I grew up in a ministry family. My father was the local director of an international Christian youth organization and I spent my younger years very much a part of all of that excitement and energy that surrounded that group.

When I was in the tenth grade my father began taking big groups of kids to the mountains where we would spend a weekend worshipping, laughing and becoming introduced to some of the spiritual disciplines. Most of us were “churched” kids who loved Jesus and 1. Were excited to be out of suburbia and 2. Wanted to get closer to God. But we’d each been sitting in youth groups and Sunday School for years hearing “about” Jesus so this hands on approach to God was all a new experience.

We learned about solitude and prayer. We learned about study and Christian meditation. We talked about service and about silence. And then we practiced them.

With a journal in one hand and the Bible in the other, we would spend 30 minutes or longer alone in the near woods asking God to speak to us through nature. We watched pine trees sway and ants build homes and wondered what truth of God could be learned from such things. We read the Bible and asked God to reveal Himself to us in new ways from the Scriptures.

Sometimes we were silent.

Sometimes we just prayed.

Sometimes we meditated on something Jesus said.

All in all, we were being coached in how to live a spiritually interpretive life. We were encouraged to try to find the sacred and true in the minutiae of the journey. And we were being taught how to live with Jesus rather than just learn about Him.

I went to these weekend camps with my dad and mom and other young adults twice a year for almost a decade. I credit this, even above any church service or big Christian conference I ever attended, with what has helped me the most in my year to year life with God.

I’ve listened to a lot of sermons and sat in tons of Bible studies. Like a lot of us, I’ve been a part of prayer meetings and Friday night services and worship evenings. I’ve heard a lot about God and a lot about the Bible. But for me what has stretched far beyond pulpits and what has lasted well into the next decade has been the regular practice of practical, godly, spiritual disciplines.

These are the small things that have kept me close.

When I don’t feel like reading the Bible and I go months and months without cracking it’s pages, I seem to fall back to prayer and meditation like they are old friends. The idea of studying a child’s laughter or why a bird builds a nest near my dining room window comes easier to me because I’ve done it before and God has spoken to me through these things. I’ve practiced it with my own hands. The years when sermons seem dry and Bible studies bore are the years I find myself picking out a single verse and meditating on it over a kitchen sink full of dishes, my arms half deep in the soap. And to be alone, to be silent in communion with God is ever preferable to me over many other things.

I’m not at all against church. I love church and I love my church very much.

But at the end of it all, it won’t matter what church we’ve gone to or how many women’s Bible studies we’ve attended.

It will matter, I believe, how we let Him infuse our days with Himself and how we allow ourselves to be taught by the little, beautiful things in life. And I think it will matter, at the end, how we choose to live with Jesus every day.

What are the small things that keep you close to or bring you back to Jesus? How have you seen God in daily life lately?

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  1. 1

    Couldn’t agree with you more Sarah…life is in Christ not a building or a formular or tradition.
    Just today God spoke ever so gently through my friend. I knew as we talked God was delighted I had a friend to talk to about Him. When we lived over seas I would only see every two years, now we live in the same town and do lunch at least once a week.

    Sitting out in our little patio watching the birds eat from feeders given to me by loving friends wanting to help me adjust moving to California after countless moves.

    Him telling me gently thats, “it’s ok” when I don’t pick my bible up. Dare I say this…He is bigger then my Bible for it can be taken away from me, but nothing can seperate me from His love or Him. It will be ok.

    Seeing the joy my husband has when our two grand children come into the room, priceless.

    His endless patience with me never cease to amaze me…I am aware of it on a daily bases.

    Good post, thought provoking. Blessings Sarah.

  2. 3

    I too agree. I’m a busy-body by nature so when my YWAM team went to all the way to Korea to PRAY…nothing more…just stay by the North Korea border and pray – I was all, “Well, that’s a waste of time – let’s DOOO” But God in all His wisdom taught me the reverence of BEING, and COMMUNING with Him.

  3. 5
    Anonymous says:

    Sarah, thanks for the confirmation! What a blessing for you to learn early in life that Jesus can be seen through all the little things that make up our day…what a blessing to learn that a few simple disciplines can become so ingrained in our lives that when we from time to time “hit that wall” where typical scripture reading or sermon listening becomes boring, we automatically turn to what’s right before us and there we are automatically drawn into conversation and communion with Him.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Sarah, to continue down this path!

  4. 9

    I didn’t learn this in the same way you did, but somehow my parents did instill the ability to glean God in the day-to-day. Nature especially seems to speak to me of Him and I just love to be in the quiet, stillness, rest of our Lord. I need more of this! It’s so easy to fall into the trap of ‘checking Him off my list’ by reading a quick devotional or clacking through a prayer list. Relationships are so much more organic than that.

