How to Know God – Part Two

Last week we began to explore the way that we can know God. If you haven’t read that post, you may want to click here and read that one first.
How do we know God?
know God
By obeying.
By doing what we see Him do, and this best by watching Jesus, by imitating Him.
This does not mean that we should spring immediately into action.
This is not the way that Jesus obeyed.
Be still
First, it means to be still.
Be still and know that I am God.
It means to go to the wilderness, to the lonely places, to get away and be alone with God.
in the wilderness
A lot.
Jesus spent much time alone with God before He did anything of importance.
Before beginning His ministry.
Before choosing the apostles.
Before the crucifixion.
alone with God
Don’t worry. Action will come.
Obedience does not only mean being still. There is much to be done to bring God’s kingdom to rule here on earth as it does in heaven.
But obedience first means to be still and know.
be still
Once you know what to do, then you begin the work of obeying.
You begin the practice of obeying. It, like anything, feels awkward at first. You continually go back to Jesus to figure out how to obey. You have to return again and again for specific instruction.
Yet slowly, over time, it feels more natural. You know more quickly what to do or what not to do. When to act and when to go back to being still.
Obedience becomes instinct.
I have used the image of a jazz musician before, but I will bring it back here again because it gives such a beautiful and concrete example of why this practice of obedience is so important.
obey like jazz
It shows us why obeying is what brings us to know God.
A jazz pianist, a really good one, knows his art intimately. It is a part of his spirit.
When he plays with a band, he knows what exists in the music. He knows the nature of the musical form, he knows the structure of the harmonics well enough to think quickly and compose something that fits in with the reality of the music.
It is so seamless it appears effortless.
This kind of perfection, however, is far from effortless. This kind of intimacy with the music does not come easily or quickly. It takes hours and days and months and years of practice.
This, too, is how we know God. By practicing the discipline of obeying for hours and days and months and years.
This is how we learn to know God. This is how we learn to know the way He created the nature of this life and this world well enough to know how to respond no matter what is happening around us.
This way of obedience leads to knowing God which leads to better obedience which leads to…
a beautiful circle.
A circle wherein we abide with our Father in peace and blessing.
abide
How do we know God?
By obeying Him.
There is no other way.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: Children at Prayer byAntoine Édouard Joseph Moulinet; Prayer by Mednyánszky László; Gethsemane by Carl Heinrich Bloch; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer

How to Know God – Part One

We all, every one of us, want to know God.
We want to know God
Whether we acknowledge or even realize it, knowing God is one of the deepest desires placed immovably into the heart of humanity.
It has been so since the beginning of time.
It is the reason behind the Fall.
We want to know God without having to obey
To know.
The tragedy behind Eve’s choice of disobedience is that God had already given her the way to know Him. He had already given her the way both to know Him and to stay with Him.
It is the same tragedy that lies behind every act of our own disobedience, when we believe that our way is better, that our shortcut is easier than God’s (admittedly, often longer and harder) way for us to know Him.
What is this way? This way both to know God and to remain with Him?
By obeying Him.
To obey him is the only way to be one with him. ~ George MacDonald
If you want to know the mind of God, do what He says.
Jesus' way of knowing God is through obedience
Jesus, who was the very image of God, knew the Father absolutely. He also obeyed the Father absolutely.
Jesus told the Jews that He can only do what He sees the Father doing.
Why? Because the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing.
The Father loves the Son. He wants Jesus to know Him and to know what He is doing.
The beautiful, astounding piece of this?
He loves all of His children in the same way.
Jesus affirms this when He prays that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
He wants us to know Him because He loves us.
He is not hiding from us. He is not playing games with us. He wants us to know Him.
How do we know Him?
By obeying.
By doing what we see Him do, and this best by watching Jesus, by imitating Him.
This does not mean, however, that we should spring immediately into action.
Will you join me next week as I ponder this idea a little more? I would love to explore with you about the way Jesus obeyed so that we can obey and know the Father in the same way.
I am grateful for you.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: Children at Prayer by Antoine Edouard Joseph Moulinet; Adam and Eve by Foster; Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Francesco Vanni

 

