52 Dates with the Savior

A few weeks ago while doing our family yearly goals one of my daughters discussed the idea that not only should my husband and I have a date night no less than once a month but that we should make it a goal to have a date with another person in the family at least once a month.  (My daughters have a common practice of going on sister dates often.)

This got me to thinking later in my personal time that if I am going to be intentional about my relationship with my Savior and build consistency into my life what better way to do this than to have dates with him!  So, In my personal goals for the year I set a goal of having a date with Jesus at least once a week.

I believe that part of what God has called me to is to share my personal walk with others so that through my experiences they can learn to have a more intimate walk with Him.  With that thought in mind, I want to share some of the experiences of my dates with the Savior with you over the upcoming weeks in hopes that you will be encouraged to set aside some time to meet with the Savior on your own.  I hope you will also share your thoughts and ideas with me so others can hear how dating the Savior has impacted your life.

How does one date the Savior? My answer to that question is answered in Isaiah 54:5 which says, “For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.”  You date the Savior the same way you would date your spouse.

A few tips for ways to plan dates with the Lord:

  1. Look for ways to spend at least an hour of undisturbed quality time with the Lord
  2. Find experiences where you can share life with the Lord
  3. Set aside time to have conversations with the Lord via journaling, letter writing, or devotional time
  4. Choose different locations to meet with the Lord such as a local restaurant, a park, the back yard, a mall, or a local coffee shop where you can read your Bible and listen to the what the Lord is saying to you through His Word
  5. Plan an activity with the Lord in order to pray and be active with Him such as taking a walk around the neighborhood and talking about your day, doing a prayer walk and praying for people in the community, taking a bike ride and talking to the Lord about recent frustrations at work, or taking a nature walk in order to praise God for everything you notice as you walk through the woods.
  6. Plan SOAP Devotions – Choose a Scripture(S), write down the Observations God shows you about the scripture (O), write down the Applications God shows you that this scripture has to your own life(A), write down a Prayer to the Lord about the scripture (P).
  7. Go “dancing” with the Lord — Plan a time of praise and worship with the Lord – turn on some music and spend an hour praising and dancing before the Lord and praying intimate worship music.  If you can play an instrument, plan a date where you play and sing to the Lord songs of worship from your heart or write a song of worship to the Lord.
  8. Plan a time to soak in the tub with candles and worship music and read a devotional, inspirational book, or bible, or even spend time praying or worshipping the Lord.
  9. Plan a time of thanksgiving where you walk through your house touch items and thank the Lord for them and remember their purpose – ask the Lord if He has a greater purpose than the one you currently see for them.  End the time by standing in front of a mirror and thanking the Lord for every portion of your body (eyes, ears, fingers, knees, toes, etc) and for the specific purpose each part serves.  Ask Him if He has a purpose for any part of you that you have not already seen.  If you have a spouse, thank the Lord for every part of their body and for the specific purpose each part serves.  Ask Him if there is some way you should be serving your spouse that you are not currently serving them that would please the Lord.
  10. Spend time reading through old prayer journals, study notes, or the notes you have written in the margins of your Bible.  Thank the Lord for the things He has done in your life and ask Him to show you things you have forgotten that you have prayed for that He later answered.

Ultimately, dating the Lord is about falling in Love with Jesus and doing whatever it takes to feel loved and stay in love with Him.  Some people might think the concept of dating the Savior is a bit odd and I agree that on the surface it sounds very odd.  I’m not sure how to respond other than to say that I’m desperate for God and I’m just as desperate to keep my relationship with Him alive and healthy as I am to keep my marital relationship with my spouse alive and healthy.

I have been married to my husband for over 21 years and remain deeply in love with him because I have been intentional in our relationship.  I have been walking with my Savior for over 22 years and remain deeply in love with Him also – I believe that this too is because I have been intentional in our relationship.

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The Intentional Life

Living the Christian life is amazing.  But I guess amazing is all about perspective.

If your image of living the Christian life paints the picture of following a lot of impossible rules and living up to expectations set by an unreasonable God who is looking to punish you when you fail, that sounds like a pretty miserable life.  That sounds like a set up for failure.  It sounds like you are serving a God who extends a form of performance based acceptance.

