Getting to Know God Better

We only know — what we know — when we know.

A split-second explosion came from the direction of our garage. After checking and finding nothing peculiar, my son and I shrugged it off as odd.

Later that evening, my husband and I find glass across the garage floor. We examine windows and vehicle mirrors for cracks, but see nothing broken. Suddenly recalling earlier events, I mention the noise. Puzzled, we look around and then up. There, high above, we see the remaining jagged edges of the garage door opener’s light bulb.

At our house — maybe yours too — despite an extensive collection of light bulbs, we never seem to have the right replacement. So, while shopping online for a bulb to match the broken one, my husband discovers light bulbs specifically made for garage door openers. These bulbs resist shattering due to constant vibrations, and they interfere less with radio frequencies from opener devices. Huh. This is good to know.

After nearly twenty-seven years of marriage in six different homes, one expects to know this information, yet we are genuinely surprised. We only know — what we know — when we know. Right?! Now garage door opener light bulbs belong in our collection.

I keep thinking about the ordinary bulb, and how we did not know any better. It seemed to work fine. Why would we change it? Improvements are usually sought when things stop operating properly or when someone shares learning from their own experience with us. 

Faith seems to operate in a similar way, doesn’t it? It seems good enough, until it’s not. Illness, addiction, grief, divorce, financial problems…crises force us to examine our faith. We are comfortable with what we believe, when we pray, and how we worship until life shatters in some way. Sometimes we may look for sources of the “noise” and attempt to fix things without God. Or, maybe we avoid and dismiss the issue. But, our problems, they tend to boomerang, don’t they? Breakage begs to be noticed; it keeps showing up under our feet.

While picking up the pieces of brokenness, we question the comfort and complacency of a status quo faith. Maybe we need to know more? Investigating leads to new discoveries like light bulbs…and deeper faith. Surprised, we realize, in spite of our years and experience, there is a lot we do not know. A lot we wish we had known sooner.

Our God is not surprised by our lack of knowledge, shortcomings, or regrets. He loves us right where we are, and right as we are. He wants to be known by us. When we know we need to know God better, he rejoices. 

A new drive to learn and deepen our knowledge about faith can overwhelm us. Where do we begin? How do we learn more?

Learn about Jesus

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 NIV

Jesus is the center of Christianity, yet many Christians avoid talking about him. Maybe Jesus makes people uncomfortable because the Trinity concept (Father, Son, Holy Ghost) can be difficult to understand. Or, perhaps the world’s different views about the purpose of Jesus’ life here (Savior or Prophet) make belief difficult. When we lack a comfortable level of knowledge about something, we tend to avoid it.

The Bible, however, tells us we cannot sidestep Jesus and still get to heaven. The only way to God is through Jesus. The first step in getting to know God better is understanding who Jesus is and what his sacrifice means.

Study Scripture

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Many say the Bible is God’s love letter to us. As such, its contents reveal his power, promises, and will. The Word is alive and active in that it changes us as our faith grows. The Bible is not a book to be read once, understood and finished. Scripture meanings deepen and offer different interpretations throughout our life journey.

The Scripture above likens God’s Word to a sword. Cutting through our spiritual life, the Word lays out before us our own light and darkness. It guides and reassures as needed. Studying the Bible requires more than reading its stories, and understanding its characters and lessons. Scriptures help us make daily decisions and walk God’s path for our life.

Pray

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 NIV

Prayer is a conversation we have with God. Telling him our hopes, dreams, concerns, and fears brings him closer and welcomes his wisdom into our lives.

Prayer provides space for confession and redirection. It provides more confidence and peace. As we spend time in prayer, we begin seeing more and more of the ways God is working on our behalf. Prayer builds trust in God’s character, anticipation for his blessings, and thankfulness.

Be led by the Holy Spirit

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

Being led by the Holy Spirit requires embracing the concept of surrender. Recognizing there are circumstances out of our control, we seek God’s help and direction. God works inside of us through the Holy Spirit, producing results or “fruit” in our lives. For example, the Holy Spirit provides patience in difficult situations, peace in trouble, motivation for God’s work, and prayers when we can’t find words.

