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“To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.”
– Titus 1:5
Not Long after I surrendered my life to Christ, I received a hope chest. It wasn’t anything fancy; just a small wooden bench that was meant to store special things for my wedding, future home, etc. But for all its simplicity, that hope chest turned out to be one of the best gifts I ever received. Right around the time that I began to experience true intimacy with Christ, life took on a brand new sparkle and freshness. For the first time, I began to notice and cherish sacred things.
While I had been living for selfish pleasure and falling prey to pop culture attractions, the word sacred hadn’t really been part of my vocabulary. Centering my life around popularity, pleasure, and the approval of the opposite sex had reduced everything in my existence to something worldly, sensual. and base.
But now that Christ had become the center of my life, He began to train me in the art of sacred living. I began to place a high value on special and meaningful things. My hope chest became a storehouse of sacred treasures. In it, I kept journals that chronicled my intimate journey with Christ, poems and songs that had flowed out of my times of private worship, letters to my future husband, promises I felt God had given me, and special notes or sentimental gifts from my family members. Frequently, I would look through my chest, cherishing all the things that had become sacred in my life – my intimate fellowship with Him, my commitment to my future husband, and my relationship with my parents and siblings. Once I began to value and cherish sacred things, life was full of beauty and richness like never before.
It was right around that same time that Eric came into my life. Observing his relationship with Christ illustrated to me at a whole new level what it meant to bring the sacred into my daily walk with my King.
Eric didn’t treat his relationship with God carelessly or take it lightly; rather he cherished his private times of communion with his Lord above everything else in his life. He viewed his relationship with Christ as the most hallowed honor a person could ever have. This attitude of tender reverence inspired and amazed me. Most young Christians I’d encountered were the opposite – they treated Christ as a casual buddy. Prayer, worship, and intimate fellowship with Him weren’t typically valued as a high and sacred privilege by the Christians I’d observed. Rather, spending time with Christ was looked at as more of a duty or obligation.
But Eric’s walk with Christ was different. He kept most of the details of his intimate journey with Christ as something sacred and private, not to be shared with others. But even so, I was able to gather enough through observation to see that what Eric had with Christ was alive and vibrant, filled with hallowed, significant moments that dramatically shaped his life. He awoke every morning with a listening ear, fully expecting God to guide him, direct him, speak to him, and place divine appointments in his path. He stole away to be alone with God several times each day. He kept a journal of every intimate detail of what God was doing in his life, and his journal was one of his most prized possessions. Certain days of the year held extra meaning and expectation for him because they marked the anniversary of when he had taken a major step forward in his spiritual life. And inevitably, God would do something significant on the very same date, as if to underscore the value of holding such reminders as important. His fellowship with his King was sacred and precious, and it was truly a sight to behold.
I began to apply some of the principles that I’d learned in watching Eric’s walk with God. Soon, my relationship with Christ became even deeper and more meaningful – filled with sacred, significant moments that propelled me forward in my intimacy with Him. As I learned to cherish and remember the meaningful things God had done in my life and the important truths He was teaching me, I was able to look back and see evidence of His hand in my life in incredible ways, and it served to greatly strengthen my faith.
When God began to script my love story with Eric, cherishing the sacred moments was what added the beauty and “fairy tale sparkle” to our romance. We treated every conversation as significant. We didn’t spend time together haphazardly, just hanging out watching movies or talking about shallow, trivial things. In fact, because Eric was away for much of our relationship, we weren’t able to spend a huge amount of time together. So each time we had the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, we didn’t take it for granted. We talked about meaningful, purposeful things – shared stories of God’s faithfulness in our lives, talked about His plans for our future together, prayed for the least around the world, studied His Word together, and read inspiring Christian biographies. After spending time together, we would each go home and journal what we felt had been special or significant about the conversation. Eric even gave names to many of our special conversations, like “The Night of the Shooting Star” (because we’d been out for a walk and seen a shooting star while talking) or “The Talk on the Grassy Knoll” (because we’d been sitting on a picturesque grass-covered hill during one important conversation). It probably would have sounded ridiculous to anyone on the outside, but these little touches made our entire love story magical, rather than mundane.
