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Archive for the ‘Intimacy with God’ Category

When I was a young girl, my family lived near Chicago in a three-bedroom, one bath home. One car parked in the driveway; there was no garage. My brother and I dreamed of owning an in-ground swimming pool but had to settle for the crowded, over-chlorinated conditions of the community pool.

 

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If someone had told me, “Nancy, when you grow up you will get married, have three children, and live in Florida for forty years. Every home will have two bathrooms and a garage. You’ll eventually own two cars, too. But, best of all, three of your homes will have a swimming pool in the backyard.”

 

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(Sometimes we enjoyed a bigger pool — the Gulf or Atlantic.)

 

I would have thought, Unbelievable! When all those heavenly things happen, then I’ll be happy and content.

Ah, but during those forty years in Florida I remember thinking on more than one occasion: If only this heat and humidity would let up. It’s like a furnace out there. Or, Why can’t these kids just get along with each other and give me some peace? Or, Houseguests are coming; gotta clean those bathrooms today. Ugh.

Contentment can be an elusive quality. No sooner do we possess one long-desired item, we discover another acquisition to wish for. No sooner have we achieved one level of success, we’re already reaching for the next—with a sideways glance at our neighbor who’s acquired or accomplished more than we have.

We know what scripture tells us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 

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Our spirits sense the truth of it and recognize the gain to be had when craving, grasping, and unrest give way to peace of mind and tranquility of spirit.

But how?

Contentment is a choice of perspective. I can choose to affirm and celebrate my:

  • Possessions.  I have more than enough.
  • Position.  I have experienced more than enough.
  • Personhood.  I am more than enough the way God made me, with my particular personality traits, gifts, and abilities.

Like Paul, I can learn to be content by choosing again and again the proper perspective (Philippians 4:11).

 

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However.

There is one area where contentment is not desirable: in the spiritual realm. I never want to become content with what I already know about God or be satisfied with the current level of intimacy between my Heavenly Father and me.

I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

 

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That’s an opportunity for a lifetime. Think of it: we never reach the end of his magnificence and influence. There is always greater knowledge to understand, more wonder to explore, more splendor and growth to experience.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord, God, may I not look right or left at what others have, or what others have accomplished, or what gifts and talents they display. Keep me mindful of my utmost desire: to know you more intimately, follow you more closely, and live in the contentment of your sufficiency for everything.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ancestory.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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A common, ordinary day in mid-November

Overcast and chilly, just like yesterday

Tomorrow promises to be the same

No breeze to make leaves dance

no birds to add lyrical songs

Few trees remain bannered in crimson and gold

Dullness and grayness predominate and

joy seems unwarranted.

 

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But wait—gentle wonders abound

Soft light filters through windows

Candles glow sprightly on tabletops

Hazelnut coffee in a favorite cup

Offers cozy familiarity and

A colorful afghan created by a friend

Wraps my lap in warmth and

My heart with her love.

 

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These quiet wonders provide the perfect backdrop to stilled time

Sublime moments of solitude to experience God’s presence

To receive revelations from his heart to mine

Time to wonder, time to ponder

Time to turn to God and listen

Allowing his Spirit to mend my brokenness

Tend my worriedness and bend my self-centeredness

To his way of contentment.

 

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Ordinary moments on an ordinary day suddenly become holy

Sacred and separate

As attentiveness leads to discovery

Discovery ushers in joy

And joy results in gratitude

I exult in you, Heavenly Father!

You reside among the commonplace as well as the astounding

There is great glory in the ordinary after all.

 

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(Photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.keyword-suggestions.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.dailyencouragement.net.)

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A little over two years ago when Steve and I retired, God provided for us a perfect little ranch house built into the side of a hill. A strip of woods and a ravine separate our block from the one behind us, and large windows in the kitchen/family room offer a tranquil view of treetops.

 

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One of the projects we completed before moving in was the addition of a deck off the back of the house. The vista we enjoy from window and deck give us the sensation of living in a tree house, and we revel in the beauty and quiet.

