Monthly Musings: January

It’s a little late to be wishing you a Happy New Year, and yet this is my first post for 2016 so I’ll say it anyway. Happy New Year. I hope it’s been a good start for you, and that you’ve had opportunity to rest and relax over the summer break. I confess it feels a little odd to be reflecting when the year has only just begun and it seems that things are only just beginning to unfold and yet to fully emerge. Still, here are a few things to share from January. I hope to be posting more regularly over the coming months.

  • Christmas holidays were a wonderful time to catch up on sleep and a pile of books, but I also needed to get outside. I took a walk in one of my favourite places, the Mount Lofty Gardens, and reminded myself of the wonders of spending time in out in nature.

Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens - walking trail-wmk


  • Thanks to a couple of handy YouTube tutorials I learnt how to crochet hearts, and spent an evening making a small pile of them. Once I got the hang of it they were quite simple and enjoyable to make.


  • I came across a wonderful quote on prayer from Richard Foster in his book Prayer: finding the heart’s true home. This is something I want to sit with and ponder for a while until it really sinks into my heart and not just my head.

Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth but from falling in love.

  • One of my favourite genres of fiction is historical mystery, and this month I finally read the first book in C. J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series. Dissolution is set in the context of the dissolution of Catholic monasteries in England during the reign of King Henry VIII. The history was every bit as fascinating (and frightening) as the mystery.


The Gift of Discipline?

You know it’s been too long when you have to replace all the batteries in your Wii remote control and balance board before you can start using it. And you know it’s definitely been too long when the Wii Fit Plus screen welcomes you and tells you it’s been 330 days since your last session. Yikes! I could blame part of it on back injury, but the reality is that I haven’t been disciplined. Period.

I’ve always disliked the word ‘discipline.’ It sounds too much like punishment. And I’m not interested in signing up for that.

Nevertheless, discipline is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Being a word person, I decided to check the actual definition of discipline. There were seven definitions in my dictionary, and yes punishment did rate a mention, but the first definition went like this: instruction and exercise designed to train to proper conduct or action.

I like that because it emphasizes the practical action by which I may learn; gaining knowledge or skill or fitness. It doesn’t insist that I’ve already arrived at the destination.

I once heard the author Calvin Miller speak, and one particular statement he made has always stuck with me: “Grace is what God does for us and discipline is what we do for God.” I’ve been thinking about that statement again this week, and I’ve come to the conclusion that when we exercise spiritual disciplines out of a desire to offer our love and devotion to God and to cultivate our relationship with him, then our discipline is a gift to him.

In a workshop session I attended last year, we made a list of spiritual disciplines that Jesus exercised. It was quite long by the time we’d finished, but here are a few: prayer, solitude, silence, fasting, reading scripture, confession, forgiveness, sleep (rest), exercise, serving, submission, compassionate deeds, worship, play. You may think of others.

I find these quotes from Richard Foster (author of Celebration of Discipline) helpful for thinking about the value of spiritual disciplines:

“Spiritual disciplines are the main way we offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. We are doing what we can do with our bodies, our minds, our hearts. God then takes this simple offering of ourselves and does with it what we cannot do, producing within us deeply ingrained habits of love and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Renovare Perspective, April 1999)

“Spiritual Formation is a process, but it is also a journey through which we open our hearts to a deeper connection with God. We are not bystanders in our spiritual lives, we are active participants with God, who is ever inviting us into relationship with him.” (Renovare – Spiritual Formation)

When I think about it like this, my perspective changes. Discipline becomes something that is attractive, something that I want to do, not something I have to do. What are your thoughts on discipline as a gift to God?

Image: Sarunyu_foto /

Shelf of the Unread

I have a shelf of unread books … actually if I lined up all the unread books I own I’m sure they’d need more than one shelf. Books I’ve bought over the years but have yet to open. Books that I’ve started but somehow never finished. (I’m sure you’ve finished every book you’ve ever started … mhmm.) Books that I’ve bought more recently; silently pleading for my attention.

This year I’ve decided that these books need an investment of my time, not just my money. I’m sure there’ll be other books I also read this year, but for each of the books I’ve selected from my Shelf of the Unread, I’ll post a review. I think this will be a challenging but achievable list. Let’s see how I do.

My selection of 12 books (one for each month) for 2012:

  • Lioness Arising: wake up and change your world by Lisa Bevere
    [Technically I’ve already read this book (over Christmas/New Year), but it had such an impact I’m about to read it again in conjunction with my journals (past and present).]
  • Men and Women in the Church: building consensus on Christian leadership by Sarah Sumner
  • Heart of Stone: my story by Hoa Van Stone
  • The Journey Home by Bill Bright
  • The Emotionally Healthy Church: a strategy for discipleship that actually changes lives by Peter Scazzero with Warren Bird
  • Winning with People by John C. Maxwell
  • Life with God by Richard Foster with Kathryn A. Helmers
  • The Necessity of Prayer by E.M. Bounds
    [This is the first book in a compilation volume of all E.M. Bounds’ works on prayer. I’m starting small, and if I get through any of the other books in the volume this year that will be a bonus. If not, there’s always 2013!]
  • A Call to Spiritual Reformation: priorities from Paul and his prayers by D. A. Carson
  • When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson

And for something a little different:

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

[I have War and Peace on the shelf too, but unless I find myself zooming through the list I think I’ll save that one for next year!]

I guess I’m committed now. It’s time to get reading.

What unread books do you have gathering dust? What books do you plan to read this year?

Image: healingdream /