I love experiencing God at work in our lives….you know, when you are in the midst of your everyday life and you sense His presence and influence?!? My husband and I begin our day with prayer and bible readings and conclude our day with a couple’s devotional and more prayer. Very often when we are working through some sort of chaos or obstacle that life has brought our way, the instructions for handling this issue come to us through our readings. It is remarkable to us how simply tuning our ears to God has sharpened our awareness of His voice.
We begin our mornings reading scripture and then praying over different areas of our lives to help us really concentrate and focus on letting God steer our hearts, minds and souls. Beginning our days with scripture and prayer has us more focused on our faith and on letting the little choices we make all day long be influenced by God. We have found that this simple shift in our focus has had a tremendous effect on our lives in an extremely positive way.
Not only has the readings and prayer helped us to rely on our faith to keep us on the right path, but it has also made us so much more aware of our shortcomings and the influences in our lives that are NOT so positive! This is a fantastic way to start our day off on the right foot and send us off into the world armed with God’s Word and Grace.
A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5
Our nightly readings and prayer are a great time for discussion and analysis and redirection if necessary. Each night after our bible verse and devotional, there is a discussion topic or activity that we can do to apply what we learned. Some nights we find that the lesson is really something we have already implemented in our lives or don’t necessarily struggle with, but other times, the lesson is quite helpful. One reading in particular struck us as something we would likely hold onto and utilize through the years over and over. I also had the opportunity to pass it along to someone else that was seeking wisdom, I love when God teaches us something and we can then share the lesson with another person, that’s a win-win! This advice comes from the book, The Uncommon Marriage Adventure by Tony & Lauren Dungy. Tony & Lauren credit Jerry Clower for this advice. When faced with a big decision, ask yourself these four questions:
1. Will God be pleased if I decide to do this thing?
2. Is it okay with me for others to see me doing it?
3. Will it hurt anyone?
4. How many people have I sought approval from to do it?
Let’s take a closer look at these questions; How often do we stop and think as we go along our daily walk, “Are we pleasing God by our choices?” This one question alone could have a tremendously positive effect on the world as we know it if we would just stop and think! Are we doing the things we do to please others, to please ourselves, or to please God? Are we being driven by greed, popularity, media, or faith?
Now, very often I feel as though society as a whole has become so desensitized to yuck and filth that question number two is practically a moot point. I mean some of the behaviors and activities others flaunt for all the world to see, quite frankly surprise me but, let me say this. If there are behaviors or choices we have made in our lives that we feel others will find fault with or that we feel we must conceal from the world, then why are we participating in them? If we wouldn’t want others to know what we say, do, watch, read or ingest behind closed doors, maybe we should rethink these choices!
I was having a conversation the other day with someone very close to me and I said that I would rather someone knew my flaws and the bad choices I make and judge me or choose to not have me in their lives than to like me based on false pretenses. If someone feels that I make choices in my life to participate in activities they may find offensive then I am fine with them not “liking” me, but if I hide my mistakes and bad choices and portray myself as someone righteous, yet choose to not follow God’s teachings then I am NOT deserving of their love and admiration. If I attend Mass each week and tell my children to follow God’s word, yet I turn around and fill my soul, mind and body with filth, I am a hypocrite. If I tell my teenagers and young adult children not to drink alcohol or text and drive or watch inappropriate movies or TV shows, but I participate in these activities, how am I serving God and my children?
Question number three is a little more difficult to wrap our heads around. We don’t often see the results of our actions directly effecting those around us. Believe me when I say that things as simple as the people you choose to allow in your life and the music, movies and TV shows you watch are effecting your family. How you spend your free time and the things you spend your money on speak loudly to our children. What do we place as important in our lives? Are we teaching our children that the little things we spend our time and money on matter? Or are we teaching them that materialism and fashion and popularity are more important than what is right and just. Are we doing the “popular” thing instead of the “right” thing and do we fully understand the consequences of these choices?
Now, this last one is a bit of a “trick” question. Look at it this way; if you feel the need to “justify” your bad choices or seek approval from people for the actions you take maybe this should send up a “red flag”. Quite frankly, if I make a bad choice, I MADE IT. No one forced me to do it, and if the people surrounding me influenced my decision, then maybe I should surround myself with better examples. There comes a point in our lives when we have to discern between the “popular” choice and the “right” choice. There was a time in this nation when the “popular” choice was racism and bigotry. That didn’t make it right then and choosing to “follow the crowd” doesn’t make it right now.
Basically, what I am saying is this; if we truly want to lead extraordinary lives and see our world achieve peace and justice, if we want our children to be the generation that makes a positive difference in our world, then we must be willing to forge a new direction, challenge the status quo and allow God into our hearts to help guide us along our journey. It will NOT be easy, you WILL make wrong turns and back track and stumble. People will criticize you, lash out at you and turn their backs, but I assure you the reward is worth it. As Toby Mac says, “I don’t want to gain the whole world and lose my soul!”
We conclude our night with prayers of Gratitude and Praise for our God. There is so very much to be thankful for and there are even days when we can thank him for the trials and tribulations that come our way and the grace that He gives us to triumph. I pray that you will make your faith a priority today and that you will help your spouse and children focus on God and allow His influence in your life.