But God, I don’t have time!

“No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day” (Luke 9:62 MSG).

Do you want to improve your relationship with God? Do you want to connect on a heart level with the One who knows you better than you know yourself? Does the thought of spending time in the presence of your Maker, pouring out your heart to Him, appeal to your weary soul?

In our “hurry-up” world, sitting down to spend time with our Heavenly Father is often not at the top of our priority list. Do you desire to grow spiritually? If not, why? Like any relationship worth having, it takes work on both sides. God is willing. Are you?

I’ve heard many excuses for not making time for God. Can you relate to any of these reasons for not putting God first in your life?

  • My husband and children demand too much of my time.
  • I’m trying to hold down a job and juggle all of my responsibilities at home.
  • I’m president, (vice-president, secretary/treasurer, or reporter) of (insert organization or group here) and I must (insert duties here).
  • My church family expects me to volunteer for (insert committees, projects, etc. here).
  • I barely have enough time for myself, let alone God.

Let’s examine these excuses, especially the final one. I used to be the “Queen of Busy.” I was involved in so many activities, I never had time for myself, let alone God. I was so stressed at times I wasn’t always a pleasant person to be around. Then I came to realize the necessity of putting God first at the beginning of my day. When I began working on my relationship with Him, I was able to step back, survey my life and reassess my priorities. That is when I learned an important word: “No.”

No, as in, “I’m sorry but I really cannot commit to this project at this time.” No, as in, “I really can’t take on one more task, (office, club, etc.).” No, as in, “I would really like to help you out but I’m overwhelmed with so many other things that I would not be able to give my best to this committee.” You get the picture. No means just that, “No.” You don’t have to be rude. However, you must be intentional in pursuing a relationship with God, even if it means giving up “good” activities.

If you have kids around 24/7, I suggest you get up earlier. Even spending 30 minutes with God at the beginning of your day will better prepare you for the roller coaster of life that we all experience at times. I also recommend you have all of your spiritual tools—Bible, journal, devotional and pen—in one place so it’s easier to begin your day with God. See this special place and moment as His time and your time to grow closer.

Journaling your prayers to Him can help change you from knowing about God into someone who experiences God in a deeper way. One of the most important things to remember about our relationship with God as we journal our prayers is we write to grow, not to stay the same. And that’s what God wants for us—to grow spiritually.

Are you lost?

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).

In my late 40s, I began to keep a prayer journal because I was lost. I began to ask myself, “Who am I?”  My nest was empty. I no longer felt needed by my sons, one of whom had married. The other had just started college. I also went through a divorce after my 28-year marriage ended. I no longer could identify myself as a wife or a mother. Through journaling, I rediscovered the most important part of myself. I was a daughter of the most High God—a God who cares about me, a God who hears my prayers and a God who wants a relationship with me.

Since that time, more than 10 years ago, my life’s journey has become intentional. Instead of allowing my peers and the whims of passing fancies to lead me, my goal has been a deeper relationship with my Heavenly Father, who longs to meet each of us at the heart of who we are and all that we hope to become.

I had no idea the trials I would face after rededicating my life to Him in the fall of 2001. My journal has become a place to record my cries for help as well as the outcome of many of those times of despair. The pages of my journal have helped me to find the beauty of God’s activity in my life and the lives of those I love. When my ink pen flows across the page with words inspired by the Holy Spirit, I find clarity in my life.

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is peace I find after spending time with my Heavenly Father each morning, pouring out my heart to Him in praise and supplication on the written page.

If I could choose the most important differences in my life since I began keeping a journal each morning, it would be the following:

  • A peace like no other. When my world and the world around me is in turmoil, I know where my peace comes from.
  • The knowledge of who I am and whose I am. I spent most of my life living up to other people’s expectations. Now, I live for Him.
  • Contentment with who I am and what I have. Many of us live our lives in discontent and seek things outside of God to satisfy that longing that can only be filled in a relationship with Him. Material possessions will never satisfy.

James 4:8 reads, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Do you want to draw closer to God? By expressing your thoughts, your feelings and your insights in a journal, you will be surprised when you discover God in the process. In turn, He will use your journal as an instrument to transform you. Your journal will also become a way of holding yourself accountable to spiritual maturity.

 

 

 

 

Why Journaling is More than Writing

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”(Luke 12:34).

Faced with a blank notebook page, many of us cringe, recalling our school years when we were required to write essays on subjects that held no relevance for our lives. When those essays were returned, some of us were even more disheartened when we saw the bloody marks of the teacher’s red pen. While writing is a pleasure for me, others would rather take a beating than be forced to ink their thoughts on paper again. Being required to fill a page with words can be frightening. However, it can also be enlightening when it is a choice.     Why write?

 

 

  • Journaling is more than writing. Keeping a journal helps us to capture memories. Even the best photographs can’t tell the whole story. Journals become keepers of our memories, not just the facts with descriptions of events, but the emotions related to that particular time in life.
  • Journaling is more than writing. Keeping a journal can help us achieve goals. Writing can help us to define and plan the steps we must take to accomplish our dreams. It can also help us to discover our passion or even a new direction in life.
  • Journaling is more than writing. Keeping a journal can harness our creativity. Even if you’re not a writer, being able to come up with creative ideas can help in other areas of life. For example, being creative applies to cooking a meal from scratch, making a discovery in science or medicine, finding a way to cut costs or developing a solution to a business problem.
  • Journaling is more than writing. Keeping a journal can help bring clarity by identifying where you’ve been, where you’re at and where you want to be in life. This is more than just setting goals. It is reflecting on the past ~ not dwelling on it ~ but examining your past for clarity. Reviewing past journal entries can help you to identify patterns in your behavior, life choices and attitudes. Once identified, you can consciously decide to make the necessary changes.
  • Journaling is more than writing. Keeping a journal can help us to make sense of life. Have you ever been in the middle of a painful experience or watched as a loved one went through a particularly tough time? If we can capture our emotions at the time, it helps us to write through the pain and uncover the lesson.
  • Journaling is more than writing. Keeping a journal is good for your mental health. Are you angry with someone? Instead of getting in an altercation or letting the anger fester in your soul, use your journal to write a letter to the other person. Pour out your anger on the lined pages of your journal but don’t mail it. Instead, go back, reflect on your entry later, and reassess your emotions about the other person and the incident that led up to that point. Chances are your feelings have changed. If not, keep writing.

How Can You Connect with Non-Christians?

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” – James 4:8 (NKJV).

 In today’s technologically-connected society, networking has never been easier. I would hazard a guess that it began with the computer and then the Internet. However, we could probably trace it back to several earlier inventions like the telegraph and telephone. It really doesn’t matter. However, the proliferation of communication devices now available to us can be overwhelming.

In fact, some of these new means of connecting can actually cause disconnect. Take, for example, email. According to the website, pingdom.com, there were 3.146 billion email accounts worldwide in 2011. Email is great for all kinds of reasons because it creates instant communication anywhere in the world as opposed to snail mail. However, for establishing personal relationships, it leaves much to be desired and miscommunication is always a problem when you can’t see someone’s expression and, once you hit the “send” button, you can’t retrieve it.

Text messaging is another example. It’s a great tool for instant communication. However, miscommunication arises when you send short, snappy answers. Without seeing the other person’s body language, you can misinterpret the meaning.

What gives life meaning? A personal relationship with our Abba Father is the beginning of a meaningful, joy-filled life. He desires an intimate, authentic relationship with each of us. Sitting on a church pew, praying, singing and listening to a sermon every Sunday morning does not automatically translate into a deeper relationship with the One who desires a heart connection with us. While those things are part of our spiritual growth, spending quality time with Him each morning before our day gets hectic is the key to becoming a mature Christian.

Setting aside the first fruits of your day in Bible and devotional reading and journaling your prayers and thoughts to God is one of the best ways I know to grow in your faith. I began prayer journaling over 10 years ago, pouring out my heart to Him on the written page and it has led to a closer walk with Him. Why is it important to have a more intimate relationship with God? In John 15:4, Jesus tells us, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Therefore, if we want to bear fruit and lead others to understand the wonderful grace of God, we must abide in Him. Through an authentic relationship with God, we can have a deeper connection, which will translate into a more caring, natural communication with others.  While non-believers are often alienated by “Christianese,” most can relate to the trials we all face in life. Sharing your personal journey borne through a healing relationship with Christ leads to real connections. However, we must first build a personal relationship with our Abba Father by spending quality time with Him in Bible study and prayer journaling. When you draw close to Him, He will draw closer to you.

(For more information, how-to’s and inspiration about prayer journaling, go to www.journalingwithjesus.com)

You Can Write Through the Pain

“I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord…” –Psalm 77:1-2 (NIV)

Have you ever felt that God has forgotten you? You’re not alone. There have been times in my life when I have felt so empty and alone, I have cried out for my Lord to bring me home. I was in so much emotional pain, I didn’t want to live.

Pain can bring us to our knees in prayer or it can keep us from overcoming those things God wants to use to help us grow. For me, it began with the end of my 28-year marriage in 2001. Journaling through the pain eventually helped me to release the negative emotions associated with the loss—anger, bitterness and unforgiveness.

Before my divorce, my baggage was so heavy I suffered from physical afflictions as well as other health issues. Let me explain. Did you know that when you carry around your past hurts, or allow stress to rule your life, it affects you physically? This is called the mind-body connection. Your body responds to the way you think, feel and act. When you are stressed, anxious or upset, your body tries to tell you something isn’t right. Poor emotional health can also weaken your body’s immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times.

