excerpt: On Knowing God — Colossians 2

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2).

To know Christ is to know the Father. To know Christ is to know the fullness of the Deity – the fullness of God. Wild, yeah? Take a little time tucked away and read through this excerpt from Colossians 2. Think about what it means. What does fullness mean? What does Deity living in bodily form mean? As you begin to connect those dots back to the third word in this excerpt — Christ — ask Holy Spirit to give you understanding on who he is. Ask him to help you connect Christ and fullness and Deity lives in bodily form. Write down some of your thoughts about who Christ is and what it means for him to be both Deity and human being.

Spend a few moments thanking God specifically for each new phrase of understanding he gives you.

Whisper

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Sarah Bingaman’s Heart Living content has been incredibly impactful to me these last 12 months. One of my big take aways is her content on the Journey out of Religiosity. I wouldn’t have considered myself a destructively religious person, but as I continued to relate with the Lord through the last 12 months I realized that in many areas I was hanging on to self constructed scaffolding instead of responding to the movement of his Spirit.

The idea that I was actually created to hear and respond to the whispers of his spirit so challenges my desire for consistency and control. I began to take inventory of all of the places that structure and scaffolding was actually perpetuating my regular connection with God and then the realization… there’s another way.

A mold is put in place in order to set that which is inside. The mold is not the final experience. The intention from the beginning [like Adam + Eve beginning] was that we would commune with God in a fluid natural experience of relational response.

I found it to be a helpful process to begin to ask the questions: In what areas am I simply leaning on my scaffolding? Is this scaffolding still necessary for the season that I’m in? Does God want to relate to me more naturally? God… do you want to relate to me differently… if so… how?

excerpt: On Knowing God — Psalm 27

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27).

A few things that stick out to me in this passage are the phrases — [one thing I ask] and [only do I seek]. Take a few moments and think through the single mindedness of these phrases. Take them to the Lord and ask him, Lord, is this how I seek you? Is this how I gaze on your beauty? Or are there other things that take my attention?

As things come to mind, write them down. Invite Holy Spirit to show you how to take these distractions and set them aside, so that you will more fully be able to pray to the Lord, One thing I ask…

excerpt: On Knowing God – Exodus 33

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Exodus 33).

Find a quiet place away from distraction [whether a park bench near the office or a pair of headphones in a crowded cafe]. Read over this section from Exodus, and take a moment and reflect on a few questions: What do I like to do with friends? What do we talk about? Where do we go? What do we do?

Then, shifting gears a little, ask God [out-loud or in your thoughts], God, what do you like to do? What do you like to talk about? Where do you like to go when we talk? Allow yourself some additional quiet space to wait. Does anything come to mind? Does any place stand out to you in this moment? Plan some time to think through your next few weeks and see where you can incorporate some time with God in these places, doing these things [be sure to pick things from both your list and his].

Before you end your session, read over this passage from Exodus one more time and invite the Lord to bring you into deeper friendship with him.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

The hidden prayer room

I had a conversation regarding Ember with a good friend several days ago  — where we are now and where we are heading. I communicated my hope for the seats around the table to continue to diversify, as we converse around how we pray as the church in our region.

While I know that the Lord desires his church to pray together in unity, whatever that looks like, I also know that we are at the front edge of that reality in our region. But the truth is, whether or not anyone else shows up to the table, the Lord has specifically planted us [Ember and a number of other people/organizations peppered throughout our region] in this place. He has specifically asked us to workout, in practice, the word — my house will be called a house of prayer (Matthew 21).

So here we are. Working out this questions: How will we pray? What will it look like? What does it look like to pray across multiple biblical perspectives? How do we do this together?

As my friend and I continued, our conversation went deeper in many places, but the thing I took away was that I’m glad to be building a culture of prayer for a region. In my heart of hearts, whether or not our staff ever grows beyond its current size or adds any more hours of prayer throughout the week. I can say that we are working out the prophetic word of the Lord that his house will pray. And I am confident that the prayers offered from this little ember will impact the people of Oklahoma and beyond, whether realized or not. We can celebrate in the wins and partner with the hardships, because we are experiencing them in an incredibly practical, day-in-day-out kind of a way. The prayers lifted and the aroma of worship wafted from this place is partnering with what God is doing, in people we know and in people we may never personally know.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly (Matthew 6).

