If you missed my last post (Part 1), please take a moment to catch up before you continue.
All caught up? Then let's continue! Once you have planned it, picked a time, picked a place, scheduled it and determined not to have an "ALL or NOTHING" attitude, it's time to discover how to meaningfully connect with God.
First: Know how you connect with Him and what makes time with Him life-giving and not life-draining. If you haven't taken Sacred Pathways at one of our events, email us! We will gladly email you the questions and results explanations. This was life-changing for me! I took it in August, and thought ... "Hmm, I should try spending time with Jesus again and change things up." But of course, my inconsistency and all or nothingness didn't let me. When my dad died in November, I continued to try to fix myself in my own strength and failed. I finally gave in, said I'd spend time with Jesus every day for a week and see if He could bring any relief to my grief, and like I mentioned previously, I honestly didn't believe He could. When I started, I started with my "Pathways" in mind. I'm an Enthusiast/Contemplative, Caregiver, and Naturalist.
A. My enthusiast side needed worship music to connect with God. Worship music is a mandatory component of my Jesus time. I buy a new worship album every 2-3 months.
B. My contemplative side needed to reflect. This is why I started a calendar journal (You can read more about that here). My all or nothing nature found a big journal intimidating at first, so I started small with calendar journaling and fell in love! Now I do a calendar journal and a prayer journal.
C. Caring for others makes me feel closer to God (my caregiver side), so a major part of my Jesus time is listening to the Holy Spirit and who He is putting on my heart, praying for them, and then often taking my phone out right then and there to send them a quick text telling them I'm praying for them and encouraging them in some way.
D. I need to feel connected to nature in some way (naturalist side). Friends, I hate sweating, so sitting outside isn't always an option for me. When it is, I do! But if it's too cold or too hot, I need to be sitting by a window and be able to see the outdoors.
I also believe other things play a part in how you connect with God. I'm an extreme extrovert, tend to be shy, BUT I 100% get energy from being around other people. Therefore, when I try to sit at a table or desk in my empty apartment and spend time with Jesus, it's the opposite of life-giving! It drains me. So I create my own world in public places, usually a coffee shop. I put in my earphones, turn on my music, journal and read –– surrounded by people, by energy, but in my own bubble with my Savior. Which brings me to my next point/step.
Next: Let the floodgates open. Bring tissues. Public or not, if you need to cry, cry! It's therapeutic, and it brings healing. I can't tell you how many times I've been crying in Starbucks. No one judges.
Finally(ish): Here is where I share my suggested routine. Once you take Sacred Pathways, figure out your plan, your routine. My routine might not be perfect for you, but it radically changed my life and now I crave spending time with Jesus instead of avoiding it.
1. Go to your "Gethsemane" place; try out a few if you need to. Mine is Starbucks. Yours might be a breakfast table on your porch. But go dressed and ready! Getting ready helps awaken any "I'm not a morning person" tendencies.
2. Eat before and/or bring food/snacks with you. We're real here, remember?! Hunger can be a distraction and an "excuse" to give up after a few minutes. I am not good at doing anything in the mornings but getting ready, including eating. I bring my fruit and yogurt with me. Also, acquire caffeine if you partake of the wonderful substance. It fights the sleepies.
4. Pick a table/chair/bench/wherever, and set the table, like a date with Jesus. Get out your Bible and books and nice pens, plug in your earphones, and start the worship music.
5. Reflect. Reflect on where you are, what you feel, why your day was crappy yesterday, your sinful tendencies, forgiveness, and then love and redemption. I journal at this point and first. Through doing that I think about the day before, the morning, ask forgiveness for my sin, ask for clarity and focus, thank Him for loving me, etc. And pray. I do this via prayer journal by praying specifically for different people and their needs and different things I'm struggling with.
6. Read. If this is your first day after long term avoidance habits, I'd highly recommend starting with Psalm 51 and then Psalm 139. Any time I stray away and forget that I need Jesus or that He loves me, I always read these two Psalms in that order. It's just a good reminder of our failings and His love for us. After that, find a reading plan that works for you. I'm currently obsessed with She Reads Truth. They have so many great plans! They always have a current one going on, but you can also do any of the older ones. If I'm not caught up in my reading, which of course happens, I usually read a couple of days worth of readings, but one will do as well. I also have been slowly reading through Psalms since my dad died when I had time left after reading whatever plan I was reading. And, if you want to start a book, or finish a book you already started, I sometimes read a chapter of a Jesus book. My favorite amount of time is an hour and 15 - 30 minutes. But most often I get about 50 minutes to an hour. All of the things I mentioned can happen in an hour!
Whew. If you made it through all of that, it's time for action! What's your plan? What are you waiting for? Just give Him two weeks, and watch Him transform your relationship with Him. Let's stop letting Satan win this battle. I recently watched a video from The Gospel Coalition that SheReadsTruth posted, about the importance of God's word in our lives. Something they said stuck with me.
