How To Have A Relationship: A Biblical Adventure

God loved me before I was born.  Sometimes I just let that sink in.  When I was inside my mom’s womb my creator loved me.  Maybe that’s why I was born premature.  I was ready to take part in His great creation, ready to experience His love.

A premature birth nearly cost me my life.  Fortunately, a group of loving and skilled doctors worked round the clock to save my life and I joined my family after 13 days in the hospital.

My God loved me as I grew up.  He loved me as I messed up.

Joining my family was the best thing I ever did, not that I had much of a choice, but if I did I would choose them a thousand times over.  My parents taught me love and grace.  They loved me as I grew up.  They loved me as I messed up.  They taught me how to have a relationship with God.

I’ve always known God loved me, but I didn’t start building my relationship with Him until I was a freshman in High School on a mission trip to Costa Rica (This trip probably started my love for Central America as well).  Like any freshman, almost everything I did was meant to impress someone, or more truthfully a girl. This particular girl read her Bible every day, which I found very attractive.  As we walked the beach in Jaco, Costa Rica and shared our hearts I knew my life would never be the same.  But instead of falling in love with a girl.  Instead of finding my “one”, I commited to reading my Bible.  And that is when my real relationship with my creator began.

He loved me before that night and he loved me after that night when I messed up with girls and other relationships.  He used that night to start something beautiful.  A couple  years later I felt Him asking me to be more committed.  At that point I was a Sophomore in College, struggling with self confidence and reading my Bible and spending time with Him most of the time, but if I was too tired or just not in the mood I would decide not to open the Book.

It hit me though, He had always loved me and deserved more than an occasional night committed to him.  At that time I was struggling to fall asleep, constantly worried about my life, what I had done and had not done.  He told me to give him everything, each night.  And so on December 23 2004 I decided to read my Bible and spend time in prayer each night for a year.  Funny enough I hardly have trouble sleeping anymore.  Funny enough I haven’t missed a night in more than seven years.

How can I worry when I know He has always loved me no matter what?

This commitment has been difficult.  Like I said in my blog about running, Living Spiritually takes being attentive, being in position, and being submissive.  I find being attentive and being submissive the hardest out of these three to commit to.  Some nights I am just so tired and then sometimes I just don’t want to hear what God has to tell me.

I have often thought of giving up my nightly time with God, taking a break, but then I think that I might miss what God has to tell me.  And so I continue.

Then this last December as I was reading through the Psalms, I heard God tell me to invite the rest of my family to live spiritually with me.  Nah, it wont work, I thought.  You’ll never know if you don’t try, I heard God say.  And so I tried.  Now, a month in I have noticed a change in my family.  We are sharing our prayers with one another, sharing how God is working in our lives.

I have also noticed a change in my time in the Bible.  The words have come alive again.  This last Thursday as I read Psalm 139 God reminded me that he has always loved me.  He has always known me.  He made me special and strong.  Even as I have lived each day perfectly or gone afoul He has loved me. He has seen my every action and He knew my every move before I even made them, and He still loves me.

He searched me.  And He knows me.  And He loves me.

How can I not live with confidence?  How can I not show grace to those around me?  How can I not live spiritually with this knowledge?

He has filled me with joy and I pray I do not forget this Psalm.

I challenge you, my readers, to open the Bible and start a relationship with your creator.  He has loved you always, and if you join him on this Biblical Adventure His love will change you forever.  It’s a ride worth taking.  He has always given me the strength to continue reading and I know He will do the same for you.

Join me and my family in Living Spiritually.

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

A Fruity Guatemalan Spiritual Lesson

Of all the classes I taught, Bible wasn’t the one I looked forward to teaching every day.  I enjoyed my gym classes and my screen writing classes, but this Bible class I had to teach last year was a struggle.  Mostly because of the kids.  Yes, I said it.  I had a class of kids I didn’t enjoy.  Okay, these kids were fine individually, but put them together and they would start to pick on one another.

I knew, as their Bible teacher, it was my job to teach them the correct way to treat their classmates.  But no matter what I told them, the girls still singled out the one girl they decided was different from them and treated her as if she was trash.  And the boys, well, they just cheated most of the time and complained if they weren’t given the best marks on all of their work.

