How many of us can honestly say, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)? I get the "to die is gain part," especially when life is hard and I just want to be glorified and endlessly joyful with Christ in heaven forever and ever, amen! But as for "to live is Christ," I feel like, all to often, a truer statement would be, "For to me, to live is activity in some way connected with Christ, and to die is gain."
With my youngest child now in kindergarten, I felt God calling me to strengthen my relationship with Him rather than just busy myself with activity. So, I have said "no" to many activities and sought Him these past two months. And wow, has He opened my eyes to a different kind of living. Some of the believers I most admire have told me about their own spiritual life. They claim to enjoy their time spent with the Lord, in His word and in prayer and worship, so much that they don't want to break away to accomplish the activities of the day.
This is amazing to me, as I find it hard to pray for more than five minutes, and reading God's word can easily become another activity required simply for bible study group discussion, another check off the to-do list. I do those things and base major life decisions on what I know is God's plan for my life, but am I truly investing in my relationship with God? This reminds me of Noah, a story I just finished reading to my children. The bible explains that Noah "found grace in the eyes of the Lord" because "Noah walked with God" (Genesis 6:9). When I reduce bible reading to a check list, and prayer to a few moments of muttered requests (with a "thanks" sprinkled in here and there), am I truly walking with God? I don't think I can make that claim. I think it may be more true to say about me that I walk, with God somewhere in the vicinity. God and I have moments of "with-ness" but too often I walk on my own, leaving God in the background until I remember how much I need Him.
But God has used these past two months of setting aside activity to show me what that kind of "walking with God" relationship can look like. I have learned a few things about myself and how I can walk with God daily:
ABOUT READING. I need to schedule time (outside of my quick morning reading of the word) to read. This is key to my spiritual growth. In between loads of laundry, as I eat breakfast, laying for half and hour on my bed, before I pick up the kids from the bus stop, I read. I read the bible, I read books on faith and spiritual growth, and I read theology and studies. I have about four books going at any one time, at least one of them being a book of the bible. God has taught me that the reading itself can be a form of prayer. While I read, my mind is conversing with God. I am consciously seeking His wisdom to discern what I read and He is constantly giving me Holy Spirit nudges of how what I'm reading applies to something in my life. That's relationship. That's prayer, sister!
ABOUT PRAYER. Prayer does not have to look like what I always thought: sitting in one place, hands folded, head bowed. As I said above, seeking God through reading is conversation with Him. It is prayer. So is writing. Not everyone is a writer, but for me, when I write, it is another opportunity for me to seek God, to talk to Him in prayer as I write. I write personal journals of my own spiritual growth so that I can further process what God is teaching me, and as a memorial of His redeeming work in my life. I share my writing with others. I write letters and emails of prayer and encouragement for others. When I get an email or text message asking for prayer, I have moved from just saying, "I'm praying for you," to replying with an actual written-out prayer. When I go on my daily walks and runs, the reading and writing I do gets turned over and over in my head and the conversation with God continues in the quiet of the morning sun. In a sense, almost everything I do now is prayer, although I'm not spending any more time than I used to in the position of hands folded, head down.
ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. God has been teaching me the importance of continuing in prayer as I talk with others. We all have people in our lives who look to us for guidance, who come to us for advice. I am learning that I need to be in prayer when I am listening to someone tell me what is on their mind. I am learning that if I don't prayerfully engage in the conversation, my answers and advice does not reflect God's heart in the situation. I have learned to listen, ask questions, while praying, "God I don't know what to say to help this person, so I'm just going to listen and love and support them unless You provide some wisdom that I can offer them." He has been very faithful in helping my mind connect His word and His wisdom to the situation, but I have to ask and wait (James 1:5).
ABOUT MUSIC. Now that my kids are in school and the house is quiet, I have reconnected with my love for music. And God has used even that to help me walk with Him. I have a certain Pandora station that plays quiet and thoughtful Christian music, sometimes with words and sometimes without. This station plays quite often throughout the day as I am at home, cleaning, reading, getting dressed. God has used it as yet another way to teach me to be in constant prayer with Him. Sometimes it is just in the background, enhancing the mood of contemplation and connection with God. Sometimes a song comes on that reinforces exactly what I have read and I am moved to tears at God's amazing grace and love for me. Sometimes I am so moved that I stop any activity and just join in praise with the heavenly host.
This is all new to me. I feel like I am consistently walking with God now like never before in my life. And I know God is not finished refining me yet. There are still areas of my days that do not include that same connection with Him. Once my kids get home from school and that peaceful time of searching stops, I still find it hard to keep close to God. I get distracted and I feel like God has to teach me how I can walk with Him in times of quiet as well as in times of activity. But I know I never want to stop the new depth of our relationship. I only want it to grow.
Lord, continue to grow me. Help me preserve and protect the new walk I have with You. Help me to learn to walk with You that closely when I am interacting with my family as a mom and wife. When I am ready, help me walk with You as I minister to others. Help me to seek You first, daily. Lord, I want it to be said of me, like Noah, "Megan walked with God." Amen!
"Earth's crammed with Heaven,And every common bush afire with God,But only he who sees takes off his shoes--The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries."-Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Sign up to get a ONCE Daily Email with all my newest deals! Come join me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Tumblr and Google+.