A Generous Grace

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31 Anything-but-Vanilla Methods to Bring Fresh Flavor to Times with God

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  1. Go for a different form of fasting. You might fast from that particular sin, worry, or burden whose tangle you just can’t seem to comb from your brain. You might choose a fast of simplicity, where you take your schedule down to the bare bones, or step away from all media—or, like has renewed me in Africa, pare down your material items beyond what is comfortable or “normal”.
  2. Utilize this quick and easy method I learned from YWAM’s Brian Hogan, a simplified version of inductive study. Place symbols alongside Scripture passages as they stimulate your heart: a lightbulb for a new insight, a question mark for what you don’t understand, a candlestick on something that sheds light, an arrow for where God is piercing a person’s heart.
  3. Take a walk, go on a run, or take a bike ride while you pray. Allow nature and other reminders around your house to act as “road signs” for ways to thank God, or to pray for others. If you want, take a journal, sketchbook, and/or watercolor supplies.
  4. Plug your headphones into some worship music, and stretch, complete yoga poses, doodle Zentangle, or watercolor as you meditate. (Update: A commenter has helpfully pointed out some of the secular origins for some of these. Please check out my comment in response below and determine your own faith-filled conviction if you have doubts about these practices.)
  5. Write down the names of God most precious to you right now, or a name of God into which you long to lean. If you’re artistic, consider writing these in a beautiful way.
  6. Make one of your favorite snacks or a great cup of tea or coffee; grab a basin to soak your feet, and a soothing lotion. Create positive, rewarding memories for your time with God that help you unwind. Or, take a bubble bath or a hot shower, with scents that soothe you. Again, help yourself to associate God with rest and fulfillment rather than demands or inadequacy.
  7. If you’re feeling easily distracted, use your hands to do something quiet and mindless: Crochet. Open pistachios. Brush the dog. Talk to God about each of the things that are distracting you. Press your thoughts through the sieve of prayer—into communion with God, no matter what’s rushing by on the outside. Keep your to-do list beside you, and if something comes up while you’re having your quiet time, write it down so that you can let it go. Or, set a timer, and until it rings, write down all the things you’re wanting to remember—even just to think about later. When the timer rings, turn your attention back to your time with God. Thank God for each of the things and people pinballing through your brain.
  8. Make music or artwork as an act of worship. Write a poem; sing; play an instrument; paint reflectively, perhaps meditating on a Bible passage. Consider a Bible that encourages artful worship, like these creative journaling Bibles.
  9. If not being able to unwind is a normal occurrence, prayerfully consider simplifying your schedule.  Are these the “good works [God] has prepared in advance for [you] to do” (Ephesians 2:10)—and only those? It’s so easy for us to gain the whole world at the expense of our souls.
  10. Ask good questions. Imagine God’s asking you, How is your heart? Author Sharon Brown utilizes questions from Scripture: Like God’s to abandoned, pregnant Hagar (“Where have you come from and where are you going?”) to the blind Bartimaeus (“What do you want me to do for you?”) to the disciples (“What are you looking for?” and, “Who do you say that I am?”). *
  11. Try to avoid getting too prescriptive in your times with God. Just like the same kind of date doesn’t work for every couple, there are different ways—“love languages”, even—that each of us are wired to best commune with God.  Think about what qualifies in your mind as a “good quiet time,” and why you believe this. Prayerfully compare this with Scripture’s idea of being with God. Do you connect with God most through service? Activism? Contemplation? Intellect? Here’s a quiz that may help you unpack your worship “pathways”—though I like to think even more specifically and creatively about the ways my faith comes alive.
  12. Go on a “prayer walk”around your neighborhood, praying for your neighbors, the kids and faculty in the local school, the churches around you, etc.
  13. Play a sermon podcast or worship music playlist while you work out; consider it toning of mind and body. As you stretch, then shower afterward, take time to reflect and pray.
  14. Keep a spiritual book you’re interested in for days when you can’t focus. (I’ve liked A Loving Life, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, New Morning Mercies, and The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms. I just ordered Devotional Classics.) Make sure you interact with what you’re reading by scrawling in the margins or keeping a journal.
  15. Review past journals to remember your journey with God, and to thank Him. Make sure to keep a pencil handy during your quiet time to keep your brain engaged and remember what you’re learning and hearing. A professor of mine once called a pencil “a crowbar for the brain” in one’s time with God.
  16. If you’re struggling with untruths or unbelief, consider making a T-chart of the lies you’re tempted to believe, across from Scriptures that directly confront them. Select for memorization a few of the most needed Scriptures.
  17. If you are an intellectual or visual worshiper, consider a resource like Tim Challies’ Visual Theology to call your mind to greater worship.
  18. Create a timeline of your life. Around this, outline your spiritual journey/timeline with God. Feel free to use different colors, illustrations, key words, or names of God you associate with each time. Reflect on where He’s brought you.
  19. Pick one verse to meditate on as you close your eyes and breathe deeply. The condition of my body is often so connected to my soul! Consider exhaling in repentance and surrender of specific burdens, and inhaling faith in this promise and truth about God.
  20. From the library, check out a book of Biblical paintings (you may also be able to find some online). See what you might rediscover about your favorite stories in the intricate depictions of artists throughout history. Try The Old Testament through 100 Masterpieces of Art and The New Testament through 100 Masterpieces of Art.
  21. Post Bible verses around your house, and change them frequently. Even writing them out can help with meditation. I laminate pretty, free Scripture printables from Pinterest that add to the beauty in my home—and which I plaster all over my kids’ areas. (There are a few quotes on my freebies page, too.)
  22. Utilize the Prayer of Examen, prayed twice a day by Jesuits. Here’s an example, and you can find more here: a. Become aware of God’s presence. b. Review the day with gratitude. c. Pay attention to your emotions. d. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. e. Look toward tomorrow.
  23. Proactively, make sure you’re getting plenty of rest at night, eating in God-honoring ways, and getting regular exercise. I am personally more worshipful—and create a more worshipful, peaceful atmosphere in my home when I am not wrung out.
  24. Select a very short passage for the practice of Lectio Divina as a way to actively meditate on Scripture, described well by this blogger: “Lectio Divina comprises four elements: lectio (we read the text), meditatio (we meditate the text), oratio (we pray the text), and contemplatio (we live the text).” Read more here.
  25. Establish some liturgy in your life. Some Christians find renewal in the Daily Office—scheduled times of prayer—which could be set on your phone, as times to continually call your mind back to God throughout the day.
  26. Find a prayer partner to meet with you regularly. Consider using questions that take your relationships deeper to pray more intensely and accurately for each other.
  27. Spend a little time on iTunes listening for some new worship music to rev up your collection. Then, use worship music as prayer—particularly to intercede for people who are on your heart right now.
  28. Also from YWAM’s Brian Hogan: Draw your perfect day with God.
  29. Select a handful of David Powlison’s X-Ray Questions to better understand what’s in your heart—and isolate what tends to stand in the way of your relationship with God.
  30. Study the New Testament “One Another” statements. Which resonate with you right now? Which do you find most difficult? What do they communicate about who God is to you?
  31. Consider investing in a discipline of working for the voiceless and/or impoverished. Isaiah 58 carries tremendous promises for this specific form of fasting. I find it a tremendous source of vitality.

