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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 Bible-2

“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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When your Soul Craves a Home, a vlog

Do you crave more? Do you crave home and knowing you have a place card at God’s table with your name embroidered on it? Me too.

 

 

summer preaching the tableYesterday I had the privilege of preaching in the strip district at Church of the Incarnation Anglican church. I adore this group of artists, musicians, poets, students, children, and professors. Gorgeous and meaningful classical music, reams of paper and colored pencils for creative meditation, ample silence, and a liturgy that’s ripe and full, never stuffy. Incarnation is planted in the middle of Pittsburgh’s foodie heaven above Bar Marco, a hipster restaurant on Bon Appetit’s top 50 list. It’s church with the muted sounds of diners just underneath. This is the perfect setting for a full theology of the table to be born.

 

The lectionary handed me Psalm 23 and I zoned in on verse 5: “You have spread a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

 

Early on I share Rublev’s Trinity and its invitation to join in the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit:

rublev's trinity

You friend, whatever you need, it’s on the table.

 

This is your invitation. Scoot up your chair and taste and see that He is good.

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Sharing this post with Ann Voskamp and counting thanks:

1. 21 years with my love, chocolate cake and the numbers 37 on his cake

2. After dinner walk with the sweet assertive smell of lily of the valley

3.Walking downtown with my boys coaxing their soccer balls

4. Discovering Lucy Mond Montgomery again with Madeline.

5. Marilynne Robinson’s gorgeous life-steeped prose.

6. The cards and smiles and the homemade presents of mother’s day

7. Xavier jumping flat footed in the puddles

8. Daddy’s help at bathtime

9. the privilege of good news…oh the privilege

10. coming home more and more often to my place at the table

also linking with Jen who encourages so many.

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Psalm 23: Learning to Slow and Rest

Andrew’s retreating with a fly rod in hand and I’m cocooned in the love of family and this week we are resting. a lot.  This is a republished post from last year after Easter which I reread often…maybe it will be a gift for you too.

 

THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. Psalm 23:1

You have the crook, yes, but You have the heart, open and generous, protecting, shielding.  I shall not lack…here, now in this Moment.  This seems to be the key.  You are always enough Here.  I am the one who runs ahead into lack, who runs ahead into fear and smacks my head sharp.  How could I lack with Your powerful Presence, with me, for me?  You are here and that news is like spring water running again.  Fear drives me to lack as a frozen stream, stuck.  Your Presence heals my fear of not enough, my fear of new, my fear of judgment.  The lies that shout, fall silent at Your feet.  You are here.  I shall not lack.

Sheep are dumb.  I heard it over and over in sermons.  Now I understand: “Sheep are simple.”  I AM simple to You.  You know my needs and how to meet them in the here and where to get daily bread.  This awkward, leaping frog jump into the future was never made for me.  I am simple.  I was meant to take small steps forward, while chomping on what was right in front of me.  I need to remain simple, open, slow, close to the Shepherd.

 2He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters

In You I can rest deep, like Andrew and I did that night 15 yrs ago in our two person tent, hearing the water’s current and play around the rocks, zipping out and seeing the waterfall’s faithful spurt.  Someone had placed a stick cross in the rocks and that is still my favorite place we ever lived, even if it was just for a night.

Shepherd, you know my simple needs:  daily, minute by minute You, Bread of Life, fresh, tender Presence.

And Living Water.  Hours at the drinking fountain and You still do not run dry.

You never run dry.

 

 

 

 

 

3He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him–not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.

You refresh and restore my life.  When do you do this?  Now.  In the delicious, rain drenched kids-still-asleep early.

I am restored to joy by being present.  Here.  Now.  Because You are Here, Now.

Sheep are simple, easily led. I am not.

I am a wild colt, jolting, running crooked, spooked eyes wild at the unseen.

I feel You stand and hand out, low voice, full authority speak “Be Still” at my wave-whipped storms.

Be still and Know and then walk slow, purposeful,

listening

until you need to Be Still again.

 

4Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.

We don’t get out of here alive, Dad says.  Death will come.

Death will someday be peace.  But fears, sudden tsunamis from the deep, make for a living death, whipped by lies taught by the unhealed.  I become a shade, afraid to walk on sharp grass, unable to identify the lines in my hands, let alone my Shepherd’s.

Knees tremor. Internal earthquake.

The crook helps.

I feel the gentle pressure of the wood tapping me from the precipice and I slide closer to the wall of the mountain, feel it solid against my palm.  “I am here, Summer.  Do you see that foot hold?

