This is a talk I was delighted to give at my church’s LILY Moms group this week. I’ve adapted it a little bit to better fit a blog post.
A few years after John and I got married I had a bit of a faith crisis. Less “I don’t believe God is real.” and more “All I’ve ever known is earning, performing, impressing… have I ever even fully received the love and grace of God?”
From a young age, I was a professional at doing things the “right” way. And one of the “right way” things I internalized was the way to have a relationship with God: the method.
You spent X amount of minutes doing a “quiet time,” then you went about your life.
Seasons started changing and I was exhausted.
After my moment of, “is this actually all that there is to a life with God? it can’t be!” I realized I had prioritized the methods of religion over loving and knowing the Person of God. It was all about the doings, not being. And that created a ceiling on peace and joy and other things of God.
There’s a quote that’s been taped to our fridge for many years. It’s by Dallas Willard, and God has changed me with his words:
“The first and most basic thing we can and must do is to keep God before our minds. This is the fundamental secret of caring for our souls. Our part in thus practicing the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to Him. In the early time of our “practicing” we may well be challenged by our burdensome habits of dwelling on things less than God. But these are habits—not the law of gravity—and can be broken. A new, grace-filled habit will replace the former ones as we take intentional steps toward keeping God before us. Soon our minds will return to God as the needle of a compass constantly returns to the north. If God is the great longing of our souls, He will become the pole star of our inward beings.”
I don’t know exactly where you are today, but I’m in a place where the methods are not consistent, because the day’s needs and demands and circumstances are hardly ever the same, but I can keep God before my mind.
Let me start by saying I consider spiritual disciplines very important to our life as believers, but I want to argue (though that seems like a strong word) and give a different perspective: that being rooted in God is less about what you’re doing and more about how you’re doing it. To be rooted in God is to be a specific kind of person, to cultivate a specific kind of heart.
And as the church kid that I am, I’m going to use the A.C.T.S prayer acronym to help explain. :)
A well-worn passage of Scripture for me, relevant to being rooted in God, is Jeremiah 17:5-8,
This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
A – Adoration
Sara Hagerty writes, “Adoration is a micro-practice of interrupting our conveniences with a conversation with God – as if to say, “You, God, are my agenda…”
Jeremiah 17 tells us that the person who turns away from the Lord is like a bush in the wastelands, dwells in parched places, where no one else lives is a heart who turns away from the Lord.
So how can we stay turned toward Him? By adoring Him.
By putting His Words (Scripture) in our mouth when we have none.
By reorienting our attention to His face instead of keeping it on ourselves.
By training our minds to play the soundtrack of what is true and not what is false.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.
When you hear that word, adoring, what do you think of?
If you’re like me, you think of warm, fuzzy feelings and calmness and delight, yes? But the realities of life are not always warm, fuzzy, calm and delightful are they?
Adoration cannot be for only the easy, comfortable moments.
Jan Johnson writes, “Active prayer wipes out the artificial separation of faith from everyday life and invites God into the cracks and crevices of our existence. Nothing we do is without the company of God.”
The psalmist wrote, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely” (16:8-9).
The practice of adoring invites the truth of God into the grit of our lives, into the moments that irritate, wound, frustrate and threaten to unravel you.
You can adore Him from the lonely, discouraged, confused, weak places. Strength, feelings of faith, happiness aren’t necessary to tell God what is true about Him. I speak from experience when I say that the habit of trust, of worship, even/especially when you don’t feel like it, will change you.
A.W. Tozer said, “God is so vastly wonderful, so utterly and completely delightful that He can, without anything other than Himself, meet and overflow the deepest demands of our total nature, mysterious and deep as that nature is.”
Practically, how? Saturate yourself with phrases from Scripture. Put them up around you so you see them as you go about your life. Choose an attribute of God each week and allow that to lead and inform your thoughts.
C – Confession
Believe it or not, this is probably the most challenging for me. When I say ‘confession’ maybe your mind drifts to the most obvious definition for it, which would be confessing sin. But I’m going to broaden our scope to simply, bringing all of us to God.
A little about me…
I don’t like to be vulnerable. Read: super uncomfortable. Thankfully, He’s transformed a lot in this area. But, I used to spend so much energy on being my idealistic version of what a Christian, mother, woman, should be. Underneath all the self-protecting and self-preserving was a forgetting of the gospel, a fear that if I was vulnerable and uncovered, God wouldn’t be there, wouldn’t choose me, wouldn’t love me. I falsely believed His benevolence toward me is connected to my enoughness in any given situation.
