DWG (dreams with God): brokenness

My dream:

I was sitting on concrete curb and felt someone sit by me. It was Him. His presence is soothing… I always feel at ease around Him.

“Cheryl, let me show you something about brokenness.”

He and I turned to see a painter with a blank canvas. We watched as a flowers and luscious greenery emerged from the once white empty space. It was mesmerizing, quick, effortless. The painter completed his work and it was breathtaking. A wave of contentment washed over me. Before I could say something to Him, gloppy black paint splattered onto the new painting from out of nowhere. My mouth hung open as I realized the result of the black paint- the picture was ruined. He and I sat in silence as I tried to find words to express my disappointment. My mind raced to understand why He had shown me this.

“This is what happens when shattered people continue to walk in broken patterns without healing little one: even the beautiful things I want to give them will be tainted. This isn’t fullness. There is more.”

My interpretation:

Choosing to walk in brokenness and refuse God’s invitation to healing is choosing less. It is walking around the mountain instead of climbing it to find fullness on the other side. Oftentimes I try to get around the deeper things happening in my heart in order to avoid the pain there… but pain demands to be felt and brokenness will manifest in ugly ways when it’s not taken to the Lord. Bitterness, anger, not forgiving others, are all reactions to wounds we’ve received from others. These things taint life and hurt our relationship with God and others. Even mistrust and cynicism stem from hopes that have been deferred over and over again. This is the black paint of our lives: when we don’t go to Jesus with our pain.

These are the things that can detract from being thankful, having hope, and experiencing joy in the Lord. We miss the beauty of God’s goodness all around us when we are suffocated by unaddressed issues in our heart.

This dream was an invitation to bring a broken heart to the Lord and allow Him to speak to places of hurt. It’s an invitation to let Him and other believers into places of shame, resentment, guilt, condemnation, and more and allow oneself to be seen in need of help. The right people won’t condemn you; they will speak the Truth over you and pray for your heart to be restored.

At the end of the day, this can be a difficult, time consuming process. It’s no easy thing to bare your heart before God and His people, but I’m devoted to doing just that.

Why?

Because:

I don’t want to go through life and not experience the fullness Jesus died for

I don’t want to miss the beauty of who He is

--

Cheryl Cochran — cherylcochranblog.wordpress.com
Prayer Room Manager of Ember

A Song in the Wilderness

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor (trouble) as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.

Hosea 2:14-15

What are we to make of the wilderness? The language of scripture is beautiful and poetic, but there is real suffering in the afflictions of the wilderness. Why does God draw us through trials? How are we to respond?

There are specific seasons of the soul that we become aware of our own barrenness under the pressures of life circumstances. And there are periods that God seems to be distant, though He is never truly far away. Indeed He is closer than a brother; His Holy Spirit dwells within the heart of the believer and is all around us. It is His discernible presence that seems far at times.

The wilderness is the place that Israel journeyed through before they entered into the promised land. The Shulamite at the end of the Song of Solomon is seen coming out of the wilderness leaning upon her beloved. John the Baptist was in the wilderness for 30 years before his ministry began. It is where Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tested by Satan.

As we look through the scriptures and throughout the history of lives devoted to God; we see that the way of God is the wilderness. The goal of life is simple; it is to grow in loving God and loving others. Everything God does is maturing us in love. God removes all of the props in our lives. He shatters our pride and self sufficiency. How meager and useless our own strength is. God brings us into weakness, that His strength would be at work within our frame.

Understanding the purpose is a huge part of thriving in the wilderness. I have recently felt overwhelmed with situations in my life happening at once. While I was in the prayer room, we were praying through God’s purpose in leading us through wilderness and one of the singers caught a phrase, “I don’t want to waste this season.” This prayer really impacted my heart. I am tempted to complain or to ignore what is happening, but God has purpose. For me to respond rightly, I have to understand what He is after.

If it all comes down to love; then that is what He is looking for in me. The right response is to love God and love looks like obeying His commandments. Obeying Jesus’ commandments looks like loving my neighbor. It is easy to spend time with God when I can feel Him, but it works a muscle of faith when I don’t feel Him. It is easy to love others when I feel blessed, but it works a muscle of faith to show love when I feel hurt. Every small movement of obedience in the midst of opposition builds up endurance and faith.

