Prayer of Imagination

Humans are made in God’s image in so many ways, not the least of which is our imagination. Imagination is essential for child development but is also necessary for anyone who creates or innovates. We all use our imaginations anytime we think of a scene or an object not currently present to our five senses. Jesus used his imagination quite effectively in teaching by parables.

“The Lord’s Prayer” by James Tissot

Every builder, cook, author, or artist imagines a final product before beginning his work. And imagination makes empathy possible as we imagine how another person may be feeling.

How then can we use this valuable tool of imagination in prayer?

Read through a story of Jesus, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and mind through this recounting. Next, imagine yourself to be present in the narrative, either as a person named in the story or as an unidentified observer. Deliberately engage all five of your senses to interact with the scene and the action: Smell, Sight, Sound, Taste and Touch. Look around you. Pay particular attention to Jesus. What is he like? How are you relating to him? How are others relating to him? Allow the story to unfold gradually and notice your thoughts and feelings as it happens. Stay with the experience, perhaps even longer than you think is needed.

After the prayer of imagination story has “concluded,” try experiencing it from another vantage point. Do not evaluate the story while you are “in” it, but only after the imaginary part of the prayer has concluded. When the action has finished, consider questions such as the following: How were you drawn into the story? Were you experiencing any pushback from the story? Was your experience in the story in keeping with the truth Scripture teaches? What was Jesus like in the story? How were you relating to him? What moved you? What surprised you? What do you want now? What is God’s message or invitation for you in this story?

“Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” by Johannes Vermeer

The objective for this prayer is not exact historical and scientific accuracy in imagining the story and its setting. The goal here is to watch and wait for a revelation from God. Our God is self-revealing and truth-telling. Our desire in this prayer is knowing and experiencing God and His truth. Similar to the way Jesus used parables to teach truths, God can use prayer of imagination to teach our hearts and minds about Him, about ourselves, and about the world. God can use prayer of imagination in the same way He uses art, music and poetry.

The Spirit of Jesus who dwells within us as Jesus followers is the same Spirit who was present as Christ walked this earth and lived these historic accounts in Scripture. God knows what happened there and why. Let God use your imagination to show you what He wants you to know and understand about the events recorded in Scripture.

Jesus at “Emmaus” by Rembrandt

Lectio Divina

Lectio divina  is a way of praying with Scripture to allow God’s Word to penetrate and change your heart, not just your head. An ancient method of prayer, lectio divina has been used by Christians for almost two millennia. Many Christians today use a similar prayer practice called “savoring the Word.” Lectio divina is not meant to replace Bible study, which God also uses to transform us.

The method of lectio in brief:

1) Surrender to God. Set aside about 15-20 minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time and start by asking God’s Spirit to teach you about Himself and yourself. Setting a timer may help you “ignore” the time constraints.

2) Read the Scripture aloud. Next, read aloud the Scripture passage you have chosen at least twice. Read no more than 5-10 verses each day. As you read, watch for a word or short phrase to stand out to you in some way. This word or phrase will almost “shimmer” (not visibly, but in your heart or your attention). It’s likely you will have no idea why that particular word or phrase stands out. Trust that God is bringing this “morsel” to your attention.

3) Meditate on the Word. Then, take that word or phrase and meditate on it. Meditation is like “chewing your cud” mentally, and involves repetitively attending to a thought. Anyone who can worry can meditate. Turn the word or phrase over in your mind and look at it from many different angles. Be free and open in this. If you get distracted, just turn back to it. If distracted easily, consider journaling your thoughts or jotting down short notes.

4) Pray about your meditation. If God has brought to mind something to do or know from your meditation on Scripture, ask Him to help you act on this change or insight. Talk to God directly and take time to listen, giving God space to reply.

5) Surrender again to God. Finally, just sit quietly with God for a while in an attitude of surrender to His loving presence and will. The goal here is not a mystical experience nor an “emptiness” of thought or feeling. The intention is just to enjoy and rest with God, similar to the way friends or spouses sometimes sit silently together, loving one another with gratitude.

6) End with the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus Prayer (Breath Prayer)

A form of “breath prayer,” the Jesus Prayer is usually said, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” while inhaling on the first half of the sentence and exhaling on the second half. According to Eastern Orthodox Church theology, the whole message of the Bible is encapsulated in the Jesus Prayer.  However, the words may also be shortened to “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” or even “Christ, have mercy.”

