Building Intimacy


About two months ago I volunteered to be part of a blog review team looking at a new book titled Deeply Loved by Keri Wyatt Kent. The book is a devotional with the subtitle, “40 Ways in 40 Days to Experience the Heart of Jesus”.  The original plan was to read the book during the season of Lent (one chapter for each of the 40 days), but since the book just arrived last week I’m a little behind…  So I read a few chapters to get me in the swing of things, then jumped forward to where I would have been had I started on Ash Wednesday (which, for the record, was February 13).

Kent’s writing immediately drew me in.  Each chapter is roughly 5-6 pages long, with some very specific application suggestions on the last page.  When I first started reading the chapters some of the titles reminded me of spiritual disciplines to practice (confession, gratitude, simplicity), but I found they were much more than that.  Each chapter highlights a specific insight into how (can) relate to Christ.  I’ve found that spending time each day going through the chapter has drawn me into deeper meditation on the nature and person of Jesus Christ and, as a result, my relationship with him.

So today marks the first of several posts I’ll write about the book.  I’ll be doing at least once a week between now and Easter, perhaps more if time allows.  Today I want to highlight my thoughts on one chapter in particular: Confession.

Deeply Loved Cover

Confession

This chapter, in particular, brought some fresh insight into the act of confession for me.  Kent tells the story of when her six year old daughter confessed of being envious of her brother and how she (the daughter) felt like such a terrible person for feeling that way.  Kent then told how she processed with her daughter the difference between thoughts and actions, what sin was, etc, and how the entire experience brought them closer together rather than force them apart.  Having daughters of my own, I related to this.  When they come to me with struggles they don’t need (or want or expect) condemnation but confirmation, love, support, and forgiveness.  They confess when they are confident of these things.  Kent then compared this situation to our relationship with Jesus; she writes,

The spiritual practice of confession looks exactly like my daughter coming to me to admit her jealous thoughts.  We come to Jesus and own up to our thoughts and actions that are wrong.  He receives these soberly, not brushing them under the rug as if they didn’t matter.  But neither does he shame us.  In confession, we sit with Jesus and look boldly at the truth about our struggle against sin and come clear.  We are washing in grace…Jesus sees our struggles.  What we confess, he already knows.  We do not confess to inform him but to access the grace he wants to give us.  He is moved with compassion by our plight and wants to help us.  Compassion accesses that assistance.”

This section brought such a warm, loving, and open reaction in me to the act of confession that it really helped clarify what has become (for whatever reason) so foggy.  Confession isn’t about punishment, but about forgiveness.  John tells us in his letter that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).  One Bible teacher I heard once told me that the word that is translated as “If” here can also be translated as “when”, so that instead of “if we confess” we could (and perhaps should” read it as “when we confess” – it’s a promise that should bring hope and healing, not condemnation and shame.

Kent goes on to conclude,

When we imagine God’s forgiveness as a huge blanket to cover the entire world, we keep him distant.  But when we specifically name the ways in which we have fallen short, he comes to us and wraps us, individually, in the warm embrace of his love. Confession…builds intimacy. (emphasis mine)

What a beautiful picture of what God has given us!  One the last page of the chapter Kent then highlights some very practical and easy steps to take to practice confession.   The last phrase she wrote (that confession builds intimacy) reminds me of something my father once told me; he says, “God doesn’t have favorites, but he does have intimates, and anyone can be an intimate of God.”  We know that in any relationships there is always one person who loves and cares more than the other person – it’s the nature of relationships – and it is the one who cares less who controls the level of intimacy in the relationship.  Because of our fallen nature, it’s only natural to realize that when it comes to our relationship with God we are the ones who naturally care less, meaning we control the level of intimacy in the relationship, and we have to choose to be intimate with Him.  Confession is a choice we can make in the right direction.

For a free copy of the first chapter, please click this link

Whiter than Snow (Issue 1.18)


Originally Written for 1/25/09

I’ve lost my sun-glasses…  This used to be a very common ocurance, until I got prescription glasses (well, actually they’re glasses with magnetic clip-ons).  This is actually the first time in several years I’ve lost them…

Every day when it’s bright and sunny out I notice it – whether it’s driving to work, going to church, or standing out with the buses after school.  I keep looking, but I haven’t found them yet.

This week was particularly rough.  I went outside after the wonderful snow fall and felt practically blinded because of the sun reflecting off the snow.  I remember living in the north when it seemed brighter in the winter than in the summer because of the snow, and I was reminded this week why I always wore sun glasses or goggles when I skied, just to dim the reflection.

Tonight while I was reflecting back on this and going through some hymns in the hymn book (planning for February), I stumbled upon this:

Jesus paid it all;

All to Him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain;

He washed it white as snow.

What a refrain – and it seemed to strike a new chord tonight.  Check out Psalm 51:7:

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

In light of this past week, this verse reminds me how blessed we are.  My dad’s favorite Psalm is 103.  I have a feeling that part of (though not the entire reason) it is due to these verses:

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,  who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,  slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse,  nor will he harbor his anger forever; does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,  so great is his love for those who fear him;  as far as the east is from the west,  so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I think this week reminded us of just how clean we’ve been made.  What other response can we have except to praise Him?

Whiter than Snow (Grace Notes Issue 1.18)


Originally Written for 1/25/09

Cross Posted on Grace Notes

I’ve lost my sun-glasses…  This used to be a very common ocurance, until I got prescription glasses (well, actually they’re glasses with magnetic clip-ons).  This is actually the first time in several years I’ve lost them…

Every day when it’s bright and sunny out I notice it – whether it’s driving to work, going to church, or standing out with the buses after school.  I keep looking, but I haven’t found them yet.

This week was particularly rough.  I went outside after the wonderful snow fall and felt practically blinded because of the sun reflecting off the snow.  I remember living in the north when it seemed brighter in the winter than in the summer because of the snow, and I was reminded this week why I always wore sun glasses or goggles when I skied, just to dim the reflection.

Tonight while I was reflecting back on this and going through some hymns in the hymn book (planning for February), I stumbled upon this:

Jesus paid it all;

All to Him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain;

He washed it white as snow.

What a refrain – and it seemed to strike a new chord tonight.  Check out Psalm 51:7:

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

In light of this past week, this verse reminds me how blessed we are.  My dad’s favorite Psalm is 103.  I have a feeling that part of (though not the entire reason) it is due to these verses:

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,  who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,  slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse,  nor will he harbor his anger forever; does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,  so great is his love for those who fear him;  as far as the east is from the west,  so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

I think this week reminded us of just how clean we’ve been made.  What other response can we have except to praise Him?

You-Know-What On the Face (Issue 1.5)


Originally Written for 9/21/08, Issue 1.5

Last weekend I went in to get Chloe on Saturday morning from her crib.  She had been unusually quiet, but I knew she was asleep.  The evening before Melissa and I had gone out for a date night, so a baby-sitter put her to bed for the evening.

When I walked into her nursery she was standing at the edge of the bed, like she normally does, but she didn’t have on her super-excited “I’m so happy to see you!” face.  Instead, she stood there with this look of confused terror, as if to say, “Help me, daddy, something’s wrong and I don’t know what it is.”  She also had a little bit of dirt on her forehead and I thought, “What did you and Katie do last night before you went to bed?”

I then looked on the floor and saw her diaper laying there, and I quickly realized the dirt on her forehead wasn’t dirt at all.  She was covered, from head to toe.  Poor girl had somehow taken off her diaper, then made a mess in her bed, then, I think, she played in it during the morning because it was all over her hands, in her hair, and it was wiped on the side of the crib, the wall, and her crib toy.  Now I understood the look of confused terror.

I suppose every parent has these experiences, so this is probably nothing new to most of you.  I picked her up (very, very carefully) and took her to the bathroom, where Melissa was ready with the bath.  While Melissa cleaned the baby I cleaned the crib.

And the floor.

And the wall.

And the crib toys.

And took off the sheets…

And collected all the…

Well, you get the idea.

Anyway, I realize looking back that Chloe had a very appropriate response.  She was covered in filth, and she didn’t know what to do, but she knew where to go and to whom to look.  When I walked in she looked to me to help her out of the problem she had created.

Isn’t this the perfect picture of us and God?  We are covered in filth from sin, and when we turn to Him, He picks us up, tells us He loves us, and then cleans us up.  Chloe didn’t know how to clean herself up – in fact, she couldn’t do it even if she wanted, and so in her innocence she turned to the only ones who could – Mommy and Daddy – and we took care of her.  She had had her fun, now she realized she needed cleaning.

Too often in life you and I have our fun, too, playing in the filth of this world.  Only too late do we realize that what we’ve been playing in isn’t what we though.  But, unlock Chloe, too often we try to cover it up or clean up ourselves, only to make it worse.  We need to turn to God, lift our arms, and with an attitude of both sorrow and hope, call out to our “Abba”.

If I’ll pick up my little girl covered in, well, stuff, then I’m confident He’ll pick us up since we’re His children.  As much as I love my Chloe, I know He loves me (and you) infinitely more than that.

Let’s remember that this week.

You-Know-What On the Face (Grace Notes Issue 1.5)


Originally Written for 9/21/08, Issue 1.5

Cross Posted on Grace Notes

Last weekend I went in to get Chloe on Saturday morning from her crib.  She had been unusually quiet, but I knew she was asleep.  The evening before Melissa and I had gone out for a date night, so a baby-sitter put her to bed for the evening.

When I walked into her nursery she was standing at the edge of the bed, like she normally does, but she didn’t have on her super-excited “I’m so happy to see you!” face.  Instead, she stood there with this look of confused terror, as if to say, “Help me, daddy, something’s wrong and I don’t know what it is.”  She also had a little bit of dirt on her forehead and I thought, “What did you and Katie do last night before you went to bed?”

I then looked on the floor and saw her diaper laying there, and I quickly realized the dirt on her forehead wasn’t dirt at all.  She was covered, from head to toe.  Poor girl had somehow taken off her diaper, then made a mess in her bed, then, I think, she played in it during the morning because it was all over her hands, in her hair, and it was wiped on the side of the crib, the wall, and her crib toy.  Now I understood the look of confused terror.

I suppose every parent has these experiences, so this is probably nothing new to most of you.  I picked her up (very, very carefully) and took her to the bathroom, where Melissa was ready with the bath.  While Melissa cleaned the baby I cleaned the crib.

And the floor.

And the wall.

And the crib toys.

And took off the sheets…

And collected all the…

Well, you get the idea.

Anyway, I realize looking back that Chloe had a very appropriate response.  She was covered in filth, and she didn’t know what to do, but she knew where to go and to whom to look.  When I walked in she looked to me to help her out of the problem she had created.

Isn’t this the perfect picture of us and God?  We are covered in filth from sin, and when we turn to Him, He picks us up, tells us He loves us, and then cleans us up.  Chloe didn’t know how to clean herself up – in fact, she couldn’t do it even if she wanted, and so in her innocence she turned to the only ones who could – Mommy and Daddy – and we took care of her.  She had had her fun, now she realized she needed cleaning.

Too often in life you and I have our fun, too, playing in the filth of this world.  Only too late do we realize that what we’ve been playing in isn’t what we though.  But, unlock Chloe, too often we try to cover it up or clean up ourselves, only to make it worse.  We need to turn to God, lift our arms, and with an attitude of both sorrow and hope, call out to our “Abba”.

If I’ll pick up my little girl covered in, well, stuff, then I’m confident He’ll pick us up since we’re His children.  As much as I love my Chloe, I know He loves me (and you) infinitely more than that.

Let’s remember that this week.