insomnia or invitation?

For quite a long time, I have been waking up around 3:00 AM every day. I usually wake with anxiety, with some issue pressing on my chest like a hundred pound weight.

The anxiety is compounded with frustration at my sleep being broken for the millionth time. How will I function tomorrow? I’ll never get back to sleep. Then my thoughts drift back to the issue I’m anxious about: kids, work, church, what I ate yesterday, what I forgot to do yesterday…..  Continue reading

father and son

Over the past 2  years or so, I have grown in my personal relationship with Jesus more than all the other 18 years of my christian life combined. The single most influential thing I have learned to do is to visualize myself with Him. I have discussed this many times on my blog already, but will touch on it again. The change that has taken place in me cannot be explained in mere words.  When we imagine ourselves walking and talking with Jesus in person, and we allow Him access to our imagination, He can communicate to us in amazing ways. Through this practice, the depths of His love for me have been uncovered. His will for me has been more clear. His character and His heart have been revealed like never before.

By no means have I neglected to read His word or worship Him in prayer and song. Visualization is not the only way to fellowship with Him, and must be kept in balance with the truth of His word.

While I have grown ever close to Jesus in recent years, I must admit that my relationship with the Father is strained and undefined. Frankly, I don’t know what to do with Him! My growing-up father was not a model of love and care. Surely that affects my view of Father God. Typically, He is assigned a distant, judgmental persona in my heart.

This week, a breakthrough came in this area. I was reading in Hebrews chapter 1:

 1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…

That last verse really came alive. I remembered when Jesus said in the book of John, “If you have seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.”  If I know and trust the heart of Jesus, then I already know the heart of Father God!

In the middle of bible study worship this week, the Father spoke to my heart and assured me, “I am as tender as My Son. You can trust Me. I do not judge you; I love you.” What a breakthrough.

I am working on visualizing the Father. Uncertain of His form, I have been asking the Holy Spirit to help me in my imagination. Great things are happening in me as I grow closer to both Father and Son.

close your eyes

I’d like to share with you (in a two-part post) what are probably the two most valuable things I have learned to do in my Christian life.

The two practices that I want to share with you have deepened my relationship with the Lord in ways that I cannot even begin to describe or measure. Overall, the last couple of years have been desert-like for me in many ways. However, God has been determined to get through to me with His love and grace. It’s one thing to understand in my head that He loves me… but it’s completely another to BELIEVE it wholeheartedly, to feel it, taste it, hold on to it when life is thrashing me about.

The two practices I want to share are in fact conduits for God’s love, power, and presence to be poured into my life. There is really no power in the practice itself… but God uses it to reach out and touch me. The first of the two is incorporating visualization into prayer and worship. That might sound kooky… so let me explain.

A couple of years ago, I started having little pictures pop into my head when I would pray. I realized in short order that it was the Lord who was putting these pictures in my mind to show me things. Sometimes they were images of things like waterfalls, ropes in a knot, landscapes, etc. Often they were images of me with Him. Then the pictures started coming in a series… kind of like a movie in my mind. The Lord would often combine the pictures with a message from a friend or a bible verse to confirm that it was indeed Him trying to tell me something. I was concerned that maybe I was losing it!!

These pictures were coming during a time when I was struggling with an issue from my past. A dear friend challenged me one day to ask God where He was at a particularly traumatic time in my life.  I began to ask the Lord to do exactly that. I had no idea that He had been preparing me with these little visions and that He would literally show me where He was.

One night at an intimate mountain retreat, I received an answer. Some amazing women were praying over me, and I saw a series of events unfold in my mind. I saw myself as a child, in an awful situation. Amazingly, I saw Jesus come into this situation and show such tenderness to me. The “vision” was 100 times more powerful than any of the pictures I had seen before. God gave me a new perspective on this piece of my history, a new perspective of Him and His love for me. I was forever changed in that moment.

As time went on, the Lord showed me more. I asked Him where He was during another difficult moment in my life. This answer came in several pieces over maybe a year’s time. Sometimes while I was in prayer or in worship, I would see Jesus walking with me through the most awful seasons of my life. In one particular vision, I saw Him rescue me from a painful situation and whisk me away to the beach. The Lord took me back to that spot in my mind several times to show me more. At one point, I realized that the beach is the place where He wants to meet me. Again and again.

In times of quiet prayer or during worship on Sundays, I close my eyes and imagine myself walking out to the beach. Jesus is always waiting there for me. Sometimes He tells me things. Mostly, He just holds me or sits with me. He has shown me the scars that He bears on His hands, feet, and hairline (from the crown of thorns). In the sky over the crashing waves, He has shown me the glory of the Father. He has walked with me on the sand, carried me on occasion, and washed me in the waves many times.

Yesterday, He showed me something new.  During the worship music at church, I imagined myself on the beach. I ended up standing on a pier with Jesus, watching the howling wind and rolling waves mix with raucous thunder and lightning. In an instant, He scooped me up, carried me out on the water, and suddenly we were beyond all the torrents. Standing on the water, He held me and instructed me to look all around. I became aware of our position… we were in the eye of the storm. I felt complete peace in that moment. I could see the violent stirrings of the storm a mile away on every side. I have never felt so safe. The words we were singing at that moment in church:

He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us,
Oh how He loves us so….

In the eye of the storm, it was so quiet that I could hear Him say:

I love you. I made you. I know you through and through. I am wrecked with love for you. I can think of nothing else but you. I am with you, watching you, protecting you, fighting for you. I love you.

Visualizations like this one have made my Jesus much more tangible. It has opened the door of my heart for Him to communicate to me more clearly. I find that more of my senses are involved in my prayer or worship time because I literally feel like I am with him in those few special moments. I have learned to relax more, so that He can guide my imagination and show me more. I want more!

I encourage you to give visualization a try. Start by asking the Lord to show you a place where He wants to meet you. Close your eyes, and let Him suggest the place. Let Him suggest the time, the surroundings, and your interactions with Him. Close your eyes and be with Him!