When I Can’t Find You

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?

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Where can I flee from Your presence?…”

blog seekingone chicago train

away from home, visiting my sister

a week of sophistication, culture, art, history, …

away from the ordinary of country life

so much to see and do

in a city of diversity, progress, entertainment,…

Oh, the thrill of the city!

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“If I go up to the heavens, You are there;

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If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.”

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 Yet, I miss the quiet

the space, the mountains,

the land and sky,

and home

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“If I rise on the wind of the dawn and settle on the far side of the sea,

even there Your hand will guide me, and your right hand will hold me fast.”

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LORD, though I pray and read the Bible,

It’s hard to hear You here.

You feel far off.

What am I missing?

Have I lost You somewhere in this city?

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“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” – Psalm 139

Even in Chicago.

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tours, galleries, concerts, conservatories, theaters, museums,…

I love it here!!!

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Still, I miss the closeness that I feel to You at home.

If You are Omnipresent,

why does Your Presence seem removed,

just out of reach?

Is it the constant noise of traffic and elevated rails

that drowns out Your still small voice?

Are You pushed away somehow by the height of the architecture?

Or, like the stars,

does the hazy glow of city lights block You from my view?

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my sister’s “house”
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my bedroom view of Soldier Field
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mid-week fireworks over navy pier seen from my sister’s place

On Sunday, singing familiar songs, I still feel a space between us.

  I’m a spectator.

Why?

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I feel overly impressed with all I’ve seen…

even with the building that Your church occupies this morning.  blog seekingone chicago auditorium theater 2 blog seekingone chicago auditorium theater 3

Everything is bigger and better in the city!

I’m waiting for You to perform…

Impress me.  Entertain me.

You reply to my thoughts,

“And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains… but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:  And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”  (1 Kings 19: 11-12)

Oh, conviction!

The disconnect lies in me, not the city.

You are always with me.

For days, I have been overly in awe of man…

enamored with what man can buy

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Now, I thank You, God, for what You have provided and the blessing of abundance we enjoy.

with what man has built

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Now, I praise You for designing this planet with laws of science, giving men the ability to learn and design, and making us in Your image with a desire to create.

with what man can make

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Now, I marveling at the beauty of the people, places, and the things that You made that we mortals try to replicate in two-dimension with oil on canvas with the talent You have given.

with what man has played

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Thank You for sound, tone, and pitch; melody and harmony; and ears to hear the vibration of strings blending with the breath You give passing over reeds that fills the night and gives me goosebumps.

with what man has written

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Laughter, emotion, and well written words expressed and performed all cause me to appreciate You, the Author of love.  What a wonder that in addition to productivity and function, You design us for pleasure and delight each with unique talent and personality, even equipping Shakespeare to write and dream of Mid-Summer!

with what man has discovered

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Now, I see You and praise You for the mysteries You have hidden over the centuries for us to uncover, for the wonder of Your creativity in the diversity of life, and making us with the desire and ability to discover and learn.

with what man can do

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What a supernatural machine You designed! Thank You for our bodies, strength, endurance, and the drive to push ourselves and conquer. Thank You for legs, muscles, hearts, and lungs. Thank You for life.

with where man has gone

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Oh the vastness of the universe, innumerable stars and galaxies! The wonder is not that man could travel to space, but rather than You designed all this for us and created an ideal planet for us to live and thrive.

All week I’ve been praising the achievements of man, which could have lead me to worship of You, but I was too distracted.

Preoccupied with exhibits and shops, the performance marathon runners and actors, self-absorbed thoughts of comparison between myself and the rich and the poor of the city, with externals, with so much going on around me continually, my mind was never quiet enough to hear You.

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And though it may be easier to acknowledge You in the lonely places of glowing fields at sunset with crickets songs and fireflies, or on misty dew kissed mornings when Your presence fills the land in fog,…

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Though it is more obvious that all we accomplish is actually Your doing, Your equipping, Your gift, Your blessing, when the tomatoes ripen and roses bloom, when calves are born and arms are strong to fill a barn with hay, …

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You are everywhere.  You are here in the city.

So, I will look for You and praise You here.

