Open Your Mouth

During a Sunday morning prayer service, the leader shared imagery of a river overflowing with life. We are rivers of life, she said. The implication is that we have great opportunity — perhaps responsibility — to offer abundant life from the depths of Christ’s love within us. That love enables us to influence situations and circumstances. To bring light into darkness. Life from death.

As we began to pray and worship, my ears started to tickle and I found myself metaphorically thumbing through scripture on my iPhone.  I was searching for Isaiah 43:19, where God says

“”Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

My focus and ensuing meditation was of God making rivers in the desert, in the dry places. Dry places may refer to the heart, the mind, or the natural and created world. Yet, I kept hearing the words, “open your mouth.” What does that mean? I wondered. My conversation with Father God continued in this fashion: “Open your mouth,” He’d say. I hear you, Father God, but I have know idea how this relates to rivers in the desert! Oh, how God must chuckle with me!

Open your mouth!With a little time, a little patience, a little more worship, and a lot of listening, His Word became clear.

I forget sometimes how God has blessed me to see and experience His presence around the world. Not just in my home, my church, or in my neighborhood, but around the world. In my young 11 years as a disciple of Jesus, I have compiled a chest full of stories and experiences of God’s transforming power. My chest is overflowing and God continues to fill it. I forget sometimes the gift I have in these stories. I didn’t play any significant part in transformation, but I am and have been strategically placed to collect stories. Though I marvel and share my collection with close friends, I forget to open my mouth to wider circles and share the majesty and wonder of God’s transforming work in the world. To share the new things, the new creations; the roadways He makes and the rivers He flows through dry places.

I have met Josephs and Daniels who were persecuted for their faith. Sometimes beaten and imprisoned. By grace, they found themselves in the audience of the king and other high ranking government officials planting seed for Christ.

I have met men and women who broke their bindings to other gods and “religions” after dreaming of Jesus or after a supernatural experience of His love.

I have visited some of the darkest places on earth and found the Light of Jesus present and available. In these places, God is transforming lives. He is breaking the influence of anger, murder, rape, violence (despite what we see in the news). He is raising up outcasts named ‘criminal’ and ‘convict’ as light bearers to influence the darkness. Yes, God still uses the foolish to shame the wise, the weak to shame the strong, the base and despised things so that no one may boast (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).

Open your mouth…and share with the world the new things I am doing. Share the new life I am creating. See and tell of the roadways in the wilderness and the rivers in the desert. I am building a garden of life and light; rivers are flowing. Do you see? Will you share?

What the world needs to know — is desperate to know— is that new things and new life outnumber old things. I believe the word God spoke to me is not for me alone. It is for all who know and taste the goodness of God. We have a voice greater than any government, news outlet, or angry mob. And we have the technology to share it around the world. What if we opened our mouths and saturated social media with praise for our great God instead of hatred for humankind?  What if we shared stories of transformation in Christ instead of our woes? Could we influence the media, the nation, the world? Could we influence our neighbors?

God has “given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to [His] chosen people” ( Isaiah 43:20). Why? So we will declare His praise! (Isaiah 43:21)

Open your mouth. Share of the good news and the new things God is doing.

The God Who Stoops

Lately, I find myself consumed with the “small” actions of God. I roll them over and over in my mind. On the surface, they seem rather menial. The God Who Walks. The God Who Runs. But my meditations are revealing new and beautiful depths of God. The kind of depths that draw praise from my lips and worship from my spirit and body. I am amazed by who He is and what He does and I am honored to share my recent meditation of The God Who Stoops.

john_william_waterhouse_-_the_shrine

“The Shrine” by John W. Waterhouse

To stoop is to bend the head or body forward and downward. For example, one might stoop to pick something up or smell a rose. One might also stoop out of deference or submission descending from a superior rank, dignity, or status (Merriam-Webster). In modern language, we may be more apt to use ‘stoop’ to refer to lowering oneself morally, as in she stooped to adultery.

Interestingly, in my every day life, “stoop” is not a word I use or even hear. My first inclination when hearing the word was to apply it to the more derogatory definition. Naturally, when I read of God stooping, my curiosity piqued. Why did God stoop? Surely He never lowered Himself morally! He is the standard of morality. So, what does it mean when God stoops? If God stoops, should I stoop?

