How’s your “To BE List”?

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Graphic courtesy of Stephanie Curry

I would not live well without a “To Do List.” I’ve been making lists since college (at least) and do so daily. I used to jot them down on scraps of paper that I eventually bundled with paper clips—what a mess! Now, I keep a “Day Book” where I compile my lists and ideas. I know there are far more efficient digital ways. But before we go further on efficiency, I want to ask a bigger question: am I so focused on doing that I forget being?

I can’t remember when I first heard the clever phrase, “Remember, we’re called human beings, not human doings.” In his book Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel takes this a step further. “We aren’t so much human beings as human becomings. Every day we are becoming the person we will be. Some people will become less… but most of us want to become more.”

I think of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be, or not to be: that is the question…”  That profound reflection was on contemplating suicide. It could be paraphrased, “To continue to exist, or to cease to exist—that is the question.” By God’s grace, I pray that is not the question for any of us.

But we all face the question: “To Be or To Do?” How do we keep from focusing so much on doing that we forget the essence of our being, of our identity? How can we guard against the busyness that distracts us from valuing ourselves and others as people created in the image of God?

To be more precise, it’s not about the choice between doing or being. It’s about the priority of being as the foundation for doing. It’s about being overflowing into doing.

It’s also not about passivity; it’s about receptivity. It’s not about doing nothing, but about doing everything as the natural outcome of receiving what the Lord has for us.

So, here are four affirmations on my daily “To BE List”:

Be delighted in your adoption.

First and foremost, I am God’s child! God has adopted me into his family through faith in Jesus Christ. That alone makes life significant and priceless. I pray this is true for you. If we forget this, we have missed the purpose and joy of Life.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children” (Romans 8:15-17, The Message paraphrase).

Be filled with the Holy Spirit.

We don’t have the power within to live the life God wants for us. So God has given us his Holy Spirit. The real issue is not us getting more of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit “getting” more of us.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15-18 NLT).

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

God’s strategy for change involves our minds. That gives us hope, because we can begin to un-learn the lies and falsehoods of life so that we can learn and live God’s truth. The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), opening our minds and hearts to see life from God’s perspective.

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity” (Romans 12:2 J.B. Phillips Paraphrase).

Be here now—be present in the moment.

It’s natural for us to be preoccupied with the past or be concerned with the future. Those mindsets rob us of the gift of the present moment– which is the only time we really have.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:34 The Message).

What’s on your “To BE List”?

Why Bother to Pray?

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One of the most basic questions on prayer is this: “Why bother to pray?”

Does prayer really change things? Does prayer really make a difference?

Many people get stuck and don’t pray because they have the wrong concept of prayer. They ask philosophical questions instead of relationship questions.

The questions aren’t: “If God knows everything – why must we ask for things in prayer? Does God really need to be informed? Is prayer merely data transmission?“ These philosophical questions have their place. But they don’t come first.

The primary question is: “If the Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier), created me, saved me and loves me, how can I not pray?!” Prayer is about our relationship with God long before it considers cause-and-effect or the dynamic relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

Why bother to pray?

Prayer “Centers” Us.

We bring ourselves to every relationship. Are we bringing our “whole self,” or just “partial attention”? Centering is being truly “present” in the moment. Centering means focusing our attention and energy, our heart, mind and body on the ultimate priority of life: our relationship with the Lord. (In other words, put your phone away!).

Centering in prayer is like taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling. Simply stepping back to focus on the Lord often brings a sense of peace. Try it now.

“Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10).

Prayer Clarifies

Prayer is like “getting up on the balcony,” to use an image from Harvard MBA professor Ron Heifetz.

In high school I played first trumpet in the marching band. We learned all kinds of formations for half time shows (which were watched by our parents only!). On the field, it seemed like chaos. But from the stands people could see, understand and appreciate the patterns.

When we pray, we not only step back to catch our breath, but we climb up to a higher place.

This is one reason Jesus spent nights in prayer as he sought wisdom about his ministry, as when he selected his 12 disciples (Luke 6:12-16).

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1: 5 NIV).

The ultimate and fundamental reason we “bother to pray” is because…

Prayer Connects Us with God

Prayer centers us and clarifies things because we connect with God.

Prayer is not like making a list for Santa Claus! Prayer is like a conversation with your best friend, cherished mentor, loving parent.

This is a time for a brief comment on one of those philosophical questions: “If God knows, why ask?”

The answer lies in the fact that prayer is not about information.

Prayer is conversation with the Living Lord. Jesus’ prayed earnestly, not because he needed something, but because he wanted to talk with his Father.

“… Your Father know what you need before you ask him. This, then is how you should pray: ‘Our Father…’” (Matthew 6:9).

Prayer begins not with something we want to ask of God, but with something God wants to ask of us!

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering (Romans 8:15-17 NLT).

Prayer is not ultimately about making requests and getting answers. Prayer brings us into heart fellowship with the Living Lord as beloved daughters and sons.