How to Withstand the Storms

We are all transplants in this Kingdom, all ball of roots, shook out and replanted insecure, longing for our heart’s true home.

 

 

We are adopted children of the most High who wander through the world with amnesia forgetting to come home, forgetting where our bread (acceptance, security, purpose, Life) comes from.  We turn towards whispers of “little l” life with hope-filled faces and turn away from the arms always offered.

 

We are basically earth scorched thirsty people searching for living water, quenching our thirst in the most unhealthy/unholy of ways.

 

Everywhere I go, when I’m turning toward another voice in hope of some piece of the puzzle coming together, I hear an echo of Him, “Daughter, Come back to Me. Don’t go too far. Attach. Dwell. Abide.”

 

It takes three years for plants to reach down in foreign soil and establish. Three springs that follow three cold winters before they begin to thrive.

 

The gardeners at the Center where I bought my white hydrangeas said to chop off the big snowball blooms for two full years. The roots’ establishing was more critical than beauty, she lectured, tenderly patting the black plastic base. Let them spread all their energy to the tightening, spreading roots and then, she promised, they’ll bloom strong into the years.

 

It’s the roots we can’t see, the roots spread firm in Him that create the lasting beauty.

 

Around that same time wandering through a Christian bookstore, I stared at a black and white Ansel-Adams-like photo. She was a queen of a tree, full of leaves, standing alone, a lace of intricate branches. Underneath the photo was Ephesians 3:17 “Rooted and established in love.”  Paul, midway through his letter was praying for the Ephesians. Now, Paul was hardcore. A missionary of missionaries. I imagine him a bit wild-eyed, like I’d have to look away if I tried to look straight at him. And yet much of his writings come straight back here, straight to the importance of being rooted in God’s love.

 

The full verses of 17 through 19 go like this, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” We need to be rooted in love in order to be filled with God.

 

Chapter 8 in Romans, the chapter I would gladly take to a deserted island (or maybe just a four star hotel) and feast on for weeks, climaxes in this: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

The man was rooted and established in some serious hummus-filled love. You’d have to be in order to endure the whips, the chains, the prison isolation, the shipwrecks. He’d be dashed and wrecked about the rocks of life without that firm anchor of love. And maybe that’s all we’ve known.

 

We are so often like adopted children wondering where home really is, insecure, fearful when my dear friends, our Abba is firmly here with us. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Mt 28:20)

Every moment we:

stop and look into His eyes,

whisper “Jesus” in joy or wonder,

search the Word for his self-revelation,

fill up the lungs, drink deep breaths of His love,

bring our fears to his lap,

take our sins to the cross,

listen, getting used to the sound of His voice,

worship with arms outstretched,

or double back, saying thank you.

All this roots and establishes us a little deeper.

It is the constant abiding John talks about, the branch coming in close, attaching firm to the Vine.

 

 

Christianity is less a lifestyle of trying hard and more a constant doubling back, coming in close.  And the most beautiful service, the most powerful wave-walking trust and firm obedience? It comes naturally out of the coming in close.

 

The beauty will come. One day it fill unfold into bloom. And my friend, I can already see in you the tight nubs whispering of future glory.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to get rooted and established in God’s love, Lectio Divina.

Rest in His Presence. Receive his Word. Respond.  It’s a doorway to prayer.

 

I wonder what you will hear from today’s scripture? 

 

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Philippians 3:7-14 Lectio Divina and 31 Days to Making Your Phone an Ally

{*Hi Friend!* If this is your first time here, every Tuesday a SLOW Word lectio divina comes out right here. We’re slowing down the Word so we can encounter the God of the Word in a fresh way. Want more? Subscribe on the right to receive this fresh manna into your inbox every Tuesday…along with other practical tips, videos, and letters from me about staying in the word. Another gift?  If your church follows the lectionary, you’ll be encountering next Sunday’s word and preparing your heart a few days early. Sounds lovely, right?}

Do you have this same tic? Do you subconsciously reach for your phone when you should be tuned into work? Do you have family members who give you that long stare and beg you to turn it off? Or perhaps you’re just searching for a more intentional way to live with technology?