Throughout our lives, the Holy Spirit plays many roles such as conscience, counselor, and protector. The Holy Spirit even teaches us how to share God with others. As we grow closer to God, we naturally follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance more and more.  Jesus referred to Holy Spirit as a helper who guides us through life (John 14:26). Human desires can be selfish and idolizing, but the Spirit’s inclinations are never sinful and always line up with what we learn from Scripture.

Fellowship

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17 NLT

Spending time with others growing in faith sharpens knowledge and broadens experience. Worshipping at church services is important, but our complicated lives are too much for a Sunday sermon to handle alone. Sermons teach us about God; fellowship helps us apply our learning.

Our faith naturally deepens when we exchange experiences and learning with others. Supportive friendships are built which foster unique ideas and opportunities to serve. In Scripture, God calls us to work together and sharpen each other’s knowledge and talent. Using our various gifts to support each other we can find ways to model Jesus’ life and to spread the Good News (John 3:16). Fellowship brings us close to people who nourish our faith through the giving and receiving of God’s love. 

Now, please excuse me. The new light bulbs for our garage door opener have arrived. Discovering the protection this “light” provides, over all our comings and goings, has taught me nothing less will do. When we know — what we need to know — we know. Press on in faith my friends.

Dear God,

Thank you for opening my eyes to the things I do not see. When life moves along comfortably, I think the faith I have is all I need. But, you graciously teach me to never stop striving in my quest to know you better. You patiently wait for me to discover the pieces at my feet and unlock new learning. You show me ways we operate stronger together. Help me seek more time to learn about your Son and to study your Word. Remind me to pray throughout my day. May the Holy Spirit’s guidance within me overshadow the inclinations of this world. And, may the people I surround myself with encourage my faith to grow deeper still. In Jesus’ Name, Amen 

Other Posts About Growing in Faith:

Living Unashamed of Faith

A Fit Faith 

Living Like a Superhero

Making Pie with the Holy Spirit

A Few Recommended Resources:

Lucado, Max. He Chose The Nails / What God Did To Claim Your Heart. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2000. Print.

Strobel, Lee. Case for christ. Place of publication not identified: Zondervan, 2016. Print.

The Gospel of Mark, John 18-21

Devotional books such as: Jesus CallingBedside Blessings, Earth Psalms, Draw the Circle, or Closer to God Each Day

Online Bible study groups such as: faithgateway, Proverbs31 Ministries for Women, He Reads Truth for Men 

Got Questions Website

Photos courtesy of Pixabay, except the last.

The Worry Fight

Have you fought a few rounds with worry lately? More often than we would like, many of us find ourselves in the ring trying to knock worry out. We fret about things like beauty, money, success, health, family and …. even worry itself! Gradually, worry becomes a fact of life, part of the human condition, or something we expect to come with responsibility.

We stay in the ring, routinely fighting one worry after another, even though we know our efforts are futile. There’s no winning against worry, and we know this. It doesn’t solve anything, but tossing it around in the ring seems to make us feel productive somehow. Then, circumstances change and our current worry opponent becomes weaker. We’re ready to take off our gloves, but then a fresh worry shows up and relieves the old one. So, we stay in the ring, and we keep swinging.

One day a large, unfamiliar worry shows up in the opposite corner. This fight drags on longer than the rest. The punches surprise us. We can’t stay on our feet. Staggering and out of options, we fall against the ropes.

Where do we go from here? Have you been there? I have. I spent a lot of my life in the ring fighting worry, day in and day out. One opponent after another, I stayed on my feet. But, one day the worry was too big and too unknown. It wore me out. I spent some time hanging on those ropes, searching for a way to end the fight with worry.

I read what God had to say about worry. Did you know the Bible tells us ‘not to fear’ hundreds of times? Some sources say 365 times — interestingly, the same number of days in a year. Regardless of the exact number, it is clear God never intended us to fight with worry at all. How did he intend for us to cope?

Humbly Seek God’s Help

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

In Christianity, humility means to hold a modest opinion of one’s importance and abilities in relation to God. Humbly seeking God’s help requires us to overcome any barriers like pride, shame, or even ignorance which stand in the way of our relationship with him. Admitting we cannot find answers on our own opens the door for God to help. Our prayers start a relationship with him, thus serving him in one of the best possible ways.

