Hands

Living in PursuitAs I press deeper into the depths of Jesus, I am recognizing how much I compartmentalize God. As I study His human life, I am realizing how I deny God access to the mundane and ordinary aspects of my life (e.g. finances, employment, food, sleep, etc). I have a tendency to reserve Him for “spiritual moments.” Tsk, tsk. As if there is a moment in time that is not spiritual!

Oh the ways in which God speaks to His beloved! Yet, the sorrow that rises for the ways we discount His voice and attribute it to the natural or our own minds. Brother Lawrence, for those of you who know him, might instruct us that if we pursue unending communion with the Spirit, His voice will ring beautifully within and through us! I believe this whole-heartedly. In fact, my awareness of God’s desire to partner with me in life is growing by divine measure. However, there are also times the pursuit seems futile and spiritual senses are dulled. So it has been for me over the last week. How does one account for this? But God has been speaking ever so softly or I daresay despite my distracted and deaf ears.

In three Kingdom-moments–moments when the sacred and the natural visibly merge–the Living God has offered me three illustrations that I in turn offer to my readers.

  1. His Hands. I woke with a song. Perhaps you’ve heard that old country ballad, Daddy’s Hands. I haven’t heard it in years. As a young lass it always moved me with love for my earthly father. It still does and I promptly shared it with him! On this special morning as I woke with a song on my lips, I could hear my Heavenly Father singing to me. Remember My Hands when you have cried. Remember My Hands when My Spirit brought conviction. My Hands may not always seem gentle, but remember the Love of My Hands. After a week of praying for a Word, I broke for the expression of His Love. Joy immeasurable.
  2. My hands. The next day, He made a request of me. “Clinch your fists,” He said. I formed a small fist with each of my hands, fingernails digging in, knuckles white. Arms, shoulders, and back tightening. My whole body stiffening. “This represents your desire to cling to your circumstances. Your desire to solve your circumstances. Now, open your hands and release it to Me.” My mind and body relaxed. This is rest.
  3. His Hands. On the third day, He revealed His vast, strong hands atop my small, fragile hands. The Hands of God in tandem with mine. We must pause to breathe in the beauty of this image: A Father’s hands. Like a parent teaching a child to write or draw or a master craftsman teaching his apprentice, what love emerges from the hands on experience. What creativity is brought to life in the surrender of student to teacher. More than that, I am left with a new understanding of His nearness as He leads my open hands and whispers His encouragement and pleasure with me. Freedom.

I throw up my hands in surrender to the Living God and turn my whole being toward Him with a prayer of “let Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The gates are open. The veil is torn. The Kingdom of God is here. Have your way in me.”

When I forget and my hands begin to clinch and my body tightens, may the Spirit bring these three Kingdom-moments to my memory. For with a closed grip, I can neither receive the friendship of God nor the friendship of another. I cannot offer my hands to help a neighbor in need. I cannot create. Worse, my hands are inaccessible to the will of God.

In a season of spiritual dryness, the words of God are Living Water. I feel revived. This is a gift of revelation and insight for myself and my circumstances. Still, I offer them to whomever else might need an encounter with the Hands of God. Remain in pursuit. Continue to seek the Lord or even wrestle for His blessing. His faithfulness is beyond our comprehension and for this I am thankful!

Disfigured to Beauty

In the moments God moves upon us, we are hard-pressed to not pause and give Him our full attention. Surrender renders the greatest reward; for, in surrender we know the kiss of God.

Today, in a moment with God, He overwhelmed me with compassion for the broken, specifically the deformed. There is an incredible story of Jesus touching a leper in the Matthew 8:1-3. From the first reading of this passage, it was not the healing power of Jesus that impacted me, but His willingness to touch. A leper. Outcast. Untouchable. Unacceptable. Disgraced. Disfigured. What attention he must have drawn from onlookers as they scurried away and hid their eyes so as to avoid contact. How the children must have pointed and screamed in disgust. Perhaps even laughed.

