hey genfer. nice to read what you wrote.
i think the more we try to walk in His path the strongr the evil and the worldly temptn is.
I am Orthodox which I think makes things a little easier. They have a different perspective on this all together./ We don't make Christ the center of our lives. We leave our lives when we become Christians and step into His life. And moving closer to Him (closer to holiness, to Theosis) is the work of the Christian. It is our goal. He cannot be moved into the center of our lives. If he is not the center of our lives then we need to move ourselves into orbit around Him.
Fortunately the Church offers many ways to help us along.
First we don't go looking for a church that fits us. the church is there and we go. And we are transformed through it by Christ. If we have to change then we change. This goes along with moving into Christ's orbit rather than trying to drag him into our lives.
Liturgical prayer is very helpful. We use a prayer book for much of our praying. It keeps our prayers focused on God rather than us, and on praying in a manner we should rather than just running a dialog about or feelings. It forces me to ask God for the hard things regardless of if I want to or if those things are "on my heart". It is also consistant. I know how long morning and evening prayers take. I can't pretend I don't have time. I ca't pretend I don't know what to say. All I have to do is show up. And that is the first step to anything.
We submit ourselves to a spiritual father. Think of him as a coach. We check in regularly and he gives us instructions on ways we should fast, pray, attend services, things that might help us over come things we have been struggling with. It sounds legalistic but it is not. Staying in Christs orbit, having a healthy spiritual life that is consistantly growing and moving forward does not happen by accident. It takes work and it is such a blessing to have someone objective and wise to push us forward toward the prize. Someone checking in on us and praying for us and holding us accountable.
Speaking of fasting. We fast. ALL. THE. TIME. Some days we fast and some days we don't. But we are always fasting or feasting over something. We fast before Pascha for like...ever and the Paschal feasting lasts 40 days. The we fast for the apostles and then we feast for the apostles and we fast every friday and wednesday and a compete fast on Sunday mornings before communion. It keeps us ever mindful, right down to the most basic of our desires and mundane of our lives of the hugeness of all that has happened in all of life.
The liturgical year in general keeps us in the flow, cycling through and participating in the life of the Bible, the saints that have gone before us, of Christ's life, milestones of the church, of our lives, of the whole world.
Confession, going to confession and going regularly is something else that keeps my life revolving around Christ. And it is something we take time to prepare for. I have to stop, pray, and really assess "am I walking with Christ in this area or have I gone my own way?" And doing it, saying it out loud, in front of a witness, it all makes it really real and solid. and forces me to choose...continue in sin or actually, really do the work of repentance.
Going to Church. Being in Church. We are not able to be there every Sunday because their dad won't take them on his weeks and won't let me bring them and up until now I have had to work on those Sundays. But we go every chance we get. One vacation week a year is dedicated to church. I am always stumped when people say they can't make time to get to church. Or that church is too long. Or whatever excuse. For us church is the first thing on my calendar. Everything else must fit in around it. Its a matter of priorities. I go when I don't want to. I go when I can't concentrate. I go when I have a million other things to do. I pop in during my lunch break at work even if the service is over (some days it is just about staying in the habit or just being there to breath in the prayers of those who were there before me or light a candle and pray). Usually coaches etc don't mind if I say "we can't make it. we have church" and if they do we drop the activity. No discussion. Sports, school play, band whatever is just not as important. I also am not opposed to pulling the kids out of school for a special service. The only thing we must miss church for is if the law forces us (custody) or if I have to work. Putting food on the table is a priority and making enough money to support us is vital to keeping custody which is vital to raising my children in Christ.
my home. I have tings everywhere around my house that call us to worship. Books, icons, prayers, incense. Things hat remind me of holy times like our palm branches, flowers, holy water..even the candles we light when we pray are candles that were left over from Pascha (thats because I am cheap but still I like to know that those were there at that time.
So anyway, those are some of the things that keep my life orbiting around Christ. I am not saying I never tune out or spin off in my own direction but the Church is always there to help push me back towards Him. I appreciate that :)
A quick, easy way to make Jesus the center of your life is to say the ancient Jesus prayer as often as possible: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." This prayer is based on the Gospels and goes way back to the early days of Christianity, around the 5th century AD. It is taught primarily in Orthodox Christian and Eastern Catholic traditions. Ideally, this prayer should be said with every breath. I inhale when I say or think "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God" and I exhale when I say, "Have mercy on me, a sinner." I visualize it so that I breathe in the peace of Christ and I breathe out my sins. It may sound odd, but it is deeply calming and it helps me discern my true path in life. You can also say the prayer with each step while walking, while waiting in line at the grocery store, etc. :)