What's your day like so far? Did you have time to enjoy a cup of coffee, eat breakfast, spend some time with your family before they headed out the door? Does the day you are anticipating feel exciting, daunting, boring? What do you plan to do to make it special, inviting, filled with love and grace? We each have the opportunity to welcome God into our lives each day, spend time with God, and tangibly feel God's spirit in our thoughts, conversations and actions. Encouraging ourselves to cherish the pleasure of knowing God in everyday ways is a joy, and recognizing that one simple fact is the basis for creating a closer relationship with God. Here are ten simple ways you can use to start creating a closer relationship with God.
1. Pray - Prayer is simply carrying on a conversation with God, the same way you communicate with anyone else you love. Not sure about that? Consider how you talk with your spouse, your parents, your friends or your children. What do you want to know about them? What do you want them to know about you? Prayer helps you explore your relationship with God. Just like any relationship, learning to know and be known by God takes time - a lifetime. Make time each day to visit with God. Share your thoughts and listen for God's words for you. You may like to keep a prayer journal or dedicate a portion of your existing journal to your visits with God. Not quite sure where to begin? Decide what is important to you and mention it to God. You will always find a listening ear and an open heart. Remember also Jesus' words concerning prayer. "Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the hour of trial, but rescue us from the evil one (Matthew 6:9-13)."
2. Study - Reading is becoming a lost art, but you can integrate a bit of this wonderful activity into your life in ways that work for you. Newspapers, magazines, devotionals, essays, web articles, novels, short stories, political commentaries, biographies, poetry and the Bible can all shape themselves to fit into the twenty minutes you lie awake in bed before you are ready to fall asleep, or the half hour you spend watching a television show you really don't like that much anyway. Why study? It's a big world that God has created to share with us. While far too easy to stay cloistered in our routines, mental stagnation is the next step into the abyss that drags our spiritual lives right over the cliff. Making the effort to expand your world to include more of God's creation expands your image of God, which makes it a whole lot easier to see God in action. Other ways to incorporate study into your life may be available through your local church's adult education programs, your community college or your local library. Being open to study and learning keeps our minds open to God's presence and purpose.
3. Worship - Praising God, thanking God, giving God your attention is an important part of feeling closer to the One who creates, redeems and sustains us. How and where you choose to worship is personal, sometimes in community and other times in private. Worshipping God, honoring God, connects us to God's ongoing work in the world and refreshes our souls. While worship may have been framed as an obligation, a duty or a task at other times in your life, this may be a good time to rethink worship as a gift to yourself that only God can give.
4. Enjoy Life - "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10)." Jesus' words from John's gospel remind us that life is not a war, a contest or a race. Life is a gift , a pleasure and a journey designed with you in mind. Having been created in God's image, it is time to celebrate. God created us with love and delight, and wants to give us the desires of our hearts. Enjoying life is another way to feel closer to God.
5. Journal - Journaling gives us back our focus, helps us pay attention to the details of life and sort through the muck and mire to get to what really matters. Whether journaling random thoughts, descriptions of daily events, conversations or memories, prayers or feelings, putting pen to paper about our lives and our world puts those experiences into perspective in a way no other activity can. Spending a few minutes a day jotting down your thoughts can also help you see patterns in your life, those that may be causing challenges and those that are nurturing you. Journaling most assuredly can guide you to see and understand how God is working in your life in ways you would not otherwise have noticed. God is in the details, and in journaling, the details will be right in front of you to ponder.
6. Fellowship - Spending time with friends, family and our faith community adds richness and depth to our lives, just as God intended. We were created as individuals, but also for community. Paul's first letter tot he Thessalonian church shares these thoughts: "We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers constantly, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (I Thessalonians 1:2-3)." We are all in this together, sharing space and sharing our lives. God's gift of fellowship shares the importance of who each of us is and how we each contribute to God's purpose as a whole. Whenever we gather in fellowship, we remember that God is with us, indeed, with all of us.
7. Serve - While fellowship reminds us we are a part of a larger purpose, service is the gift we give to that purpose. What are your favorite things to do? What are you passionate about? Chances are, with prayerful thought, you can find some great ways to share God's loving spirit with those around you in ways that tap into your gifts to serve. serving is giving the best you have to offer to God's community, which is all of us. When we each serve with our individual gifts, god is always there to celebrate with us.
8. Sometimes it is important to stop talking, stop thinking and just listen. Close your eyes, hear what is going on around you, and be wherever you are. Our world is heavily invested in visual images as a means of communication. Taking our focus off this major attention-getter and intentionally placing it in another direction can awaken all of our senses to who God is in our lives. Hearing the wind whistle around your house during a storm, a siren in the distance or a dog barking in your neighbor's yard speaks of God in nature, God's presence in times of need and God's love in a kind companion. Where else can you hear God? Close your eyes and listen.
9. Reflect - Meditation and reflection on your relationship with God will dazzle and delight you! Why? Giving yourself permission to appreciate that God created you, God loves you, God redeems and sustains you every moment of every day of your life is exhilarating. You belong here, nestled in the strength and beauty of God's love because you are a part of God's creation. How does that make you feel? Think about it.
10. Act - "Whether you know it or not, you live by what you believe," is the legacy I was blessed with from my maternal grandmother. Living by what we believe is more than following a routine of rudimentary actions we think make us look like we believe in God. How does God's love inform your life? How does God's grace inspire you to act? Actions sometimes do speak louder than words because actions show us and those around us that we mean what we say.
Short note about the author
Cory L. Kemp
As an ordained minister I have worked in both pastoral and educational ministries in several congregations. My ministerial background and love of writing have combined to develop Creating Women Ministries, a website dedicated to encouraging theological dialogue, particularly among women, through workshops, journaling and personal spiritual development. My brand new book, You Don't see Many Chickens in Clearance: Essays on Faith and Living, can be purchased in its print edition through Lulu at: http://www.lulu.com
. Visit Creating Women Ministries at: http://www.creatingwomenministries.com
for the e-book edition. Questions? Thoughts? Musings? I can be reached by email at: [email protected]