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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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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Sleeping with Bread, Part 4; Wrestling with God

This was a wrestle this summer…one that I can’t mold into a tidy little shape of words, the sweat and tears of it are just too fresh.  Have mercy with the lack of polish…I considered not publishing it, but, honestly, it feels like a cop out to not give it to you as a part of this series, Sleeping with Bread. And honestly, if you and I were sitting over coffee at Starbucks, (which I would love to do sometime!) I would share this story with every one of you dear friends.

 

Sometimes we smack into life hard, don’t we? A job loss, depression, a car accident, a death that took love too soon. They are all Pandora’s boxes letting out core longing fears that scream to be heard and the promises we sang in Sunday school just don’t feel honest anymore.  That’s when we go to bed with bread and a good, night-long wrestle with the Word.

 

If I have time (and sense!) in the light, that’s when I pull my journal off the shelf and lament uncensored, (you know there are more lament Psalms than praise psalms?) and weep into the empty page like David in Psalm 22:

 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night and am not silent.”

 

Strength drained, I can’t pray in the light, so I wrestle with the Word like the Psalmist in Psalm 77 here:

 

“I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint.”

 

Sometimes sleeping with bread is more of a wrestle, but a wrestle that always ends with a blessing.

I was shaken.  Core rocked.  The job fell through in June as the last boxes were being taped up and we had rented out our home to beach-seekers for the summer. Stunned, we drove east, homeless. My parents took us in ecstatic to squeeze the grandkids daily. Twelve weeks of what felt like family vacation rose and fell on waves of insecurity.

 

But the Gift-Giver keeps bestowing even when we are an uprooted mess of roots hungry for a future.

 

Mom and Dad bought a black and white striped umbrella for the teak table on the back porch and I cooked one feast after another: white wine poached salmon, garlic studded roast chicken and filets smothered with blue cheese sauce.  When they traveled to Belgium to see the newest member of our family born, their presence, a cover of joy was removed and naked fear was all that was left. We went back to boxes of Macaroni and Cheese.

 

I spent the first part of that week in a fog, unable to plan, to pray. Television was my drug of choice and every evening when the kids went down, I did too.  One episode of West Wing after another to numb the fear.  Triumphal music+ great screen write= Perfect Escape. A day with a new friend finally shook me out.  (Thank you Christie Purifoy!) She was gentle with my fragility and we exchanged stories of moves that land us in the desert and a faithful God who with pillars of fire, guide us through.  Later, I sat with my heart finally quieted enough to listen.

 

I was empty and shaken, but our God knows what to do with empty.  Empty may feel like a pit but when we hold it out to the Giver, empty is that much closer to being full.

 

He sent me on a treasure hunt, all that day. Listen, He reminded me, for a short phrase of scripture to take to bed with me, to hold onto tight.

 

The living Word winding through the subconscious dislodges demons and exposes others powerless.

 

He reminded me to go to sleep with bread.

 

When anxiety left the children of the Holocaust without the soft sleep of peace, Viktor Frankl says that they were tucked in bed with bread, curling their bodies around that which would give them life the next day.  They needed to grasp certainty.

 

We too can be woven into such a tight knot of fear that sleep evades and when night comes, we are left with a mind teetering on the edge of a very real hell.

 

And that which is clearly untrue by the light of day can still mock in darkness.

 

These verses had slid in and out of my mouth during my daily reading lectionary as I read daily but had honestly never stuck firmly in my mind.  “I set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken, Psalm 16:8”  They felt foreign and at this point, clearly untrue.  Not shaken? Ha!  I had been absolutely rocked!  Tremors had produced deep fissures in my trust. Ah, but I still clung.  Clung hard. He is the only solid Pillar to cling to in the middle of an earthquake.  That night as I tucked in with bread, I gripped the crust tight, holding strong onto God.

 

Jacob had wrestled, holding onto the Life Giver, refusing to give up the grasp, the sweaty slide throughout the night.  He believed the next day he, the blessing stealer, would meet with his brother Esau and possibly die at his hands along with all he loved. This night traveling back toward his boyhood home was his only hope and he would wrestle until he knew blessing.

 

I too held on tight, longing for release from fear, longing for blessing. I repeated the words as I breathed in, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

 

The promise of not being shaken clearly went along with practicing His Presence. Because I know that He is here, I have set the Lord always before me, even on my right, I will not be shaken.

