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.
I'm up on the platform, mic in hand. The room we call church is filled with people - many whom I know and love - seated in metal folding chairs in a large semicircle of three sections. In the back are built-in, deep carpeted seats, decorated with tufted pillows and filled with couples and families and kids. The folks back there tuck in close; it's where the parents go when they know the kids will be too squirrelly to stay seated for long.
This room. It's home.
We see Charles when we come in. He's in the separate cafe in the back of the sanctuary, on a high stool. Justin goes to greet him, and I go too. He is love, sitting there, a man who spends his days serving homeless people, running a shelter in San Jose called CityTeam. He knows what it means to be on the streets and have no home. He knows what it means to be rescued, to recognize God chasing him down.
So he gives out what he is given. Again. And again.
His brown eyes twinkle when he smiles, his whole face lighting up so you feel you are the most special person in the world. I can only hug him, and tell him how good it is to see him, how he makes me smile. Justin and I adore him. Being near him is good for our hearts.
Dave, our pastor, leads with authenticity here. He is gentle and fierce, raw and real - making this space one where we don't have to pretend, or hide, or feel we need to work harder to be loved by God. Dave asked me, a few days before Mother's Day, to come and share with the congregation, and pray. I love it.
For me, there are few things better than when a person whom you love and respect asks you to just show up, and pour out a taste of what God, in your life, pours in.
For Dave believes in wide-open space, a Holy Spirit not crowded out by to-do lists. And striving. And yearning to be different, better versions of who we are. Forget rules, he says, if they get in the way of listening for God. Forget routine, he says, if it crowds out space for Him.
Show up. Be present. Strip off everything that gets in the way of you being yourself with God.
So, of course, I say yes. And on Mother's Day I walk up on the platform next to Dave. What tumbles out are the very simplest things I know: Prayer. Love. Yearning to hear what God sees.
This is what I say:
My favorite way to pray is to listen. My favorite way - really, the only true way I’ve found how to pray . . . is to focus on God’s presence. Look at His face. See myself before Him, with Him. I am always surprised by what I see. Often, I am a little girl. Always, I am unencumbered. Always, I am most myself, most free. Sometimes, I am a grown-woman on a steed, with a sword, galloping hard into the mountains. (And that's the best.) He sees me.
I wonder if you know you are seen? When I pray for women, I ask God to show me what He sees when he looks at them. It is something He delights in - speaking to each one of us, showing his daughters more of their beauty, more of their glory (which is what they are filled with when they are with Him). He wants them to live out what, in them, He sees.
I think we seldom live in this place, this place of desiring to see what God sees.
I want to see more. I want to see.
So, for this morning, knowing I would be here, praying with you, His daughters, I prayed beforehand, asking God what it is, in us, He sees. So I am going to share it with you.
Will you close your eyes with me - and, if you feel comfortable, open up your hands, letting them rest in your lap? Yes, this is for the daughters. Yes, you are seen.
One arm up now, darling. And then the other. Let me take off these bindings. They are heavy and not for you, my darling. No, you are not meant to wear this shroud.
You are light and carefree, and you need to give me the bindings now. I lift them off of you. One remnant and then the next—white and invisible . . . holding you so you can scarcely move.
You are made to move with me, my love. I sing to you a song your heart knows, for you are not forgotten. And you are not unseen. You are not undiscovered, your beauty impossible to realize. I see you. I see your beauty. I behold you, and I behold your light, and I remove the shrouds so your light can surely shine.
May I share with you the testimony, the eulogy, I want to write on your heart, a place that is not a grave at all but a light that shines?
This darling one shines brighter than any star I have cast into the heavenly sky. She is more beautiful than a teardrop on a sister’s cheek, more delicate and strong than the stem of a single rose. I have carried her, and she sees my arms around her when her arms are lifted high.
She lifts them high, and her shroud is gone. Her new clothes are white, and light shines through the garments that flow down from her outstretched arms. They sing, this light. Her life is music now, and she keeps hands up, fingers outstretched, for she knows what freedom is, how light dances from her as she walks, each step one of beauty, a painting too beautiful and yet completely true.
For she is awake now. She is alive now. Each step now with her king.
I see this, child. come now. Enter in. What I see is the most true. What I speak is the music your heart needs to hear. Come now. You are free. Shrouds are long gone.
And Father, we lift our arms . . one . . . and then the other. We let you lift the bindings off . . . will you help us let You do that now? . . .
And we are free. And we are yours. And we are seen. Help us to keep seeing what You see.
In Jesus name, Amen.
On that Sunday, I am praying for the mothers and the daughters. I am praying for the fathers and the sons. I am praying for the children and the forgotten and the broken and the tired and the sad. I am praying for the ones who are weary and are burdened. I am praying for the children who yearn to be parented, to be held up by a God who never forsakes, who stands fast and holds tight and never, ever leaves.
Now, my friend, I am praying for you. What is on your heart?
How, now, do you most need to hear God's whisper? How do you yearn to be seen?
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This post was orginally published at jenniferjcamp.com.