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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10 Things I Learned in August

I’m joining the fabulous Emily Freeman in sharing 10 things I learned this August weaving back and forth from silly to serious. This is the summer vacation edition.

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1. First, I need to just keep pushing the publish button. Keep putting words on paper. Keep making art.

 

This winter I stopped writing. I really had a hundred excuses including a new job and homeschooling, but there’s more of a messy reality behind the whiny list. As I began teaching new Journey groups, (Healing Care Group with Terry Wardle’s incredible curriculum,) the Lord uncovered how much of my sense of significance rested in approval through ministry.

 

My writing was completely tangled up in it like a nest of fishing line, a chaos of deep hunger for worth.

 

I needed to stop writing. I needed a pregnant silence in which to be transformed. Daily, even hourly at first, I held out empty hands and brought my nagging hungers to God. I stayed present with Him using Brennan Manning’s beautiful prayer, “Abba, Father, I belong to You.”

 

After the soul work, I’m writing out of a new wide-open sort of freedom. I’m not holding on with a tight fist. It is now my barefoot joy, my worship.

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But honestly, starting to write in the open again was hard. I’m a perfectionist, a poet who weighs the power of every word. This month I learned to just…push…publish. Over vacation I wrote for just twenty minutes a day with my thumbs on an iphone keyboard…on instagram…on Facebook here, here, and here…(wherever words are free) and then came home and opened my laptop and began writing in earnest.

 

2. In August I reconnected to the power of the podcast: short, concise teaching and entertaining. We logged a lot of hours on the road. 25 hours to Maine. 25 hours back.  This is where I discovered Michael Hyatt’s, This is Your Life. First, I listened to Escape Perfectionism Once and For All then I began streaming episode after episode. By now, I’m a groupie. Another favorite, this one with much wisdom? Why Learning to Lead Means Learning to Follow. I wish I had digested that one straight out of college.

 

3. This month I’ve embraced becoming a morning person…but I’ve learned that it truly IS an art.  This is Michael Hyatt on How to Become a Morning Person. I told you I’m a groupie. I also reached deep into the encouragement from Hello Mornings I did a few years ago. Check them out.  The key to becoming a morning person? Go to bed every night fifteen minutes earlier in order to wake up 15 minutes earlier.  Oh ya, and naps, glorious glorious naps.

 

4. This month I discovered a new standard for the perfect breakfast: Lobster Benedict. Amazing. That is all.

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5. Lately I’ve been trying out Shauna Niequist’s dinner question from Bread and Wine: If you knew you were going to die tomorrow (sounds like the beginning of an Evangelism Explosion question, doesn’t it?) and you would choose any meal you wanted to have the day before, what would it be?  You learn so much about a person when you ask about their food loves. Their eyes light up and you hear stories about grandma and that time they travelled by boat to Greece and had their first espresso on the deck looking over the Adriatic.

 

6.  Vacation with older kids? So much easier.  We just spent two weeks on Mount Desert Island, Maine going in and out of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. I had my first actual vacation in ten years.

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7. This August I was shocked to find I feel rooted in Maine along the wild, rocky coastline, the stiff fir trees that stand up against the winter wind. Even after moving away thirty years ago, I put my feet on Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth and had that soul sense of home. I immediately wanted to start writing.  Do you have a place like that?

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8. I brought lots of books to Maine but read only one: Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines.  I was entranced. It was messy and beautiful and redemptive. Those are my favorite stories.

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9. I’ve been waiting for Emily Freeman’s book, Simply Tuesday, and I couldn’t just sit in the bookstore to read, I had to buy it immediately. It is the type of book I can only read with a pencil in hand, underlining and amening all the way through. This lady has read my mail. She echoes LeAnne Payne’s writing: Celebrate your smallness.

 

10. Here is my biggest aha moment this month. I took a walk on Crescent Beach where we had spent whole summer days when I was a child and was surprised to discover my trust plant had grown deep roots.

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As I walked back toward the Inn after an early morning walk, I prayed a new surrender prayer and discovered there were no “buts,” no fears, no root of anger toward God. I prayed God would do all that it takes to transform me and make me holy. And here’s the shocker, folks; for the first time, I did not fear the outcome. Tears are rolling now. This has been a long time coming. I closed up to trust after sexual abuse the year I was fourteen, and then wrestled to exhaustion with the problem of evil. How can we trust that God is good if He allows evil into the lives of the small and innocent?

 

I wrestled with tutors at L’Abri, Switzerland when newly married, through the lines of poetry furiously scribbled through seminary, and then through the deep healing which has occurred through formational prayer. I’ve wrestled and God, He’s stayed, and I’m starting to recognize the blessing.

 

Then kindly, He gave me this peek. This trust-building has been the hard work He’s been accomplishing during these last excruciating moves. We move and He keeps stripping me, humbling me Hosea 2 style taking away all my “lovers,” and then beckoning me to come lay my head against His chest to hear His heartbeat: You are my beloved. You are my beloved. You are my beloved.

 

I finally trust the sound of that heartbeat.

 

You too, friend, lean in hard. Put your head on His chest like John at the table with the bread and the wine. Listen to His heart. Pull in tight. You are His beloved. You are His beloved. You are His beloved. 

 

Can you hear it? It’s as steady as the lapping of the water on the shore.

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And you, dear friend, what have you learned this August?

 

Want to read more places where I am writing words?  Join with me on Instagram, mtrsummer, and Facebook: Summer Gross.

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Day 19: Lift up Empty hands

We often live anxiously searching for our needs to be filled. Moving intensifies that. I wrote this post last year. It still applies. Today’s action? Lift up your needs to the Father using the prayer printed at the end. Don’t be afraid to cry out. Last night we were crying out for Caedmon’s need for a friend…a sense of belonging. We’ll keep lifting up empty hands until they are filled…and then we will dance our thanks.

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You spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

 

Sometimes our neediness is profound.

 

Sometimes it’s just a reaction, a familiar one, like reaching for the telephone when we are lonely, a package of oreos for comfort. One of our core longings…a need for safety, worth, messages of our having value, unconditional love, care, encouragement, a pathway to God, belonging, and feeling useful and needed…are crying out to be filled. (These are from Dr. Terry Wardle’s work from Ashland Seminary.)

 

Like a cut that keeps bleeding when scraped. Like a hunger that keeps turning over demanding to be satiated. And He is the only one who has set the feast.

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We are the matchstick girl.

 

Since our move, my needs for belonging and a sense of purpose are loudest. I click on Facebook, but leave feeling emptier hearing about others’ full lives. I zone out and watch others be creative in reality shows instead of embarking on my own adventures.

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I have a feast spread out waiting but I live frantic. I forget the truth: “whatever we need, it’s on the table.” I nose around looking for a mirage and settle for sand when I could have an ample feast.

 

Caedmon, my nine year old boy, has stopped wanting to go to children’s church with the other lines of children. He wants to squeeze in between his dad and I and catch phrases of the sermon, lean his head against our arms, close his eyes and gaze at the painting of Christ ascending.

 

We’ve been attending Ascension Anglican in Oakland with its cavernous nave and sitting on a dark blue padded pew at the 9am. We cozy up to the pulpit so we can hear every word.

 

This sunday in his sermon, Father Jonathan Millard asked everyone whether they had read C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair. Caedmon’s head jerked up. His eyes flickered recognition and he raised his hand. We were on a Narnia kick all winter and who could forget Jill and Eustace and Puddleglum being sent into the underworld to rescue Prince Rilian from his enchantment?

 

Father Millard read this excerpt like it was story time, clearing his voice from the high pulpit and speaking in his English accent.

 

As an aside, I just want to say that C.S. Lewis should always be read by an Englishman. I do my best BBC accent as we sit around the fire in the evenings but friends, I acknowledge that this is dangerous territory for a girl from Ohio. One day a few weeks ago the accent came out randomly and I had to explain to new friends why I was pretending to be from across the Atlantic. Dangerous, I tell you.

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Here’s the excerpt from early in The Silver Chair. Jill is hoping to drink from a stream but there is a full, male lion guarding the water:

 

“‘If you’re thirsty, you may drink.’

…for a second she stared here and there wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, ‘If you are thirsty, come and drink,‘ and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen his lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
‘Are you not thirsty?’ said the lion.
‘I’m dying of thirst,’ said Jill.
‘Then drink,’ said the lion.
‘May I — could I — would you mind going away while I do?’ said Jill.

The lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
‘Will you promise not to–do anything to me, if I do come?’ said Jill.
‘I make no promise,’ said the lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

‘Do you eat girls?’ she said.

‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

‘I daren’t come and drink,’ said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

‘Oh dear!’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’

‘There is no other stream,’ said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion–no one who had seen his stern face could do that–and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted.”

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There is no other stream. There is no other table.

 

If you are thirsty, come and drink.

 

I’m learning to identify my core longing need, to sit quietly before the Lord and wait…but more on that in Part 2. Want more, the feast, the fullness? Check out my sermon here.

 

I’m learning to keep praying this on repeat, to lift up my hands empty:  

 

Litany of Core Longings

Lord, I need a safe and secure environment

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need constant reinforcement of my personal worth

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need repeated messages that I am valued, unique and special

And I can only get them from You.

 

Lord, I need unconditional love and acceptance

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need basic care and nurture

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need encouragement to grow and develop my personal gifts and talents

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a pathway to fellowship with You

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a sense of belonging

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need to feel useful and needed

And I can only get it from You.

 

Lord, I need a hope and a future

And I can only get it from You.

 

God loves me unconditionally and wants to give me all this.

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We’re on a 31 day journey toward falling in love with our zip code. Our family just moved five states south and are loving the warm October but riding the ups and downs of a major transition. Would you like to come along? Slip your email address (I’ll guard it with my life) into the CONNECT box on the front page and we’ll journey together. Start here.

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Day 4: Feast

Fellow 31 day journeyers, as we take the huge risk to loving our zip code with integrity, we first are invited to come feast on Love ourselves.  In fact, it’s absolutely vital.

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“You spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

 

Never walk out into the world hungry.

 

Ever walk the aisles of the grocery store around 5:30pm? You grab at the pretty packages, create half menus in your head, fill the cart with food memories and comfort, gasp at the price, and then wheel up to the trunk of your car with twice as much as you came looking for.

 

Never leave home hungry.

 

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The night before my wedding, my mama told me never to force my husband to walk the streets hungry for love. Fill that man before you send him out in the morning, she said.

 

And I would never dream of opening the door and pushing my nestlings out into the world empty of nourishment and love.

 

It’s just that I don’t often heed that same advice. I walk out the door without lifting my hands up, without the Scriptures open, without the listening and the dwelling. I haven’t spent time soaking in His Presence. I leave hungry. Empty. Searching. I find myself scooting up to another table and the price…goes…up.

 

I pay for it every time.

 

I walk out into the world glancing at every sign as if its fluorescent bulbs flashed with my answer. I walk up to neighbors hands open, demanding to be fed out of their emptiness.

 

When we give out of lack, we pump the empty soul and our giving does not spill out of love but need. We are a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal every time.

 

Because we can’t bless, break and multiply a lunch we haven’t gathered from His table.

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“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger; whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

 

He ALWAYS invites us home to a full spread. Always. We scoot up to the table still carrying in our earth-smeared hands our pain, our lack, our disappointment, our questions and our cracked mess of a life and we are always welcomed home. Like the prodigal son, we sit at the feast and with wild eyes we grasp that this is where we belonged all along. We tear the crusty bread, fill our mouths with the warm, soft center and piece by piece we eat the truth: I am loved, I am loved, I am loved.

 

We draw close, maybe even lay our head on His chest like the beloved disciple, resting, hearing His heartbeat pound for the rescue of the world. We memorize its cadence.

 

We taste and see that He is good.  Then filled, we turn toward the world, bless, break and multiply Him “for the life of the world.”

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Daily Action: Don’t just sample the love of God in small appetizers once a week, come to a daily full-table feast.

But let’s get practical. What does true feasting on the love of God look like for you? Here’s some of my suggestions and Facebook friend’s ideas as well.

(BTW, I’m Summer Gross from Loganville, GA on Facebook. @athirstforGod on Twitter. Lets connect there!)

Feast here, meditating on the Father Heart of God. So rich a meal.

Or perhaps you could feast here, like Adrienne. Classic:

Or here: The Life of the Beloved.

Or watch this. This father’s love is a beautiful picture of His love for us:

 

Or read here? How to be Still and Know that He is God

 

I’m often nourished feasting on the names and attributes of God. Get an immensely helpful PDF with this link here: Thank you Woodmen Valley Chapel.

 

Or just look for a hardy meal of bread through the Scriptures searching out a trail of manna. Start here in Zephaniah 3:17.

 

And you, friend, how do you dwell in His presence, sip long on His love? Do share and “join the conversation.”

 

We’re just 4 days into a 31 day writing journey through October, wanting God to make us lovers of our zip code. Want to come along? Slip your email in the CONNECT box on the front page. 

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Our 2014 Move: The Great Silence is Over

I can’t write while I’m moving.

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I can surf Zillow for our future, sketch plans of backyard gardens, move furniture in my mind. I jot down new recipes and pin color schemes. Before I can make sense of the rest of life, I have to know where I will slide my children between clean sheets at night, spoon up apple cinnamon oatmeal for their breakfast.  As soon as the newly-elected Anglican Church of North America Archbishop answered THAT question in front of the thousands at Provincial Assembly, the one about where the Province office would be located now that he was in charge, I could no longer scratch down words on paper. The plates underneath me shifted. My husband is blessed to be his Canon for Communications.

 

I could pray, plan, lament, and dream, but I could not write.

 

I was already creating. I was creating home.

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Madeleine L’Engle shared in a magazine article I no longer remember the name of, that she could not write while she was pregnant. She was already creating, a mass of twisting, brilliant cells becoming a person. It was like that.

