December—the normals seem to disappear displaced by the exceptionals of the season. And in a way that is appropriate. Christmas calls us to focus on and celebrate Jesus and His birth. And I do love parties, traditions, wonderful church services, and connecting with friends.
But I wonder, might the best way to focus and celebrate Jesus be to offer my friends opportunities to know His love in new and deeper ways? Not to let my normals—especially my discipling—be displaced by the hustle and bustle of December?
Two friends, Kimmie* and Robin*, are journeying with me in understanding the gospel. Kimmie has yet to put her faith in Jesus, but curiosity keeps her meeting with me and looking into the Scriptures. Robin has been a believer for several years. God has changed her life, yet she knows she needs to continue to mature into who God has created her to be. That’s kind of where I am, too. Sharing our spiritual journeys together is growing the faith of us both.
Although Kimmie and Robin are in two different places, I find my discipling of them looks similar. It also looks quite similar to the other 11 months of the year.
Four personal practices I incorporate into my life also inform my discipling. They minister to me and feed my soul. So my gift to Kimmie and Robin is to share these habits with them as well.
- The practice of being, not doing. I start most mornings with a cup of coffee and sitting quietly. If the weather is appropriate, I love sitting outside and enjoying God’s creation. But if not, a fire in our fireplace calls my attention. I don’t open my Bible or my journal and usually my phone stays on silent. It’s a time to quiet my heart in preparation for listening. Especially during the busy season of December, I’ve found this so life-giving. For me this is an application of Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
- The practice of listening, not reading. As I turn from the stillness to opening my Bible, I read slowly. I ask questions. I pause. I keep my journal and pen close by. I don’t want the familiar to keep me from hearing a new message. During December, I love returning to those very familiar Christmas passages. But I want to hear anew what God wants to say to me. After all, I’m in a different place than I was last December. Even Kimmie, who has yet to put her faith in God, has appreciated the concept of listening to God through His Word. In Isaiah 55:2 and 3, God invites me to listen: “Listen diligently to me . . . Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” Kimmie and I live a long-distance apart. We usually “meet”on the weekend by phone. This month we’re listening together to God through Luke 1. After all, it is December.
- The practice of engaging in conversation. I’m learning to use the Scriptures as the basis of my prayers whether for myself or for others. Often Robin and I connect at a coffee shop. As we enjoy our joe, we’ll talk about Scriptures recorded on the small stack of Scripture memory cards I bring along. We read the words on the card and then ask, what would it look like to trust this today? We’re engaging in conversation with each other, and it leads to conversation with God. It’s a way to practice Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
- The practice of cultivating friendship. Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants . . . I have called you friends” (John 15:15). As I grow these habits of being with, listening to, and engaging in conversation with Jesus, our friendship is growing. In the same way, as I share these habits with Kimmie and Robin, our friendship is growing, discipleship is happening, and they are learning to cultivate their friendship with Jesus, too.
When I see discipleship through the lens of cultivating friendship, it’s natural to enjoy those relationships in December. My focus may shift during the Christmas season, but my heart to help others grow in their faith remains constant.
All Scriptures from the English Standard Version (ESV).
© Sue Tell, December 18, 2018.