It’s time to journey together. I’m struggling too. The truth is that our phones are slowly encroaching on our prayer time, taking over our empty minutes, and redefining rest. It’s time to get a bit bossy with them. Choose boundaries. Develop intentional practices and generally pay attention to how we’re functioning with technology.

 

I’m over at Instagram this month writing out my own wrestle with technology here www.instagram.com/revsummerjoy :

31 Days to Make your Phone an Ally, not a Bully.

Here was the takeaway from Day 1:

Get an alarm clock. This small change has been a big step to taking back my mornings. No more setting an alarm on the phone. No more losing my prayer time to scrolling groggily. It’s the best $30 I’ve ever spent to protect my mornings from the tyranny of the urgent.

 

On Day 2 I get a little bit brain science nerdy. You can read it here: Day 2, Prepare to Grow

 

Wanna join? Follow me on Instagram and lets build a community. Share with your people. We’re all struggling together. Lets walk out the solutions together.

 

What are you noticing about how your phone is encroaching on your attention and your time?

(feature photo by Death to Stock Images. Love that name.)

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Are You Addicted to Big? Matthew 13:31-33 *SLOW Word video*

Come join me in the Presence to listen to Jesus remind us that the Kingdom is made up of small.  In a world addicted to big, it’s a powerful reminder. Below is my story of big addiction. Want to receive these Lectio Divina, these invitations of Word to prayer, straight into your inbox? Subscribe on the right:

 

 

 

I knelt on the blue berber carpet at the front of the church as often as I could.

We were a Christian Missionary Alliance church and rated an “A” congregation for all the big missionaries to make their circuit through during their furlough year. An altar call was always given, “Just as I Am” was played, and I walked forward, knelt and spread my palms on the berber carpet. I smelled adventure. I wanted to do big things for God.

 

But the mustard seed kingdom life doesn’t work that way. We are not plucked out of obscurity into big. We are taught to get down on our knees with a basin and a towel and rub tiny feet, wrinkled feet, and the tired feet with cracked heels. The Spirit teaches us to plant lines of seed one at a time. We learn to love big, not work big. They are rarely ever one in the same.

 

We learn to cup our children’s faces and linger just a little bit longer than necessary. We learn that small acts of kindness watered by grace feed a marriage. We learn the particular accent of the woman next door, the village where her people are from, and her favorite type of tea. We learn to become a collector of stories, that a vulnerable heart listening well is the building block of trust.

 

We learn to sit in the dark and quiet and sow seeds of prayer which will never be counted, nor should they. They should be massed in our hands and thrown out liberally, generously.

 

We learn that who we become for God is infinitely more important than what we do for God. We learn that becoming a good news person means listening to the heartbeat of God first, leaning on His chest like John the Beloved at the table, and finding our home in that steady pattern. Sometimes we are encouraged to whisper what we hear into the next waiting ear. Sometimes we become a container for the secrets of God and hold them tenderly in our hands in order not to crush them.

 

It’s been a long ten years of unlearning the siren song of Big. I tied my worth to it. I tied God’s love to it. I made vows to it which had to be cut off. But the Kingdom is built by small offered to He who is big but was planted in a womb, a tiny seed.

 

What are your small Kingdom beginnings today, friend? Join me in the comments.

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#Mondays at Jesus’ Feet

 

Today our lectio divina leads us to Jesus’ words warning the disciples that persecution is coming. He said that they would have to take up their cross, to die in order to find Life.

 

I remember that first time my sweet Madeline grasped the wood of the crucifer’s cross. She was just five and she fit inside my arms as we walked together in procession toward the altar. Our acolyte was gone that Sunday and I volunteered to be the crucifer. But, as she grasped the cross, instead of feeling proud, I cringed.

 

I was shocked by my reaction.

 

I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this blond haired girl of mine (singing right now in the shower) to grasp the cross.

 

That cross? That cross is going to cost your life, little one. Choosing the cross cost Jesus His life, and grasping our cross will eventually cost us our life. We may never see persecution so many of our fellow Christians experience in the Middle East, but we will find that the road to Life is not Easy Street. The way up is often down. We lay down our American Dream, our vision of what life was supposed to look like and we choose to worship the one true God instead of the way our hearts whisper.