This is not speaking of a labor in our own ability. The wilderness strips away all of our own strength and resources. All that is left is Christ; clinging to His word becomes an anchor of the soul. We find the richness of “fellowship” with Jesus in His suffering. He left His throne to come low and be accessible to us. Though He is now at the right hand of the Father He left His handprint on our souls; He gave us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us. The humanity of God in Christ and the working of His Holy Spirit are our stability when the world is shaking.

By grace and through faith in Christ we emerge victorious out of the wilderness. If you are under pressures in life, feeling your own weakness, and experiencing the silence; be of courage. God is with you, He is drawing you into deeper intimacy and leading you into victory. This is the process of maturing in love. Respond to this season with seeking His heart. Devote real time to simply waiting in His presence. What are you to do in the waiting? Simply rest in Christ; meditate upon His word, sing praise with your mouth, abide in His love.

In the wilderness, The Lord is drawing out a song of hope from deep within your heart.

--

Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

Ember, it’s both. A brief explanation.

Ember, a prayer and creative company

The longer we go, the more comfortable we get in our own skin. When we named our endeavor Ember, we also deemed it a prayer and creative company [whatever that means, right? we were’t totally sure at the time]. When anyone asked, we could [kind of] connect the dots for them — we pray in the prayer room and we create as we are so inspired — but we were really still working out the details. A few years in, I can honestly say, we have grown all the more convinced of our way forward. Ember is a prayer and creative company and it’s not Ember if it’s not both.

The Ember Prayer Room

The Ember Prayer Room is essential to who we are. We position ourselves as an organization and as individuals toward Jesus, in the unproductive weakness of worship and prayer. We spend real time and real energy [in our ordinariness] in order to be a place of continual worship and prayer in our region. We aren’t the only ones, we aren’t the experts, but we are convinced that our world is impacted for the better because of these rhythms and that Jesus is worthy of our attention and affection.

Ember Creative

Ember Creative is also essential to who we are. This is our gift to the world, the archived creative documentation of our journey into intimacy with God. There are other prayer rooms. There are other creative organizations. But Ember will be both. These two aspects are inseparable. We must experience the spirit of God in the place of worship and prayer. We are witnesses to his reality in this place. We ask him to draw near, we rest in his presence, we join him in intercession for our region, and we must multiply what we have seen and what we have heard. Our experience of God is meant to be shared [expressed]. And so we do. And so we will.

Inspiring individuals and communities

We are a tribe of creative intercessors. This is our contribution. We don’t claim to be more. We don’t claim to be perfect. But we are committed to walking the path we have been given — inspiring individuals and communities to deeper intimacy with God through our own experience of him.

Much love and affection,
Phil Rice

--

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Desperate for God

So often I look around my city and my heart breaks. There seems to be a church on every corner, and yet most of the people I interact with don’t have a relationship with Jesus. I see the homeless walking around aimless, the high school kids outside smoking, the drug addicts stumbling on the sidewalk, and the list goes on. It’s not that we lack programs or sincerity; rather we are lacking the manifest presence of God.

I was in a conversation with a young man who is caught up in a sexually broken lifestyle, battling a crippling depression, and tormented by night terrors. While talking with him, I realized that there was such a stronghold of lies in his life that any truth I speak gets lost in a cloud of confusion that covers him. There are testimonies of breakthrough for sure, and I rejoice because all of heaven rejoices when one person comes into the kingdom; but they are far too few for my contentment.

There are spiritual strongholds in cities and regions that are charged with demons that can only be cast out through a church that embraces a lifestyle of prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).

We have testimony in the scriptures and throughout history of regional moves of God. Such strong manifestations of His presence that thousands are saved in a day and the culture of the society is discernibly impacted with righteousness. How can we be content with anything less than this? I mean history still has yet to see the “spirit poured out on ALL flesh” and the “greater works than these.”

Preceding every great move of God in history we see a people gathered with one purpose; to encounter the living God. A people filled with a desperation for God; a cry for mercy over their own souls and the souls in their cities. There is no plan “B” for them; no other option. Either God shows up or we perish. These people are so consumed that they gather continually in repentance, worship, and intercession.

We are not seeing a regional move of God because in reality we are content. We think that we are rich, that we are blessed, and are in need of nothing. We are more concerned with getting more blessing on our own lives than we are pouring out our lives, like Jesus, for our neighbor. We don’t recognize that we are really poor and in need of God.

