The fall is a season of preparation.

Animals in the forest prepare for winter by gathering and storing food in their homes, changing their appearance, and migrating to other parts of the world. Plants and trees adjust to the changing season by slowing their growth. Deciduous trees drop their leaves, and some evergreens make special adaptations by producing a waxy coating on their needles.

Around the world, people prepare for special days in the fall like Chuseok in Korea, the Moon Festival in China, Loe Krathong in Thailand, Day of the Dead in Latin America, Homowo in Ghana, Octoberfest in Germany, and Thanksgiving in the United States.

We prepare meals, travel plans, homes, work commitments, gatherings, and much more. As we approach Christmas in December, songs abound exhorting us to prepare our hearts for Jesus and to anticipate the celebration of His birth. Preparation involves intention. We get ready to do something or deal with something when we prepare.

In the last week Gary and I prepared to welcome a new little bundle of energy: a GSP puppy. After Joy passed God made it very clear to us that while she remained irreplaceable, we have great capacity to love and care for another dog. While I look forward to the companionship and cuddles, Gary looks forward to the consistent exercise and new hunting buddy. We both anticipate much fun and hard work collaborating together and supporting one another as we raise Grace St. Catherine. Yes, Grace is her name. 😊

To prepare, we ordered a pink collar, dog bed, puppy toys, and a new leash. Gary configured Joy’s large kennel to accommodate a puppy. We read articles about kennel training and how to get your puppy on a schedule. We have even begun making adjustments to our work routines to anticipate the needs of our new puppy. Although bouts of grief still will come and go as we miss Joy, we experience excitement as we prepare to welcome Grace into our family.

I wonder, for what do you prepare?

As I consider preparing for Grace, I reflect on the importance of preparing my soul for fresh encounters with Jesus. At times routine becomes a rut in my spiritual journey and my personal agendas dictate “God’s voice” rather than the voice of God Himself.

What about you? Are you in a rut with your spiritual routine? Do personal agendas direct your time with God?

It is easy to deceive myself and follow my own narratives rather than the truth of God discerned by the Spirit and located in the Scriptures. Preparing my heart to receive whatever God might intend for soul necessitates that I humble myself, surrender, and submit to my Sovereign Lord rather than my own ways. A heart prepared to meet with the Lord is a yielded heart. Jesus invites us to “Come” (Matthew 11:28).

Maybe ponder why preparing your heart to meet with Jesus is important? Is it time to reconsider the ways you approach God to meet with and receive from Him?

Most often I find myself to have greater attentiveness to God when my surroundings become still to my soul and my mind slows down with my Savior. Although the rigors of life offer distraction and disruption, the Spirit within provides the capacity to distance ourselves from these interruptions in order to prepare and pay attention to the things of God (John 14:6).

Psalm 46:10 invites us to “Be still” in order to experience God and in Psalm 62:7-8 the Psalmist declares: “My salvation and my honor depend on God: he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” With God’s help we slow and still to hear the Spirit when we prepare to meet with God.

What does it look like to prepare our hearts to attend to the Holy Spirit within and notice God’s movement around us?

“Simple prayer helps prepare my mind and body to be with Jesus. A name for God and a 4-6 word request of God. For example: “Holy Spirit, fill me with wisdom.” “Gracious God, settle my soul.” “Jesus, show me your peace.” “Triune God, forgive my sin.” “Great Healer, free me from addiction.” “Redeemer, help me trust you.” The focus of attention shifts through this simple prayer from the worries and demands upon my heart to the presence of the Living Lord.

Offering gratitude for who God is and what He has done also prepares my soul to experience God. Worship God by listening to music or singing a song. Write in a journal or speak your thoughts into the notes app on the phone.

Or, enjoy ABC Praise to prepare for an encounter with the Lord Jesus. For each letter of the alphabet declare gratitude to God for His goodness, His character, and/or His blessings. For example: A – Almighty God, B – Bananas, C – Companionship, D – Dogs, E – Eternal life, F – Friendship, G – Growth, H – Humor, I – Ice Cream, J – Jesus, K – Kindness, etc.

I find it fun and entertaining to flow through the alphabet this way to slow down my racing heart and settle my mind into the everlasting things of God.

How do you prepare your heart to be with Jesus? What are ways to make room to notice the movement of the Holy Spirit within you?

Let’s remain purposeful about preparing ourselves to encounter the God of the universe. Maybe choose a slow and stilling practice to engage through the remainder of the year to provide greater purpose to growing more deeply in connection and communion with Jesus.

Consider deliberately approaching God with simple prayer and thanksgiving to release your soul to receive the Spirit’s direction and Scripture’s instruction and formation. When you prepare yourself to meet with God, you’ll experience the grace of the Lord in abundance. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28).

I look forward to noticing the grace of God to me and through me as Grace, our new puppy, enters our home on Sunday. May you also experience God’s grace as you enter into the new seasons of your life.

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Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.

Isaiah 57:15 – For this is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

1 chronicles 16:11 –  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.

Max Lucado. God Is With You Everyday. Nashville, TN. 2015.

Skye Jethani. With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. Nashville, TN. 2011.

Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.

Francesca Battistelli | Starlight. God I look to You.

Bethel Music feat. Ana Vasconcelos, Tim Rice | North Palm Worship. Prepare the Way.