I think of this leper and what he must have felt. How hard it must have been to walk in public, in daylight. He must have feared the reactions of those he might encounter remembering the countless times people ran from him or ignored him altogether. A life in hiding, afraid to be seen. What a poor existence, robbed of experience, relationship, and joy when the world around you continually devalues you and labels you ugly and unworthy. Such imposed shame is crippling.

Yet, Jesus, unafraid and full of love, dared to do what no one else would even consider. He reached out His hand to touch the untouched. I believe it was the mere touch that healed. What power therein lies. Love passed from flesh to flesh, spirit to spirit. I can only imagine the moment Jesus’s skin connected with the leper’s. The moment they made eye contact. What joy and freedom must have erupted from deep within this man who’s beauty had never been realized until that second.

Love is the Beauty of the Soul

Disfigurement, like beauty, is more than skin deep. Many of us hide an inner disfigurement suffering the same feelings of shame and accepting the same labels as did this leper. I am one who has struggled to overcome an inner leprosy. In my pursuit of Christ, I am overcoming. Unlike the leper, or one who suffers from physical deformities, healing of inner disfigurement is not always instantaneous as results cannot be seen with the naked eye. In truth, this kind of healing is a progressive process of awareness. The healing is already complete. The journey is becoming and receiving who we are to Christ. Loved and accepted.

In this season of advent as we celebrate the Holy Child who was born for us as Savior, I celebrate His finished work of beauty in me and in all those around me. Like the leper, I have been touched by the hand of God, healed and made whole. I am learning I am beautiful and without deformity simply because He says so.

To all who hide their faces in shame, fear not. To all who have believed the lie that they are the ugly duckling, fear not. You are a swan and you are free to fly. Christ’s finished work is the revelation of His beauty in us. Allow Him to connect with you, flesh to flesh and spirit to spirit. See the love in His eyes as He looks upon you. Dare to see your reflection.

Love is revealing one’s beauty to themselves. This is what happens when we are touched by God. What happens when you touch someone?

In Pursuit: Journey to Abandon

Note to Readers: As someone recently pointed out, it’s been several months since my last blog. Why, you ask? I’ve been writing my first book entitled, In Pursuit: Journey to Abandon. Look for it to hit the market in last spring/early summer 2014!! Now that my first draft of the manuscript is finished, I hope to share some “teasers” with you in the near future. Get ready!

As I am writing this book, I have been struck by the interest and reaction from those with whom I have shared the endeavor. They predictably pose two questions: 1. What is it about? 2. What is it called? Both are easy questions to answer as I have been meditating on this book and its contents for nearly 7 years. A better question might be, what took you so long?! In truth, though the story has been in development over these many years, the circumstances of my time, spiritual maturation, and conviction to write it have only just aligned.

Due to the consistency of these two questions and the subsequent reaction to my answers, I thought it prudent to offer explanation to my readers. To the first question of content, I generally reply, “it’s my story with Christ.” I confess I enjoy the humorous facial expressions that follow. They seem to imply, “what’s so special about you?” I often wonder if there is a further, unspoken question of my arrogance. After all, why write a book about yourself unless you want people to notice you. In truth, there is nothing special or remarkable about me. The story I tell is less about me and more about God. This is God’s story; His activity in and through me.

I grew up in Christ with the lovely description of God as the Author of our lives. He holds the pen and beautifully writes each page. These stories of God working in and through us are proof of hope, peace and life everlasting. According to the book of Revelation, they are also a great weapon against our spiritual enemy (reference Revelation 11-12). Lastly, I suggest that our stories with God are evidence of His existence and His love for every human being. Don’t believe me? I invite you to join me through the pages of this upcoming book to see His beauty and majesty alive and active in one woman’s life. My life.

To the second question, I chose the current title long before I started writing. However, noting the confusion regarding its meaning from those who inquired after it, I spent many hours in meditation determining whether or not it should change or remain. Ultimately, I chose to keep the original title for its depth and richness. I offer a detailed explanation of its meaning here.

