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.

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.

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.

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.

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.