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Forgive me for ever “worshiping created things rather than the Creator”.

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As I applaud symphonies playing Beethoven and actors reciting Shakespeare, rave over Monet’s oils and Remington’s bronze or Tiffany’s glass, contemplate the designs of famous architects and city planners, and intellectually marvel over the discoveries of space and archeology displayed and preserved by Chicago’s philanthropists, direct my praise to You.

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I questioned Your nearness and sought You, and like always, You draw me to Yourself.  Who am I that You speak to me?

You are the Wonder.

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I love how You pursue me.

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And, now again, I see You everywhere, even in the city.

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Thank You for this amazing week!

As I return to Ordinary, I am inspired to write and paint and make music in my own home.  And, I am all the more thankful for the quiet stillness of this simple country life.

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When I seek You, I always find You.

When I ask, though I may have to wait and lean in closer to hear,

You always answer.

Thank You for teaching me again how to abide in Your presence wherever I am.

Journaling Prompts

(Posted especially for my new friend, Laurie.  Thanks for your comment and sharing your story with me.  I’m praying for you.)  

NOTE:   These journal prompts were written for a nautical/”ship wrecked” themed retreat (S.O.S. 2014 – Seeking One Savior) on the life of Paul.  (Part 1 was to be completed over the winter, and Part 2 was given to the ladies at the retreat.)

Journal Challenge – Part 1

(answer all these questions before reading  Part 2)
1. What is your full name? Where you named after someone? What does it mean? What is its significance to you?
2. Where were you born? Where have you lived? What did you like/dislike about those places?
3. Describe yourself at this present stage of life.
4. Make a list of your “favorites”. (color, meal, drink <hot & cold>, snack, treat, actor, movie, TV show, fabrics, styles, places, singer, song(s), friends, author, book(s), character, preachers, radio programs, subjects when you were in school, hobbies, sports to watch/play, board game, card game, animal, room of your house, holiday, time of day, day of the week, season of the year,…etc)
5. What are your best qualities? And, what do you like most about your personality?
6. What is your earliest memory?
7. What would you list as the “milestones” of your life?
8. What are you most thankful for? (Make 4 lists with at least 10 items in each list: people, places, physical things, abstract things)
9. How would you have completed this sentence as a child? “when I grow up, I want to…”
10. What was the happiest day of your life? (You can have more than one, but rank them.)
11. What comments (positive or negative) have had the most impact on you?
12. What was the most difficult day/season of your life? (You can have more than one, but rank them.) If applicable, what lesson did you learn or what good came out of that hard time(s)?
13. What are you most happy about today?
14. What lesson(s) did you learn from another person’s mistake(s)?
15. What is your current dream?
16. If you were given 1 million dollars today (with no taxes, no instructions, no strings attached, and no one else knew you had the money) what would you do with it?
17. What is your spiritual gift(s)?
18. What are your talents/skills/interests?
19. How do you prefer to spend your free time?
20. Who are your 10 most wanted? (Top 10 people you want to be saved.)
21. What “roles” do you play in this season of life?
22. What was your biggest mistake(s)? What were the consequences? What good did the Lord bring from it?
23. What are you afraid of?
24. What was your most fulfilling “ministry”? (public or anonymous)
25. What is your ideal vacation?
26. What makes you angry? (righteously or unrighteously)
27. What would you change about yourself?

Be sure to finish Part 1 before moving on to Part 2.

 

Journal Challenge – Part 2

Read the answers you wrote in your journal for the questions numbered under each day; then read the corresponding journal prompt for that day.

Sunday: 4
Monday: 1,5,17,18,39,40,41,44,46,53
Tuesday: 2,3,6,7,8,21,23,29,34,49,57
Wednesday: 10,11,13,14,30,31,33,35,36,37,38,50,51,52,55
Thursday: 12,22,26,42,48,54,56,58,59
Friday: 9,15,16,19,24,25,28,43,45,47
Saturday: 20,32

journal 2

Sunday

Write your answers to question #4 on the “FAVORITES” poster and check out the other ladies’ answers. Then, write a note to the Lord in your journal, thanking Him for His creativity in making us all so unique and for all the details he has added to your world and personality to make it rich.
BTW – You’re His Favorite!!!
Monday

After reading your answers, ask the Lord to give you insight into how your relationship with Him could be more intimate, more personal, and more real-authentic-genuine, especially in private.