 

Through all the refining, the stretching, the humbling we can keep walking back to the cross and reaffirming our vow:  I WILL FOLLOW WHEREVER YOU LEAD.  We can say after the hard words in this lectio, “Take up your cross and follow me,” that the alternative is great cosmic loneliness (I’ve felt it!) and in the end a different sort of death. With Peter we can acknowledge,  “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

 

Because He is the Good Shepherd, and we can trust in His goodness that the hard way is actually the best way, and the way down is actually straight into His arms we can grasp that cross tight.

 

Thank you for walking with me.

 

Blessings as you wrestle with these words today dear friends,
Rev. Summer Joy

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Ascension Day @ Jesus’ Feet *SLOW Word*

Last words.  We turn them over and over in our hand like a last gift, a necklace, a jewel, discovering every angle, looking at the way the light shines through it. We hold onto the tone, the timbre of their voice. Last words get embossed in the mind.

 

That last visit sitting in the white nursing home room, under the window, my Nona was barely able to talk. Alzheimer had claimed all her words. She who once wore a mass of red curls like a crown, whispered like a child, nodding her head as if it was heavy. After hours sitting next to her, holding her hand and holding a monologue about the children and the happenings in our Mitford-like town in Pittsburgh, I thought all memory of me had slipped into the dark of her mind. But, as I got up to leave, I leaned forward to kiss her peach-fuzz covered cheek and heard her whisper, “I love you Sweetie” just like always. Just like she had whispered for the last thirty-eight years as I hugged her good-bye by the car. I glanced into her eyes surprised but she had already closed her eyes. She was already gone. I held her words like blue-green seaglass I search for on the shore, familiar and precious.

 

And Jesus’ last words? In Matthew Jesus leaves his disciples with the words every newly-adopted child needs to hear: “I will be with you always to the end of the age.” But, in Luke 24, Jesus gives last directions before he ascends: “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

 

The Spirit is the Father’s promise. Let’s just park here for a minute. The Father promises the Spirit, a magnanimous promise from of a perfect, loving, all-powerful Being. It’s a promise we can trust, a promise we can build a house on, build a life on. Can you hear echoes of Luke 11? “If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Holy Spirit give good gifts to them that ask Him.”

 

Ask. Stay. Wait.

 

 

It’s a daily thing, a lifetime learning. We’re invited to lean into the promise, to not rush ahead, but to hold out our empty hands for our Abba to fill. Frances MacNutt says that prayer is just our sitting at the table with the Father and asking Abba to pass the mashed potatoes. I can still hear the laughter in his voice from the tape I listened to early in my ministry, “And He LOVES to feed his children.”  It’s the same big-hearted Daddy tone of Luke 12:32, “Don’t be afraid little flock, for the Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

 

Luke all this time has been setting us up for his sequel, the book of Acts and the opening chapters punctuated with the fireworks of Pentecost. He’s setting us up for power, not for emptiness. He’s pointing to a new life fired by hope and the ability to bring the Kingdom wherever we put down our feet one step at a time. Your Kingdom come Here on earth as it is in heaven. Your Kingdom come here.

 

He is setting us up for gain, not for loss.

 

What are you hearing in these last words, my friend? 

 

 

 

 

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Learning to Follow the Shepherd

Hello dear ones, it’s time to sink into the word again, to allow the Scripture to wash over us and show us new revelations of Jesus. It’s time to do the SLOW Word Movement. Know anyone else who may need this gift?

 

A friend sent me this piece from the interwebs. It wrecked me a bit…then came the lectio divina. Here’s my response, a gathering of a story from last week:

 

I sat on the leather couch feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me and if I’m honest, a tad bit angry. Our Journey group which had traveled through this last year of a spiritual direction program was saying good-bye. But that’s not what had me angry. That was tender. We were passing out parting gifts, blessings really. One of our members has a prophetic gift and spoke the word he saw for me. But here’s the thing. It’s a word that’s been spoken over me three times in the past three years. Different metaphors. Same message. They feel like signposts, signposts which whisper of blessing but when I’m straining here in the seat of disappointment, these signposts sometimes scoff. Because today as a homeschool mom in a ministry setting that’s deeply humbling, I couldn’t feel farther away from that word. It’s as if I’m walking a labyrinth and the path has turned away from the center. Cold. Colder. Colder.

