Podcast #116 Finding Friendship (Finding Freedom part 3) (4:50) (File updated)

Here’s the conclusion of Finding Freedom series… As it turned out, I also found a great Friend in the process.

Part 1: Ep 114: Finding Freedom
Part 2: Ep 115: Freedom to Explore

Here’s the podcast transcript:

What I learned is that God wants to talk with me.  He loves the world, but He wants to connect with me, personally… And He wants me to get to know Him too.  

Because at the end of the day, the real purpose in developing this connection with God is learning how to do life with God.  It’s like having God as your… travel buddy.  It’s learning to relate to God and developing a friendship with God rather than just being a coworker with God… like I think a lot of us grew up with.    

I realized that in order for me to go deeper, I have to transition my relationship with God into a friendship.  Into understanding how that works because Jesus says “I no longer call you servants, I call you friends.”  So in your walk with God, there will probably come a point where it will transition.   There will come a point where Jesus will want to take you to that next level.  To relate also with you as friends. And that’s a whole different world, right there.  And so that’s what I love about my time with God.  It’s learning that there’s a freedom… an inner freedom.  An internal freedom that does not depend on your circumstances. That does not depend on whether I get to go to church or not because now the focus has shifted.  It’s shifted from what I do outside to learning how to be friends with Jesus.  

Honestly, the time we spend at church and with our Christian community is only a fraction of our lives.  If we only know how to relate to God when we’re focused on church life, then we’re missing out on the chance to experience God in all the other area of our lives… 

It’s learning to experience God in the day to day things.  It’s learning to see how God helps us to find solutions in the problems we face at work.  And how God shares His perspectives about the latest news headlines.  Even how He comforts and encourages us when we go through illness and difficulties.  

I think most of all, that’s what I love most about bringing God into my personal life. In a sense, God stepped off the pages of the Bible, and became real.  Even though I still can’t see Him or touch Him, but He’s become a closer friend than a real person can be for me.  He’s someone I can depend on, and someone I can confide in.  And someone who knows me so intimately, and yet is always on my side. 

And that’s why even though many of us are unable to gather with our church community during this season, I actually didn’t see that as a challenge. In fact, it has been a wonderful opportunity for me to press even deeper into the things of God.   

Now when I do get together with my friends, when I do get together in my community, that’s great.  But my growth, and my relationship with God… and the depth, and my maturity with God… does not depend on any of this external things anymore. And actually, it’s quite fun… me being able to just explore and go as fast as I can, and explore anything I’m curious about… so that’s been very exciting too.  I don’t really have to worry about what people think I should or shouldn’t do anymore.  That really doesn’t matter.  

I have the freedom to ask God any question that comes to mind.  And God is not going to be offended or shocked… because He already knows anyways. It’s a relief to know that He accepts me as I am… always. 

So no matter where you’re at in your life, it’s the perfect place and time to talk with God. He is always ready to meet you and I with a hug and some fun insights about your situation if you’re interested. 

I’m excited just thinking about the adventure God has in store for you. 

And that’s all we have for this week’s podcast.  Again, thank you so much for listening, and have a wonderful week.  See you next time. 

Podcast #115 Freedom to Explore (Finding Freedom part 2) (5:33)

In this session, I continue to share on what I love about my personal walk with God – my freedom to explore.

Part 1: Ep 114: Finding Freedom.
Part 3: Ep 116: Finding Friendship.

Podcast transcript:

Welcome to the Sabbath Café Podcast.  You’re listening to episode #115. In the last episode, I shared on how I enjoyed having the freedom to just be me in my spiritual journey. In this session, I’ll continue with “Finding the Freedom to Explore.”

And also I was able to explore…. explore the things that I’ve always been curious about… but the people that I was with may or may not be interested in. I actually personally, I really am very curious about prayer. And I write about that, I talk about that here on the blog.  But I’m just very curious about human beings having interaction with the divine… with the spiritual. That just always fascinates me. And so I started to explore a lot of things. I started to read books on that.  

