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Welcome to Following Hard After God
Melanie: Welcome back to Women Living Courageously. I’m Melanie Redd, your host, and I am so honored that you have joined us today.
You are in for a treat. I’ve invited one of my ministry partners and awesome friends to join us today for a conversation. Her name is Gretchen Fleming. Let me tell you a bit about her.
Gretchen’s passion is to follow hard after Jesus, knowing He is the treasure of a lifetime, and worth every minute she commits to Him.
She’s an international speaker, and she’s had the privilege of teaching women in an underground church in both China and in a village in Peru. In addition, she’s an active national and local speaker for conferences, retreats, and women’s events.
Gretchen is also a writer, and she’s written Bible studies for the past 25 years. She has a book you can check out on Amazon. It’s called Press On: Encouragement to Keep Moving When You Feel Overwhelmed.
Further, Gretchen is a wife of 33 years, a mother of three, and a grandmother to three precious grandchildren.
She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, and we are so glad to have her today.
Gretchen: Thank you so much, Melanie. I’m tickled to be here.
Set Up the Conversation
Melanie: I’m so glad you’re here. We have been friends for a number of years, and I just thought it would be fun today if we could have a conversation and talk about some of the things that we talk about when we talk on the phone or get together.
So, I thought we’d begin, I just want you to tell our listeners a bit about the heart of your ministry. Your blog is called Following Hard.
So, tell us a little about what made you decide on that as a title and a little about what you do.
Gretchen: Sure. Gladly. It goes back to when I was around 25. And I was raised in Southern Baptist Church.
And I can remember, I was married at the time, reading a little portion of Our Daily Bread. Do you know what that is?
Gretchen: Most Southern Baptist ladies do. So, I was reading Our Daily Bread, a devotional at the time, and I remember putting it down on the nightstand. And the thought popped into my mind, “Surely He wants more ofn that.”
But I really didn’t know how to achieve that, how to gain that. And through the rest of that Bible study and some others, and also through the life of David, and particularly Psalm 63.
One of my favorite parts of Psalm 63 is verse eight.
For whatever reason, I learned it in the King James version, and it says, “My soul follows hard after Thee.”
So, that’s where the word “following hard” traces back to.
How We Can Begin to Follow Hard
Melanie: That’s awesome. And I think you probably described 95% of people sitting in churches. They’re sitting there, they want more, but they don’t know how to get it. And that’s what I want us to talk about today.
Let’s talk a bit more about how people can follow hard after God because I’ll bet a lot of the people that are listening today love their devotions, but that’s all they have. They have a quick devotion as they’re running out the door in the morning, and they want more.
They know there’s more like you described, but they don’t understand how to get to it.
So, let’s just go through, what you have shared on your website, all kinds of practical ways to not jubout it, but actually put it into your life.
So, let me walk you through some of these, and share with us, just in real simple terms, to that person that says, “I want to follow hard. What does this really look like for somebody?“
For the person that’s sitting in church, when they begin to decide they want more, what do you think that looks like for them?
What Does More Look Like?
Gretchen: I think it comes down to recognizing who Jesus Christ is. I think for many years I wanted Him to be the Savior of my life, but not necessarily the Lord of my life.
So, I struggled with living life for myself as opposed to living my life for Him. And I can remember, as you mentioned having a quick devotional and darting out the door.
Also, I can remember struggling, up until this Experiencing God class, and I remember I was in the throes of how can I get more consistent in my time with the Lord.
And one of the first evenings they did the group prayer request. And I was probably the youngest one in the class by maybe 20 or 25 years.
So, I would’ve been in my mid to late 20s and the other people were in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. During the prayer request time, I asked for prayer on helping to gain consistency in God’s Word.
As I left that place, I can remember walking out and saying, “Dear God, please don’t let me be praying the same prayer 20 and 30 years from now.”
And I just knew something had to change.
Not too much later, I remember breezing through my quiet time and rushing, because I had three kids in three and a half years. I remember thinking to myself, trying to justify it, “I just don’t have time.”
And the Lord stopped me in my tracks, and He placed this thought in my mind. He said, “Gretchen, you never leave the house without brushing your teeth or washing your face.”
And I thought to myself, “Oh, my word. My vanity ranks higher than Jesus in my life.”
At that time, I began that I was basically living life for myself.