 

These days I feel completely hidden.

 

I received the word and then gave it back to the Lord. “You can have it. If this is Your will, You accomplish it. Please don’t let me place walls in the midst of the path You have for me, but I refuse to idolize the sign.”

 

Because it’s easy to walk out of shame, to fear that I’ve missed the trail somewhere back there. Shame feels like a second skin. And shame has always been easier for me to wear than freedom.

 

I exhale. Stay on the path, I hear. Deep inside I know that the true journey is a pilgrimage to the center of my soul where the war battles.  There’s still a lot of work to be done. There’s cleaning to do. Where do I find my value? There are gates to swing wide to the Spirit. There’s an infant trust that’s recently been born but still naked, fragile. A necessary humility has begun to spread my arms out cruciform, wide enough to love the broken. But, some days I still feel the fight. Like today.

 

If I’ve learned anything on this road, here’s the extravagant reward of the struggle: my Shepherd’s love is fierce and if I get silent a while, I can drink deep of that love. That’s when I remember that He Himself is completely worth the uphill trek I’m hiking. It’s the Via Dell’Amore, the hard road of love. When all is stripped, and we’re alone on the trail, there are no other voices. No other faces. Alone and listening to the Voice of Love I discover again that it’s Him I desire…not the thing, the ministry, the story, the sign.

 

The Shepherd.

 

And yes, every once in a while I notice, when I learn to follow the robes of the shepherd closely,

 

He fills the frame and I no longer need to look where He’s taking me.

 

Dear one, in your spiritual life are you in a season of hiddenness or adventure?

 

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Guest post by Ashley Larkin and *SLOW Word video*

Hello dear friends, it’s such a privilege for me to introduce you to one of my favorite people and fellow SLOW Word listeners, Ashley Larkin. Visit her on her blog, AshleyMLarkin.com. You won’t be sorry. Ashley, owner of a contagious smile and straight up raw vulnerability, the kind that invites others to tell their stories. She’s a writer/speaker who spins words effortlessly. Below was her beautiful response to Monday’s SLOW Word scripture, Matthew 17:1-8 and I couldn’t wait to share it with you all.  (By the way, I’d love to do this more! Do you have a response I could share with the others…a short quote or a story of sitting with the SLOW Word lectio divinas? I’d love to insert them into our emails or highlight them right here on AThirstforGod.com) And yes, remember, there’s a new SLOW Word every Monday and Thursday. Subscribe on the right to get them slipped into your inbox for time at rest in God’s presence. Find today’s SLOW Word of Isaiah 30:15-18 at the bottom of the post.

It is Wednesday.

Clementine sleeps on the edge of the blanket thrown across my lap, breathing out stinky salmon food breath in regular intervals.
As my mind runs its laps, the rise and fall of her full belly comforts me.

The meadow birds dance from tree limb to feeder, flit beside the windows along the north wall of our house, alight on the branches to the east. The white curtains are pulled to the side of the windows’ moldings, so I can see the birds’ path (and also that of the greedy squirrels) more clearly.

Their figure eights and frenetic darting awaken and calm me in a way only wild ones can. I need them.

The birds sing a plaintive song, and I presume these are calls to their kind about this food source in a front yard in the midst of a long February. I imagine trilled thank yous and notice the feeders are running low; I can’t seem to remember where I’ve put the seed.

Then I remember my family’s own need for food and our rapidly emptying refrigerator and plan the remainder of the week’s meals. I am not regular with this as I want to be, but when I prepare for and cook hot meals, I feel the gift of giver and receiver.

I am acutely aware of dependence today.

In Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy, I read that there is everything for us to receive. I remember the open hands I prayed for a sister the other night — that she might release her grip on control and let the freedom of God’s love touch her palms.

