Category Archives: Personal Devotions

A Changing Faith

trail path

One trail that deepens my walk with Christ through nature and running

I was in high school by the time I realized that daily devotional times were beneficial (even mandatory) for growing my relationship in Christ. I have no idea why it took so long. I attended my youth group meetings religiously and even went to a Christian high school. In fact, it was there that I learned how to conduct a daily “quiet time.”

Those quiet times became a lifeline for me in college. In fact, my relationship with Christ grew enormously during those years, which can be labeled as Dickens said: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Actually, I’m not sure they were the worst, but those days where you realize that you are now the responsible adult weren’t quite as much fun as my  childhood brain had hoped it would be.

My relationship with God changed drastically after having children. In fact, the words “quiet” and “time” did not co-exist during those early years. I felt like my relationship with God hit a survival mode. I prayed in quick snatches, mostly requesting that my sanity stay in tact. I read one scripture — or two if I was lucky — and tried to meditate on it in-between dirty diapers, feedings, naps, laundry, etc. I felt so guilty all the time and was sure that God was mad at me for not devoting some quality time to Him.

And then one day it hit me as I washed the mound of dirty dishes in the sink. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time with God; it was that my faith had changed. In those early days of motherhood, I needed God in a new way. My relationship with him became a moment-by-moment relationship. Think of it this way: BK (before kids) God and I regularly met at Starbucks for coffee and a chat. AK my time with God became irregular phone calls or quick texts that lasted all day. Neither was better than the other — they were just different.

Since those young motherhood days, my faith has morphed many times, and each time I’ve felt some sort of guilt. I never understood why, as my love for God hadn’t changed just the way I related to Him.

Recently, I came across this article by Shauna Niequist. It was a revelation for me. I have come to a place where the old ways of building a relationship with Christ were obsolete — at least for me. For most of my life, going to church built my faith in numerous ways. However, I cannot say that has been true for me for the past 5-7 years.  Part of that is because I was on the mission field trying to understand sermons and worship songs in a different language.  It wasn’t that I haven’t heard a powerful sermon or sung along to anointed worship during those years. I believe it was that God has been calling me to seek Him in ways other than just church. Other things weren’t working anymore as well, even my daily devotional times don’t yield quite the results they did back in college.

In fact, the way God and have been growing together lately are through ways that would have never worked in my younger days. I’m finding Him in solitude — entire days spent alone with just Him as I go about the tasks of the day. I’m finding Him during morning runs where He speaks incredible words of encouragement, wisdom, and guidance. I’m finding Him in nature – reveling in His power and presence as the sun sets, or in the beauty of evening drives along roads dappled with sunlight, or mountain hikes complete with stillness and unspoiled beauty.

The difference is now I see these changes in faith as tools in my toolbox, as Niequist says in her article. I so agree with her statement that “what trips some of us up is the all-or-nothing approach—the idea that if you don’t experience your faith the way you always have, then it’s broken, or worth walking away from. Every relationship changes, and it makes sense to me that our relationships with God change, too, as we grow up and change.”

So when we find that what used build our relationship with God just isn’t working anymore, look around and see what is working. We can’t keep trying the old ways just because someone tells us we should. God wants us to grow– to change– and that always requires that we do some things differently. Today, let’s stop and take inventory of those times that we feel closest to God, of those moments and places where we can hear His voice easily. Then make a plan to integrate those into our lives.

Eventually, as Niequist says, some of your older “faith tools” might come back around again. That doesn’t mean you are falling back into your old relationship with Christ. It means your spiritual toolbox has gotten bigger, and if you use those tools, your faith has a chance to grow once more.

Shadow Ministry

Me and My ShadowToday as I perused some old posts, I realized that I’ve been blogging  for almost 7 years. I was shocked as I had no idea that it had been that long.  Sometimes I took a hiatus here and there, but I’m reaching the 300th post mark rapidly. Some days the blog has been a blessing for both you and I, but some days it’s been a bane – hopefully, though,  only to me.  So in honor of taking a look back. Here’s one of my favorite posts.

(Previously posted in September 2010.)

Me and My Shadow

Did you realize?

  • Shadows are only fueled by  a light source.
  • If the object is close to the light source, the shadow is large.
  • Conversely, if the object is further from the light source, the shadow is small.
  • Noticeable shadows are always larger than the original subject.
  • If the subject moves, the shadow moves.
  • Shadows are concealed in the dark.
  • Shadows appear larger or smaller than it’s subject, but it is always in the same shape as the subject.

For the most part, I had never paid attention to my shadow – I know it’s there but it never really seemed that important.  That information couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Just because I never pay attention to my shadow doesn’t mean that other’s aren’t paying attention. My shadow is the part of my life that I don’t realize is being watched: the choices, actions, words spoken or not spoken that occur on an everyday basis. Whoa! Since I now know that I have a shadow ministry, I wonder what example that shadow is casting on those near me.

Scientifically speaking, shadows can appear larger or smaller than a subject, but it is always in the same shape as the subject. Which means my shadow will cast my “true image.”  In other words, it will match my basic body shape or in this case spiritual shape.  1 Corinthians 9:27 says, “I discipline my body like an athlete training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I might find myself disqualified.” If my life is not lived as I speak, then what I “preach” will not match up and people will stumble. Yikes!  I  remember reading something about making people stumble  connected with the idea of having a large rock tied around my neck and being thrown in the river.  Not so good!

Therefore, the question of the day is this: what must I do to have an effective shadow ministry? Here’s what I discovered after some serious perusing through the Bible, much of it is based on Matthew 5:3-10. 
The Beatitudes are a series of statements that involve blessing and actions.  Blessings are interpreted as having “inward hope and joy though the outward life is chaos.” Look at them one by one and replace the word blessed with the above definition.  I’m pretty sure that following these basic attitudes will create a shadow that can impact the lives of many, especially if you are living them during “outward chaos.”

  • Be needful of God. (verse 3)
  • Be a comforter as God is a comforter (verse 4)
  • Be content with who you are so you can accept others for who they are (verse 5)
  • Be hungry for justice and truth: don’t go along with the crowd, don’t evade the truth (verse 6)
  • Be merciful but extending it to others and accepting them for who they are no matter what they’ve done (verse 7)
  • Be pure in your motives: stop, think, filter – get an Editor for this (verse 8)
  • Be a peacemaker not a pot-stirrer (verse 9)
  • Be strong in the face of persecution by accepting it is an acknowledgement your are standing for God; therefore, you have a strong shadow ministry (verse 10)

One last snippet about shadows: the closer you are to the Light, the larger the shadow.  That scientific fact illustrates a pretty clear spiritual truth, so I needn’t say anything more, except to ask one question:  how strong is your shadow ministry?