Practice Makes Perfect

Andres Segovia was one of the best classical guitarists of all times. One of his students wrote an interesting article about how Segovia practiced:

This is what he taught me and told me was his method. Practice in setsof fifteen minutes, divided into two sets of seven to eight minutes with ashort break between. At the end of each fifteen minutes, take a 3 minutebreak, stand up, get a glass of water, stretch, etc. but be sure to take amoment to focus your eyes on something far away to relax your eyes from the close work of the page and the fret board and to clear your mind. Startagain and do three fifteen minute sets, totaling 45 minutes of intensepractice. This time at the end of the third set take a real break ofabout fifteen minutes. Repeat this 3-set practice routine for a total of five times. At that point you will have spent around five and a half hours.

via Classical Guitar – Segovia’s Advice About Practicing | Eric Henderson Blog.

Five and a half hours of practice? On top of this, he would do the same routine in the afternoon, and I believe also in the evening. I wonder if the reason why I don’t play better, is because I don’t spend much time practicing. I really don’t have fifteen or so hours to practice a day. Some days, I don’t practice at all. I’m sure that if I spent even one hour a day in practice I’d play guitar much, much, better. Practice transforms me and my ability to  play. Continue reading “Practice Makes Perfect”

Why Abstinence Isn’t Working in America // Asbury Seedbed

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What really intrigued me in this article is how the issue of abstinence is linked to discipleship (which I agree with), and how Chmielesk further suggests approaching the issue as one of celibacy rather than abstinence. Here’s a quote about the problem:

The call to young Christians to be abstinent until marriage is not working.Why do I say that?The September/October 2011 issue of Relevant Magazine, in an article entitled Almost Everyones Doing It, starts with the following revelation:Eighty percent of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the past year. Even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76% of Evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong. 80% of young, unmarried Christians have had sex… Wow! 66% of them have been sexually active in the past year.  And yet three-quarters of Evangelical Christians believe this is wrong.More evidence…

via Why Abstinence Isn’t Working in America // Asbury Seedbed.

Here is his basic argument:

This is why I like the idea of celibacy over abstinence. Celibacy includes the premise of abstinence — in that you need to hold off on sexual activity until marriage (should that happen for them… someday) — but it adds to it the bigger, more inclusive notion that for now (and for always) we can delight ourselves in God. We abstain from sexual activity and redirect those energies towards our pursuit of Jesus.

Continue reading “Why Abstinence Isn’t Working in America // Asbury Seedbed”

Like a Plant…

Flowers at Branson “The spiritual life is like a plant growing in a garden” – Dr. Susan Muto

I’m not much of a gardener myself. My daughter wanted a garden when she was about eight years old. She wanted to use her birthday money to purchase seeds. So, as any good parents would do, we let her purchase seeds. It was then that I realized that a garden doesn’t just “happen.” A garden takes work. It takes a lot of work.

First I had to prepare the ground since we never had a garden before. This meant buying dirt (which I think is completely wrong…paying for dirt!) to add to the sandy soil we have. Then came the planting, the watering, the weeding, the watching, putting up a fence to keep our dog out…etc. To be honest, we are not real good at gardening because we want the garden to just grow. We didn’t weed that often and it was hard to remember to water it.

What was the outcome? Some plants grew and others didn’t. The corn never came up. Neither did the green peppers. We did have some beans and jalapeno peppers though. It was kind of a hit and miss garden I guess.

I think Dr. Muto is correct. Our spiritual life is like  a plant in a garden. John Wesley talked about the change that happens when we are regenerated. That is as if God is planting a seed into the soil of our soul (soil he prepared through prevenient grace). There is a good chance that the seed will grow, but there is a chance that it won’t grow.

Wesley talked about the importance of keeping the ordinances of God. He felt prayer (private and public), scripture reading (private and public), attending the Lord’s supper, community and other such acts were vital to one’s spiritual life. For me, these things are the weeding and watering of the spiritual life. Keep in mind that we don’t ’cause’ the growth because of what we do. God is the one who provides the growth all through grace. What the disciplines (ordinances) do is put us in a position where we might receive that grace. After all, Wesley called them the “means” of grace. They are avenues in which God’s grace can flow into our lives. By neglecting them, we neglect the very things that can help our spiritual garden be a beautiful garden.

Transformation of the Heart

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, "If you keep a lot of rules, I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing." I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other. – C. S. Lewis

I know there are things that if I choose to do them, I will never be the same. I believe we have all had that "after this, I will never be who I was" type of experiences. We knew that if we stepped over the line, or took the plunge, or ate the fruit, we would never be the same. I believe that is what C. S. Lewis is hinting at here. Each choice has a consequence, not just a what happens type of consequence, but also a consequence of being. Our choices have the power to change us.

I believe this is what John Wesley meant when he talked about the dispositions of the heart. As we choose to follow God and God’s way, the dispositions of our heart are changed toward the good, or God. If we choose to not follow, to allow sin to reign in our hearts and lives, well, that changes our dispositions too. Choosing to follow will transform our heart from a selfish, sinful disposition, to one that is characterized by loving God and loving others.

Practicing the means of grace (spiritual disciplines) is a way we choose to allow the dispositions of our heart to be transformed. Wesley taught that the means of grace conveyed God’s grace into the life of the individual. When we practice spiritual disciplines, we are choosing to have our heart turned toward God and transformed by God’s grace. Therefore, the disciplines are not optional practices if one has time, but essential practices if one is wanting the dispositions of the heart transformed.

John Wesley on the Importance of Fasting

First Wesley voices his concern that Methodists are not fasting like they did at one time:

 

14. It would be easy to show, in how many respects the Methodists, in general, are deplorably wanting in the practice of Christian self-denial; from which, indeed, they have been continually frighted by the silly outcries of the Antinomians. To instance only in one: While we were at Oxford, the rule of every Methodist was, (unless in case of sickness,) to fast every Wednesday and Friday in the year, in imitation of the Primitive Church; for which they had the highest reverence. Now this practice of the Primitive Church is universally allowed. “Who does not know,” says Epiphanius, an ancient writer, “that the fasts of the fourth and sixth days of the week” (Wednesday and Friday) “are observed by the Christians throughout the whole world.” So they were by the Methodists for several years; by them all, without any exception; but afterwards, some in London carried this to excess, and fasted so as to impair their health. It was not long before others made this a pretence for not fasting at all. And I fear there are now thousand of Methodists, so called, both in England and Ireland, who, following the same bad example, have entirely left off fasting; who are so far from fasting twice in the week, (as all the stricter Pharisees did,) that they do not fast twice in the month. Yea, are there not some of you who do not fast one day from the beginning of the year to the end? But what excuse can there for this? I do not say for those that call themselves members of the Church of England; but for any who profess to believe the Scripture to be the word of God. Since, according to this, the man that never fasts is no more in the way to heaven, than the man that never prays. (John Wesley from CAUSES OF THE INEFFICACY OF CHRISTIANITY Sermon 116)

I wonder what he would say to us today….