*For this concept, the author credits Brown, Sharon. Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press Books (2013). Kindle edition.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m very surprised to see Zendoodle, which has Buddhist origins of Zen, listed & encouraged on a Christian blog.
    http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=14682
    Yoga also teaches & encourages “spiritual laws” that are contrary to the Bible.

    • Kim, thanks so much for writing in, and I’m grateful for your discernment. I very much understand your concern, and I did check out the helpful link you sent. I should acknowledge that using these methods is my own personal decision, borne out of my conviction that even what’s been used by other religions for evil can be used by Christians for good. This post may help communicate my heart on this topic: http://www.agenerousgrace.com/2016/10/04/sifting-truth-surprising-sources/ In short, my thought is to be like the Israelites before they left Egypt, who sought riches from those who enslaved them, and put them to use for God and His people. Personally, I use these methods only to increase my own worship of God–but you’re right; these could cause other believers to stumble. Paul seemed to examine similar convictions between those who felt comfortable eating meat sacrificed to idols, and those who didn’t. I understand there’s a breadth of conviction in the Church on issues like this, and perhaps I should have put something in the post about this so that I don’t lead others to do anything against their own conscience, determined by faith. (Maybe I still will!) Again, thanks for your concerned feedback.

      • I love your posts but this one does concern me as I’ve learned through healing prayer that practicing yoga, even though one doesn’t chant, opens the door to the demonic in one’s life. A friend of mine’s father had to deliver a man from a yoga spirit who attached itself to his spine. Another friend’s mom was just doing some yoga poises in her home when she suddenly felt an evil presence in her room. She asked it why it was there and it responded, “You summoned me.” She stopped doing yoga after that! You might want to consider “Praise Moves”, a Christian alternative to yoga. http://www.praisemoves.com

        • Laurie, grateful for your sharing your concern and awareness. I’m open to continued conversation on stuff like this, so I appreciate your food for thought–and the link, too!

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