  5. 11
    Dorothy says:

    After walking with Jesus for 30+ years, I finally truly get it! JESUS SAID, “IT IS FINISHED!” The Holy Spirit has directed me out of the “Works righteousness” religion into Grace righteousness! I now hate religion as much as He does!

    I love the scripture that where God invites us to “come reason together.” It doesn’t mean that He speaks and then I put in my view. He said that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. As I “hang with Him” daily, He is giving me revelation knowledge.

    I was led to look up the word, “reason” in the concordance. When the disciples reasoned among themselves, they got into the boat and said, “We forget to bring bread!” Jesus reasoned with them and reminded them of what He had just done—- fed the multitudes with just a few fish and bread!

    And when Peter, James and John went up a mountain and the transfiguration occurred, Peter’s small thinking said, “Let’s buid 3 temples. One for Moses (the Law), one for Elijah (the Prophetic) and one for Jesus.” The voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased… HEAR HIM!” HEAR ONLY JESUS… NOT JESUS MIXED WITH THE OLD LAW!

    The word church means, “the called out ones”…. called out from the Law system into the rest of God. IT IS FINISHED! Ahhhh, now that is something to shout about!

  6. 14
    Christine says:

    AMEN to this post! I used to be able to drive up to the mountains and into the towering pines just to be alone with God. How I miss it! (My truck has had a bad transmission for awhile and I don’t have the money for a new transmission yet.) I would always come back from those trips refreshed. I would walk alone in the woods and talk to God out loud. I would imagine Him walking along side me. Sometimes discussions would be something simple like “How did You come up with the idea to design this flower leaf like this?” I appreciated that time with Him a lot. I took only water, my Bible and journal with me. I had nothing to distract me like I do at home. No phones were ringing (I was out of range on my cell phone.), no chores screaming to be done, no trips to the grocery store. Nothing. Just me and God and the towering pines whispering and swaying in the breeze. I can’t wait to be able to do that again!

  7. 16
    Suzanne says:

    Sarah, God speaks to me through you today! I have attended and participated in a million formal Bible studies at church and been inspired by many sermons at the pulpit. It’s wonderful, but as you said, it’s not as powerful (at times) than going out in nature (God’s creation) and spending days there, leaning things as you mentioned, but also noticing how beautiful God is without the pew at times. I need that!! A new approach. Part of my relationship with Him to be out in the outdoors He has created. I love the sunset you posted — gorgeous! I took photos on my phone of a sunset the other night I could simply not take my eyes off. It was a moment between me and God, no words needed to be spoken by me. He knew I was reveling in what He was doing with that sunset. My daughter has helped me the most. She has told me over the years that she only truly communes with God in nature or at least outside. The other night I could not find the moon (thanks to Jennifer’s influence on me!). I just HAD to see the moon! I asked her when it would rise and she said 4:00 am and probably set before evening. How did she know that? I was amazed! She, maybe without knowing it, keeps track of God in all the beautiful ways nature presents itself. Sometimes the little things aren’t so little, are they? I guess it just depends. Oh, thank you Sarah!!! And I loved hearing about your outdoor experiences as a teenager. That was valuable to me.

  8. 18

    When I’m struggling with the disciplines of Bible reading and in-depth prayer, listening to Christian music is a small thing that keeps me close. Hearing words of Scripture or words of prayer put to music functions like a tether, keeping me tied to my faith and the Truth.

    • 19

      sometimes i like to listen to music too mary. it’s a way to use different senses than we normally do to listen to God. thank you dear friend!! miss you!

  9. 20

    What a gift your parents gave you…it took me years to figure it out, but it is sweet when you do.:)

  10. 22

    My beach spot. It is my sanctuary.

  11. 24

    I really enjoyed your post Sarah . I Los enjoy reading th comments that are left here.n

  12. 26

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks so much for this post! It was wonderful and you summed up so much of what God has been telling me about what He wants from me (us.) God bless you and your family!

  13. 28

    Make that what He wants for me(us), not from me(us) !! : )

  14. 29
    Mary Ellen says:

    A friend and I just had this conversation yesterday. Our relationship is new and she asked, “How does your devotional life look each day?” I hesitated because I sensed she was looking for a formula. I told her, “Well, I usually get up each day at 4:00 or there abouts so I can have some time for just me and the Lord before Mike wakes up and life presses in. Then I just hang out with God. Sometimes I just sit and listen to beautiful music and lift my thoughts to Him. Other times I pick up my Bible or another Christian book I am reading and read until the Holy Spirit prompts me to stop and consider something. Then I either talk with Him spirit to Spirit or write questions in my journal and then write down what I believe He speaks to my heart.
    Over the 32 years of journaling, He has taught me so many things about His ways.
    Sometimes my time with Him is all prayer and tears and other times all worship and dance. (Found I can download wonderful worship on my MP3 player and dance to my hearts content, without waking anyone up with the music. Three cheers for technology.)
    My friend stopped me and asked, “Do you put your armor on everyday? Do you plead the blood of Jesus over your life and family etc.?”
    I told her I have done all of that in the past and do believe when God prompts you to do it, you should. But….I never have found anything in scripture to indicate that we are to plead the blood daily and since we are already hidden in Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)–what greater armor do we need? The armor in Ephesians 6 is all about Him anyway and we already have all we need. Colossians 2:9-10 says that “in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and you are complete in Him who is the Head over all principality and power.” In Him we have all that we need to face anything life puts in front of us.