Things Had to Change for Following Hard After God
Gretchen: So, the first thing that had to change for me was recognizing the authority of Jesus as Lord of my life, and He had every right to be first in my life.
So, I would say, the way I follow hard is, number one, I had to prioritize Him first.
And that was in my life and in my time that necessitated meeting with Him and spending time with Him each and every morning before life got to rolling on with all the kids and the schedules and all that.
Honestly, Melanie, I am naturally, in my flesh, a nighttime person.
So, I fought this for a long time. And I used to get aggravated, and complained to the Lord by noon, “Lord, You’re not helping me. I’m not the kind, patient, gentle mother I want to be.”
And he answered back with this thought, “You’re trying to treat Me like a gas station,” where He knows I hate getting gas.”
So, you know how you’re tempted to just whip in and get $5 worth of gas because you don’t want to sit there and do it?
But guess what, Melanie, you’ve got to come back that much sooner. You never have enough to last a long period of time.
So, He was explaining, because I wasn’t willing to give Him time first thing in the morning, and then life and the kids and everybody started taking from me, I kept trying to whip in with a quick urgent prayer, “God, fill me up.”
And He’s, “Gretchen, come to Me first thing and fill your tank then.”
So, it requires prioritizing Him and having a morning time with Him.
Also, I started a Gratitude Journal.
Gretchen: Secondly, for me, to follow hard after God requires a gratitude journal.
And that’s the second thing I do to follow hard.
Well, it’s actually the first thing I do when I sit down is I drink my cup of coffee, I start filling out a gratitude journal. And that’s where I just recognize and rejoice in His work and gifts that have happened to me the previous day.
Then, the second thing I do is spend time in the Word. And that could be my regular Bible. Most times it’s a Chronological Bible.
Occasionally it’ll be a devotional, like Streams in the Desert.
Prayer is Also Key for Following Hard After God
Gretchen: Then, the next thing I do is spend time in prayer.
I think that helps us follow hard after God.
Also, just a commitment to a local body of believers, regular attendance in church, and serving others, whether inside the church walls or outside the church walls.
And lastly, just pay attention to obedience and self-examination. If I’m spending time in God’s Word, but I’m not applying it to my life and obeying it, that is not following hard after God.
So, those are just some practical things that I incorporate habitually in my life. And in my opinion, that’s how I follow hard after God.
But First, You Must Plugin that Crock Pot
Melanie: That’s really good.
And I’m hearing you say that you had to decide that it was a big deal.
I thought of, while we were talking, I had an experience one time, and this is a funny story, but I have a big Crockpot, and I like to plug it in the morning and leave it.
So, I put the chicken in and I put this dressing on top and I plug it in and then I go for the day.
I came back about 3:00 that afternoon and realized the little plug jack had been turned off. It had shorted out and it needed to reset.
Do you know that little button you push to turn it on?
That chicken was cold as ice.
And what I realize is sometimes we just are not plugged into power.
And I think a lot of people live like that, a lot of Christians do.
We live where we think we’re plugged in, we think the chicken’s going, but we didn’t really check it. I should have checked it to make sure it was on. It has never happened again since then.
Getting Into the Habit of Following Hard After God
Melanie: Well, let me ask you this.
Let’s say somebody’s listening and they say, “Okay, I just need like three simple ways to get started.”
What would you suggest they do first?
Because you’ve walked through what you do and what you’ve been through, but let’s say they say, “Okay, I’m one of those. I’ve only been reading a little devotional.”
How could they add to their morning as they start their day?
So, what would you suggest? Just two or three things to get them started?
Gretchen: You mean, into the habit?
What to Do to Get Going
Gretchen: I would say when you’re trying to establish the habit, first of all, recognize the devil is going to do everything possible to discourage you.
So, when this was happening in my life, in my mid to late 20s, I recognized the practicality of what needed to change. I could not burn the midnight oil and expected to get up on time. For me, I had to start going to bed early.
So, look at what needs to adjust in your life to set yourself up for success.
Secondly, ask God for His help.
We know that whatever we ask according to His will, is a guarantee that we have it. During that time, I was asking for a passion for God and His Word.
I asked for both of those because I knew I didn’t have it in and of myself to make this happen. So, I adjusted my life. I asked God for a passion for Him and His Word.
In my life, I had these cards, reminding me of that prayer, on my bathroom mirror, in the kitchen, in my Bible, and on the dashboard of my car.