"The enemy wants to keep us out of the Bible. He's a liar. We listen.
He tells us things like:
'You'll be studying the Bible later today working on something so you don't really need to study it for yourself today.'
'You had a hard day yesterday; you need a little more sleep.'
'It will probably be boring or won't feel like it's really for you.'
The devil wants to keep us out of God's word. We think they are our own thoughts, and perhaps they are, but Satan uses them. God's word is living! It's for us. We need it."
Stop believing lies. Let your Savior woo you back to Him. Don't be motivated by a "supposed to" or check off list. Be motivated by your Savior's complete, beautiful love for you. When someone loves us that much, and we actually believe it, giving Him a little bit of time can become natural and not a hassle. God knows you. He made you. He knows what you need, how your brain works, and wants you to love and enjoy spending time with Him. Start today.
Let's make our own rules,
I've been walking with Jesus in some way or another, which admittedly sometimes involved running away from Him or dragging my feet as I walked, or kicking and screaming along the way, for 17-ish years. When I began the journey at 13, that was probably the only year of my life until I was 29-ish (by the way, I operate on the "ish" system often) that I semi-regularly spent time with Him. Some youth leader at some youth rally probably said something that inspired me to make a mental list of things I was "supposed" to do as a Christian. None of those things were bad, but they didn't stick. I was motivated to read my Bible every day so I could check it off of a list, because doing the things on that list seemed to be the opposite of spending eternity in a fiery pit. I was motivated by a "supposed to", not by love (love for my Savior, and believing and understanding His love for me.)
Through high school, college, and post college, my time with Jesus was hit and miss at best. When the woes of the world brought me to a realization that things don't always work or happen like they are supposed to, I didn't see the value in getting up early or making extra time in my day to spend time with Jesus. I still walked with Jesus; He still somewhat influenced my decisions, but I wasn't captivated by Him because I didn't spend time with Him. I was really good at believing I was capable of doing life in my own strength, with my own knowledge. When my dad died on November 18th, 2012, there was no strength or knowledge that I had to prepare me for that grief. In desperation, I told Jesus I'd actually try spending time with Him for two weeks, fully believing that even He couldn't bring peace or healing to my grief. I gave a feeble attempt at an inch, and He pursued me back miles and miles.
I actually started to enjoy giving Him a part of my day. I loved it so much I wanted to know how to make it even better, even more life-giving to me. For about a year and three months now, I've given Jesus part of my day, more days than not, which in all honesty was something I actually never did in my prior years of being a Christian. It has incredibly transformed my life. The intimacy I have with my Savior now, is not something I ever want to be without –– the intimacy and transformation is something that not only I felt, but that other people could see. A best friend recently asked for accountability in the area of Jesus time and for a plan to jump back in it. I sent her a REALLY long email, and she responded with, "You should make this a blog post." I decided that was indeed a great idea. DONE! And so, you've been warned: The following plan/explanation to transforming your time with Jesus is a little lengthy, but so so worth it. And I've divided it into two posts so that you can have time to think about it and really let it soak in.
First: Plan it. Pick a time. Pick a place. Schedule it. And about timing, for many years, most of my life, I used not being a morning person as an excuse for not giving Jesus the first part of my day. I wholeheartedly believe there is value in giving Him the first. The later in the day it is the more chance Satan has to talk you out of it, the more chance he has to fill your day with things and make you think you don't have time, the more chance you'll get tired and find more value in a nap than in spending time with Him. Also, the whole world isn't awake yet. On the days I miss mornings and try for afternoons, it can and has been good, but it's so much more distracting. People are awake and texting me, liking my instagrams, posting on Facebook, etc. If you really want to make this a lifelong regular practice that can easily fit into your life regardless of what's on your plate, I recommend mornings. The example of giving God our mornings is all through scripture, Old and New Testament. And also, Jesus did it. Can't argue with that point. :) If you don't have a specific schedule, "morning" can be a flexible term. You can sleep in until 9:00, take a shower, eat something (or pack a lunch) and still be giving him the first part of your day. I really believe we're called to give Him our first fruits, tithe and time. Neither are easy, but He blesses it times a million. So far no one who has given mornings a chance can argue with me on this point. :)
Then: If your plan falls through, don't beat yourself up or throw in the towel. I am the QUEEN of all or nothing. My entire spiritual journey until last year was all or nothing, and therefore mostly nothing. If I couldn't spend two hours reading my Bible and being hyper spiritual, if I skipped a day, if there was any inconsistency at all, NOTHING. It can't be like that. We don't have to push ourselves into pits of self-condemnation. If we miss a day, two, a month, or 5 years, He's just as ready to take us back. So if you accidentally skip a morning, try for the afternoon; if it doesn't pan out ... tomorrow is a new day with new mercies!
In my next post, we'll talk more about specific ways to connect with God and develop an action plan!
Let's make our own rules,
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