    And yes, Sarah, He loves to speak to us through nature, our children, etc. His heart is that we have an ongoing 24/7 relationship with Him but it is to be in REST. It isn’t about lists and rules and methods, it is about resting in His love and getting to know His heart. He loves variety–just look at creation–and He loves to delight us with things that are unique to our personality and purpose. Life with Him just keeps getting better. Bless you Sarah in your ongoing discovery of Him.

  15. 31
    Zanetta says:

    my first thought is: It is usually not small things that drive us to Jesus or keep us there. He has used some huge things in my life to drive me to Him. I was reminded of the verse that says, “I am a jealous God…” He wants us. He wants me. When my husband was struck with an illness it didn’t bring me down….but touch my children and I’m on my knees before Him. During a dry season I quite clearly heard the Lord say, “I can’t use you right now because you aren’t being faithful to be in My Word. You aren’t listening to My Voice.” I immediately got right back into my daily routine of reading and for discipline’s sake used the One Year Bible. Only days later He used the Scripture to reveal a call dear to my heart, Israel.
    I don’t “not” go there now. I have learned that anything, everything,little things that drive us to Him or keep us close, those are no small things and anything that does whether it is:
    a friend, music, a quote, a new day dawning, twilight, the expression of a child, those gentle reminders are gifts. Staying close to Jesus is big. It’s a tough world we’re living in. His strength is abundant but we need to want it, pursue it. He dispels the darkness. He gives you strength for the next five minutes. I want that in my life. I want to know what HE has to say to me?

  16. 34

    Thank you for sharing…sometimes I get the feeling I’m not serving or seeking the LORD “in the proper fashion” & I was praying about it… But in HIS beautiful way HE has been sharing with me that it’s “ok” because I do see & hear HIM in a lot especially nature…. So everything you mentioned was an encouragement… Thanks!!

  17. 36
    Amber Kemp says:

    Love what you said, and agree. It can be fairly easy to go to church on Sundays, somewhat going through the motions. But it’s hard to invite him into our day to day activities, as we can become so busy with daily happenings. I think I have felt his presence so strongly when I seek him out in the every day mundane. While cleaning, taking a walk, folding laundry. I love how you said “being taught to live with Jesus, not just being taught about him.” So wonderfully said. I pray that I would not just be a hearer, but a doer.

  18. 38

    Mountains are also powerful places of communion for me and Jesus . Beaches rate a close second. But I can’t always wait for those get-aways. I appreciate the line: “we were being taught how to live with Jesus rather than just learn about Him.” I believe that has been a struggle for me and many others I know. It’s all in our heads and nothing about the way we come to our altar every day to be near God. The beautiful uniqueness of Christianity is that every believer is welcomed into the presence of the Almighty Creator without hindrance or shame because of Christ’s work on the Cross and His power over the grave. May we not take our unequaled spiritual liberty for granted – let’s come near to Him every day, even every minute. Let us not talk about Him like He’s not in the room, but look right at Him, sing right to Him {Jesus Culture} It IS in the little things where we find our Savior so close – in the way he turns up a child’s lips into a beautiful smile, the way He orchestrates the laughter of women in a symphony of friendship, and the way He brings us gently to our knees in surrender. Thank you for this reminder today.

    • 39

      mmm. i love that! and i love how we as humans love the grand places of nature.the mountains, beaches. as if the bigness of it is an easy way to see Jesus. thank you.

  19. 40
    Ellen Valley says:

    Thank you, Sarah. That was beautiful.

  20. 42

    Thank you Sarah for the reminder of the small things. So many times, we are looking waiting expectantly for the BIG, the extraordinary —- we miss the every day joys right there in front of us.

    Like you, I’ve sat in the pews and heard many, many sermons, been part of many Bible studies and have taken away many nuggets from them. Yet, it is so often that I find His Peace, His Healing, His Love in the little things. I’ve learned it’s the relationship, not the religion that He desires from me.

    Ironically, as I was reading your post Kari Jobe’s song “Here” is playing throughout our home. What a beautiful song to remind us that we will find Him here —- wherever you are!

  21. 44

    Amen Sarah. Spiritual disciplines have been one of richest ways I’ve been ushered into the presence of God….especially the last ten of my 45 years. I’m always flipping open Richard Foster’s or Dallas Willard’s books on spiritual disciplines.
    Thank you for your words. May you continue to be encouraged in your WITH Jesus life.

