Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
It is empty space I need more than anything.
Not another latte. Not a list of things to do. Jesus, will you come into this space? Will You convince my heart it is big enough for You?
You see, I trick myself into thinking it is good for my heart to crowd out the Savior who restores me. This happens because it is so easy to say yes to the next thing to do. But I can only give from what He gives me. Anything else–it is not love; it is not good.
I can live in my head a lot.
I fill my mind with information, thinking that more knowledge is what will make me more something somehow, or more responsible, or more productive. But what does it mean to be more? What good is more if this more is not from God? What value is anything if what is achieved is done with us not holding fast to our Savior’s hand?
Jesus, hold fast to this hand.
The best ideas come from a soul restored–don’t you agree? My true heart, the one that knows how to love, exists in the broad space, the wide-open space of my heart where the Holy Spirit resides within me. I think you know this too. Will you join me in letting go of the things–unique to each of us–that are in the way of us being fully present with God?
What are those things, Jesus?
To create this day, to be at peace this day, let us lay down the outcome, the desire to achieve for the sake of achievement.
Let us lay down the desire to do just for the sake of doing.
Let us ask Jesus some questions, “What is it, Jesus, you are calling us to today? What is it, Lord, that you want us to say yes to, or no? Will you lead us to a quiet place, above the fray? Will you quiet your daughter and bring stillness to this heart? Will you equip us to be bold and fight against this culture that clangs, a noisy cymbal of ‘do this, buy that, go here, read this, respond now’? Will you convince our hearts that this day, this day, is “good”?
Jesus, You are good. What does it mean to have a good day? Can you tell us here again?
“Deep breath, child. Sit with Me.”
Is that it? Is it that simple?
“Is it simple, child? Do you make it simple?”
No. No, I don’t. Father. I complicate it. Show me. Help me.
So I take that deep breath. I look up. I see what is around me. I see it, surely, for the first time.
I am sitting on a bench outside our town’s library, amidst an orchard of apricot trees. The branches packed with still green leaves. They trees stand in front of me, a tidy pack of friends, breeze rustling their leaves, jewels dangling fancy and calm. I think of the day all will be restored.
Will these same trees dance before the Lord on the day of restoration? When the Lord comes again, will they stay here, calm and quiet? Or will they lift their branches and grow even taller? Will they stretch wider? How will they celebrate the coming of the King who makes all things new? Even now? Even here? What will it sound like for the trees to sing and clap their branches, their hands? I will hear the sound. My souls knows it now, already.
Lord, help us hear the sound of restoration taking place, even now, in our strong, beating hearts.
We are not feeble, no.
We are daughters who stand straight and tall and bow low and know the feeling of Jesus’ hand as it brushes back the hair from our face. Lord, let us breathe deeply of You this day. Remind us what is true, what is good, what is before us, how You are here and in no hurry. You fill every space. You fill my entire heart.
Below the apricot trees are dead branches pruned weeks ago. The branches sit in piles, leaves crispy and brown. What needs to be cut, Lord? Search our hearts. Prune off the branches that get in our way of praising You, reaching for You, desiring You more than anything else.
Our King, free us from the trappings of this world that weigh us down. Let us hold fast to only what You bring. We want nothing more than You.
How are you invited to sit and breathe? When you do, what is it your heart sees?
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com
We are upstairs in my father-in-law’s house, in the bedroom quarters our family shares during our little house’s remodel.
We have the laptop set up on a cardboard box on top of the bedside table so we can easily see the screen. We sit side by side on chairs borrowed from the kitchen table, watching this couple’s faces over Skype. They are kind, wise, gentle. But strong. They nudge us forward intentionally, inviting us to listen carefully for Jesus’ words to our hearts.
When Justin and I gather with our mentors over Skype, they invite the four of us to listen together, asking what Jesus wants to say. For me, I hear silence. Nothing. Not a mental picture. Not a thought–no sentence or idea. But I am not distressed about this. I am not anxious.
But I must be depleted of energy, or distracted. And I tell them this. For I hesitate to ask Holy Spirit to use my imagination, like I usually do. I struggle for energy, desire, to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to be in the presence of the Father. I am not sure I want to listen to any invitation Jesus might have to make.
But I sit. Seemingly empty. In quiet.
But it is not dark here.
And I am not alone.
I wait. I let the openness of my heart be enough. It is all I have, right now, to give.
But I have a feeling my soul knows what it is Jesus is saying. So I wait. And I become aware of the barrenness surrounding me. For I am seeing now–I see myself in a gray, depleted, washed out place of no water, no green, no life.
I look up.
“I am in a desert place,” I say aloud.
I tell them I see myself depleted. Tired. I recognize that my soul is hungry for God, but I sit here, blind to resources, deaf to life singing loud and long–life I can claim if I only stand up, let Him restore my heart, receive.
It feels impossible to receive God’s goodness when we are more intent on jumping through hoops and pleasing the world rather than slowing and taking action to let God care for our hearts.
This message has been coming at me from all sides this past week. Through podcasts, in books, in articles, in talks with friends. My Father is trying to tell me, over and over, how He is here, wanting to care for my heart. If I do not let His love cover me, restore me to Himself, then I remain hollow, my heart not healthy and whole. I need to make space for my Father to speak to me, over and over.