I still have journals filled with reminders of those sacred moments we shared together. I have meaningful letters we wrote to each other during the formation of our love story. I have poems and songs that Eric shared with me at strategic times in our romance. I still keep them in my hope chest. These sacred things are among our most priceless treasures, and I don’t regret for one moment our emphasis on making our romance beautiful, no matter how corny or strange it might have seemed to anyone else.
Even to this day, Eric and I put a high priority on protecting the sacred things in life. And we’ve found this practice to be absolutely essential to making everyday life sparkle and glisten with heavenly beauty. People might make fun of us for our dogged determination to keep life sacred and meaningful. But very few people experience the romance of life the way we do, and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Guarding Beauty and Simplicity
Guarding the sacred isn’t just something to apply to our love story or our walk with God. Rather, it can shape and influence every aspect of our daily existence. A young woman who has an eye for protecting the sacred naturally knows how to create beauty in her everyday life. A sacred lifestyle is the natural byproduct of a woman who is carefully protecting her inner life. Creating beauty in our outward environment is meant to be the outflow of the joy, beauty, and radiance we’ve cultivated in our inner life.
I’ll never forget reading the story of Betsy ten Boom, when she and her sister Corrie were first put into prison for hiding Jews in their home during the Nazi invasion. The prison was filthy, dark, rancid, and overcrowded with despairing, sick, miserable women. Corrie and Betsy were separated into different cells, and Corrie spent many days wondering how Betsy – who loved beauty, flowers, and sunshine – was fairing in such a destitute, ugly place.
Betsy had always had a gift for making things beautiful; for creating beauty all around her, no matter where she was, even on a meager income. But how could a dank prison cell be made into a haven? One day, Corrie got the chance to walk by Betsy’s cell and took a quick glimpse inside. To her amazement, she saw that somehow the bleak chamber had been transformed into a sacred sanctuary. “Unbelievably, against all logic, the cell was charming,” Corrie wrote. She continued,
The straw pallets were rolled instead of piled in a heap, standing like little pillars among the walls, each with a lady’s hat atop it. A headscarf had somehow been hung on the wall. The contents of several food packages were arranged on a small shelf. Even the coats hanging on their hooks were part of the welcome of that room, each sleeve draped over the shoulder of the coat next to it like a row of dancing children.
The sacred and beautiful environment Betsy had miraculously created was simply a reflection of the beauty and sacredness in her inner life. Even a dismal prison cell could not crush Betsy’s radiance and joy – because her inner beauty came from Jesus Christ. And that heavenly beauty could not help but spill over into her environment, no matter where she was.
The painter Thomas Kinkade wrote a little book coffee table book called Simpler Times. It is one of the very best expressions of sacred living that Eric and I have ever read. In it, he writes about the simple, meaningful life that he and his wife have chosen for their family; deliberately saying “no” to the materialism, rush, and frenzy of society, and making time for precious memories instead. Here is how he describes his lifestyle:
Most of us are so accustomed to over-stimulation that peace feels strange to us; it makes us nervous. Simplicity can be an acquired taste, especially in a society that revels in complexity. But what an improvement when we finally begin to feel at home with a simpler way of life. What a surge of energy when we realize that saying no is really a way of saying yes to all we really care about.
Even if you don’t have a spouse and family to focus on, there are plenty of sacred dimensions to life that are worth cherishing and protecting. Your intimate, daily romance with Jesus Christ. Your study of His Word and going deeper in the Christian life. Your commitment to your future husband. Your relationships with family members and close friends. Your ability to do special things for people in your life, and to create and preserve precious memories that will last a lifetime. Your willingness and availability to serve those in need. Your ability to cultivate the special gifts God has given in you in order to more effectively serve His kingdom. These are all sacred things that are worthy of your focus and protection. But like Thomas Kinkade said, when we become sucked into the frenzy of modern culture, sacred things are quickly crowded out of our life.
