our warring hearts

You call my name, and I hear you. I am not pressed too hard, I am not overwhelmed and forgotten. You are here now, Jesus. I can see you. I can see you with my eyes closed. I can hear you from deep within me. This is where you pursue me. In the deepest place of my heart. I run there; I want to stay here, with you.

Last week, we wrestled, you and I. You know how I struggle with transitions. I want so much for spontaneity to be my attribute, yet, still, I prefer the certainty of things planned. But I trust in you. I trust that you see what I cannot. I trust that you are good. I trust that you love me. I trust that you have me. I trust that you never leave me. I trust that you fill me and equip me with your more and more and more.

Last week, as I put the women’s group we lead together on summer hiatus, you leaned in close. This was the wrestling the two of us did–my aching with fear that I was letting you down, and you pointing out how self-contempt was once again pressing in. No, you said, I am not a failure; no, you said, I am not disappointing you. You reminded me how you pursue me from a true place–and if I push to make things work because of pride or fear–I am not being true, I am not following your heart.

And Jesus, I want to follow nothing else but your heart.

You reminded me how true leadership comes from the overflow of relationship with you–and when I have to push and pull to make things work on my own strength, I must step back, lean in close to you. I must ask you to search my heart, seek your wisdom that I may give from being filled with you. What I give–that is good–comes only from you.

And then, when the loneliness came–the worry that the women might not come back in the fall, that I messed this all up by pausing what was just getting started–you came, arms open wide. I heard you: This is a season of healing, dear one. Your vulnerability is your strength. Your weakness is where I come to fill you. You will always need me. And there are some places in you where we still need to go. There is always more. Come, my darling. Come, I am right here.

So this summer, as my little girl heart seeks the healing of her Father, I step back from the group I just started and trust the outcome of the decision to Jesus. I bury my face in the folds of his arms. I look for his hand and hold it fast. I listen, and the words he speaks bring light and joy and peace.

I continue to speak the truth, not fear, to my warring heart:  In the turbulence of a world gone mad, Jesus, you are constant; you are sure. In the ache of the ones who feel forgotten, Jesus, you stand tall; you do not leave. Jesus, you know heartache; you know pain; you know sickness; you know grief. You know exhaustion; you know war.

So, it is where you go that I want to follow. You lead me, Jesus. You lead me deeper into the place where you beckon, you invite, you move. You know the plan. You have me. You are peace.

Is there a way your heart feels at war with Jesus? How is he inviting you to come closer to him–accept the good for you that he has?

Don’t miss the episode by Rush Podcast: Rescue from Self-Contempt.

when self-contempt and Jesus collide

[mk_page_section][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”80″ padding=”20″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”#000000″]”I[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522295736406{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]came back for you.”

I hear you say it, your hand at the small of my back, your arms holding me. For years it was my Father’s voice I recognized. Opening my imagination. Cracking open my heart. When I see me with him. When I hear his voice.

But I didn’t think I could hear yours. Or think I ever wanted to.

I let myself believe that you, underneath the almond tree, eyes filled with tears, stayed only because you couldn’t help it. You couldn’t not be there, loving me, despite me. Because you are Love. Because rescue is what you do. Because rescue is who you are.

I twisted your acts of love into an act of obligation. Not choice. Not beauty. Not treasure. Not freedom. Not life.

A part of my heart rejected you, held you off.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5824″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522292135764{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]I did this even though I knew your sacrifice, your surrender, your suffering, your death, was all a choice. Everything you did was what you chose to do. But I made you small. I warped the truth and said it didn’t apply to me.

Despite the truth. Despite how you came. Despite how you returned me to myself, restored my broken heart, turned darkness into light, and ransomed me.

I wanted to retain control, keep punishing myself by hating myself. But now you teach me this: When self-contempt defines a person, and generational wounds cut deep, kindness to self can feel like a mountain impossible to climb, a summit impossible to reach. But you smash through our self-hatred with a love that rattles heaven.

“I came back for you.”

Yes, you did.

Yes, you do.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”5846″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1522294254844{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]We hear you.

We see you. We know your laughter.  We feel your breath against our cheek. Your strength upholds us. Your kindness fills us. We dance. And you help us each to stand.

We trust your steps. How you guide us forward, and then back. You invite us to let our arms fall to our sides and then lift them up. The air is sweet, grass lush and soft underneath our bare feet.

We hear your music. Feel it in us. Respond to it with hands open, our feet running now.

Waterfall pounds ahead. River wild rushing hard. We know it is okay to jump. You are here. You will catch us. You show us what we didn’t know before: we love to dance, yes. But we also love to race on rapids with you.

You are taking us deeper now. We see you. We will follow you where you go.

Be safely unpredictable, Jesus. Be extravagantly sure. You are the beautiful one. The brave one. You take us to places messy and wild. Show us more. Show us more. Make us ready to say yes, to wherever you call, and go.

It is easier for us, Jesus, to believe in our despicable nature than surrender, let ourselves be loved anyway, despite it being the last thing we deserve.

But, Jesus, life with you is just too good, you are too good, to not trust you. Help us do whatever it takes, whatever it takes, for more, more of you.

Jesus, help us recognize our biggest struggle right now. Is it trusting you? Is it facing our fears? Is it letting you into the silent, darkest places of our hearts and trusting you to come and heal? Is it doing the hard work of dying to self? Is it following where you lead?

We thank you for how you come, how you are here, how you come back for us, rescuing us, again and again. Never stop. And help us go forward with you, in all that you have for us. In your name we pray, Amen.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

when it’s time to be done

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”5771″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5773″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5770″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5769″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”WHEN IT’S TIME TO BE DONE” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:30|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”80″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”#000000″]P[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1520299404020{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]eople say it’s in the quiet where we can most easily find Him. Not because He is quiet. Not necessarily. Not because He is calm. Not consistently. But because the distractions come fierce and loud. And our hearts—fragile, on their own—need Him to pull us back to the beginning, the pure place, with Him.

And yes, I think this is true.

Jesus, we need you.

Grab hold of our hearts and bring us to You.

We can more readily access the messages of our own hearts, and connect with Jesus’, when we practice silence, give space for our minds and hearts and imaginations to be present to God. When media blares and relationships demand and work pressures, our hearts become overwhelmed. And while silence, space with Jesus, restores us—reminding us what is true and what is not, there is another step we need to take:  We need to do more than petition the throne.

Because in our loneliness, we cry out.

In our weariness, we cry out.

In our desire for more—more love, more breakthrough, more healing, more hope, we cry out.

And in the midst of our petitioning, Jesus asks this simple question, “What are you willing to do, to get more of me?”

Are you willing to trust me with your relationships? Are you willing to walk away from what feels safe, if I ask you to? Are you willing to run toward the people I give you to love, even if it’s hard?

Are you willing to trust me with your talents? Are you willing to let me show you how I’ve made you and what is getting in the way of trusting me more?

Are you willing to let go of having the answers, let me search your heart, help you discern the reasons for your restlessness, your brooding, your hunger for more and more and more of me?

A guide for me on this journey, a man wise and disruptive in the best ways, tells me, “Give everything and everyone to Jesus.” Relinquish control. “Give Him everything as if you are done. As if I am done. As if I am . . . done.

Letting go of trying to control what we can’t, of what we shouldn’t, while contending for what is good—for more Jesus, more connection with Him—grants peace we will never find through the desire to strive and control.

Being done means the end of striving. Being done means turning our backs on fear. Being done means intimacy with Jesus. Being done means living in wide-open space where life is more than what we see and hear and feel. Being done means stepping forward into the deeper place, a place where heaven comes down, we see God’s face, feel his touch, hear his voice.

Jesus, I am done. Let us be done.

For in being done we enter the beginning. A fresh way to live in a world that rages, that overwhelms, that is more than we are designed to bear.

We are given more, now, than we can bear on our own. Being done is owning Holy Spirit’s strength in us to do what our Father desires us to do. Being done is craving the Father’s desires. It is having our desires be his.

Being done means no separation from our heart and Jesus’.  It means more joy, more light, more capacity for love. When we are done with this life of striving and control we are ready for Jesus to fill our hearts and soul so there is room for nothing else.

I want to be done.

I want to be done.

So, I seek His heart and I listen for His voice and I act. Give everything and everyone to Jesus as if you are done.

And greater intimacy with our King and Savior is here. Right now.

Let’s be done.

Name your struggle to lay down control. What grips you? How do you want to be done?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

a new year, and God in the snow

[vc_row fullwidth=”true”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_padding=”3″][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”A NEW YEAR, AND GOD IN THE SNOW” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:30|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”80″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”#000000″]I[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1516315353848{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]t is cold the morning we climb. Strap snowshoes onto our boots. Head out while still dark. House quiet. Kids asleep.

The break has been needed. Away from home. The pace of running too fast, too long. I look up here. White aspens, bare fingers stretch to the most pale blue sky.

I am a Three on the Enneagram, which means slowing is counterintuitive. Going forward, doing what feels productive, is what feels comfortable.

But this is not what is best for my soul.

It takes intention, this battle for the health of my heart.

This is the second time I climb the snow-packed hill. The first is on a whim. In a restful house full of friends and family hundreds of miles from home, days before New Year’s, I pull on boots and walk into approaching dusk.

To walk in beauty. To look for Father’s footsteps. To grasp Jesus’ hand. To listen for Holy Spirit’s voice.

It is a hard, steep climb, my feet not accustomed to the snowshoes’ width, legs tired from skiing most of the day. Half-way up, I have to start pausing to catch my breath. And then begin counting steps each time I stop. 80. 100. Keep going ‘til you get to that fence, then that tree.

At the top, my calves burning, I am quiet. My God is quiet too. I feel no pressure to find words. Whether I can feel Him or not, my heart knows He is here. I am confident He is close. I am a daughter who loses her way, a daughter He, over and over again, tucks in close and brings home.

He is with me, in the silence, in the waiting. And I want to remember His presence with me here. So I bend forward where I kneel, my knees crunched in snow. And I pick up a piece of wood, a smoothed, flattened nub of branch, a half-inch wide and two-inches long. It is tucked in the snow at the top of the hill. Here, I remember, is where I climbed, and waited, and anticipated the presence of God.

It is quiet here. Darkness falling. And I don’t hear anything–not His voice, not a nudge, not a whisper. But I recognize His presence. I feel his breath, the cold air on my face. He is with me. That is enough. I stand, holding the stick in my right pocket. My left hand holding Jesus’ as I walk down.

* * * 

I want to climb the hill again.

It is early morning of New Year’s Day, two days after my afternoon walk, when Justin and I climb together. It is much easier this time—legs fresh, lungs determined. We speak little, listening to the crunch of snow under boots, the sound of our breath in our wool-covered ears. We watch the sky begin to turn. Deep blue. Slightly pink-gold. We reach the top and stand, holding hands, consecrating this moment, this morning, this day, this year to Him.

We pray, give our hearts again to our Father. God, what do you have to say?

And I hear Him this time. Justin prays aloud at this very beginning of the new year, his hand in mine, our boots in snow, the sun rising behind mountains, his voice speaking out thanksgiving, hope, promise, return. And I hear the voice of my Father, his voice in my heart, speaking over us: the promise of hope in the midst of trial, his presence equipping us to face challenges as we lean into Him, standing in his truth, fighting alongside Him.

And this standing with Him . . . begins with fighting for our own hearts.

Fighting for my own heart is something I have been neglecting to do for months now. Many months. What I love to do? What I am made to do? These things I have been ignoring. I have been chasing the satisfaction of the urgent rather than the important. And what is urgent is often a distraction from the important—a task, a request, a situation that, actually, ironically, can usually wait. For the important pulls me into deeper relationship with God. The important fuels what I need for the urgent. The important is both practical and romantic—a move, an action, a decision that leads to falling more deeply in love with my Father.

And above all else, I want to fall more deeply in love with God.

He keeps speaking, the sun glistening on snow. And, while of course I know He knows I hear Him, I want to acknowledge my own hearing, I want to respond. He is asking me to stand. He is promising that I will stand. He is inviting me to trust Him and follow Him and stand.

And the sacred echoes of his voice continue, as I listen, and I wait, and I respond—my heart hungry to answer the call of the Father, the call of the important, not the urgent.

I learn that “stand,” in Hebrew, means to endure, to remain—to stand both in body and attitude.

Father, this is what I want to do: stand with You, in every way. My whole heart is Yours.

And Justin and I walk down.

What excites you about this new year? How is God inviting you to fall more deeply in love with Him?

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”5749″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5748″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5752″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5751″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”5750″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1485823148009{margin-right: 50px !important;margin-left: 50px !important;}”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

taking back surrender

[vc_row column_padding=”3″][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_fancy_title size=”20″ force_font_size=”true” size_tablet=”20″ size_phone=”18″ font_family=”none”]TAKING BACK SURRENDER[/mk_fancy_title][mk_dropcaps]S[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1503501026189{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]urrendering might be the most difficult thing. True surrender–the kind where you feel powerless and empowered at the same time. Powerless because everything you’ve believed, everything you’ve fought for and were convinced about, is being laid down. Empowered because surrendering is, in fact, an action. No one can force us into it. No one can make us put up our hands and wave a white flag, even if we convince ourselves we are out of options.

Surrender is an act of will. Our will. Despite obstacles, challenges, hurdles where we can’t imagine a way through, surrendering is still a choice, a way forward.

Surrender doesn’t have to mean a step back.

Surrender is empowerment

The truth is, we can indeed say no to surrender: we can keep running; we can keep resisting; we can keep trying to carry on, do things the way they have always been done. We can fight and push and hold the line. We can be stubborn and prideful, opposed to change. After all, our opinions, our thoughts, our feelings are valid, right? Well, yes, but . . .

Our heart knows when it is time to surrender. No matter the struggle. No matter the cost.

Surrender isn’t easy

I wish surrender were easy. I want it to work like this: I say I will be different and–with a wave of a magic wand–I am different. There. All done. I want the act of surrender to have immediate results, with no pain, no discomfort, no uncertainty about results. I want the choice to surrender to equal the act of surrender. But, yeah, I know it doesn’t work that way.

When it comes to surrender, Jesus got it done

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus chose surrender. He knew the cost; He knew it was worth it.

And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground”  (Luke 22:44).

Jesus knew what his surrender involved: torture, humiliation, physical and mental agony, death on a cross. And yet still, He chose it. He gave to God his body, his mind, his heart, his very soul. He did this for the love of the Father. It was surrender that paved the way to Life.

And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak'” (Mark 14:36-38).

Jesus modeled complete surrender, the only surrender that really works. The only surrender that makes any of us different people.  The only surrender that makes us free, not ensnared in sin. The only surrender that lets us experience God’s love and the reality of being whole. And Jesus knows firsthand how challenging surrender is, telling his disciples, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Surrender and the Spirit

Our spirit’s willingness and our flesh’s weakness are why our acts of surrender must be acts of the spirit, not the flesh. Our flesh does not want to obey us; it wants to do what it wants to do. It does not want to be corralled, cajoled, reined in, controlled. But the spirit, the breath of God in us, knows what is good. And when we cling to what is good, as Paul urges us in his letter to the Romans (12:9), we are entrusting to God our will, our mind, our body, our soul, our heart.

So even though our flesh resists surrender, the Spirit of God that dwells in us helps us indeed cling to what is true: God’s will, not our own.  Jesus reminds us of the power we have in God, and the powerlessness we have without him:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:1-7).

Surrender begins with abiding in Christ

Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. In Christ, we can do anything. Through the act of surrender, we get to choose Jesus’ life in us, making surrender one of the most powerful weapons we have against the enemy who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus’ surrender led to the death of our sin so that we get to choose surrender for ourselves now–the power of Jesus in us, or the weakness of our own flesh.

What are we going to choose?

Surrender means we get out of our own way

Jesus gave God, his Father, everything. And God gave to Jesus, and thus to the world, everything back. So, sister, though this life is difficult, though we struggle and fall, we can yet surrender, again and again. We can surrender our hearts, our minds, our bodies. We are no longer slaves of our sin, but children of God, alive with the Spirit of God in us.

Surrender? Yep, we can do this.

Surrendering is empowering after all.[/vc_column_text][mk_custom_box border_color_style=”single_color” border_color=”#c6c6c6″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1503424744216{margin-bottom: 0px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”]

Want to surrender together?

Let’s do this. Let’s pay attention to our hearts: How is God inviting us each to surrender? And how can we make this practical?

For me, I am surrendering to God my mind and heart–praying for 40 days that I better honor and respect the opinions and feelings of my family. (I am hoping that the concrete goal of 40 days will help me approach my act of surrender with steadfastness and diligence.)

Want to join me in this step toward saying yes to Jesus today?

Share one thing, in the comments, that you are doing in your act of surrender. And let’s pray for one another, shall we?[/vc_column_text][/mk_custom_box][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”4987″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”4989″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”4988″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5006″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”4997″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1485823148009{margin-right: 50px !important;margin-left: 50px !important;}”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

the listening day, an interview with Paul Pastor on hearing God’s voice, plus a giveaway

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_padding=”3″][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_fancy_title size=”20″ font_family=”none”]THE LISTENING DAY, AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL PASTOR- PLUS A GIVEAWAY![/mk_fancy_title][mk_blockquote font_family=”none”]

“You do not know the value of my words until you have known true hunger for them” (from The Listening Day, by Paul Pastor).

[/mk_blockquote][mk_dropcaps]T[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text]The book looks worn already. And I’ve had it just a few weeks. Pages dog-eared and stuck with post-its. Sentences penciled under, words I want to keep close and not forget.

Paul Pastor is an editor and a writer. He is an artist, and a listener. His first book, The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Mysterious Person of the Holy Spirit, reawakens me to the role of the Holy Spirit in my life. And his latest book, The Listening Way: Meditations on the Way, Vol 1, published in April, inspires me to lean in close to God. Come on in. Listen. Come on in.

What can be better than that?

I love how Paul Pastor listens for God’s voice as he edits and writes (fun fact: Paul was my most-amazing editor for Breathing Eden). He is thoughtful and kind, witty and wise. He is a person you want to hang out with and ask the good stuff. And I wanted you to meet him.

I wanted to ask him how he hears God–how he listens for him, how he spends time with Him, how he hears His voice. And I also wanted to give you a chance to win a copy of his newest book, which I know you’ll love.

So, go and grab yourself something delicious to drink. . . . and then come back to read my interview with Paul. After the post, I’ll give you all the details about how to enter the giveaway to win your own copy of The Listening Day! (Paul is being super generous and giving away five copies!)

Here we go:

  • Paul, what are some of your very favorite things to do with God? How do you fit these things into your week, your day?

What a great question. I work to “practice the presence” of God in the middle of my daily life and routine. This means being aware that God is always present with me, and that he invites me to be present with him, here and now. While I love to set time aside specifically for prayer or other connection, I honestly find that my richest times with God are usually the ones where my hands are busy—washing dishes, weeding our rambling garden, driving, chopping firewood—but my mind and heart are at rest.

I’m slowly getting better about this kind of awareness. Living in God’s presence in all of life gets more natural the more I do it, but I can’t say it’s easy for me yet. It’s not.

  • What obstacles distract you from getting into God’s presence–and what is your favorite way to pull yourself back?

There are two categories of obstacles for me: external and internal. The external ones are what we typically think of as distractions: the buzzing phone, details about work or money, stress, frustrating events, and so on. Those are the things that can pull my “eye” away from God because something right up in my face is demanding my attention.

But the internal distractions are much more subtle, and harder to fight. They are distractions that I often don’t recognize as distractions—things like personal insecurity, fears about the worth or value of my work or ministry, pride, patterns of sin or unhealthy thinking, routine exhaustion, and so on. Those are what threaten to pull my “heart” away from God. Those are the deep distractors.

 How do I pull myself back? I don’t, mostly. He does. Practicing his presence means that he joins me in those places, or perhaps I join him, or perhaps a bit of both. Every so often I snap out of whatever cycle of distraction I’m in to recognize that I am missing an opportunity to be fully with him. But that “snapping out” is usually his work, I just catch up with him eventually, and say “ok.”

I am learning though, that I am much more likely to “snap out” when I am living a life that is trying to bring together my body, mind, and soul into the same time, place, and project. When I live as a unified person, a unified Christian.

 Man, we get so scattered and distracted. We dilute our attention, often on purpose. It keeps us from being people of intention, focus, power, and originality. It saps us. Unifying ourselves under Jesus’s blood and the Father’s will is life-changing.

  • How would you define God’s “voice”? Do you think it is possible for everyone to hear Him?

God’s voice is the personal communication of his Spirit to his people. It’s mostly (but not always) a metaphor.

We “hear” his Spirit in four main ways: through the holy writings in the Bible, through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, through nature (what one old theologian called God’s “eternal law” expressed in the created world), and through the words and actions of other people. Those avenues all complement one another and work together to be avenues for God to speak—really personally speak—to us.

 Anyone can hear the voice of God, and I think everyone does, at some point, though most of us are “educated” and trained to ignore it, and have to re-learn what it sounds like.

To simply live in the world the Creator has made is to hear and understand so much of his heart and mind. Each one of us is made in his image—so the voice of God, in one sense, speaks in the native tongue of our souls. But we have forgotten it, and have forgotten that we have forgotten it.

God loves each of his children, has blessed and redeemed us in his son Jesus, and speaks to us constantly. What is hard for us is discerning that we have heard his voice, and then (harder yet) believing and acting upon what we have heard. Often his voice is simpler and more surprising than we would expect. Just read the stories of the Bible—God’s people are usually expecting him to speak in more obvious ways, to say more obvious things, and do all the work of faith for them. But he calls them to trust, relationship, justice, and belief. 