As we grow in faith, we realize that no problem is too big or small for God. Everything that happens to us concerns him because he loves us, no matter what. We were not meant to handle our problems without his help. However, if we don’t ask him for help, he certainly lets us try (free will). God does not occasionally want our worries. He does not only want to hear about certain things. God wants every concern; he wants ALL our anxiety.

Trust God’s Care and Plans for You

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3: 5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

When worries weigh heavy on our hearts we try anything to remedy our situation – even more worrying. Urgent situations may cause us to forget to pray or to delay it. We might doubt God’s ability to help us. Or, we might wonder why God would even want to help us. Prayer can become our last resort. Trusting God with “all your heart” means trusting him FIRST, not last.

God wants us to rely on him. We cannot control or fully understand our circumstances, but God does. He has a plan for our lives, and he wants to help us find our way. Prayer provides the time we need to free our conscience and voice concerns. Do our problems magically vanish? No. But, prayer can relieve worry by rejuvenating us with God’s hope and new direction. Scripture brings us reassurance and helps evaluate decisions. We start noticing how love shows up for us in times of trouble, and we may discover how our experiences can help us love others. Trusting God, in good times and in bad, helps us discover paths away from worry. 

Share the Load

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV

Many of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible use farming metaphors. Farming was a common activity people could relate to. A yoke is a harness worn by oxen to pull a load behind them and complete work. In this Scripture, Jesus asks us to share the yoke with him, so he can help pull our burdens in life. Our troubles may not be removed, but Christ’s strength makes our load lighter and more manageable.

Sharing the yoke allows us to focus on the work we can do and leave the rest up to God. Worry only distracts us from seeing the ways God is helping. Dwelling on the what if’s stall us from walking forward in faith-filled directions. Those directions might include things like asking others for prayers and support, exploring resources, taking care of our health, seeking professional help, or enjoying God in new ways. Focusing on God’s guidance and results, instead of worry, makes us more productive in our circumstances.  

Find Peace and Rest

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT

As God in human flesh, Jesus knew what suffering lay ahead. Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his crucifixion, he was overcome with anguish and deep sorrow regarding the agony ahead (Matthew 26:36-39). Yet, because of his faith in God’s sovereignty and good, he left willingly with the Roman soldiers who came for him.

His pure heart had never felt guilt, anxiety, or fear until he chose to become sin for us. By accepting our sin while on the cross, he endured not only physical torture, but infinitely worse, a spiritual separation from God (Matthew 27:46). Because of his sacrifice, his believers will never experience this kind of separation from God; they receive the gift of eternal life.

As believers, we never have to endure anything as horrific as Jesus did. But like Jesus, we must remind ourselves not to fear because we also trust God is in control and working things for good. Faith allows us to face concerns one day at a time and remain assured God will meet our needs (Matthew 6:25-34). 

Before he died, Jesus told his disciples he would send peace to dwell within his followers through the Holy Spirit. Our faith ignites the Holy Spirit to offer peace, so even in the most difficult circumstances we know we will be okay. The world cannot offer us that kind of lasting peace.

Fighting worry requires us to bring all our best moves, fancy footwork, and endurance. We’re good fighters, but eventually worry wears us out. Crawling to the ropes, we try hoisting ourselves up. Beaten, tired, and struggling, our minds run out of options.

But wait…someone is on the other side of the ropes. Offering a hand, he pulls us clear of the ring. Turn around. Look at worry now. He’s dancing around, throwing jabs in the air, and searching for an opponent. He can keep swinging. We are done. As our friend and rescuer says, “It is finished”.

When you run out of options, you run into Jesus. 

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” -Mark 6:50 (NLT) 

Press on in faith my friends.

