Entering the Dialogue

Pray Without Ceasing (ETD – Pt. 9)

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One of the glorious aspects of being an eternal being, secure in my destiny, is that the process of discovery never ends. So while I am in awe every time I’m in any way illuminated to some truth, I have an expectation that there awaits another equally amazing truth, one layer beneath.

I have been thoroughly and wonderfully caught up, meditating on what it means to live my life in the company of God. A transformation has and is taking place where old language is discarded and new language has taken up residence, giving voice to fresh views of “prayer.”

When I draw into the company of God; when I enter the dialogue with Him, I come home. I “do” the whole of my life from that fourth chair, under His sway, in His council, within His stronghold of safety and sanctuary. That place of connectedness utterly transforms every encounter of every day for the whole of my life. The fellowship I have with God thoroughly influences thoughts, actions, intent, emotions, countenance… For me, this is the fullness of what it means to pray. In this scenario, I can and do pray without ceasing.

My experience of being with God intensifies over time. Intimacy deepens. I find I’m freer for Him to move through me because the impediments I erect are fewer. There is a flow of dialogue that I experience very naturally with Him as the moments of any given day unfold. There is an ease to living life “real time” that I have never experienced before, and it’s not because anything is less complex or challenging.

The energy I was accustomed to expending to push against God’s lead, is redirected so that I am actually working in tandem with Him. I’m in “the yoke,” traversing impossible plains, because He is in the weight bearing position, His power coming to bear. In this way, there is no such thing as an impediment. Wherever God would lead, we are able to go.

Exhale.

Striving… that sense of trying to push an impossible weight uphill, disappears. I find I experience a different kind of “tired” these days. Tired used to be weariness, as much from a futile expenditure of precious energy, as it was from truly being in sync with God, working in cooperation with Him. The difference is peace, an inward settledness. Now when I feel a lack of peace it stands in stark contrast to a “new normal.”

There are many ways to talk about prayer. There are many facets to how we communicate with The Triune God, and I am in awe of the breadth of the lay of this land. It’s a huge conversation, which turns out to be a great thing as I sit in God’s company. We have an eternity to talk it through.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
~ Psalm 42:8 ~

Four Chairs

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The Concession of My Will (ETD – Pt. 8)

Submission
The Concession of My Will ~ Submission

There is a load of rich Biblical history depicting tenacious men and women beseeching God for what they wanted. Abraham respectfully yet repeatedly spoke with the Lord with regards to the destruction of Sodom. Jacob wrestled for a blessing. Hannah pleaded for a son. The Apostle Paul wanted relief from his “thorn in the flesh.” And Jesus asked, three times no less, that the task set before Him be removed.

Peter had it right when he confessed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Similarly, the Children of Israel were experts at going right to the Source with praise, complaints, requests and gratitude. While the details of their prayers may have been sketchy at times, they almost never mis-directed those prayers. They knew who God was. They knew Who could deliver. Where else were they going to go?

These last few posts have traced a sequence of thought about the posture of my heart as I enter the dialogue and occupy the fourth chair. Humility reveals an understanding of Whose company I am in. Honesty is present so that meaningful dialogue is possible. Then, as my requests are made known, there is an accompanying abdication of control, so that God might conform my desires to reflect His. I concede my will to His. I submit.

Does that mean I stop asking for what I want? I believe it’s actually critical that I keep being brutally honest about my desires. Unless and until it’s spoken, how can I come to know the quality of those requests? How can God teach me if I won’t speak the things that are deep in my soul? Submissiveness is essential, but tenacity as I keep honestly confessing my deepest desires, is far from discouraged. Jews call it chutzpa and consider it a virtue!

God states unequivocally, “My ways are not your ways, and your thoughts are not my thoughts.” This truth cannot be overstated. At the same time, as I grow in relationship with the Living God, there is a progression of internal development where my thoughts are being conformed to His. As I’m transformed into the likeness of His Son, my thoughts and desires are progressively transformed. It’s one and the same.