So, everywhere I was spending time, I was promoting myself, “Keep asking for God to do this for me.”
Make Sure to Plan a Time and a Place for Following Hard After God
Gretchen: Then, thirdly, set up a specific time and place that this is going to occur.
So, I decided, because of my own conviction from the Lord, it needed to be before the kids woke up.
And even though they were babies then, trying to sleep to the last possible moment wasn’t going to help me as much as getting up early and spending time with the Lord.
In my house, I set up this place in my bedroom. It had my Bible, it had no cards, it had a journal, it had a devotional, it had pens, and it had a place for me to put my coffee.
So, I made my little nest, so to speak, to where I knew where I was going.
There was a specific place. And it was almost like making a date with the Lord. That was our time together.
What Has Helped Me
Melanie: Those are all wonderful steps. I have a little basket, and I have my Bible and my journal and my pen and some inspirational books I like to read.
For me, I do love devotions, and so I do have some devotionals.
But I have all that together. So, it’s in the same place every day, and I go to it and I don’t have to go find a pen.
I’ll tell you something else I do that’s helped me. My dad actually told me this.
“Keep a little notebook next to you while you’re doing your devotional.
And every time you think of a distracting thought, just write it down.
And you’ll have a whole list of things to do for the day because it’s very easy to get distracted while you’re doing your devotional.”
Following Hard After God May Mean Getting Up Earlier
Gretchen: Yes. And that’s another reason why I like to get up when it’s still dark outside, and I only turn on one little lamp.
So, I’m not looking at a fully lit home where I’m so easily distracted because I look at something, “Oh, I need to get to that.”
By coming to the Lord first thing right as I get up out of bed and get my cup of coffee.
It’s almost like I don’t have as many to-do lists going through my mind, because our home would be quiet and still and calm, and so that helped me compared to later in the day.
Don’t Pick Up That Phone!
Melanie: That’s good. I know one of the things I’ve been trying lately is this.
On my phone, there’s the new focus button that you can push, and it actually takes away the distractions, you can’t even hear any notifications or anything.
And so I’ve been using that so that I don’t even look at my phone.
I’m trying to do my devotions before I ever even look at my phone in the morning. And it’s amazing how it’s less distracting.
So, I’m hearing you say that’s a really good thing to do, to remove all the distractions that you can, and to start on the first of the day.
I heard a pastor say, “If you don’t plug in first thing in the morning, you won’t have any power all day long.”
And I think if you wait till night, not that you can’t study at night, but if you don’t spend any time with the Lord early in the day, you go all day without His power.
Start Your Day with the Lord
Gretchen: Exactly. And getting filled up with the Lord and His word and all of that hope and wisdom at our disposal.
This makes us ready to meet the day.
Because as soon as you get up from that chair or that couch, man, life is going to start taking from you.
Whether it’s people or phone calls or work, we need to be ready.
So, you want to get in and get armored up before the devil has any opportunity with his little attacks.
Following Hard After God Requires Starting Good Habits
Melanie: That’s a great word.
I’ll say something else that may be helpful too. You may want to try something for 21 days. I think you can form a habit.
It’s just going to have to become a habit for people.
And I know I’ve been having a devotional time since I was in the seventh grade, so that’s when I started. But you have to make it a habit and a priority.
And for most people, it’s not a habit. But, if you can give it about three weeks, you can get in the groove with this.
My testimony is that when I spend time with the Lord, I’m different.
It just brings this peace and this calm and this joy that I don’t have as much of when I skip filling up. I go through the day empty.
I can’t always explain it, Gretchen, but when I open the Word and I spend time in prayer and I spend time alone with the Lord, I am different.
And you’re saying that’s true for you as well?
The Holy Spirit Helps Us
Gretchen: Yes. I think that’s where the fruit of the Spirit comes from.
I can remember being a young mom, and because I used to struggle with perfectionism, I wanted to be the perfect mom.
So, I had such high expectations of myself. I wanted to be this gentle, patient, kind, loving, joyful mom.
And having three kids in three years, I’ll tell you, left me cranky and impatient.
So, one of the things that I began to really strive for was the fruit of the Spirit. And you want to know what? That was idolatry.
Jesus convicted me. I can’t go directly after the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is a byproduct of me following hard after Christ Himself.
So, that’s when I began to shift from trying to be perfect and being all holy just for my own self-satisfaction and instead started pursuing and following hard after God Himself.