Journey to AbandonIn Pursuit is a reference to my soul-ministry, the ministry of my heart and soul. The development of this personal and vocational ministry is explained in the last part of my book. In short, it is a lifestyle of living in pursuit of and for Christ while embracing His unending pursuit of us. Imagine Michelangelo’s detail of “God Touching Man” in the Sistine Chapel (a remarkable and profound work to see firsthand!!). I draw the image of this pursuit from Philippians 3:12 where the Apostle Paul declares that since he has not yet achieved the end, he “press[es] on so that [he] may lay hold of that for which also [he] was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” What is the end or the proverbial it that is so desired by Paul? What is the “that” he desires to lay hold of? Simply, life with God, both in the now and the hereafter. Paul pursues the Presence of God as Christ Jesus first pursued him with the offer of access to the Living God.

The tagline of the book title, Journey to Abandon, evokes within me the depth of my pursuit as well as the means. Journey, of course, references the spiritual journey. It holds additional personal significance as I have traveled and trekked/backpacked all over the world. Many of you are no doubt familiar with the phrase, “it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.” There is more truth to this statement than I can adequately relay here!

My inquirers seem to understand the title with little explanation until we reach the word “abandon.” Here lies the point of greatest explanation as we are most accustom to using abandon as a verb that engenders a negative connotation. In this case, however, I use the word as a noun that beautifully describes both the purpose and delight of the creature (humankind) as well as the heart of the Creator.

According to my beloved MacBook Pro’s dictionary:

Noun

  1. give up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking)
  2. cease to support or look after (someone); desert. . .leave (a place or vehicle) empty or uninhabited, without intending to return
  3. complete lack of inhibition or restraint

ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French abandoner, from a-(from Latin ad ‘to, at’) + bandon ‘control,’ based on late Latin bannus, bannum (see ban1). The original sense was ‘bring under control,’ later ‘given to the control of, surrender to’. . . 

The second of these three definitions is perhaps the most common use of the word. Let’s consider definitions one and three and how they apply to us spiritually.

Living in abandon for God means giving up human perspective and drive (e.g. will, desires, hurts, offenses, pain, etc) and exchanging them for His. It is living without inhibition, living in freedom without restraint or obstacles that might keep us from pursuing God. Even better are the references to the origin of the word. Abandon for God is giving Him control, surrendering to Him, allowing Him to fulfill His plan of glory and greatness through our lives. It’s giving Him the pen along with the invitation to write. Another application worthy of consideration is God’s abandon for each of us. He comes after us without inhibition or restraint freely lavishing us with love and blessing, if we would but receive. The Scriptures are filled with stories of His love for us and His desire to fill us with abundant life. Truly, we were made for abandonment in the most positive sense of the word. Abandonment of our ourselves for God as well as His abandon for us.

There is hidden meaning in this title with significance only to me. Along my journey, my pursuit of Christ and His pursuit of me, I endured a season of abandonment, isolation, and loneliness. I was abandoned in the sense of the second definition above. It was through the seeming desertion of people I dearly loved, admired, and respected that I entered the city of Abandon, a new place, built and inhabited by the Presence of God. In this city, I reached new heights and depths of intimacy in Him. I let go of a false sense of identity to embrace a new, chosen identity in Christ. In the city of God, I thrive. I live a renewed, redeemed life rich in the grace of God. Here I am known and accepted as daughter. Abandon is my home. From here, I travel the world with a story to tell; a story of love and mercy; a story of God and my journey to abandon.

Though this book describes my journey to date, it is not my end. However, if it were to end today, I rest in the peaceful acknowledgment of a life well-lived and pleasing to God. His pleasure is not in what I have done or haven’t, in what I have accomplished or haven’t, but in His work and His accomplishment through the Cross. It is my honor to write of the love of God in my life. It is my hope and prayer that readers of this exciting journey will be inflamed with their own stories of God.