Sitting in the fourth chair, I speak my heart and my mind. I listen to His response. I submit to His answer, remembering He is all-knowing and all-wise. I am secure in His love for me, sure that all He does is for my good. I’m grateful that He makes space for this kind of exchange; hopeful that I am in fact, in the process of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, so that the prayer of my heart; my deepest prayer would become, Have Your way, Lord.

Make me to know your ways,
O Lord; teach me your paths.
~ Psalm 25:4 ~

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
~ Psalm 119:37 ~

My son, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways.
~ Proverbs 23:26 ~

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The Confessions of My Mouth (ETD – Pt. 7)

Honesty
The Confessions of My Mouth ~ Honesty

Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also

from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
~ Psalm 19:12-13 ~

As I consider being in the fourth chair, the subject of honesty turns out to be a multi layered conversation. On the surface and under the umbrella of humility (ETD Pt. 6), honesty is an obvious central component of healthy, life-giving dialogue. Until it shows up, I sit in virtual darkness, unable to converse about the contents of life, either because I won’t or cannot see. It’s hard to have a genuine conversation with someone you aren’t honest with.

There are generally two ways to be dishonest. I can choose to willfully lie by speaking something untrue. I can also lie by willfully omitting truth, deceiving someone. That’s the obvious top layer of how NOT to be honest.

However, there is a deeper layer to the subject that’s key as I enter the dialogue, because truth be known, no person alive understands the whole of what lies within them. There are aspects of who I am that remain hidden from me, that I truly cannot see. But in the company of The Triune God, I am fully known. As I sit with Him, there is opportunity for me to be enlightened to those dark places. In the meantime, an inability to be honest within those areas remains. That’s a very important thing to remember as I sit in the fourth chair.

How can I own a thing I do not see? How can I specifically offer an area of myself to the Lord that I do not know exists? King David set a precedent for this by asking God: “keep me from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me.” Evidently, he considered himself vulnerable to what he did not know about himself. A wise soul keeps that close to the fore of their mind.

The idea is, I submit to God what I don’t yet know, just as I submit what I do know. Within what is yet to be revealed are most certainly snares that would want to bind me. But it’s just as likely there is undiscovered treasure to be found. God, in the fullness of time, illuminates dark places. My response to that illumination is to offer those “discoveries” to Him (snares and treasures alike), to shape and mold and conform into the image of Jesus.

I grow in honesty to the degree that I am given a more comprehensive lens into the content of my heart. That is a Spirit work. It happens within the dialogue as I humble myself, allowing God to have His way.

Who cares about the things that remain unknown? Why does that under layer of honesty matter as I enter the dialogue? Because the more God reveals about the full breadth of what lives within me, the more I am able to come to Him with the full breadth of who I am. He asks for all of me. ALL… body, mind, heart and soul.

“You are acquainted with all my ways.”
~ Psalm 139:3 ~

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The Posture of My Heart (ETD – Pt. 6)

Humble
The Posture of My Heart ~ Humility

 

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
~ Psalm 61:1 ~

~

When I draw into the dialogue, a powerful thing happens as I purpose to remember where I come, and Who I come to. For whatever reason, the remembering of these things is part of how God is teaching me to be in His presence. Attitude and perspective are vital components in effective dialogue (where God has His way).

In case I have any delusions that the attitude of my heart doesn’t really matter to God, these words enlighten:

“But if they confess their iniquity
and the iniquity of their fathers
in their treachery that they
committed against me,
and also in walking contrary to me,
so that I walked contrary to them
and brought them into the land
of their enemies—
if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled
and they make amends for their iniquity,
then I will remember my covenant with Jacob,
and I will remember my covenant with Isaac
and my covenant with Abraham,
and I will remember the land.
~ Leviticus 26:40-42 ~

This is the first reference in scripture that speaks to the yield of a heart humbled. Two things must happen in this declaration so that God will shift His posture toward His children: They must make amends for their sin, and they must humble themselves.

There is a version of this that happens every time I draw into the presence of The Triune God. It happens as I remember who God is, and remember what is already taking place in that intimate community. It happens as I remember who I am and what God has extended to me. There is no room for self-centeredness or pride when I look intently at the holiness of God and the beauty of His merciful hand reaching for me. It takes me to my knees….every time.