This meditation begins in the book of John, chapter 8, verses 1-11. I have always heard this passage referenced as the story of the adulterous woman. I’m neither a bible scholar nor a literary scholar, but I suggest this is a misleading title. At first glance, the reader (including me) presumes the following scripture verses are about adultery and the woman is the object or the antagonist of the story. In truth, as I dig into this passage, the woman plays the smallest role. The antagonist is religion. Jesus is the protagonist and grace is the theme. Perhaps this blog is better titled “The Grace of Stooping.”

At this time in history, the disciples are still struggling with Jesus’s identity as Messiah. To the world, Jesus has a reputation as a teacher. Unlike modern, western educators, ancient teachers in the east assumed a sitting posture to teach, though typically from an elevated platform. When I read this passage, I envision Jesus sitting in a slightly raised position in the temple when suddenly, religious leaders bring a woman into the court interrupting His teaching to initiate an execution.

I imagine the woman was terrified and feeling alone and isolated. All eyes focused on her. Perhaps there was pointing and murmuring as she faced her accusers and prepared for the worse. I can relate to feeling accused and isolated as fingers point and hurtful remarks are whispered. As the religious leaders demand this woman’s stoning, Jesus makes an interesting move.

He doesn’t hop on the condemnation bandwagon. Nor does He stand to protect or defend this woman from her accusers. Instead, He stoops. In silence. Jesus moves to a position lower than his students, lower than the religious leaders, and lower than the woman accused of stooping to adultery. I find this movement significant. From His conception — even before — Jesus lowered Himself from Heaven to elevate us into the Kingdom of God.

The first mention of Jesus stooping in this passage captures my attention and momentarily takes my breath away. It is a moment for awe as He physically demonstrates grace. The religious leaders didn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ. The disciples weren’t sure, either. But I know. I know that at this point in the story, the Christ, the Majesty who created the heavens and earth, lowers Himself beneath all others. I do not believe this was an act of submission or deference, but of confidence in grace and truth (and perhaps a bit of shock and awe!). This descent also draws all eyes to Himself, away from the woman, away from the religious leaders. He is now the center of the story.

As the religious leaders look upon Jesus, dissatisfied with his response (or lack of response), they protest and demand a verbal answer. “What say you?”

In response, Jesus straightens. He returns to His original position — His teaching position. Perhaps He even stands and is face to face with the religious leaders. The Greek verb used to describe Jesus’s “straightening” refers to the body as well as the soul. Not only is Jesus’ physical posture raised, but so is His soul. In this posture — a heavenward posture— He challenges their religious motivation: ”He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). In other words, test yourselves against your own religion. Would you survive your own judgment and condemnation? This question has the power to knock me down on my best days. It demands truth and introspection, not condemnation. Jesus never condemns.

Jesus again stoops as the leaders inwardly search themselves. One by one, they walk away until only Jesus and the woman remain. He straightens to His heavenward posture and speaks directly to her for the first time. “Did no one condemn you. . .I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more” (vv. 10-11). Don’t look back! Focus on Me and walk forward.

I learned this kind of grace for myself from the letters of Brother Lawrence. He beautifully and aptly models how to forgive oneself, let go, and move forward. Only in this recent meditation have I discovered this was first the message of Jesus. I do not condemn you. Do not condemn yourself. Instead, sin no more and continue the journey with Me.

From the onset, Jesus embraced this woman with grace, while others sought condemnation. Jesus embraces us with the same grace today. It does not condone sin. To the contrary, grace offers life. “All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end” (Romans 5:20-21, MSG).

I love that God stoops to lift us up. Surely, in those moments when the woman felt her life was at stake, her sole focus was on Jesus. As He stooped, her eyes lowered to follow the form of His body and as He straightened, her gaze lifted and her soul elevated heavenward. I learned from my husband the importance of looking up. When all else fails, look up. Look at the night sky and see the majesty of God. Then mountains fall into their place and giants fall to the ground.

One question remains in my meditation. If God stoops, should I? If the Creator of all life stoops to elevate the ones He loves, then who am I to take any other action. Jesus does not place me in the seat of judgment. He works with me to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself. So, when I stoop as Jesus stoops, I am at once demonstrating grace to my neighbor and surrendering judgment to Jesus, the King and true Judge. This is the woman I want to be. One who stoops, who loves without conditions, and sees beyond appearance and past actions. I want my life to be a reflection of Christ doing only what I see my Father in heaven doing, no matter how small the action may seem.

