego and the way it feels.

So, that is a TRIP Bible study and prayer. As you can see, prayer is interwoven into even this very simple Bible study method. Prayer is crucial, because when we study the Bible, we are not trying to learn a lot of intellectual things. We will certainly improve the intellect by Bible study, but that work is pointless unless it changes us into more faithful disciples. Knowing God’s teaching about anger is completely useless unless I recognize that I need to learn how to manage my anger and stop worshiping my own world view. Bible study and prayer, or prayer and Bible study. The two interlaced disciplines open us to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and that is the real point of it all. It can be a real TRIP!