Choosing intimacy

December seems to be the month of relaxation. Christmas time can be hard for many, due to absent loved ones, but overall the season is one where people relax. Work slows down. School is out. Beaches (in the Southern Hemisphere) are full. This year we noticed that it was also a season where many people seem to take a spiritual holiday. I found this an interesting observation, given it is meant to be when we remember Emmanuel, God come down to be with us.

This year, I realised that I was amongst the spiritual vacation-ists. I certainly spent plenty of time reflecting on what Christ did for us, and had fun starting to teach my toddler about Christ’s birth, the Word made flesh. Yet, as church activities wound down for the year and many of our congregation went away to their family homes, I noticed that my form of relaxation also took me away from intimacy with my Father. I reflected on the story, but didn’t engage with our God, the centre of the story! It was easier to enter my usual form of escapism – reading fiction. (Perhaps, for you, it is social events, computer games, beach time, cooking, . . .).

Book worm disengaging

Now, don’t get me wrong, reading wholesome novels in itself is not bad. The fault lay in that I became completely absorbed in them, taking all my free time (not much with a toddler!); there was no time left for conversing with my Father. I put myself before God. I didn’t trust Him to fill up my cup, which was feeling mighty empty at year’s end.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11).

The Spirit started prompting me. He started gently reminding me of my need for time with Him. My soul cried out for more time in His presence.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)

It is easy to ignore the Spirit’s nudge and choose not to return to a place of intimacy with God. It takes effort to engage in any relationship; effort I didn’t feel I had the strength for. I hope that if you are feeling similar promptings that you will prick up your ears at this point. Thankfully this time I am choosing to heed the gentle nudge. If you’re in a similar place, thinking it easier to put it aside for “tomorrow”: don’t. We need God daily. We need to interact with Him daily. He is our daily bread. He is our sustenance.

Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11).

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:35-36).

Choosing to submerge yourself again into a deep relationship with God can seem tiring. It is tempting to continue to pursue your escapes – whether wholesome or worldly – but they will not satisfy. God is the One who satisfies the longings of our souls.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:5).

More satisfying than rich food

So, as this new year starts, choose to renew your relationship with God. Choose to make time to sit and dwell in the presence of the Almighty. Seek Him. Meditate on His Word. Sing songs of praise. Intercede for family. Listen to His wisdom for your work, family, finances, free time. Enagage in Bible study. Listen to Bible teachings. Allow Him to mould your character into that of Christ.

when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  (Psalm 63:6-8).

Yes, it will take discipline of mind and body, but this is part of being a child of God. Self-control appears repeatedly in the epistles as a fruit of the Spirit, and a part of a godly life (1 Cor 9:25, Gal 5:23, 1 Tim 2:9, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 1:7, 2 Tim 3:3, 2 Pet 1:6). Proverbs sums up the alternative, what we’re like if we choose to live an undisciplined life:

Like a city with breached walls is a man without self-control. (Proverbs 25:28; ISV*)

It takes discipline to cut off the areas in our life that hold us back from intimacy with God. Do you have such self-control? Do you think God worth pursuing? Cut off what holds you back and enter into the presence of the King of kings. Make a commitment to escape into daily times of intimacy with God and enjoy the rewards. 

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:2-5).

 

*Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version® Release 2.0. Copyright © 1996-2010 by the ISV Foundation. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY.

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Intimacy rekindled

New Year’s Eve is often a time of reflection. I try to take it as a time to reflect on all God brought me through during the year and to pray into the next one. This year has been another busy one (Does life continue to get busier every year? I’m telling myself it will start reversing speed once I pass the mother-of-toddler-years . . .). It seems appropriate that God would speak to me from Luke 5:16 as this busy year concludes. This past week God has reminded me of the most important part of our life: intimacy with Him! Jesus modelled this to us:

But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. (Luke 5:15-16)

The world is becoming a busier place, with more distractions than ever. God had me give up Facbook the past three months and I’m not sure that I want to go back onto it in the new year, and this is just one example of (what can be) a glorious time waster in my life. The world likes to distract us from God, yet He is the most important part of our daily life.  He should be our most treasured relationship, and the most pursued one.