Dear God,

Thank you for your gentle reminders not to worry. You show love and care for me daily through your blessings, people, and opportunities. Keep my eyes open to the ways you work on my behalf so I do not take any of it for granted. Continue teaching me humility so I bring more worries to you in prayer. When I get caught up trying to fix or control circumstances, help me remember to trust your plans and come to you first not last. Help me focus on what I can do instead of worrying about what I cannot. Lead me in finding the plans you have for me. As I feel and see the way faith lightens my load, I pray my peace will also grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Related Posts:

Learning to Pray

Psalm 23: A Shepherd’s Meanings and Motivations

Embracing God’s Plan

Trusting God Along the Eagle Trail

Three Ways Gratitude Boosts Faith

Embracing God’s Plan

 

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Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I am working on accepting this as a good thing. Like many of you, I enjoy the satisfaction that comes with meeting deadlines and crossing items off to-do lists. I get frustrated and negative when my accomplishments fall short of my goals. Then, it takes awhile for my motivation to rebound and to get back up to speed.

But, life interferes with the best laid plans and the strongest of ambitions. Unanticipated problems occur, accidents happen, people need our help, the weather changes, income declines, health issues arise…and so it goes.

There are days, weeks, months, and seasons in life when we feel like we can never do enough and we will never be enough. We wonder if God really has a plan for our life and an agenda for each day. How do we accomplish his plan when all these problems keep slowing us down? Why doesn’t he help us out a little more?

Recently, I took these questions to Scripture and found reassurance. When things don’t go according to plan it can be a good thing. It can be a God thing. Here are a handful of truths to help us welcome God’s plan in our days:

  • God is sure of his plan for us.    

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 New Living Translation (NLT)

God made a plan for our lives even before we were born. He continually works in our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit to encourage our faith in his plan to grow. He leads us to try new things, puts teachers in our path, and instills confidence in our abilities. He nudges us to consider how the gifts he gave us might help others find faith and feel loved.

The decisions we make and the paths we take do not surprise God. He is there for us always, through everything that comes our way. He does not promise a life free of suffering, but he fills his believers with hope, and ultimately he brings good from all their hardships.

Of course, our free will allows us to embrace or resist God’s plans for us. But, he never stops pursuing and trying to reach us. His love for every one of his children is unconditional and unrelenting. Our humanity loves shortcuts, but there are no shortcuts to understanding God’s plan. Ultimately, understanding God’s plan requires understanding God.

As long as we are on this earth, it is never too late to invest time in getting to know God. Like any other relationship, we get to know God by spending time with him. This means spending time studying the Bible, reading Biblical interpretations, learning from pastors, and discussing faith questions with others. The more we learn about God, the clearer our role in his story becomes.

Embracing God’s plan means we commit to developing a relationship with him in our daily life.

  • God’s plan differs from our own.

My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

Oh, how we love the illusion of control. We get so caught up in busily achieving our goals that we can forget God may have an entirely different strategy in mind. He will not conform to our purposes; we need to strive to fit into his.

Throughout our lifetimes, we will cope with a myriad of difficulties perceived as obstacles in the way of achieving our dreams. Maybe these difficulties are not really problems, but possibilities God puts on the agenda to carry out an even bigger plan.

Perhaps God allows difficulty to enter our lives to capture our attention, to encourage us to check our direction, and to build a relationship of trust with him. Once we realize we cannot control our life, we start to contemplate and even anticipate the opportunities God sends our way.

Embracing God’s plan means we work on being flexible, good-natured, and inquisitive when unexpected events change our daily agendas. 

  • God promises to fulfill his plan.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 NLT

God’s work for us began when Christ died and offered us eternal life. His work continues within us through the Holy Spirit during our lifetimes, up until the moment we die. As faith grows, God helps his believers discover their talents and gifts which help carry out his plans.

Those slight nudges we get to serve others are also the Holy Spirit’s way of directing us down God’s path. Through our offerings of food, clothing, money, shelter, prayer, talents, friendship, etc. we deepen our faith and help the faith of those around us grow.

When we feel like we are not making any progress, it helps to remember God’s promise to finish his work. By diligently seeking and including him in our lives, we give him the green light to go to work. He will not give up on us.

Embracing God’s plan means remembering each of us is a good work in progress, and God promises to complete every one of his projects.   

  • God will always help us.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NLT

Fear and worry are part of our world. There’s no getting around that. God knew this, and thus packed the Bible full of his strength and compassion for us. When we feel stressed, the Bible is the greatest resource for renewal. We can find Scriptures and stories that relate to any situation and bring us guidance.