 

We moved to a yellow house owned by a Vietnamese landlord in Loganville, GA. Yellow painted on the outside. Five shades of yellow on the inside: pale buttercream to mustard. Yellow everywhere. My mother’s vietnamese friend said that yellow makes them feel at home, where the sunshine was spread thick over their days.

 

It makes me feel at home too. Yellow makes me dream of hillside towns in Italy on the riviera where I was born. I’ve never been bold enough to fill a roller with liquid sunshine, paint the interior of my life pure light.

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Last year we moved from our Michigan parish of ten years the very same weekend as this year’s move, Labor Day. Last year I walked around Sewickley, PA off-center for months like I had an inner ear infection. The boxes stayed piled up in the basement unopened and I forgot to feed my children vegetables. This year I bought bottles of Green Goodness to pour into paper cups.

 

This move has been different.  This year I’ve learned to fall on Jesus. I’ve learned to lean back and ride the turbulence (more on that later). I’ve learned to ask for what I need. A friend. A prayer. An exercise center. I’ve learned that although I may still hear my voice echo in the emptiness of a life less full, He is faithful and He is ALWAYS GOOD. I was a witness. I watched Him rebuild a life, mine.

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Hi friends, I’m finally looking to the future. My dad and I have a book proposal sitting on an agent’s desk. Lord have mercy! Please pray with us? For a champion…for patience.

There will be an e-book coming out soon.

I need your help. I’m also looking to October and 31 Days to write on a single subject. Here are the two possibilities: The Kingdom of God in our home: House of Bread or 31 Days to Fall in Love with your Hometown. What do you think? Want to vote? The Kingdom of God at Home (This post fleshed out) or Loving Wildly Right Where You are (This post fleshed out).

 

Come along? Slip your email in the “connect” box on the front page and we’ll continue to journey together. 

 

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Naming the restlessness: Audrey Assad

You have made us for Yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.    St. Augustine

I’ve been listening to a lot of Audrey Assad lately. I’m captivated by her articulation of our hunger for God and how it comes out simply in worship. Here is a short of a conversation about the desire for a life of communion with God.

No time to watch Audrey share about her hunger for an underlying life of prayer? Here is her song Restless. For me it’s a search to live in His Presence.

Name your restlessness?  Is it a core longing?

  • A safe and secure environment
  • Constant reinforcement of personal worth
  • Repeated messages that you are valued, unique and special
  • Unconditional love and acceptance
  • Basic care and nurture
  • Encouragement to grow and develop personal gifts and talents
  • A pathway to fellowship with God
  • A sense of belonging
  • Feeling useful and needed

When we experience anxiety, fear or anger, could it be a lack in what Terry Wardle calls a core longing?

When does it arise? Time of day? After a “trigger” event? During a season like Christmas?

 

Can you give a feeling to your restlessness? Try this chart here. Journal that.

 

Look for the patterns, and come into the Presence of God without a mask, ready to receive.

 

 

 

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How to Be Still and Know that He is God

The three R’s, it’s quickly becoming Maddie and my “thing” every morning…perhaps it’s because of her giggles…perhaps it’s because I know how much I need it too.

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Rest, Receive, Respond: these are the 3 R’s taught by Terry Wardle, a professor at Ashland Seminary who teaches formational prayer.

 

They are a practical way to line up for a blessing from Jesus.

 

Rest: I pull her down on my lap in the warm kitchen, whisper to her to close her eyes and take a few deep breaths. Just relax. That’s when I see the smile start playing.

 

Receive: “Maddie, receive Jesus’ love for a few moments. You are His girl and He delights in you.”  I start seeing a giggle coming up to the surface, the same giggles she gets during a movie when the Prince kisses his true love.

 

Respond: Tell Him you love Him back or thank Him.  Now she’s throwing her head back as if the joy can’t be held in. I can’t help but believe that she’s been in line and felt His hand on her head, his words spoken over her, seen His loving eyes look directly at her.

 

She’s been blessed, she knows that she’s His Beloved, and she’s beginning to learn that seeking the blessing can really be that simple.

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How often I have forgotten.

 

I’m the mom with the scripture memory cards in the middle of the breakfast table and all the Bible storybooks strewn around the house. I get out the big royal blue one with gold edging with the graham crackers and milk at bedtime. The other morning I reached for the devotional with breakfast and got “the look” from Caedmon.  Enough, it said. I’m stuffed.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen that look lately.

 

Too much stuffing knowledge and not enough blessing.

 

The look registered and I pulled out my iphone still loaded with a worship video based on Zephaniah 3:17:

Worship Opener/Zephaniah 3:17 from designerMD on Vimeo.

 

As he read the words on the small screen out loud, Caedmon’s eyes began to shine. “How does that make you feel, buddy?”  “I don’t know, Mom. I just like it,” he said.

 

We all hunger for blessing. 

 

Zephaniah 3:17 is a blessing in black on white:

The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.

 

I had been spending my quiet time with this verse feeling my own chaotic heart slowly grow still with: “The Lord your God is with you…He will quiet you with His love.”

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But here are the questions: How often do I cram down the words, gather the bullet points, but don’t spend heart to heart time with the Word Himself?

 

Or, how often do I talk about the well but don’t lead them to take a drink? I give them maps, paint the pictures, tell stories about water, but still leave them thirsty?

 

“They” told me to find my purpose, my strength, my need for love, my identity all in Christ but never showed me how.  I struggled toward Him but was held back by the long rubber band always retracting towards my own neediness.  I never knew how to be “filled.” Finally, shame crept in and covered my relationship with God like that thin burnt oily covering on the hood of my kitchen stove.  20 years later and I have finally learned to live full of Love. And when I’m triggered, living out of that crazy, primal place, I’ve learned how to crawl back in to His heart.

 

How? Rest, Receive, Respond.

 

Be still and know that He is God.

 

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It’s dwelling with The Way, the Truth and the Life, not just learning about Him.

It’s blessing: the inner core of a life wrapped in unconditional love built on a framework of Scriptural knowledge.

It’s the 3 R’s: Rest, Receive, Respond.

It’s the practice of worship and soaking in His love.

It’s allowing yourself to stop seeking, and instead, just be found.

It’s Scripture meditation beyond memorization to conversation.

It’s the constant communication, “pray continually:” our lifting up our ordinary struggle to an always Present, loving Abba.

It’s learning to line up for a blessing.

 Summer Gross

Come journey with me.  Slip your email into the “Connect” square on the front page of A Thirst for God. 

Other times I’ve written about the 3 R’s:

When You Don’t Feel Worthy of God’s Love

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Finding Time for Prayer – The Busy Mama’s Remix

It seems impossible doesn’t it?  My beautiful college friend asked THE question: How do we find time to pray and wait on God as busy moms?

 

How do we sit at His feet when they are climbing all over our lap?

 

We wake up to the cry down the hall and we are at work as soon as our feet hit the floor.  And we are so bone tired. All. The. Time.  We want to pray but every time we get silent enough, we feel a nap coming on, and oh, here it comes, the accompanying wave of guilt.

 

No guilt served up here.

 

This is finding time for prayer, the re-mix, the busy mom version.  Here’s the original.

 

The exhausted mom version?  I’ve been there. I’m still there many days. I went to sleep at 8:20 last night. No writing, no reading, no Downton Abbey. My kids are 9,7, and 4 and my 4 year old has nightmares, poor guy.  He cries out from the upstairs hallway and then I’m awake. Yup, that’s when I pray.  Whatever time Xavier has his nightmare is my wakeup call.  Yesterday morning? 2:00 a.m. This morning? 5:20 a.m., much more civilized.

 

OK, I’m up and it’s time for the honest re-mix, the busy mom version.

085

087

 

We want to steal bits of time, to stay focused among the one hundred emergencies a day.  If anyone asks me what is hardest about being a mom with young ones it’s the emotional swings.  They are skipping with me into a store, each hop going higher and higher throwing their head back with laughter one minute, and utterly dissolved into a puddle of tears, skinned knee the next.  In just one day?  This times fifty = constantly worn out mom.

 

This Christmas was THE FIRST batch of un-burnt cookies. First in nine years. I was so proud. Before there was always an emergency in that crucial 10 minutes, (a fall, a fight over a toy, a “mom! I need toilet paper!”), and I burnt 100’s of cookies before completely giving up the fight. Success 9 years later. Huge unwarranted kudos coming from the family. I’ll take it.

 

We want to hear from God, to have Him empower our work, our motherhood, our marriage, our ministry. Perhaps we want to hear God’s direction for our lives. All of this takes time waiting, which we haven’t got.  Now what?

be-still

 

Sabbath:

Honestly? Most of my time alone with God for the last 9 years was made possible with a babysitter once a week for six hours.  My sanity depended on it. Any ministry I did depended on it. Often I would go sit at a coffee shop with a book and a far-away look unwinding from the stress of mothering wee ones. I would always start by staring at the wall.  Yup, just staring. I was allowed to stare, no one was pulling at my jeans. Any books I read, journaling I did, praying I enjoyed, happened during that six hour time period.

 

Where did we get the idea that the fourth commandment to take a Sabbath does not apply to moms? The truth is that we are on the job if we are at home. On. The. Job.

 

The story you read this weekend about being refilled by God? It happened on one of these Sabbaths.  I had an amazing babysitter during that time. A few.  They didn’t charge a lot but they loved my kids and they made this weekly Sabbath possible. Thank you Jennifer, Julia and Kim.