As the new year begins, He is reminding me to find the desolate places in my world to which I can run away and pray. My current “desolate places” are early morning before workers arrive (our house is being transformed into a mission station, so lots of noisy renovations!), toddler nap time, and late evening. In the past, it has been a favourite walking track, quiet forest spot, and evening journalling sessions. We are all different; God is an intimate God. Where are your desolate places? Do you go out to the desolate places to pray? Do you find the quiet places you can listen to Him?

In the new year, my heart’s desire is to do all that the Father tells me, doing nothing of my own accord. This can only be achieved through intimacy, and constant time in His presence, both talking and listening to Him.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. (John 5:19)

I also have had certain flaws in my character highlighted (don’t we all!) where I pray for growth. Again, this can only be achieved by time in His presence. We usually take on the characteristics of who we spend the most time with. Spending time with Jesus, in prayer and His Word, is how we will be transformed into His likeness.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17).

This new year, withdraw to the desolate places, and pray!

Where is your desolate place?

 

Don’t miss the Mary moments

You may have noticed that my blogging is rather inconsistent. This is partly due to what I’m learning and when, partly to what level of creative inspiration I have to write and partly to the amount of time available to write. Recently I’ve been posting nearly weekly because God is teaching me, and reminding me of prior lessons, constantly (& breastfeeding provides plenty of sedentary time to sit at a computer). Welcome to parenthood, Shannon!

But then it changed. Then I got busy.

We’re about to move house as well as put ours up for rent. It feels like every waking moment is either spent preparing, or thinking about the preparations. Busy, busy, busy!

So busy that I stopped pausing to stare at my son. So busy that I fore went day time naps. So busy I couldn’t hear my Father’s voice. Lessons from God ended and I got tired and stressed. Then God whispered of forgotten times sitting at Christ’s feet in peaceful soul-bliss. I read Luke 10:38-42 and was reminded not to miss the Mary moments of life:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 
But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Life gets busy. Demands are placed on our time. Things have to get done. But don’t forego Mary moments for anything.

God knows your life. Prioritise intimacy with Him and you’ll find that the important tasks get completed whilst the unnecessary fillers in your life drop away.

Choose intimacy. Recognise and make time for the Mary moments.

Lesson to be applied now – I’m turning the computer off to stare at my little miracle as he sleeps in my arms. What a blessing God has given to me.

Turn off distractions. Forget the mess. Sit at His feet and listen.

Finding the quiet place

Every season has its unique rhythm, but in all of them it is important to find a quiet place to come before Abba Father. If we are to have peace in chaos, comfort in grief, relief in hardship or encouragement in strife then we need to find that quiet place to come before His throne and hear His voice.

Some seasons give space to physically get away from the noise, just as Jesus did:

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone (Matthew 14:23)

I love these seasons where solitude is easy to find. My favourite times of quiet with God are when I can be alone with Him in nature – times of beach walks, sitting beside rivers, lying outside looking at the stars . . . glorious! But these times can be rare. I’ve learnt that I have to find a comfortable way to connect with God amidst life.

Out and about in nature
Photo credit to my talented mother!

Did you notice that I said a comfortable way? I wish I had the discipline to give up that hour of sleep for prayer, or was motivated to get out for a solo run at the end of a busy day. If that’s you, then that’s great! If it’s not, then like me you need to find another quiet space. And remember that what suits one season might not suit another.

For me, in this season, my quiet space has shifted from interceding during night time feeds to time in the Word and in prayer at day break when my little man awakes. Before his birth my quiet space was in bed at night with light from the stars shining in. These times felt natural and easy. They were places in the midst of life that I was able to tune out the clutter and focus on my King.

Of course we should be connecting into the Father throughout the day, too. I’m just talking about those times we set aside to refuel in the presence of God. We must be intentional to find a comfortable, quiet space to meet with our heavenly Father.

I know it can sometimes take time to find that special place from one season to the next and you can begin to wonder why you no longer feel like you’re in a place of intimacy. Are you still wrestling to find that quiet place? Take heart from Psalm 139:1-18 whilst you search.  He knows that your heart and thoughts are for Him, even if you’re not feeling connected:

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.