Write them down. Share them. Let your story be a mirror of God and an exclamation of His glory. Amen.

Thoughts on the Trail

There is a journey before us. A journey to Christ. A journey in Christ. Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that life is more than the journey. Life and faith are about who accompanies us on the journey. Jesus. Even more, the knowledge that the path we follow is not futile engenders a new drive and motivation to persevere and pursue Life all the more. For where is life except in the presence of God? He is Life. Source and Sustainer. He is the journey.

A ministry, a lifestyle is birthing within me. Get ready! As Paul encourages the Philippians,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-4).

I want my life to echo Paul: I live in pursuit of the One who pursues me. I press on no matter the trial or tribulation for there is a greater hope and a greater blessing.

I encourage all to join me. Let’s not focus on the trial, but focus on the trail God has set for us to walk upon. He has promised to plant our feet. We will not slip. We will not be swept away in the storm or burned in the fire. He will make the way level for us. Along the way, let’s stop to rest and admire the beauty of God’s Creation from mountain to mountain beholding the lushness of the valleys.

Live with me in pursuit of the One who pursues us!

Foundation

Someone once told me that a father’s role is to affirm and a husband’s is to confirm. There is “nugget of truth” in this statement that resonates deep within my spirit. What is the difference between affirming and confirming?

affirm – state as a fact; assert strongly and publicly

confirm – establish the truth or correctness of (something previously believed, suspected, or feared to be the case); reinforce someone in (an opinion, belief, or feeling)

They are similar in definition, but closer inspection and meditation yields how vastly different they are. One is the foundation (affirmation); one is reinforcement of that foundation (confirmation). As we all know, without a solid foundation, nothing built upon it will stand. I daresay we have all had this experience, either personally or with someone else. No matter how much we try to encourage or support, it cannot be received. Why? Because there is no foundation.

Another “nugget” I fondly adhere to is belief precedes behavior. Similarly, our beliefs are the foundation of our behavior. Before behavior will change, belief must change. We often address poor behavior backward. We address, punish, or react to the behavior (AKA the symptom) and rarely dive deep enough to discover the why or the belief behind the behavior (AKA the root of the issue).

From our earliest moments of cognition, we are influenced by all that is around us. Unfortunately, many of us grow up with a misunderstanding of who we are; an unawareness of who created us and for what purpose we were created. Our foundation is laid upon this misunderstanding and we are, subsequently, unable to establish healthy beliefs about ourselves and/or the world.

Women, more than men, seem to have the greater battle with identity. Perhaps this is a gross generalization, but it has been my experience nonetheless. We battle a barrage of lies thrown at us daily.

I am just a woman.
I have nothing to offer.
I cannot support myself.
I need a husband.
I need a man or someone else to feel good about myself.
I am no good. I am impure.
I am all alone.
I must surrender my purity to be accepted. To be loved.
I need to be skinnier. My hair needs to be a different color.
Only pretty women are successful. I’m not pretty enough.
I have to give up my dreams. My dreams aren’t as important.

These are just a few of the lies. Most of them tick me off! Not a healthy foundation. Sadly, there is plenty of confirmation to reinforce this negativity. We see it on the streets, in the movies, on television, in magazines, from our friends, and sometimes from our family.

Thankfully, there is a greater foundation and One who is willing and waiting to lay it. One who has already laid it. Jesus, our Cornerstone. When we look to God for our foundation, we discover our true identity. We discover Truth.

I am created in the image of God and created with purpose (Genesis 1:26).
I am the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8).
The King desires my beauty (Psalm 45:11).
I am wonderfully made and I am always on His mind (Psalm 139).
There is a plan and purpose for my life. I have God-given dreams (Jeremiah 29:11).
I am never alone (John 14:18, Hebrews 13:5-6; Jeremiah 29:13).
He can use me. He wants to use me (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
I am washed, cleansed, purified (John 15:3).
I am free (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18).
I am righteousness. I am holy (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
I am blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:3-7).