I think how mine can remain shut, then how I open hands and mouth wide like a desperately hungry hatchling.

I am giver and taker, bouncing branches and empty feeders. I am a child needing to be fed.

On the heels of a hard series of conversations with my youngest, she brought me a bouquet of flowers. Signs of springing life tucked into a shiny camellia leaf, plucked from the mostly dormant garden where the birds eat. I watch bird wings and finger the cluster of grown things.

This morning, I sit for a while in Matthew 17 and Jesus’ transfiguration. Jesus climbs to a high place with Peter, James and John, and suddenly becomes sun and light.

On the edge of such a miracle, Peter says rather plainly, “Lord, it is good for us to be here” and asks if he can put up shelter for not only Jesus, but also Moses and Elijah, who’ve suddenly joined them.

It is good for us to be here, Peter says. No recorded exclamation points, no enthusiasm that we can read.

The only exclamation noted here is from heaven when God says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

This morning, I hear you, God; I am listening for you, Jesus.

You know that I forget and flit, close ears and seek to hear, hold out my hands and am fed.

Surrounded by miracle, we are utterly ordinary. Surrounded by the ordinary, we, too, are miracle.

 

Thank you Ashley for this beautiful gift!

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Matthew 4:18-22 SLOW Word Lectio Divina

Friends, I’m hearing multiple questions in this Matthew 4:18-22 passage today, questions to stay present to this week.

It’s journaling time.

1. In what way am I divided and continue to go back to what’s familiar? The disciples fishing and mending their nets had already been following Jesus for at least a year. Yet, they didn’t have a vision for a total change of life, a vision which was profound enough to keep them focused. Do you think that maybe they didn’t know that the listening would be transformed into action…action they would be asked to take? So here’s another question: 2. In what way am I a passive follower of Christ?

3. What is Jesus asking me to set down in order to follow Him unencumbered? Fascinating, huh? We are weighted down by a to-do list that’s too long, expectations that are undesirable, an ego that is never satiated, fears which demand our obedience, and other people’s ideas of who and what we should be. No wonder we can’t answer His “Come Follow Me.” We’re a bit busy juggling our own heavy problems.

4 and 5. Where or to what is Christ asking me to follow Him? Perhaps you’ve been sensing a nudge into brand new territory. Perhaps you’ve seen something which you can’t unsee, something which demands you show up with intention to love, to fight, to humbly serve. Perhaps we can just simply ask the question, Jesus, what breaks Your heart? Then we follow Him there.

Finally, 6. Is there a person Jesus wants me to invite to meet this Christ? 

Lord, open our ears to hear Your voice and make us brave enough to follow. Amen.

 

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Making a Plan for Rest Today and Thursday’s SLOW WORD

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This July I was in Italy for three weeks with my people. I’m still living in the after-glow.  We spent one week on the Ligurian coast, a week in the Dolomites, a quick trip through Venice, and a week with friends in the hills of Tuscany on a vineyard.  A few days into mornings wandering markets and afternoons by the sea, my dad and I were chatting and this was the essence of our conversation: Italy is the anecdote to America.  It’s the anecdote to America’s speed, urgency, commercialism, and constant hustle.

We rented an Air B and B four flights above a gelato shop close enough to the Mediterranean to be lulled asleep by the waves. We feasted on simple foods, ripe white peaches, and bread slathered with pesto, prosciutto and fresh buffalo mozzarella. At night we watched the sun set over the water while eating thin crust pizza and then walked along the coast with a cone of raspberry gelato made in house just that day.  We were just steps from where I was born.

 

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But we weren’t the only ones living SLOWly and lavishly. The Italians spent hours around the table every evening and came out for gelato after the sun set. Whole families walked the town of Sori and Bogliasco and pushed the wheelchairs of the elderly so they could get fresh air.

In contrast, today I’m tempted to crack the whip.  We’ve just gotten back from fall break and my anxiety level is heightened. The oven top has four day old spaghetti sauce splatters (how did it get all the way up the side of the fridge?) and there’s a hurricane of boy’s clothing and soccer gear that hit the living room. I’m tempted to yell, to push, to demand. I’m tempted to make of our classroom an outer reflection of my inner life.  I need a Creator to make order out of chaos. I need Jesus to put his hand over my mind and calm the inner hurricane. I need to SLOW down.  I need to choose to get off the crazy train.