  22. 46

    This story came to me today in what felt like a gift wrapped in a big bow! I have felt so small today walking with women who have invited me into their story of faith. Neither women have church background yet feel God pursuing them. I speak to them about their lens and seeing creation in a fresh way. Some says I send them a freshly snapped photo reminding them how much God loves creation but loves them more. I pray they see him in all moments and not just in crowded gatherings. Thank you for reminding us all to see…

  23. 48

    I loved that! So true and so touching. God is in all things. We can’t keep him in a box (or a building). Learning to find him in all places is an amazing blessing.

    Thanks for sharing that!

    Patti

  24. 50
    Beth Williams says:

    I enjoy listening to Praise and Worship music–really hearing the words and singing to my God.

    Looking at sunrises & sets, mountains, beautiful countryside–all that speaks volumes to me about a great & awesome God who created all this wonderful stuff for us to enjoy!

  25. 52

    Thank you for writing this. It’s a comfort to know that having more small things in my walk with God doesn’t mean I’m on the wrong track.

  26. 54
    limi lauh says:

    I have times when I have so sort things out. It isnt that i have fallen away its that i am to close to grasp what the big pic is. I was encouragedto say a little prayer tonight. I want to marry my prayer partner. I thought you had a great entry. Thanks for sharing.

  27. 56

    Thank you Sarah – and encouraging and timely reminder of the NECESSITY for prayer and meditation and living for and in Him at all times…especially at the kitchen sink.

  28. 58

    Thank you so much for this post, Sarah. I connect with you on this level. My Dad was (still is) a pastor. It indeed is in the small things. It took me a few years to come to this realization, and it is my heart that other women, girls, grasp this, too. However, I respect it must happen “in His time”; just like Kristen recently typed in her (in)Courage post regarding her children, the same can be said for anyone in general, i do believe: “If they’ve only conformed to Christian practices and standards without being transformed by Christ, they will fail.”

  29. 60

    Dear Sarah,
    Thanks for the reminder that God is in the small things. It is so often a beautiful sunrise or the sight of the small finches in our garden that draw me closer to God in worship than a sermon.

  30. 62

    Thank you for such a beautiful post!
    My communion with God has always been in nature. Right now we live in the high desert, so we are finding new ways to see God’s beauty. Just this morning I saw a family of quail, mother, father and a bunch of baby chicks in our front yard! We also have deer, that come right up in our front yard and eat our flowers!! I know God is smiling when He sees how thrilled I get when I see His beautiful creatures. I also hear God speak to me through other people, like posts like yours or people I meet, sometimes just a stranger in the store that we happen to strike up a conversation. God puts people in my/ our lives for a purpose… There are no accidents!

  31. 64

    i love watching nature in the same manner, lisa. thank you so much for sharing!

  32. 65

    This was a really beautiful post. Reading this made me wish that I had that type of unbringing instead of one that had no beliefs really but I am glad that I am here now.

    I find it hard to sit quietly, to meditate on God’s word but I am good at reading, but not at the application, because that requires prayer, and tuning in to Jesus before action. I act and think later when I know it should be in reverse. When I hear a sermon where the minister says to ask “Lord what shall I do” that always sounds amazing and that is what I want. I believe that the more I pray and read the Bible, the more clearer things will become.

    I agree with Mary who earlier said that music is good. I can hear a song on a shuffle randomly (or not so randomly) and I get grounded into reality and remember that it is not about me or running to my next appointment or meeting.

  33. 66

    I love this focus on the disciplines. Especially how it’s not just one that draws us in, but that God uses different ones at different times to reveal more of Himself to us. It’s such a great reminder to us all to lift the yokes we place on each other and ourselves. Thank you Sarah!

  34. 67

    I’ve learned recently how to meditate on a single verse daily, sometimes just a word or two. It’s amazing the fresh view that comes from a worn verse, one that I’ve read or spoken from memory a thousand times, when I allow myself to examine it from all sides, ask questions about it and look it up in the Greek or Hebrew. I used to internally roll my eyes when I’d hear someone say that the Bible is full of new understanding and revelation each time we read through it. It made no sense to me that it was a living book. But now, with the discipline of meditating part of my time in the Word, I find it so very true. The Word IS a living, life-giving book and it’s new and exciting and amazing with each turn of the page.

  35. 68

    My husband and I have had a dream for years to set up a youth retreat centre to do this, not an activity centre but a place where young people can come to and experience God and grow their personal relationship with Him. We have no money, but God will provide and is providing. http://tsop.org.uk/ is where we are at right now, trying to make the woodlands we rent sustainable, we are currently surrounded by non christian youth, many who are “straight off the streets”. We keep praying for them and just being with them. It is so great to read this post and remember our dream. Thank you

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