I say this, not as a critical bystander, but as one who feels this conviction in my own heart. I can see areas of pride and compromise in my life. This conviction is the mercy of God. It reveals that we are not walking in our identity; that there is more in His heart for us. The Lord has given us a simple way to respond. Anyone can do it. He says to turn to Him in repentance with prayer and fasting. We have no ability to make anything happen. He wants our weakness so that His strength may be displayed through His people. There is grace available to the humble.

I want to invite you to take time to ask the Lord to search your heart. Take real time and focus your gaze on Him. Let Him speak to your heart and respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in turning to His cross. Let Him show you His heart for you, your family, and your city. I believe that if we begin there, as we wait on the Lord, He will lead us into His plans and purposes. Through our yielded hearts He will lead us in being agents of change among our communities.

I am appealing to heaven for a move of God; not just because it sounds fun, but because real lives are hanging in the balance.

--

Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

It’s Time to Take a Leap of Faith

My beloved spoke, and said to me:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away. -Song of Songs 2:10

When the Lord invites us to take a leap of faith, it can sometimes feel scary. What truths can we press into in those times that we are hesitant? 

The Bridegroom calls out to the Shulamite from the the mountains and the hills. With affirmation of love and identity, He beckons her to come away with Him.

The voice of Jesus calls us to rise up. He challenges the comfort zone and calls us into greater depths of obedience to Him. There are seasons of resting under the apple tree with Jesus (Verse 2:3); then there are seasons that He draws us out to take a leap of faith into the risky and the unknown. It is like when Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water with Jesus.

Jesus always calls us to move forward with empowerment. He speaks with affirmation and motivates our hearts with Love.

Jesus affirms our Identity. He says that we are beautiful to Him. The bridegroom calls the Shulamite beautiful, knowing full well that she will refuse Him. God knows that we are in the process of maturing in love. He sees us through the eyes of mercy, through the work of His cross. Jesus, who is the very definition of beauty, has imparted Himself into us. Therefor Peter says that within our frame is an incorruptible beauty(1 Peter 3:4). The same voice that spoke creation into being calls forth beauty from within us. God is outside of time, so He sees our redeemed selves at the end of the age; and this is what He calls forth.

Jesus draws us into greater acts of love with His love for us. We love because He first loved us; and this is the way of the journey. Love is never stagnant, but is active and always moving forward. In this age we are continually maturing in love. Jesus said that to love Him, is to obey Him. This is the way forward and the way we grow; it simple obedience. When we see His dedication to us and experience His affection; we gladly volunteer obedience.

These two truths, how God feels towards me and what He sees in me, strengthens my resolve to step out in confidence, joy, and expectancy. I bring these truths, that are found throughout the Bible, into the prayer room. I ask the Lord to impact my heart with His Word as I sing and pray it back to the Him. 

Zack Roberts — zackroberts.blog
Prayer Director of Ember

3 thoughts on friendship with God and where to go from there — Phil Rice

Friendship with God.

I wrote an article on Bonheoffer’s perspective of the meditative life last July called, connectedness over time — meditation. The theme has come up several times in conversation and in my own thoughts these last few months. So, I thought I would elaborate on the subject of friendship with God through meditation and connectedness.

When I say friendship with God, I’m saying that God has [literally] given us the ability to relate to him as a friend. Jesus says in John 15, I no longer call you servants, but friends. And simply put, I want to take him up on that.

This may seem like a simple statement that we’ve all heard before, but really… the subject of relating to the supreme being in relational friendship may seem a little [or a lot] overwhelming. But in my experience, it’s all about breaking it down into smaller, manageable pieces.

Let’s begin from an open heart [Phil Rice journey]

But let’s begin here before we jump into our 3 practical thoughts. Sarah Bingaman, a licensed therapist [my therapist] and good friend of ours [I know… breaking all the rules again, therapist and friend… it’s okay though, I promise], based outside of Austin, TX, refers to the heart as being either open or closed towards another person. Through her content, Sarah masterfully walks her clients through the process of closed heart to open heart.

