I once heard a story that had a profound impact on me. It went something like this:
A woman went to her local church one Sunday and angrily approached her bishop after the service.
Reading the apparent frustration in her expression the bishop asked, “What’s wrong?”
The woman immediately replied, “I won’t be attending church anymore.”
“May I ask why?” he asked.
The woman then began to explain her reasoning, ” I see people on their cell phones texting and typing during the service, some are gossiping, and some church member simply aren’t living right. I see people sleeping, others talk about me in low whispers, and some members act sinfully during the week and change their practices only on Sunday.”
“They are just all hypocrites!” she said in frustration.
The bishop sat in silence as he contemplated what the woman had said.
Then, with calm in his voice he finally spoke, “Can I ask you to do something for me before you make your final decision?”
The woman looked confused but agreed, “Sure, what would you have me do?”
The bishop then reached for a recently filled cup of water that had been sitting on his desk. “Take this glass of water and walk around the entire building two times, but I need to make certain that not even a drop of water spills out,” he said.
The woman agreed to do as the bishop said.
As the woman approached the end of her last lap, holding the glass she approached the bishop and proudly exclaimed, “It is done. Not one dropped spilled from the cup.”
The bishop nodded his head in approval and then asked the woman, “Did you see anybody on their phone? Did you see anyone gossiping? Was anybody living wrong? Did you see anyone sleeping?”
Confused the woman replied, “I saw none of these things because I was so focused on not letting the water spill from this glass.”
The bishop then looked at the woman with a compassionate stare as he then explained a profound lesson:
“When you come to church or when you observe others in the world, don’t worry about how they indulge in worshipping God. Your focus should be devoted to the Savior as YOU know him. Jesus asked, ‘Come follow me,’ he never asked you to follow the flock. Don’t let your relationship with God be defined by how others relate to him. Let it be defined by how focused you are WITH God.”
So how do we focus on our own cup? Or rather how do we build a relationship with God that we can have confidence in and devote our focus to? Here are five steps to get closer to God and help you achieve this goal.
Pray every day
You don’t have to get on your knees or sit in a special spot, just talk to God and get to know him by telling him about the most intricate parts of your day. Just this morning I was filling the tub for my little boy when I turned on the faucet, sat on the edge of the tub and said a prayer. Sometimes I pray in between loads of laundry. Sometimes I recap my day to God while lying in bed. Sometimes I utter my prayers out loud but most often the words live in my heart. When we initiate a conversation with God, God will always answer back. Sometimes we have to sit and listen, and sometimes we have to actively seek out answers by acting on impressions and feelings, but He always answers.
Study the word of God every day
It has often been said that we communicate with God through prayer and he communicates with us through scripture. I’ve found that starting the day spiritually minded by reading my scriptures helps me to focus on the things that matter as I go throughout the day. This helps me focus on making choices that enable my connection to heaven to be ongoing. A month ago, I was immersed in the middle of an intense trial. For comfort, I said a prayer and then opened up my scriptures to 2 Kings 6. In this chapter live some of my very favorite scripture passages. The words in verses 15-17 gave me great peace and reminded me that the power of heaven is very real and readily available to me. If you need help getting started we post some of our favorite scriptures on our instagram account.
Keep a journal
Journaling is a great way to record the impressions we have when we feel blessed, loved, and receive answers to our sincere and unique prayers. Journaling doesn’t require a beautifully bound notebook or even paper. Journaling can consist of writing a list of blessings you’ve received, texting yourself an impression you don’t want to forget or one of my favorite ways to journal is to use the Google Doc app on my phone or computer. Reflection on spiritual experiences after they occur can remind us that God cares about us individually and that our relationship with Him is real and powerful. These experiences, when in writing, also give us a tool to help us overcome challenges we may face in the future.
I once wrote an entry in a Google Doc after an experience I had. I received a tender mercy in the form of a letter I found when unpacking my books after I had moved away from my friends and family. This letter was from a friend and was the antidote to the heartache I had been feeling. I wrote about that experience in a Google Doc and still whenever I scroll past that entry in my Google Drive I feel gratitude and confirmation that God knows me personally.
Download the Christlike App
A few months ago a friend of mine told me about an app that reminded her to adopt attributes that were more Christlike. I downloaded the app and have been thoroughly blessed by getting actually “push notifications,” that remind me to try harder to adopt Christlike attributes as I go about my day.
When we focus on our own cup and our own relationship with God we enable His power and influence to infiltrate our lives at the most basic level. I recently had an experience where my day was proving to be kind of nightmare (to put things lightly) and on that particular day my Christlike attribute of the day was “hope.” The simple messages really pulled me from a place of drowning myself in chocolate and soda to having faith that the heartache would end and things would get better.
Likewise, this app also knows right when to punch me in the stomach. A few weeks ago I had a particularly hard time with my middle child. I had just discovered that he had hot glued a photo his friend drew him to his wall. Our house is literally not even six months old and already he had ruined the paint on one wall. I got frustrated and told him to leave the room while I cleaned up the aftermath. As I was cleaning, I got a push notification that said something to the extent of thinking only wholesome thoughts (wholesome thoughts were very far from my mind at that moment). Reading that notification reminded me that it was just paint, and a “thing.” I was able to talk about the incident without anger and felt peace and love for a little boy just excited to display a treasure from his friend. I am so thankful for this app.
Share your testimony
One of the most powerful ways we can strengthen our relationship with God is to testify of Him. How do you testify of Him? You don’t need to stand on a bench in a village square or have access to a microphone. The most powerful form of testimony is to live like and for God. Let your actions prompt those who do not know God by name get to know Him through you. Be courteous, kind, and understanding. Seek to listen to others. Render service. Smile at strangers. Use your social media platforms to convey messages of God’s love for all his children. As I’ve done these things I’ve found that my life is more meaningful and full of joy.
By focusing on our own cup and striving to build personal relationships with God we enable His love and influence to infiltrate our lives on a daily basis. I’m so thankful for my personal relationship with God. This relationship has been a shield, refuge, and place of peace and joy for me. I’m so grateful for a platform that allows me to talk about my personal connection to heaven.
Being faith-filled, is one of the core traits that we believe leads to a life of joy and success. This year we made it our goal to be “shameless in our devotion to God.” If you also have this same devotion and want to engage with others who share the same values, we invite you to join Abbey’s faith-based project Well Within Her.