And I also love… this idea of “sabbath”. And that’s why the blog is named “Sabbath Café.” And this idea of “rest,” and why is that a command for us.  What is it all about?  I was very curious about that. That’s also… not a very popular topic for most people.  So I started to read about it. I explored… I looked up scripture verses on it. I talked to God about it. God would show me different  books and resources on it. So I stumbled upon a verse in Hebrews*. It says “make every effort to enter the rest.”  I was like… what?  “Strive to enter the rest.” It’s kind of like an irony.  But yah, that’s exactly what the verse says. He’s not saying “strive to work more,” and we know that because Christianity is not a work-based faith.  So what is it?  And this is something where scripture tells us to be purposeful and be intentional to enter into that place of rest.  And that’s just… wow.  You know, for some reason that verse just stayed with me.  And because this is a personal walk with God.  It’s just between me and God, so I have the freedom to sit on that verse and to meditate on this idea.  What does it mean?   

Since I get to say what my journey looks like.  So I decided I was going to put that verse into practice.  And so for a season, I purposely practiced sabbath rest.  And not just the actual event like sabbath… this is what you do… this is what you don’t do. It’s not just that.  But also, the idea of rest. And I happened to run into … some teaching that focuses on why rest is powerful.  And how rest can deepen your intercession and your prayer time.  And I was like wow. That’s exactly… that’s my thing! And so that opened up a whole new season for me.  

And from that season, I wrote… I had more understanding about pruning, and transitions, and so that was a big turning point in my spiritual life.  

And so just kind of looking back in my own walk with God. I was kind of looking back, and I was like wow.  Now, I love the freedom I get in my own personal walk. ‘Cause like I don’t really want to share this.  I don’t really want to go back to the community based spirituality anymore.  Now when I still have connections with friends, I still talk with friends. But that’s more… we come together and we celebrate, and we exchange what we learned about God.  But my journey with God is not dependent on people outside of me anymore.  So my journey with God, really, I know it’s just about me and Him. And it’s inspiring, and it’s so refreshing… to be able…  to have the freedom to journey with God… to be with God… to connect with God however, whenever in whatever ways I want. And it just seems like God is always right there with me.  He doesn’t cap you.  

In my spiritual life, in my spiritual journey, often, in the groups of people I’m with, I often felt like I’m capped… because they don’t want to go where I’m going. I’m sure you feel that way too because every single one of us, we’re created uniquely. You know, your friends, will guaranteed, not always want to do what you want to do.  Or not always want to learn what you want to learn because they’re not you! And you have your timing and they have theirs.  So it’s almost guaranteed that there’s a part of you that can only be explored when you have your individual walk with God.  When you embrace that solitude with God. Then God can take you places. Then God can go as high and as deep as fast as you want… or as slow as you want… in areas you want to explore.  

And that’s the end of part 2. I hope that encouraged you about starting your own adventure with God. We will finish this series in the next podcast. Thanks for listening and have a great week.

*Hebrews 4:11 

Podcast #114 Finding Freedom – Part 1 (6:02)

In the last few podcasts, I shared some tips to help folks reconnect with God. I’m going to take a break this month and share some things I love about my journey. I’ll be sharing this in three episodes, so please stayed tuned. Have a great week!

Here’s the podcast transcript:

Welcome to the Sabbath Café Podcast.  This is episode 114 – Finding Freedom – Part 1. 

Hello! This is Michele from Sabbath Café Podcast.  In the last few podcasts we explored some ways to help you jumpstart your personal walk with God.  Today I thought we’d take a break from that and just share what I love about my experience. 

The church I grew up in was very structured. My pastor was always like “read your scripture”, and “have your daily devotions.” We always had   prayer meetings on Wednesdays, and so it was very structured time and it was great. I felt like it gave me a great foundation to start with.  But when I finished my last full time ministry position, I had transitioned out of that.  And so to kind of moving away from a really tight knit community, I sort of went to the other extreme.   

So I had a lot of time on my hands.  And the thing was… to go back to my old routine of structure, it just reminded me so much of my old community, which I should be having closure with.  And so all of a sudden, I went from very structured meetings to having no meetings.   And I  went from always having these spiritual exercises with people… because I was meeting with people all the time, to just having a personal time with God…. just me and God. And so that took a little bit of an adjustment.  