Step there.

Step and then another Step.

Deep Breath. It’s ok.

Take your time.

We’ve got all the time in the world.”

I hear my husband Andrew’s patient voice as we hiked dangerous passes around Linville Gorge before the children were born.

And how much more my Father in heaven?  The knees congeal again and I focus here, now:  Take in the view,

Feel the ground solid beneath my feet,

Run hands over the plants rooted in crevices.

He’s got this.  Deep Breath.

My God: He’s got this.

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.

This one makes joy rise.  You cooking, stirring, adding your chiffonade herbs, spreading out a table cloth, folding napkins: the King of Hospitality.

And I love You for it.

The company, not so much.

But the enemy did not see Joy coming.

Crouching, ready to strike, shocked at a Present banquet with the Shepherd Himself.  Joy Present in the moment pushes fear to the edges.  Love shows him the door.

I can eat, drink, be satisfied, fully Present.  Drinking the vintage of the greatest Company.  I am loved and delighted in, oil anointing, not out of lack but spilling over.  We’ve got plenty, my Dear.  Let’s feast: raise a glass to our love.  Don’t worry, there’s more where this came from… for tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

6Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place.

After feasting on Love made by the hands of Goodness Himself, Mercy’s coverage on my fears, I know how to Be.  I am to be a Dwelling open for Him, Being still and Knowing, and then walking slowly only when still and knowing.

I am to invite Him to my here, now.

You are Here, Bread, Living Water, wine of joy and You have and are and will give me gifts in the here.  Full ripe fruit moments I have just begun to taste.

I saw You eating a ripe peach slowly in my last prayer time solid in Your Presence.  You shocked me with Your enjoyment of the temporal.  I had forgotten that You redeem and resurrect earth, that turning water to wine was your first miracle…

resurrecting Present joy is mine.

Summer Gross

 

 

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When our Schedule Presses in Close

This story by Linda Andersen is a part of the Sabbath focus we have on Fridays here at a Thirst for God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters,He restores my soul.” Ps. 23:1-3

“Hello Friend.  How is your life looking today?  A lot like mine, I imagine.

 

Each of our lives do look a little different.  And yet, in essence, they are exactly the same:  we’re all occupied.  With something or someone we  “do life”.  Small children make big demands.

 

Big children make bigger demands.

 

Life happens.

 

I have lived through most seasons of life, and still find sabbath times hard to come by.  Still I find them necessary for balance….for ballast.  This surprises me!  I thought when I became an “older woman” I would have it all together. I would have no need for cutaway times of solitude alone with my thoughts and the Lord.  Not so!!

 

Take yesterday. I could have done a zillion things more “useful”, but absolutely did NOT.  Coffee in hand, I headed toward Grand Haven on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan.  My plan?   To while away a bunch of hours  alone in the womanly pursuit  of window shopping!  No hurry.  No schedule.  Finding shops that spurred creativity, I strolled: in and out, back and forth:  a bumblebee on the sunny side of the street, not  on a mission.

 

This was a day of sabbath hours, and different from most of my DAWG days  (days alone with God).  Today, it was all I needed.

 

Most of my  sabbaths are small, but add up to big or big enough.  Such is the hour I found last week.  I invite you to pull up a comfy chair, get a cup of whatever you love, (do use a beautiful cup), turn on soft music, and spend 20 luscious minutes loving God and life.  Dream..drift…and dabble on purpose .  Accomplish nothing in particular.   It’s more than okay….

 

  THE SABBATH SACK

It’s Monday.  And it’s May in Michigan.  Sky weeps wet, cutting rivers down blue-gray windows.  Nine days now.  I thump out of bed with a frown and meet this sodden,  day with an attitude cold as the sky.

 

Then, I think of Sunday.   Sunday was glorious!  Song and prayer and sermon and soulful hugs and strength upon strength as Spirit of God moved on the waters of my heart and shifted and rearrange my spirit.  Communion fed this soul.

 

Sundays are always easy to love.

 

But today is Monday.  Have I leaked so much grace?  Already?

 

On Monday I do errands.  So I dress for town and grab the list which tolls my hours, and head for my car.  What!  All the doors are locked!  No extra key!  Husband is here but not ready for fixing this!  Time ticks.  Anxiety shuffles in and takes a seat beside pity.  I’m surly as I step into his car and race toward today.

