Experiencing church differently

When it comes to church services, I will admit that I am very much in favor of the liturgical tradition. Without elements such as the confession and absolution, and the creed, it just seems incomplete to me. That being said, I recognize that we all have differences in how we are spiritually fed, and that some people get more from different worship styles.

This morning I was invited to attend church with my best friend and her family, so I agreed, although I knew that this church uses a much different worship style than I am completely comfortable with. And it was interesting. Yes, I missed those elements of the service that I have come to consider essential – and yes, I felt for the most part that it was more of praise and worship jam session than anything – but as I listened to the music and watched some of the others something struck me. Many of these people really do praise God with abandon, much moreso than I have ever been able to do. True, dancing in the aisles at church just isn’t my style, but when you see true joy on some of their faces and in their actions, it definitely seems as though the Spirit is at work in them.

It’s good to be exposed to different worship styles, if only to more fully realize why certain practices and traditions exist, and to find a more secure place in your own faith. God uses all these things for His own purposes. Soli Deo Gloria!

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One month in…

Four weeks ago I started a new exercise regimen – swimming laps at my local gym. Prior to that I had been primarily using walking as my source of exercise, attempting to get in a two-to-three mile walk most days of the week. However, as active as I was trying to be, I still found that I was not losing any weight or toning areas of my body that could definitely use the work. (Hey, I have fabulous calves, though.)

Four weeks later, I find that I’m still fighting to get just a few laps completed. I like to swim, but I am not motivated by the exercise itself to get myself to the pool at 5:30 a.m. Oh, I get there, but the motivation mostly comes from trying to prove that I can indeed do it rather than feeling any sort of adrenaline rush from the swimming — is there such a thing as a swimmer’s high? I do fight for those laps, though, and I am happy to be able to say that as of today I upped my completed laps to four in a session.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a co-worker who also swims for fitness, and he mentioned that part of my difficulty was most likely technique. Constantly taking quick breaths means you are struggling with your body to keep going and not providing the oxygen your lungs need. He recommended I attend the master class. Looking at the course description, I think I might first try the intermediate class, as I’ve never officially had any sort of swim course – my front crawl is, well, a crawl and I am not keeping my head down in the water when I swim. This morning I worked to focus more on keeping my head in the water longer (yay for goggles!) and evening out my breathing — and found that I tend to panic a little when holding my breath underwater. That was certainly a revelation, but it wasn’t so strong a reaction that it deters me from trying to overcome it. Plus, I can always flip over and finish my laps with a backstroke if I find myself having problems.

All that said, I haven’t yet noticed a change in the scale. However, I’m going to continue to increase the number of laps as I can – I’d like to be at least swimming ten laps by this time next month – and I will be looking into that class. They’re full up for May, but hopefully I can start in June.

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New month, new plan

For the last few days, I’ve been reviewing the past few years worth of food, exercise, and weight logs. To make a long story short, while I still have some habits that can be improved, overall I am doing what I am supposed to be doing according to various health-care professionals, and still not losing weight. In the interest of honesty, I will say that I am down 35 or so lbs from my heaviest weight, but still a good 75 lbs heavier than high school (where I thought I was fat, and yet, would love to be that weight again – isn’t that always the way?), and I’ve just wobbled around my current weight for quite a while now.

Due in large part to my back issues (and probably also the falls leading to the twice-cracked tailbone that contributed to said issues), I’m quite scared to take the steps necessary to find an exercise program that works and to which I will stick. When my back starts twinging, I have a habit of backing off what I am doing and relying on my walking — but while walking keeps me from gaining weight, it only maintains the status quo. I am quite sick of the status quo. New month, new plan – I’m joining a gym that has a pool this week, and I’m going to work with a trainer. Yes, I am still nervous as all get-out, but I’ve got inspiration from a good friend and encouragement from a few more. This will happen, and God-willing, the plateau will be defeated.

Philippians 4:13 — I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.

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Time to find a new blogging engine?

Just noticed that my two most recent blog posts are gone in the ether. One was posted in mid- to late-January, and the other was a couple days ago. The fact that they are AWOL is a little irritating. My full blog entries are more limited these days, so I try to add more meaningful content when I do blog.