A Dry and Weary Land Where There Is no Water

We are living in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
dry and weary land
All around us are people who are dying of thirst.
In our neighborhoods.
In our workplaces.
In our schools.
We are in desperate need of springs of living water.
living water
One of the beautiful things about our God is the way He allows us to be the ones to bring His kingdom into being on this earth.
Perhaps allows is not a strong enough word.
Part of our calling, our mission, as Jesus followers is to proclaim God’s kingdom rule in every corner of the piece of earth in which He has placed us.
For me, this begins in my home.
I want every person who enters my home to experience the love and peace of Christ. I want the love and peace of Jesus to radiate out from our home. I want our home to be a sacred place that draws others to Him.
Space matters, whether that space is a sprawling farmhouse in the country or a tiny apartment in the city, and what we do with the space we are given matters.
Let Thy kingdom come, let Thy will be done, in my home as it is in heaven.
We are called to fill our spaces with truth, goodness, and beauty.
We are called to fill our spaces with water.
We who have chosen this God-life have been promised that the living water given to us will become springs of living water.
A spring is an opening in the surface of the ground where water from deep under the ground comes bubbling out.
This is what we are given and this is what we are called to.
We who will never be thirsty again, we who have been satisfied in our deepest places, we who have been filled up with Him,
we are not to hoard this gift.
We are to be springs, not stagnant ponds.
Our land is a desert land.
Our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our schools are all parched and dusty places.
We are surrounded by people who are in desperate search for a true water that can quench their thirst once and for all.
They need springs that are not stopped up but are flowing freely.
We do not need to fear running out, do not need to fear not having enough. Our spring will never run dry because it comes from a place that is deeper than ourselves.
We only must ourselves continue to drink from the source. We must continue to fill ourselves up so that we can continue to overflow.
We live in a dry and weary land, and God has asked us to water the desert.
watering the desert
He has made us into springs of water for this very purpose.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.
Art credits: photograph of Cleopatra spring of water in Siwa by Sara Nabih; photograph of mountain spring by Kirk Sewell; photograph of sand by Made Sacred

Nothing Is Wasted

What is the point?
What is the point of all that we do in this life?
work
labor
effort
service
striving
We struggle to become like Jesus, make a small gain and then fall right back into our old behavior.
We work to serve others, to love them and help them, only to have our service rejected and misunderstood.
We strive with all our being to live as a witness, a light, to those we love, yet no one will listen.
We labor to create beauty in our own little piece of the world, then watch it all descend back into chaos.
Why do we bother? Why should we continue to persevere when there is so little to show for our travail?
Take heart, dear one.
Nothing done for our Father is ever wasted.
Nothing.
nothing is wasted
Every choice made to do the right thing, every resistance of the wrong,
every kind word to a stranger, every meal cooked for a friend,
every flower planted, every toilet cleaned,
every word written, every note sung,
all of it is used by our King to bring His kingdom more fully to this earth.
God sees it all, the outward action and the inner thought, and none of it is wasted.
What is the point?
nothing is in vain
We pray for it every time we say the Lord’s Prayer: we pray that His name will be holy, that His kingdom will come, and that His will shall be done, and all of this to be done on earth exactly as it is done in heaven.
The point is heaven and earth becoming one, the whole of creation becoming new again, the point is nothing less than God Himself dwelling with His restored and remade people.
That is the point.
So do not be discouraged when you see no result from all of your effort. Do not lose hope when all seems for nothing.
Our Father has promised. Nothing that we do for Him will be wasted.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. ~ I Corinthians 15.58
Take courage and press on. The Holy Spirit is working within our most feeble efforts and will bring the most astounding beauty out of it all.
God brings beauty
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credit: all photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2020

I Need His Silence

Sometimes the silence is daunting.
silence
I sit and I sit and I sit and I wonder where God is.
I want the Voice, the delight, the spiritual moment, and when it is not there I wonder what went wrong.
Yet if I only experienced bliss, I might only trust in bliss. If I only experienced delight, I might only trust in delight.
I might never trust in the infallible character of God.
silence
It is easier to make a lot of noise.
It is easier to keep up a steady stream of words and song.
By filling my space with words it is easier to convince myself that all in my world is as it should be.
By making a lot of religious din we assure our faltering hearts that everything is well. ~ A. W. Tozer
The silence, therefore, however daunting, is necessary.
silence
I must be taught to rely on the Everlasting Father rather than on His comfort.
I must be taught to put my faith in the promise of His presence rather than on my experience of that presence.
I must be taught to trust in Christ the Rock regardless of any corroboration.
silence
I need to sit in the silence.
God often withdraws His inward comforts. Sometimes for long periods.
I need to sit in His silence. And be okay with it.
The silence is still daunting.
I sit and I sit and I sit and I know that He is here.
He is here
I will put my trust in Him.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: all photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2020

Deep Love in the Darkness

Deep love.
deep love
Deep love turning scumbag into son, derelict into daughter.
Deep love transforming stone into flesh, filth into snow.
It is beyond my comprehension, this love, a love that covers a thousand sins and yet refuses to leave me sinful.
It is a promise of restoration, this love, a hope of lasting joy, a covenant of the very Presence Himself.
deep love in the dark
What of the times I am fumbling through the dark? The times the pain engulfs my heart, the sorrow blinds my soul, the ugliness of this world threatens to destroy all that I hold dear?
What of the times when I, seemingly alone, cannot catch even the faintest whiff of Him?
It has happened before and it will happen again that I feel deserted.
Alone.
Forsaken.
My God, my God!
It brings to mind another cry. Another forsaking. Another time of searing loss as the Father turns His face away.
Yet this time it was not only a feeling but a truth. A forsaking for a time in order for me, for you, for us to never be truly forsaken.
deep love proven
Deep love that took Him to the cross.
Deep love that took my filth upon Himself, that felt the greatest of all absences so that the Father would never turn away from me.
Those times when I am fallen in the dark?
Deep love is still surrounding me, still transforming me, still giving me Himself.
I can trust in His deep love.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art Credits: When the King Came by George Hodges; photograph of wooden statue by Asta Kr

We Are Witnesses

We are witnesses.
Witnesses
Jesus declared it, and so it must be.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Not I would like for you to be my witnesses or even I command you to be my witnesses but you will be my witnesses.
We who claim to be Christ-followers, we who carry the very name of Christ, we are His witnesses.
Whether we like or not.
We might be good witnesses.
We might be bad witnesses.
But make no mistake, we are witnesses.
Do you see that verb?
To be
Not you will witness but you will be my witness.
Witnesses
It is a state of being. A way of life. A walking along the Way that communicates the Truth about Life.
You do, of course, have to have witnessed something in order to be a witness.
It is not enough only to have heard about God, we must have experienced Him in order to be a good witness.
‘It is one thing,’ said Henry Suso, ‘to hear for oneself a sweet lute, sweetly played, and quite another thing merely to hear about it.’ And it is one thing, we may add, to hear truth inwardly for one’s very self, and quite another thing merely to hear about it…One word from the lips of the man who has actually heard the lute play will have more effect than a score of sermons by the man who has only heard that it was played. ~ A. W. Tozer
Experience is always better than secondhand.
Witnesses
And what if you have never truly witnessed God, never experienced His Holy Spirit? Or what if it has simply been a very long time?
Go away. Find time, make time to get by yourself. Sit before Him in silence. Wait. Do this over and over, refusing to let go until He lets Himself be known.
It does not have to come in any dramatic way. It mostly, in fact, does not. He was not, after all, in the great wind or the earthquake or the fire.
Most often He comes in the stillness, in the quiet. He comes in the little, in the overlooked. He comes in the still, small voice.
Which is why we must be silent and alone regularly in order to experience Him.
Once you do, however, He will, slow and small change by slow and small change, transform you into the witness He wants you to be.
Whether you even realize it or not.

 

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: The Road to Emmaus by Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert; Jesus and the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus by Pieter Bruegel the Elder; The Road to Emmaus by Robert Zund