For millennia, Eastern Orthodox Christians have used the Jesus Prayer to obey the biblical instruction to “pray continually” (1 Thess 5:17). For some, by continuous repetition of the Jesus Prayer,  inner peace and Christ’s presence are experienced in the heart. The Jesus Prayer is also a way for God’s people to “hide” or “treasure” the Word in their hearts (Ps 119:11). Though this psalm refers to the word(s) of God’s Law, Jesus is also the Word and is the fulfillment of the Law.

In Scripture, both the Hebrew word ruach and the Greek word pneuma can be translated spirit,” “breath,” or “wind.” Use breath prayer to receive (inhale) from God and to express (exhale) your requests to and for God. While praying and inhaling, remember God breathing life into man’s nostrils (Gen 2:7). Breathe in the abundant Life of God. Remember Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit into his disciples (Jn 20:22). Receive the full and generous gift of God’s Spirit. While praying and exhaling, deliberately surrender your breath of life and your will to God. 

 

Other words may be substituted in breath prayer, such as “Holy Spirit, fill me;” “Abba Father, I love you;” or “Christ Jesus, show me your truth.” Use whatever words God gives you. After discerning the prayer for you, stay with the same words for at least a month. Do not switch often. Instead, watch and wait for God’s response. The Jesus Prayer is a Prayer of the Heart, meant to express deep, ongoing declarations and requests to God. In contrast, prayers of petition and intercession address more rapidly changing needs and thoughts.

With God’s help, examine your heart before beginning. What do you want? Be truthful in requesting what you want. Prayer is not a technique nor a transaction but an interaction with God. If you want Christ to have mercy on you, pray these words. If you want to love God more, pray this request.

The goal here is not mere repetition of words in order to empty your mind. Instead of emptying your mind in breath prayer, let your mind, heart, and body be filled with the Holy Spirit of Christ. The goal here is not just to feel peaceful or less anxious. Instead of seeking more peacefulness, seek the Prince of Peace.

Start with praying the Jesus Prayer for ten continuous minutes a day. Focus on the words while turning your heart towards God. Then schedule one- to two- minute breaks in the midst of your day to pray the Jesus Prayer. Next begin to pray as you go—as you drive, walk or ride bike. Gradually, take this prayer into everyday activities as a constant reminder of God’s presence, sovereignty and provision and of your desire for Him.

Colossians 4:2: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Ephesians 6:18: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (NIV)

The PAPA Prayer by Larry Crabb

P: Present yourself to God without pretense. Be a real person in the relationship.  Tell Him whatever is going on inside you that you can identify.

A: Attend to how you’re thinking of God. Again, no pretending.  Ask yourself, “How am I experiencing God right now?”  Is He a vending machine, a frowning father, a distant, cold force?  Or is He your gloriously strong but intimate Papa?

P: Purge yourself of anything blocking your relationship with God. Put into words whatever makes you uncomfortable or embarrassed when you’re real in your relationship with Him.  How are you thinking more about yourself and your satisfaction than about anyone else, including God and His pleasure?

A: Approach God as the “first thing” in your life, as your most valuable treasure, the Person you most want to know.  Admit that other people and things really do matter more to you right now, but you long to want God so much that every other good thing in your life becomes a “second thing” desire.

That’s what I call relational prayer. And I’m coming to see that it belongs in the exact center of my prayer life–for that mater, in the center of my entire spiritual journey. Nothing has relieved my confusion over unanswered prayer requests more than the realization that relational prayer must always come before petitionary prayer.  Relate and then request.  Enjoy God and then enjoy His provisions, whatever they are…

The PAPA prayer is the best way I’ve discovered to develop and nourish the relationship with God given to me by Jesus through His life, death, and resurrection.  Relational prayer provides the Spirit with a wide open opportunity to do what He loves most to do, to draw me into the heart and life of the Father and to make me more like the Son.

Usually when I pray the PAPA prayer, nothing happens–at least nothing I can see or feel right away…Praying the PAPA prayer [is] simply a way to come to God and learn to wait, to listen with a little less wax in our spiritual ears, and, most of all, to be relentlessly real.

—Quoted from the book The PAPA Prayer by Larry Crabb, pp. 10-11.

You ARE

Buoyed by hope,
Suspended in peace,
Falling free in faith,
Time and space somehow immaterial,
I am unhooked and unhinged
by the God outside (and inside)
who takes me in and out too.

“Fear not. I AM with you.”
God’s non-anxious Presence within,
without
a clear beginning
or end.
At the mention of Your name
Precious Jesus,
Prince of Peace,
Savior King,
my waiting heart turns, tuned
to Your Voice,
my tongue moves to confess, repeat, shout, whisper
Your Name
that covers us,
holds us,
bowls us over,
with covenant love
til gratitude wells in,
up,
over,
and out.
How IS it that
I could know You—goodness, gracious?!
How IS it that
I could ever doubt Your love?

You ARE
A Gift to all who will hear,
to all whose ears burn
to resonate with the One and Only Heart Song.
You ARE
A Gift to all who will see,
to all whose eyes long
to feast on the Wellspring of Beauty.
You ARE
A Gift to all who will feel,
to all whose souls ache
to return to the Tender Touch
and persistent pressure
of their Lover, their Maker, their Source.
You ARE
A never-ending Gift to all
who seek truly,
know deeply,
and mine the courage to receive
YOU.

Don’t Erase

Three years ago, I took up a new spiritual practice — drawing my prayers. A recovering perfectionist, I quickly noticed the need for one fixed rule in using the colored pencils: Don’t erase! Somehow, banishing the eraser switched my attention from the product to the process of prayer.

Before long, poems spilled out to accompany my drawings. I had discovered so much freedom in not “fixing” my drawings that I declared once again: Don’t erase! Somehow, writing in pen instead of pencil allowed the words to flow unimpeded, without the usual fits and starts of self-analysis and self-criticism.

Quite unexpectedly, in providing spiritual direction, the power of this principle grew even clearer. Sometimes, directees would hesitate to remember and recount their sad tales of illness, abuse, suffering, addiction, or sin. At first, I would also hesitate to proceed down the painful paths of desolation with them but would opt instead for the cheerful encouragement of their consolations. Yet, in “erasing” or avoiding the darkness, we were missing the treasures hidden there.

Our entire life stories have shaped us, both the darkness and the light. God is always present with us, weaving together the dark and light threads of our experiences to form the tapestry of our lives and our selves. In an important sense, we are our memories—all of them. Erasing, suppressing or ignoring the ugly or painful memories diminishes us.

The Bible does not erase the misfortunes, weaknesses, and sins of God’s people. How could we possibly know God and ourselves as well without recalling the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, David’s adultery, or the Babylonian exile? Jesus did not ignore or gloss over the Samaritan woman’s sad situation nor the sin of the woman caught in adultery. He met them as they were. The mistakes of Peter, the other disciples, and the early church are openly recounted in Scripture, not wiped squeaky clean.

Does this mean we must disclose all our sins and sadnesses to each other? We need not go to the opposite extreme of erasing by dwelling on our misfortunes. We need not recount all the details of our abuse. We need not endlessly spiral in self-pity and regret. Instead of erasing, we can accept and act. Instead of erasing, we can remember and forgive. Instead of erasing painful memories, we can look for the presence of God with us always.

God does all the erasing we need. In Christ, God erases our guilt and our punishment. In the generous love of God, we find the safety and freedom to let go of perfectionism. In the unchanging love of the Creator, we remember God intentionally made us human and fallible. In the power of the Spirit, every inborn personality trait, every past event, and every present situation is “worked” for our good.

So, don’t erase. Don’t re-write your past or your present. Let God love you as you are and watch what happens.

Principles of Design 7: Harmony and Unity

This is the final installment in a series on the Principles of Design used in Creation. God the Designer and Creator invites us to use these principles in our lives also. Whether intentional or not, we are always creating—memories, impressions, relationships, patterns of thinking and feeling, and legacies.

The seventh and eighth design principles are Harmony and Unity. Harmony in art involves combining similar design elements—related or comparable colors, textures or shapes—for a pleasing, satisfying effect. The opposite of harmony is dissonance, which can be quite jarring. Musicians make harmony by adding tones above or below the melody to support or enhance the melody. Adding different harmonies to a melody line can change the tone or mood of the entire piece.

Unity in art occurs when every element in the design supports a single idea or message. Unity is not uniformity, not identical sameness. Instead, unity involves combining different elements so that they work together visually to create a single whole. All the other design principles—dominance, balance, contrast, gradation, repetition, variation and harmony—may be used to work toward a single unified goal or whole. For example, in the photo below, taken after a hurricane, the photographer uses repetition and variation (the wood scraps), dominance (the young boy’s central position), and contrast (pointed, straight, chaotic, lines of broken wood contrasting with the dark, rounded, smiling young boy) to convey a message of hope in the aftermath of disaster.

Starting with the Garden of Eden, we see harmony and unity throughout God’s Creation. Humans were to name and care for the plants and animals, which in turn provided food, meaningful work, and companionship for them. Creation was a harmonious, unified, well-balanced whole, an expression of the nature of the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, as evil and sin such as self-centeredness and greed entered the world, harmony and unity decreased. No longer did all living things work together to glorify God. Chaos, fighting, jealousy, and murder ensued.

Throughout human history as recorded in Scripture, God’s sole message has been one of redeeming, transforming, never-ending, pursuing, faithful, covenant love. This single unified theme, “for God so loved the world,” has been served by all God made and makes and all God did, does, and will do. God also desires harmony and unity for humanity, in particular for his people. The Hebrew word “shalom,” most often translated “peace,” as in “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6), means harmony, wholeness or completeness. Jesus brought peace and gave His peace to us (Jn 14:27). He wanted his followers to “live in harmony with one another” (Rom 12:16)and to “be brought to complete unity” (Jn 17:23).

Only God creates harmony and unity in our lives. However, Scripture tells us how we can cooperate with God in this. He must be the melody, the single, unchanging message, theme, or goal of our lives. We harmonize with Him and with each other by loving Him and each other. We must “bear with each other and forgive one another” and “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col 3:13-14). We must be willing to humbly submit to one another, to “associate with people of low position” (Rom 12:16), and to be and abide in God while allowing Christ to live in us (Jn 17:21-23).

Unity does not mean uniformity, which is illustrated by the metaphor of the Church as the Body of Christ, with many different parts but only one Head, with “varieties of gifts but the same Spirit, varieties of service but the same Lord” (1 Cor 12:4-5). We each have a part to play as we join God in loving the world, but the masterpiece God is creating with us is greater than the sum of its parts. By keeping our eyes focused on God, our ears trained on God, and our hearts turned toward God we stay in harmony with Him and each other, and our lives serve God’s purpose for His Creation.

Reflect and journal on the following questions as we complete this series on Principles of Design: How can your life harmonize more with God’s purposes for the church and for the world? What do you need to live more in unity with God? With the church? How can you bring the parts of your life together to serve the single theme or purpose God has for you?Prin

Principles of Design 6: Variation and Repetition

This is the sixth installment in an ongoing series on the principles of design used in Creation. God the Designer and Creator invites us to use these principles in our lives also. Whether intentional or not, we are always creating—memories, impressions, relationships, patterns of thinking and feeling, and legacies.

In the last few weeks, we talked about the following design principles: Dominance, Balance, Contrast, and Gradation. This week we will discuss Alternation (or, more broadly, Repetition) and Variation. Repetition is used in art to produce a sense of stability and unity. Variation is used to increase interest and to create movement.

In the visual arts, music, and literature, repetition of color, shape, melody, or idea serves to prevent chaos and to establish a mood or a recurring theme. Common visual repetitions in art include spirals, plaids, mosaics, and waves. Repetitions in music are found in refrains or choruses, and a popular musical composition technique is to use a recurring theme with variations. However, as we see in the checkered design below, too much repetition can result in boredom or stagnation.

Variation adds interest and surprise and can also serve to move the viewer’s eye in a certain direction. However, as we see in the next photo, too much variation can be overwhelming and confusing.

In contrast, as shown in the following design and photograph, the best compositions contain both repetition and variation.

                    

God used both repetition and variation extensively in Creation. In a crowd of people, we see repetition of form; almost all possess two eyes, two hands, two feet, one head, one nose. Yet, even the human body exhibits a lot of variation, which makes each of us (even identical twins) unique. Every single snowflake shows repetition, growing from water vapor crystallizing around a small dust particle into a six-sided structure. Yet snowflakes also show almost infinite variation and are never exactly alike.

On one hand, we have come to expect and depend upon repetition, manifested as rhythms and patterns in nature, like seasons and day/night cycles. Science is based on repetition and the understanding that “laws of nature” are reproducible. For example, every time we drop a shoe, gravity will pull it toward the center of the earth.