I occupy my place in the fourth chair humbly. If there is pride lurking within me, God reveals it and orients me afresh so that the thing which He so detests melts, and I am aligned with Him again. My heart is tender again. My ears hear again. I am teachable, malleable. He’s God and I am His. I’ve earned none of the favor He extends to me.

The reference from Leviticus speaks of the possible shift in God’s posture. But in the age of grace I live in, God’s posture toward me is fixed. I am complete in Christ. God’s heart toward me is sure. It does not harden or alter in any way. But, I can erect all kinds of barriers that impede the flow of fellowship between us.

I ask the Lord to humble me, knowing that as He does, MY posture will be righted and I will again be ready to give and receive in His company.

Humble yourselves before the Lord,
and he will exalt you.
~ James 4:10 ~

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
~ Psalm 139:23-24 ~

Hear my prayer, O Lord;
let my cry come to you!
~ Psalm 102:1 ~

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Consuming or Pursuing (ETD – Pt. 5)

Knowledge
Consuming or Pursuing ~

Our consumerist culture has pervasively influenced our Christian culture. I don’t think most folks would argue against that point. The temptation from culture is to approach spirituality as consumers. We “shop” for churches, for speakers, for musical preferences, for programs, for bible studies… we pursue with the idea that we are the object of import, so it seems logical, even responsible, that we look around to find what suits us.

Once we land somewhere, we begin to integrate whatever the standing criteria is for that institution. We develop skills. We hone disciplines (like “prayer”). We adapt to our chosen environment. Still, the process is largely self-serving as we acquire, gather, and cultivate. Never mind that life is about love of God and love of people.

The Western Church is full of smart people. We are learn-ed. We are thirsty for knowledge and information about everything under the sun including all things “spiritual.” We have built a virtual empire to house all that has become our “religion.” But it seems to me, our declining relevance among our own people and the utter irrelevance we have beyond the borders of our church campuses, has to drive us to re-evaluate. It has driven me to enter the dialogue with God, Bible open, mouth shut and ears tuned.

How do I protect myself from viewing the pursuit of spiritual understanding as an end unto itself? How do I ensure that my gathering of knowledge is a conscious step toward God… toward intimacy with Him? How do I take myself out of the center of my “spiritual development?”

These are positional questions. It’s the difference between eating for pleasure and eating because my body will stop working without sustenance. The first is self-centered, the latter takes into account something that’s outside of my appetites and essential to survival.

Better is the sight of the eyes
than the wandering of the appetite:
this also is vanity
and a striving after wind.
~ Ecclesiastes 6:9 ~

When I open my Bible, while I love to learn and “get smarter,” I am looking for God. The truth is, He is the Pursuer. I am meant to respond. I sit in my fourth chair, with The Word in my hands, and I seek to connect, to engage, to unite with God. The Word is a catalyst for that connection. I am hungry for it. I am designed to take it in, so that I don’t work right unless I am.

Out of the fullness of that connection, I live in community with other Jesus Followers. Out the vibrancy of that community, I reach beyond, with a cup of cold water in one hand and the Bread of Life in the other.

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Anything but Arbitrary (ETD – Pt. 4)

Four Chairs
Anything but Arbitrary ~

God’s invitation to me to draw into His company is highly personal. That might read terribly obvious, but honestly, for many years I felt as if my presence before Him was somewhat arbitrary. I felt detached to the degree that it seemed as if someone else could easily stand-in for me and “pray.” Ironically, I talked to God about it consistently. But when the word PRAYER would surface, a whole lot of conceptions about what that was, left me profoundly dulled.

I would hear about prayer-meetings or prayer-warriors and feel glad that someone was taking care of that “discipline.” I was occasionally curious that I didn’t seem to have a compulsion to attend them or to be one of them. Busy with other “spiritual disciplines,” I didn’t recognize my growing apathy. Many tentacles had attached to the word prayer, most of which were mis-attached.