These are just a few Truths! With considerable rejoicing, I declare that our affirmation lies in the Living God. No one can take that away. These are words straight from the mouth of God. Whether the world or men confirm these or not, the Word of God remains forever (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23). It is fact and God asserts our identity “strongly and publicly” as we live our lives in pursuit of Him. The beauty and true “nugget of truth” is this: The Father affirms our identity in Him and the Husband, who is Jesus, devotes His life to confirm it.

Oh that we would stop and listen and let the Truth of God pour into us and take root!

I Am Jerusalem

As I often do when reading scripture, I immerse myself. I mentally and sometimes emotionally see myself in the scriptures. In other words, I dive into the words (no pun intended!). How does the verse or passage relate to me and/or my journey? What is God speaking? What would He have me see? Know?

Reading Psalm 79 the other day, I fell into the first verse! Want to come with me? The water is nice and warm!

O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance;
They have defiled Your holy temple;
They have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

Under the Old Covenant, Jerusalem was the city that housed the Holy Temple (God’s dwelling place) and was often used synonymously with the Temple. In the New Covenant, the Apostle Paul tells us we are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19).

You are Jerusalem. I am Jerusalem. I am a holy temple. God dwells within me. I am Jesus’s inheritance; the reason He surrendered His flesh on the cross. With this in mind, as I read the first verse, I was struck by its truth. The nations, that is, the world (or flesh or kingdom of darkness or the rulers, the powers, the world forces of this darkness, the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. . . Ephesians 6:12) has invaded God’s people, defiled us, and left us in ruins. That is, IF we continue to choose the world over our Savior.

We were/are all prisoners at some point. Jesus came to set us free!! To give liberty. So, I say yes to Him because He said yes to me. I cry for others as Asaph cried, “Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You; According to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are doomed to die” (Psalm 79:11). Give Life eternal!

Since reading this Psalm, a new song has been on my lips and in my heart: I am Jerusalem. God dwells in me. Below is my attempt to capture this song through a bit of prose.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Holy City of God
Where the Divine dwells.

Dust blows through your ruins.
Dry bones and voices whisper of death.
The old has passed away.

Where is the new?
I look to men. I look to the earth. I look to the heavens.
Where, O where is Jerusalem?

“Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck. . .”

You are defended and saved for the sake of the Living God.
Man cannot rebuild. Only He.
You are chosen, ransomed, set free.

In Passion, the veil was torn.
Now You are with us, among us.
We are Your people.

Behold, You are making all things new.
Your glory fills the new Jerusalem.
I am alive with Your Presence.

Here, Your temple stands.
Dwell in me,
For I am Jerusalem.

No longer does sacrifice appease You.
Only a broken and contrite heart,
Humbly I offer.

Rebuild the ruins, O God.
Breathe into me.
I am Your Jerusalem.

Until I Enter the Sanctuary of God

 

There are times, as Asaph describes in Psalm 73, that I am a beast before God. Times when my heart is embittered with the world; when I am senseless and ignorant. Lost in my circumstance, I allow my emotions and thoughts to rule. Deeper and deeper I dig into the mud. Sometimes, my humanity is comfortable in the muck and despair. But it is not my home and I do not belong there. Sometimes it seems like a long journey home, but then I remember that home is not far. On the contrary, it is nearer than I can describe. Below is an image of my journey home from the storm.

I am in the storm. Overwhelmed by what is around me. In the chaos, my eye focuses on what I can see. On the temporary as opposed to the eternal. All strength leaves me as my heart becomes entrenched in despair. Shouting voices entice me toward the darkness. Accusing and pulling me in every direction. Pulling me downward. I am drowning in the wind and the rain, barely able to see the path before me. Does anyone see me?

Tired, weak, on my knees, crawling, covered in the grime of a kingdom that is not my own, I keep going knowing there is more. There is something or someone I have forgotten. There must be a way out. A way to shelter. Fighting the storm, I find myself at a door of decision. I know this door. I know to Whom it belongs.

