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.
We sit in clusters, sixty women tucked in a log house on a hill in the middle of a Colorado snow storm. Snow presses up to ceiling-tall windows, glistening. Everything outside--the mountains, the distant pine trees standing sentry--washed with sparkling, quiet white. Sunny, the golden retriever who lives here, flies by the window, a reddish blur of fur every few moments, doing laps in white spray. Bounding, bounding.
She makes me smile.
Yes, yes, this is for me; this is for you. We are made to leap and live free, washed with white, transformed, brand new. But how do we get there? How do we live uninhibited, joyful, carefree?
Linda, who drove hours to be with us and share what she hears when she pursues and listens to God's heart, does not hold back when she talks. She knows what it means to live trapped. She knows what is means to believe she is doing all the right things while nothing feels or turns out right. She knows what it means to be hungry, desire newness, crave redemption, risk falling so she can live in fullness that can't be compared to any one thing.
That's you, too, right? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you craving a new life?
I watch the snow through the window behind her when she speaks: it's beauty, how it's so clean. But Linda's voice captivates me, and I turn. She smiles and reaches her arms far, her square glasses framing eyes sparkling blue, brighter than the sky, brighter than the twinkle of ice crusted on each window sill. She knows who she is. She knows the sound of her Father's voice. And she has come to tell us about Him, and how we miss connection with Him--and walk on too dangerous ground--when we align ourselves with things far, far away, from Him. These are things that can seem so good but might actually open up entry points to the enemy getting in.
How am I vulnerable to not trusting God? How do I choose my own way rather than His?
Ang, leading the four day retreat, demonstrates, with her hands spread out, head thrown back, fingers wide, eyes up, back arched, what it looks like to live fully abandoned, fully present, fully awake and on.
And what it looks like to live life filled with striving, fear, shame: head bent low, arms hugging torso, back curled forward, eyes down. Oh, no. No. Let's not do this.
We have a choice. Stay here, in shame, in darkness, in self-pity, in self-protection and false safety and hiding. Or here, risking community, seeking His voice, asking Him in to heal, going for help, laying down the idols we believe in more than our God.
You don't have to do this alone. You are not made to do this alone.
Stand up now. Lift your feet. Straighten your back, lift up your head and then raise your eyes. Look up. Look up, into the eyes of your Savior. Yes, open your eyes; keep your chin raised to heaven; spread your arms. Spread them wide, fingers outstretched. Is this you? Can we do this? Can I do this with you?
I know this feels so . . . exposed. I know being so vulnerable and open is difficult, uncomfortable. It's hard to not want to protect ourselves from this world. We have been wounded so much. Life has been hard.
Yes, He knows. He knows. And, I promise, He promises, He is not going to leave you here, here where the pain overwhelms, here where the memories are pressed down deep, in a place that feels safer than the thought of dealing with them, bringing them to the light. That would be dangerous. That would be painful. That would take a lot of work.
Yes. Yes, it will hurt. But . . . it will be good. I promise.
I watched Ang,the beautiful organizer of this whole retreat, spread her arms out like this, head back, a dozen times this last weekend. And what it represented--the freedom and complete joy and abandonment of self and focus on Jesus and fullness of heaven in me--is what I want. Everything in me screams yes, yes, yes!
Yes, I want this. I want to live a life holding nothing back.
During the break I listen, desperate for His voice, the only navigation for my life that is true and sound and good. And I hear Him. I ask Him, what do you have to say to us, Father? What do you have for your girls? And the tears pour fast (as usual) and I scrawl this down:
My daughter, I am holy. I make everything holy. You have nothing to fear. I am bigger than every thought, every ache, every fear. I stand before you in the gap, between your belief and unbelief. I stand before you—your God, your rescuer, your redeemer. I stand before you and you are not forgotten. You are held. Always.
If you want Me, if you want more of Me in your life, I will come. I will not hold back. If you want my love, if you desire more freedom and joy in your life, ask Me to come. Let Me come to the deep places, the dark places, the unknown places.
I know you. I know where in you I need to go. So trust Me. Trust Me. Let Me come. With Me I bring no fear. With Me I bring no sorrow. With Me I bring only hope and newness and life. I am life, for you, my love. With my love for you I bring life. I pursue you, and I will never let you go.
So, come. Come. Ask Me to come. Ask Me to enter in. You hear Me. I am close. So close. And I love you. You are the one I love.
And I believe Him. I believe Him. So I will go. And He will heal me. And He will make me new. And I will live fully awake and filled with His joy.
This white snow falling soft and quiet is beautiful. And I want to run through it. I want to bound through white and spin 'round and laugh, snowflakes dancing in my hair.
How does it feel to stand up straight, head back, arms out, eyes turned up to God? How can I encourage you and pray for you?