"Do I not fill Heaven and Earth?" says the Lord.

Rising in Grace and Glory

Because I am married to an unreasonably patient man, we hardly ever argue – except for when it comes to the Ascension.  His (perhaps quite reasonable) conclusion from Acts chapter one is this:

Jesus went up.
The disciples looked up.
Therefore, heaven is up.
My (perhaps quite unreasonable) argument is that on that day when His feet lifted off the Mount of Olives, Jesus was dealing in metaphor.  As a Teacher (THE Teacher), Jesus knew that His disciples would need to see Him leave – to watch Him actually go somewhere else with their own eyes — in order to get on with things.

And so he rose, but isn’t the power of God such that heaven could be anywhere?  Just as Narnia-Through-The-Wardrobe was a place completely “other-than” World War II era England with a different cadence of hours and a population of talking beasts, I tend to think of heaven as a place without a possible zip code — and yet still close at hand.

The immanence of God, the idea that He is right at my elbow and at the same time filling the entire universe, stops me in my tracks:
“’Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.”

When I read and respond to powerful words that I read in Scripture, I am careful to filter my motives.  Am I rejoicing in this passage because of the unvarnished veracity of those words?  Or is my heart soaring because of a particularly effective combination of nouns and adjectives, because of a plangent metaphor that I wish I had thought of myself?

Given this tendency toward nerdy swooning, I had to read and then re-read Romans 5:2 back in January when I discovered it in The Message Bible:

We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

While I’m all the time imagining a closed door and cramped quarters, God has envisioned and provided for open access and my feet standing on the place of grace, planted in the fields of His glory!

I’ve never before chosen One Word for my year, and truly had no intention of breaking with that tradition in 2017, but standing  reached out from those verses and chose me for its own.  That word —  “standing” —  and God’s miraculous gift of hope are calling me to rise from my chair of unbelief, to ascend visibly, not merely for the benefit of others as Jesus might have, but for the broadening of my own view of the world.

With my feet planted firmly in those wide open spaces, how can I continue in my small prayer life with its locus around safety and good health?  I was rebuked in this tendency recently when my oldest son announced that he was starting a prayer group in his work place – a shop environment populated with hard-handed welders, most of whom make no bones about their disregard for the numinous.

Did I launch into immediate prayer for their lost souls?
Did I plead for the efficacy of my son’s efforts to irrigate that parched wasteland?

No, and I can hardly bear to reveal the words of my narrow soul:

“Oh, Lord, they just bought a house, and he needs that job.  Please don’t let this hurt him.”

Stooped, round-shouldered prayers shrivel my courage, but even worse . . .
What if they are contagious?

Since my children are all priceless to me, my deepest desire is for their greatest good:
Wise decisions
Satisfying relationships
Holiness and healthfulness.
But time-bound and short of sight, do I really know what’s best?

This new awareness that I’m standing “where I always hoped I might stand,” means that I can do away with my prescriptive prayers:
(“Lord, do this thing that I have planned for us . . .”)
Standing tall, I want to see over the top of my fears.  In hope, I want to catch a glimpse (however slight) of what’s on the other side of the walls that divide, and, in that ascending, transcend a few of the artificial boundaries that plague the white, the middle-aged, the orthodox, the comfortable.

In The Reason for God, Tim Keller reminds me that at the very heart of my belief system there lived “a man who died for His enemies, praying for their forgiveness,” (p. 21).    This was no sparkling success story for Mary to share at Galilean Tupperware parties.

Or was it?

Jesus’ death calls me to a rising that may take me lower into a humble, peace-loving place of repentance.  His rising invites me to ascend with Him to the people who are outside the gate, unlovely and unlettered, to be carried by the eternally transcendent questions and the answers that I affirm – not merely by the falsehoods that I fight.

Rising, we step through God’s open door and find that He is far bigger than we ever imagined.


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61 thoughts on “Rising in Grace and Glory”

  1. I’ve noticed of late my prayer life has been reduced to “and deliver us from evil” as I do battle with dark principalities that manifest as fleshly opponents. I start with praise and adoration, gratitude for every blessing big and small then wrap it up with pleading for intervention. I, like you, am forever at the ready to question whether or not I am doing it correctly. Should I do more?

    But, you know, just as God is everywhere, there is no up or down, no clocks or calendars in His realm, and He not only transcends time and space, He also knows our finite human hearts as we pause at every degree in our learning curve. He knows a mother’s heart will always desire only positive things for her offspring. He also knows we don’t fully understand the difference between what is good and what is best.

    I have to agree that He left upward because He knew His disciples needed to see something going up but that what He really did was transcend into a dimension humans can’t fully grasp. All I really know is that He has never forsaken me and I would trust Him though He slay me.


    1. As usual, I value your input here. Thanks for the perspective on God’s grace toward motherly prayers and the fact that He doesn’t wear a watch. Every so often I take mine off, and it changes my day. I’m so glad that you are out there reading (and writing!).


  2. This spoke to me today in an incredible way! I must read again. We think we control time and space…and God. But we constantly make God small and weak in our eyes, and no wonder we find it hard to believe that whatever we ask He will give to us. Of course, because we ask in our own small way. Thank you Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find myself all the time praying as if God were on my staff: Please do this thing that I have planned for us. I need to be re-trained in the ways of God’s sovereignty, and to stay mindful that His ways are much higher than mine. Thanks, Diane, for reading (and for sharing on FB).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your prayer made me smile, friend. Because I can relate. I love that version from the Message, throwing open the door to God and finding God has opened His door to us. Beautiful: “out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall. :

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re in that zone together, Betsy, with kids who are testing their wings, flying with confidence, and then sometimes not so much . . . Thankful for the encouragement of Scripture. And for your fellowship in this blogging (and parenting) life.


  4. I love this! The message version of Romans 5 is so clear. I love how it is worded and describes how welcoming Jesus is. I also understand your momma’s heart to desire nothing but the best for your sons. I do the same thing instead of praying with a faith that God truly does know what He is doing. I’m glad God gave you a word for the year so I can hear what you are learning! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dear Michele,
    Oh thank you for sharing your beautiful convictions today. I needed to be reminded of these, as I face some dark places today. BUT GOD is so much bigger, indeed. Your thoughts couldn’t help but make me think of our dear friend, Orual, and the opening in our hearts to a bigger love and bigger prayers that came about because of her short-seeing. I am so grateful for the inspiration that you offer here. May the Lord bless your family as you open your heart to continue praying with open eyes!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awww, Michele. What a great post! That Message translation of Romans 5:2 is amazing. And this? “Standing tall, I want to see over the top of my fears.” What a powerful visual!! I want to stand over the top of my fears too. I’m tired of them trying to hold me in my seat. Go! Stand tall, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m challenged and grateful to join you in stepping out of our prayer “boxes”, Michele. He has been challenging me lately to obey, even (or especially) when it means things might get harder and more uncomfortable for me. The primary focus will always be winning souls. The fact that He also cares (and wants us to come to Him) with our hopes and dreams is amazing and overwhelming evidence of His goodness and grace toward us. Inspiring post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Beautiful words, as always! Your “voice” always seems to quiet my soul! Also, I think your son sounds like someone I’d love to feature on my Masterpiece Mondays series. He is spreading seeds of faith right where he is planted!! Blessings!


    1. That son is far beyond me in his brave faith. Just yesterday he posted a gorgeous picture of a sunrise on FB with a short caption something like “View from my deck. God is good.” The very first comment on it was disparaging, and my heart sank, but his reply was gracious and appropriate. I pray for him everyday, and I also pray for boldness that I lack.


  9. Michele,
    I think sometimes as I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost that boldness to spread my wings and fly….to stand. I get more caught up in being cautious and careful and keeping thing small and manageable, whereas God is the God of great expanses and the wonderful wide open. Why then do I deny myself? Standing with you today my friend…may we be refreshed by watching our kiddos.
    Bev xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, safe and manageable. I tend to set my boundaries pretty carefully, but am being challenged these days to trust God for things that I could never accomplish on my own.


  10. Michele, I laughed out loud when I read your prayer for your son. A true mother’s prayer—before we take our hearts to God and ask for His perspective. Really enjoyed this and can relate to it so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Michele,
    These words pounded in my heart as I read them:
    “Stooped, round-shouldered prayers shrivel my courage”
    Oh, ouch…I want to pray standing prayers, to not waver at the attacks of the enemy and to advance the kingdom–that is ‘at hand’, in Jesus name. I don’t want to pray stooped, round-shouldered prayers and shrivel in fear. Praying a holy boldness to envelop us both to proclaim His words and to stand confidently in the one who loves us so much!
    Hebrews 10:39
    But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. NIV
    Amen and amen.
    ~Sherry Stahl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the truth of that verse! Part of my “not shrinking back” is to pray “hands-off” — knowing that God may bring hard things into the lives of my kids for their (and my) sanctification. Glad to know that our hearts are on the same rhythm with this desire to stand tall and pray bold.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. So many times reading it fresh from Eugene Peterson’s poetic words of the Message make the familiar new and alive. I’m not tied to the trend of choosing a word for the year but yes, sometimes they do choose us. Looking forward to hearing more of how this impacts your year.


    1. Yes, a fresh view of Scripture, and right now I’m reading Run with the Horses, so I’m getting a renewed vision from the words of Jeremiah as well. Thanks, Debby, for reading and for taking time to comment.


  13. Jesus’ death calls me to a rising that may take me lower into a humble, peace-loving place of repentance. His rising invites me to ascend with Him to the people who are outside the gate, unlovely and unlettered, These words touch my heart this morning because working with the people outside the gates of our life the brings a humbleness that is what Christ did as He touched, healed and conversed with outside the gates. Serving in two third world countries has widen my world view and more so widen my view of Jesus who calls me to follow Him. Glad I stop by, rewarding post.