 

It seems impossible.  There’s a money hurdle and you don’t know a reasonable babysitter in your area.  Yup, I’m in that position right now. Perhaps you and another mom could switch babysitting for a few hours?  Do you have an aunt or a mom close by? Perhaps your man could give you an evening, or take the kids to Playland on Saturday mornings, leave you home in the delicious quiet?

 

Fast:

Thirsty? Need more time with God? This is where fasting comes in. Fast a favorite evening television show. Fast a girlfriend visit. Exhausted and having a hard time focusing? He understands. Just offer your imperfect time to God.

 

How?

 

Deep breaths. Quiet your heart. Be present with the Lord with a short scripture.  Breathe in: “Be Still and Know that I am God.” Breathe out: Be still and know that I am God.” Use the Jesus Prayer:  “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or for the sake of this particular issue of empowering, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses,” (Acts 1:8). That means you too, sister.

 

Focus:

I couldn’t get away but my inner healing care group was meeting the next day and I needed God’s Presence to show up strong.  I needed more than a good curriculum because He is the only One who truly has the power to heal. Without the Spirit’s power, without Jesus’ authority, without my heart being right before Him, it could be an exercise in frustration instead of another step toward healing.

 

That’s when I lit a candle and had it burning all day right on top of the kitchen table. Every time I saw it, there was a small invitation to pray. It’s just a simple candle in a glass jar but it reminds me that He is present. It reminds me that prayer is like incense rising before His throne.  Sometimes it was a seriously short prayer, imagining Him, the Light of the World, present in the room with us the next day.  Sometimes it was a sentence, “Lord, I need You to burn anything away that might hinder You from working tomorrow.”

 

Worship:

It’s just a song on repeat and I join the worship while I go about my daily chores.  Your Great Name by Natalie Grant. Laura Story’s Mighty to Save. Matt Maher’s Christ is Risen. I might even invite the kids to dance in the kitchen while we pray God’s Kingdom come.

 votive lit

Fall:

Sometimes when I’m exhausted, I lose all ability to form words. At those moments I can only pray really… simple… prayers. I can only fall on His mercy. This “breath prayer” is from Ron DelBene in a book called, The Breath of Life. It’s perfect for us busy moms.  Simple. Profound. Here it is:

 

We find a moment of quiet before the Lord (nap time? before bed?) and imagine the Lord standing before us, arms outstretched, inviting. He speaks: “What do you most want from me?” Listen for the deep heart’s cry that bubbles to the surface. This, my friend, becomes the simple prayer that you offer.  But, don’t let go of the prayer, allow it to become part of the ongoing conversation between you. Breathe with it. Cry out. Keep it simple: “I am lonely.” “I need true rest.” “I need to know that I am loved unconditionally.” Or like Moses: “God, don’t send me out unless you are going!”  (Exodus 33:15 Summer’s version).

 

Finally, there is grace:

Finally, friends, remember that there is outpourings of grace for us. When I first had Xavier and was overwhelmed with all three, 4 1/2, 2 and 0, I would pick up the phone whenever the stress reached over my eyes.  My mama in her quiet voice would quote Isaiah 40:11, “He gently leads those who are with young.” Gently. He encourages us to be gentle with ourselves as well.  We can live life grace-fueled. No more huge helpings of guilt, only acceptance.

 

Remember that word?  When grace and acceptance and humility intertwines, it’s the quickest way to fall back into His power alone and be filled right back up.

skeleton-key

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Thirsty for more?  Let’s go to the well together. Come along for the journey. Put your email in the “Connect” box on the front page and lets pilgrimage together.

Thirsty for more encouragement? Encouragement 101 for you.  Blessings, friend!

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Counting thanks with Ann Voskamp and writing in community with the insightful Laura Boggess:

1. Thank you Jesus for Ann, for her courage, for her obedience in writing…I’m sending her book into dark places and watching them light up bright!

2. Mom and Dad Gross’ encouragement. I was cornered to keep writing, to find more avenues for these words to find a home! Cornered in a good way, of course!

3. Xavier’s love of legos. He builds and I clean and I’m crazy thankful for multi-colored plastic pieces everywhere.

4. After School Kids: Beautiful women giving their time to teach, beautiful friendships started. So thankful.

5. Drinking in beauty at the National Aviary. Drinking in oxygen. Watching my boy’s eyes light up.

6. My brother’s wedding at a chateau in France this August? I’m crazy excited.

7. Aaron and Elodie setting up home this side of the Atlantic. Kissing baby’s cheeks more often.

8. Feeling stilled, thankful, purpose-filled.

9. Salt-tasting at Church of the Incarnation, Strip District. Thank you Dr. Leslie and Fr. Paul for the imagery that will stay with our children forever. My favorite? The Himalayan pink

10. Roast with red wine filling my house with that gorgeous earthy smell all day.

 

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Re-igniting when our Flame Flickers Low

word seeds

Welcome friends to Word-Seeds. Here we take a step into the Scripture, read the gospel for Sunday morning, prepare our hearts. This week, read here first: Matthew 5:13-20.  Stop at pictures ? They are wide open spaces for contemplation in the middle of the meditation.

