A God Who Beckons

In Revelation, scripture says that God is knocking on our doors, and if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with them. But my insides, well, they're all tied up in doubt and grief knots. I wonder if the Lord delights in the inner workings of my heart and my thoughts. Am I creating the kind of dwelling place that my Creator would desire to inhabit? The world can be such a grim place, and sometimes I forget trust. I search for security in places that it cannot be found. All the while, He is inviting me into the residence of His goodness. Isaiah says He reaches for me all day long. In spite of my mess, in spite of my waywardness. He longs to commune with me.

Sometimes I forget that I am known -- that He is wholeheartedly in favor of me. Believing is sometimes a moment by moment battle, but each of these moments is an invitation to trust. Each moment stretches my heart farther than I thought it could go.

And sometimes, the stretching is painful. It pushes me out of my complacency, pulls me out of my good and fine and comfortable and into the messy and hard and genuine; the grace that is at the end of myself and beyond.

Each of those moments is an invitation to become more like Christ. More like the redeemer of everything it means to be human.

Perhaps I must turn down my noise in order to really hear the knock. The choice to be still is not always readily made, but that is the invitation: to open my heart to His reaching arms, and allow Him to bring peace.

Because to know that there's nothing I can do to make Him love me more? That can sometimes be a bit anxiety inducing. But flipped, it is also the most freedom giving. To rest at His feet, and simply be.

The Testimony of Creation

Donald Miller once wrote "all the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried." I can't tell you how much time has passed since I first read those words, but I can tell you that they still leave me in a mixed state of awestruck and convicted. I keep coming back to them.

I have always loved Autumn. Nothing quite compares to the way blue sky stretches to meet crinkly mustard and burnt sienna, and the swaying motion of crisp terra cotta as it dives towards the ground. Its all incredibly beautiful, but there is a much darker side: creeping death is at work. Soon, the trees will be skeletons, shivering in biting gray wind.

The earth is unafraid of what is about to take place. She does not struggle to maintain her grip.

Oh, how I have been afraid, and struggled to maintain my grip.

In the opening chapter of Romans, Paul tells the church at Rome that there is no excuse for not knowing God, when His glory can be found everywhere. By taking a look around us, His divine presence should be evident enough.

Christ tells us to consider the birds, how they don't sow or reap or gather, and yet the Lord sustains them. Will He not provide for us, His children, in the same way? And look at the lilies, they don't toil or spin, and yet they are dressed more beautifully than even the richest of kings. Simple grass, here today and gone tomorrow. How much more does Father God care for us? He knows what we need, and longs to be gracious.

Donald continues, "teach us what the flowers already know: that we'll live and die, and You'll clothe us -- all for your glory."

Eyes brim as I recall in scripture where it says that He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.  Even when I'm falling, even when it seems like I have been forgotten and all hope seems lost. Even when the pain of winter is so bitter, and springtime seems so far away. He is holding me together.

Is this not reason enough to praise?

Christ said that if we cease praising, the very rocks will cry out.

This is the testimony of creation: that we don't have to worry about what may come tomorrow. Creation testifies to the heart of the Creator.

A friend tweets "Study God as Creator, because if He made you, then He can keep you, and if He can keep you, then He can always reach you. He's strong enough to love you."

God as Creator: His name literally means “the sound of breathing.” He spoke, breathed His life image into the world and all that is went through the process of becoming. He spoke perfection: once broken, but never beyond His reach. The Word became flesh, but even his own failed to recognize him, and how often do I err in the same way? How frequently do I go through my days without realizing the evidence of a grace-torn curtain, His glory unleashed?

Christ, entirely familiar with my afflictions, and yet without sin. He took my punishment. How could that be insufficient? And how much does He, who went to the ends of the earth to save once and for all, desire to bless with all things?

Knowing this, receiving it, is how we begin to live a life like the lilies, a life that wholly recognizes the sovereignty of God. The lilies live open, stretched upward, as though to say that they are ready to receive the grace.

He’s holding me together, in His love and mercy. He knows what I need before I ask. Nothing that happens here catches Him off guard — and all those nagging “what ifs” and all the creeping, crippling fear have no place when we rest in His presence, when we listen to the truth that He is speaking over us: that we are always loved, always within reach.

Coming to the AltarLinking up with The Nester and a host of other amazing bloggers for {31 Days}Returning to some words written last month in When Fear Throws Pebbles...

A Life Spent Creating

“Art, really, is never about applause. It is about coming to an altar. Its about laying it down for God to choose what He does with it.” -- Ann Voskamp

From the time we are small, we are creative. We build architectural masterpieces with blocks and paint Starry Nights and Mona Lisa’s with our fingers. We’re born that way, with ingenuity and interest. We come into the world with the desire to study everything from the minute to the majestic, all things bright and beautiful. We grow up to affect culture. And this intrinsic curiosity is no accident. When the Godhead spoke of our existence, they said “let us make man in our image,” meaning that we were fashioned to take on the very form of the divine Creative.  This desire to make and craft and build dates back to the beginning of time, and its purpose is to draw us to the Source of our being.

In the beginning, our creativity was solely inspired by God. But the slithering, hissing serpent had something to say about that, and after the Fall, our entire motivation shifted from bringing glory to the Lord to bringing glory to ourselves. Satan knew that if he could succeed at controlling how we view ourselves, he would find a way to destroy everything.

Whether we choose to believe it about ourselves or not, our lives are still very much about art: a lover’s knowing glance, singing our babies to sleep, creating and presenting business proposals, excelling in sports, decorating a space, cooking the perfect eggplant parmesan.  Every moment of our lives, our very day to day, is art. Which means every moment is an opportunity to meet God, and bring Him glory.

Having grown up in church, I thought I was fairly familiar with the concept of altars. I had heard the stories, at least. In the Old Testament, the Israelites built altars on which to sacrifice the best of their livestock in order to atone for their sins. Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac, the son he had longed for, and at the last moment, the Lord provided a lamb to be bled out in his place. Elijah, proving to the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel that Yahweh was the one true God, and so on. Even if you have no experience with the church whatsoever, it is likely that you’ve at least heard of these stories. As such, they’re all well and good. But as my faith grew, I began to wonder how altars translated to my life, much removed from the times written about in scripture. How does this tower of stones, however metaphorical now, grow a faith and a relationship with Christ? Moreover, how can altar building be practiced in the middle of the seemingly mundane everyday?

I don’t have to tell you that life is often messy, chaotic, and sometimes painful. Surely, there are moments when we doubt if we have the strength to make it another day. But I believe that if we come to understand the altar, we can discover a life of peace and joy and gratitude and security.

For as long as I can remember, even before I realized what was happening, words have been my personal, primary way to meet with the Lord. Before I truly grasped that God could be encountered outside the four walls of a church, and that faith was far more expansive than what song or sermon could contain, I knew words. I journaled throughout middle and high school, and began blogging with intent in college. Words were my source of comfort in trying times, and I found that they were also a means of connecting with the people around me. And I've found that as my faith has deepened, so has my capacity for expression.

The primary definition of the altar has always been the place at which we encounter God. I pray that as you read these chapters, you would discover your own ground on which to meet with the Lord, and not only that you begin to see the art of your life, but that you fall in love with the Artist whose image you bear.

Coming to the AltarLinking up with The Nester and a host of other amazing bloggers for {31 Days}.