I know, I know, this is probably a gross exaggeration of the actual way many people who are struggling to live the Christian life from a religion perspective see things — but go with me for just a moment.  Living under the bondage of religion, regardless of how strictly or loosely that religion slams the hammer down on you, has the same impact:  1) the impossible expectations of perfection, and 2) the constant reminder of just how imperfect you are.  Like I said – miserable. (at least from my perspective)

But, when I read the Bible it paints a different picture of the Christian life in my mind.  It paints a picture of a relationship with a loving Savior and His Father who sent Him to come and rescue me from the pain of my sin and circumstance.  It paints the picture of a God who loves me so much that He was willing to give up what He loves the most just to ensure that He could continue in relationship with me.  It paints a picture of a God who loves me enough to not imprison me but to love me from afar until I decide to invite Him to encircle me with his loving arms.

My Bible paints a picture of me as the beautiful and precious bride of Christ and Him as my loving protector, friend, and rescuer.  He declares to me over and over that His desire is for me and He wants more than just a prisoner who will follow the rules posted on the bars, He wants a spouse who will share life with Him.

So, before I get too far off from the original intention of this post I want to reign in my thoughts to their intended purpose — the intentional life.

Over the past couple of months the Lord has really been speaking to me in different ways about the intentional life.  When I speak to other Christians and when I examine my own life, one theme of struggle seems to reign true consistently — consistency is hard.

Life takes over, busy schedules rule our days, we are exhausted, or truthfully we do not have a desire to sit at the feet of Jesus.  The root cause of this is usually that we have not found consistent and successful ways to be intentional about our relationship with the Lord.  Period.

Something that the Lord impressed on me many years ago was that since my relationship with Him is depicted as a marriage I must care for it just like I care for my marriage.  I have noticed that if I am not intentional in my marriage relationship we get disconnected very quickly.

There are some key things that the Lord has shown me over the past few months to help me increase my ability to be intentional in my spiritual life.  The first area of intentionality that He spoke to me to begin doing, that I will share with you today, is a spiritual self evaluation.  How can you know how you are doing unless you have some measurement, right?

I sat down with the Lord and allowed him to show me some areas of my life that are important to my ability to stay connected to Him, stay consistent in the Word, and continue to mature in my Christian walk.  I wrote up an evaluation based on these areas and a quick scoring system where I can give myself an honest assessment of how I am doing in each area.  At the end of the evaluation there is a place for me to write an action plan for how I intend to improve in an area I choose.

There are a few key things about this evaluation that I’d like to share with you just in case you choose to use the copy I am providing (or create a similar one of your own).  Most importantly, this is not a religious rules thing, but rather a way to help gauge your spiritual temperature and determine if there are areas you’d like to focus more attention on.

Generic Spiritual Life Self Evaluation Form 

  1. I use this every so often to help myself stay on track – once a week, once a month, once a quarter.  It depends on how far off track I feel like I am and how much focus I am trying to bring to my life.
  2. I never – EVER – expect the scores to be perfect! Not only would that be an unreasonable and mean joke but it would just be putting me right back into religious bondage.  I already know I’m not perfect!  This is not a measuring stick for perfection.  The purpose of this evaluation is to help me pinpoint some areas that I want to focus on over the next week or month, etc., so I can be intentional about my relationship with God.
  3. I have noticed that when my scores go up in one or two areas (because I am focusing there) they go down in other areas.  Why?  Because I am human and I only have so much energy, limited time, and I will never be perfect.  It is not sustainable to try to be a perfect 10 in every area of your life.  It’s all about keeping a plates spinning.  So, when I see a plate slowing down and getting ready to topple off the stick I focus there for a while so it get get some momentum going.  This evaluation just gives me an overview of all the plates.
  4. I focus on only one or two bullet points each cycle – no more.  I look at my evaluation and decide on a bullet point I want to work on and make a plan for how I want to come up a little bit higher in that area.  I NEVER set a goal of what I want my score to be – NEVER!  It’s not about the score!  The score is just a way for you to gauge how you feel about your current relationship strengths and areas where your relationship with the Lord is displaying some weaknesses.
  5. I don’t always do the entire assessment.  If the entire assessment overwhelms you — don’t use it.  Choose an area and only assess that section and work on that section for the next 6 months.  Remember, this assessment is something to help with personal growth and maturity.  It is not a religious test that must be passed.
  6. Last but not least, my assessment actually looks different than the one I’m posting for you.  Why?  Because I have catered mine to myself.  I tried to make the one I’m posting for you more generic.  Why do I mention this?  Because I want you to have the freedom of understanding that I don’t know you like the Lord knows you.  If you want to use this assessment as it is written – please do.  But please, have the full freedom to change this to suit your personal needs.  I don’t want you to be me.  If you tried to be me you would be completely overwhelmed and way off track.  I know I’d be completely overwhelmed and way off track if I tried to be you!