On the other hand, we also unconsciously recognize that variation is natural. Exact repetition is more often man-made than God-made. For example, in a filled football stadium, the uniformity of the seats exhibits factory-produced repetition while the variation among stadium seat occupants (tall, short, white, black, blonde, brunette, Eagles jersey, Steelers hat) seems more “natural.” Looking at this photo, we instinctively know that the railroad tracks, with their unchanging repetition, are man-made, but the trees in their great and beautiful variety are God-made.

 

God’s actions in human history also exhibit both repetition and variation. He repeatedly tried to communicate and draw sinful humanity back into faithful and loving communion with Himself. Yet He did this in a variety of ways—through the Law, the prophets, and the poetry of psalms; through kings and kingdoms and through destruction and exile; and finally by His own Incarnation and the indwelling power of the Spirit. God is both unchanging in His character (repetitive) and unexpected (varying in His methods).

Ideally, our spiritual lives will contain both repetition and variation as well. Repetition is needed in spiritual practices—daily Scripture-reading and memorization, continuous prayer, regular meeting and serving together, and weekly keeping the Sabbath. Variation is also needed in spiritual practices as we explore different ways to pray (e.g., confession, listening, intercession, meditating on the Word, examen, prayer-walking, journaling, kneeling, tongues) and to worship (e.g., songs, hymns, spiritual songs, dance, silent surrender, painting, walking outside in awe of God’s Creation). Crafting a rule of life, which is a daily framework or plan in which to incorporate such spiritual practices, integrates both repetition and variation.

In our lives, repetition can wreak havoc through obsessive-compulsive tendencies; through rigidness and an unwillingness to change; through profiling and judging others’ motivations; and by acting on instinct instead of thoughtful consideration and creativity. Likewise, variation can wreak havoc when we wander without boundaries, map or anchor and when we live without regular self-examination and prayer.

In what ways is God inviting you to more regularity, repetition and rhythm in your life? In what ways is God inviting you to explore, experiment and transform? Consider and pray with these questions. Next week, we will complete this series with an exploration of Harmony and Unity. In the meantime, also consider the following questions: Where in your life do you experience disharmony, discord or dissonance? What does unity with God and others look like for you? What does Scripture teach us about harmony and unity?

Principles of Design 5: Contrast and Gradation

This is the fifth article in an ongoing series on the principles of design. God, our Designer, used these principles in Creation and invites us to use them in our lives. Whether intentional or not, we are always creating—memories, impressions, relationships, patterns of thinking and feeling, and legacies.
In the last two months, we talked about the first two design principles—Dominance and Balance. This month we will be discussing the design principles of Contrast and Gradation. Contrast refers to differences, making something stand out or grab attention. Gradation is about blending, movement, and gradual change. The Creation, the Bible, and our Christian lives are full of both contrast and gradation.

The design principle of Contrast emphasizes distinction and differences. In art, contrast can be applied to color (e.g, yellow with blue), intensity (light with dark), size (big with small), or shape (triangle with circle). Contrast gives designs energy and interest.

In Scripture, contrast is used for emphasis, particularly in the wisdom literature such as Proverbs 10:12: “Hatred stirs up conflict but love covers over all wrongs” and Psalm 1:6: “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Jesus makes use of contrast in the story of the “lost” son, who was “found.” We are struck by the marked change in the prodigal son’s attitude and moved by the contrast between the responses of the father and of the elder brother.

God also used contrast in His Creation. Instead of leaving the whole world gray, he separated the dark from the light. He made deserts and oceans, the Arctic and the Equator, winter and summer. Our appreciation for each is increased by experiencing its opposite. We also live life more fully when we have tasted the sting of death.

Yet much of the beauty of Creation is in its gradations, not its contrasts. Gradation is often used with color, from red to orange to yellow, or from the dark blue of ocean depths to the brilliant turquoise of the shallows. But gradation but may also affect shape or orientation, like a tadpole undergoing metamorphosis or a flower gradually drooping down in the midsummer heat.

So, how is God inviting us to pay attention to the design principles of Contrast and Gradation in our own lives as believers? Colossians 3:9-10 gives us a hint—“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” On the one hand, we are new creations—born again, new wineskins filled with new wine, children of God, no longer children of the devil (1 Jn 3:10). Our orientation has completely shifted, from seeking the things of this world to seeking first the Kingdom of God. The contrast between the deadness of worldly pursuits such as wealth and honor and the new life we find in the upside-down Kingdom of God is stark.