 

What came to mind was the hymn, St. Patrick’s Breastplate and that first Sunday as Holy Trinity Anglican when we walked out of the Episcopal church and onto the water and everything felt all wobbly beneath our feet. We began worship and here was that snare drum and the firm beat as we followed the Celtic cross down the makeshift middle school cafeteria aisle.

 

These were the words St. Patrick wrapped around himself daily against the fear and struggle of a missionary life. He lived choosing to feed his pagan captors Jesus, they who had enslaved him as a child. St. Patrick had overcome the trauma of separation from family as a child, the trauma of six years of slavery and after escaping back to his family,  had done the excruciatingly hard work of forgiveness. He had wrestled bitterness and anger and God had sent him back into their hands, to love and bring His Kingdom to his Captors. These were the words that became his protection, the bread he grasped daily.

 

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me.

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 

I held onto the bread tighter, the Bread-giver: “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  You are here. Before me. Beside me. Like Patrick, I choose to hide myself in You.

 

I fell mercifully asleep and dreamed deep. We were on a plane, the whole church we had just left in South Haven, everyone strapped to the metal top, our hair waving wildly in the wind.  Lynne Maxwell led the praise team and tried to buoy our fear, play louder, more upbeat. We all tried clapping in time from our sliding aluminum chairs and then the plane began to tip and the whole church, Sonya Silvester, Kathy Sicard, Mark Lewis… all of us began free-falling into miles of empty air. I caught my breath, a mouthful of fear, and then it happened, the Word transforming, the blessing. I began yelling over and over, “I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

 

The words proclaimed were like pulling the rip cord on a parachute and I began floating, buoyed, slowly capturing the magnificent view in mental pictures.  Flying.

 

The wrestling came to an end and the little “t” truth became a transforming big “T” Truth and I was truly blessed.

 

The next morning the blessing continued. The words now had more power than the tangle of my own thoughts and the earthquake stilled.

 

The bread lodged firmly in my mind and I feasted.

 

Summer Gross

Paintings by Rembrandt, Delacroix found here

Looking for more of the Sleeping with Bread series? Click on the title here:

A Simple Bedtime Practice

How His Presence Changes Everything

Healing through Repetition

My Story: Where my Story is Challenged by Truth

 

You friend? Have you found any hope, any gift from sleeping with bread? We would love to share the feast.

Linking with the always insightful Laura Boggess , the completely authentic Jen and Ann who  challenges and draws and makes me more thirsty.

My gifts this week? 1. A fireplace roaring and the family coming to be warmed, 2.My sister, listening, in-Couraging, 3. Seeing old high school friends, cheering on the flames, 4. rides on a vespa with Uncle Matt, 5. A husband’s grace with my grief, 6. Incarnation Anglican’s hospitality to my children. 7. Time ‘home’ to take deep breaths and remember how to be real, 8. Lindsay and Ethan, joining friends on the journey, 9. Thai peanut chicken, a revelation! 10. the truth from others and the sinking down small and letting Him grow large.

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Day 12: The Gift of Sabbath

On Sundays during Lent, we’ll slow to a stop.  No more working, no more spinning, just rest.  Deep breaths leaning in.  Because He stopped and knows that we need to too. So come to the well to be refilled, and don’t worry about coming empty.

 

 

I slag, soul-aching.  The world feels fuzzy and I cannot see the Glory fullness. It is Friday, a scheduled Sabbath.  I left my children dancing around the babysitter, her smiling holding a plastic bag of dollar store treasure.  Out the door, I escape into the promise of meeting God.

I close the minivan door and drive, try praying, try worship music, try doing spiritual warfare, try thanking God for the frilly pink rose of Sharons planted beside the interstate.  All the doors I try are empty.  I’ve got nothing and the more I try to get something, the more I feel the straight jacket of anxiety tighten.

Installed at Panera, I open my computer, my Bible, smooth cream cheese on a sesame seed bagel.  All I say is, “Here I Am” and in my first search, Philippinans 2:13 pops up on my mobile in the Amplified.  “[not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.” Philippians 2:13 Ahhhh, I need me some of that.

I type my need:  I need You.

I come.

