When I hit publish a day ago for my last post I had no idea the momentum those few paragraphs would release. I climbed into bed, happy to have shared what God put on my heart. I woke up this morning, brewed my coffee and checked in online only to almost spill my coffee and fall out of my seat. Surely the numbers weren’t correct. I refreshed the page and they had only increased. What?!?
Obviously Holy Spirit knows what He is doing and that particular musing was a word in season for many of you. I am incredibly humbled to see Him encourage you through this heart of mine splashed on a page. My life feels so incredibly ordinary now that I am living back in the my childhood hometown. And… I am enjoying ordinary a lot.
When I was writing what is now the most read post ever on my blog about the perils of Christian celebrity, I began to think about what my prayer is for this generation of emerging leaders in the church.
I am more convinced than ever that the present day church is in need of another counter-cultural movement birthed in the desert places. I have walked with the desert fathers of old, the early church saints and the Celtic believers through their writings and they have shaped my view of desert places and seasons. Deserts, to me, are not places of rocky barrenness but of raw beauty.
For a leader to be trustworthy, mature and prepared to lead in the Body of Christ, he or she must be well acquainted with the desert.
The Desert fathers and mothers were radical contemplatives who fled the Constantinean reforms of 313 AD that imposed a professional political empire on the church. They instead embraced a life of prayer in the desert as a counter-cultural stance against the power structures taking over the fabric of their faith.
They embraced an ebb and flow of solitude and community bringing them into the depths of intimacy with the Father and authentic relationship with one another. Some of them took asceticism a little to seriously and I am certainly not advocating that. For most it was not about self-abasement, it was about finding sanity and freedom from a politicized church system run a muck.
There is a story about a younger desert monk seeking out an older monk to list all of his spiritual disciplines. The younger monk asked the elder “What else can I do?” The older monk reportedly lifted his hands towards heaven and his fingers became like lamps of fire. He replied, “If you will, you can become all flame.“
Desert journeys are truly about that. About becoming all flame. And that is my prayer for the next generation as well as my own. May we become all flame in Him.
Deserts are places of burning bushes and miracles of provision. They are precious intimate seasons where reformers are shaped and nations are birthed. They are the places we are wooed and spoken tenderly to, given back our vineyards, where we lay our head upon the rock and meet with angels. Deserts are where the valley of Achor becomes a door of Hope. They are the places we come up out of leaning on Him Who is the Lover of our souls.
Yes there are times God seems a bit far, His hand a bit slow for our liking. But He really isn’t… ever far or slow.
It is easy to misinterpret God changing the way He interacts with us as a withdrawal of relationship or an absence. When all it is an invitation to seek a whole new level of intimacy beyond anything we have experienced thus far.
Deserts are the incredible places where God is not at all absent, He is very present. He is simply presenting Himself to our awareness differently.
So sweet friend, may you run to the desert knowing burning bushes of commissioning, deep wells of compassion and holy encounters where you are named and you meet God face to face are waiting for you there.
It is in this place true reformers are being shaped to prepare the way of the Lord.
This is my prayer:
P.S. The rest of this coming week are finals week in grad school so I am going to be a busy beaver finishing all my assignments. So if I am scarce in these parts that’s why. You are so loved and appreciated!