Then that’s when I began to experience the fruit of the Spirit.
And to me, that’s what you described. You’ve reaped the fruit of the Spirit.
Sweetest Part of Following Hard After God
Melanie: Well, tell me, in your own words, in simple terms, why do you encourage people to follow hard after God?
What, to you, has been the sweetest part of it all?
Gretchen: The intimacy with the Lord. He is the treasure of a lifetime.
And I had no idea what a relationship is down here …
I think, depending upon where you’re raised or what you’ve been taught, you think that faith is all about eternity and salvation, but God saves us also for the abundant life here. And Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that He came to give us abundant life.
And to me, the abundant life is that rich fellowship, that abiding in Christ because I’m telling you, there is nothing more satisfying than your own personal relationship with the Lord.
A spouse can’t compare to it, your children can’t compare to it, and shockingly enough, because I’m a new grandmother, I can actually say that even your grandchildren cannot compare to your own thriving, personal, sweet intimacy with the Lord, Jesus Christ.
How to Get in Touch with Gretchen Fleming
Melanie: Amen, girl. You said it well.
Well, listen, Gretchen, if people want to get in touch with you, how do they reach you? What is the best way for them to contact you?
Gretchen: They can find me at Grechenfleming.com, and that’s Fleming with one M. They can look to that to follow me, to sign up for my emails.
They can, if they have a request for a speaker, I’m a speaker.
And they can contact me through that website, and look at any resources I have, like my book or podcasts or even other publications I’m a part of.
Melanie: Wonderful. And I believe these things that we’ve talked about today, you also have a free printable that they can get on your website, is that right?
Gretchen: Yes, ma’am. So, when they sign up to be a new subscriber, they’ll get the 10 ways that I think are involved in following hard after God.
Melanie: That’s good. And this is so good.
So, you all need to find Grechenfleming.com and sign up for these 10 ways, and just get on her email list so you’ll get more good things coming from her.
Closing Thoughts about Ordinary Women
Melanie: As we close, at Women Living Courageously we like to say we are ordinary women who serve an extraordinary God.
So, I want to ask you how you feel you’re ordinary?
For example, I’m ordinary because I like to watch those sappy Hallmark movies with happy endings. And my family makes fun of me because I like corny movies that are happy.
So, what about you?
What’s something you do that others would say, “Oh, I do that.”
Gretchen: What comes to mind are just even my everyday struggles. I’m a sinner at heart, I’m hopeless and helpless apart from Christ.
Truly, I am rebellious, I’m a people pleaser, I’m over-responsible, I’m a control freak, I’m a worrier as a mom, I’ve been wounded a lot in my life, and I’m just captive to dysfunctional patterns.
So, I think that I’m an ordinary woman with what I struggle with and the way I’m wired.
How Our God is Extraordinary
Melanie: Yeah. I think you just hit every person that’s listening.
I think you got them all.
All right. Well, on the positive side of that, what is extraordinary about God to you?
Gretchen: I think I’m an ordinary woman with an extraordinary relationship with God.
And through Christ, I am none of those things that I mentioned earlier any longer.
I live with freedom, joy, peace, contentment, courage, boldness, truth that grounds me, and strength, and that’s how God has worked extraordinarily in my life.
And I am not what I was. Instead, I am more than I ever thought possible.
I’m thrilled with Jesus. I’m overflowing in the abundant life that he came to give us.
Melanie: Amen. And you’ve really encouraged us, I feel, today, Gretchen, just to want more of Him and to love Jesus more.
You’ve encouraged my heart in that way, and I believe you’ve encouraged those that are listening in the same way.
Gretchen: I’m so grateful.
Final Thoughts about Following Hard After God
Melanie: Absolutely. Thank you for your testimony and thank you for your honesty. I appreciate you.
As we close, I want to remind you of two things…
First, be sure to go to Grechenfleming.com and look around, and get to know this amazing lady in her ministry.
Second, would you tell someone about this ministry?
We are just getting started. Let a friend or relative or coworker know about the podcast. Share the podcast or blog on your Facebook page or your Stories.
And if you do, please tag me or tag Women Living Courageously and I will reshare your post or your story.
So, thank you, in advance, for what you’re going to do.
We are so glad you joined us today and so blessed that Gretchen did as well.
Remember, we are ordinary women, but we serve an extraordinary God, and He is crazy about you.
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