Barefooted, I step slowly up the aisle to the altar, hands out, eyes down, watching the ancient stones go by as I amble slowly towards You.  I try to yell, to get your attention but find even that takes too much energy and end up frustrated, sinking, kneeling on cold stones, then resting into child pose.  I ache empty.  Arms reach out and somehow the cold stones feel refreshing.  I lay still.  Still feels honest.

I feel a strong hand heavy on my back. I pick up my head and my eyes arrest on feet, pierced.  You are here. I place my hands on Your feet, inch my body up to pillow my head.

Here.  You are Here.  The Source of All, Present. I don’t have to run more, explain more, search more.  I can just BE here with You.  You cup my face in Your hands and lift me up to sit Indian style, then guide cup to lips, “Summer, this is my blood, my LIFE, strength for the journey.” Wine warms as it glides down my throat.  Bread: honey sweet and yeasty.  Holy Priest bringing Holy Things for me.  You are Present and I don’t need to beg.

“And if God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also graciously give us all things.” Romans 8: 32

And so I come.  Just as I am.  I come holding nothing…no twelve step formula, no four step plan, no written prayer and You, You lay a banquet for the fumbling, for the hungry, for the empty.

Summer Gross

How do you Sabbath when you are empty?

Wish to worship a little longer?

 

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A Gift from Linda: Chapter 1 From a New Book!

Dear Reading Friends,

It’s a joy to have you visit this space, set aside to lift the Savior up.  YOU are the reason WE are here.  We pray for you often.  And we pray our writing will be a gift.

 

Have you noticed…..we’ve been writing about “Sabbath” often?  In response to a visible need, we’ve turned our attention to helping you find “Sabbath spaces” to be alone with God. In a concentrated way.  Call it TAWG (Time Alone With God).  It’s easy to remember.  We like to call it “Sabbath”.  And it’s more than Sunday: it’s chunks of time anytime.  It’s Sabbath Living.

 

In the coming weeks, we’ll zero in on what “Sabbath” time is, who it’s for, and why do it.  We hope to make you thirsty for this life-giving practice as you open spaces for truly abundant life to enter.

 

Now, get comfortable, decide to spend a little “Sabbath” time with us, and be sure to let us know what happens!  We can’t wait!

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“TABLE FOR TWO”

 

“All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.”   I Cor. 7:32-35

 

Chapter 1

A Necessary Goodness

 

How does that sound!  How does it sound to your soul?  Alone, with the Master.  Doesn’t it make you thirsty?

 

Most of us tend to lead lives of constant mental clatter.  Conversation rattles incessantly around in our heads, our homes.   Our techno-clutter pelts us with a sea of unquiet.

 

 

Alone.  With the Master.

 

 

Our worlds are forested with the undergrowth of unchecked words and unnecessary information.

 

Music and talk shows careen carelessly through our coffee shops, infest our cars, our elevators, our lives in general.  Buckets of television words follow us into hamburger joints and airport waiting rooms.  Our world reeks with noise.  We are, all of us, hungry for quietness…for silence…and most of all for God.

 

Sabbath time alone with God is vital to our noise-drenched selves.  Devotional time is just a beginning…. just whets our thirst if truth be known.  We need more.  And we don’t take it.   So lives skid out of control and spirits shrivel.

 

We need to invite alone time–find it and keep it .  Our souls need to situate themselves comfortably inside a pillowed circle of silence regularly in order to hear the voice of God and the truths of our own, multi-colored hearts.  Are we exhausted?   Sabbath time will make that clear.

 

Cutaway Sabbath times with God alone opens the secret door of ourselves to ourselves, and to Him.  He hears.  He knows.  He weeps deep with His knowing.  Stripped of all the subtle ways we “posture” among others, we become transparent when alone.  We hear the truth.  We may enter alone time in fear, but we leave in exultation.

 

Sabbath time allows us to encounter truths in a way not possible when with others.  We experience the relief of being “real” and looking at sequestered truths and letting go of heart clutter.

 

My Story

 

After the death of my mother, I set aside a “Sabbath” at a nearby retreat center for a day alone.  I thought I was “doing well”.  Hadn’t I said so?  I quickly learned I was not.  Tears erupted from some volcanic center, and I let them come.  For l l/2 hours they came: uncorked, unchained, unbottled.  Raw and fierce emotion charged through me with the gale force of a windstorm until the wind began to surge intermittently, and finally died.  There had been nowhere to grieve!