Since God’s goal is to grow us in wisdom, love, and maturity in Jesus, he puts the ball in our court, again and again. “I’ve done it all for you,” he seems to say. “Now work out what you are learning. Show me the life of love. Walk like Jesus.”

  • How do you discern God’s voice over all the other noise in your life? What are some practical ways to figure out if it is His voice you are hearing–or something else?

One marker of a mature and growing person in our generation is self-control. Self-control is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit Paul writes about in Galatians. That means God himself is self-controlled, and he wants us to imitate him in it.

At its root, self-control is the ability to say “enough” to oneself. Not easy to learn in a culture of excess and runaway consumption! Living a self-controlled, upright, and godly life with a background of “reality” tv, the slow-drip drug of comparison via social media, and all the appetites of American consumers is … hard.

I’m pondering these words from Paul these days: “I refuse to be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). I want to live that, so I am trying to master the “noise.” There is no law that states our phones need to be always beside us. There is no law that says we need a phone, or any devices that beep. There is no rule that says the Internet gets to determine how you think, feel, sleep, consume, and behave. We need to live as people in charge of ourselves, not simply reacting to the constant stimulus of our culture.

Christian faith says that anything that exercises control over us must be put in its place so that we may give our lives fully to Christ. I try to do that through giving myself permission to be a bit out of touch with things that do not, in the large picture, matter. I find myself happier, more creative, and more productive when I am self-controlled. And much more able to hear God.

 Regarding discerning his voice: anything God says to us will encourage the life of love and the fruit of the Spirit. As well, it will not go against properly-read scripture or God’s moral law. Furthermore—and this is vital—if he speaks to you, he will give you the resources and wisdom to interpret and follow what he said. He might not give you everything all at once, but he won’t leave you more distressed or confused than you were before.

If there is confusion, unhealthy fear, contradiction, or just an “ickiness” about “something ‘God said,’” then I become concerned that the “voice” heard wasn’t God’s, but an unhealthy one to be listening to.

  • What role does imagination play–if any– in having a conversation with God? Describe your state of mind–or your heart–when listening for God’s voice while writing The Listening Day. What was fun? What was a challenge?

Whew! That’s a big question. God clearly works and speaks through art and imagination—just read the story of Bezalel in Exodus for one example. My craft, profession, and creative calling is writing. It creates a space in which I am not only able to process thoughts and emotions, but communicate them theologically, in relationship to the biblical text.

I wrote The Listening Day  committed to and practicing authenticity. I did this for myself first—not the reader. I listened, I prayed, I spent time in the study of scripture and crafting the best words I could find to represent what God is saying to me in and around those texts.

This was deeply enjoyable and satisfying. Also deeply challenging. It is easier to be inauthentic and postured in faith and creativity than it is to be real. Reality doesn’t box with gloves on, and it will take you down. I feel like I spent as much time on my back in the ring, seeing stars, and laughing uproariously through a mouthful of blood as I did actually throwing many artistic punches. (Just read “Unjustification” or “The Bonesetter” in the book for an example.)

When you write that way, you’re not just making stuff up. You’re interpreting it, through the cracked lens of yourself, and it’s rough and raw, and doesn’t promise not to mess you up as a person or an artist. But the drive and call are there, and what else can you do? You write, and pray, and spit a little blood.

But that feeling of fighting lets me know that what I am doing, creatively and spiritually, is starting to be real.

  • What are some favorite resources–music, books, media–that you treasure and can’t help recommending to friends?

Music: I’ll just give one recent-ish release, from fellow Portlander and friend-by-extension Liz Vice: There Will Be a Light. It’s theological, gorgeously written, and sounds like soul straight from the 70s. Love it.

Books: Good grief. Where to start? Breathing Eden is a must. Seriously. As is Justin’s new book, Invention. So good. Older books I enjoy? They are nigh infinite. Let’s just go with The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Oh, and all of Jorge Borges’ nonfiction essays, in Collected Nonfictions. Oh again—and Robert Lax’s later minimalist poetry, like Poems, (1962-1997).

Media:  Plough Quarterly and Image Journal—two outstanding places where faith and art and deep Christian thought get all mixed up into something beautiful. Also, I am a HUGE fan of  The Bible Project—some good friends from Portland doing brilliant, culture-changing work to animate excellent biblical scholarship and help people fall in love with the Bible.

Fast questions:

  • Music that has inspired you lately?

