An ongoing approach or mindset to self-renewal beaks through the “Warrior-Wall” and moves toward the third cycle as a spiritual grandpa.
God yearns for deepening relationship with me. Do I respond in kind to that longing for relationship? All deep relationships are mutual.
For me today, His initiating first-love is the most central Reality about His character. I can love God because He initiates, constantly, to first love me (1 John 4:19; Zephaniah 3:17). Repeatedly push in with gentle will-thoughts. But don’t force it like in any rich relationship. Think incremental process over time, more than event, so we remain patient.
I have found it helpful to gather simple, easy-to-practice, quick-hit, organic ways to abide more consistently in His moment-by-moment presence. Abiding in God’s presence takes little time, and yet all our time as we invite Him into our inner conversations. I have used external reminders. For me, however, the more organic, the more effective. Select what works for you, and add others that are helpful to reflect “with one foot raised,” prepared for action.
1. Spiritual Longing Statement. (hyperlink to PDF)
Develop a spiritual “longing statement.” See the hyperlink for some practical helps. This is short and pithy, and changes over time. It succinctly captures your deep longing toward God in this season. Today mine is “I yearn for increasing enjoyment of your presence as my good.” I wrote this on my daily prayer sheet, and often begin my day with this focus.
2. Check-in with God.
I check-in periodically most days when I have a leisure moment (although I still go for longer stretches than I like focused only on my stuff). Currently, I’m using the picture borrowed from a friend of an inviting river of God’s presence (Psalm 36:8; 46:4). I simply check mentally. Am I in the stream of His delight or observing from the bank of the river? If on the bank, I choose to dive back into the river of His presence. This takes mere seconds and often (not always) restores a tangible sense of God’s pleasure.
3. Inner Conversations.
All our thoughts involve inner conversations in our heads. So I’m learning to invite Jesus more often into my inner conversations, rather than simply dialoging with myself. This approach is highly organic. I’m learning to converse in my head with Jesus in a wide range of events, for instance, when I’m unsure how to respond at work to a challenging employee or when experiencing a joyful event with no one with whom to share it. Now I always have companionship.
4. Meditative Naps.
I freely take meditative naps. Perhaps I have a tough day at work. I go to my car at lunch break, quickly eat my sandwich while I read something that fills my heart. Then I set my alarm for fifteen minutes. I tip the seat back, relax all my muscles, and close my eyes. I focus on Father’s love and care as I relax my body. I’m OK if I don’t fall asleep since the time resting in my Father’s love is so sweet. I nap well, though, and almost always fall asleep. When I awake, it’s like the Lord’s mercies and compassion are new and fresh. It seems very important to me to be able to learn to relax well, to rest, especially in this high stress world today.
5. “One-Minute Sabbath.” (hyperlink to PDF)
What do you do when you feel undue stress or know of something that you allowed to take you out of God’s presence? Since I have practiced “One-Minute Sabbath” for quite some time, I now experience little lag time. Often I feel the stress drain quickly and return to a joy in His presence. And, yes, this takes me less than one minute.
6. Natural Reminders.
I’m more conscious to use the natural reminders that God has scattered throughout our journey to remind us of His “with you” presence. Read Psalm 19 for three: creation, His Word, and people.
7. “Flashback.” (hyperlink to PDF)
Some people find something like “Flashback” very useful to examine the direction of their lives. This is not a sin-management approach. Instead, it’s a quick look-back for discernment in two arenas.
First, I want to observe the footsteps of my Father’s care in my life since last check-in. It’s easy for me to walk through a day oblivious to God’s caring presence.
Second, I want to observe which way the wind of my emotions/affections have been blowing in my heart, my innermost sanctuary. At what times were my affections gently moving me towards choices to lean into God? And when away from God toward my flesh-life? During certain seasons, I have practiced something like this more consistently. Normally this takes only a couple moments as I lift my heart to the Lord, either on the way or when I have a quiet down time. Remember, any tool or method must serve our purpose of greater intimacy with the Father, Son and Spirit. We don’t serve the tool or method or else it’s become a restrictive tradition.
8. Temporary Spiritual Disciplines.
Idols or addictions scuttle our ability to enjoy God’s presence. I periodically practice a temporary spiritual discipline. For a short time, I say no to whatever might have too much pull on my life, whether coffee or sugar, TV or fantasy football. I set an arbitrary boundary, like “no coffee for a week.” Of course, this response does not make me spiritual. Spiritual disciplines acknowledge we are still very much in process. They place ourselves where God pours out His grace most abundantly. Then I monitor my body and my mind. Is my body demanding these? Does my mind repeatedly return to thinking about doing without? If so, I will extend the temporary discipline. If not, I gratefully go back and practice whatever level of moderation seems to work best for me in this season. My goal: as little as possible disrupting my enjoyment of the presence of God.
9. “90-Minute Extended Time of Prayer.” (hyperlink to PDF)
Especially when a major event or life decision hits, or periodically once or twice a year, I like to practice this. We can do this alone. However, I have found it powerful to do with a small group of 2-4 like-minded Christians.
Bringing It Home
This quote captures the yearning and aspirations in my heart to serve those younger than me.
“It is a matter of presence. A [spiritual grandpa] does not have to be heard, as a Warrior might, does not have to rule, as a King might. There is room in his presence for who you are and where you are. There is understanding. He has no agenda, and nothing now to lose….What he offers, he offers with kindness, and discretion” (John Eldredge).
We are a special generation, the one in which God is uniquely working today. As we embrace our branch-lives, we no longer need to feed the insatiable craving to allow others to define us. There is nothing we can’t try, as we abide in the True Vine. Jesus strategically places us here to “live out loud,” to count, to bear fruit that lasts. What does the future hold for us? Whatever it is, it’s up to us to creatively partner with the Father and Son to release life in others.
This is the last of five consecutive blogs beginning December 10, 2017. Reflecting on three stages of Christian spiritual development lays a good foundation to plan for 2018. If you want to read a draft of this book, here is a free PDF download of “Cycles of Lifelong LifeChange,” describing three spiritual development cycles on my page “Books by Jim Fredericks” under the tab “Bible Resources.”