Will He let me in? Do I knock? Will He recognize me as His own? Has He forgotten me? My King?

And then, I remember. I remember His promises. I remember His caress.  I long to be His and rest in His arms again. The choice is mine. Already on my knees, I bow my broken heart. I lift my arm to push open the door, but before I can, it swings open wide. The wind of Life blows over me pushing back the storm. I am in calm. His gentle eyes look upon me as He stoops to where I am. In His warm embrace, He carries me across the threshold into the sanctuary of God.

And then…Peace. I am lifted and strengthened. My vision restored. My heart softened. Faith fills me. The Divine consumes me. Cleans me. I am in safety. My perspective of all things changes. Hope and peace return; though truthfully, they never left me.

When I enter the sanctuary, I come home to the Presence of God and remember who I am. Beloved, eternally. I remember that “I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:23-26).

Until I enter the sanctuary of God, I am lost. Afraid. Confused. Blind. The cruelty and wickedness of the world frustrate me. The suffering of the innocent confounds me. The rejection unbearable. The isolation too much. But the sanctuary is not far; nor does it ever leave me. In truth, the sanctuary is always with me. It is within me. I need only close my eyes and say His name for He is never more than a whisper away. “The nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works” (Psalms 73:28).

As He Receives

We are accustom to associating “Christ-likeness” with sacrifice. Christ is the Great Giver. The One who put the needs of many above His own. The One who laid down His life, so that we all might live.

We have a tendency to elevate people who demonstrate such sacrificial lives and so we bestow upon them the title “Christ-like”. I wonder, are we so generous in our elevation of  the self-sacrificing because we regard asking for a service as a lack of humility? Or receiving a gift as selfish? I confess, I find it quite difficult to relate to or even maintain authentic relationship with one who gives and refuses to receive.

As we strive to follow Christ, we must look at all of Christ. Consider this: God asks. God receives.

God, who offered the greatest sacrifice, or Jesus, who was the greatest sacrifice — however you want to look at it — does more than give and bless. He also asks. He asks for and wonderfully receives our love, our gifts, and our service. Our gifts are not a means of earning, but being. Love, gifts, and service are the sweet fruit generated from being in His presence. It is relationship! He desires for us to engage in a beautiful relationship of giving and receiving. This is relationship’s heart, after all. It is reciprocity; albeit, not equality. Our love, gifts, and service will never match that which God so generously pours upon us. However, He still requires the gift of our hearts. Christ-likeness is giving and receiving.

Christ surely welcomes our meager sacrifices/gifts as if they were great works of art. He does not turn them away. He received from humanity when He walked the earth (money, food, service, assistance to carry the cross, etc) and He receives from us in heaven. In fact, I would suggest that He is eager to receive from us! I’m hesitant to say that God demands our love as that sounds too autocratic. Yet, we were made to love Him. Perhaps it is better to say that He patiently waits for us to love Him/serve Him as freely as He loves us. Can you imagine how He must rejoice when we give to Him from a heart of love?? How He must look upon us and say, “My child, thank you.”

Embrace this perspective! When you worship, whether it be through the Word or in music or in any other discipline, God looks upon you and says, “Thank you for loving me. It is your greatest gift to Me. I receive it – no strings attached.” Sometimes, He may even ask, “will you receive My Love for you?

As we strive to emulate Christ, let us not deny others from loving us, especially the Living God. Let us, instead, follow in His example of giving and receiving. Your greatest gift to someone may not be what you do, but what you receive. When you look upon those gifts from the heart, rather than turn them away at pride’s request, simply say, “thank you. I receive it.” Give as He gives; receive as He receives.

Garden

But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. (Psalms 52:8 NASB)

Ancient_Olive_Tree_in_Pelion,_Greece

Photo by Dennis Koutou

Olive trees are impressively resilient. Their root systems are vast and robust having the ability to restore or regenerate the above-ground tree if ever destroyed or handicapped. Amazing! They are also long lived. Though I have not yet spent much time near olive trees, the pictures I have seen give me the impression of sturdiness, vitality, and even wisdom.

