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January 17, 2009

Devotional Journey--Day 13

It's not often that I laugh out loud in the opener of a devotional. But Angie had me laughing. I mean, isn't her image of the "ideal" Christian woman dead on? The coffee. The nook. The light streaming in. It's the way I imagine it should be too.

But like Angie, it's not at all the way my life looks. Frankly, I've found much of my spiritual formation has come out of the crazy and the chaotic - and not quite the peace and tranquil. Which is not to say my spirit has been formed a better way because of it. It's just the way my life is right now.

Perhaps one day my life will permit that that coffee in the nook with the light and the book. Sounds good, actually. Though I'll probably never be convinced that it is any kind of formula for a good Christian "walk," as we like to say. And I believe this because of what Jesus says in John 15: 1-8 (the suggested Scripture reading for today). Specifically, I love verse 4, where he says, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you."

I love it because remaining doesn't imply a 20-minute sit-down. It's a constant thing - and yet encouraging and comforting. While clearly taking time to read Scriptures is essential (verse 7 talks about his "words" remaining in us too!), to remain in Jesus means that we're with him in the peace and in the crazy of our lives. That we turn to him and talk to him and listen to him throughout our days. That we're with him alone in breakfast nooks or when we're packed together on the subway or - say - feeling cold-bound and cabin-feverish with a house full of small crabby children as I am now.

What about you? What does remaining in Jesus mean to you?


Thanks for your thoughts, Caryn. And for the openness. I believe remaining in Jesus is what you and the author spoke about: constant fellowship and communion with Christ throughout the day, whether quiet or busy. We're to "live and move and have our being" in Him (Acts 17:28). And I can certainly relate to struggling with living this out.

I also found myself disagreeing with Angie's concept of rejecting the ideal. I believe there IS an ideal, and that we SHOULD be reaching for it. No, I don't think it involves coffee and sunlight and Beth Moore. Those are American luxuries that are completely unnecessary. But to say we can all just "tailor-make" our own spiritual growth plan--I don't believe that's accurate either.

Jesus is our ideal, and He certainly set an example: He DID get away from busyness (who could've had a great list of to-dos than him--the WORLD on his very shoulders?). He did this consistently: He got up while it was still dark; He got away to be alone. There's no way around it. To be close to the Lord, we must set the world aside, deliberately and sacrificially. This has been one of my greatest challenges which I in no way claim to be NEAR experiencing regularly, but I do strive for it. I DO want to take hold of Christ with everything that I am.

For that reason, I believe I'd be lying to anyone if I told them they could just tailor-make their growth around their lifestyle. Seeking Christ with ALL we are requires ALL we have, to gain ALL of him. I DO agree with worshipping God constantly, and in the midst of busyness and using every moment to develop spiritual growth, as suggested. But let's not reject having an ideal. That's a good thing; we MUST have an ideal, and we must reach for it. Again, not OUR perception (as the author described), but God's ideals; the precedents modeled in Scripture. Afterall, Jesus himself pushed us toward it when He told us to "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48) What greater ideal is there?

What I wouldn't give for some of those sunbeams to be streaming down on me right now! Unlike Angie, I do like coffee, do "do" flowers, and own several Beth Moore books...however, my small, noisy boys are now grown-up, and more often than not, my house is quiet.

Am I saying I am that model "godly" woman? Hardly.

As a young believer, I observed several women that I thought of as "godly." As a repentent, returned prodigal, I often expressed my desire to become like those women. I pleaded for the Lord to give me the discipline needed to be in Bible study and prayer.

Somewhere along the way, God said, "Karen, your focus is all wrong. Stop comparing yourself to others. Look at my Son."

Angie is right: "There is no one-size-fits all approach to spiritual formation;" but there is a common denominator - Jesus.

I'm learning the truth of remaining in Jesus - that apart from him, I can do nothing, yet abiding in him brings limitless possibilities. Possibilities beyond just doing...possibilities of being. Like the songwriter said, "I want to be like my Jesus."

Remaining in Jesus...When I was younger and younger in the Lord, I was very dependent on others to provide Bible Study groups, prayer groups, fellowship times. Now some 30 years later, I do have the time to be quiet before the Lord,appreciate His creation, hear the birds sing (I live in S. Calif.). I can feed myself from His Word, I can pray, I sense His prompting to pray for a sister or call her. I am aware that the Lord is always with me, speaking, directing me..."Speak to that woman who is leaning up against her car."..."Ask the woman in the wheelchair outside the store if you can help her."...I no longer have children I need to get to activities...I have time. It's also my turn to provide Bible Study groups, prayer groups, etc for those who are taking those first steps to remain in the Lord. The empty nest/getting old is not heart is full and fulfilled

I don't have the nook with the sunbeams, but I do have my front porch, my rocking chair, my cup of coffee and Beth Moore. But in all that I have, I want to share with you young mothers that your time with the Lord will change continually.

I have also had 30 years of growing. I remember the times of getting up at 5 am just so I could have a devotion - only to doze off. I have probably had more "special places" to have my devotions than was necessary, telling my children "If my door is closed, I'm having my devotion time - don't come in unless someone is dying."

Daily time with Jesus is so important, choose something that works for you today, but understand it may not work next month. You may constantly find new ways to spend time with Jesus.

After 30 years - hopefully sooner, you will find that he is your constant companion and you will talk to him constantly and depend on him constantly.

I've enjoyed this devotion series and would like to say "Thanks" to each of you who shared with so many of us.

Okay, so I love to sit down in my living room in the morning, pull the shades up, and watch the darkness turn to light.  I have cup of coffee, my Bible or laptop with Bible software, a Bible study, and a kitty cuddling nearby.  On the mornings that I do this, I feel much closer to Jesus and have a calmer, happier day.  Since my children are raised and out of the house, this study time is a luxury I enjoy and appreciate. Remaining in Jesus for me is a process.  My greatest growth has come during times of crisis. That's when I leaned on him the most.  Yes, Caryn, remaining in Jesus is not a 20 minute sit-down, but a constant daily process.  It teaches me to seek Jesus in every aspect and minute of my life.  That is my ideal.  I'm certainly not there yet, but am striving to that end.

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