I’m afraid of His silence, so I’m never quiet.
I’m afraid of being rejected, so I resist vulnerability, with others and with God.
I’m afraid of His disappointment, so I set standards of good spirituality I strive to meet.
I’m afraid of His sovereignty, so I seek control and build comfortable walls.
I’m afraid of being messy and broken, so I work hard to preserve the image I want others to see.
God already knows every thought and feeling we have before we have it. The practice of confession is bringing our entire self to God. The honest feelings, questions, fears, struggles, joys. And in the confessing of what is true about us AND what is true about God, we find rest, freedom, and peace.
Not because our hard moment magically gets easier or better or because we cushion ourselves against coming trials, but because it is in honest admission of help and need that He gives Himself. He always offers Himself.
He can’t really meet us where we are if we don’t admit where we are. Confession opens us up to experience more of Him.
And as we become more comfortable with showing up before God and experiencing His mercy and love and care instead of His criticism, condemnation and disappointment… (can you imagine the freedom? The lightness? The contentment?) maybe we’ll become the kinds of women who make it possible for those around us to do the same.
As we show up before God, as we are, trusting His nature more than we trust anything else, laying down the ways we fall short or fears we have or sins we can’t seem to wrestle down, He changes us. He gives us what we need.
T – Thanksgiving
Gratitude can be a fluffy Christian idea, can’t it? We’re told to do it but …
At the most foundational level, we say ‘Thank You’ because we are given something by someone else. That’s why you say it, right?
Cultivating a heart of gratitude means we cultivate eyes of noticing. We pay attention to what we’re being given, and we trace it back to the Giver.
Gratitude helps me see that there is more to my happy moment and more than my hard moment.
It’s easy to do in enjoyable situations right? Sometimes it’s even doable in challenging circumstances because as believers we trust the big truths: God is with us, He loves us, etc.
Gratitude, like adoration, isn’t only for the moments we feel capable, competent, energetic. It’s the means by which we gain Kingdom vision. I can say that, but what does it really mean… But what about the ordinary Monday morning or Saturday afternoon? What about the dishes and the exercise and the sick days and car drop-offs?
Gratitude is rooted in abundance, grumbling and worry are rooted in scarcity.
Thomas Keating has beautiful words about the Presence of God…
“This Presence is so immense, yet so humble; awe-inspiring yet so gentle; limitless, yet so intimate, tender and personal. I know that I am known. Everything in my life is transparent in this Presence. It knows everything about me – all my weaknesses, brokenness, sinfulness – and still loves me infinitely. This Presence is healing, strengthening, refreshing – just by its Presence. It is nonjudgmental, self-giving, seeking no reward, boundless in compassion. It is like coming home to a place I should never have left, to an awareness that was somehow always there, but which I did not recognize.”
Whatever you face, inside or outside of you, cannot stop God from being all He is for you. His attention space is limitless. He is with you even when you don’t ‘feel’ Him.
Everything else has the potential to take something from me, to deplete my resources, except God. He is the only Source that only ever has something to give.
A practice of gratitude puts us before the overflowing abundant person of God… and helps us stay there.
Larry Crabb writes, “To keep coming toward the light when all we can see is darkness is a measure of our absolute dependence. We have no other direction to go.”
And Philippians 4, “This is why we let our requests be made known to God.”
As followers of Christ, in the time we live in, especially as moms, we need wisdom. We need help. We need guidance. We are faced with countless needs every day, as we look around inside our home and outside in the world.
Every day, in both private and public ways, our faith is tested.
Will we choose to trust or fear? Will we speak life or death? Will we wallow in self-pity, self-preservation or self-protection or lean low in self-denial and humility? Will we have peace in the face of disappointment instead of grumbling? Will we worship the God who is alone worthy or will we create our own golden calf? Will we rely on our own merit or will we stay on the sufficiency of Christ?
So we become professional askers.
We flourish when our great needs are met with our great God, not a lesser bandaid or solution or source.
D.L. Moody said, “Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The way to trouble God is not to come at all.”
No one else can do what God has given you to do. No one else can root you in the truth. Ask Him about everything. Invite Him into everything.
May our giving not exceed our receiving. May our pouring out never exceed our being filled.
To stay rooted in God on-the-go, if you will, as we’re giving our lives away to those in our walls and outside them, in one sense means we keep God before our minds. And maybe cultivating these heart habits of A.C.T.S is a way to do that.