Sunday, February 17, 2013

You're invited! To a Conversation and a Dance.

Where: Grace Life Church Woodstock
Directions: Grace Life Church Woodstock 
655 Molly Ln, Woodstock, GA 30189-6503
When: Thursday, Feb 21st 7:00-9:30pm
Cost: Free!

Come join us for a conversation about what it feels like to trust God and step out as you're led by the Spirit. Dawn and I (Charles) are going to tell a story about leading and following in ballroom dancing that will present a picture of what it feels like to trust Jesus as we walk through this life. Maybe dancing is not your thing. Well, that doesn't really matter. This is a conversation about LIFE.

Zephaniah 3:17 says that God himself sings and even dances over us with joy. Dancing is one of the ways that he expresses his delight in us. Since before time began the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been involved together in a dance of love.

Now each of us has been invited into that dance with Him. In our day-to-day lives—whether we are working, playing with our children or grandchildren, loving our spouses, eating, sleeping, exercising— we're all involved in this dance with the Spirit who teaches us moment by moment to trust Him as our life as we move into our lives.

Getting up and doing anything, especially stepping out onto the dance floor, takes some courage, because it is a risk. Often we're so worried about whether we'll succeed or fail, or what we will look like, that we're too anxious to even get out there and give it a try. Jesus invites each of us to participate fully in the dance of our lives with Him. It's an exhilarating feeling to simply close our eyes and let him lead us through this dance.

There will be refreshments, music (swing/ballroom etc.) and dance as well. Please contact me by email if you plan to come: If you're interested in volunteering to help out with this night: bringing food or helping with set up or tear down, running sound, let me know that as well. All are welcome. There is no charge, though donations are always appreciated. Thank you!

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Holy Hug

Today when I asked my son, Leif, what his happiest moment of the day was, he mumbled something barely audible from the back seat. So, I asked him to repeat it twice more. He finally shouted over the noise of the car in a shy but insistent tone, “It was when I cuddled with you.”
A few minutes earlier on the couch at home, I had held him all balled up in my lap like a baby, my arms surrounding him completely, and told him “I used to hold you like this when you were a baby, but someday, I won’t be able to hold you because you’ll be so big!” I was picturing the way he used to fall asleep every night, his whole body draped across my chest as I gently rubbed his back, and trying to imagine how I could wrap my arms around an 18 year old like that.
He made a baby voice and said, “Dada?” then he made a face and asked, “What did I call you when I was a baby?” 
I couldn’t remember until Dawn came over and reminded us, “You used to call him Dadoo!” My heart melted to remember that. 
Then Leif said, “When I’m big, you won’t be able to put me in a small package anymore.”
My second son, Owen, is the same way, only more so. When he awakes from a nap, sleepy and a little crabby, nothing will do for him but to be held. He simply says, “I NEED you!” over and over until I pick him up and he can snuggle into my neck and wrap his little legs around my body. Sometimes he just cries quietly, but usually he sighs deeply and relaxes into the embrace.
I write this down to celebrate the moments, but also because God reminded me in the middle of it how much we all need to be held. We need to know that we are loved and held close by a loving Father.

Romans 5:5; 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 8:15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 

By Him, this Spirit joined to our spirit, we cry out in our lisping new creation baby selves, “Dadoo, Dadoo!” When we feel His embrace through the Spirit, we enter into the most healing, life giving and regenerating experience a human being can have.

The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut.33:27). Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Matthew 10:15.

Could this be because it is only as children that we can allow ourselves to be embraced like this, only as a child can I see myself surrounded by this Father’s love that holds me so tightly? But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph. 2:13  Though we were once far away, we are now brought near into a holy hug in Jesus. God wants each of us to know that we are loved as the prodigal, whom the Father runs to embrace and “cannot stop kissing him”. That’s the way I feel about my boys, and it is how the Father feels about each of us in Jesus. He expresses Himself in the bear hug of the Spirit.
As I reflect on this, I’m brought back to the story of a person I met with in my office a few weeks ago. She grew up with an absent father who was in and out of prison her entire childhood. One of the things I love about her is that she has learned to listen to God’s voice in her own heart. She has spent years learning from Him how to live a life free of the kind of destruction that plagued her family as she was growing up. She now knows how to make good choices based on what God tells her. But, I knew as soon as I met her that she had something new to learn in this journey. She knew how to listen to Jesus for instruction, and obey: very important. What she had not yet seen, or known, was how to listen to Him for something even more valuable: to simply be loved for who she is. You see, she never had a father hold her with complete affection and unconditional love, so her heart still needs that more than anything else. Now she is more aware of that than ever before. This past week, she had a remarkable experience of being hugged by Jesus in a time of prayer we had together, simply listening for His loving voice. These are the words she shared, through copious tears of joy:

He keeps reminding me
that I am His Beloved
He says, “I love you so much
but you have no idea how much.”

I see me sitting on His lap
like a child
He’s wearing a huge white robe
He has His arms around me
I’m sitting there so comfortably
there’s so much peace there
it’s comfortable
just sitting there
soaking it up.

He always has to remind me
of how proud He is of me
because I think I disappoint.
He says, “My daughter in whom I am well pleased
you and I are One.”

Now, as with many people that I meet with, she had been struggling with some negative emotions from the break down of a relationship in her life. That kind of pain is what often brings us to seek out and find the embrace of the Holy Spirit. The following week, this is what she shared about the results of her experience of being held by Jesus:

“Our last session changed things.
I have not cried all week.
I’m sleeping through the night.
I feel lighter. I’m in a different place,
trusting God more
paying attention that I’m in His presence.
It’s a peaceful feeling.
I’m learning to be sensitive to Him
in little things.
I’m learning to include Him
in more areas.”

Now, for someone who already is walking with Jesus, to have such a powerful experience of His love, that drew her deeper into His embrace and changed the way she feels about herself, that is an amazing thing to be celebrated! It’s just the kind of thing I get to see every day as I walk with people and God reveals His love to them.

I want to say thank you to all of you who are a part of what He is doing through me. Your support and encouragement makes you an important part of this HUG that He keeps giving to the people He loves so dearly.

I hope that you can feel His everlasting arms around you today. If you’re not the kind of person who can feel that kind of thing inside your heart and mind at the current time, then maybe you want to go out and hug someone you love: your child, or a spouse, or a parent, or even a friend. Not a short hug either, a real long embrace that says, I really love you!
Jesus says, “whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” Think of it this way: if you hug someone you love, you’re hugging Jesus in that person. Take a moment to reflect on that fact. Then ponder this, “When you give a hug, you get a hug.” Now stop to realize that Jesus is hugging you right back in the middle of that hug. He’s IN “the least of these” embracing you right back. Yes, God is that good. So, spread the love around, and enjoy Him with all your heart.