The God Who Runs

The expression of a God who runs is what kick-started my meditation on the loving actions of God. In fact, it’s what I meditate on the most. Can you picture a God who runs? The Creator of the Universe running? Upon first inspection, it’s not very regal. To me, it’s a deep expression of love and romance. Little stirs my spirit more swiftly than God running toward me.

This example of the God who runs is beautifully described in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I wonder if, because of this parable, the word “prodigal” has developed a negative connotation in the common language. After all, the story refers to a son who wastes away his inheritance. However, as I’ve studied and explored this parable over the years, it seems to me a story that is more about a prodigal father than son. The word prodigal implies giving in abundance, lavishly, or in extravagance. This aptly describes the father who lavishly loves his son. The father’s love is so full that he prematurely and freely gives his son an abundant inheritance. After his son wastes it away, the father not only welcomes his son home, but showers him with gifts and honor. What kind of a father is this who seemingly wastes his love on a rebellious, good for nothing son?

Early in my faith journey with Christ, a young man described God as One who lets go. He doesn’t lock people in a cage and demand their love. Instead, He let’s them go and waits for them to return. This is my story and could be why the parable of the prodigal father touches me deeply. It’s a story of a father who lets go and waits. The climax is in the run.

What was this father waiting for? An apology? A refund? No. He waited for the son he loved. Everyday, he waited and looked for his wandering offspring. Why? The father knew the son’s life was at stake. In the Hebrew culture at the time, such rebellious and squandering behavior was not just a crime against the family. It was a crime against the community and punishable by stoning. If the son were to return, he would face the consequence: death. So, the father waited.

One day, he saw the figure of a man in the distance and knew his son was returning home. I can see it now. It was a matter of life and death. So the father ran. He ran to embrace his son. No apologies. No explanations. Then, he clothed his son in the traditional, symbolic garments that identified him as a member of the family: robe, ring, sandals. Celebration ensued.

God runs. He also instructs us to run and to run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Endurance in running comes from practice, as any runner will share. When I run, I set incremental goals for myself. My internal thought process is something like, “If I can just make it to the next light post. OK, made it. Now, if I can just make it to that big tree.” And so on. We have a promise in scripture that endurance for the spiritual race comes as we continually fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Imagine my endurance to run when I see Jesus who “never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God. . .“ (Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG).

God runs to us. He also runs with us. In 1992, Dereck Redmond, the Olympian, experienced this first-hand. Maybe you know the story. Dereck was favored to win the 400-meter race. Half-way through, he fell to the ground in agonizing pain with a torn hamstring. But he didn’t give up. His eye was fixed on the prize. He was going to finish. His loving father ran to his side and carried him to the finish line. This image of love — a father running to his son — is seared in the depths of my spirit. It embodies who Father God is to me.

Click below to watch a father’s love in action.

 

When I picture Father God, I picture the God who runs. He ran to save my life. He asked nothing in return except to lavishly bestow me with the gifts that name me daughter. His daughter. He runs with me today. He helps me keep sight of where I’m going — that exhilarating finish in and with Him.

The God Who Walks

John_William_Waterhouse_-_The_Soul_of_the_Rose,_1903

The Soul of the Rose, John Waterhouse

Over the last few months, I’ve been meditating on the actions of God, specifically as they relate to His love. Sometimes, I’m so focussed on the BIG actions or the fulfillment of BIG promises that I overlook the small and the simple acts of my Father God. This focus overflows into my physical relationships, as well. Time often reveals that the simple, small, and consistent acts are the most comforting, the most missed, and the greatest demonstrations of love.

For example, my loving husband makes me breakfast every morning. It is his pleasure to do this for me. If left unchecked, I could contort this daily practice into an expectation as opposed to an act of love. If I were to expect breakfast every morning, I would miss my husband’s heart. My focus would turn inward to myself and to my own satisfaction. God forbid! My hope and desire is to convey my love for my husband and express my thanks and joy in all that he does for me, no matter how small or how often.

