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Archive for January, 2016

My distractibility and butterfly mind can be a creative strength. What they are not, however, is an aid to focussed prayer.

Reading my bible and devotional material is one thing, but a concentrated session of prayer often seems too much to tackle. It has recently, at least.

Do the Next Thing Prayer

A prayer meeting is fine, getting together with my prayer partner is great, but me, praying on my own, that’s too big. So in this year of Doing the Next Thing, I need to learn to commit to doing prayer as the Next Thing.

And so last week I was prompted to return to the best aid I’ve found for reducing distraction in prayer – the most excellent PrayerMate App (also available for Apple products). I have my PrayerMate sorted out so that I start with reading things – a psalm, the Lord’s Prayer, the Church of England Collect for the day. Then I pray for family, friends and further afield. I’d forgotten I’d set my prayers up like that, it had been so long. It wasn’t as scary as I remembered, nor as difficult to do.

I was gently eased into prayer, and I was reminded of the Puritan injunction to ‘pray until you pray‘, which I first read about in Don Carson’s terrific book, A Call to Spiritual Reformation. I’ve found this to be wise advice. Prayer takes work and it takes time to find the focus required. So beginning my prayer time using written prayers I don’t have to think about too much helps me to start praying. And once I start praying, finding my own words to keep praying seems easier.

PrayerMate got a shiny new update just a few days ago, making it even better to use and prettier to look at. One of the lovely teenagers from my dorm at our summer holiday venture bounced up to me on Saturday to tell me that she’d downloaded the app. And she’d even used it a bit too. So if a distracted 13 year old can use it, so can I. And maybe you too? Do the Next Thing – Do It with Prayer.

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I started so well. I expect you did too. January I mean. The new term. Full of cheese, chocolate and sleep, we launch into the new year forgetting that the lethargy we felt before Christmas will return.

But then term really gets going, a couple of weeks in, and going for a run becomes the last thing I want to do. A bad night’s sleep and my bible reading seems to need too much energy and motivation to tackle. My plans to blog every night disappear as ideas are squeezed out of my head by family admin.

So tonight is a good night to remember to Do the Next Thing. The next blog post, the next bit of exercise, the next load of laundry, the next bible reading. I need to remember that the two week pause doesn’t mean that I can’t do the Next Thing today. I can read my bible again today, even if there’s been a hiatus. I can write something again, even if it’s just writing about not writing.

And, remembering the God of grace who knows my failures and struggles, and the forgiveness that he offers for those who make a mess of life, and especially of resolutions, tomorrow I’ll set my mind on Doing the Next Thing.

Do the Next Thing Burnt Heart

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It’s been a busy Vicarage Sunday with the treat of special visitors to add to the usual joy of meeting with the saints. We’ve seen the Joker’s godparents, who brought much cheer and their lovely 18 month old, and former Ministry Trainee Rocky, with Bee and their gorgeous 15 month old, with encouragements from their parish in the next tow-un. So now we’re collapsed with our tea and some telly, smiling and slightly exhausted.

So tonight’s blog is just this great new Bible overview video for kids. The Vicar is thinking of using it for assembly tomorrow!

The Big Story from The Gospel Project | LifeWay on Vimeo.

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In my week and a bit of Doing the Next Thing, I have failed to do various admin tasks. They are glaring at me from the planner and I will need to make friends with them next week. I’m not even going to mention the ironing.

But I do seem to have a genuine, not-seen-before, result. I managed to get my head around the term for Junior Church. That means that the other leaders will have their planning notes ahead of time. I’ve done a little of that before. But my completely new achievement is a set of visual aids for the new series (on Elijah and Elishah). They always suggest them in our On The Way materials. But when I’m planning on a Saturday evening, there isn’t usually time (or energy). I am also quite pleased with the discovery of wooden skewers to make the pictures into puppets. They slightly remind me of the characters from the Victorian style puppet theatre I had as a child.

