Last week at our women’s class, I asked my sisters in Christ the questions that I asked Tuesday on this blog. One of the best answers I received was that it is easier to focus on God when you step back and keep the “big picture” in mind. Or, as someone else put it, it is easier to focus on God when we purposefully consider our tasks and then think about how to use them to God’s glory. This idea of the bigger picture has helped me before, and it also puts a finger on what I think is the answer to my earlier question.
See, no matter if I am focused or unfocused, sick or well, happy or sad…certain things have to get done in my life. I will do laundry with a happy heart, a stressed mind, or a resentful spirit, but it will get done. I will teach my kids patiently or impatiently, lovingly or unlovingly, but I will teach them. So the secret to glorifying God is not necessarily in the things that I do, because they will mostly be the same either way. Instead, it’s in the mindset that I have when I do them. If I complete my tasks with a focus on the bigger picture of the life of love I’m supposed to lead, then I can do my tasks in a way that brings glory to God’s kingdom–or perhaps even furthers His kingdom here on earth!
But how do I cultivate that mindset on a daily basis? Here are some things that have really worked for me over the years:
1. Start my day off with Him.
Even if I am tired, stressed, or feeling aspiritual. Even if I have absolutely zero–no, scratch that–negative desire to pray, meditate, or read the Bible. Even if I can only muster five minutes of focus time. Even then, I am greatly aided by time spent with God. In the morning when my mind is all groggy, it helps to write my prayers in a notebook that I keep for that purpose. Sometimes my prayers are only a few dashed off lines. Sometimes they end up running pages long (never planned, incidentally. It just happens). But regardless, just taking that time to orient my mind around God really helps get my mind on the right track. On top of that, it helps to get in the Word. Again, this might consist of reading several chapters, or just a verse or two. Sometimes I do a particular study, sometimes I follow a reading plan, sometimes I just copy down verses that I like, sometimes I choose one or more on which to meditate. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter. Any time spent in the Word helps me.
2. Play Christian music throughout the day.
First of all, let me confess: I am a little bit jaded against Christian music. I rarely listen to Christian radio, as I find the vast amount of songs played on there to be incredibly cheesy. That said, there is Christian music out there that you will like. Even if you involuntarily rolled your eyes when you first read this suggestion, I assure you: the music is out there. Maybe it’s the old hymns. Or maybe more devotional style worship. I personally am drawn to more folksy music like All Sons and Daughters and REND Collective Experiment. I also like the bluegrassy hymns of Chelsea Moon. Seriously, there is so much out there from which to choose!
And you know what? Even when I’m listening to Seeds of Faith on repeat for my kids, the sheer repetition of the Bible verses often leads me to some pretty deep meditation in the car. Turns out, it doesn’t matter what format it’s in: hearing Bible verses turns my mind to God.
3. Surround myself with others who are trying to focus on God.
We were not meant to live for God alone; that’s why He gave us the church. In my life, I have been blessed with several women who have challenged me in my faith and encouraged me as I seek to live for God daily. In particular, I have one best friend with whom I check in almost every day. Just talking to her helps me focus on God and challenges me to look at my tasks–raising kids, keeping a home, serving the church–through the lens of God’s kingdom.
Also, I have found that in over twenty years of being a Christian, I have really come to depend on the church as a whole. Even on mornings or evenings when I’m really tired and honestly want to stay home, I find that I am always blessed when I go to church. There’s just something about gathering with other believers that strengthens me, and that strength carries over to my daily walk.
4. Serve others.
This is huge. I think it was in Mere Christianity that C.S. Lewis pointed out the fact that our mind so often follows our body. We tend to assume it is the other way around, that our mind sets the tone for our body. And in some ways it does, of course. But the reverse is also true. See, sometimes I am feeling quite selfish and have absolutely no desire to serve anyone else…and yet, when I do go ahead and serve, despite my selfishness and lack of desire, I find that usually, an amazing thing happens. Usually, my mind follows my body into a servant mindset. Usually, the very act of service helps focus me on God. I guess that works because when I’m serving, I’m actually imitating Christ. I’m practicing acting like Him. And when I try to be like Him, I start to think like Him. Or something. I haven’t really figured that all out yet, but I do know that it works. Serving others is a great way for me to focus on God.
5. Be thankful.
This last one might seem kind of simplistic and maybe even unrelated, but I believe that purposefully practicing gratitude throughout the day always turns my mind to God. Here’s an example of how it plays out: A few days ago, it was evening, and I was feeling frustrated. My dinner plans had not worked out, and I was actually on Plan C. I was tired after homeschooling the kids all day, and I think they had complained more than usual that day or something. Regardless, I was full of negative emotions as I prepared dinner. Then it occurred to me: the house was very quiet and peaceful. And not in that “uh-oh, what’s going on” way. No, Luke was reading a book, and Anna was quietly working on a craft, giving me time to work on dinner in peace. And as for dinner, I had to acknowledge that even though it wasn’t my original plan, it was amazing that I was able to cobble together a delicious meal from ingredients I had on hand. What an abundance of food I must have to be able to feed my family so well! And what wonderful children to quietly entertain themselves and let me prepare it! In the span of just a few minutes, my attitude when from “in the pits” to “full of gratitude.” And who did I thank? God, of course. God is the one who gave me my life and my family and my food. Just choosing to be grateful for His blessings helped to focus me on Him.
Those are just some ideas that have worked for me over the years. Do you have anything to add to the list? How do you focus on God, even in the midst of your busy life?