Just about everyone loves tree houses. Even television now offers programs featuring their construction.

Why do they cause such delight?

Perhaps because tree houses provide:

  • A quiet, peaceful refuge, removed from the stressful responsibilities of our lives.  There’s something about being up among the trees that repairs our equilibrium. We breathe easier, the peace of the surroundings soaks into our spirits and tension is released.

 

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  • A respite from the ordinary. Most of us are surrounded by concrete and dry wall much of the time. To experience a vista of trees and sky is sweet relief.
  • A new perspective and fuel for the imagination. Away from daily routines and distractions, we can see our lives from a more objective viewpoint. In addition, our thoughts dance more freely, creativity flows more readily, and discoveries unfurl more frequently. No wonder many tree houses for adults are built as artist/writer retreats.

 

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All of these reasons make sense, but I have one more theory about why we love these structures: Tree houses provide a physical, tangible replica of the presence of God.

Jesus made the way for us to experience his company, like the ladder or staircase to a refuge in the trees (1).

God is always with us, whether we’re aware or not. The key is to draw near to him through prayerful conversation and mindful observation of his glory—in a sunset, a bird song, or the scent of wisteria on the breeze. Then his peace can pervade our thoughts, and God becomes our refuge (2).

 

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With him there’s no such thing as ordinary living. He offers a God-enhanced, abundant life of joy in blessing, comfort in sorrow, sufficiency in trouble, and more (3).

New perspectives open up to us as we sit in quiet contemplation with our Heavenly Father, perspectives such as: contentment is a matter of choice not circumstances; my identity, security and purpose are not the result of events or effort; they are the result of who I am—a beloved child of God; God-thoughts change the atmosphere of my spirit (4).

 

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Tree houses offer much; God offers much more. Best of all, he’s not limited to a small structure perched among the trees.

The high life with God is always available.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, God of the universe, for the incredible privilege of an intimate relationship with you. Anytime, anywhere, I can turn to you and breathe in your peace, admire the view of your glorious attributes, and experience rejuvenation of my spirit. I praise you, O Most High, for the restful shelter you provide. You are my refuge and fortress in whom I trust (Psalm 91:1-2).

 

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What benefits of the high life with God do you especially appreciate? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; James 4:8; Isaiah 26:3; Proverbs 18:10
  3. John 10:10; John 16:24; Psalm 147:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9
  4. Philippians  4:11-13; Ephesians 4:24; Psalm 16:8

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.fellowshipsite.org.

 

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Eons ago when I was in seventh or eighth grade, Mom, Dad, and I made our way one evening to the shoe store downtown. As we trudged up the slight incline toward the entrance, I ended up walking behind them, in order to leave room on the sidewalk for pedestrians coming from the other way.

Imagine my mortification when my parents clasped hands.

“Please! Not in public!” I begged.

After all, they were old—in their mid-thirties. And at age thirteen, I was embarrassed enough to be seen in public with them. But to be in the company of parents showing affection? That was too much.

As adults we smile at the immature and almost comical responses of most young teenagers toward their parents. They like to pretend Mom and Dad don’t exist, in support of their burgeoning, highly exaggerated independence. They conveniently forget who pays the bills, helps with homework, does the chauffeuring, and provides care in countless other ways.

Some of those teens never lose that sense of highly exaggerated independence, even as they grow into adulthood. They conveniently forget who still provides care for them in countless ways: God. To ignore him as if he doesn’t exist is to behave like a middle schooler.

God deserves not only our attention but our worship. Think of it this way: If an Olympic gymnast out-performs the competition with a nearly flawless performance, she deserves applause from the crowd and that shiny gold medallion. We do not scorn the adoration and accolades she receives; she’s earned it.

 

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Hasn’t God earned the same, only more so?

“OK,” we say. “So God deserves to be worshiped. But does he really need it? After all, he is completely sufficient within himself. Doesn’t it seem rather self-serving for God to want our worship?