But then God sparked a whole thought process within me, stemming from my unsettled-ness about how numb I was to the subject of “prayer.” I began to ask the Lord what I didn’t understand. Why was “prayer” something I pursued as a last-resort rather than being my first course of action? I started asking for a word or picture… anything that might help me get this huge thing turned upright. Out of that conversation surfaced the phrase Entering the Dialogue and a picture of four chairs, three of which He occupied and one left open for me.

Prayer is dialogue. Simple. But the word entering was and is key for me, because it reminds me that I draw in to His company. I am coming in… to something already taking place. That is a big deal and it puts me in a frame of mind and heart that is essential as I dialogue with God.

God asks me, “Anne”, to come to Him. I’m not an arbitrary occupant of the fourth chair. He is asking specifically for me. That brings tremendous import to His invitation. It’s no longer possible to be satisfied that prayer-warriors are praying. I MUST be praying. I must be dialoguing… personally… in conversation with God. No one can take my place. No one can “sub-in” for me. I must be there. It’s where I must live, 24/7, for the rest of my days.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

~ Psalm 73 ~

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Entering the Dialogue – Pt. 3

Four Chairs
Invited In ~

I feel so strongly about the legitimacy, inconceivable as it might seem, of my occupation of the fourth chair. That the Living God has extended the invitation, legitimizes my entrance. It’s absurd to believe I could have earned or merited the invitation. I know what I deserve. Yet God, out of His love for those whom He created, woos, entreats, pursues and for the time being allows the invitation to remain open-ended. There is a shelf-life to this invite but we don’t know what it is (another conversation).

Two things leap out for me as I visualize myself having entered the dialogue. Both have to do with the personal nature of Gods pursuit, so that as I begin to understand the rightness of being in His company, I find a depth of intimacy with Him I have never experienced.

Image Bearer ~

“Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness.”

I praise you,
for I am fearfully
and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.

First, I bear the image of God. I am His image-bearer, created by Him to reflect something unique about His nature. It’s vital to note that God does not make assembly line people, each just like the other. Every human is custom designed, a piece of art revealing an aspect of the artist unlike any other piece. So it follows that I bear His image unique to any other who has ever been or ever will be created.

That makes me immeasurably valuable. Whether or not other humans recognize that value is not ultimately important. But I begin to get a glimpse into why God might pursue me with the tenacity He does. He likes what He makes. He loves who He makes!

Not incidentally, image-bearing is common to non-christian and Christian alike. Without exception, every person who walks the earth bears the image of their Maker. When you remember that, you see people very differently. You look for the image. You look for the stamp. You look for what it is you can learn about God within the design of the people He creates. It’s a revolutionary lens that makes every person, friend or foe, intrinsically important.

As I sit in the company of my Creator, I am struck by how highly personal the encounter is. It makes sense that I’m there. It makes sense that He cares I’m there. He is in fellowship with one of His works of art.

Sonship ~

See what kind of love
the Father has given to us,
that we should be called
children of God;
and so we are.

The second bit that makes the experience of being in the fourth chair so profound has to do with  sonship. I am not only an image bearer, I am His daughter. In fact,  I am not just His daughter, but am connected to Him in all manner of other ways. I’m friend, heir, bride, etc.. The point is, I am family.

As I enter the dialogue, I enter into communion with Father, Son and Spirit, with whom I am eternally bound, with whom I share spiritual DNA as a new creation in Christ. In a word, I am home. I am where I belong. I am where I was designed to be. I’m where I am known, accepted, championed, delighted in, and I’m where I am fully and completely loved.

Entering the dialogue offers the definitive expression of freedom and wholeness. To leave His company is to head directly away from sanctuary. To choose to leave home is to invite peril. But to stay is to experience living as I was designed to live, in fellowship with the One who made me. I sit in communion with God. It’s vital, active and reciprocal, and it’s where I belong.

You make known to me
the path of life;
in your presence there is
fullness of joy;
at your right hand
are pleasures forevermore.