I have the same hope and desire in my relationship with God. Yet, I take Him for granted. Let’s take walking, for example. It’s a simple enough act that I often overlook. The God who walks. So what? In the beginning, God walked in the garden. It was His delight — I daresay His pleasure — to walk amidst and with His Creation and His beloved, Adam and Eve. We all know the story. After the devastation of disobedience by His beloved, Adam and Eve hid from their Father. So focused on themselves, they were unable to share in God’s Presence (Genesis 3:8).

Whether it be fear or shame, I’m asking myself how often I follow in the shadow of Adam and Eve and hide from God’s invitation to walk with Him.

Enoch walked with God. This is all we really know of him. He walked in God’s pleasure until he was no more (Genesis 5:24). What a legacy! What an epithet! Noah also walked with God and through his obedience saved humankind (Genesis 5:9-22). Then, at some point in the Hebrew tradition, walking with God shifted to walking before God or walking in the ways of God. Until Jesus came. He brought restoration.

With the arrival of Jesus, we see the fulfillment of God’s promise to walk among us and be our God (i.e. Leviticus 26:12). Our God is a God who walks. I believe the invitation to walk with Him is perpetually extended, but the choice — the daily choice — is ours. Mine. Jesus invites everyone to come with Him. “Walk with me and work with me. . .,” He says (Matthew 11: 28-30, MSG, emphasis mine). “Watch how I do it.” This is an intimate call to His Presence. Watch how I walk. How I speak. How I love.

I am moved by God’s call to intimacy with Him. Who am I to walk with the King? I have no gift to offer. Even now I see the warmth of his invitation. “Come. Take a stroll with me. Let us talk of the things on your heart. Allow Me to impart My love, My wisdom, My grace.

And look! The King, the God of all, He matches my pace so that we walk side-by-side, stride-by-stride. Though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear nothing; for He is with me (Psalm 23:4). In fact, He will never leave. He will always walk with me. And when I pause or stray and become distracted with myself, He waits and whispers my name until my focus is once again completely on Him. Seek me first and all you need will be provided (Matthew 6:33).

Today, I rejoice in the God who walks. . .with me.

Part Two: The Joy of the Lord

Note: This is the second part of a two-part blog. Be sure to read Part One: The Least of These.

One of the reasons Manning’s discussion about love and “the least of these” pierced me so deeply and precisely is because I work for an organization focused on ministering to prisoners and their families. And in a few short days, I would leave for Honduras to encourage prisoners and our local partners in prison ministry as well as evaluate an evangelism program designed to introduce inmates to Jesus.

In the prison ministry context, we are notorious for citing Matthew 25:35-40, specifically verses 36 and 40. These verses are scriptural bedrocks to us.

‘I was in prison, and you came to Me. Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

You can imagine how ripe these verses were in my mind as I was reading through Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel. Surely he isn’t speaking about me, though? After all, the “least of these” refers to those in prison, right? Or to those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, and/or sick.

When I entered Tamara prison to meet with a group of inmates, I was oblivious to the blessing that was in store for me: the tangible expression of the joy of the Lord. What is the joy of the Lord, anyway? I recently heard it described as “Jesus Over You.” For now, let’s use this definition.

In a small room crowded with more than a dozen inmates, all of whom were elected spiritual leaders for their respective prison wings, I beheld Jesus over several of them. I slowly breathed in the rich and deep smiles, the enthusiasm for Jesus, and the pleasure for these inmates to share their knowledge of and experience with Christ. . .in prison. I listened to them attentively as my heart stirred to silence. Perhaps the most moving encounter was with a particular inmate sitting not far from me. When the opportunity presented itself, he shot up and said (in Spanish),

“I must tell you this story. I am a leader in the Segregation wing [one of several prison wings that house inmates]. Before this program, we were allowed only one hour of sunlight and were not permitted to mingle outside of our cells. Now, the authorities trust us. We have one half day of sunlight and we are allowed to mix with one another outside of our cells.”

He couldn’t wait to share with me, with all of us, what Jesus had done. How Jesus had impacted his life. The joy on his face was indescribable. You might think his joy was for the increased sunlight or additional human contact, but it wasn’t. It was Jesus and Jesus over him. In that moment, I realized that he is not the least of these. I am. And the joy he carried, I wanted.

