five practices in abiding
I was never a huge apple person, but maybe that’s because I never tried the right kind. A few weekends ago, some nice people at Riley’s Apple Farm asked me, “How ‘bout these apples?” and after sampling them all I discovered a new love: the Orin.
Sweet and soft in taste with a double-dose of juicy, the Orin Apple hit the spot. Even now, I find myself craving one. There’s simply something about biting into a good apple that changes things— just ask Eve. (Sorry, tasteless joke, I just couldn't resist— it was ripe for the taking. Low-hanging fruit, if you will).
Apple puns aside, I’m starting to see why people like this classic fruit, even sans caramel (Gasp). They’re refreshing and revitalizing, and they’ve even provoked a clever rhyme about keeping doctors away when you eat one a day. But that’s just what fruit does— it nourishes the one who receives it, bringing life and healing.
The same is true for the fruit we bear spiritually. In John’s Gospel, Jesus declares the following:
In Jesus, dead things are brought to life. As Jesus followers, we have the capacity to bear fruit, bringing life and healing to the world around us, acting as agents of refreshment and revitalization. But in order to bear fruit, we must abide.
The only way to unlock your purpose is to lean into the One who gave it to you.
Have you ever looked at someone who is completely on fire for God, and wondered how they sustain such fervor? Have you ever admired someone who is bearing much fruit, and you’re simply drawn to the vibrancy and vitality they exude?
I certainly have. As I’ve surveyed the similarities among these people, I’ve found one thing to be true in every case: fire and fervor don’t happen by accident, and neither does fruit. These are always cultivated by practices, through the intentionality of those who bear them. They happen through abiding.
For the past few years, many of my Monday nights have been spent in the barn apartment of my beautiful friend Maggie, gathered around the cozy carpet of her living room with good friends. Together, we eat and laugh and share and pray and study. Currently, we’re going through a study by Beth Moore— one of those whose fervor and fruit inspire me— called “Entrusted.” In this study on 2 Timothy, she talks about cultivating the gifts God has given us to make His Gospel known in this world.
Sporadically throughout the study, she’ll answer questions from her readers, and one in particular from the video this last week grabbed my attention.
“I don’t,” Beth answered. “I go through dry seasons, but when I do, I won’t tolerate staying there. I’ve learned how to get out of them more quickly, through practices I continually turn to in order to ‘fan into flame’ the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6).
Fire and fervor don’t happen by accident, and neither does fruit.
If we want these things— if we want to be used by God in a genuine and meaningful way— we need to abide. Our purpose flows from His presence. If we want to abide, we need to identify the practices that allow us to do so, helping us cultivate a continual connection with God. Inspired by Beth Moore, below are five “fan-the-flame” practices that help me.
Prayer is what changes my perspective, reorienting my mind to remind me of His unwavering presence and relentless love towards me. It steadies and fills me. Oftentimes I get too distracted praying in my head, but I’ve found that journaling out my prayers allows me to truly concentrate and connect— this journal here is an especially helpful tool.
As Jefferson Bethke says, reading God’s Word is like food. You might go out to dinner for your birthday and have a delicious steak— you’ll remember it, and you can’t wait until you eat it again. Other times, you have PB&J, and it’s nothing special. Not every meal will be memorable, BUT if you don’t have anything, you’ll surely notice. Same with Scripture— sometimes we read hoping for an emotional experience and when we don’t find it, we walk away disappointed, discouraged from trying again. Like food, not every “feeding” will be “memorable"— but we will notice the effect if we don’t have anything at all.
Oftentimes, an insight God is revealing to me isn’t complete until I’ve processed through it with the perspective of a few friends. God always seems to use these trusted ones who know me well to add on to what He is showing me, using them to speak wisdom I wouldn’t have come to on my own. It’s one more channel He speaks through that I’ve found important to keep open.
Being the words girl that I am, sermons are a HUGE way I cultivate connection with God. As Beth puts it, listening to someone else who is on fire for God is a surefire way to catch your own spark. I travel fairly often for work and I’ve found that drive time to be a great space for listening to sermons and podcasts, and it always ignites something in me. Even when I’m not traveling, my 40 minute daily commute is the perfect time slot to slip in one of my favorites (Currently: Robert Morris, Christine Caine, Francis Chan).
Nothing is quite so transcendent and powerful as music. To be honest, music isn’t always a huge way I connect with God. Some weeks I can’t stop listening to worship music, other times I go long stretches without feeling the desire at all. But I like to get in the habit of listening regardless, because I’ve found that even when the feelings aren’t there, it’s a powerful way of working potent truths down into my heart. When the feelings do come? Glory. Two current favorites: Broken Vessels by Hillsong United and Pieces by Bethel.
Tell me, what are your practices in abiding— things that help you feel connected to God? Music? Running? Nature? Journaling? I love learning what this looks like for other people. Let me know in the comments!
Is it truly fall if you don't go apple-picking in 95 degree LA weather wearing overall shorts? I didn't think so. 😉 Below are some photos from a fun trip to Riley's Apple Farm in Yucaipa, CA with incredible friends a few weeks back.