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I sat on a bench at Wade’s Bayou watching the carps’ backs roll just under the surface. The Lake Michigan inlet looked more like a crowded koi pond. I had brought my Alpha book, Questions of Life and was reading the Chapter on the Holy Spirit again. The bench was cemented into the ground and so was I. I wasn’t going anywhere until God showed up.

 

I wasn’t filled with angst, I was just resolute.

 

About five weeks before, my Tuesday morning women’s group had begun joining Nicky Gumbel and his gargantuan Alpha class at Holy Trinity Brompton  by sliding a tape in the VCR. Alpha is a type of Christianity 101 and after years without much Christian Education, they needed the basics. We all did.

 

The Holy Spirit weekend was approaching and it had all just clicked. This is what I had been missing. I had been living thick with doubt for eight years. In college Christians had begun annoying me with their perfect formulas and black and white question and answer books. I had more questions than answers. For one? Why would God let a little girl be abused? Yes, that one. The questions held me.

 

Questions are important. They are guides to the struggle. They tell you where to start the journey. But, sometimes they reveal places of deep need, tender places where the wounds reside. They are often the places where our deepest laments should begin. When glossed over, they hold us hostage.

question flower

 All through seminary and the early ministry years, I had searched for God, been lonely for God, fought for God, and wrestled Him hard.  I had prayed, but not trusted.  Then one day I slid over. That’s how it felt, like a slide of a lever on a soundboard…untrusting to trust, just like that. I gave over the tangle of questions and rested.

 

How? I finally came to the point where I believed that God is fully good, always loving. I may never be able to wrap my mind around all the issues that glared at me but I could rest in His goodness.

 God rock

 

Besides, He was infinite. I was not. I only have a brain about the size of a closed fist. I finally handed Him the frayed ends of my doubt.

 

A couple months later I found myself searching for more, as if I was searching under the couch cushions for that last puzzle piece.

 

When the tourists walked around the bench at Wade’s Bayou, I hardly saw them. I was waiting out God. Wood slats under me. Sunny day overhead. I sat. I waited. I had decided something was missing, like the Spirit and fire.

 

I was like a butane lighter that kept trying to fire but could never ignite.

 

rock  own strength

 

I had grown up witnessing miracles. Cancer healed, exes slipping the rings back on, alcoholics dumping whiskey down the sink.  I expected to preach Jesus and see the same things. My husband saw them. I didn’t. I was all words and no power.   All wick and no flame.

 

Nothing was catching fire.

 

I waited holding onto the Alpha book. I was expectant. Besides, He promised. It’s what Jesus told his disciples. Wait. Acts 1: 4-5,”Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” I was thirsty for my own Pentecost.

 

wooden bench

 

Was it an hour later? I don’t know. I remember being in an entirely emotionally neutral state and looking out onto the water rippled with light when a powerful sense of the love of God encompassed me. From zero to 100 in three seconds. I bathed in that love, was showered in that love, drank in that love, was utterly overwhelmed by that love. I sat still. I was inside the flame.

 

Was I devoid of the Holy Spirit before? I don’t think so. I believe every Christian has the Presence of the Holy Spirit on their lives.  But, this my friends was an extreme makeover. Afterwards, fruit flourished in ministry, my flailing marriage, my own interior life which had been stalled for years. What else? After Wade’s Bayou, I had the desire to read more Scripture, to be placed under His authority, its authority. I was like the thirsty who couldn’t get enough. I woke up early eager to drink more.

 

The gospels are filled with references to Jesus going off early in the morning to spend hours with the Father.  “But Jesus Himself would often slip away by Himself to pray.” This Luke 5:16 verse is echoed in Luke 6:12, Luke 9:28, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35-36, Mark 6:46, and John 6:15. He picked out his twelve after one such morning.

 

If Jesus required this in His own perfect life, this sitting, soaking, listening, sharing, why do we have such a burgeoning sense of self-reliance?

 

Martin Luther shared with a colleague that he had so much to do that day he needed to take the first three hours in prayer. When I was at Asbury college, I remember hearing about an Indian seminarian across the street who would try to fit his homework around his prayer, complaining he never had enough time on his knees and when did these Americans wait on God?

 

Over the years, I’ve seen a direct correlation between the light of Christ in my life and prayer.  Sermons dusty? Sit. Wait. Pray. Marriage struggling? Sit. Wait. Pray. Maybe it’s just me who needs the waiting because I have so much to break through. I’m stubborn, prideful. It takes time to become pliable for Him.  It takes listening and waiting and journaling and conversation, but a lot of just sitting still, expectant.

