True Intimacy

I am starting to learn that intimacy is becoming a lost art.  I say that because many of us are unclear about what it even means to be intimate.  Most of the time when we hear the word we begin to think about physical intimacy.  But what happens in the bedroom can only happen when there is a level of emotional intimacy that supercedes the physical.  What we do physically is only a reflection of what we feel in our hearts.  And if we go by that definition then intimacy has the potential to take place not just in romatic relationships, but in every relationship. 

Webster defines intimacy as a state of familiarity.  This is so much more than simple understanding; but it is an ability to relate to another just as we relate to our own selves.  When there is intimacy, there is little need for extensive explaination because the listener has a way of understanding even without words.  I believe the heart of closeness is the place of understanding.  Intimacy has a way of understanding the heart of the matter; not simply listening with the ears. 

A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with someone who was talking about being intimate with his wife; he felt he was having intimacy because he came home from work and asked how his wife’s day had been and he listened to her vent about problems.  “I sat there and listened for 15 minutes while she cooked dinner and took care of the kids”, he said.  I explained that listening is merely a basic human courtesy, but intimacy is so much more.  Intimacy is familiar with the heart of the one who is talking and hears beyond what is being said.  Intimacy then offers the heart what we would want ourselves.  That might be a hug, it might be a kind word, it could be encouragement, or even valuable insight.  But it is a deeper level of understanding that makes the person feel known (familiar even) and loved.  And it is that love/intimacy that makes both individuals better people. 

If you have anyone in your life who offers you this kind of gift, you are blessed.  Few people know how to get out of themselves long enough to be intimate with another person.  But lets be clear, this level of intimacy requires work and sacrifice.  It is something that takes time and intentionality.  It is not something that a person does once a week or when they want something.  Intimacy is not automatic, but developed over time.   So often I run into people who have had people in their lives for years, but no intimacy.  Think about all the husbands, wives, and friendships that you know where people feel unknown; like strangers; even though they are around these people daily.  I wonder what would happen if we were to adopt intimacy as a way of life, rather than something to get from another.  What if we were intentional about seeking out those places of familiarity with the people in our lives.  Imagine the affirmation, the joy, the absolute relief of finding yourself in another.  Some may be thinking that there are some people who you could never understand; but I guarantee you that if you listen and look long enough your will recognize yourself even when somebody else is telling the story. 

One of my favorite books is “I asked for Intimacy” by Renita Weems.  She writes numerous stories about women and their life long search for intimacy, for love, and understanding.  One of her catch phrases within each chapter is “I asked for intimacy, but instead I got…” and she fills in the blank with something far less than what was asked for.   I wonder if you are searching for intimacy; I know few people who don’t long to be known by another human soul.  So today I invite you to practice this lost art.  Practice listening, trusting, and loving.  Make it a way of life.  Wake up with a mind set on intimacy.  Listen intently until you find that which is familiar.  And when you find it; love it, embrace it; affirm it; and lift it up to the sky.  Maybe then we will be able to say…”I asked for intimacy and found it when I offered it to others and myself”.

The Road Less Traveled

Life is about choices; some would even say that each of us is the sum of our choices in life.  I am finding out that everyday is filled with choices; what will we do; how will we live; what difference will we make; how will we respond to challenges; and on and on.  The truth is, we really are in charge of our own life.  If you are Spirit-filled; yes, you are led by God; but because we have the gift of free will, every day we make a choice. 

Today I want to pose the question…”what choices are you making today”.  Are you making choices that bring you closer to a life of purpose and destiny?  Are you making choices that bring you more peace and clarity?  Seems like an obvious and easy question, but I think we would be surprised at the extreme number of people who choose chaos and confusion.  We would be amazed at the number of people who choose disharmony and dis-ease.  If you don’t believe me then just think of the countless people you know who choose to do something out of obligation, false responsibility, or to make someone else happy and comfortable; even though the choice will make them miserable.  All of us have been guilty of this.  We have all had seasons where we have put the needs of others above our own.  Now I am not suggesting that we should never serve others; but there is a difference in having a heart of service that puts us in a position of sacrifice and giving away what you desperately need to keep for yourself. 

So again I wonder what choices are you making for your life?  Since the “choice” is unavoidable; one might as well make powerful choices that draw us closer to God and closer to our true selves.  But let me warn you; the choices that draw you closer to destiny often take the road less traveled.  You may not have a large antourage or cheerleaders on the sidelines.  In fact the road may be quite lonely.  But the reward is far greater than you imagine.  Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were to wake up and choose your dream over a mere “job”?  What would happen if you were to make the radical choice to love in a world that is filled with hatred?  What would it be like to choose your own voice over and above the opinions and voices of others?  These are challenging questions that require us to step out of the box; to move beyond what is safe and comfortable and truly live. 

Most of us have lived the “safe and comfortable” life for years and have learned that a life that takes no risk is no life at all.  So as we approach the new season of spring after such a hard winter; instead of planning the usual get away; why not go the road less traveled.  Believe me it is a choice you won’t regret.

What about the Dream in You?

As the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. approaches us once again, it is inevitable that we will hear the “I have a Dream” speech more times than we can probably count.  I went to a Dr. King celebration on today and heard the speech in its entirety and several exerpts from the speech recited by several different people; and afterwards the speech was played on multiple wide screens throughout the auditorium.  Sometimes when we hear something over and over it looses its power and can easily become common.  Very much like scripture we love to say, but fail to believe.  It has moved from something powerful and transformative to something that is ritualistic and religious. 

For those who have studied the work of Dr. King; you know that there is so much more to the dream than the words that were spoken 47 years ago.  Reverend Dr. King started dreaming long before the march on Washington in August of 1963.  The dream that he spoke about was within him long before he stood before thousands of people.  In reality his dream was really God’s dream for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Much of King’s philososphy on love, forgiveness, and even non-violence comes out of scripture.  He was a man who believed that real change could only come about by doing things God’s way.  He was willing to go the road less traveled so that God might get the greatest glory.  And although that was almost 50 years ago and we now have President Barak Obama who is the manifestation of what so many dreamed about long ago; I dare say that there is still a need to dream. 

What is the dream that is within you?  What is the burden that God has placed upon your heart that won’t let you go?  What is the thing that wakes you up at night and causes you to pray, write, sing, or sit in silence.  God’s dreams are always so much bigger than us and our personal agendas.  God is not dreaming for you or I to have a mansion on a hill, luxury cars we don’t need, or clothes we never even end up wearing.  But God’s dream is inclusive of all humanity.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this were the year that you woke up from dreaming and started acting and living.  There are millions of people on the planet; pehaps waiting for you.  Waiting for your dream to become manifest. 

I challege you this King holiday to truly make this a day on and not just another day off.  Let it be a day that you begin to live the dream.  Remember that every giant leap starts with just a small step.  But move from being ritualistic, religious, and routine and take a step towards the impossible.  You will realize that like Dr. King; you will not travel alone.  God is always with you, leading you, guiding you, and making your pathway clear.  The power of the Holy Spirit will help you; but it will be up to you to begin moving toward the dream that is within you.

Know Your Worth

Over the past few weeks I have received an education.  There have been great and valuable lessons about my own worth and divine value.  You would think that I would already know it, especially seeing how my life’s work is to encourage others about how important they are to God and meaningful in the advancement of our world.  But so often being a caregiver of others, sometimes makes one neglect the care of themselves.  I am not so much speaking about taking time out to rest, enjoy friends, or pursue an enjoyable hobby; but I am speaking of something on a deeper level. 

There are moments in our lives when there is a need to pause; there is a need to breathe in the fragrance of one’s work. It is easy to become so caught up in the day to day of one’s passion that one can miss out on the results.  Recently, I announced I would be leaving my ministerial position at my church, and although I expected it would be hard for some to hear; I was totally unprepared for the huge emotional reaction my resignation prompted.  I knew I was there making a difference and doing significant work, but I had no idea how deeply adults and young people alike had connected with not only what I do for my life’s work; but also me as an individual person.  I was totally unaware of the kind of impression and impact I was making in the lives of everyday people. 

All of this has made me re-evaluate all that I have been doing and the uniqueness of my own spiritual gifts.  I know that I am just a regular person who struggles with the various issues of life just like every other human being.  But God has gifted each of us with something special; we are anointed with God’s glory.  And when we dare to be in the right place at the right time allowing God to use us as God so chooses; then that is no ordinary thing.  It is the supernatural revealing itself in our world. 

The Apostle Paul says it like this “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”. (2 Corinthians 4:7)  We are merely vessels of clay that God (by his grace) chooses to use.  We are not the treasure, but God entrust what is most valuable to Him on the inside of us.  So as I begin this transition to a new season in my life, and I leave what I consider to be a fertile place in ministry, I am reminded of how valuable I am to God; not because of who I am or what I can do; because without God I can do nothing.  But I am valuable because God lives within me; speaks to me and through me; and transforms the lives of His people through this awesome treasure that has been placed within me.  I am grateful for this reminder, and I pray that you too would know your worth to God and God’s people.