Well, I’ve used Blogger and something else before that, so if WP is going to treat me badly as well I guess maybe it is time to explore new options.

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Improving prayer habits

One of my unstated goals for 2012 was to improve my prayer habits – to make moreĀ  deliberate time and effort for prayer. This was building on a stated goal for the prior year, which was simply to talk with God more.

(I cut out a long tl;dr backstory here – most of the people who know me well already know my history. :)

God calls us through the apostle Paul to pray without ceasing. Many times we forget this and only come to God when we feel a need. But what does it mean to pray without ceasing? I’ve since come to the realization that this means deliberately set aside time for prayer and devotion, and also to remember Him in all aspects of life.

The next question follows easily – which is, how should we pray? In current times, we have the benefit of years of Biblical scholars to help us out. Aside from the most obvious source of the Bible itself, we have men like Martin Luther who wrote a letter on the topic for his barber, called A Simple Way to Pray. (For a good simplification of the story, see the children’s book The Barber Who Wanted to Pray.) Luther’s booklet has been repeatedly brought to my attention in recent months, via different sources, and I felt it was long past time to give it my attention.

Luther states simply that we should focus our attention on the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles Creed – and by doing so deepen both our understanding of our faith and improve our prayer habits. The interesting thing to me that I found by focusing on these words is that Luther set out his Small Catechism in such a way as to follow these instructions. All those “What does this mean?”s that I felt tormented by as a youngster in confirmation class now show me that I had some of the basics all along.

Slowly and deliberately, then, I shall make my way once more through the Small Catechism, which apparently has the distinction of being considered one of the only pray-able catechisms.* I shall continue to set aside daily time for prayer, but remember to deal prayerfully with all areas of life. My prayers are with those who also struggle with this daily, for it is not an easy task.

*It has also been suggested that those seeking deeper faith resources in the Reformed tradition check out the Heidelberg Catechism. Personally I have much less experience with that document, but I do intend to read it more fully as well.

P.S. Several church bodies have published daily devotionals that are excellent resources, and I’ve found that using the digital versions helps me to retain that daily habit of devotional time. If you’re seeking such, Concordia Publishing House has Portals of Prayer, but there are several podcasts I listen to, both Lutheran and Reformed, that are good daily resources as well.

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A New Year, already?

Time is relative. The older you get, the faster it seems to go.

In a glance back through my Facebook posts, I see that not much has changed in the past twelve months. 2012 was not a banner year for me, but it wasn’t the worst of my years. There were births and deaths, changes and things that stayed the same. God continues to bless my life with good friends, and for all the ups and downs I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

My goals for 2012 were as follows:
- Keep up with the Bible verse memorization.
- Knit at least six pairs of socks.
- Write a journal entry daily.

To the first – I freely admit that I am terrible at verse memorization. I can memorize music up, down, and sideways, but straight memorization of anything else has never been my strong point. For some reason, this has been a particular stumbling block for me. Out of this, however, has come a more dedicated reading of the Bible – perhaps God limits my ability in this fashion in order to lead me back into reading His word more often. I’m still working on the memorization, but it isn’t easy.

To the second…yeah, that didn’t happen. The same pair of socks I started at the beginning of last year sits in my workbasket, unfinished. Granted, it’s been in time-out for a rather long time, since I need the recipient to try them on AGAIN (I ripped out the heel no less than six times before getting really frustrated with it). He’s home with his family again for a couple weeks, so I’ve got that set as a priority.

And as to the third…I must admit that my track record on journaling is poor. However, I’ve been blogging for several years, and although there have been sparse periods, I am still here. If Facebook counts, then yes, I journal every day, but those aren’t always what I would consider deep thoughts. :) A gem appears every now and again, though.

My goals for 2013? I think to continue working on strengthening my faith. To fully read the book of Romans (and then continue on through the works of Paul) – I mean with a good study as opposed to the surface reading usually given to it from a lot of Bible studies. To continue with my knitting and singing and photography, and to be as good a friend to all as I can.

