|Something was out of sync. I was getting more in touch with Jesus, knowing his heart, loving him more, feeling the energy that comes from staying close to him. I felt alive and bouncy and bright, like an Easter dress.
|But along came work. And more work. And family stuff. And I started short changing my sleep, fretting a bit more. Grumpiness appeared. Or at any rate, the smiles disappeared. I felt like an old penny, its shine long destroyed. I started to look like the man on the penny too. (No, just kidding. I don't have a beard. Yet.)
|And then my birthday rolled around. I hate it when my birthday comes and I'm feeling poor and cheap and sorry for myself, because then I don't want anyone to buy me anything. But this year, I wanted to really mean it when I said to friends and family, "You are my birthday gift, the very best gift possible." I do mean that…but I also like toys: a sparkly top, a pair of glitzy earrings, perfume, dark chocolate. Girl stuff.
|The heat index was stupidly high for June, and we decided to have my little birthday gathering in the only air-conditioned room in the house, our former garage. Believing to some extent in the motto "Fake it until you make it," I mustered up some pseudo good attitude, hauled tables and chairs, carried the silver and plates and glasses and pitchers of water and all the other accoutrements for a celebration meal down the stairs. I swatted mosquitoes and snipped flowers for low arrangements from our straggly, struggling gardens, then, as this was a combo birthday- Father's Day celebration, ran upstairs to wrap a few presents for the two fathers in the crowd.
|Flopping onto the floor, with my legs spread out, I boxed the gifts.My mood sank lower than my knees, and I wanted to bawl. Hormones? Maybe. Lack of sleep? Maybe. Deadlines? Maybe. Problems with my soul? Definitely.
|No wonder my soul was in trouble. In order to make it through the days, and nights, I had shifted gears into autopilot and ceased to truly encounter Jesus.Not only had I forgotten how to come closer to Jesus, the results showed on my face. I had stopped shining.
|I'd begun to resemble the Grim Reaper in daily life.
|And that afternoon, as I sat on the floor, needing to wrap gifts though I had kindly ordered everyone not to give me any presents, my heart felt crumbly, like old newspapers in the attic or last month's bread.
|I shifted to my knees, put my face on the floor, and cried, "God, I do not want to live a lie. God, I want to be radiant with your love, I want others to see your light shining out of me, like I swallowed sunshine." And then, "Come alongside me, Jesus. Help me to encounter you, daily, minute by minute. I cannot live this life without your presence."
|Finding rays of hope every day
|It seems so obvious: if the Christian life isn't about encountering Christ more deeply, we're getting the wrong message. So why do we make the Christian life so complicated, trying to fill in the chasm between hope and actuality with a new, improved Bible, or Bible study, or Scripture-reading plan, or method of prayer? We don't need a new Scripture software program for our computer. We don't need a new memory plan. We don't need to know the original language. Don't misunderstand: these are all good things. But what we really need, deep down, is to tuck in alongside Jesus. He simply holds out a hand and says, "Come along. Come with me on another adventure. Let me come along with you! Hold on to me, learn from me. My yoke is gentle, my burden light."
|As we experience Christ more fully throughout the day, the results show on our faces. We are transformed from "glory to glory," as the Scriptures say (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).
|Come Along is an invitation into that glory-a free, fuller, more intimate relationship with Jesus. It's about how, after that birthday, as I've held more tightly to Christ's hand and chosen to look for him in relationships and situations, troubles and joys- I feel different. Lighter. Brighter. I smile more. Carry less. Oh, I still battle thundercloud face, still wrestle with the darkness, with lack of joy. But since last summer, I began to dig into New Testament stories of Jesus and meet him in a brand-new way. These are some delightful interactions with Jesus as I've never known him before.
|Come along with me and see. Let him take your hand and walk you through the hills and sands of Israel, down crowded streets and into interactions that will make your heart sing. Along the way, you'll recognize a deep desire to be safe. And deeper even than that is the deepest of all longings: the longing for a love that will never leave us, for a Lover who will love us perfectly. We find that love in Jesus, only in Jesus, and when we are loved, safe, we are changed.We become more lovely.
|As for that hot birthday in June-never have I enjoyed a party more. I felt like a candle. My flame may flicker, but God keeps stoking the fire, keeps me burning, brighter, every day.
|How to come along I want you to have that same kind of vibrant encounter with Jesus. Come along with me and you'll see that every chapter in this book begins with an illuminating quote about the encounter ahead. Mull over that quote, listen to it, ask yourself how it applies to you and your soul and the way you live. Then keep those questions at the front of your heart throughout the whole book. Because these encounters with Jesus are not so that you will learn more about him (although that is wonderful, and I hope that you do!) or learn more Scripture (although, of course, yes, please, Lord, help us learn more of your Word!). Rather, these encounters are intended to change us, to move us from one place to another. So when you come to Jesus's words at the top of each chapter, wait with those words; listen and really hear them.