Setting Family Goals

Yesterday my family which included my husband and I, my two adult children who live in the area, their significant others, and my teenage son spent the afternoon walking through the process of setting family goals for the year 2014.

This was important to me for my family because my oldest daughter is getting married soon and she will be splitting off from our family.  My youngest daughter is busy with work and college and my son started high school this year.  I have a busy client load along with a busy ministry schedule.  We were not as intentional in 2013 as we usually are and and a result things that we value as a family suffered.

The bible says in Proverbs 29:18 that where there is not vision the people perish but he that keeps the law – happy is he.  In the NIV translation this same version says that where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint.

To me this speaks clearly about the setting of goals.  When we don’t have a vision in front of us for where we want to go – we just cast off restraint and go wherever our emotions or schedules bring us.  But, when we have a vision for where we want to be – when our emotions or schedules try to bring us to a different place, we have that “law” to come back to and keep us on course.  That vision is the thing that keeps us stable and helps us to make the right decisions that will ultimately land us in the place we intended.  Our goals keep us grounded and moving in the right direction when our emotions threaten to throw us off course.  When life sends us a wave, our goals are the light tower that keeps us pointed in the right direction to keep us on course.

The bible also says in Habakkuk 2:2 says to write the vision and make it plain so that he who reads it may run.  The way my mind translates this is:  write the vision and make it clear so that he who goes forth can run with it.

This makes sense to me.  Unless everyone is in agreement and has a clear understanding of what the goals are it will be impossible to reach them.  Words on a piece of paper are just that – words – until the people who run with the words have the critical conversations that explain what the words mean to them.

Everyone has their own personal picture in their head of what words mean.  Letters on paper are never enough to clarify those pictures.  The only thing that can bring that clarity are conversations with living, breathing human beings.  Family goals cannot be decided on by parents or just vocal individuals in the household.  Everyone must have a voice if this event is to be successful.

When people have conversations we discover things about one another that we never realized before.  Everyone has a piece of the puzzle – everyone holds a piece of the answer.  If we work together and no one has to win the prize by having their way the be only way, the family can accomplish something incredible by just experiencing the time and conversations together.

What were some things we discovered through this process?  We looked at last year and discovered that there were some areas that my whole family was disappointed that we had slacked in – those revolved around intentional time spent together.  We allowed our lifestyles to take over what we valued most in life – each other.

We discovered that the entire family really misses my teenage son and really wants to get to know him better.  We also recognized his primary love language is “words of affirmation” and not only does he need words of affirmation, but he needs to see us speaking loudly in this love language to one another in the family consistently and intentionally in order to feel like he has a safe environment to come out of the typical teenager video game hibernation.

Ultimately, we set some really good goals for our family in the areas of: Relationships, Stewardship, Family Cohesiveness, and Recreation

We also set a goal to make and commit to personal and marriage goals to ensure that we were growing on a personal level and in our marriages.

I want to encourage you to set some time aside as we begin this year to set some goals with your family.  Start small.  Find out what’s important to them.  Take a look at the past year and your satisfaction level in a few areas.  Brainstorm a little bit about things you might do to improve in those areas.  Then, make some decisions about what success would look like this time next year.

Be intentional.  But most of all – be a family.