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Entering the Dialogue – Pt. 2

Four Chairs
What’s Already Going On ~

When I enter into dialogue with God and occupy the fourth chair, I enter an active fellowship where Father, Son and Spirit commune. This place is akin to Jesus analogy of the vine and the branch found in the 15th chapter of John. The Father is the vinedresser. Jesus is the vine. I am the branch. And the nutrients that sustain me, that flow thru the vine, are not unlike the Spirit of God who fills me. It’s a glorious picture of the integral, harmonious cooperation within The Trinity. It also depicts the enormous sustaining influence for the child of God in His company.

It’s overwhelming when you begin to examine The Word for evidence of interaction between Father, Son and Spirit. Overwhelming because there is passage after passage that speaks to it. Because of the frequency of this distinction, the temptation is to forget that God is one being, communing within Himself. The book of Genesis introduces the paradox with three references to God as an “Us” (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7).

Here are a few passages depicting the distinction:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Matthew 28:19

And because you are sons,
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,
crying, “Abba! Father!”
Galatians 4:6

And the angel answered her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born
will be called holy—the Son of God.
Luke 1:35

And the Holy Spirit descended on him
in bodily form, like a dove;
and a voice came from heaven,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Luke 3:22

~

More on point are the following references that speak to actual conversations taking place within The Trinity. They are happening as I draw into His company. They are very personal, and they are about His children.

  • Romans 8 reveals The Spirit is interceding, praying prayers that are perfectly aligned with the will of The Father.
  • John 15 and 16 reveal that The Spirit bears witness about Jesus, guides the child of God in all truth, and that what He hears He will speak.
  • Hebrews 7 speaks of Jesus who is “always ready to make intercession” for us.

And so I come and occupy the fourth chair, entering the dialogue that has, is, and will always be taking place. Without doubt, some of that dialogue is about me. God is conversing about me, articulating need and presenting it in alignment with the Father’s perfect will. I try to imagine the implications of where I sit, and what I am privy to. I try to imagine what on earth I could ever say or do that would in any measure enhance that company.

The invitation is real. God invites, and while it may seem inconceivable, I run to occupy my place. I never want to leave and I never have to. But in that seat, I ask this question: “What does it mean that I’m invited in?” I ask because I know for certain there is nothing arbitrary about my presence there. 

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Entering the Dialogue – Pt. 1

Trinity
The oneness and diversity that lives within the person of God is one of the most wonderful paradoxes in all of The Bible. Three distinct aspects of Him are referenced throughout scripture. They are clearly aspects of one entity, yet are so unique unto themselves, we are better able to visualize three persons rather than one. But God who said, “Let Us make man in Our image,” is one inexplicably diverse being.

The eternal and internal interaction that is taking place within the person of God reflects everything Jesus taught about community. Deference, servitude, respect and love exist as Father, Son and Spirit commune within themselves. That communion gives insight into the comprehensive provision of God for His children, (the Father’s watchfulness, Matthew 10; the Son’s intercession, Hebrews 7; the Spirit’s guidance, John 15-16; and intercession, Romans 8). For all we don’t understand, we do get a generous look at the depth of His love for humanity and the lavish attention focused on His children.

There is no explaining the reality of the internal diversity of God. To say more would be to venture beyond a capacity to understand. There isn’t a shelf low enough that would allow humans to access more than a shadow of insight into the mystery of The Triune God.

~

Four Chairs
In the next few posts, I’m going to try to give language to what I’ve been learning about what it means to be invited into the presence of God, and to live from that connectedness. The umbrella over the forthcoming conversation is: Entering the Dialogue. The visual is that of four chairs, each facing the others. Three chairs are occupied by The Triune God and the fourth is reserved for me.

Entering the Dialogue and occupying the fourth chair is simply coming into the company of Father, Son and Spirit, where a vibrant, active, eternal exchange is taking place. It’s a place of fellowship, council, and provision of every kind. It’s where I was designed to live and from that connectivity, experience the fullness of who God made me to be, and more importantly, to experience God Himself.

I pray God would guide these posts and use them to open our understanding to the beauty of His invitation to draw into His company.

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