For many years, my internal baggage affected my body in many ways. A stress-filled marriage and poor self-image led to frequent back pain, a stiff neck and an upset stomach. However, it wasn’t until my 2002 breast cancer diagnosis that I learned about this important connection. Part of my optional treatment plan involved counseling sessions at Cancer Treatment Centers of America where I learned about this important mind-body issue.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Putting my thoughts on paper in the form of a letter to the Lord is one of the best ways I have found to let go of stress, past hurts and all my worries.

When Hollywood writer Misty Taggert learned that her husband had been diagnosed with Stage 4 neck and tongue cancer, she was confused and angry with God. She couldn’t understand why God would let this happen. Then, she remembered how much writing meant to her and she began to use her fountain pen to connect with the pain.

In Write Where it Hurts, Jo Ann Fore explains: “As Misty writes, it draws everything together for her. The pain flows from her brain and heart, trickles down into her arm, through the pen and onto the paper. An art form, for her, that offers a direct connection to God.

Misty says, “There’s something wonderful about connecting what’s going on in your mind and taking it to the paper to make it real. When I pray verbally, my mind wanders. I know it’s not supposed to—but it does. I have a hard time staying focused. I found if I write to God, instead, I stay focused.”

Prayer journaling can help you stay focused on Him instead of your problems. Try journaling your struggles to God today.

Why Should You Keep a Spiritual Journal?

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”                  –Romans 12:12

      For more than 10 years, I have sat down each morning with my Bible, a book of devotions and my journal to spend time with my Heavenly Father. This quiet time is God’s time, the time I devote to communicating with Him. During our planned meeting, my focus is on Him. After reading scripture and devotion, I pour out my heart to Him in my journal. Whatever is on my mind or weighing heavily on me finds its way onto the blank pages. Inked on those lines are also words of affection for His character and His compassion.  My words of praise are whispers in His ear just as He speaks softly into my heart.

Why should you keep a spiritual journal? Here are seven reasons:

  • Documenting your prayers in a journal frees you to be more authentic with God. He knows your heart and thoughts anyway. If you look up the definition of authentic, you will find the following: genuine, real, not fake, reliable and trustworthy. Now, look up the antonyms or opposites of these words. You’ll find these words: counterfeit, fake, false, unreal and untruthful. Do any of these words describe your relationships with others? With our Heavenly Father, we don’t have to fake it. We don’t have to prove we are worthy of His love. We just have to accept His wonderful gift of grace.
  • Looking back at your entries can help you trace your spiritual growth. Occasionally, I open the box containing my previous prayer journals. I am humbled when I read my earliest entries and then fast forward to the current year. It reaffirms for me that God cares for His children.
  • Keeping a daily prayer journal can help you understand the nature and will of God. However, it requires you to slow down and take time to listen for His voice.
  • Keeping a daily prayer journal reminds you for whom and for what you need to pray. Your journal is also a place to record those things for which you are thankful.
  • Recording your prayers gives you a written record of them so that when you need encouragement, you can look back and see that God is always faithful, even when we aren’t. It helps us to remember God’s power displayed in our lives.
  • Prayer journaling forces you to take time on a regular basis to communicate with God and make sense of the craziness in your daily life. It helps you gain perspective on what is important.
  • Journaling can be an accountability tool, allowing you to record your promises to God. Have you ever made a promise to God and then promptly forgotten because of life’s craziness? I know I have. Using your journal as an accountability tool is not only a way to help record your promises but also a way to remind yourself of your commitment to God. He knows and forgives our forgetfulness. Use your journal to help you keep your promises.
    I challenge you to try prayer journaling for 40 days! Will you take the challenge?

What does prayer mean to you?

“This, then, is how you should pray:“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”– Matthew 6:8-10 (NIV).

When they asked how, Jesus taught his disciples to pray. The Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew 6:8-14, reveals our Savior’s heart. What does prayer mean to you? Do you think it’s a mysterious practice reserved for the religiously devout?

Prayer is simply a conversation with your Abba Father. Minister and author, Josh McDowell, has this to say about prayer: “Prayer is talking with God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart.”

For some, even Christians, prayer has become an afterthought, done only while sitting in a church pew, at the dinner table or beside a child’s bed before sleep. Sometimes, prayer is offered as a wish of one’s heartfelt desire with expectations of God answering like a genie inside a magic lamp.

It’s about your heart connection to the One who loves you more than life itself.

If you’re seeking an intimate, powerful transformation in your relationship with God, then your prayer life must be more than asking for things. Praying is not just setting aside a special time to spend with Him; it is an ongoing conversation with Him throughout your busy day. While you are at work, eating, conversing with others, waiting for appointments or on the run from one place to another, you can be in prayer. Thank Him continually for the blessings in your life, even the difficult times. They help you to grow closer to Him.