By B.J. Funk –
I have such sweet memories of my mother, who has been vacationing with Jesus in heaven for 18 years. Imagine my surprise when I recently found an issue of Good News from 1984 among her valuables. Even more precious is her handwritten note on the front: “Read Maxie Dunnam’s article, page 7.”
A personal message from Mama? What beautiful irony that I am now blessed to write for a magazine my mother was reading 36 years ago. I had no idea! I love God’s surprises.
In his article, “You Can Grow in your Walk with God,” Maxie discusses how E. Stanley Jones was so instrumental in renewing his spiritual life. In addition to reading Dr. Jones’ book In Christ, Maxie also attended a Christian ashram. There, at this place of religious retreat, Maxie learned about being the actual dwelling place of Christ.
Searching for deeper meaning, Maxie vividly remembered his experience at the altar as the ashram service ended. Brother Stanley asked if the participants wanted to be whole, adding that the only possibility for wholeness was the indwelling Christ. Dunnam responded with an enthusiastic YES! I nodded my own silent YES!
He began to change his attitude about his Christian life, from that of ministering for Christ to that of allowing Christ to live through him. Jones’ In Christ put Maxie in touch with what would become the central reality of his faith journey: the indwelling Christ. Maxie’s quest for a deeper walk with God brought new life into his personal relationship with Christ. He then wanted his vocational purpose to be helping others develop a deeper walk with God. He developed the following definition of spiritual formation: “That dynamic process of receiving through faith and appropriating through commitment, discipline, and action, the living Christ into my own life to the end that my life will conform to and manifest the reality of Christ’s presence in the world.”
My mother underlined these next words: “Simply put, the task of every Christian is to learn to say yes to Christ in every area of life every day. That’s the bottom line of developing a deeper walk with God.” I was being given a rare and beautiful look into my mother’s sold-out commitment to Christ. She lived before me always the words she underlined.
Maxie, instead of focusing only on the three major ingredients for developing and keeping our faith alive – prayer, Scripture study, and corporate worship – as vital as these are, focused his article on other necessary commitments which don’t receive as much emphasis.
The first is being aware of God’s presence throughout the day. More than only the importance of a daily quiet time, we must develop practices that keep us aware of Christ’s presence. To build awareness, Maxie commits each day to Christ. He visualizes Christ’s presence in every situation he will encounter throughout the day.
Mama carried these thoughts into the Children’s Division of our United Methodist Church, where she served as Superintendent for 35 years.
The second is Christian conferencing, deliberately seeking out and listening to the stories of other Christians. Structured small groups are good for this, as is a spontaneous sharing of our faith.
A third discipline is that of solitude. Maxie wrote that his times of silence are sometimes only a few hours or maybe a 24-36-hour period of silent retreat. The purpose of silent times is not just to talk to God, but to learn how to listen.
Confession and examination of conscience bring important questions to the forefront. “Was I condemning today? Did I speak the truth in love?”
A final discipline is generosity, which includes not only tithing but generosity with our time and attention to others. Recognizing that my mother’s Christian life was enhanced by this article makes me know that I will refer to Maxie Dunnam’s article again and again, wanting to take every word into my own desire for a deeper walk with Christ.
Thank you, Maxie. And thank you, Mama.