It’s one thing to see the expression of joy outside the prison wall where liberty abounds. It’s another thing entirely to see it behind the wall, in one of the most dangerous prisons in Honduras, where fear and corruption rule. The joy of the Lord is evidenced on the faces of those who have not only learned to be content in their circumstances, but walk in those circumstances with Jesus all over them (Philippians 4:11). Did you expect to find Jesus so evident here? I didn’t, but I should have. He forsakes no one and redeems all who are willing to receive Him. Yes, this is outrageous and undignified love!

I thought God sent me to bless and encourage others. The truth is, I was blessed by the work of Jesus in and through a small group of men their society had locked away. There is no end to the love of Christ! God sent me from the land of liberty to a prison in Honduras and challenged me: what have you to fear? I am learning that I have nothing to fear in God’s perfect love. I have only to rest in Jesus over me.

Part One: The Least of These

Note: This is a two-part blog. Join me on a journey that passes through one of the largest (and most dangerous) prisons in Honduras.

I had a most unique and multifaceted experience in one of the largest prisons in Honduras. It was unique because I was in a prison. It was multi-faceted because the things of God are always filled with immeasurable depths and levels of understanding.

First, let me describe a spiritual encounter I experienced the week prior to my visit to Tamara prison. It was a Sunday, just like any other Sunday with one small exception. In the midst of prayer and worship, God revealed a deep rooted and hidden issue: fear. At the time it felt like terror! It sprung from depths I was unaware existed and daringly stared me in the face. What are you going to do with this fear? My initial response was denial and then as acceptance poured in, my tears poured out. I didn’t know it then, but God was in the process of replacing my fear with His love. We are still in process.

A few hours later, I confronted a deeper revelation of my struggle with fear. Such revelations are the Holy Spirit’s specialty and the danger of interior contemplation. But what a sweet reward it is when the spirit finds healing, peace, and growth. As my old friend G.I. Joe used to say, knowing is half the battle. The other half is what you do with the knowledge.

Obviously, my spirit was in prime reception mode (and high alert!) after acknowledging and (eventually) welcoming the work of the Holy Spirit. Emotionally weak and mentally overwhelmed, I picked up where I left off in Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel, where for the third time—in two days!—the gentle and loving Presence of God softened my hard exterior and penetrated the depths of my heart.

Manning’s discussion was on the love of God and the necessity of the disciple to love others and to be loved. “The nature of God’s love for us is outrageous,” he says (p.172). It’s undignified and our love for others should be the same. Where does one start to love outrageously? Why, ourselves, of course! Quoting Carl Jung, Manning continues:

“[W]e are all familiar with the words of Jesus, ‘Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.” Then Jung asks a probing question: ‘What if you discover the least of the brethren of Jesus, the one who needs your love the most, the one you can help the most by loving, the one to whom your love will be the most meaningful—what if you discovered that this least of the brethren of Jesus. . .is you?” (pp. 173-174).

Slow down. Just meditate on that for moment. What if the least of these—a reference we often assume refers to someone worse off than we are—is actually you? As I read those soul-searing words, I realized with great humility how in need I am of God’s love. Perfect love casts out fear. Again, just meditate on that in your life and circumstances.

So what does this have to do with a prison visit in Honduras? Find out in Part Two: The Joy of the Lord.

Holding the Door

It’s a new season! With every new year comes a renewed sense of goal-setting, excitement for new adventures, and curiosity for what the year might offer. There’s also the unique pleasure of turning our backs on the old year and brightly looking forward to the next. For many, the first day of the year brings the desire to spring-clean, release old (bad) habits, and start new things. It’s a time for change permanently marked by the calendar every 365 days.

What doesn’t ever change—no mater what day it is—is the constant, ever present, ever accessible presence of God. Sometimes that presence is thick and tangible. I like to refer to that experience as a God Encounter.

This morning I walked briskly through the cold to reach my office building. From another path, an older, white-haired gentleman emerged about 100-150 yards in front of me. Our destination was clearly the same, though he was bound to arrive before me. When he reached the door, he opened it—as expected—and waited. He turned toward me and watched me approach with a hospitable smile on his face. His pleasant voice shouted, “I must hold the door for you. It’s not in my nature to close it.”

I drew closer and crossed the threshold where we exchanged the normal pleasantries and bid one another a good day. But as I continued walking through the building the love of God warmed me from the inside out.