Remember the Titanic, a giant ship sunk by an iceberg? 90% of an iceberg is below the surface. What is hidden is often ignored or overlooked, but those things “below the surface” either destroy or anchor us.

Ask the Lord to show you how He would have you grow “deeper” behind the scenes. Ask Him to teach you to “be still” this week and show You practically how to “be still” in the turbulent seas of daily life.

Tuesday

After you read your answers, ponder this:
Do you live in the past, present, or future? (or none of the above???) Where do you cast your anchor? Do fleeting thoughts pull you into the harbor of “what if”, “what could have been” or “what could be” or “if only”?

Maybe you have chosen a more “promising” location to call your home port: abiding on God’s words and His character, intentionally resting in His promises.

Or may you can’t answer these questions because over time you’ve built a fortress of habitual distraction, busyness, and denial so you don’t really “dwell” at all.

Ask the Lord how He would advise to be “all here” and yet know the peace of dwelling in His presence.

Wednesday

On Sunday, when the journal challenge said, “You’re His Favorite!”, what came to your mind?

“We are all the favorite of a perfect Father!” How do you feel about that statement? Deep down do you know (and believe) that God is crazy about you, that He made you intentionally, that He has been Sovereign over the details of your life, and He delights in YOU?

You are His beloved, the apple of His eye, His masterpiece, His new creation, His delight!!!

As you the answers to today’s journal questions, what is your over all impression of the significance of your life (to God, to the people in your life, and to the kingdom of God)? Then ask God to give you His perspective.

Thursday

Remember to read your answers first…
Wow! You have been entrusted with a lot of life lessons, some learned from observation and some from personal experience. You are a steward of your story (God’s story written into your life), and you are also a keeper of a great deal of knowledge and wisdom. What are you doing to do with all of that?

You are an “older woman” to someone (to a lot of some-ones, actually). Take your eye off of yourself and glance over your shoulder. Who are those coming along behind you?

Ask God to show you what He has entrusted to you and who you can be passing on those treasures to. (Keep in mind that the best discipleship is walking along side. No pressure, really… Just You being YOU under the control of the Holy Spirit. It’s called praying with out ceasing and obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit as you know Christ more intimately and become more like Him.

Journal a prayer to the Lord asking how you can echo Paul’s statement, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

Friday

You don’t have to “do” anything to “earn” God’s unconditional love, His acceptance, His approval. You are His child, made righteous by the blood of Jesus and the lavish grace of the Father. All He demands from you to “please” Him is FAITH. (Heb. 11:6 – Look that verse up right now. What does the second half of the verse say?)

Now, what do you want to do? What is the deep desire of your heart? If you are genuinely delighting in the Lord Himself, He will often put a dream in your heart because it is one way of guiding you into His perfect will. He has designed you uniquely with a personality, preferences, and favorites.

In Christ, you are free!!! Free to think outside the box. Free to ask big things of your Father.

So, specifically, what is it you want to do? Or a better question, what has the Lord created you, called you, to do?

If you’re struggling with this, take a few minutes to think through the life of Paul (or Joseph the dreamer who after many disappointments saw God fulfill the dream He gave to him… or, if you’re feeling too old to dream, consider Caleb, who at 85 yrs old said, “give me this mountain”, see Joshua 14). What were his ambitions, dreams, plans, desires…?

If you do not have a dream, begin by delighting in the Lord. Don’t try to invent a plan or goal. Just enjoy Him; hang out with Him. And ask Him to give you a dream, His dream from you in His time.

Journal a prayer to the Lord about your dreams and especially address anything that is hindering you where you do not feel absolutely free to dream or pursue God’s will for your life.

Saturday

Our last day… aaaah, what a week!

You’ve been seeking Him all week; now where will you go from here?

Ask God to show you practically and specifically how He would have you continue seeking Him first: His kingdom, and His righteousness.