I was given a journal for Christmas from my dear friend Sonja. On the front it says: “She climbed until she saw.” This became part of my prayer for 2016 – that I wouldn’t settle or get comfortable, but I would keep climbing. Then I read Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, and this journal has become home to my daily listing of God’s gifts all around me… big things, little details, gifts in nature, material things… anything I’m thankful to God for. Here are some examples:
#5. My new vacuum, and that new vacuum smell
#74. Jackson, my 5 year old, cheerfully serving breakfast, and saying to Ava, my 2 year old – “Here you go, sweet thing”
#124. Every sock had its match in the laundry (which is a real feat for a family of 6!)
#221. Gorgeous sunset – shades of gold and light blue
One of my favorites is still #35. He tied it all together – the journal, the prayer, my thousand gifts – when He gave me the verse Hebrews 11:27 – “[Moses] persevered because he saw Him who was invisible.”
“She climbed until she saw.” I want to persevere until I see Him – God.
In his book, God Came Near, Max Lucado wrote: “Humans were never meant to dwell in the stale fog of the lowlands with no vision of their Creator. That’s why God came near. To be seen. And that’s why those who saw him were never the same. ‘We saw his glory’ exclaimed one follower. ‘We were eyewitnesses of his majesty,” whispered a martyr. They saw the peak. They breathed the fresh air of the high country. They caught a glimpse of the pinnacle. And they refused to quit climbing until they reached the top. They wanted to see Jesus.”
At our Women’s Bible Study, we started Margaret Feinberg’s “Wonderstruck” study. We’re two weeks in and it’s been an amazing journey so far! I love how God has been laying the foundation and preparing my heart in the last few months to get me ready to live wonderstruck. Margaret is calling us to see Jesus, to look for God in our everyday lives, to awake to wonder, to be aware and alert. This morning we sang Bryan & Katie Torwalt’s song “Holy Spirit”… the bridge is my favorite: “Let us become more aware of Your Presence… let us experience the glory of Your goodness…”
Last week we learned about “The Wonder of Divine Expectation,” having that childlike anticipation, that childlike faith. Today, I got to help introduce “The Wonder of God’s Presence.” Here are some aspects of His Presence that He put on my heart to share…
In Genesis, we learn that man was created for relationship. Man was meant to be with God in the garden, to dwell in His presence. To be loved by God, to love God. The master plan – before sin entered the picture – was to live with Him forever in paradise. Praise God that before creation, He already had another way in mind to make that plan still happen. (“This was God’s plan which He had made long ago; He knew all this would happen.” – Acts 2:23 NCV) And praise God that while we wait for Jesus to return, we have access to God’s presence.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” – Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)
We live in a broken, decaying world. But God has each one of us right where He wants us. He longs for us to seek Him, to reach out for Him and find Him – He is not too far from any of us! In Him we live and move and have our being.
“Of Benjamin he said, ‘May the beloved of the Lord dwell in security by Him, who shields him all the day, and he dwells between His shoulders.'” – Deuteronomy 33:12 (NASB)
The word for “dwell” in the Hebrew is shakan (H7931), and it means: “settle down, abide, dwell, tabernacle, reside, establish, to lay, place, set, settle, fix.” As His beloved children, we get to settle down and reside in Him, finding our security in the One who shields us all day. We can abide and establish ourselves in His loving arms, between His shoulders, right next to His heart. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be!
“Your anointing has made me strong and mighty. You’ve empowered my life for triumph by pouring fresh oil over me! … Yes! Look how you’ve made all your lovers to flourish like palm trees, each one growing in victory, standing with strength! You’ve transplanted them into your heavenly courtyard where they are thriving before you. For in your presence they will still overflow and be anointed. Even in their old age they will stay fresh, bearing luscious fruit and abiding faithful. Listen to them! With pleasure they still proclaim ‘You’re so good! You’re my beautiful strength! You’ve never made a mistake with me!’” – Psalm 92:10,12-15 (tPt)
One facet of the wonder of His presence is the exchange that takes place when we’re with Him, all because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. In God’s presence, we can exchange our ashes for beauty, sorrow for joy, lies for truth, trouble for peace, death for life, darkness for light, rejection for love. In His presence, I find all I need. He alone can satisfy those empty spaces in my soul.
“Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord’s wrap-around presence surrounds His people, protecting them now and forever.” – Psalm 125:2 (tPt)
“Yes, all his lovers who bow before Him, trust in the Lord. For He is our only true Hero, God-wrapped-around-us as our Shield! The Lord will never forget us in our need; He will bless us indeed!” Psalm 115:11-12 (tPt)
His presence – His wrap-around presence… it’s like a fluffy, oversized, fresh-out-of-the-dryer blanket. His wrap-around presence brings love, joy, peace, protection, comfort, truth, and so much more. And how wonderful is His faithfulness – He never forgets us in our need.
I’ve been awed this week by the invitations we’re given throughout Scripture to come into His presence.
“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” – James 4:8 (NIV)
Draw near, approach Him, join yourself to Him… and He will draw near, approach you, and join Himself to you.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.” – Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV)
The invitation to come – it doesn’t expire, isn’t revoked, never void.
Jon and I were on a 9 mile run a couple weekends ago, and it was raining. As I was running on a dry patch of pavement, I watched our footprints fading. I jumped back in the rain, getting my feet wet again, only to see them fade again as soon as I ran on more dry ground. I felt like God was showing me that when I’m on my own, in the world, the fruit of having been in His presence only lasts so long. I’ve gotta jump back into the Living Water! I’ve gotta spend time soaking in His presence.
Despite my circumstances, or how I’m feeling, I can encounter God and enter in to His presence. I can go deeper. I can jump in. I can take one more step forward, toward the throne, whether it be a baby step or a giant leap. What works for one person may not work for the next. Our schedules vary, we’re in different seasons of life, and that’s okay.
Dallas Willard once said, “Arrange your days so that you experience total contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God.” God is faithful; He will come near. We need to arrange our days in order to see Him, in order to encounter His presence.
At the start of this year, I began a daily discipline of spending time with God. I was able to make some changes in my schedule to find a time that consistently works for me. But what started out as duty has become devotion, and is quickly moving to a place of desperation. When I don’t spend my quiet time with the Lord, I can feel it affecting every other area of my life. I look forward to my daughter’s naptime everyday so that I can read the Word, journal in prayer, and just be with my Heavenly Father.
Brother Lawrence said “that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God’s presence by continually conversing with Him.” This reminds me of the call in Scripture to pray without ceasing… If prayer is talking to and listening to God, let us continually be in conversation with Him. I don’t want to attempt to box God and say He can only show up during Ava’s naptime – I want to be constantly aware, talking to Him, listening, returning to my first love as many times as I need to during the day, looking for Him, drawing near, and enjoying my everyday life with Him.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” – Psalm 73:23-28 (NIV)
In 40 Days of Decrease, Dr. Alicia Britt Chole wrote, “We know that Jesus’ presence is valuable to us, but we rarely consider the possibility that our presence is valuable to Him. Today, reflect upon this concept of Jesus treasuring your companionship.”
Therein lies the wonder! He doesn’t need me, though I need Him. He wants me. He desires me. He longs for me, to be with me. Why? Because He loves me. I was made for relationship with Him and I was made in His image. Jesus treasures my companionship. He treasures me. He doesn’t ask me to be perfect; He asks me to be present… here in this moment with Him… To let go of the desire to have it all together and joyfully find Him in the midst of this beautiful mess called life.
I want to leave you with one more excerpt from Max Lucado’s God Came Near: “We wonder, with so many miraculous testimonies around us, how we could escape God. But somehow we do. We live in an art gallery of divine creativity and yet are content to gaze only at the carpet… Would you like to see Jesus? Do you dare be an eyewitness of His Majesty? Then rediscover amazement. The next time you hear a baby laugh or see an ocean wave, take note. Pause and listen as His majesty whispers ever so gently, ‘I’m here.’”
He is here. He is all around us. May we fully awake to the wonder of His Presence.
This week’s song suggestions: