New Thoughts for a New Year

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I read a couple of books over the weekend and thought I’d share what I gleaned from them. The first was sent by a friend and is called Face-to-Face Appearances from Jesus. by In it, David E. Taylor documents many face-to-face visitations from Jesus Himself starting in December of 1989. I don’t know why God chooses to appear to some people when they’re saved and not others, but I believe He does and David’s purpose for writing the book was to make others hungry for and give some principles and concepts to those seeking to find a “beyond personal” spiritual relationship with God. “Appearances” can happen in a trance or vision, in a dream, in the physical realm or an open vision, by an out-of-body experience, and in the glory realm. I personally know people who have had some or all of these, but I’m not there yet. I’ve heard His voice and felt His presence, though, and that’s a good start! But I want more. I believe that God’s preparing me for an encounter and am reminded of Esther and her six months’ preparation with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women–all this for her one night with the king (which as we know led to many nights!). So while on the one hand I can’t wait, on the other I know I must and that it’s necessary in ways I don’t completely understand. It almost feels like a courtship, with God wooing my wounded heart back into complete trust and total surrender. Btw I’m told that those preparations Esther went through were not easy breezy like going to a spa every day to be pampered but that her skin would literally be scrubbed raw. It was a painful experience, as learning to trust again can be, but it is worth it.

The main thing I took away from this book was the importance of rising early to meet with the Lord. I never realized there were so many references in the Bible to the morning that had to do with it being a time when God would visit His people. Looking back, I realize God’s been trying to get me up to meet with Him for a while, often waking me around 4 a.m. During my recent 40-day fast it happened more than normal and I would often get up to spend time with Him. So since finishing the book I’ve been praying for God to again wake me up during the “fourth watch” (between 3 and 6 a.m.) and this morning He did. I’m trusting He will continue to do this as I’d like to avoid setting the alarm and waking my husband up (though perhaps in the future he’ll have a desire to rise early as well). It’s going to take some adjusting to, but it’s necessary and a great way to start the day. I have always loved mornings and this is just one more reason to love them :)

The other book I read was Frank Laubach’s Practicing His Presence. It reminded me of Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, which I’ve read on more than one occasion (and which I’m going through again). In fact, Laubach (who passed away in 1970) is like the modern day Brother Lawrence with a twist. Here’s an excerpt from January 26, 1930:

For the past few days I have been experimenting in a more complete surrender than ever before. I am taking by deliberate act of will, enough time from each hour to give God much thought. Yesterday and today I have made a new adventure, which is not easy to express. I am feeling God in each movement, by an act of will–willing that He shall direct these fingers that now strike this typewriter–willing that He shall pour through my steps as I walk–willing that He shall direct my words as I speak, and my very jaws as I eat!

You will object to this intense introspection. Do not try it, unless you feel dissatisfied with your own relationship with the Lord, but at least allow me to realize all the leadership of God I can. Paul speaks of our liberty in Christ. I am trying to be utterly free from everybody, free from my own self, but completely enslaved to the will of God every moment of this day….

It is exactly that “moment by moment,” every waking moment, surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, “lost in His love,” that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might, to respond to Jesus Christ as a violin responds to the bow of the master.

In defense of my opening my soul and laying it bare to the public gaze in this fashion, I may say that it seems to me that we really seldom do anybody much good excepting as we share the deepest experiences of our souls in this way. It is not the fashion to tell your inmost thoughts, but there are many wrong fashions, and concealment of the best in us is wrong. I disapprove of the usual practice of talking “small talk” whenever we meet, and holding a veil over our souls. If we are so impoverished that we have nothing to reveal but small talk, then we need to struggle for more richness of soul. As for me, I am convinced that this spiritual pilgrimage which I am making is infinitely worthwhile, the most important thing I know of to talk about. And talk I shall while there is anybody to listen.

A few months later he writes:

Someone may be saying that this introspection and this struggle to achieve God-consciousness is abnormal and perilous. I am going to take the risks, for somebody ought to do it. If our religious premises are correct at all then this oneness with God is the most normal condition one can have. It is what made Christ, Christ. It is what St. Augustine meant when he said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in Thee.”

So how does he do it? He resolves to think about Christ once every minute! But can we have that contact with God all the time? All the time awake, fall asleep in His arms, and awaken in His presence? Can we attain that? Can we do His will all the time? Can we think His thoughts all the time? He states: “We do not think of one thing. We always think of the relationship of at least two things, and more often of three or more things simultaneously. So my problem is this: Can I bring he Lord back in my mind flow every few seconds so that God shall always be in my mind?” It is a matter of acquiring a new habit of thought. I was questioning it in my mind and said, “Lord, I don’t know if I can do this,” and immediately heard, “I’ll help you.” So yes, I think it’s possible, and Frank goes on to speak about how his life was changed by it here in an excerpt from September 28, 1931:

When one has struck some wonderful blessing that all mankind has a right to know about, no custom or false modesty should prevent him from telling it, even though it may mean the unbarring of his soul to the public gaze.

I have found such a way of life. I ask nobody else to live it, or even to try it. I only witness that it is wonderful, it is indeed heaven on earth. And it is very simple, so simple that any child could practice it.

This simple practice requires only a gentle pressure of the will, not more than a person can exert easily. It grows easier as the habit becomes fixed. Yet it transforms life into heaven. Everybody takes on a new richness, and all the world seems tinted with glory. I do not, of course, know what others think of me, but the joy which I have within cannot be described. If there never were any other reward than that, it would more than justify the practice to me.

We can’t become like Christ until we give Him more time. The disciples’ “college course” was to be with Jesus, walk with Him, eat and sleep with Him twenty-four hours a day for three years. They had the benefit of Jesus in the flesh, but He has given us His Spirit, and He is with us always. It only makes sense that we make it a point to talk with Him more. Eventually I’d like it to get to the point where He’s doing more talking than I am :) Yesterday was my first day to try and I did fine for a while. I didn’t watch the clock so I can’t say whether I actually did think of Him once a minute, but I know it was a lot more than I used to! We had company in the evening, though, and for a while I forgot He was there. But He reminded me. And though it’s only the second day I am finding it easier already by imagining Him right here beside me. In fact I even say that, “Thank You for being with me.” He’s not an imaginary friend though, He’s very real and promises that those who seek Him with all their heart will find Him. And He keeps His word :)

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