God’s Home

God’s Home

What does a home say?

Our family moved a few months ago. I have no doubt we were motivated by the COVID-craziness (what were we thinking?!). I also have no doubt it was God’s incredible hand of loving provision that got us there. We love our new home.

If you were to take a quick tour, what would our home say about the Miller family? You’d instantly learn that we love nature more than just about anything. You’d learn that we love family time more than nice things, and that we’re not particularly great decorators. You’d learn that we’re ok with an older, fairly simple house, in need of a few updates with a little farther commute to work and church, in order to have more trees, more quiet, more bugs, ticks, snakes, rodents, cobwebs, yard work and so much dirt. Our home would tell you a great deal about who we are and what we love.

Where does God live?

So where does God live? There are so many potential answers to that terribly cheesy question, and since He’s omnipresent (alway everywhere), you’d be hard pressed to come up with a wrong answer. But where is His home? I typically picture Him in heaven, but even there I get confused. Is it the Far Side version with clouds and harps? Or is it the heaven I grew up imagining with streets of gold, big ol’ pearly gates, and wandering angels?

Either way, I tend to picture His home somewhere up there. Far away, out of touch, and often the stuff of a bad fantasy novel. Is that God’s home?

Yet, there’s this section in the Gospel of John. It’s Jesus talking to His disciples shortly before His execution. In some ways, it’s a major downer of a speech. He tells His disciples everybody hates Him, soon they’re going to kill Him, and then they’re going to start doing the same to us. The world is going to be ugly towards Christians, He says, and you’re probably going to be killed soon. Thanks, Jesus.

But, He says, I’m going to send you a Helper. Other translations have Comforter, Encourager, Counselor, Advocate, Friend. We don’t really know how to translate it, but Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. The very presence of God, with us.

Then Jesus says this, recorded in John 14:23: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

Let that sink in. For those who follow Me, who love and obey Me, who trust in Me. We (God the Father and God the Son–the dynamic duo) will come to him (through God the Holy Spirit–that makes three–the entire Trinity) and make our home with him.

So where is God’s home? Well, where are you right now? Look around. Where are you reading these words? If you are a Christian, wherever you are right now is the answer to that question. For you are God’s home. YOU. And everywhere you go, He is right at home with you.

What does that tell you about God?

What does that tell you about God? Think about it. God’s home is with His people. Of all the places God could make His home — I mean, He is God after all! Hawaii? Alaska? Colorado? Utah? All these would be high on my list. A palace? A private island? An endless forest? Yes, please! Yet, of all the places God could make His home (look around again), He chooses to live with us.

He chooses to live in the cubicle with you at work, even when you’re overwhelmed or frustrated or demeaned. He chooses to live with you in your classroom or when you can’t find anyone to sit with at the lunch table. He chooses to live in your house, even in the places you feel completely unseen. He chooses to live uniquely in our church, when we gather together to celebrate Him. He chooses to live with you even in those places you wish He wouldn’t (a little privacy, please!), either due to your shame or sin or both.

God makes His home with you. What does that tell us about God? Well, as I think about my own life, it tells me His standards are pretty low. I mean, He will literally live anywhere. He’s not afraid to get His hands dirty. He’s not ashamed of me or my sin. It’s like He’s willing to be roommates with a slob.

Which means His mercy and grace really are that big. God is holy and worthy of my fear. Yet because of Jesus, He has taken my sin and given me His goodness, so that God can make His home with us. Where God chooses to live shows me just how big His forgiveness is.

And how dearly we are loved. It’s not just in the gospels that we see God’s home on display. We see it in Genesis 1-2, the first chapters of the Bible, when we learn that from the very beginning this was God’s heart for us. We were meant to live in the Garden with Him forever, in perfect intimacy and joy. This home was always His plan.

We also see it in Revelation 21-22, the final chapters of the Bible, when at the culmination of all things, creation is restored and God Himself comes to live with us. We get a taste of this now through God’s Spirit, but this is the ultimate reality in store for God’s people. For heaven is a New Creation, where we dwell once more with our Maker.

What does it tell you about us?

We learn a lot about God by the home He chooses. But what does this tell us about us? What do we learn about ourselves from a verse like this? There are two quick observations here that I’ve been chewing on and delighting in recently.

We were never meant to live our lives alone.

First, this reminds us that we were never meant to live our lives alone. You and I were never meant to live without God by our side, or outside of His constant presence with us. If that’s true, I should probably stop trying to live my life as if I can do it without Him. I was never meant to do anything without Him!Where are the spaces you need to invite Him into? Where are the places you need to remind yourself that He is right at home with you? When you feel alone at school or overwhelmed at work. When parenting gets the better of you or you feel stuck knowing how to encourage your friends or share your faith. When you look at our world and wonder how it could ever get better.In those moments, and it feels like there has been a lot lately, I have tried to just pause and briefly pray. God, you are here and I need your help. Please.This is also why the gathering of God’s people is so important. Sometimes I can’t sense God next to me but I can sense Him next to you. Sometimes I don’t feel like looking for Him but I see Him in you. And when we’re all together, singing to Him, hearing from Him, loving one another and celebrating His presence, it reminds us loudly of His home with us. Yes, He’s at home with you, but all the more when we gather together as His people.

We experience this at church, in our community groups or bIble studies, and through the warm smiles or encouraging words of our dear friends. So often the primary place I experience the presence of God is through His people. You and I were never meant to live our lives alone.

There is not a place you can go without Him by your side.

And the good news of the gospel is that we don’t have to; there is not a place you can go without Him by your side. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are never alone.Is there anything we humans fear more than being alone? Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my alone time. I need my alone time. Many of us do. But there’s an ocean of difference between needing a little alone time and feeling utterly alone or abandoned.I know many of us right now feel pretty lonely. Our relationships and social interactions have changed so dramatically over the past 18 months. Some of us have lost loved ones. Others of us, accelerated by the stress of this past year, have experienced deep wounds in your marriage, your family, or your friendships. Maybe you’ve started at a new school or moved to a new town. Or maybe the weight of your job right now feels as if it’s crushing you.And you feel alone.I do, too.Yet, God is at home with you. Right now. And He’s at home with me.

As the psalmist delights:“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:7-10.

Prayer for God’s Presence

O God, give me today a strong and vivid sense that you are by my side. In a crowd or by myself, in business and leisure, in my sitting down and my rising, may I always be aware of your presence beside me. By your grace, O God, I will go nowhere today where you cannot come, nor seek anyone’s presence that would rob me of yours. By your grace I will let no thought enter my heart that might hinder my closeness with you, nor let any word come from my mouth that is not meant for your ear. So shall my courage be firm and my heart be at peace.

John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, 63

Surviving the Holidays

GUEST AUTHOR: Karen Mendrala

Surviving the holidays…if you’re in the thick of grief, you might wonder how that’s even possible. If you are spinning from the loss of a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, or another important person in your life; if you’re already dealing with anxiety, loneliness, and depression, how do you add “the holidays” to the mix? It can certainly be overwhelming.

The holidays can cause a magnification of any loss, and there is a very good chance your emotions will blindside you during this time of “Christmas cheer.” How do you face the memories of past holidays while still managing to figure out what you will do about this year? How do you handle putting up a Christmas tree, sending out Christmas cards, preparing a meal, or attending a family celebration? It’s not really an option to just skip the holidays altogether. We are surrounded by them.

The mere thought of the holidays can cause dread for anyone experiencing loss. The thought of facing them without a loved one can often even bring about a panic attack! GriefShare, a class offered at our church, enables people to walk the journey of grief together in a small-group setting. They begin with a video of a woman saying, “I just want to go to sleep before Thanksgiving and wake up after New Year’s.” How true!

I vividly remember the year I lost my husband. I was struggling to work through my first holiday without him and I asked my mom, “How do you face the holidays?” She wisely replied, “It’s only one day, so you get through one day at a time.” I’ve found in my own personal journey this philosophy is helpful not only for the holidays but for every day.

So, what are some practical real-life ways to face grief in the midst of the holiday season? Here are a few important ones:

  • First and foremost, there’s One who will be with you through all of it. He promises us several times in the Bible that He will never leave nor forsake us. (Deut 31:6; Joshua 1:9 and Matthew 28:20)
  • Recognize that the holidays are going to be tough. Acknowledge their impact on you in every way: emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and physically.
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself. Think through your holidays. What traditions and activities are meaningful and important enough to continue? Visualize how you will accomplish that. Who can you call to help you when you are struggling? What might need to be taken off your to-do list because it’s too painful or you’re just not ready to face it?
  • On your list of activities that you’ve chosen to keep, which ones might cause the most emotional pain and therefore be the most difficult to get through? Understand that while careful preparation will not keep you from being blindsided by emotions, it may give you the ability to give yourself grace when they come.
  • One of the counselors in GriefShare says, “We hear ourselves talking in our heads more than anyone else,” so have a Bible verse ready to use to “self-talk” through difficult moments, such as Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” or Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you…I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • GriefShare suggests writing a “Grief Letter.” This can be a perfect way for you to help others in your life understand what you are going through. They may want to know how you are doing and how they can help. In your letter:

– Describe your experiences and your feelings in an honest manner.

– Describe what they might expect from you (tears, anger, despair, etc.). You don’t know how you’ll react at the time; there are many ups and downs. However, if you can communicate your thoughts it is helpful for them in better understanding you.

– Let them know what you find comforting to discuss and what’s not helpful at this time.

– Tell them your tears are a normal part of your grief process and nothing to be afraid of.  I love what author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “We grieve deeply because we loved deeply.” It’s OK to cry.

– List some specific and practical ways in which friends and family can help you. Perhaps your loved one was the one who carried in the tree and set it up. You want a tree but can’t face that part, so maybe that means someone can do that for you. Maybe you need help shopping or wrapping or placing decorations in the house. Don’t be shy. The people you are writing to love you and want to help you.

Sometimes people just don’t have a clue as to what to expect or what to do for you. Or perhaps they are so caught up in their own holiday plans that they haven’t realized what this time might be like for you. Sometimes they may be afraid to bring up your lost loved one for fear of causing you pain, not realizing it may help and comfort you to talk about him or her. Help them understand. Good communication is such a blessing to everyone!

  • Keep a journal. This is a personal, structured time between you and God to reflect, process, and share your deepest fears, hurts, and desires with Him. It helps to sort through what’s going on and how you’re feeling about some tough situations and, in general, it can assist you in dealing with pent-up emotions. I always say it helps to get things out of your mind so they don’t spin until they are out of control. Journaling is a good way to help with this (as is an honest visit with a good and trusted friend, pastor, or counselor).
  • Finally,

– Think about decorations, Christmas cards, gifts, meals, family time, Christmas parties, and other social events.

– Decide how you might respond to invitations. Feel free to reply with “I’ll try to make it,” or, “I may need to leave suddenly. If that happens, please don’t take offense.”

– You might need time alone. Alert family or friends that you might need to disappear for a few minutes or maybe even hours. This is normal and okay.

Any of these are a good way to clear out your mind.

Surviving the holidays will be hard. There will be emotional triggers from sights, sounds, smells, songs, and activities. When you’re dealing with anxiety or struggling to process your grief, a plan will help you feel less overwhelmed and will give you coping strategies for those rough seasons. It won’t fix the difficult tasks you face, but it can give you hope and help you get through them.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30