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!

Cadence

Hear the drum.
Beat, beat, beat.
I raise my head in search of its origin.
Beat, beat, beat.
Steady.

The ever present tempo wraps me in comfort,
But there is something more.
There is a gentle drawing,
A building desire to seek out the familiar cadence.
Beat, beat, beat.

The journey begins.
A pursuit for the call.
Louder, louder, louder.
My spirit yields to the rhythm.
My feet begin to step in time.

Beat, beat, beat.
I join a multitude marching onward,
Marching in unison.
Beat, beat, beat.
Purpose. Direction.

No more distractions.
Only the alluring sound.
Louder, louder, louder.
Wooing me
Deeper, deeper, deeper.

From where does it come?
First distant, then near.
Now, it resonates through my being.
It is within me!
Beat, beat, beat.

I am in time, in rhythm.
Every step planted firmly,
In confidence.
I march on in harmony
To the heartbeat of God.

Practicing Stillness

Have you ever practiced stillness? Those moments when you calm your body from movement and activity. You release your mind from all thoughts except for the most worthy, which is The Living God. Here you dwell focussing all energy and effort. Time fades away and the beauty of rest begins. The door to intimacy with God opens. Dare we step into the supernatural!

There is power in the Word of God. Some verses hold more than others depending on where we are in the journey. For me, as I continue a practice of stillness, Isaiah 30:15 has captured me most magnificently. “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” Straight from the mouth of God. Beautiful! I write these words on my heart.

As I learn to practice stillness, quietness, silence, my purpose is one-fold. Intimacy. This is my pursuit. As David sings,

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.

This is also my song.

On a more practical note, when I am a mature “still-lite” for Christ (I say that mostly in jest!), I do not think posture and such will be as important. By then, it will be part of my lifestyle, my being, if you will. For now, however, in the beginning, posture and location are important for me. They are boundaries that allow me to soar high. I find stillness hard to attain when sitting on my couch, for example. I prefer a floor cushion. I find even less success when reclining! It is far better when my posture is upright and my hands rest gently on my knees or in my lap. With this posture, I am less distracted in my endeavor. Does this sound like a Buddhist monk or Hindu yogi? Perhaps. I smile at the thought. Thankfully, God sees beyond the physical and into the depths of the heart. Here we dance and romance.

This is my journey, my pursuit: to “lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” I pursue the One who first pursued me. Whatever it takes. Wherever He leads. I am in pursuit.

I Am. . .

I am a sinner. What feels like multiple lifetimes filled with sin is, in actuality, only one life in a fallen world. A fallen world of which I am no longer a member. I have a trusted membership in God’s Kingdom. It is here that I belong.

Sometimes…
I make mistakes. God kisses my tears away.
I fall. God lifts me up.
I rebel. God is my gentle discipline.
I am blind. God is my Light.
I am bound. God sets me free!!

No matter the past, I am still blessed.
I am still chosen.
I am still adopted.
I am still accepted.
I am still forgiven.
I am still redeemed.

Healing Salve

Anger, O anger, why so near?
You boil to my surface.
Hot.
Threatening to spill over.

I do not call out to God, my Peace.
I call to my fury.
I feed the beast that hides my pain.
Patient God, how much longer will you wait?

I do not call out to God, my Healer.
I am blinded by the steam.
Drawn in. On the edge.
Will I fall in?

I hear a quiet voice alongside me.
My faithful God,
Blowing gently on my hurt,
Binding my wounds.

I reach for the familiarity of the burn.
He whispers again, “Let it go.”
The soul-binding blanket of anger slips away.
My sight restored.

There I am, on the pinnacle of God’s grace,
His breath on my face.
I draw deeper into His Presence.
Stillness, at last.

________________________________________________

This is my attempt to capture a sweet vision of God’s healing salve. We wrestled last night over my anger. O, to be human and in pursuit!! I am thankful He is so much stronger than I! In my mind’s eye, God lifted me from the heat of anger that had captured me and set me gently on a peak. There, the anger fell away – fell into oblivion. Only He remained. It was just the 2 of us. Freedom.

Lady Grace

Behold, who is that fair lady across the way?

What perfection have my eyes set upon!

Her form, the essence of elegance; her face, more beautiful than the brightest star.

So white. So pure. So lovely.

If only she would glance in my direction.

 

I wonder how she smells; how she might feel.

What I would give to be near her!

To taste the peace of her presence.

To know the safety and warmth of her bosom.

Oh, that she would bless me with her smile.

 

Like a swan she glides amidst the crowds.

See how she captures their attention; her very being scintillating.

How high this magnificent woman! From heaven she has surely fallen!

Here she does not belong. Sadness seeps into my spirit.

How dare I hope for her.

 

What could bring Exquisiteness to this vile place?

Surrounded by muck and grime, hawkers and the impoverished.

Yet, how white her dress remains as the dust swirls about.

What must she think as she beholds the unlovely around her?

May she never look upon me.

 

Yet, what do I observe! This cannot be!

She stoops to embrace those reaching for her.

Into their eyes she looks. No filth does she see.

With tender purpose, she offers herself to each one.

Her soft lips caress their bowed heads.

 

What is this?

What transformation is taking place before my eyes?

What power has this gentle woman?

How can she change what is unclean to clean?

Can this be? Is she looking at me?

 

She glides straight toward me.

I look around. Where can I go? Where can I hide?

Shame overtakes me and I kneel to hide my face.

Fear and trembling as she approaches.

“Forgive me, for I am unpresentable before you.”

 

Her fine fingers lift my chin and I see her face-to-face.

Those penetrating and beautiful eyes dissolve all fear and insecurity.

“I see you.”

What music her words! The song of freedom.

Comfort and hope envelop my fragile form.

 

She draws me to my feet and intimately close.

I feel the warmth of her breath; her lips upon my face.

All weight dispelled, I collapse into her embrace.

Rest.

I am washed.

 

“Fair Lady, Fair Lady, do not leave me,” I cry.

She softly whispers, “I am always available. Call upon me as you need.”

As she begins to move, I cry out again. “Fair Lady, Fair Lady, what be your name?”

She turns to me with a generous smile and mellifluously replies, “Grace.”

I fall to my knees in reverent joy for I have seen and now know the beauty of Lady Grace.

Morning Serenade

Awake, My child, My love.
I have sustained you through the night.
Look! The dawn is breaking and full of new mercies.
Sing and rejoice with Me for your life.
What joy I have in you!

Awake and bathe in My unfailing love.
Soak in it!
Let me shower you in My grace, O little one, and wrap you in My righteousness.
I have exchanged your rags for fine linens.
You are beautiful to Me!

Awake, apple of My eye, and behold what I have for you.
There is much I desire to give.
I offer you My strength and peace for the day.
My hand is open to you as the satisfier of all your needs; the answer to the desires of Your heart.
Seek Me. Ask Me. Depend on Me.

Awake to the fragrance of My love.
Draw near to Me.
Dwell in My safety.
Walk in the Light of My presence.
Dance in My freedom.

Awake! Rise!
Come to life!
I breathe My Spirit, the most intimate part of Me, into you.
I am with you, now and forever.
With long life I will satisfy you and show you My salvation!
Awake, My child, My love.

The Lover of My Soul

I have a Lover. From every mountaintop I will declare it. I have a Lover! I am a lover. I am loved and love.

We unite as only lovers can, simultaneously giving and receiving. My offering is meager compared to His, but He accepts me with such compassion. The softness of His eyes for me reveals it all. We are committed. Growing in union. He knows me and consumes me. I give Him everything. Nothing hidden.

All of our senses are caressed by the other: I, a fragrant aroma to Him; He, the Majesty before my eyes. Weak-kneed, His beauty overwhelms me. My spirit breathes deeply in His Presence and my entire body responds in worship. I fall to His feet in awe.

O to say aloud: my Beloved is mine and I am His. My unending desire. My prize. The reason I was made. How my soul longs for more of Him. What joy! What purpose I have! Love created me to love; to love Him, above all.

I have a Lover. He is the Lover of my soul. He knows my most intimate thoughts and all my ways. Past, present, and future. Fully known and fully loved. His grace washes over me. His love purifies and cleanses me. I am whole with the Lover of my soul.

What excites me most is the pleasure He takes in the love I offer. I am His lover! He calls me by name. He calls me in the nighttime and leads me to His refuge. He calls me when the sun is high and leads me to His well. My Beloved, who never leaves me, His desire is for me. I feel the warmth of His breath as He whispers, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, And there is no blemish in you.”

I have a Lover. My heart overflows. How can He love me? I can hardly believe He chose me! He wants me! I lift up my head and open the door to my heart and soul. I open the door to my Beloved knocking. Come in, O Radiant One. Come in, O King. Come in, O Lover of my soul. Remain with me. Help me remain with You, my greatest desire and satisfier of all my needs. I am Yours.

An Image of Worship

Standing.
Arms outstretched.
Awaiting Your Presence.
This is my expression of worship.

Head bowed.
Eyes closed.
I’m on my knees.
This is my posture of worship.

You caress all of my senses.
How can I stand?
I dare not move.
Consumed by the flame of Your glory.

Tears streaming.
Heart engaged.
Communion.
This is my offering of worship: all of me.