God also sends help in a multitude of other ways such as people, prayer, intuition, and events. When facing trouble, tuning into the world around us (instead of tuning out) opens up our eyes to the ways God helps us. We naturally start developing the trusting attitude God desires – that he is working all things together for our good, in his own time and way.

There will always be days when we wonder if God knows what he’s doing. Days when we are at the end of our rope and frustrated by our trials. God’s Word tells us time and time again, do not worry. He is always there for us. He loves us, and he holds us up.

Embracing God’s plan means reaching out to him for help and trusting him to follow through.

God makes an agenda for every one of our days. This agenda often will not match what we have planned. But, that’s okay. God’s plans are good and far beyond what we could ever imagine. We can meet each day with an air of expectancy, and be ready to embrace the opportunities God sends. For we know, there is a lot of work to be done in and through us. We fight against fear and worry because we trust God’s promises to help us. Rest assured, one day, he will raise up our hands, victorious in his plans.

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A Prayer for You:

Dear God,

Thank you for creating me with a plan in mind. Help me learn more about your goals for my life as I grow in faith. Teach me to remain flexible in my schedule and to see my problems as your possibilities. Thank you for trusting me with the assignments you have given me, and for your reassurances that I can handle them. Lead me as I work to conquer worries and fears, and as I strive to make you proud. May the first item on my to-do list always be: “whatever God hands me.”

In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Making Pie with the Holy Spirit

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Today I made a pie. A most delicious pie, laden with the freshest fruits of the season, piled high in a flaky crust, and jelled into place with a delectable glaze.

This is my favorite pie. I’ve eaten it every summer for a long time. My mom made it for dessert when I was a kid. It tasted so good after a long hard day of make-believe, bike riding, and kick-the-can.

Today’s fruit pie, however, differs somewhat from the ones in the past. Because, while I was making it a well-known piece of Scripture came to mind. Do you know the one about the “fruit of the Spirit”?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 English Standard Version (ESV)

I paused to look this Scripture up and then tried memorizing the nine character traits as I worked. Yea, definitely a good mental exercise considering my hands were busy slicing fruit and not available for counting.

I started wondering if I really understood the meaning behind the words. So, when my hands were clean, I did some research on the Scripture and the Biblical definitions of these traits.

It was Paul the Apostle who highlighted these nine traits or attributes of Christian life in his letter to the Galatians. The Galatians were people living in Early Christian communities in a region called Galatia.

Paul’s teachings sought to convince people to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit rather than selfish desires. The Holy Spirit, he explained, produces these nine traits or fruit within us. When the Holy Spirit leads us, we become more Christ-like and our faith grows.

Becoming more like Christ, with the help of the Holy Spirit, means we do not seek just one or a few of these traits, but all of them. The nine attributes together, as a sum, are the “fruit of the Spirit”. The following Biblical definitions of each trait help us understand why they belong together and how they work in tandem.

Love: Agape is the Greek word used to describe God’s love in the Bible. This love is not the warm, fuzzy, romantic love we normally think of. It is loving as Christ loved – freely and unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. Loving this way means our attitudes convey goodwill, and we seek the best for others despite their actions.

Joy: Happiness hinges upon the good and bad things happening in our lives, but joy is different. Joy wells up from a reservoir deep within and offers us a settled feeling of well-being. It comes from knowing that we are cared for. Sadness still impacts us, but we feel an awareness of strength, protection, and stable love because of joy.

Peace: Knowing God controls the events of our day creates an equilibrium or inner stability known as peace. Worldly pressures and conflict still exist, but peace keeps us calm. Even in the midst of conditions that are normally upsetting and traumatic, we trust that God will work all circumstances together for our good.

Patience: Perseverance, steadfastness, long-suffering, and endurance are other Biblical text translations for patience. We demonstrate patience by maintaining a steady pace in the midst of life’s ups and downs. It allows us to find hope in difficult times, and endure poor treatment from others without retaliating.

Kindness: Kindness is looking for ways to serve and praise others without expecting anything back. Seeing things from the perspective of others develops compassion and helps us identify what we can do to serve their needs. Kindness is sympathetic, considerate, and diligently works to encourage others.