Telling them how Moses brought the people of Israel out of Egypt in hopes of helping them become a kinder class was just not working.  Sunday school lessons on David killing Goliath didn’t mean anything to them.  By middle school at the Inter-American School, a private Christian School, they’d heard it all.  Unfortunately the way they were treating their classmates wasn’t matching up with the Bible verses they’d heard all of their life, and it was bringing me down.

Kids won’t change if the teacher, who is in charge of their spiritual growth, has a bias against them.  Their bad attitudes were causing me to neglect them.  For a while, longer than I care to admit, I decided just to teach the class, but not try to help them grow in their relationships with Jesus.  Neglecting them was working fine until I came across the book of Colossians.

Colossians 4: 12 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

I knew as a Christian leader I had to show my students compassion.  I started praying for them each night.  The prayers were simple, but they helped.  The girls were still mean to one another and the boys still cheated, but I started to love them.  And I believe that’s what it takes when we live spiritually.

As my love grew, I decided to challenge the class as a whole, including me, to start living by the fruit of the spirit.  I stopped worrying if they knew who was king David’s great-grandfather (Boaz) and started focusing on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I offered them extra credit to memorize Galatians 5:16-25, the passage in the Bible where the Apostle Paul get’s spiritually fruity.  They complained about having to know such a long passage, but as I was memorizing the passage the fruit started to show in my life.  And my hope was my students could see the change in me, and start to see what it meant to live by the fruits of the spirit.

This is a lesson we can apply to our own lives.  If we want to live spiritually, we need to live by the fruits of the Spirit.  I am not sure if my students learned anything (middle schoolers are a stubborn breed and not all blogs have clear-cut endings), but I know by being joyful for them when they did well, being kind to them when they were mean to me, or by showing self-control when they acted out, my heart changed.  And if they can see me change, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll change too.

I haven’t talked to many of those kids since I returned to Colorado, but I still pray for them.  I challenge anyone to live by the fruits of the spirit and pray for the people in their lives, even if they are annoying.  The change will be sweet, I guarantee it.

How Running and Living Spiritually Go Hand in Hand: 3 Practical Ways to Live Spiritually

Back in 2003 I decided to become a runner.  Running, for me, has always been a problem.  I’ve suffered from Abdominal Migraines most of my life, which are, as I described them in my blog Dancing Con Aguafiestas, set off by running.  So, why did I take up this difficult task, one most people who don’t suffer from migraines avoid?  Simple, I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to challenge myself.  I knew if I kept sitting around I might avoid the migraines, but I’d never live the life I wanted to live.

Learning to be a runner was a challenge, it took me a little more than three years to lose any weight, but I did it.  Leaning to be a runner taught me how to set my mind on a goal.  Training for a half-marathon taught me how to achieve my goals.

Running and losing weight take perseverance and eating healthy.   At this point you might be wondering when I am going to get spiritual on you guys.  Well, follow me on this one.  Living Spiritually is just like running.  When I started running seriously, I took all of the advice I ran across.  So, here are three practical ways to help us all live spiritually.

1. Be Attentive:  Being attentive as a runner means paying attention to your body, which is important when trying to stay healthy.  Likewise, spiritual health requires attentiveness.  We can’t see God at work if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.  Being physically healthy means paying attention to what you consume.

Being spiritually healthy is exactly the same.  So, take care of yourself by reading your Bible and spending time in prayer.  I spend at least twenty minutes every night reading my Bible and praying.  Another thing I try to do so I can see God at work in my life during the day is get a good night sleep.  We must treat every day like a big race day, which means getting a good night’s sleep.  It is impossible to stay attentive to God’s doings, let alone run, if you can’t even keep your eyes open.  So go to bed early.

2. Be in Position: During a race I try to find my mental sweet spot, which always seems to be Coldplay’s album Viva La Vida.  I pace myself to its tracks as I run, but if I were to stop running for two months before the race and then position myself at the starting line on race day, I can’t expect myself to succeed.  Therefore, I position myself for success by going to the gym at least six times a week.