  14. Your words here prick my heart, Michele, because my youngest son is moving today from California to Denver. I have been praying all day for his safety, even as I tempted to fear the worst. Those kiddos of ours mean the world to us, don’t they?! But it seems that I am letting my prayers be far too small and short-sighted in many ways. You’ve challenged me to trust the Lord at every turn and learn to let Him be God, because He WILL be whether I “let” Him or not! Lol! Thanks for this convicting post, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I was just wondering yesterday how my blogging friends were doing with their 2017 One Words. You’ve answered my question, Michele. And have shared great heaps of wisdom in the process.

    P.S. I, too, have the joy of being married to a patient man. Since that fruit of the Spirit is sometimes in short supply in my life, I know that I am blessed indeed.



  16. Awe Michele, love hearing how our shared word is showing up in your life this year. Sweet update, friend. — Love the many uses you’ve found to find yourself standing this year…they inspire me. Thank you for sharing. ((xoxo))


  17. Yes to this!: “And so he rose, but isn’t the power of God such that heaven could be anywhere? Just as Narnia-Through-The-Wardrobe was a place completely “other-than” World War II era England with a different cadence of hours and a population of talking beasts, I tend to think of heaven as a place without a possible zip code — and yet still close at hand.” Have you read Lewis’ The Great Divorce. I love his metaphor for heaven and hell when he is speaking to George Macdonald. Thanks for sharing this on the #sundaythoughts link up and just in general because I love your words and your brain.


    1. I hadn’t made the connection to the Great Divorce — wow, I need to look at that again. You’re such an encouragement to me, Jaime. So glad we keep in touch here in the Land of Blogging.


  18. Thanks for this post. It challenges me that my prayers are often too small and for protection or preservation, rather than being open to what God wants to do. I love the Message translation of Romans 5:2- standing “in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”


    1. The Message certainly does put that verse into new territory for me, Lesley. And I’ve written just lately about my “stoop shouldered” prayers that ask small things from a small and controllable God. I keep coming back around to the same lessons, trusting that, in time, the truth will stick to my heart!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you for this post. I enjoyed each part of it, but I particularly needed the reminder of our God who fills the entire universe, yet stoops down to meet me personally. I love the idea of a transcendent God who can, simultaneously, achieve an unbiased imminence with each creature who calls upon Him. It blows me away.
    I certainly can see that you have a love for well crafted sentences. I have really enjoyed reading them, and gleaning from your writing, as well as the truths you are presenting. Thank you for your blog. I am a newbie to the blog culture, and look forward to enjoying your blog more as the days pass.


  20. Michele – as always you have a way with words. You even made me contemplate a few new words today in your writing. But today it’s a phrase, and then the ideas that smacked me. “Stooped, round-shouldered prayers shrivel my courage,” That, my fellow writer and prayer warrior, is where I sit, even as I type this, knowing I’m in the wrong for these types of prayers. My life is on the edge of unraveling (in my little view) and I hate the helplessness and I pray for things not to happen. But my prayers are struggling to find the courage (yes, I’m blaming it on the prayers here – lest I feel inclined to accept responsibility) to utter that, “Thy will be done” phrase. Ok. I’ve whispered it, but fall back on the “but, please” phrase, rather loudly. Stand firm! That’s what we each must do. Thank you for these timely and strong words today.


    1. Carol, thank you for standing strong even in your wondering and waiting. I’ve been there too, banging on closed doors and resenting God’s surprise answers. So thankful that these words have encouraged you in your standing firm through the waiting.


  21. It’s so natural to be so earthly minded, especially in prayer. I’m guilty of wanting to stay inside my safe little box! Thank you for sharing your thoughts at Literacy Musing Mondays!


  22. Michele – I love this post and I am so sorry, it has taken me almost a whole week to stop by and comment from #TuneInThursday linkup last week. I was away at a Conference since last week and the wifi was practically non-existent.

    I loved your thoughts about time/space and the reality of where Jesus actually went. He always said the Kingdom of heaven is at hand… which means, its not very far away. I love the way your mind works.

    Again thank you for linking up last week, and I hope to see you tomorrow at #TuneInThursday


  23. Wowowowowow Michele. On the thought about ascension- can’t it be both? Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, yet “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain” Him : ) His glory visibly came down in a dark cloud to the temple, and yet even then the earth and heavens could not contain Him. Gives me goosebumps and excitement to ponder all that.

    On the matter of prayer- humbling. I was just telling my husband the other day that I’m trying to be careful in what I ask and hope for with the Lord, because I know He’s doing something amazing, and I’m loving it, but I also want to put my two cents in. As Matt said to me last night “I’m trying not to hijack what the Lord’s been doing.” We’re not so eloquent, but your post is timely and resonates deeply. Thanks for this!


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