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.

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.

The Justice of God

Who can comprehend the justice of God?
Mere flesh, finite, fallen?
No, not I.
I cannot fathom it.

For the justice of God is Holy.
True. Right.
Beyond this world.
Beyond our understanding.

Did He not say,
He longs to be gracious,
And waits on high to have compassion
For the Lord is a God of justice?

Justice for who? I sometimes ask.
How short humanity falls,
Demanding what we refuse to give.
Meting out judgment without fear of the Lord.

I do not understand the justice of God.
The pain and hurt of a broken world confuse me.
Though I confess, the lens of my humanity is limited.
Great Judge, when will Your justice be upheld?

You hear our cries from Your Holy Temple.
Our tears you hold in Your Hand.
O Lord, how I have cried.
Illumine my darkness!

Arise, O God of Compassion.
Do not forget the afflicted, the oppressed,
The widow and the orphan.
The broken and the bruised.

One thing is certain, my King.
You are righteous.
You see all. Nothing is hidden.
Everything is laid bare before you.

Alas, my soul looks up to hope.
For a second thing is certain.
One day, we all will know and face what we cannot own.
The Justice of God.

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.

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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.