The Lark Ascending” – a pastoral orchestral piece by Vaughn Williams

Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. (That opening vocal…)

Jesus for the Jugular,” by The Veils

  • Favorite place of beauty this day?

The creek below our kitchen garden—rioting buttercups flowing up from the banks.

  • Favorite place to listen for God’s voice?

In my pickup, windows down, driving home along the Columbia River on a spring evening.

  • Favorite way to write or read (a posture, a place . . . )?

My little studio, “the Fawn Chapel,” in back of our house, looking out on the woods.

Favorite  smell?

Fresh hop flowers on a hot day.

  • Favorite word?

“But.”

  • What captures your imagination?

The idea that I have thoughtlessly walked past Jesus countless times, every day of my life, present in every person I have ever met, and that I have hardly ever recognized him.

Thank you, Paul.

            Thank you![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][mk_fancy_title size=”20″ font_family=”none” align=”center”]ENTER TO WIN ONE OF FIVE COPIES OF THE LISTENING WAY! ENTER THE GIVEAWAY BELOW. YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY TO ENTER![/mk_fancy_title][vc_column_text]a Rafflecopter giveaway
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beautiful desperate

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”3745″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”3746″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”3752″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”3744″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text title=”BEAUTIFUL DESPERATE”]”You are not the forgotten one.”

I hear it–a statement, simple enough, from a Father who pursues. He wants this truth to sink in deep this time. He wants me to believe it: Achievement does not make any person more worthy of love.

“You are not the forgotten one. You are the chosen one.”

Oh, Father. Take this heart that doubts your truth. Kill it in me. Give me a new heart. Help me deny the temptations of this world.

Yes, something in us has to die to make room for God’s truth.

WAKING UP

The fire in the hearth blazes. I sit with blanket pulled across my chest, turquoise plaid wool tucked under my feet. The house sleeps, but I know, God, You’re here. Early morning comes like a new beginning, a chance to awake, once more, to truth. A chance to put to death, once more, these lies.

Believing truth is a battle hard-fought and won. Other messages–the dark ones, the desperate ones–the eager pokes and prods to our heart that cause anxiety, doubt, insecurity–are so much easier, sometimes, to believe.

My head, so rational (usually) knows my value is not determined by the world’s definition of success: numbers, on a platform or a scale; beauty, from youth or wealth. My head knows this. My head recognizes the voice of the Father, the voice that has saved my life, given me hope when there was shame, new life when despair reigned.

But yet I still struggle to believe it. My heart rebels against my mind. My mind struggles to convince my heart.

THE PROBLEM

There is such good for us, we daughters of God–such a beautiful life, right here, right now. But rather than energized, we feel exhausted. Rather than free, we feel stuck. We are not made to feel overwhelmed, lost, depleted. And when we do? That’s how we know, in our spirit, that it is time to die again. It is time to break agreements we have made with the enemy about our worth. It is time to receive more of our King’s real life.

“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

Over and over, I must give Jesus my heart. Over and over, I must discern what agreements I have made with the enemy and then immediately break them. Over and over, I must die to myself. There was a significant dying in me once before. It has helped me see the value of not delaying in doing it again.

A ROCK HARD HEART

Once upon a time, God, in his tenderness, saw his daughter cowering, a rock upon her chest, dragged down by deceit and pride and shame. And he lifted the rock off of her. He asked her if she wanted to keep her unchanged heart–a heart conditioned to lie and to pretend and to work to create an image that is anything but true. And for a while, she rejected Him. She could not imagine facing her sin. She could not imagine confessing and opening her heart.  So she said no. She was fine. And He let her stay, just like that, for two decades, a secret kept, a heart locked up, a rock upon her chest.

Not only from friends and family, but from my own self, I kept the secret of my abortion. I pushed it down, refused to think about it. I convinced myself that deception was a much better way to live than showing the world my scars. If I could hide my bad choices, my regrets, why wouldn’t I? Why reveal what I had done, who I really am, what I am capable of?

I kept the truth about me a secret, and, in doing so, I convinced myself, for two decades, that if no one knew what I did–what I am still capable of doing–I would be okay. The world was my idol. Keeping up an appearance in which everything looked beautiful, put together, polished and tidy and good made me feel that I was beautiful, put together, polished and tidy and good. I wanted to be these things. And convincing the world that I was these things was easy–easier, at least, than admitting it was actually a lie. All of it.

But there was a cost.

