Michelle Philp

After 10 years in women's ministry I'm now a Community Chaplain at St John's Anglican Church, Wishart (Queensland, Australia) and a part-time Defence chaplain. I'm single with two schnauzers who provide a lot of 'interaction' with the community.

Tell us about a ministry you love

I'm loving community chaplaincy - it's a way of reaching out to our community by being available to those in need of a listening ear and a caring heart.  It's a way of witnessing to the love of Jesus by being available for people where they are at - going to them instead if expecting them to come to us.

Do you seek to have a daily 'quiet time'? If so, what does this time look like?

I do.  What this looks like has changed with different situations in life, but always includes scripture and mostly prayer.

How do you read the Bible?

At the moment I'm using a Bible in a year program that is a combination of a psalm, 2-3 NT chapters and 2-3 OT chapters plus a devotional.  Previously I have used a Chronological Bible in a year plan (one of my favourites). I've also had dry years where I have used shorter topical Bible series or random verses.

What practices have you found helpful for engaging with the Bible?

I like variety and I learn new things from new ways. Learning the original languages helped me most with engaging with the scriptural text. Listening to the Bible while out walking has helped in engagement with God's Word in a different way. Sometimes I add key verses to photos I have taken and then meditate on that verse throughout the day. Changing translation can also help in understanding the Bible as different phrasing highlights things not previously seen or understood.

I particularly found a Chronological Bible useful for understanding God's work throughout history as prophets were interspersed with the kings, Paul's letters interspersed with the book of Acts, etc.

What does your prayer life look like?

Prayer is my biggest failing! I have learnt to pray on the spot when I tell people I'l pray for them, because I don't have good disciplines otherwise. Likewise I try to pray for things as soon as I think of them, rather than waiting for a set time. I use an app on my phone for collecting prayer points at home group, etc.  For a while I used the PrayerMate app, but when organisations didn't update it regularly I stopped.

We started Morning prayer from the prayerbook on zoom when the Covid isolations started and that has helped me greatly - praying regularly with others and using a mixture of liturgical/written prayers and open prayer helps.

Do you make use of any catechisms, liturgies or pre-written prayers?

Morning (and occasionally evening) prayer from the Anglican prayer book has been helpful.  The meter/rhythm of many of the written prayers, along with their repetition means I often find myself praying them through the day from memory.

Do you have any sabbath practices that serve you well

Making sure I have one is a practice that serves me well!

Do you practice silence and solitude?

I have been on silent retreats - that have been far more refreshing than I expected!

Do you memorise Scripture?

I used to.  Most of my memory verses came from songs (especially Colin Buchanan ones!) and I used to memorise Scripture by having passages written out behind the toilet door or on the bathroom mirror. Over the years, with regular Bible reading, you find you become more familiar with passages and they stick in your memory anyway.

How have you failed or struggled in these areas? What has God taught you as a result?

I constantly fail! It teaches me that God is holding onto me regardless of how well I am holding on to Him. Bible reading and prayer aren't part of a set of rules to check off to get into heaven - they are your communication with your God who knows and loves you.  When you stop doing them, you feel distant from God, but He is still your loving Father. (Reminding myself of this also helps me want to go back to start chatting with God again, because it stops being a burden and starts being a joy).

What routines, habits or rules of life have you found helpful?

Finding a routine helps - but I often struggle to get into routine.  The early stages of COVID isolation were great for my spiritual life as I was getting up at 5am, bootcamp 5:30-6:30, then walking the dog while listening to the Bible on my phone until 7:30 followed by morning prayer on zoom with people from church at 8am.  It was all going so well - until I got a second puppy who couldn't be taken on walks for the first 2 months. The morning prayer with others continued (this includes Bible readings), but my personal times stopped. Still working on a new routine!

Who has been an example to you?

I stayed with a lady from my old church in Canberra for a few months between houses.  She was so faithful with getting up early to read her Bible and pray.  This was such a great example of an older saint for me.  I was especially impacted when I realised that she prayed for me every Friday.  Coming from a non Christian home, I was not used to having someone pray for me so regularly and faithfully.

What wisdom would you share with a younger Christian?

If you start something like a Bible in a year program and miss a day, don't play catch up, just move on to the next day.  Over the years, those gaps will get filled in, but when you try to catch up you can get further and further behind and it becomes a burden.  It's better to read one short passage with understanding then to glaze over 4-5 chapters just so you can tick a box.

What have you found helpful when you feel spiritually dry?

Remembering that reading and meditating on even just a few verses is refreshing for your soul. (Psalm 19)  In really dry times, I have spent time using an app to put a Bible verse onto a photo I have taken.  I have found myself meditating on the verse as I search for the most appropriate photo and then looking at the completed image for ages afterwards. Good for visual people like me! Grace not law is also a helpful reminder when spiritually dry.

Are there any other resources you would recommend?

  • YouVersion - Bible reading plans and images creator.
  • PrayerMate.
  • The Anglican Prayerbook - there's come great prayers in there!
  • Psalm 19 to be reminded of the joys of God's word.
  • Don Carson's 'For the Love of God' was also helpful for a few years.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Bible reading and prayer are often like eating breakfast - if you skip it, you won't die, but you are healthier and happier when you have it daily. It won't always be exciting. Sometimes it is dry cereal just to get you through the day, other times it is a Saturday morning brunch banquet "sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb" (Psalm 19).

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