Thursday, June 11, 2015

Growing in Grace and Our Walk With Him

Featured Guest: Michelle King

Unfortunately, choosing what toothpaste to buy is one of the easier decisions of life. :) As women we face decisions constantly each day and it seems that each decision has a dozen options: what tasks to complete today, what dinner to prepare for the family, when to go grocery shopping, what upcoming events are on the calendar and how to prep for them, what doctor appointments need made, and the list goes on and on...and this is just the physical side of life. What about the spiritual? When can I spend time with Jesus, how should I study His Word, when, where, how much?! It can be overwhelming to know what to do. So many options...which is best for me and my walk with God?

I have a wonderful friend named Michelle who is a constant encouragement to me. She truly views God as her close friend and her love for Him is contagious. I am always challenged spiritually when I spend time with her. She talks about God as her friend, and she spends a large portion of her time with Him, reading, praying, and journaling. I was so interested in how she had grown her relationship with Christ specifically through the avenue of journaling, so recently when I was spending some time with her, I asked her about some of the ways she practically practices her walk with God. I understand that each person's life looks very different because we all choose different options, but I wanted to know what worked for her because what I was attempting to do was not necessarily working for me.  Here is some insight she gave me:

I know you journal during your time with God, but how exactly do you do that? Are there rules or guidelines to follow? How do you know what to write?

Journaling – No one is checking my journal to see if I wrote in it each day. God knows if I did not follow my “routine”, and He knows why…if I read Scripture without writing in my journal, if I listened to Ephesians while walking to work, if I read a short devotional, if I listened to a sermon…or even if I did not spend time in His Word or wrote in my journal but only on the surface. He alone knows, even better than me.

Michelle is real. She doesn't pretend to be something she is not. I love her honest answer that reminds me that no one else needs to know or cares to know what I write, and my journal isn't graded by anyone! If you want to use fun pens, draw pictures as you go, write out your prayers, bullet point what you doesn't matter! :) Just find what works for you to communicate with Him.

How do you study God's Word?

Reading Scripture – I read the Bible for myself and journal what comes…seeking to be real and honest with my own thoughts, questions, and emotions. I try to give myself time to ponder and process. Then, I often read commentaries/study notes to get the teaching and perspectives of others. In a favorite Francis Chan talk he says that all he does is read this book (the Bible) for himself and tries to do what it says. I do not want to only have my perspective, but I do want God to speak to me through His Word and not just the interpretation of His Word by others. Jesus prays in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” This sanctification that comes through the Word is a process. I need to do life with God and allow Him to transform me through His Word.

While her focus is definitely on Scripture, Michelle does use additional resources to aid her study of the Word. It is so easy to find these additional resources online due to technology!

How do you determine when, where, and how long you spend time with God? Is that important?

Routines – I try not to get so focused on a routine with God (time of day, location, amount of time available, or other elements). As a friend who has been learning this lesson as well asked herself, “Am I not going to spend time with God because I don’t have conditions exactly the same as at other times?” As in other relationships, certain times are going to “feel” more ideal than others.

Many people, good people, insist that you start your day with dedicated study and prayer, and they even give great verses to support that. They wake up at 4am to study God's Word before their day starts. But, practically, that doesn't work for everyone. I have often been guilty in the past of thinking, "Well, I didn't get out of bed early to spend time with God so I missed today. I'll try again tomorrow." How dumb is that!? Michelle has encouraged me that consistency in contributing to the relationship is more important that a specific time, place, or length of study.

I feel bad asking my friends to pray with me about a situation because I know they are so busy and they probably have "bigger" issues that need prayer than I do because I have a pretty easy life. And often I feel like I don't invest in the friendship enough to warrant my prayer request, as if I haven't earned the right to ask them to pray with me. What do you think about how I feel when I need prayer but hesitate to ask friends due to my own guilt?

Friends – Would I think a friend, who I hadn’t seen in a while, was selfish for asking for prayer? If not, why do I not give myself the same grace, realizing that sometimes God wants me to ask for prayer from a specific person at a specific time? We are our own worst critics, giving grace to others but not to ourselves. If I do not allow myself to live in grace, I miss out on the depth of relationship that God desires to have with me. As Chasing God by Angie Smith discusses, I will remain too busy “chasing God” to follow Him and live the life He’s given me.

I hope you've learned something today. For several weeks now I've been intentional in finding ways to make time with Jesus a priority and not something I do just to "cross it off my list." I'm working on journaling, my way, and I'm really enjoying it! It helps me stop and think about what I read and how it applies to my life. I'm also trying hard not to focus on expectations..."I have to read an entire chapter" "I have to pray for at least ____ minutes" "I have to study for at least an hour today" These expectations and the guilt that follows when they are not met is purely self-condemnation. I'm learning that two verses that cause me to stop, mediate, and learn are more important than rushing through an entire chapter so that I feel good. God cares about quality, not necessarily quantity or specific boxes checked off. He wants a heart that desires to know Him more, and whatever that looks like for you is all He is asking of you. Be encouraged that our relationships with God won't all work out in the same practical, physical ways, but they should all be growing and deepening as we seek Him daily.

Do you have any tips on spending time with God? 

What practical steps have you taken to make sure your quiet time is an important part of your life? 

How have you put aside your personal expectations of quantity for His request for quality?

Michelle King lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a heart for people, and she exhibits her love for all at her job at Small Seeds Development where her organization strives to help families that need a little extra love and direction. She also has a heart for missions and has traveled around the world to share God's love as well as worked with Campus Ministries on US college campuses. Michelle has a passion for God and it's rare to have conversation s with her that do not progress into spiritual topics. Michelle desires to serve God and show His glory in everything she does.

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