The Way Home to the Father

We are told to follow Jesus, to imitate Him as we live out our God-life here on earth.
We know this, and yet we find it all too easy to skim over the harder parts of His story.
washing feet
Some of the hardest parts to follow, at least for me, are the foot washing and the crucifixion. Yet these are two of the pieces that most embody Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Jesus spent much of His ministry telling the people around Him that His time had not yet come. Now it is the time of Passover and Jesus knew that His time had come. His time had come to leave this world and go to the Father.
What does He do first, now that His time has come? He washes the disciples feet. All of them. Even Judas.
serving
The Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Word who laid aside His glory in order to become a man now lays aside His clothes of fabric in order to wash feet.
He does not wash our feet despite the fact that He is God, but because He is God. This is how He shows us the Father.
This footwashing points us toward the cross, toward the moment when Jesus reveals the depths of the Father’s heart for us. This is who God is: the One who lays down His very life, first in service and then in giving it up completely through death, for His beloved creation.
These events, the footwashing and the crucifixion, are the events that lead Jesus to His time of going to the Father.
They are the events which form the ladder from this world to the Father’s world. They are the acted words the eternal Word must speak. They are the way home that the Son of God must take. ~ N. T. Wright
Why do we think that we can find a different way home to the Father?
deny self
Jesus says, after He has finished washing the feet of the disciples, that He has laid out a pattern for them to follow.
This is so hard. We are so proud and selfish. We proclaim Jesus as Lord and really mean that we have taken up His mantle of lordship within our little piece of the world. We want to rule and to push the serving bit off to the side.
This, however, is not following the pattern Jesus set for us. This is not imitating Him.
Instead, we, too, must lay aside our clothes, our clothes of pride and selfishness, and wash the feet of those given into our care, as the disciples were given into the care of Jesus.
We, too, must lay aside our lives, picking up our cross and dying to ourselves, for those the Father loves.
dying to ourselves
This is our way home to the Father.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: The Washing of the Feet by James Tissot; Jesus Washing the Feet of Peter by Sudharkarbira; Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Francesco Vanni; Jesus Washing the Feet of His Disciples by Albert Edelfelt

Run Like the White Queen

It is so much easier to be a sinner than a saint.
Easier to give in, go along, look to the now.
The world’s goal is easy to see, culture’s race is short to run, while the race set out for us by our Rescuer seems so clouded with uncertainty, so far away from where we are now.
Alice_queen2
Progress in evil was quick and easy…The growth in goodness was so slow, at times so flat, so dull, and like the White Queen one had to run so fast to stay where one was, let alone progress; and there were few men who dared to say they had found God. ~ Elizabeth Goudge
I become so discouraged with my progress. I practice silence for months and find myself just as distracted as in the beginning. I practice gentleness with my children and find myself spewing anger yet again. I practice restraining my tongue with my husband and find myself opening my mouth without even thinking.
Will I ever see fruit come to bear in my life?
Will any of us ever bear the kind of fruit we were created to bear?
Yes. Even when we feel as though we are moving backward, even when we despair of ever getting it right, yes.
How do I know?
God promised.
He promised that He would complete this work begun in us. He promised that He would restore us to the way we were created to be. He promised to remake us into the image of His Son.
We only have to wait and hope.
Hope for what is promised, hope for what will be.
We must discipline ourselves to hope when our lives seem hopeless. We must discipline ourselves to trust that what is promised will be fulfilled. We must discipline ourselves never to despair but to cling to Truth and Love.
Our perfection has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the trustworthiness of the One who loves and is able to keep His promises.
His hands gripping the sides of the stall, he pronounced in words his belief that even for such as he, if he could endure to the end, eventual perfection was not only possible but certain through the grace of God, his conviction that despair was sin. The prayer of words was all he had now. The discipline of words must hold him up until the desert was crossed and the Seraph could sing again. ~ Elizabeth Goudge
Be still and endure. Discipline yourself to hope.
The Seraph will sing again.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art Credit: Alice and the Queen by John Tenniel

Hunger

I hunger for You
Hunger
Hunger
or, perhaps,
I want to hunger for You.
If only I could catch a glimpse.
Hunger
Hunger
I don’t ask for much.
I don’t place myself at the level of Moses,
do not request the sight of Your back.
Only a glimpse of Your heel,
the hem of Your robe,
perhaps.
Would that stir my heart toward hunger?
Would a glimpse whet my appetite for You?
Only for a shining moment, I fear.
Hunger
I know myself, know how quick I am to distraction.
I often catch a glimpse of Your glory.
Morning light catching dew.
Pudgy hands serving a sibling.
Symphony chorus sounding in the twilight.
I often catch a glimpse, yet
I am quick to dismiss the glimpse for the fully seen.
Hunger
Only You can make me hunger.
Only You can create new longing.
Only You can bring my desire to match my need.
Make me hunger for You
Hunger
Hunger
so that I am awake to each glimpse
and drawn to hunger yet more.

 

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

All photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019