I think we’re going to have fun with these on Sunday morning. I’m going to give different children a couple of puppets each and see if we can act it out as I read the passage. Who shall I cast as the bowl of flour, I wonder?

junior Church characters

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My sister and I are expert procrastinators. And we were talking this evening about how Doing the Next Thing is helping us both this year. It’s just small things for me – putting the paper straight in the bin instead of leaving it for “later” (an expandable time that may end up being several months), or responding to the email that came in and not just reading and having the need to reply buzzing about my head for several days (or weeks – told you I was an expert).

And it also made me think about how it’s okay to Do the Next Thing, but not Do Everything. My bedroom is a case in point – as I mentioned yesterday, my side of the bed had become rather a dangerous obstacle course. What I didn’t mention was that the dust was several inches deep on my bedside cabinet and the chest of drawers next to the bed. And that the books piled up in several locations were beginning to totter alarmingly.

2000px-international_tidyman-svgBut I’ve not quite had the mojo to tackle everything in one fell swoop. So I’ve been clearing up a little at a time. This has had the advantage of being quite achievable – just five minutes or so per day, tackling one part of the problem. And it means that the smug ‘look at that tidy spot’ feeling can be stretched over at least a week as you make small changes. And best of all, it hasn’t given me Tidy Insomnia – that strange feeling of excitement and buzziness that I get when I’ve tidied my bedroom in one go. And that stops me sleeping.

My sister confirms that she too suffers from Tidy Insomnia. And we both find that late night tidying can lead to this phenomenon too. Dangerous thing, tidying up. But it can be done if tackled in small doses. Or so I’ve found this week.

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myth-clipart-xcgrmgocaI have many faults, but I think my worst one is probably my slothful attitude to mornings. I loathe getting up. It’s partly about sleeping, and partly about hating to leave my warm comfortable bed for a chilly Vicarage.

Ideally, I think I would really like to run my life like Mrs Stitch in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop, who was in bed at 11am when Scoop’s (anti)hero Boot visited her. Although she did staying in bed in a very energetic way, simultaneously signing cheques, dictating details of costumes for charity balls, supervising the painting of a mural, checking her daughter’s Virgil translation and completing a cryptic crossword. On reflection, perhaps being like Mrs Stitch is too ambitious.

Now that I no longer have babies who cry for attention at an early hour I need as much help as I can find. I have a few strategies in place (Teasmade by the bed, married a morning person etc) but I know I could probably do a few things to improve my morning sprigginess. So I was interested to see a Wikihow article tweeted by a similarly unlarklike friend this week with a number of useful tips.

The first section of the Wikihow article is called Preparing the Night Before and I was reminded of a couple of golden proverbs I’ve heard from ancient saints. You must say this in a very plummy accent to get them to sound right:

The Battle of the Blankets is won the night before

and

Christians on their way to heaven get to bed before eleven

So I have been trying to win the Battle of the Blankets by getting to bed at least at a time which still features the word eleven. And I’ve been ensuring that getting up is slightly more enticing as an activity. The best thing for me this week in terms of improving my ability to rise from my stupor has been tidying up the post Christmas debris alongside the bed. The attractiveness of getting up surprisingly increases in inverse proportion to the likelihood of skewering my foot on something spikey on the way out.

And I’ve printed out Do the Next Thing to read in my devotional time, to remind me that the Next Thing is to get up. The first line is helpful here:

Do it immediately…

So now I’m off to win that Battle of the Blankets. Once I’ve posted this and talked to the Vicar, and maybe noodled about on the internet for a bit. Still aiming for bed before eleven. Ish.

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Didn’t get time to write a proper blog post this evening. Sorry. I was baking for our weekly community coffee morning, Cake and Chat. And watching Midsomer Murders. The Vicar didn’t do it this week.

Jpeg

Madeira Cake, Chelsea buns proving and splendid new kitchen sign from Father Christmas

 

 

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