|Moving into the text of the chapter, into the encounter with Jesus, put yourself in the place of the people in the story. Go to the river, the temple, the party, the synagogue.With whom in the stories do you most identify?Perhaps keep a journal of your own encounters with Jesus as you join him in these various places.
|Make the book your own as well: don't save it for someone else. Where do you doubt, question, hope? Where do tears come, longings press forward? Mark those things in the margins of this book so you can track your journey.
|At the end of each chapter waits the friend you long for, the person who will ask you hard questions, invite you into silence, share Scripture for your meditation, challenge you with vulnerable prayers and ultimate application: how will you come alongside Jesus today, in what way?
|This spiritual Companion shows up in these sections, inviting you to come along to: Transfer from dark to light
|God'sWord tells us that he has transferred us out of darkness and into light-and this section is a prayer place, a time for repentance, for confessing where you messed up, missed the point, made a spectacle. It's also a place, in that position of humility, of waiting for forgiveness. Be still here. There's no need to rush through the offered prayer.Wait a little longer until your own words form after praying through the written words of repentance. Transfix upon Christ. Sit still in silence, wait peacefully in the presence of Christ. If words start to get in your way, invite your worried heart to rest-shhh. Be still and calm. Maybe your silence will last only seconds or a minute or two. But cease-fire your own words, and just point your heart at God. Love God, and let God love you. Gaze at Jesus in stillness, as you used to adore your very first boyfriend, maybe; let Jesus love you back. Translate the meaning.
|These questions dive down to the meaning beneath our behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. They invite us into honesty and into growth as we put ourselves into the encounters with Jesus and learn how to live differently as a result. transform by renewing your mind
|Romans 12:2 invites us to "be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind," and hiding Scripture in our hearts begins lifelong change as we meditate on God's Word and then wait with this passage. Maybe you will memorize it-write it on a three-by-five card and carry it with you, or tape it on a mirror or your dashboard or your kitchen window or put it in your back pocket. Maybe you will simply read it and wait with God's words, holding them like a chocolate drop beneath your tongue. Ask God to bring out the flavors of this passage, to highlight a word or phrase for your soul, and to help you apply this passage to your life.This is where transformation happens. Transparency through prayer.
|These words are a prayer, a heartfelt rending of the curtain that separates us from God and from our selves. These prayers offer some words to take you into deeper honesty with God. Healing happens when we identify with the encounter with Jesus and then pray through our own issues.
|Transpired action Just for today, how will you live? What will change as a result of your encounter with Jesus? How will these illuminations shine into your soul and out of your life into this world? What action will take place?
|If you, too, often feel like a dim wick or a wet log, welcome. You are in good company! But be prepared. These ten encounters with Jesus will take your breath away; they will be like billows to the smoldering coals-they will set you on fire with the Light of theWorld. And then you will shine.
|Illuminations on Relationship "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
|We must have some room to breathe.… Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions.-RICHARD SWENSON
|The gadget fits in my ear, the size of a cicada and about as annoying. Nearly as light as a fig leaf, it feels fragile and innocuous, but its purpose is to turn me into a work-all-the-time automaton. In the former days, it was enough to just get from point A to point B without solving the mysteries of the universe or at least the issues of waste management, without creating endless lists of to-dos for the return to home base.
|Now, we drive from point A to point B, smooshing in C, D, and E for efficiency's sake, all the while making sure the batteries for the phone and earpiece are charged so we can continue working… um…I mean communicating. Because don't these gadgets help us keep in touch?
|Yesterday I flapped around like a distracted Big Bird for five minutes trying to gather all the information for calls I needed to make on the twelve-minute drive to a lunch meeting (and all the errands on the way). Rather than simplifying my life, this communication device plays into my rule-bound being: I should make the most of every single minute, even if it raises my anxiety to espresso-level jitters.
|Can't we just drive anymore?
|No. Because we are driven women, with an unwritten rule book encompassing all thought and behavior. Always, never, should, and ought dictate our days and caffeinate our nights. Our eyeballs jump like kids on a hotel bed, should we dare lower our lids. The specter of our undones and poorly dones drives us; the voices of people in our past and our present remind us of the guidelines carved in stone. Like the old song, "Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?"
|Oh, we can read the signs just fine.We just can't live by them anymore.
|These rules in stone were never designed to bring us life.They were intended to remind us of how impossible it is to live this life, how far short we fall of the mark, how desperately we need relief from all the rules and regulations whispering their guilty messages into our souls.
|Come along. Rush to the river, and meet the One who will change everything, absolutely everything, about our rule-bound living.