Making it Practical
Many of us have unhealthy addictions in our life; habits that cause us to overlook the truly important priorities of life in exchange for the “urgent” demands of the moment. For some girls, spending time on Facebook is harmless, but for many of us it can become all-consuming, to the point where we fritter away hours each day on Facebook but only spend a few minutes a day in prayer. Texting with friends might be just fine for some girls, but for many of us it can become a massive distraction – focusing all our time and energy on our own little world, and becoming blind to the needs of those around us. Only you and God know what distractions are in your life that might be robbing you of the beauty and simplicity He desires you to have in your relationship with Him.
I encourage you to spend some time prayerfully evaluating the things in your life that cultivate your own sacred times of intimacy with Christ (i.e. uninterrupted quiet, worship music, a walk outside alone, etc.) Write down a list of things that could (or currently do) help you cultivate true intimacy with Christ. Then, write down anything in your life that distracts you from cultivating intimacy with Christ (i.e. television, extended time on Facebook, phone calls and texting, reminders of work projects, interruptions from roommates or family members, etc.) Then, prayerfully consider the practical steps you can take in order to remove those distractions. Sometimes, simply putting healthy boundaries around the “urgent” things in life can give you the ability to truly have time for what is most important on God’s priority list.
One of the main things that helps to keep my romance with Christ so alive and vibrant is taking the time to create memorials of my journey with Him – a skill I learned from Eric back when he first came into my life. For me, keeping a journal has become an amazing way to remember and document the incredible things God is doing in my life. I write down scriptures that touch my heart, specific answers to prayer, and promises that I feel He’s given me. Chronicling the significant moments in my walk with God creates a memorial of His faithfulness to me, and greatly strengthens my faith and trust in Him as I grow and face new challenges. I still have the journals I kept during my blossoming romance with Eric. What an invaluable treasure to look back at them and be reminded of the special conversations we had, the beautiful promises God whispered to my heart, and the amazing ways in which He scripted our love story.
Another way I create memorials in my relationship with God is to write songs about specific things He’s teaching me, or significant experiences I have in my walk with Him. Sometimes the songs are good enough to share with others, but even if they are not, it doesn’t matter – they help to commemorate something precious and meaningful in my spiritual life. Singing them, even years later, reminds me once again of the faithfulness of my God. Eric and I love to write songs together about the amazing truths we discover in God’s Word, something we did a lot of during the early days of our friendship. We still have them in a special notebook and we love to go back and sing them – they remind us of the fire and passion that filled our spirits when we learned an important spiritual truth for the very first time.
Christ cautions us in Revelation 2:4 against “[forsaking our] first love.” One of the best ways to keep our love story with our heavenly Prince fresh and alive is to remember and cherish His fingerprints upon our life story. Amy Carmichael often wrote poems about significant things her Lord taught her. Keith Green wrote songs to commemorate God’s work in His life. Reese Howells offered God “thank offerings” for spiritual victories by giving something of significance to someone in need.
Consider some ways that you can begin to cherish the significant moments in your walk with Christ. Even if they are only small things that no one else would appreciate, remember that this is something special between you and the Lover of your soul. Begin asking yourself how you can create memorials whenever He does something important in your life. A friend of mine often makes an artistic collage to memorialize God’s work in her life. Another friend takes beautiful black and white photos and frames them – sometimes with an important Scripture verse scripted over the picture. Whether you choose to journal, write a poem or song, paint a masterpiece, or do something else that is unique to you, taking the time to commemorate the “God-moments” of life will add sparkle, romance, and beauty to your spiritual journey – and keep your First Love fresh and alive.
Those who excel at the art of sacred living know how to savor the romance of life, the beautiful joy and simplicity of knowing Him and walking in His presence. It doesn’t happen by adopting a self-focused, pleasure-seeking attitude, but by learning how to cherish and value the opportunities that God gives us in each day. Daily life is bursting with opportunities to enjoy His amazing creation; opportunities to cultivate relationships with family and friends; opportunities to build God’s kingdom; opportunities to create, to sing, to dance, to worship, to serve, to laugh, and to learn. Are we letting those sacred moments pass us by? If so, it’s time to return to the peaceful, still waters and green pastures of daily intimacy with our King. No other lifestyle compares to one lived in His presence!*
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