Draw Near to God

When we set out to spend this block of time at BSSM, I imagined blogging weekly. I assumed there’d always be things to share and process in this way.

And there are. There are always things to share. But these is not time to share them! It’s an intense environment, one that is likely best unpacked over years after, so that’s how it’ll be done.

But some things need to be share. This post is one of those.

DrawNear604x180-604x180Here’s the set-up: Quickly into the New Year, I sensed a real struggle inside myself. It has a fierceness to it, that I knew I’d be a fool to march on alone. So I invited others in. The following bit is a prayer request I emailed out to friends around the map. It cites a Facebook post I made to my closest circle here. If the note-within-a-note-within-a-post format gives you a cheap Inception-special-effect, enjoy it. 🙂

Hey friends,

I sent out a prayer request to my Revival Group last night. This is the BSSM-equivalent of a Care Group (70 people, led by a staff pastor and a team of interns). But if some prayers are good, then surely more prayers are better. If you’ve got them, I’ll take them.

Below is what I wrote last night before bed. Suffice it to say that my soul just feels a unique heaviness right now, and I’m feeling like I need some form of… sigh… something to get to where I’m supposed to be. I’m trusting that God knows how to get me there. If you’d lift that prayer on my behalf, I’d be grateful.

Hey friends, may I ask you to lift me up in prayer in the days ahead?

I need… SOMETHING… in a bad way.

For all the growth that God has initiated in me this year, I just really feel like I need something major to shift in me. If 2017 is a year for breakthroughs (as Bill said), then I’m in line.

I felt like an internal mess today, and I could it feel coming for a while. If anyone at school had addressed me or touched me or approached me “just right”, I’d have burst all over them! I counted it as a tender mercy that God “protected” me from getting drawn for prophetic dance this morning — no joke! Our RG would have buried a member in that moment.

To be blunt, I just feel very needy right now, and that seems to drive me quickly to a place of sadness. I’m not relating freely to God right now, and part of me just wants to stew in that for a bit. I need a softening and a sensitivity and a sweetness to return in fresh ways.

I do believe that God has a great call upon my life, but I’m feeling as though He needs to do major renovations on me for that to move forward. I felt hopeful that this was the year for such work, but now I’m wasting brain cells stressing over how far I haven’t come. Disappointment mixes with doubt, stirs in fear, and blends with insecurity to form a brutal cocktail that I’m sipping right now.

Sigh.

For tonight, I’ve shed my tears and steamed my shower, and I’m headed to bed early, convinced that God will have better access to me when I’m unconscious on this particular day.

I’m not seeking pity. I’m not even really seeking counsel. Revival Group is such a strange phenomenon. Most of us know little of each other’s lives, yet we know much at the same time. We’re deeply acquainted strangers, some of us. But the Spirit that’s crafting those special connections sets us up to call on one another and to carry one another. And if you’re game to carry me for a time, then I’d be grateful if you approached the Father on my behalf.

I have a tonne of admiration and care for all of you. Thanks for being who you are and for offering yourselves to the Lord and the rest of us.

A week later, I felt compelled to provide an update as a lot had happened. Several friends commented on how valuable they felt it was to share the inner workings of our spiritual lives more freely with one another and on how encouraging it is to hear testimonies of God at work in His people. I hope this post might achieve both of those.

Here is the next email-citing-Facebook-post that I sent out:

Hi all,

Exactly one week ago, I requested prayer from each of you. An update is in order. (The following is a message I posted to my BSSM Revival Group, and am tweaking slightly for you.)

On the heels of that message, I was feeling fairly desperate for God to respond to an undefined-but-intense sense of need. I attempted to push into this through all the steps I could think of:

  • I pulled a number of home-friends in for prayer support, sharing a similar update with them through email.
  • Shannon sent me on a private two-day retreat last weekend.
  • One of my major “retreat tasks” was revisiting and cataloging every prophetic word (these were given when people had prayerfully listened to they believed God wanted them to share with me) I had record of, back to 2014.
  • I did a lot of soaking (restful and still worship/prayer/meditation) and strumming.
  • I fasted for an “undefined period”, that ended up defining itself as three days.
  • I tried “Processing with Holy Spirit”, as Leslie Crandall described back on December 5.
  • I pressed into corporate worship settings with more intensity and hunger.
  • I openly received smiles, touches, hugs, comments, prayers from any kind people handing them out.
  • I started going to bed earlier and began a swimming-for-exercise routine every second morning — just did my 4th today. (Sometimes we need supernatural things, but some pretty-natural things can help too. 🙂 )

Within days, I sensed God shifting things inside of me. But the moves were subtle, nothing like the seismic shift I was seeking. To clarify, I’m typically quite tempered in my expectations. I struggle to dream wildly, and my “bold prayers” are a work in progress. That said, I had a very real sense of this being a season of major transition. I have no past history with “numbers stuff”, but I have had a months-long, to-the-point-of-ridiculous run of seeing sequences of ones on clocks and signs and what-not. Some view these digits as symbolic of transitions and shifts. That is intriguing, but those “heavenly algorithms” only confirmed what I already knew from charting my life-story to heeding the stirrings in my heart: “Lord, I believe You are up to something bigger than usual inside of me. And I really need it to happen.”

As I said, the first shifts were subtle, almost unnoticeable:

  • A sliver more breathing room for my spirit, enough to not die. 🙂
  • A sense of God’s responsiveness as I dialoged with Him with in prayer. (I kid you not: Leslie’s lesson on “Processing with Holy Spirit” will be one of my great takeaways of this year. That has the potential to change a lot for me, from today until my 120th birthday. After that, it probably won’t change anything anymore. 😉 )
  • Gentle reminders of things I once believed (even weakly), related to prophetic words given in years past and the perceptions I had in those days of what God was up to in my life.

As I write these, I realize these might sound big. But they didn’t feel big. At least, not nearly as big as I was looking for. But enough for the moment.

On the first night of my retreat, a friend from home texted me. (You know who you are!) This is a fellow younger than myself, whose family visited us in Redding over Christmas break. He and his wife are very supportive of us being here and perhaps on a similar path, though fewer steps along. Impressive to me, he determined to ask God for a message to share with me — a prophetic word. This self-confessed “raw rookie” received this as he prayed for me:

“I saw someone climbing a mountain, someone summiting a massive mountain in a moment of glory and triumph. Then I was reminded very clearly that great moments like that do not happen without incredible amounts of time, training, work, and even pain. I saw images of someone struggling to climb a particularly difficult stretch of that mountain.”

He closed by timidly hoping there might be some bit of encouragement in the image and left it at that. In honesty, I found strength in the fact that he cared enough about me to push beyond his comfort zone and share. The image was meaningful as well, though I confess that prophetic words have seldom impacted me as much as they seem to impact others. And that brings up this next bit.

On the second night of my retreat, Shannon and I exchanged a few text messages. She challenged me on the hearing that should be given to prophetic words. For her, these forms of encouragement wield great weight, like nothing less than personalized-from-God, perfect-for-the-moment, fitted-just-for-her messages of strength and inspiration. I took her words to heart as best I could. And I went to bed.

Weekend ended, school resumed. Monday rolled past.

On Tuesday, one of our fine Revival Group members (You know who you are too!) approached me with a hug and an inquiry of how I was doing. In the course of listening to me, he said:

“You know, as I’m looking at you, I just had this picture of a very large mountain.”

The guy who hasn’t always given much weight to prophetic words – yeah, that guy was pretty attentive at that moment. Just saying.

My friend continued, “This very large mountain was lit on its upper portion, but the bottom portion was darker. The whole mountain was being hit with a snowstorm, and I could see a man slowly inching his way up the mountain. Every step he took was in faith, and I felt as though the Lord was saying that you have been on the bottom portion of the mountain, but you are inching your way toward the lit portion. You’re on a great journey of encountering the Lord in every season and section of life. I also felt like the snow was like fear, but you only need a perspective shift. The snow was actually the Lord releasing delight over you, and He is readying you to experience His glory in new ways.”

That marked a corner in my past week.

It may well be a larger-scale corner than that.

And then today — 1/11 on the calendar. Leslie Crandall — yeah, that same one — was our guest leader in Revival Group. As she gave instructions for our very loosely structured time, I wondered how I would proceed. What would Holy Spirit prompt me to do? I sat in my seat, with eyes closed, for quite some time. I debated with myself whether I was sitting there because that was the easy and safe thing to do, or whether I was sitting there because He wanted me to sit there. I determined it was His idea. So I sat. I became unusually attuned to my body and to the fact that my breathing was quite shallow. I sensed His prompting to deepen my breathes as much as possible. Each breath continued to feel deeper than the previous one. I imagined my lungs stretching. In these moments, my mind reflected on the two mountain images given to me by faithful brothers, and “a moment” developed. It was one of those moments one best not forget.

It was as if God were saying, “I am increasing your capacity. I am strengthening your feet and improving your balance and lengthening your stride and enlarging your lungs. In keeping me seated, it was as if God were saying, “You have what you need right where you are. You need not hunt it down. But be certain that you breathe as deeply as possible from all you are given.”

Then some moments later, I felt prompted to complete my journal entry sitting in the middle of the room. I believe this act was God’s way of saying, “When you are breathing deeply of all that I provide, don’t breathe alone. Position yourself in the middle of other God-seekers, give and take together, and resist every devil-driven urge to hide. Men like Moses and Gideon and Joshua were not made to hide. You are not made to hide either. So step with strength, breathe in deeply, and move with confident attentiveness to the One who is all you need.”

If spiritual mathematics exist, I have no idea of the exchange rate between units of prayer and units of divine response. But this post is meant to serve as both a testimony to God’s faithfulness and a note of gratitude for every ounce of prayer you devoted to me in the past week.

Thank you, Father. And thank you, friends.

And thank you, friends for reading.

I’d love to interact with you through the comments section of this blog or the Facebook/Twitter link that led you here. 

Let me close like this…

In Acts 17:27, Paul sketched his understanding of why God does much of what He does:

“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

draw near squareWhatever you’re needing, reach out for Him in every way you know how. Pull others in, and lay yourself open before Him. And believe, even when it’s hard, the truth that He is not far from any one of us. 

And He is not far from you.

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