I Flunked Sunday School

Were you a Sunday School kid? I can still remember staring at pictures on a flip chart of David and Goliath or Jesus walking on the water as I listened to my teachers read these stories.  I also remember our teacher asking us a series of questions each Sunday as she checked attendance. We raised our hands in response to each of these and  sometimes received a gold star on a chart that hung for all to see:

  • read your Bible daily
  • brought an offering
  • memorized the Bible verse of the week
  • brought a friend

Being such a people pleaser, I wanted to raise my hand and get a star on the chart for each item, but it didn’t happen. I think this weekly checklist in Sunday School may have reinforced some unhealthy beliefs in my young mind.

Tools for Spiritual Growth

I am sure that my teachers loved Jesus and had great intentions, and I am thankful that I can still sing the New Testament song in my head when I’m looking for Philemon. I am thankful for good teaching. Learning the books of the Bible and memorizing scripture does not change a heart, but I do believe that today, as a grown woman, I can set up certain habits in my life that  open my self up to God, telling him that I am willing and available to the work he wants to do in and through me.

If we want to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us, if we want to see God answer prayer, if we want God to use us to bring life change to those around us, we have to connect with Him. It’s that simple. There is no magic wand sprinkling us with Holy Spirit dust. There is no drive-thru line passing out nuggets of scripture that will satisfy our hearts and fully nourish us spiritually as we live out the pages of our overstuffed calendars, trying to squeeze a minute of Jesus in as we go. There just isn’t.

God Can’t Be the Sprinkles

Jesus is the cake. He’s not the icing or the sprinkles that we add on for decoration. If we truly want our lives to be consumed by the love of Christ, he cannot be an adding topping to our full lives; he must be our life.

Growing spiritually happens when we become intentional in our focus, time, and passion. Having a vibrant, exciting relationship with Jesus is the result of living each day upon the altar, our will surrendered to the will of God.

Not by Accident

I believe there are spiritual disciplines that we can faithfully pursue that will open up our hearts and minds to more of God, if our intentions are pure. One thing is for sure, we do not know the heart and will of God by accident.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Seeking God means slowing down.

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Knowing God’s heart and his will means studying his Word.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Loving God means having an ongoing conversation with him.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3

Staying close to God means confessing your mess daily.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me,
 and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:24

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

If we think we can run ourselves ragged, live a life with no margin, and then somehow be tight with God, we are deceiving ourselves.

First, Jesus.

NO Checklists

I don’t have a checklist for you. That’s religion. I used to play that game, because it made me feel like I was getting something right. I felt “good” when I checked my Bible reading off my list.

Now I live in freedom, reading God’s word as a letter from my Father. I pray each day because I want to hear from him, and I fully believe he delights in the sound of my heart being poured out to him. I believe that he hears me and will answer. I memorize scripture because it is powerful, comforting, might-save-my-life truth that I don’t want to forget.

There is no checklist of goodness, and there is no shortcut to being close to God.

Love is intentional, not accidental.

What will you do today to make your heart and mind available to God? If you have been living off a little bit of God added to your day, are you satisfied?

How will you choose Jesus on purpose today?

 

 

 

What if you were so loved by your father that you ran to him as a little girl, jumped into his lap and asked him for just anything? What if you were so close to your Daddy that he was the first one you turned to when you were afraid, bullied, or discouraged? What if you didn’t have to think twice when asked, “who’s your biggest cheerleader?” Of course, it is your dad.

Was that your story? Was that your dad?

I am daring you today to pray. I am daring you to pray to your Heavenly Father as if you are his beautiful, beloved daughter. It’s time to let our stories with our fathers on this earth not be the roadblock between our prayers and our God.

My story was not great, but it may not be as dark and painful as yours. I didn’t live with a father who expected perfection, but maybe yours did. My dad didn’t hurt me, but you may be haunted by the terror yours inflicted. Our dad was not verbally abusive or abandon us, but you might be a survivor of that kind of story.

My sweet dad was just awkward. He didn’t know how to be close and I wasn’t always sure if he saw me. We didn’t talk a lot, so I wondered if he knew me. He couldn’t attend my games and plays because of work, but I thought he wasn’t interested in me. He didn’t say, “I love you” because of his awkward upbringing, so I looked for those words elsewhere.

Our stories of fathers, absent or present, supportive or oppressive, can overshadow the story that God, our perfect father wants to write in us.  Seeing God as a loving father proves difficult for those hurt or forgotten by an earthly father. But that brokenness in us can be healed.

As we read God’s love letter to us as his daughters, and we let the truth of who we are to him sink in, we can begin healing. I believe stories are best unraveled, interpreted, and understood in community. I found that community with a precious counselor. You might too. We find healing with each other.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.  James 5:16

What if you and I could pray like a beloved daughter of God, fully known and accepted, secure in who we are? What if, before we even ask, we have full confidence that we have our Father’s attention and his affection.

He will take great delight in you;  in his love he will no longer rebuke you,  but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

What if we prayed in faith, trusting God like a little girl trusts her dad to catch her?

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  1 John 3:1

Earthly fathers don’t always get it right. I am so sorry if you are one hurt by your father. But I am daring you to make a journey to wholeness. Take that journey and you will be ready for the greatest one of all- walking daily believing the promises and love of God as you pray. Powerful prayers will be unlocked as we draw near to the heart of God.

Is your image of God, shaped by the image of your dad stopping you from drawing near, from believing  God is good and ready to work in your life? Is the hurt caused by your dad keeping you from believing that someone could love you completely and perfectly?

Can you imagine with me the prayers that would be prayed if we really believed God’s love for us, the love a father has for his daughters who are made in his image and created for his beautiful purpose?

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons (& daughters) by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

Waking up is such a gift.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness! Lamentations 3:22-23 The Message

I love the first day of a new year, the beginning of a new week, and I’m beginning to love early mornings. Starting over, beginning again, a fresh new day. It’s kinda enlivening (with a side of coffee). Good starts go far, I’ve learned.

Beginning life each day before the noisy world rushes in and tackles us might just be the wisest choice we can make. While the house is quiet and the coffee is brewing or the tea steeping, we slowly awaken to the rhythm of the day that our creator set in motion. His day. Much like tuning a radio and finding a station, we quiet our hearts and minds until we hear His. Then we listen as our static fades and his clear beautiful song begins to play.  Be still and know. 

Once our hearts are in tune with His, we find peace and assurance. Before we have a chance to get discouraged, disappointed, frustrated, or afraid, we choose Jesus.  We can take his word that he gives us and hang it up as a banner over our day before our day decides for us. And it will, if given a chance. Our day will steamroll right over us, dragging us behind if we take it on alone.

I am not an early riser by nature, but I have experienced enough of those quiet moments in the freshness of a new day to know that I want more. Waking up is a gift. No matter the time, what if we give our waking moments to him so that he can tune our hearts to his?