Goodness: Displaying Christ’s character in your life and helping others experience God in their life is goodness. We work towards goodness by identifying and using our gifts to love others. Sometimes, goodness requires frankness and honesty with ourselves and others.

Faithfulness: Faithfulness is a resolve to serve God and a commitment to praise others for the good work they have done. Others look to faithful people for examples of integrity. When we are faithful, we surmount feelings of doubt and help others find hope in belief as well.

Gentleness: A tranquil disposition that forgives, kindly corrects, and remains even-tempered is known as gentleness. When we display the trait of gentleness we let others make decisions on their terms; we respect their relationship with God. We also weigh our own decisions carefully and strive to stay humble in our accomplishments.

Self-control: Releasing the desire to be in charge and allowing guidance by the Holy Spirit is known as self-control. Showing self-control means we trust that God has a plan and his ways are better than our own. When we practice self-control we continually consult the Holy Spirit regarding our thoughts, actions, and reactions.

Nine character traits is a lot to work on, wouldn’t you agree? The good news is we don’t have to do it alone. In fact, the Bible says we cannot do it alone.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 New Living Translation (NLT)

This Scripture tells us the fruit of the Spirit grows within us when we have a relationship with Christ – knowing, loving, and imitating him. Joining our life to Christ ignites the Holy Spirit which leads to a fruitful life. A fruitful life, displaying the sum of these nine characteristics, in turn helps fulfill our two most important commandments – loving God and our neighbors.

This pie I made, it’s chock-full of fruit! Wouldn’t it be great if our lives, and all the lives around us were just as chock-full…overflowing with the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Hmmm…the recipe for a fruitful life – we know it’s not an easy one to follow. And, we know with certainty, it won’t turn out perfectly.

But, the Holy Spirit will help us. It’s worth a shot, right? Yea, it’s so worth it. Have a bite…

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Inspiring Resources:

Fruit Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 C sugar

2 Tbls cornstarch

1 C water

3 Tbls peach jello

4-5 C fresh fruit (I used nectarines, strawberries, and blueberries)

1 frozen pie crust (I use Wholly Wholesome wheat pie crust)

Directions:

Bake pie crust according to directions and cool.

Mix sugar and cornstarch well. Add water and mix well. Cook on medium-high heat until boiling thick and clear. Boil 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the jello. Set aside to cool.

Cut the fresh fruit, removing skin if using nectarines. Pile fruit into the baked pie shell. Pour the cooled jello glaze over the top of the fruit. Chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Share with family, friends, and neighbors!

Making Small Talk with God

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“What do you think about this weather?”

“How did you get started in this business?”

“Have you always lived in this town?”

“Do you remember a store on Main Street that sold gargoyles? Is it no longer here? Because I loved it.”

Some people hate small talk, but me, I’m rather fond of it. These are all questions I asked last weekend when my husband and I visited the small historic town of Galena, Illinois. We weaved in and out of the brick storefronts, made a few purchases, chatted with shopkeepers, and drove around neighborhoods.

Relaxing and meandering, with no particular purpose in mind, was a rare treat. I found myself curiously drawn to learning about these people’s lives and the history of their town.

Sampling coffee from a shop owner who grinds his own beans yielded to a lively discussion about the honey he sells, which is freshly harvested just down the road. (Incredibly delicious, by the way!) Another shop brought us tastes of locally crafted root beer, along with interesting details about the varieties sold.

Viewing a gallery’s collection of breathtaking forest photographs led to a chat with the photographer’s father about the work. The photographer, born with Down Syndrome, started polishing his natural talent in high school. The father told us he had taught his son a few things about photography, but being able to capture the light like that – “you either have it or you don’t”. Wow, does he have it. Stunning.

Then, a nearly vertical drive up the steep hills through town delivered views history buffs and architecture fanatics dream about. We saw mansions of brick and stone from the 1800’s, a large old high school with a prominent clock tower, scattered church steeples, and cascading staircases.

