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

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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.

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.”

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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.

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?