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Posts Tagged ‘Practice the Presence of God’

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When Steve and I moved from South Florida to north of Tampa, we were delighted to see the abundance of live oak trees. Each one reaches wide with graceful, curving branches that outline intriguing free-form shapes.

Live oaks can grow to be eighty feet tall and just as broad over a life-span of hundreds of years.  The key to their longevity is their root system, which reaches down into the soil about four feet, and extends laterally to ninety feet. Such depth and width offers strong support for the tree.

Of course, roots also provide water and nutrients. A mature oak can take in more than fifty gallons of water per day, much of which evaporates and keeps the tree cool.

Such facts give me greater understanding and appreciation for Jeremiah 17:7-8.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.”

Doesn’t that sound satisfying and peaceful? Yet too often I’ve been more like a tumbleweed in the desert—dry, flitting here and there, and anything but peaceful.

Tumbleweed

How do I turn my tumbleweed self into a mature, flourishing tree?

The secret is in the roots. Oak tree roots grow wide and deep; tumbleweeds have none.

I have to send out my roots into the soil of God’s Word. That’s where the nutrients of strength, wisdom, and encouragement will come from. The deeper and wider my knowledge, the more empowered I’ll be to withstand the buffeting challenges of life.

The soil also represents God’s love (Ephesians 3:17-18). I must learn about my loving Heavenly Father and spend time with him in order to know him. As intimacy develops, trust grows.

And when roots grow deep into God’s Word and his love, when we practice his presence, we can remain strong when life turns up the heat…

  • When our kids make foolish choices
  • When the boss’s high expectations ratchet up a few more notches
  • When the paycheck will not stretch another penny
  • When a disagreement becomes an impasse
  • When a decision must be made and the pros and cons swim endlessly in our heads

We express our trust by affirming what we know about God. And we affirm our confidence in him by reviewing his promises–not once a day in a quick morning prayer, but moment by moment.

Roots are continually absorbing water and nutrients. We must do the same by praising and thanking God all day long. Even our concerns can be expressed with praise and gratitude:

“Father, I lift up _______ to you as he looks for another job. We are trusting you to provide, knowing that those who seek you lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). Our hope is in you because no one who hopes in you is put to shame (25:3). I thank you that he is looking to you, God, and seeking your path. You are a good and upright God; you will instruct ______ in the way you have chosen for him (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Hallelujah!”

As our roots grow deep, our spirits can reach high and strong like live oak branches — in adoration and praise for our trustworthy God.

I am DONE with tumbleweed living!  How about you?

(Photo credits:  www.nativetreesociety.org; http://www.sonoragardensinc.com)

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“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.

English: Radio HCJB Deutsch: Radio HCJB

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 of 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 proves, as well as those of countless others:  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, The Message)!

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?”

It’s just a matter of  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!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

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

(photo credits:  www.wikipedia.com , http://www.picstopin.com , http://www.vineyardcs.org )

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