 

Spirit limps.  Thanks goes into hiding.  Rain pesters hard across grimy windshields.  Store to store.  Red light, green light.  One to go.  I stop to pick up an item, and clerk gifts me with a sack.  Sack is pink.  Over the top and girly.  So I poke, curious.  A candle, a hand massager, and bath salts!  For me?  On a rainy day, me?

 

Sky looks rosier as I finish my errands.  New script now.  What and when and how can I use my “Sabbath sack”?  Thoughts flit–play tag in my head, and I know today is the day!  After all, I reason, play does rhyme with gray!  Today I will pick my time and enjoy a sabbath hour, alone and listening, for God does speak, even on Mondays.

 

Responsibility balks and brays loud at this.

 

Two o’clock.  My hour arrives.  The house is empty and it is mine.  I turn the tub faucet.  A warm niagara  pools, filling the tub.  I drop in beads of scented oil….light candle.  Things are looking up.  I fire up the wood stove and sit back, loving the crackle.  Flames leap.  So far, so good.  Now the  music.  I am so ready for this!  Notes tumble and freefall around my quiet room.  I slip into the silky water and make room for joy.

 

“Father!”  “To think……you would even make it pink!”

 

Sabbath found me, and it harnessed my soul.  And God saw that it was good.

 

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The Shepherd is Here

The Shepherd is Here

I shall not lack…

 

And this seems to be key:  You are always enough in the present.

I am the one who runs ahead

into lack, who runs ahead

into fear and smacks my head sharp.

If Your Kingdom-spreading Presence is with me, for me, how could I lack?

You are HERE and that news is like spring water starting to run.  Fear drives me to lack as a frozen stream, stuck.  Your Presence heals my fear of not enough, my fear of new, my fear of the unknown skin-tearing judgment.

You are HERE. I shall not lack.

 

Sheep are dumb.  This is what I heard over and over in sermons.  But now I hear: “Sheep are simple.”

I AM simple to You.  You know my needs hidden and how to hands-open meet them in the here and where to hit the rock to see the water spill.

This awkward, leaping frog jump into the future was never made for me. I am simple.  I was meant to take measured steps, gathering starchy manna spread in front of me.

To deliberately live simple, to live one ear pressed up toward You

open,

slow,

body brushing crook and rod,

pulled in close

to the Shepherd.

Summer Gross

Just A Sip

One of my favorite songs: I AM by Jill Phillips. Lyrics under the embedded YouTube clip

 

Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast,
But I will stay
The same through the past,
The same in future, same today

CHORUS:
I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I’m the only one who knows your heart’s desires
Your heart’s desires

Oh weary, tired and worn,
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold
Cause Mine is light

I know you through and through;
There’s no need to hide
I want to show you love
That is deep and high and wide

CHORUS(2x)

Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest

 

Counting Thanksgivings with Ann:

Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing and Ann calling out prophets to speak Word and poetry to a world enamored with industry and smeared production.  I wept silently.

No more pain lingering, erased as if it never was

A clean floor, a friend spreading almond-scented straight-up gift across my dingy hardwoods.

New book for the children, the friendship and march for justice by Martin Luther King and Abraham Heschel.  A call to march out our anger, see the image of God in each.

Whole milk yogurt from the neighborhood store (!) to beef up children

April 23rd, anniversary of our first date, a walk through the white trilium and three years later, my saying yes, the beginning of the hard beautiful work of grace.

 

 

 

 

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The Lord is my Shepherd Thanksgiving

THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. Psalm 23:1

You have the crook, yes, but You have the heart, open and generous, protecting, shielding.  I shall not lack…here, now in this Moment.  This seems to be the key.  You are always enough Here.  I am the one who runs ahead into lack, who runs ahead into fear and smacks my head sharp.  How could I lack with Your powerful Presence, with me, for me?  You are here and that news is like spring water running again.  Fear drives me to lack as a frozen stream, stuck.  Your Presence heals my fear of not enough, my fear of new, my fear of judgment.  The lies that shout, fall silent at Your feet.  You are here.  I shall not lack.

Sheep are dumb.  I heard it over and over in sermons.  Now I understand: “Sheep are simple.”  I AM simple to You.  You know my needs and how to meet them in the here and where to get daily bread.  This awkward, leaping frog jump into the future was never made for me.  I am simple.  I was meant to take small steps forward, while chomping on what was right in front of me.  I need to remain simple, open, slow, close to the Shepherd.

Summer Joy Gross

(More of this meditation on Psalm 23 will come in the following days)

How do you dwell trusting in the moment?

 

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