As I held this verse, this image of a green olive tree in the house of God, during my morning meditation, I heard the voice of God whisper “grow deeper.” Words cannot adequately describe God’s gentle voice. I dare not try knowing how short they will fall. There are those who exclaim, “impossible!” and others who cry, “delusion!” But to those who know the intimate touch of our Father, you know the peace and joy that comes from hearing His voice. From knowing that the Living God speaks directly and personally into our lives. From the infinite space of Heaven, to the finite vessels that we are. What awe comes with the knowledge that He is the treasure living within us and speaking through us to reveal the Kingdom of God to the world!

Grow deeper. With this life-giving word, I see myself as the olive tree in His house. My roots drive deep and wide through the dark and fertile soil that represents His presence or perhaps His Kingdom. He is my source of life providing all of my nutrients, everything I need. Hiding my roots safely within Himself, I grow upward as a monument of His grace for all to see.

Prayer: Rain down, Living Water. Nourish me. Replenish me. Because of You, I will stand when the storms and the wind of destruction come. If, perchance, I fall, my roots will remain. New growth will come.

As I worship and offer thanks to God who is within me and always surrounding me, I cling to this truth: I am not simply an olive tree in God’s garden; I am His garden. Daily He walks within me, pruning when necessary, pulling weeds, watering me with His Love, and celebrating and tasting my fruit. There is joy and pride in His eyes. I am drawn God-ward to His tender touch. There is no limit to the depth, width, or height of His love. Likewise, He places no limit on me. Only beckons me to grow ever deeper, ever wider, ever higher.

Experiment in Meditation

A few years ago, while serving with a missionary family in a Buddhist community, I received an in depth, crash course in the local Buddhist traditions and customs at a well-regarded monastery. It was there that I first encountered the discipline of meditation. Prior to this, I was loosely aware of meditation as a Christ-centered, spiritual discipline, but hadn’t yet fully embraced the depths of stillness. Though I learned to meditate from Buddhists, I assure you my heart and focus is fully committed to Christ. I can’t help but laugh! What lengths and distances God takes us to reveal Himself! Some of my greatest encounters with the Living God, indeed my first, were on the other side of the world, far from home and what is familiar.

In fact, from my first experience with Christ (a story for another day) I learned that God was in pursuit of me long before I began my journey in pursuit of Him. Over the years this truth has solidified within me and Philippians 3:12 has become my close friend.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12 NASB)

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. (Philippians 3:12-14 MSG)

What does this verse have to do with meditation? Mediation is a form of pursuit. I have recently re-engaged in an exhilarating experiment in meditation that I began several months ago. Exhilarating because any endeavor to pursue greater intimacy with God is exciting!!! Can meditation, quiet, and stillness be exciting? Isn’t meditation the antithesis of such energetic emotion? Perhaps I am abnormal. I hold such anticipation when I prepare to enter meditation, which is simply an exercise of stillness with God-ward focus, because I expect the Presence of God. It is a holy exercise whereby I not only set aside time and space for God’s majesty, but I set aside myself. I quiet the world so that I can hear the voice of God. This is my purpose. This is my pursuit. It is a sacrifice that I believe is well honored and my experience confirms it. After all, what is meditation except entrance into what Jesus calls the inner room?

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6 NASB)

Call it whatever you like, but give it a shot. Find a place of stillness both physically and mentally. I sit in the 7-point meditation posture that I learned from the Buddhists. It keeps me alert and allows me to focus my breath. Start with a 5-minute exercise where you quiet your mind and body and focus all of your being on God. When I first started, I would recite scripture to help me focus upward. Don’t be dismayed if you find it difficult to focus on God the entire 5 minutes. It takes practice! Our minds are excellent wanderers! Do what you can and wait for God’s response!