Walking by the river below, we discovered a visitor display which told us Galena’s Historic District encompasses over 85 percent of the city and is on the National Register of Historic Places. President Ulysses S. Grant’s home resides on this impressive list. In the lobby of the DeSoto House Hotel, I read their guest list once included greats such as Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson. And, Abraham Lincoln once delivered a speech from their grand balcony.

Spending the day experiencing Galena was certainly different from reading about it or simply having an attitude of “just passing through”. Talking with Galena’s residents instilled in us a fondness for the town that we could not have gotten any other way.

Our small talk gave way to deeper conversations. Those conversations inspired us to take a drive and learn more. All of it helped form the connection we now feel with this town.

So, I wonder, what if we approach experiencing God in a similar way? Could small talk grow into deeper conversations which motivate us to learn more about him and his plans for us? How would our relationship with him change?

Small Talk…

When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Jeremiah 15:16 New Living Translation (NLT)

Where do we go to make small talk with God and what do we ask? Do we just open with, “Hey God, what do you think about all the rain this week?”

I am sure God welcomes all small talk, even if it is about the weather, simply because he loves hearing from us. However, if we want to ask questions to get to know him better, the best place to visit with him is in the Bible.

The words in the Bible are more than a historical record. They actively communicate ideas and lessons to us as we read them. They work within us to help define who we are and what we represent. The words of the Bible open up the shopkeeper’s door for small talk to occur.

In reading Scripture, our questions spontaneously take shape just as they did for me in the stores of Galena. For example, we might ask: “why did you choose this person to help with that?”, or “what were you trying to teach people here?”, and “how could that happen?”.

One question leads to another. And, there you go – we’re making small talk with God.

Grows Into Deeper Conversations…

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 English Standard Version (ESV)

When I visited Galena, I tried to shut out distractions and set my focus on interacting with the town. In the same way, if we give God our undivided attention in small talk, we can see our interaction with him grow into something bigger.

We simply have to show up and let the questions snowball within us. After asking God a small talk question such as, “why did you choose this person to help with that?”, we might follow-up with a deeper question like, “what can you use me for?”. Small talk evolves into deeper conversations when we ask follow-up questions based on our own unique experiences, and then listen. 

Throughout our years, the Bible does not change, but our insight in reading it may. When we face different circumstances, we can perceive new answers and direction from the same piece of Scripture.

Through deeper conversations with God, we begin to understand that his Word cuts through the mess in our lives. It can help us figure out which way our heart wants to go. The Word comes to life in our conversations.

And Motivated Learning…

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26 New International Version (NIV)

Conversations that awaken our interest often spur more learning. The conversations I had with the shopkeepers inspired me to see Galena’s neighborhoods and understand more about its history. In a similar way, conversations with God stir the Holy Spirit to help us learn more about God and his plans for us.  

For example, asking God “what can you use me for?” encourages us to examine our gifts or talents. We start touring the “neighborhoods” or places we can contribute. We research “historical facts” in our lives for more information. We look to others and to God for help in figuring things out.

…Which Strengthens our Relationship with God.

While visiting Galena, I gave the town an opportunity to connect with me. When we visit the Bible, we give God a chance to connect with us.

Seeking answers to questions inspired by Scripture just naturally brings us closer to God. Even if we are not sure what we believe, a relationship forms that did not exist before. And, it all starts with small talk.

Small talk grows into deeper conversations and motivated learning which strengthens our relationship with God. 

Small talk with someone new can feel clumsy and awkward. But, if you don’t start there, then where do you begin? Don’t all great relationships start with the tiniest of best intentions and grow from there?

Some people hate small talk, but God, I think he’s rather fond of it.

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“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8 (NIV)

Prayer for the Week

Dear God,

Isn’t this spring weather crazy?! I am so grateful for the time I set aside to visit with you today.

Open my heart and mind to receive the wisdom you offer through Scripture. Help me focus during our time together and ask questions I can learn from.

Show me where to go to find the answers I seek from you. Teach me to recognize the nudges of your Holy Spirit within me as I move in the directions you are leading me.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen 

Inspiring Resources

 

Learn about all the fun things to see and do in Galena, Illinois through this link.

The fine merchants I mentioned in this post are Mean Bean Roasters, Root Beer Revelry, and River Bend Gallery.