However, even though Christ now lives in us (Gal 2:20), we are still “being renewed,” still changing. Gradation is found as “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). Though we are indeed brand new creations, the sign of our continued life in Christ is that we are unceasingly being transformed by the renewing of our hearts and minds (Rom 12:2).

Take some time this week to consider the following questions: Where do you see the clear signs of God’s presence in your life, in your attitudes and your actions? Notice the contrasts between who you are in Christ and who you would be without Christ. Next, pay attention to the gradations, the transformation God is working in your heart and mind. How have you changed over the years as the Holy Spirit has led and you have sought God’s will and way in you?

Next week, we will move on to the design principles of Variation and Alternation. Begin to explore questions such as the following: How much variation does your life with God hold? And what kind of rhythm or flow do you incorporate into your prayer and spiritual practices?

Principles of Design 4: Balance

This is the fourth article in an ongoing series on the principles of design. God, our Designer, used these principles in Creation and invites us to use them in our lives. Whether intentional or not, we are always creating—memories, impressions, relationships, patterns of thinking and feeling, and legacies.

Last week, we talked about the first design principle—Dominance. We asked questions such as, “How dominant is God in my own life?” This month we will be discussing the second design principle—Balance. We will be asking questions such as, “How do I maintain spiritual balance in my life?”

The word “balance” can mean many things. According to dictionaries, “balance” keeps things upright, steady, in proper or equal amounts, at equilibrium. In design, balance keeps a piece of artwork stable and comfortable because all parts are working together in some type of well-proportioned whole. We humans find symmetry and balance to be attractive and safe. When a piece of art is visually off balance, tension may result.

In Creation, God used the design principle of balance in many ways. Our bodies were designed to be balanced—symmetrical (with our left and right sides almost mirror images of each other), upright (not falling), at equilibrium (at peace). And as scientists interviewed in the godnewevidence series state, human life “is balanced on a razor’s edge” in terms of the laws of physics (such as gravity and resonance).

We also see God using balance elsewhere in Creation. For example, He balances diversity and uniformity in the universe. We humans are genetically uniform in so many ways that we are all one species. Yet we are each unique, different from each other, presumably because God values variability also. In Genesis, we see more balances—night and day, land and water, plant and animal, work and rest, male and female.

Yet we also see the tension, the imbalance in the world God allows or places in the world to keep things moving. If we did not lean forward to cause imbalance, we would never start walking. Some imbalance and some dominance are good. For example, good and evil are not in balance. God is good and has overcome the power of evil. Light has overcome darkness. At the cross, God’s mercy and wrath meet, and mercy triumphs over judgment.

What do we as Jesus-followers need to keep in balance? We need to hold equally that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. When we overemphasize Christ’s divinity, we forget that as a human, God fully suffered for us and showed us how to respond to all situations on this earth. And having been in human flesh, Christ now enters our suffering, intercedes for us, and compassionately understands us. When we overemphasize the humanity of Jesus, we forget that as God He is sovereign, victorious, and worthy of whole-hearted worship and obedience.

As believers, we also need to keep in balance love and truth, submission and authority, heart and head, faith and reason, care for self and care for others, being and doing, the good of the individual vs. the good of the whole group, and past and future (on the fulcrum of the present). What else is God inviting you to keep in balance?

As Christians, we also need to be willing to remain in tension and on the move, always growing and changing. In art, perfect symmetry and balance can be dull and uninteresting. Look at the first painting below. Then look at the second painting. Which one is more interesting to you? Do you find your eyes moving around the entire painting more as you look at the second as compared to the first?

               

In our own frail human lives, perfect symmetry and balance is impossible. And this is good. We want God to be dominant instead of “balancing” our love for God with our love for ourselves. Also, feeling off-balance, which happens when we suffer or when we experience the unexpected, keeps us moving, growing, and leaning into (depending on) God. Though it makes us uncomfortable, recognizing the inequalities in the world also moves us to action. God has always drawn our reluctant attention to the poor, the widow, the alien, and the orphan so that we will join Him in compassionate care for them.

Until next week, pray with the following questions: How does God want to increase your emotional, spiritual, or physical balance? How does God want you to be off-balance, in tension or on the move? And begin to consider our next principles of design—Contrast and Gradation.