 

While waiting all of this happens:

1. We fold ourselves deep into humility. We recognize that we can’t do it on our own, without God our work is utterly empty. We lean in dependent and He breaks through the thick ice of our pride. We become a creature before the Creator.

2. Repentance comes. We get out of God’s way.  What must I empty that is hindering God’s work? What needs to be confessed? What needs to be healed?

3. Wisdom comes. The Word is opened and we understand its correlation with the needs of the moment.

4. The Spirit comes. Our work is empowered.

 

Paul got it. He explains it to the Colossians: “Christ in me, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me,” Colossians 1:27b-29.

 

One of our Anglican bishops says that he believes we leak the Spirit in our daily lives. As we turn toward other sources to meet our needs, as we sin, as we depend upon ourselves, His power leaks out. He believes that the infilling is a constant need. I agree.  That is why we wait. We wait for God present to transform our small offerings to God-empowered ministries.

 

We lift up our loaves and fish and pray they will be enough to nourish. We lift up our water and pray He will transform it to wine. We lift up our ordinary and wait to be broken and blessed.

 

holy spirit flower

 

We lift up our minuscule candle flame and ask Him to be the bellows. That’s how fires get started.

 

I pray for wisdom for this house mess, for Him to brood over this chaos. I pray for the Spirit’s power before I do spiritual direction. I pray for calm before I make the bedtime rounds. I pray before I write.

 

We wait for Him to ignite our spiritual giftings. When the Holy Spirit empowers, His fruit filters down to all areas of our lives (Galatians 5:22-25). Hallelujah because I need some serious patience around the morning rush.

 

He lights us and people see and they can warm their hands in our flame, but they will only truly get warm if they turn toward the Son, toward Jesus.

 

We just hope to light their way.

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Thirsty for more?

Come pilgrimage with me. Slip your email into the connect box on the front page and we’ll journey together.

When you Need More of God 

My favorite book on the subject? Terry Wardle’s Untamed Christian, Unleashed Church, a somewhat humorous and highly masculine book (sports analogies, man humor) about our need for the Holy Spirit. A must read. Perfect for clergy or laity.

pics from our trip to Italy and Wikimedia.com

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Advent, Day 6: Emmanuel Changes Everything

Isaiah 7:14 “… Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name lmmanuel: God with us”

Life leapt.

God kicked

and what at first she had held tight within faith’s fist,

now bounced,

small mass of cells

somersaulting against internal walls.

 

Laughter must have risen up deep from that womb as God’s seed played in motion within her.  Worship had consummated, (My Soul proclaims the glory of the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior,) and she was filled, growing large with Joy.

 

Because what is Joy except God’s Presence in full banquet form?

 

And she was carrying the Bridegroom of the wedding within her womb.

 

“God with us” changes everything.

 

 

Christ present is the difference between a life limping and a life full.  “God with us” IS abundant life, whether the circumstances are a full bank account, a full brood, a full dance card or the expectant empty. “God with us” turns every moment into a God-full moment. Him present now is the difference between a life bereft and a life empowered.

 

LeAnne Payne wrote in Healing Prayer of the total exhaustion that had wilted her halfway through a retreat. For four days she had spilled out empty. With one more talk to give, she had no strength with which to give it.

 

What do we do when we are the empty?  We take hold of Him who takes hold of us.

 

She stood up, consciously took hold of His hand and walked up to the podium. Then, unable to be anything but silent, she focused on Christ present.  And silent she watched a mass of people begin weeping, falling to their knees, others with arms stretched out.  She prayed a short prayer of thanks, believing the people had received all they needed, closed the session and walked back down to her seat.

 

Christ had been present beside her, a hand of blessing outstretched.

 

They had bathed in His presence and watched the Rescuer come.

 

And dear friends, remember this next time you are shrinking small: When we walk into a room holding onto the hand of the Emmanuel, we usher in the Redeemer, the Healer, the Comforter, the very Salvation of the world.

 

Like Mary, we become bearers of God.

 

Another Advent spiritual exercise for the thirsty:

Close your eyes and pray for God to sanctify your imagination (why would He have given us an imagination if not to redeem and use it?) Then ask Him where He is in the room.  Allow Him to form the picture, then spend time in watching what He does next. Rest with Him, receive His love and take time to worship. 

–From Dr. Anne Halle of Ashland Seminary
This “God with us” is one of my life-themes. It’s been six years and He just makes me more hungry for more Emmanuel. Want to read more here?

Sleeping with Bread: How His Presence Changes Everything

 

We are on Day 6 of our journey to the manger. Don’t miss a day. Subscribe on the front page in the CONNECT square.   I’m praying for you as together we desire more of Him.

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