So I was sort of burnt out with my old routines… And at that time, I came across ways of… like spiritual exercises that I’ve always wanted to try, but it wasn’t very helpful with people. Whether it’s silence or just soaking in worship music, just sitting there and soaking for like half an hour, 15 minutes … and just having the music playing.  And what I discovered was I was actually really tired in my heart.  I was really tired because when you’re with people, it’s great, it’s fun.  But I was always weary, also, of how to walk together with them.  I couldn’t really be me…. Because a part of myself… I couldn’t take the time that I needed… and so… when we start a meeting or start a bible study, you have to work with everyone’s pace and it was always a group thing. I really didn’t get to read up on the subject I wanted to read up on. So when I finally had time on  my own…  I realized hey, one of the good thing is I can now look into the things I wanted  to look into… which probably nobody else wanted to read or nobody else wanted to learn.  And so that’s what I did… for a season.  

And that’s the thing…  I felt, in my time with God, I would ask God about direction, what should I do, you know, finishing up one chapter, what should I do in the next chapter, what do I do in between. I just felt like God… you know, everything to me is yes and amen.  And so He reminded me of that verse, and I was like okay, great.   

I really loved,  worship, like music. Music really speaks to me.  So I would find certain instrumental worship music that I’d just loved, and I would soak on my own, and I would bring these music with me to prayer meetings before, but prayer meetings had a structure, so you had to, you know, worship…and then you know, you pray and you finish up.  But when it’s just me and God… it’s whatever I like…so some of the time when I just hang out with God, I just play these instrumental music in the back ground. And I just sat. And I would brew myself a nice cup of tea. And I’ll just sat there. And I would just… just allow myself to be.  

Sometimes if the music move me, I’ll cry. And I could never have done that before.  You just don’t do that.  Because it’s very traumatizing to some… it makes people uncomfortable, I think, when you’re overly emotional at some meetings. And it’s a very private thing too.  I wouldn’t want to cry when I’m praying with a bunch of people I may or may not know very well.   So I realized there is a safety in having that personal time with God.  I could play the type of music I wanted to. I could soak for as little as 10 minutes. Or as long as an hour.  

Sometimes in the middle of soaking, and just kind of sitting there, and kind of enjoying not having to say anything. Enjoying not having to be the leader… because I was working a lot. So all of a sudden I don’t have to be all of these things to other people. I don’t have to force myself to act a certain way. If I wanted to be chatty with God, I can.  If I don’t, I won’t.  God always knew where I was at anyways.  So I have the freedom to just be with God. Be honest with God. And just be myself with God. Wherever and whenever I wanted to. And however long I wanted to. And that’s when I realized that wow, you know, there’s a freedom… I enjoy the freedom.  I started to enjoy the freedom of having this private time with God.  

And that’s the end of part 1. We will continue with part 2 in the next episode. Thanks for listening and have a great week!

Podcast #113 Learning to hear from God (6:36) (Connecting with God #3)

Folks often ask me how do I hear from God. It’s actually pretty simple, but it’s a very personal experience. I’ll share a great exercise to help you get started.

Here’s the podcast transcript:

Welcome to the Sabbath Cafe Podcast. This is episode 113 – learning how to hear from God.

One of the questions people often ask me is how do you hear from the Lord.  I always have a hard time explaining because I think this is a very personal experience. But there are practices that can help.  So that’s what we’ll talk about today.

Let me just clarify first… that hearing from God isn’t anything weird or strange. It’s not like you hear this “deep voice” from the sky.  It’s really just learning how God communicates with us in a personal way.  Hearing from God is also a major part of the Christian tradition. From Catholic to Protestant groups, You’ll find many classical Christian literatures that talk about it. I learned a lot from reading classics like “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence and “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster. Hearing God is an essential part of our spiritual heritage.

For many of us today, when we think about this topic, we tend to imagine God speaking from heaven in a booming voice. There may even be thunder and lightning in the background.  Kind of like what happens in a Disney movie, right? But in reality, it’s the complete opposite.  When God wants to communicate with us personally, He actually speaks in a gentle and quiet voice.

It’s like that Bible passage when Elijah hid in the mountains after his big showdown with Jezebel. And God came to meet him. There first came this great and powerful wind that tore the mountains apart, but God was not in the wind. After the wind, there was a powerful earthquake that shook things up, but God was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there came a fire. But God was not in the fire. And after the fire, God showed up in a whisper. And that’s when Elijah went to meet God.

And that’s how God speaks in my life too, with a still and quiet whisper. That’s why when I’m seeking God’s insight and wisdom, I need to first calm down my heart. I notice that when I’m relaxed, I can sense God’s thoughts more clearly. However, if I’m feeling stressed or worried about something,  it’s hard for me to sort out what God is trying to tell me.  And it’s not until I journal and process through some things to calm those emotions down, and then, I can sense more clearly what God is trying to say.

