“I am with you. I will watch over you everywhere you go”—Genesis 28:15(NIRV).
Almost 11 years ago, I took a giant leap of faith. I left a northeastern Oklahoma community where I’d lived since 1969—except for the times I’d gone away to college—to move to a larger town about 70 miles west. I left behind family and friendships formed over a 36-year period to a place where I knew very few people.
However, during the time I’ve lived in Rogers County, I’ve been blessed with a multitude of friends. Those friends have encouraged me, laughed and cried with me, prayed with and for me and stood by me during times of trouble. Even more importantly, being here has helped my faith grow. Through my church family and the people of faith God has placed in my path, my spiritual eyes have been opened to embrace what God can do in our lives when we place our trust in Him.
What does God ask of us?
I like what best-selling author and minister, Norman Vincent Peale said about faith. “Faith is the most powerful of all forces operating in humanity and when you have it in depth nothing can get you down.”
However, it wasn’t always that way for me. I’d only been in Claremore about a year when I yearned to return home. Prayer and the advice of wise individuals revealed to me I was here for a reason. Soon, I came to call this place home. I had no desire to return.
Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you”—John 15:16 (CEB)
A recent conversation between two of my grandchildren while we were eating supper brought back childhood memories of my own. My youngest grandson, Cash, will be starting school this year. He missed the cut-off date by two days last year, so he’ll probably be one of the older ones in his pre-kindergarten class. I’m guessing he’ll also be one of the tallest as he’s always been big for his age.
As we ate our supper of bacon, eggs, hash browns and biscuits, we began discussing the upcoming school year. Brennan, my oldest grandson who is nine, began to give advice to his younger cousin. The talk turned to bullying when Brennan said, “Cash, if you’re the smallest in your class, people will pick on you.”
My heart went out to him because I knew Brennan spoke from experience. He’s one of the smallest in his class. However, as Brennan began to explain to his cousin how he dealt with bullies, I had to smile. I knew God was working in my grandson’s life because I was seeing evidence of my answered prayers as Brennan spoke. I listened and then said, “Do you know why bullies pick on others, especially smaller people?”
“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity”— 1 Chronicles 29:17 (NIV).
Even more than Christmas, I love this time of year, especially the traditions we observe in my church. On March 5, we recognized the beginning of the Lent season on Ash Wednesday. Lent, while not observed by all denominations, is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline.
Observing Ash Wednesday at a special evening service in our church includes an invitation by our ministers to come forward and receive ashes made from palm leaves, which had been part of our Palm Sunday celebration the previous year when children carried them into the service. Our ministers make a sign of the cross on our forehead to symbolize purification and sorrow for our sins.
Several weeks before Ash Wednesday, I was experiencing a spiritual dryness. I hadn’t given up on my spiritual disciplines. I was still reading and studying my Bible each morning, praying and writing in my prayer journal and spending time listening for that still, small voice. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t hearing as clearly from the Lord. The weekend before Ash Wednesday, as I was reading the last few chapters of Chronicles, I came across Chapter 29:17. “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.”
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”– 1 Peter 5:6-7
When I was younger, I relied on my parents. Later on in life, I relied on others until they proved untrustworthy. For too many years, I relied on myself. Then, God showed me I could always depend on Him. I like this acronym:
Is it hard for you to rely on others? What about God? Do you have a hard time relying on Him? Why or why not?
Begin Day 2 of your journaling journey with the following prayer starter:
Dear Abba Father,
I want to completely trust and rely on You for everything in my life. I know you care for me. I am counting on You to show me how to rely on you fully.
Faith Step: Whom have you relied on in the past? Other people? Yourself? Consider what steps of faith God is asking you to take today to learn how to rely on Him fully. Read and memorize Proverbs 3:5-6. Write it down on several index cards and post them around your house.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” — Ephesians 4:32 (NIV).
Are you harboring a grudge? Angry with someone? Is bitterness holding you back from enjoying life? For years, I carried around bitterness and hurt. Until I learned to forgive, I was not free. I like this anonymous quote:
“When I forgave, I set a prisoner free. Then I realized the prisoner was me.”
I want to forgive those who have hurt me. I want to forgive myself for poor choices in the past. Please show me how to do this, Father.
Faith Step: Learn to forgive. Journal about those things that have led to your bitterness and anger. Now choose to forgive. Pour out your heart to the One who knows you better than you know yourself.
“Come near to God and he will come near to you”–James 4:8(NIV)
Where is God on your priority list? If you were to rate your relationship with Him on a scale of 1-10, like a daily to-do-list, would He be at the top or closer to the bottom?
Did you know that spending time with your Heavenly Father is the best relationship you will ever develop? When you spend time with Him on a daily basis, the more your other relationships will improve.
How do I know? Because I’ve been spending quality time with my Abba Father every morning for almost 13 years. Not only have I found peace within, but I’ve made peace with those whom I needed to forgive, including myself. More importantly, I am on the path to becoming the person God created me to be?
Never let a day pass without spending time with your Creator. This simple practice will change your life forever.
Begin your Day 1 journal entry with the following:
Dear Abba Father,
I want to know you better. Please teach me what I need to learn in order to draw closer to You.
(Sit quietly and listen for that still, small voice leading you on a new journey to know Him better. Then pour out your heart to him on the lined pages of your journal.)
Faith Step: Choose to put God above all else each day by getting up earlier, if necessary, to read the Bible and journal your prayers to Him. What would you like to say to Him today? What is He saying to you?
“…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22
Can you imagine what it would be like to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with your Savior? Can you picture yourself sitting together on a carpet of clover near a small mountain river? No one is around to interrupt your dialogue. The only sounds are of the water as it flows on its course downstream, the occasional rustling of the grass as a forest creature timidly checks out the intrusion in his world and the call of a bird seeking its mate.
What would you discuss? What questions would you have? What would He ask you? How long would He be able to spend time with you before He had to move on?
One of the hymns I recall from my childhood is “In the Garden,” by Charles Austin Miles. The refrain dances through my mind when I think about spending time with Him.
And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there;
None other has ever known.
It is a joy to spend time with my Savior. Although I cannot physically walk through the garden or sit by a stream to talk with Him, through prayer journaling, I have found a way to draw closer to Him.