THE COST

The cost of the lie was my heart. I made an agreement with the enemy that I am only loved because of what I do. I made an agreement that if I, in my sin, am capable of so much deceit, of treachery, of murder, then surely I am no good. And I wasn’t ready to deal with that reality. So, rather than surrender my heart, my pain–confess my sin–I buried it.

Those decades of hiding my heart from God were some of the loneliest of my life.

“You are not the forgotten one.”

Old wounds healed. But new agreements made.

I feel myself wrestling to lay down my life again.

It is time.

EVEN THOUGH IT FEELS TOO GOOD TO BELIEVE

We are loved. We are loved despite of our sin. We are loved despite are weaknesses. And even though it feels too good to believe, even though, of course, we do not deserve it, this is the only path to Life. We must lay down our life; we must break agreements with the enemy; we must waste no more time in pretending to be strong, insisting on being stubborn.

We can’t do this life on our own, right here, right now. We are desperate for God. Beautifully desperate. And that is more–so much more–than okay.

This desperation for God is why I listened for God’s voice and I created Loop. This desperation for God is why I listened for God’s voice and I created Breathing Eden. This desperation for God is why I listen and I spend hours each morning creating a new project I am so eager to share with you soon.

And this is why, in whatever I write now, I endeavor to do it with vulnerability. For it is my vulnerability, my weakness, that is my strength. It is a lie from the enemy that tries to convince me that the opposite of this is true.

I am tired of believing lies.

SO, WHAT NOW?

How do we take steps, each day, to surrender?

How do we take steps, each day, to pick up our cross, be confident in our weaknesses, let God be our rock, our stronghold, our warrior, our King, our strength?

Let me know if you’d like me to share with you what I do. In the meantime, here is the truth I cling to: we are so beautifully desperate for God. And that’s a good thing.

What practical thing do you do in response to your desperation for God?

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brief

[vc_row fullwidth=”true”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_padding=”3″][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text title=”BRIEF”]We feel hollowed out. Words, thoughts, feelings play hide-and-seek. We want to cajole them, coerce them into cooperating. No need to be shy. It’s just me.

We are on our knees again. With no answers. No words. Will worship music help? What about beauty? So we find the songs that help our hearts remember who we are. We look for light falling on our face, our hands, bare branches in bitter cold outside. Words for our feelings might come now, yes? Oh, God, what is going on with my heart?

Listening helps us discern–untangling these emotions. Our heart beating. Our very breath. We are drawn inward. Father, help me hear You. Slow me down.

We convince ourselves that no words means no understanding. No words means confusion and denial and retreat. No words means doubting ourselves at the core: I am surely lost. Where is my place here? What matters?

We struggle to recognize these whispers of doubt and discouragement for what they are–distraction, lies of the enemy twisting what is good and making discontent rot what is hope, what is true, what is here. We feel only our spinning, our confusion, our disappointment, our anger. Each a symptom of an ache for something deeper. Yes, God, this struggle is real.

Understanding our own hearts feels elusive, and we are impatient to figure out what is going on. Where is joy? Why do I feel so distant from You?

We want to wrestle clarity to the ground, tie it up, lock it down. Stay close! Don’t even think about getting away!

But then quiet.

God reminds us it is okay to not have the answers. We want to be okay with that.

Have courage, dear heart. Have courage to stay in the quiet, the place of no words. There is going to be a picture for you to see there. And it is that picture that will be the beginning of understanding–understanding of who you are, how you are loved. And how maybe, words are overrated.

My understanding, child, is deeper than that.[/vc_column_text][mk_divider style=”shadow_line” divider_width=”one_half”][vc_column_text]Father, we lift up our voices to You, your daughters. We stand and claim our place by your side, a place we do not deserve but which we say yes to, all the same. We are yours. We are conquerors in your name. You give us courage. We lean in now and desire your voice, your truth, more than anything else. We ask You to replace this heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh.

These troubles we face are temporary, and You are bigger than any problem. You are merciful, and You are kind. You are the Father, the King, the hero in our story. We love the story you write with your breath of love within our soul. Play your song in us now, our Lord. Let us be sweet music in your ears. We claim our place, and we hold your hand. You give us eyes to see and hearts to hear your voice.

It was your Word made flesh that gives us life. Thank you, Lord. This day, how holy, how beautiful–because of You here, right here, right now. You are all we need.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”3439″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=” http://jenniferjcamp.wpengine.com/brief-calling-god/”][vc_single_image image=”3482″ img_size=”600×600″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1485823148009{margin-right: 50px !important;margin-left: 50px !important;}”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]