So in today’s session, let’s look at some easy steps to help you practice how to tune into God’s still small voice.

I really think the most important part in learning to hear God’s voice is learning to pay attention to God. The truth is if you’re used to multi-tasking or doing many things at the same time, it’s very hard to hear God when you’re in that mode.  Because all of the things you’re doing will distract you and drown out God’s quiet whispers.  So I recommend that in the beginning, you set aside time when you can be alone. And if you can’t be alone, find some time when you can give God your full attention.

Now relax, and take a deep breath.  In the beginning, pray this prayer, “Lord, I’m here to meet with you.  You have my full attention, come and meet with me.” We declare to God and to ourselves that this is our focus.  And then focus on a short prayer like “Thank you Lord, Thank you Jesus.”  “I love You, Jesus.”  And if any thought or worry suddenly rise up, acknowledge them, and simply pray, “Lord, I just give this concern to you.”  Return to your simple prayer – “Thank you Jesus. I love you Jesus.” and continue to focus on God.

After a couple of minutes, your heart will relax and you’ll begin to calm down. As you start to feel more at peace, the thoughts that usually clutter your mind will clear up.  And that’s when God’s thoughts will quietly appear.  Sometimes, God chose to be silent, and that’s fine. Allow your heart to rest and just enjoy the Peace and Stillness for as long as you can.

The first few times you try this, maybe you won’t sense anything yet. And you may still get distracted. And that’s okay.  Just like everything else, it gets better with practice. 

And as you continue these short sessions where you learn to focus your heart and your mind solely on God, then it will become easier, and you’ll know how to tune into God’s voice in your own way. 

Just remember this.  God wants us to succeed. And as we make our hearts available to Him. The Holy Spirit will come and help us learn how to dwell in Peace.

Eventually, as you become familiar with hearing God’s voice, you’ll start to recognize His voice throughout your day even when you’re busy.   For me, God often talks to me when I’m driving, or when I’m on a walk. And lately, He’s been especially chatty when I’m doing dishes. 🙂 

So as you can see, there’s no secret handshake when it comes to hearing from God.  All you need is a willingness to hang out with Jesus. And it’s just like making a new friend. The more time you spend together, the better you’ll get to know each other.  

I hope what I’ve shared has been helpful, and I’m excited to see what God will show you this week. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

Podcast #112 Finding a theme for your spiritual walk (4:19) (Connecting with God #2)

Starting a new journey often feels intimidating. I share some prompts and questions in this episode to help you find a personal focus for your spiritual path.

Here’s the podcast transcript:

Welcome to Sabbath Cafe Podcast. You’re listening to Episode 112 – Finding a personal theme for your spiritual life.

So last time we talked about writing a letter to God. And it’s a chance to get reacquainted. I hope you at least gave it a try. I’m hoping writing a letter gave you some momentum so you can continue that dialogue with God. Today, I’ll share about how to find a theme for your spiritual life.

When you’re starting your own spiritual journey, one of the more challenging things is that now it’s more free form. It’s not as structured.  So I get questions from people asking about that because they’re used to going to church and having a sermon or Sunday school program already planned for them.  There’s a theme that’s already picked out.  And suddenly, when you start your own walk with God, and you’re like what do I focus on? What do I do?

So today, let’s look at 2 simple ways to start your own program.

The first question I often ask people is what are some verses that you’ve been thinking about lately? If there are scriptures that come to mind a lot, start writing them down.  And look it up.  Read up the whole chapter… or the whole story, if it’s about a Bible character.  The other day, I was praying, and something reminded me about Queen Esther, so I read parts of the Book of Esther.  It was very insightful and helped answer my questions.   Is your name Joseph?  Maybe you can read up on the story of Joseph.  The key is to keep your heart open and see what truths or insights jump out at you while you’re in this process.  

Another helpful question is… what’s a topic you’ve been curious about or you think about often? Is there a question you’ve been wanting to ask God about?  For a season, I was curious about prayer.  The idea that a normal person like me can influence the divine is simply fascinating.  So I went to a Bible website, and searched for all the scriptures about prayer in the New Testament.  Surprisingly, there weren’t too many in the New Testament. So I just started reading through them.  And I learned a lot about prayer from that.  