 

 

In the quiet that came, my soul gathered itself and began to heal as God heard my lament.  Mountains of feelings were climbed until the end of the day brought peace and calm, and the ability to reenter my world recharged.

 

A perfect parenthesis between yesterday and tomorrow.

 

None of us can water a field with a pitcher of water.  But oh, we do try!  I have.  You have.  But our bodies and our souls must be informed they are not invincible and put on notice they will be cared for.

 

 

“Jesus!  And did you, too, need so much time alone with God?  It seems so.  This makes me thirsty…draw me nearer…

 

A SIP OF WATER

Turn everything off.  Sit quietly in a darkened room for 10 minutes.  Breathe deeply 10 times.  Close your eyes. You have begun.

Linda Andersen
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also connecting with Jennifer Dukes Lee:

GettingDownWithJesus

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An Evening Prayer

through pinterest from simplyseleta.com

I AM is home.  And I am complete.  The day falls away like a paper lab suit I peel off.

This is my English cottage in the woods, our cottage, really…what I imagine my heaven will look like.  The sun is starting to go down, the golden hour and a round front door ushers Him in.  I run to the door to greet Him.

I’ve been waiting all day to look into your eyes.  I take His face in my hands.   Jesus, you look so good to me.  He twirls me around as if I was light as a little girl.

You know how much I love you, Summer Joy?

I eat supper with I AM in front of the fire on the round pedastal table between two wingback chairs and while cutting my chicken, I hit my glass, spilling my milk.  He laughs.  I love that nothing surprises Him, nothing torques Him.  I clean it up while we share jokes.  The crackling fire warms our hands, but His crinkled eyes do the same for my heart.  I AM is home.

He’s home and I take a deep breath.  No more seeking.  No more pretending there is living water anywhere else but in His Presence.

You are the I AM and you are my home.

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Love Saturated Evangelism

 

Mark 1:29-42

Andrew and another disciple zigzagged with Jesus through the crowd to his home, perhaps a room at an inn, maybe a space on a rented rooftop able to feel the vibrations of a busy family below.  Their minds must have echoed the words of their own teacher, John the Baptist, who yelled out in a busy town square the day before as he saw Jesus come near, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him…I testify that this is the Son of God.”  Andrew and the other must have asked what treasures will pour out of a man on whom the Spirit rests or truly, will we even be able to understand His cryptic messages?  The mystery draws them on and then they sit, stay, listen to this man Jesus, this Lamb of God.  They soak words, eat bread and then soak up more Word in the Presence of the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator.  Then, Andrew impatient with joy jumps up, says he will returns and runs…straight for his brother, “We have found the Messiah.”

My commentary on this scripture said this: “it appeared that Andrew had been with Jesus that he was so full of him. He knew there was enough in Christ for all; and, having tasted that he is gracious, he could not rest till those he loved had tasted it too. True grace hates monopolies, and loves not to eat its morsels alone.

But, here is the question: How can we like Andrew point to the living God, go home and grab our brother when we have not tasted, have not seen God Himself, not soaked in His voice?  When we have only tasted God someone else has shown us, we have no desire to usher another into His Presence, drag them to the holy.  We’ve got a Roman road and a track and evangelism tools thrust in a box under the bed but we are so often leading people to an assent to ideas about God and not tearing off terra cotta roof tiles, lowering them down into the Presence of the One who sees their pain, but speaks straight to the source of what is festering in their heart, “Your sins are forgiven.”  They are released and Grace Himself heals.

If we have not been home with God and tasted the good news of life free from the twisted pain and shame of sin, free from the captivities which like cataracts layered, hold us blind, our “Come and See” is anemic, embarrassed, hollow.  It was only when Andrew had been in Jesus Presence, sitting at the feet of the one in whom is hidden all the mysteries of wisdom and revelation that his calling to his brother had any substance.

“We have found the Messiah,” Andrew told his brother.  Found.  He, the pearl of great price, the treasure in the field, the Messiah the earth has been groaning to feel walk upon its dirt is Found.  And you, my friend, my brother, my sister, should come and see!

Summer Gross

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