Far from.

God knows: if our worship is not centered on him, we easily fall into the worship of other things: career, material goods, leisure, adventure—any number of pursuits that can consume our attention. Not that it’s wrong to enjoy these things, but they will never provide deep down soul-satisfaction.

God made us with that deep-down place; it’s reserved for him. That’s why the first of the Ten Commandments is about worship (Exodus 20:3).

 

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In addition:

Worship determines what we become.

 

“What we worship determines what we become.”

— Harvey F. Ammerman

 

Ammerman further explains: “If we worship material possessions, we become more materialistic. If we worship self, we become more selfish still” (1). If we worship the adrenalin rush of exciting pursuits, we’ll continually look for more exhilarating thrills.

God wants us to worship him so we’ll become more like him—gracious, good, compassionate, and kind (Exodus 34:6).

 

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Worship communicates God’s presence to men.

 

“It is in the process of being worshiped

that God communicates his presence to men.”

–C. S. Lewis

 

Adoration, praise, and gratitude create an atmosphere in which we can meet with God almighty (Psalm 89:15-17). And such encounters always result in joy (Psalm 16:11). Sometimes that occurs in a glorious, public celebration with other worshipers; sometimes it occurs in sweet, private communion.

Worship is a necessary outlet of the spirit.

C. S. Lewis also wrote: “Enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.”

When we hear superbly good news, our natural inclination is to tell others about it. We’re social beings, after all. Research has suggested that when we share a positive experience with someone else, we are essentially enjoying it again as we relive the moment in the retelling and savor the experience once more (2).

It’s the way God made us – not only to expand our enjoyment with family and friends, but with him, our Heavenly Father.

 

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We need to worship.

To know him and be known by him, to experience him is a God-given pleasure that nothing else can satisfy.

 

*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

 

Notes:

(1) from Quote, Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Books, 1977.

(2) http://www.psycnet.apa.org

 

Photo & art credits:  www.pinterest.com (5).

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on worship.  Please leave a comment below!

 

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Angie Perez sat on one side of her boss’s massive desk, he on the other. She began a lengthy list of reminders for the day…

“Now at ten o’clock this morning, George, you’re meeting with Sam about the Collins account. All the files you’ll need are in that portfolio. I put them in order from most important to least.” Angie pointed front-and-center with her pen.

“Great. ‘Appreciate you getting them organized.” George smiled. “I’ll need to review this paperwork beforehand—can you hold calls for me till I finish, probably around nine?”

Angie dashed herself a quick note. “Of course. And speaking of calls. Darcy Roberts already phoned, wanting to see you late this afternoon. I postponed her until tomorrow. I figured with your aunt’s seventy-fifth birthday dinner tonight, you’ll want to leave here on time today—maybe even early. You deserve to take a break after last week. Oh, and Aunt Lily’s gift is wrapped and ready to go in that black bag on the credenza.”

 

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“Oh, terrific. Thanks again for picking up the necklace.” George turned to glance behind him at the lovely gift bag Angie had prepared. “You’re probably right about taking off a little early today. I’m exhausted. And good thinking about postponing Darcy. That woman can stretch five minutes of business into a half hour of stories I don’t need to hear.”

…And so, one right-hand administrative assistant sets into motion the day’s activity for one corporate executive.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a right-hand assistant who took care of life’s unending details?

In reality, we have something far better: a right-hand God.

 

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“I have set the Lord always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken”

-Psalm 16:8 (italics added)

 

With God at my right hand, I have the strongest Protector—able to shield me from trouble much worse than George’s talkative clients:

 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in him and I am helped.”