Scriptures suggest we may encounter angels in the faces of strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Although I cannot say if this man were angel or not, I can confidently confide in you the words of God, my Father, in that moment. “It is my great pleasure to not only open doors for you, but to hold them open until you arrive and cross the threshold.”

purpose-open-door-policy_b8f0dbef670b2e6d

It’s the first week of the new year and I am five days into it. Already, I am overwhelmed by the vast love of God as each day unfolds new evidence of His presence. Today, I receive a powerful addition to my faith, for God has clearly spoken and promised his great pleasure to hold the door for me. What a God Encounter!

God Desires

In my pursuit of Christ, it has not ever been a stretch to acknowledge what God is capable of. In short, anything! I have a track record and stories to confirm the magnificence of God and His ability. Nothing is impossible for Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). What could be more exciting or revelatory? What could be more assuring than knowing God can do it? Whatever it is, God can do it. But will He?

Over the last fews years, I have started a new meditation focusing less on what God can do and more on what God desires to do. I recall a key moment in my exploration of divine healing where my eyes were opened to this deeper Truth. Truth — the capital “T” kind — is remarkable. What makes it remarkable is the progressive revealing of its depths. I never doubted that God could heal, that he was able to heal. In fact, I almost took it for granted that God heals the sick, the lame, the deaf, the blind. Of course He does! He’s God. Yet, in all those years of nearsighted acceptance of this Truth, it never occurred to me that He wants to heal.

incense-smokeWhat a difference it makes to distinguish between the ability of God and the desire of God. This seemingly minor exchange of words—ability for desire—is radically transforming my meditations, my prayer-life, my understanding of healing, my relationship with Father God, as well as my outward mindset.

The deeper I dive into this new notion of God’s desire the more certain I am of God’s love for me and the stronger my trust in Him becomes. It is as if in this meditative dance, our embrace strengthens and the space between us lessens. And as our spirits mingle in the delight of God’s desire, I find myself craving not only more of Him for me, but more of Him for others. How my heart breaks for those who feel excluded from God’s blessing! Who confess God’s ability but fall short of recognizing His unrestricted desire. It applies to all. Just as a parent desires the best for their child, when well-behaving or misbehaving, so God desires.

His desire to heal, to create, to bless, to prosper, to speak, to dance, to inhabit praises, to be present must not remain a secret or unrevealed Truth. The difference between seeking God for what He can do and seeking God for what He desires to do, is knowing who He is: Love. He doesn’t heal because He can. He heals because He loves. He doesn’t create because He can. He creates because He loves. And so on and so on.

Now, when I pray, I pray with the growing confidence of God’s love for me and for others.  Instead of pleading with God, “God, I know you can do it so please just do it,” I thank Him. “Thank you, Father God, for your love and your blessing. Thank you that you desire my health, my healing, my provision, my (insert need).”

Lastly, as I meditate on God’s desire, I also meditate on an equally profound promise. He chose me, and appointed me that I would go and bear fruit, and that my fruit would remain, so that whatever I ask of the Father in Jesus name He may give to me (John 15:16). Because He loves.

Who I am

67639I’d like to say that I don’t know how it happens. How I wake up one morning heavy under the weight of my past which slows my body and mind. But I do know how it happens. One day at a time. One negative thought at a time. Before I realize it I can barely move through the mud and muck of former actions and decisions. Sin. With sin, comes shame. With shame, comes a cycle of self defeating thoughts and eventual paralysis of the spirit.

Over the last few days I’ve been meditating on this cycle that impacts me so deeply mentally, physically, and spiritually. My beautiful, amazing, and inspiring partner reminded me that I have an arsenal of truth and power to battle negative thoughts and memories. I’m amazed how often I forget the power I wield. But I have a Helper, the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, who reminds me of my peace, my position, and my power. I know who I am and I’m learning—remembering—who God says I am.

In a pit of negativity and subconscious thought, I spoke the need to atone for the sins of a past long gone. As this lie slipped from lips, I had an immediate encounter with Jesus. I have already atoned for your sin. Embrace what I have already done.

Truth brings freedom and freedom inspires worship and unhindered movement mentally, physically, and spiritually. Today, I remember how loved I am. I remember who I am and to Whom I belong. My sin, my past is forgotten. I am safe, whole, pure, and full of life magnificent! I am a daughter of God. The daughter of a Lion. The daughter of Love.

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!