Positioning is important with spiritual success too.  I find my spiritual sweet spot when I am hiking with a friend.  Hiking in the mountains with a friend gets me going, but if I position myself inside of the wrong group of people, negative people, I tend to lose focus on God.  Likewise, if I seclude myself, not go on any hikes, I typically feel like God isn’t with me.  And so I know I must go out and engage with people, ones who support me, to be able to see God work.  I do know that there are people who feel God’s presence when they are alone, for those people I encourage them to turn off their tv, or whatever is distracting them, and spend some quiet time with God.  Find your sweet spot and position yourself in a place where you are most likely to see God.

3. Be Submissive: When I train for a half-marathon, I know if I want to run the race to the best of my abilities, I must train and training means giving up certain desires, like sleeping in on the weekends.  I must submit myself to a training schedule, which typically requires long hours and lots of sweat.  But I know if I place that schedule above me, as my master, I will have a great opportunity to succeed during my race.

Again, and you’ve probably already got my point, heck you’ve probably already become Jedi’s at all of this, but I’ll say it anyway, Living Spiritually is the same.  We must live with our palms up, submitted to God.  As said in Proverbs, “In all of your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Turn your hands up to God in an act of submission.  He may ask you to do something out of the ordinary, but He will not lead you astray.

For we are submitting to one who has run this race before us.  We are letting Jesus be our master.  Hebrews 12:1-2 says and Tim Tebow tweeted before his first playoff game, “Therefore, as we are  surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.  Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, and all its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The Challenge for 2012

Can you find something you are thankful for each day? Can you open yourself to seeing God in your life-not just in the big events-but in the little moments too?

Our lives can get pretty busy with work, family, and friends.  Most people are so caught up in their lives that they miss out on the greater adventure that life can become.  I think God tugs on our lives each year.  He calls us, most of the time very gently, to join him in a grand adventure, which is why every year we make goals to improve our lives.  We yearn for more, maybe even for the life God has for us, but often we give up one week in.  I think that happens because we are trying to reach these goals alone.  So let’s join together in making 2012 a special year.  As an online community let’s place God at the center of our lives.

Here is my challenge.  Live 2012 Spiritually.

Living Spiritually means listening for God and doing what he asks.

On Christmas Eve I realized I hadn’t really given anything good to half of my family.  Fortunately hours before midnight I felt a gentle nudge to challenge my family to keep a daily journal about how they saw God.

For a brief moment I tried to ignore the idea.  Nah, too much work.  But then it hit me, if I didn’t try this idea I’d never know what God could do with this.  So I said yes, drove up to Wal-Mart, fought off the last minute shoppers, picked up six journals, printed out some pictures (that way each journal had a personalized photo for each person), and drove home knowing this gift would be an incredibly hard challenge.

On Christmas Day my family opened up their journals and the idea of challenging everyone to open their eyes to God’s daily activities sprang to life.

This is a challenge my family is taking on together.  Now I want to invite you to join in.  Say yes to God’s gentle nudge.  You will not be alone in this.  Together we will make 2012 a different year, a special year.  Do you want to go on a grand Adventure?  If so, pick up a journal and keep track of how you see God work in your life.

Here is how I am going to do it.

Every day I am going to read the Bible.  God is relational and the best way to get to know Him is to read his word.

Every day I am going to write down what I am thankful for.  I believe keeping track of what I am thankful for will help me stay focused when times get tough.

Every day I am going to look for ways I’ve been blessed and when I see them I will write it down too.  I believe if I am looking for God’s gifts, God will make me a person who is more willing to give and receive blessings.

Every day I am going to recognize God’s presence.  He is in the big moments and the little moments.  It just takes opening my eyes and looking for him.  I will write down what I see in my journal.

Writing all of this down is key.  Go grab a journal, it doesn’t have to cost much or be fancy, and start writing.  It trains us to look for God and see what He is doing.  And at the end of the year we have proof of a life lived with God at the forefront of our every day lives.

Adding these four steps to your already busy life might seem daunting, but when you join in on this adventure you aren’t doing this alone.  Through prayer and scripture we will do this together, and as my nearly three year old little niece Addi once said, “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Living Spiritually means saying yes to God.  Keep God at the center of your life in 2012 and join us on this adventure.

I helped my dad create facebook.com/livingspiritually and would like you to like the page.  When you like the page you will join us in our adventure and have a great way to interact with a broad group of people who have committed to living spiritually.  If you are on twitter tweet #livingspiritually2012 to join the conversation about how God is working in our lives.

Happy New Year!