Psalm 28:7

 

God is the wisest Counselor—able to advise on matters much more important than business accounts:

 

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“The Lord gives wisdom,

And from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

–Proverbs 2:6

 

God is the sweetest Comforter, offering empathy and support:

 

“As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”

–Psalm 103:13

 

And our God is the most loyal Advocate:

 

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“We have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

–1 John 2:1

 

God breathes strength into me by the touch of his hand. Granted, I can’t sense physical contact. But when I hear a hymn or worship song and tears well up, when I read a scripture or passage from a book that speaks directly to a current situation, it’s every bit as expressive of support as a clasp on the shoulder.

Our God is always close at hand, as if standing by, ready to assist however needed. He is always present, holding me by my right hand (Psalm 73:23).

And like a shade tree offering respite from the sweltering summer sun, God offers restful moments from the cares of this world.

 

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“The Lord watches over you—

the Lord is your shade at your right hand.”

–Psalm 121:5

 

He renews our strength as we rely upon him (Isaiah 40:28-31), and offers the rejuvenation of constant hope because we know our heavenly home is waiting for us (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

 

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I praise you, O God, for your presence. You are near as my Friend, ready as my Helper, dependable as my Guide. How breathtaking to consider I am never alone, left to struggle on my own. You are always at my right hand.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.hercampus.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.reviveourhearts.com; http://www.faithpictures.wordpress.com.)

 

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(reblogged from 10-24-13)

“Mail’s here early today!” called Lorna, as she entered the kitchen.

Oh, that was good news. Living far from home in Quito, Ecuador made letters a very precious commodity.

“Terrific!” I responded, and dashed upstairs to get my keys.

Lorna and her husband, Elbert, served as missionaries with HCJB. I was a short-termer, living with them for the four months of my assignment as a preschool and kindergarten teacher.

 

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The compound was only a brief walk from the house. Once there, it was just a matter of unlocking the gate, heading down the main walkway a short distance, up a few steps, and into the post office alcove where all our mailboxes were located.

I jogged the whole way there and back, excited to read my mail. But no sooner did I return home than my head started to pound, nausea engulfed me, and all I wanted to do was lie down. Never mind those coveted letters!

My problem was not a sudden onset of the flu, but mild hypoxia–oxygen deprivation. Quito is located 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains.

My experience (as well as those of countless others) proves: we humans require oxygen—lots of it.

Even folks who live near sea level can suffer from lack of oxygen, because they’ve become accustomed to shallow breathing. Their bodies never receive enough oxygenated air, causing them to feel short of breath and anxious.

On the other hand, research has proven that deep breathing helps us manage stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and even spark brain growth. By not taking slow, deep breaths now and again, we deprive ourselves of these benefits.

M-m-m. Reminds me of Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, where King Solomon lamented the results of shallow living: chasing after wealth, accomplishments, and pleasure. In the end, nothing gave him lasting satisfaction and fulfillment.

Shallow living brings on symptoms in the spirit, similar to oxygen deprivation in the mind and body: heartache, fatigue with life, nausea from repetitive, meaningless activity, and shortness of temper.

In contrast to Solomon’s lament in Ecclesiastes is Paul’s praise to God for the power and strength of deep living:

“Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength” (Ephesians 1:19, MSG)!

Deep living happens when we breathe in God’s strength with a prayer, his wisdom and encouragement with a scripture, his joy with a song.

Deep living happens when we practice his presence as automatically as we breathe.

And how do we do that, “practice his presence?”

By pausing frequently throughout each day, to turn our attention to God.

I might say such things as:

  • Thank You, Lord, for this new day. Work through me to accomplish your purpose.
  • I love you, Heavenly Father. Thank you for filling my heart with peace and joy every time I turn my attention to you.
  • Thank you for your power at work in me as I complete this task.
  • The wonders of your creation–graceful tree branches dancing in the breeze, lyrical songs of the mockingbirds, delicious aromas of pine and orange blossoms–They make my heart sing with praise!
  • Oh, Lord, I shouldn’t have spoken to Mary like that. Forgive me, I pray. Help me to think before I speak. And yes, I will apologize to her.

Refreshing. Energizing. Purifying. Like a deep breath of oxygen.

Shallow breathing causes a lesser quality of life. So does shallow living.

Deep breathing fosters strength of mind and body. Deep living does that and more.

Deep living radically transforms the spirit.

Let’s breathe/live deep!

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What deep living habits help you practice the presence of God?

(photo credit: http://www.wikipedia.com)

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(Reblogged from May 30, 2013)

 

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I placed my Diet Coke on a nearby table and settled into one of the front porch rockers. The book I had brought with me remained closed on my lap. Instead of reading, I gazed at tall pines, listened to birds chirping good-night to each other, and breathed in cool mountain air.

What a stark contrast to home, I thought. My husband, two sons, and I had escaped the oppressive summer heat of our Florida home, and were vacationing in a North Carolina rental cabin.

Not long after settling, I noticed an enormous Luna moth perched on the porch railing. He appeared to be sleeping soundly. His shapely sea-foam wings stretched out primly, in a perfect display of shimmering symmetry. Not even an antenna moved.

 

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In the sweet idleness of that moment, I had time to wonder:

When do you suppose moths wake up? Is it at dusk, or does it have to be completely dark? And what will be the first part to move? Will his wings flutter a bit in warm-up? Or will those long antennae flicker, checking his surroundings before he ventures into the night?

My knowledge of Luna moths was sorely lacking.

I made strong attempts to read my book, but kept distracting myself for updates on that moth–especially as the sun dipped lower in the sky and shadows deepened.

Eric, our older son, came out on the porch. He stood with hands in pockets, watching the sunset. “What’s up, Mom?”

“This is going to sound silly,” I began, “but see that moth over there? I’ve gotten curious about when they wake up. Is it at dusk or only when it’s completely dark? And as if that isn’t enough, I’m wondering what part of him will wake up first. Do you suppose it will be his antennae that move first, or maybe his wings?”

Eric chuckled slightly—not sarcastically, but in good humor that once again his mother’s curiosity was taking an interesting turn. I thought he’d turn and go back inside the cabin. To my delightful surprise, he chose to sit in the rocker next to me.

 

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Together we kept vigil over that moth as the sunlight diminished to an apricot glow on the horizon, and the landscape turned dark gray. Still that moth did not move. And soon we were enveloped by the night.

Suddenly, with barely a testing of his wings, the majestic moth was off the railing and fluttering away. Eric and I barely had time to say, “Oh! There he goes!” before the moth disappeared into the darkness.

We sat quietly for a few moments longer, listening to the crickets chirping cheerfully. With a contented sigh I reveled in the moment: the cool, peaceful surroundings and my satisfied curiosity. Most of all I savored that Eric had chosen to share with me this rather inconsequential moment.

 

I am new to shooting at night but one of the things I loved about shooting at night in the forest is how camp fires light up the trees. The orange glow on these trees is from a camp fire about 200 meters away.

Just a few years earlier, if I had asked Eric to sit with me and watch a moth, he would have said, “BOR-ING!” and loped off to other pursuits. But that year he was twenty-four. We were starting to relate to one another differently, share more common interests, and communicate on a similar level. Eric was still my son, but he was also becoming a friend.

‘Reminds me a bit of what our Heavenly Father offers. As we mature in him, our relationship grows into a loving, familial friendship, characterized by common interests and heart-to-heart communication. But such a relationship develops only as we spend time with him and his word.

Those who say, “Time with God is BOR-ING!” and lope off to other pursuits are missing out.

On what, you ask?

• The joy of His presence (Psalm 16:11)
• The goodness he bestows (Psalm 31:19)
• His strength (Psalm 138:2-3)
• Rest, in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1)
• Perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *

Such precious gifts, Father: joy, goodness, strength, rest, and peace. I praise you with all my heart for being a God who pursues a warm, loving relationship with his children. May I seek your face in return. Always.

 

(Photo credits:  www.wallpaperfo.com; http://www.corlinanature.com; http://www.dcr.virginia.gov; James Wheeler.)

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