So as you can see, there are many ways you can start your own spiritual journey.

The important thing is to find something that you’re interested about so you can start a dialog with God. I’ve found that God is so ready to share His thoughts with us in a personal way… It almost doesn’t matter how or why we come to Him… As long as we do, He will take that opportunity to connect with us. So feel free to jump in wherever you’re at in your journey. 

I hope the ideas I’ve shared in this podcast have been helpful, and I hope you try it.  Have fun, and I’ll see you in the next podcast.

Reconnecting with God – (Podcast #111 script)

Lately, I’ve been focusing more on making podcasts. Here is the transcript of Podcast #111 for those that prefer to read it in blog format.
(Click here for podcast #111)

During Covid lock down, I reconnected with many friends online.  We talked a lot about how they’re doing with the changes. And as time went on, I noticed a common theme.  Because they couldn’t go to church, and couldn’t meet up with friends, they felt pretty spiritually isolated. 

I can understand that.   Especially when you’ve been in a spiritual community for a long time.  You have a worship team or a choir that brought beautiful music, and pastors and teachers who gave great messages.   Everyone brings their talents, and the whole experience is just wonderful.  But when you’re suddenly cut off from that, it throws you off balance.

And this happens at a time when we feel like we need spiritual guidance and encouragements the most. Suddenly, we feel like we’re cut off from our spiritual support.

So someone asked me how I was dealing with changes now that church has gone virtual. And I realized that God has been transitioning me and my husband for a while.  In the last few years, I’ve been mainly working on my own personal connection with God, and I’ve moved away from a community based spirituality.  

It’s not that having a spiritual community is bad, but I think for most of us, we have been so blessed with our friends and christian community that we kind of forgot how to connect with God on our own. 

Actually, our Christian faith is immensely personal.  The essence of the Christian faith is that we don’t need any more rituals. We don’t need a middle person either like a pastor or priest. We don’t need any more sacrifices or intermediaries…The real good news as Christians is that we can connect with God directly… simply as who we are.  Any time.  Any place.  We don’t need to wait for Sundays.  We don’t even need to go to a building or a temple. Jesus has done all of the work so we have the privilege to get access to God 24/7, anywhere, any time.  Not only that, He even gives us the Holy Spirit as our personal spiritual assistant. 

And this is awesome! We now have an all-access pass to God. The veil is torn, the gate is opened. There’s nothing blocking us from God anymore.  

But even though we know this in our mind, often, we can still feel intimidated approaching God by ourselves.  And that’s what many of my friends were feeling. 

So if you also feel like you don’t quite know how to talk to God on your own right now, I have a few tips and activities to help you and God get reacquainted. And I’ll be sharing that in the next few podcasts.

And the first tip I want to share with you today is to write a letter to God.  Sometimes, when you haven’t talked with a friend for a while, it can be very intimidating to call them up out of the blue.  And you feel like… it’s going to be awkward… What do I say? I feel bad I haven’t been in touch…  All of these things run through your mind. But when you write a letter, you take that pressure off. Take time to write out your thoughts.  You can also go back and delete sections you don’t like.  In a sense, you have a safe space, and you can still communicate sincerely. 

So I want to invite you to write a letter to God and share what’s been on your heart lately. The key of this exercise is to help you get comfortable in opening your heart and sharing with God again. 

In the beginning, you may feel like you don’t know what to say.  And that’s fine.  You don’t have to put pressure on yourself.  If you don’t know what to say, just write that down. You can write something like “I don’t really know what to say, but I’m taking this first step…” Just start with that and write what’s on your heart. You’ll be surprised.

So the first step I have is to write God a letter.  You can write about your frustrations or fears… Do you have any questions for God?  And even who do you want God to be for you in this season.

You can use any piece of paper to do this… but I would recommend that you start writing in a spare notebook.  Any notebook will do; just something designated as your letters to God. And that can be your private space… a private dialog between you and God.  Any time you feel spiritually disconnected, just start writing in that notebook. And see how things go.

That’s all I have for this session. Thanks for listening and enjoy your letter writing!

Podcast #111 Reconnecting with God (5:41)

Many of us feel spiritually isolated lately. In this new podcast series, I’ll be sharing some ideas to help you jumpstart your personal dialog with God. I share my first quick tip in this short episode. Here’s the transcript if you prefer.