NEW COLLECTION: A HOPE-FILLED YEAR
One of the things I used to say to my children when they were young, bored and complaining, was ‘What can you find to do today which you won’t have chance to do tomorrow, next week or next year? What opportunities have you got right now?’
These words have been running through my mind over the past year when life has been very different, and particularly over the past couple of months while I’ve been restricted by a badly broken arm, and more UK lockdown.
And so I’ve come up with various writing and creative projects to make the most of the time. However, I felt the Lord say something different a few days ago. Now is the perfect time to explore deeper dimensions in my relationship with Him.
BEYOND THE VEIL
I’m not talking about longer devotional times, more fervent prayer or Bible reading, but about intimacy, and ‘practising His presence’ (to quote a 17th century monk). My usual go-to space for meeting with the Lord is a car journey—I have to drive a lot for my work—and long solitary walks. Being unable to do either, due to slow recuperative progress, and icy surroundings, I feel challenged to find a new intimacy in this space and situation.
Actually connecting with the Lord is an issue for so many Christians. I know I get so focused on what I am doing, or a topic I’m studying, that I forget about Him for hours on end—I wonder how many of you can identify? And so many have described their practice of rushing into His presence with a shopping list of requests, and then hurrying out again without actually being with Him. It is so easy to spend time reading and thinking about Him, but not actually meet Him; or to worship easily with an anointed gathering, but struggle to feel near to Him in the front room at home.
Scattered through the account of Abraham’s journeys, is the information that at each place he stopped and built an altar [Genesis 12, 13]. There is a lovely rhythm and cadence to that image. What if we did the same? What if we punctuated the day with intimate moments, took time out at intervals to centre down and just be in His presence?
So, having fewer claims on my time at the moment, I’m setting the timer on my phone for hourly intervals; and then I’m taking time out—whatever I’m doing, to come close to God—not to talk, but just to be. Like everything else, it’s a journey, a learning process; I don’t always want to stop, quiet my busy thoughts, refocus; but His grace covers me when I fail, and I just have to get up and start again.
7 STEPS BEYOND THE VEIL
The Holy of Holies was the place in the Temple where the Presence of God rested. One priest was allowed into the Presence once a year. Everyone else was separated from the ‘throne room of God’ by a veil. As Jesus took His last breath, the veil in the Temple was torn in two. Ordinary people (like you and me) now had access to the Holy of Holies, and the Presence of God, through His amazing sacrifice.
Many people have asked me how to practically step ‘behind the veil’…
Why not try the steps outlined below?
KNOW: This is important. If you are going to press beyond the veil to an encounter with Jesus, you have to know you have a 24-hour-access invitation paid for by His shed blood. Whether you are having a good day, feeling spiritual or full of faith—or not—does not come into it. If there is something specific on your conscience, you can simply drop it at the door by confessing it, and receiving God’s promised forgiveness; otherwise you can enter freely [Hebrews 10:19-22].
In addition, did you know you are highly favoured? The literal translation of Ephesians 1:6 is ‘He has made us highly favoured in the Beloved’, and it’s the same word that was used about Mary in Luke 1:30! There are no special Christians who get the goodies, while the rest have their noses pushed up against the window pane. We need to know that Jesus’ presence and blessing are available to all who enter in.
STOP: Then you need to get off the treadmill. You need to just stop, lay everything down, relax and become very quiet inside, including your thoughts.
TURN: Turn the gaze of your heart upon the Lord. (As a young Christian, I used to picture a door in my chest opening towards the Lord! Foolish, I know, but it worked for me!)
There isn’t one-size-fits-all when it comes to experiencing God’s presence. Everyone is made differently, and you will have your own unique encounter. It may be a little frisson of excitement, a feeling of peace, sudden tears, or some other physical sensation, or something completely different. And it takes practice ‘tuning in’, rather like finding a radio frequency.
BREATHE: Take several slow deep breaths through the nose and exhale slowly. Let God’s peace settle upon you. Both the Hebrew and Greek words for Holy Spirit also mean ‘breath’. Paul wrote that ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’ [Acts 17:28]. With each breath, invite the Holy Spirit to fill your whole body.
ASK: When you feel that sense of connection and filling, start to speak out your praise and thanksgiving for His many blessings. Then you can ask for more…more of Him…more revelation… more of His joy…
WAIT: Just wait quietly and expectantly in the Lord’s Presence, allowing His grace and love to wash over you, and let your love flow back.
RESPOND Finally, respond with thanksgiving for His promise to be always with you [Matthew 28:20].
Many of us are living restricted lives right now; we can counter this by asking for our eyes to be opened to the unique opportunities the present circumstances provide. Hope for the future is related to the amount of faith we invest in the present... , we can counter that by asking for our eyes to be opened to the unique opportunities the present circumstances provide. Hope for the future is related to the amount of faith we invest in the present. Perhaps you too may be inspired to take time to ‘go beyond the veil’—or maybe something else entirely?
Whatever it is, it does need to be led by Him. This is not about making resolutions, or ticking boxes, but about life being lived, inside-out. And we can be creative in our responses, as everyone’s situation is different. Perhaps you would like to pursue this style of intimacy, for example, but can’t set aside 5 minutes every hour. But maybe there are natural breaks during the day when you can focus? Or perhaps you have trouble sleeping, and can choose to focus on Him during the night-hours?
Whatever we do, let’s ‘make the most of every living and breathing moment because these are evil times’ [Ephesians 5;16 (The Voice)].
Next Friday (7pm): Overcoming Disappointment and Self-pity
OVER TO YOU...
[Photo credits: Nathan Dumlao (sand-timer); Sharon Mccutcheon (veil); Priscilla du Preez (girls) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
Da Kraplak (type writer);
Merakist (social media)
@ Unsplash, with thanks]
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