So today I choose SLOW. Today I choose to light a candle on the island whether it still has splashes of dried pumpkin bread on it or not.

I’m making a plan to:

say yes to Silence,

to Lower expectations,

to Open heart, Open hands,

and to stay aWake to God’s presence in the here and now.

I say yes to SLOW.

SLOW living is soul-full living.

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SLOW is going to be my new miniseries right here on the blog because I sense we’re hungry for stillness and for permission to live with margin. When we live SLOW, we live out of fullness, not depleted from hustle. We fill out our planners for every activity. It’s now time to make a plan for rest.

Today, this is my SLOWdown plan: #10MinutesofStillness sprinkled through the day.  I always set my alarm for ten minutes on my phone. It’s permission. I wave the children away and show them how much time I have left. Sometimes I just sit without any expectations, just enjoying the quiet and a cup of tea. Sometimes I listen to the emotions that are just on the surface and need my attention. Other times I follow this pattern from Dr. Daniel Siegel, a well-known neuroscientist who teaches us how to heal an anxious and battered brain: I open my senses one at a time without judging what they take in and then I invite Jesus into the present moment. You can read about these minirests here and here and here.  It’s baby steps for the busy. Perhaps you may want to use the hashtag yourself.  Show us what your experience is like on facebook or Instagram and then link right back here so we can find it.

 

Subscribe on the right to make sure you get all the SLOW goodness of the miniseries.

 

How do you plan for rest, dear friend? Perhaps this SLOW coming before the Word?

 

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Slow Word Movement and Video

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Welcome to the Slow Word Movement.

I love to set the table for people to spend time with Jesus.

As a spiritual director who spends much of my ministry creating space for people to be in the Presence of God, I know the value of setting the table for just one. And when one of my people needs a nourishing meal? I’m there. My beautiful sister Stephanie is a busy mama who runs a non-profit bringing awareness to human trafficking. When we celebrated her birthday last month over brioche at a small cafe, she leaned over and said she was feeling hungry for more of the Word. I watched her try to enjoy breakfast with a toddler whose curiosity meant she could barely carry on a conversation. She asked me for these small videos setting the table for her to be with Jesus.  A few simple unpolished videos and a few days later she asked if she could start sending them to friends.

 

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Why a Slow Word Movement?

 

Because it takes time:

to reawaken our first love and then root right there.

for the Word to slip from the head to the heart.

for deep seated lies to be uprooted by the truth.

to recognize a rich feast is already spread before us so we don’t run to fast food.

to hear God’s heartbeat and receive God’s dream.

to chisel through the hard rock of our hearts.

to learn to run to God to be refreshed.

to hear God whisper our true identity.

for hope to conquer incessant despair.

for any relationship of substance to thrive.

And because we have to receive a feast before we can give a feast.

 

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As an inner healing minister, I know the truth of the WORD heals and transforms us. When His Presence walks into our dark places, everything changes.

I also know that distraction is a disease, a disease I’m combatting along with every one of you.  All those beeps and dings and I find it much harder to be still with the Word.  Am I really getting more done or am I fracturing my attention from the ONE THING that’s needed? (Luke 10: 38-42). Distraction leads to emptiness. Listening in the Presence leads to fullness.  “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Colossians 3:16)

There’s nothing new about this. Other nerdy church history types like me will recognize this Slow Word Movement as something that’s been going on for centuries: Lectio Divina. These Latin words just mean “divine reading” and was always served with stillness, with repetition, and with a slow reading carving out space for the Holy Spirit to speak.

Baron von Hügel described spending time with the Word in Lectio Divina like this: “letting a very slowly dissolving lozenge melt imperceptibly in your mouth.”

Savoring.

Join me in savoring the Word.

 

Let’s share! What word or phrase did the Lord speak? What invitation are you hearing? Join me in the comment section. Share on facebook. Encourage others right here.

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