A wild, yet true reality.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

 

connectedness over time – mediation

“Above all, it is not necessary that we should have any unexpected, extraordinary experiences in meditation. This can happen, but if it does not, it is not a sign that the meditation period has been useless … Above all, we must not allow them to keep us from adhering to our meditation period with great patience and fidelity. It is, therefore, not good for us to take too seriously the many untoward experiences we have with ourselves in meditation. It is here that our old vanity and our illicit claims upon God may creep in by a pious detour, as if it were our right to have nothing but elevating and fruitful experiences, and as if the discovery of our own inner poverty were quite below our dignity.” — life together, Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer offers such a helpful reality. When we spend time in meditation — making space for spirtiual connectedness with God through personal prayer, intercession, and scripture — our barometer does not have to be excitement or dynamism. Nor does it need to be immediate understanding.

In the same way we relate to another human being, with varying levels of engagement, understanding, and energy, our relating to God is much the same. While it takes continual engagement and commitment, the fruit of a relationship is seen over time. We understand one another over time. We grow in the knowledge of God over time. Each individual experience amounts to a much greater connectedness.

I can remember realizing this in practice for the first time. I immediately noticed the pressure to make this one count during time spent in prayer and in scripture begin to dissipate. And I was left with my desire for God and his desire for me — a beautiful foundation for relationship.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Ordinary

The celebration of the ordinary was first introduced to me by content from John Smeltzer. I loved the conversation then and it continues to be meaningful to me now. As Becky and I have continued on the Heart Living journey with Sarah Bingaman, the topic of on being ordinary has resurfaced in helpful [yet challenging] ways.

To cope with shame or fear related to who we are or about what we need or how we hurt we tend to reject anything ordinary about us and strive for the ideal.
— Sarah Bingaman

While the process of rediscovering our ordinariness is costly and takes courage, ordinariness is a most incredible state of being. For me, to arrive at ordinariness is to arrive at my reality, the truth of me — no pretense, no act. It takes less energy to keep up being myself, as I truly am. And the moment we arrive at some understanding of our being ordinary, we have a new life filter. When we receive feedback or the external expectation of another person, before we manage it and decide how to apply it,  we get to process these things through the filter of being ordinary — our self-professed ordinariness.

When I come to realize that I am ordinary, I can more easily sort through expectations [of myself and others] keeping those that fit who I truly am and setting aside those that do not. An expectation of another human [or an expectation of myself] is not intrinsically wrong or bad, but if I begin to build the internal scaffolding of my life, first around that which is imposed upon me, then I am no longer being true to myself. And if I am not being true to myself, then I have nothing true to offer to another. Nor can I be authentically present with them.

Ordinary is a journey. It is not easy and it is not immediate. But I have found this road to bring such relief. When I give myself permission to be ordinary, I give myself permission to be weak. I give myself permission not to know everything I need to know to do everything I need to do. I give myself opportunity to know others and be known by them, as we seek to create and build and do, together. Slowly, over time, I begin to set aside the walls and shields I have learned in (false)self preservation. And I am received [or not] for who I am — an ordinary human among other ordinary humans.

Being ordinary enables me to relate more authentically with God — allowing him to refresh the inner places of my heart previously hidden from him and potentially unrealized by me. When I cannot be weak, then he cannot offer strength. When I cannot be afraid, then he cannot bring comfort. When I cannot be sad or feel pain, then he cannot be with me in my sorrow. When I cannot be ignorant, then I have given no room for his wisdom.

Embracing ordinariness does not mean embracing a lack of excellence or even giftedness. It is simply the confession of need. What a beautiful human commonality — need. We hurt, we experience loss, we have weakness. What a relief to be ordinary. And what a gift, the openness and togetherness that comes from needing one another.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember