Still a Work in Progress - Ron Gatzke

Have you ever experienced times in your walk with Jesus when you felt unfocused and ineffective? When your prayer life was undisciplined and you avoided reading and studying scripture? When you felt like you're just treading water? Of course, you have and so have I. For 2 years, while enrolled in a spiritual direction certification program, I was spending hours reading and engaging regularly in prayer. It was an intense period. I felt relief when it was over, but it didn't take long, for me to fall into the spiritual malaise described above. I found myself drifting... and drifting... and drifting.

Sometimes I think God allows us to experience this drift to help us realize that we miss Jesus and the abundant life he promises us. That realization came to me during Daniel's Entrusted with Time sermon in November. He began that sermon with a rundown on time by age group and hearing aloud that most of my life was already in my rearview mirror helped me to recognize there was still much to learn and become in the time left to me—there's no time to lose. Still it took some months for me to take some concrete action to escape the malaise. Daniel's statement in his last Great Expectations message that "What we hope for shapes what we live for!" moved me forward. What did I hope for? To know God's heart and to love and follow Jesus! I felt compelled by the Spirit to live the Jesus lifestyle and to seek God for who he is and not for what he can do for me.

So in January I began anew to follow a bible-reading plan called Through the Bible With Nikki and Pippa Gumbel. (Nikki Gumbel is the founder of the Alpha Ministry which I participated in while living in Nebraska.) I allow myself grace to follow the plan without stressing out when I miss days—I just continue where I left off. I may not get it done in a year, but I will get through it. The rhythms of Lent, especially prayer and fasting are enriching my experience with Jesus as well. My guiding verse for Lent is James 4:8, "Come near to God and he will come near to you." In preparation for my 21-day Daniel fast, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would open my heart so I may know and embrace God's heart; that I would be sensitive to the insights and emotions the Holy Spirit reveals to me and finally for stamina to carry me through the fast.

So how is this going? It's still a work in progress but I'm excited to be taking more time to pray, making use of contemplative and non-contemplative methods of prayer. I'm trying to be intentional about balancing my prayers among the different elements in the prayer cycle Daniel highlighted several weeks ago (praise, surrender, request, repent, forgive and protect). The fast is tolerable and God has given me stamina to stick with it. I feel healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. What I’m most excited about is an answer I received to a question that my brother, a non-believer, posed to me more than a year ago when grieving the loss of a family friend. I still have a way to go, but I look forward to continuing the journey to Good Friday, Easter and beyond with Jesus by my side