When our mentors use the word “rhythm” to explain how it is the seemingly small, daily choices we make to create room in our hearts to be with God, I am reminded of my friend Shelly Miller’s book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World. I needed Shelly’s wisdom during the whirlwind of my book launch, staying up late to read chapters that spoke right to my heart. Shelly’s book invites the reader into a new way of life with God, a life of being intentional with how we spend our time, a life of slowing to specifically spend time with God, in the unique and beautiful way we are each made to do. This is the way to receive the gift God has made for us to receive: rest, restoration, peace, joy, fulfillment in Him and in nothing else.
Oh, how I needed the wisdom of this book. And oh, how my heart rebelled against it.
When I read Shelly’s book, I was reading her words but not letting the meaning penetrate my heart. I am just now hearing it. I am just now ready to receive the wisdom and new life she offers in this beautiful way to live: a life of being open to God’s presence in each moment, open to interruptions, open to intentionally changing the rhythm of one’s life to make space to hear and be in the presence of God.
For He is here. He is all around. He is in you. He is in me. There is so much, this moment, I want to see.
This depleted, desert place where I saw myself? I am not staying here. I am trying to listen to my soul. And new rhythms–daily choices of intentionally turning my heart, my soul, my mind, to the heart of the Father restores me to Him. And I am becoming myself.
What can be better than that?
When you are quiet before Jesus, where do you see yourself? Are you depleted, energized, at peace? What specific things do you do to intentionally choose to spend time with God and be restored?
Shelly and her publisher, Bethany House, are giving away three copies of Shelly’s beautiful book, Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World. Entering is easy. All you need to do is share a comment to this question, “What specific thing do you do–or do you hope to do–to intentionally choose to spend time with God and be restored?” Each share on social media will count as an additional entry in the giveaway. (So let me know when you share.) I will draw three random winners on Friday! (I am afraid the publisher can only send to addresses within the U.S.)
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com
It is evening light, I think, that I’m chasing. Or that I’m desiring to enter into. I can’t tell. But I’m hungry for rest. For restoration. This I know.
I listen to these wise and beautiful words as I walk. And I remember to breathe in the holiness of this moment. The beauty of quiet on California suburban streets, tree branches burdened with once-green leaves now aflame. A stillness that settles upon me but feels fleeting too.
I am missing God. I know it. I am afraid, I think, that time is going by so fast, and I am just not spending it the way that will bring God joy, the way that will make my heart satisfied.
I feel my heart pull toward Him, begging for answers: “Is it okay to be hungry for You? I am eager for your presence to overwhelm me in the night. I lay my head down and fear that I am most surely not a good friend, a good wife, a good mom, a good daughter. And it is becoming too late.”
On these nights, on this night, I can feel hope slipping away. I watch it leaving, a bright spot blanketed by ingratitude, selfishness, pride. I watch it go, covered by blackness. And I stay in the dark.
And I don’t even care.
I think I don’t even care.
But the truth is, I am not comfortable here. I am not comfortable claiming indifference, choosing ambivalence about me wanting God to come, pull me in once more.
I do care. And a part of me, the part hungry for God, wraps His arms right around me and whispers what I need to hear, “Come on, girl, don’t give up. You are called to rise. You are called to die to yourself again. You are called to lay yourself down. You are called to fight–fight for this heart of yours that is so loved. So loved.”
I try to believe, breathe.
I am in that season of finishing something. And I am beginning to catch my breath, I think, after working so hard, so hard, for so many months. And now I feel God’s beckoning me toward a new season, and I want it. So much. But I am straggling, an orphan girl hesitant to run toward her God.
I question whether God knows best. And so I don’t ask God what He has for me.
Rather, I feel myself spinning. And spinning, while pushing God away, is not a path to restoration. No, it is a path toward self-pity. And self-focus. And self-absorption. And insecurity. And comparison. And ingratitude.
I recognize this place.
Here it is again. The lie that I must prove my worth. Here it is, a book published and God using it to restore women to Himself, and rather than simply rejoicing, I feel myself afraid.
There it is. The lie. Dark. Insidious. Evil: “You can’t rest. You have to keep pushing, keep chasing. Freedom is not for you. You can’t stop. You have to prove you are any good. But you can’t, can you?”
And my heart breaks a little bit more. It retreats into hiding, feeling, again, that it does not, has never had, what it takes to walk close with God and work with Him, with His strength, to create something holy and good and beautiful.
I am spinning. Oh, Father.
But I stop. Right in the street where I am walking. And I listen. And I look for God. I give Him the lie again. I confess it, and I take it to Jesus’ feet. I take it to His throne, and I lay it down. In the morning, before the house wakes, I spend time reading His truth. And the next day I listen to fellow sisters and brothers who fight alongside me, choosing life instead of darkness, hope instead of despair.
And I am breathing in, once again, what is true: There is good here. All around. Even when the evil one comes and twists what is good and brings chaos to this world and we feel we are spinning. Oh, yes we are spinning. But this is what is also true:
We must take action to join with Jesus in fighting for our own hearts.
For, really, we aren’t spinning at all. No, we aren’t. Rather, we cling fast to the rock of truth, our King and our God who stands fast and who brings justice to all things. There is not one injustice or fear or lie or evil He overlooks. He does not turn away. He chases after His daughters and His sons and He claims them as His own. He refines us with challenges, and we turn to Him and trust that He continues to restore these hearts of ours to Him. Always to Him.
We have a choice.
To fight with Him or against Him.
Let us walk, arms empty, with each burden we give to Him.
Let us walk toward rising sun.
Sister, will you join me, this day, in choosing to stop spinning? Will you join me in choosing to fight for our own hearts, with God?
This post appeared originally at jenniferjcamp.com