For everything else, well, we’ll just see where God leads. A blessed 2013 to all. :)

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Wrapping up NaBloPoMo

This morning I had an elegant idea for how to wrap up my month of daily blogs – but this evening my brain is fried and I can’t quite recall what I was going to say.

Both the daily blog and the daily thankfulness posts have been interesting exercises, and good for stretching my creative synapses. Not every entry is literary gold, but I never expected they would be.

Will this exercise revive my oft-neglected blog? Only time will tell. However, I did enjoy the writing, and I think more of that will happen, upon occasion.

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Cleaning the closets

Some people keep skeletons in their closet. Me, I keep yarn. Well, that and other crafting supplies – though they are all mostly contained in just the two closets in my office/studio. This weekend I’m selling some finished work at a bazaar, so I had to pull out the containers that had a few pieces in them – and in the process found a couple of UFOs that I had almost forgotten about.

This cloth is one of my very first weaving projects. It may have been my second or third woven item ever. I was attempting to do a log cabin and made two errors – first, the colors weren’t different enough so the variegated and solid chenilles are hard to distinguish from each other, and second, I don’t think I alternated the colors quite right. The true color is actually a little more brown than this, and I think I might have been aiming for a shawl length. To be finished, this piece needs a fulling bath and the fringe tied off. That’s not going to happen before Saturday, but I think I can manage it sometime soon.

Next out are these two kid-sized hats. One year I went crazy crocheting hats, and apparently these two were left behind. The brown one is done, and the red one only needs an end woven in. In the same pile was a cute pair of baby moccasins, a baby blanket, and a couple shawls that need homes. So to the bazaar they will go!

The last thing I need to go through tonight is my steamer trunk — I use that to store mostly the hand-crafted items I keep for myself, but I think there are a few finished or mostly-finished objects that were destined for sale. Destashing inventory is good. Once the holidays are over, I think I will go through the closets and finally get rid of any excess materials I have. There are some yarns in there I will likely never use myself, and I have more than a few other crafting items that I can re-home.

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Listen to the music

Just about all types of music that exists can be “reimagined” by another artist, re-released with their own personal stamp on it. In many cases, it brings new depth to a piece, and the new version can be enjoyed as much as the old, although each person will probably still have a preference for one over the other. In other cases, the redone piece hits a “Rosanne-sings-the-national-anthem” level of atrocity. Even in contemporary Christian music.

Thankfully, most of the versions of hymns I hear that have been released by various artists are on the former side of the scale. I really enjoy listening to different variations of some of my favorite pieces. Occasionally, I am surprised (pleasantly) by attention given to certain nuances in the music. Each version generally enhances the piece overall. For the few exceptions, I am very happy that I have the ability to change the track or station rapidly to something that doesn’t offend my ears. :D Even so, each variation brings new understanding of the lyrics, and personal understanding of why I really like or dislike a particular piece, or a particular version.

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An interesting survey crossed my desk recently – it was for a friend’s class assignment, and the wording of several questions intrigued me. Part of it had to do with one’s consideration of language needs for deaf people versus non-English-speaking people. While I believe that the questions in that particular survey were only the jumping off point for a variety of discussions, it did make me think.

How important do we treat other languages in this country? While I think that it is important for people to learn English, I also know that learning other languages helps brain activity as well as makes it easier to get along in a global culture. We cannot be so self-centered as to require the rest of the world to speak our language, and yet it is not a requirement in many schools that a second language is learned.

I remember having to take two years of a secondary language in high school (only two, whereas in other countries many children learn a second and third language if not more, to conversational levels, from a younger age) but it may have only been the honors program. In college I chose to take a different language for my major’s language requirement, but again, the major only required two semesters (I took four). So now I am not-quite-conversationally fluent in Spanish and German. I can read in both languages but I cannot easily hold conversation in either – it takes me too long to translate in my head. I’d like to count American Sign Language as a fourth one, but it’s been so long since learning it that I only remember a very few phrases and the alphabet. As a singer, I am familiar with pronunciation rules for a dozen other languages and can perform the music even though I cannot translate all the words without assistance.

Perhaps I will add getting conversationally fluent in at least one other language to my bucket list. Spanish and German are well within my reach, and ASL is not out of the question. Who’s with me?

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