Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Make Yourself At Home

Have you ever noticed that one of the first things we often say to our house guests is "Please make yourself at home?" On the flip side of that expression, isn't wonderful when you go to someone's house and they really make you feel comfortable and welcome? In this case you leave thinking, "they really made me feel at home."

As my good friend Jesse spoke on love last Sunday he read John 14 from the version of the Bible called The Message and this phrase stood out to me as he read it, "Make yourself at home in my love." (Several of my blogs have come from Jesse's messages - he always gets me thinking...) God wants me to feel at home in his love. As I have thought about being at home in God’s love, the importance of this phrase has had a deepening impact on me as I am realizing that God has been deepening this feeling of being at home in his love for a lot of years now.

Feeling at home in God’s love is absolutely foundational to a free, trusting, loving relationship with God. It's one of those phrases that sounds so simple, but in reality may take a lifetime to truly grasp and experience. Like staying in a stranger's home and trying to feel comfortable, for me at least, I haven’t always felt at home in God’s love. There are things to consider when it comes to prayer that can help me feel more at home in God's love.

God is love and he is continually drawing me to Him and moving in my life because he loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. Prayer is all about being open and accepting God’s invitation to be at home in his love.

One of my friends claims that the only thing he has ever heard God say to him is that God loves him. The longer I live and the more I listen to God, I have to agree with him. Even when God disciplines me I can sense his love in it. He is always there waiting with open arms. I hear about God's love quite often, or I know about God's love intellectually, but like a child with his Mother and Father, God's incredible love is something I can't get enough of. When the message of God’s love manages to reach down into my heart, and not just my head, it is always life-giving. Fortunately for me, love is one of God's favorite subjects to talk to about.

Aren't we bombarded by messages and thoughts that say the opposite of God wanting us to be at home in his love? I sure am. Lately, when I am bombarded with negative thoughts, or feeling stressed out, I try to pray by imagining myself resting in God's loving arms. To rest in God’s arms and believe that he accepts me, and wants me to rest in his arms, I need to believe that he loves me. That he is there to hold me and to lovingly look into my eyes with a look that says, "I love you just the way you are." By the way: for me this thought or imaginative prayer has been a God initiated process. I won’t go into to it now, but by being open to God he has led me into his arms, and looking into his eyes that are full of a loving, confident, sometimes mischievous like gaze.

Through prayer I am learning that one of the ways God makes me feel at home is that God often expresses his love to me according to the way he has made me. For example, I am wired to love the outdoors and I can’t help but see his beauty and feel his presence in nature. Sometimes, I even sense God's presence and love in the weeds at the side of the road! Others aren't wired that way and may think I'm nuts because they are wired to sense God's love in their children, or working with the poor, or executing a successful business deal. The point is: when I start to become more aware of God's love, or actually take God up on his offer to "be at home" in his love, I am going to become more and more aware of his love in the simple, ordinary things in my life. By growing in my awareness of God’s loving presence, life becomes prayer and some days I am actually overwhelmed by all of God's expressions of love toward me.

Learning to pray teaches me to live in the present moment; the only place God's love can be experienced. If I am continually regretting the past, or worrying about the future, I will not be able to experience God's love in the way he invites me to. Learning to pray teaches me to let go of the past and trust God with the future and enjoy what is right in front of me. In Matthew 6 Jesus said not to worry and to take a look at the birds and the flowers to see an example of what it means to trust in God. Jesus' message is that God loves us and will take care of us, and not to worry. Be at home in his love - right now - and we will see his kingdom come!