There is so much power in living with an open heart as we relate to one another [As Becky and I continue to experience in our time with Sarah]. And even more so, to live with an open heart in friendship with God is absolutely life altering. Can I truly receive God’s invitation of friendship without an open heart? I actually don’t believe you can. I can become his servant, his steward, his attendant. But to become his friend, I must share with him not just my work, but my thoughts and my joys, my disappointments and my hurts. And [equally important] I must open myself to experience his. In summation, to walk in friendship with God is to commune heart to heart in a continual way. Now on to some thoughts.

1. Pre-expectations [friendship with God]

Muddled somewhere in the open/closed heart conversation is my own expectation.

Perhaps one of my greatest hindrances in keeping me from connection with God is my own expectation [or perhaps the expectations of another person or cultural norm] of what I should or should not have done before arriving at this place of communion. Did I wake up on time and make it to my quiet, guarded space of meditation and connection? Did I sin yesterday [an hour ago, a minute ago]? Was this unmoving space of quiet solitude interrupted by my kids, my spouse, my roommate, my dog? Did I have a plan going into this sacred time? Has my track record of meeting with God been regular enough for qualification this morning? The list goes on and on.

If I am not careful, this list can have such an impact on how I feel coming into a time of connecting with God. Did I win before I walked in? Or did I lose already? This is nothow God sees our communion with him. Be near to God and he will be near you [James 4]. Every time. That’s it.

2. Post-expectations debriefed [friendship with God]

And let’s not forget our regular [often self-abasing] debrief in which we weigh our “time with God” against our preconceived expectations of what that time should have entailed.

Did this time meet my expectations? I had my journal and my set aside space. I got up on time with a full cup of coffee. Buuuuuuut… I didn’t [insert your preconceived expectation here] come away with any new revelation, feel any inner glowing, cry long enough, forgive enough people, laugh hard enough, pray for everyone on my prayer list, see the holy spirit descend like a dove, experience the glory!

Hmmm… that must mean I didn’t do it quite right.

Next time I’ll [insert new and improved self imposed expectation] pray harder, read longer, wake up earlier, worship more passionately, journal more honestly, give up something more costly.

And in our very assessment, we’ve transitioned away from friendship and [once again] begun flirting with servitude. Are these real qualifiers for communion with God? Nope. Not a one. Be near to God and he will be near you [James 4]. Every time. That’s it.

3. Resetting expectations [friendship with God]

Be near to God and he will be near you [James 4]. Every time. That’s it.

If it’s really true that Jesus has called us friend… And really true that when we are mindful of him, he will be near us… then there must be a more helpful perspective on how we approach friendship with him.

Jesus describes our connection to God when he says, but you [do] know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. As we have entered into relationship with him, we do know him. He is with us. There is not a more intimate connection than our connection with him. Not because of how it feels or because of what we did. But simply because it is.

Our new perspective [if we want it]

This is our new perspective. We never enter into a time with God. For there is never a moment we are without him. He is Emmanuel, God with us. May we live and experience God in this moment — setting aside expectations simply to be with Him.

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

 

The Hidden Prayer Room

I had a conversation regarding Ember with a good friend several days ago  — where we are now and where we are heading. I communicated my hope for the seats around the table to continue to diversify, as we converse around how we pray as the church in our region.

While I know that the Lord desires his church to pray together in unity, whatever that looks like, I also know that we are at the front edge of that reality in our region. But the truth is, whether or not anyone else shows up to the table, the Lord has specifically planted us [Ember and a number of other people/organizations peppered throughout our region] in this place. He has specifically asked us to workout, in practice, the word — my house will be called a house of prayer (Matthew 21).

So here we are. Working out this questions: How will we pray? What will it look like? What does it look like to pray across multiple biblical perspectives? How do we do this together?

As my friend and I continued, our conversation went deeper in many places, but the thing I took away was that I’m glad to be building a culture of prayer for a region. In my heart of hearts, whether or not our staff ever grows beyond its current size or adds any more hours of prayer throughout the week. I can say that we are working out the prophetic word of the Lord that his house will pray. And I am confident that the prayers offered from this little ember will impact the people of Oklahoma and beyond, whether realized or not. We can celebrate in the wins and partner with the hardships, because we are experiencing them in an incredibly practical, day-in-day-out kind of a way. The prayers lifted and the aroma of worship wafted from this place is partnering with what God is doing, in people we know and in people we may never personally know.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly
— Matthew 6

A wild, yet true reality.

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember