Pillow Talk

The other night, my husband and I had a conversation about intimacy.

Sarah’s post left me thinking about the felt presence of God. I realize that I have allowed my relationship with God to slip to a functional, practical level. I drifted away from intimacy.

I am not sure how to describe what I am saying without using the words felt and touched. I will try to avoid getting too creepy or sappy in my descriptions, and hopefully I won’t leave you thinking we’re freaks. ;)

So I asked my husband, “Do you still feel God?”

“Yeah, all the time.”

“No, I don’t mean the general awareness of Him, I mean the touch-your-soul sort of feeling.”

“Oh, the electric fence.”

“Yeah, the electric fence.”

“Not so much lately.”

“So do you go looking for the feeling, or do you just wait for the moment?”

When distance develops, who initiates?

I don’t want to settle into a relationship that lacks connecting with God at an intimate level where my heart is touched by His presence.

In the past, we had wonderful, sometimes overwhelming, experiences of the felt presence of God. It only takes a time or two of that to become like an addict, dependent on feeling Him, yearning for the next encounter.

We know that there are spiritual seasons and that His presence is a reality in spite of our feelings at the moment. Even in the midst of a dry or desert season though, it is important to find a way to connect.

But how? We go back to the things that we know, the places where we met before, where we felt His presence. We make time, we wait expectantly, we draw near, and we respond.

I notice this among the people from our former church who are displaced charismatics. No matter what they pursue, everyone is ultimately looking for that place of connection and intimacy. And I think we are looking for situations that inspire and encourage us in making and keeping that intimate connection.

Some of our friends are chasing conferences, others are spending time soaking (listening to worship music together), others are trying to “get plugged in” at a church, others hope the answer is in creating a worship experience or a new way of gathering.

The bottom line is that I think we all want intimacy with God and out of that a sense of intimacy with one another.

What are your thoughts about the felt presence of God?

(I’m going to be away for a few days. Feel free to comment, but I won’t be responding until the weekend.)


25 thoughts on “Pillow Talk

  1. Some of our friends are chasing conferences, others are spending time soaking (listening to worship music together), others are trying to “get plugged in” at a church, others hope the answer is in creating a worship experience or a new way of gathering.

    The bottom line is that I think we all want intimacy with God and out of that a sense of intimacy with one another.

    What are your thoughts about the felt presence of God?

    I think my desire to have a supernatural, empirical ‘experience’ of divine origin the motivation for pursuing the prophetic. Even when it became ‘kooky’ for lack of a better theological definition…

    Sure, be a ‘fool’ for Jesus! But then the return on that investment never realized.

    I am not all that chummy with the Big Guy. Never was. Although I was inspired by the more intimate worship song writers/singers such as Matt Redman & David Ruis & those Delirious boys. And of course any self-respecting cutting-edge type heeded the admonition of Tommy Tenney to be a “God Chaser”…

    But I just could not conjure up a steady dose of ‘connectedness’ of other worldly origin. I am not that relational to begin with. I am a private individual. Almost brooding. Introspective, contemplative, melancholy. Could be an inherited trait or a biochemical imbalance, but no, I am not passionate or intimate or whatever…

  2. Grace,

    I know exactly what you are talking about here. I used to be involved in a ministry where I would often find myself far beyond my own means to accomplish what needed to be done. It was often in those times that I would experience the deepest intimacy of my Father. First in very personal and reassuring ways, and then in experiencing His transcendent provision to carry me through.

    I’ve gotten older now. Circumstances in my life no longer afford me to head out into those fields with reckless abandon to see how Father would get us through. But I can tell you this, those were the days I felt closest to Him. I long for that closeness now, and I am looking for new fields to venture into where once again I will have to be absolutely dependent on Him for success. I think I’m getting close.

    From my experience, we need to listen for His beckoning voice and from time to time step away from those things that provide us with a sense of safety and security. In Psalm 23 David reflects on finding those times of green pastures and still waters. We certainly need them, and I am thankful for them. But David also speaks of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. It is in those dark and uncertain valleys where we truly discover the personal and reassuring comfort of the Shepherd and nothing else. Our only recourse to move forward then is to trust Him. Following Him is an adventure, and extended periods of safety and security can greatly diminish that sense of adventure. There needs to be a balance between the restful pastures and the dark valleys.

  3. Well finally, finally, finally someone touches on the point of it all, HIM. From, through and to. It is the the “All things”…from Romans 11:38.

    When we become centered on Him and relationship driven like the mystics of old going deeper and deeeper into the heart of the Father. The world will be changed.

    “He is not lacking in love, quite the contrary He cannot contain His affections and they are for you. And this love is not simply a hallmark or an element of your true self; it is the marrow of who you really are…The love of God is who you are, the compassion of Christ is the only solid identity you will ever apprehend. All thoughts of identity apart from this single, magnificent truth are a shadow and illusion. The love that God unwaveringly holds for you, received within your immortal soul, is your real identity, your true self. The love of God is everything, and you are nothing apart from this one love. Immersed in your compassionate God, you live and move and have your being (Acts 17:28)” Judith Houghgen

    Madame Guyon from the 1500’s:
    “Most Christians do not feel that they have been called to a deep, inward relationship to their Lord. But we have all been called to the depths of Christ just as surely as we have been called to salvation.”

    It’s not about which style of ministry, what demnoniation we attend or which confrence we just got back from. Emergent wont mean anything unless it is from this.

  4. It seems to me that what you describe as the “electric fence” is pretty common early in the spiritual life. As I recall it was something that St John of the Cross addressed in “Dark Night of the Soul.” I believe he said that this visceral sense of God’s presence is withdrawn from us, calling us to an even deeper faith.

    It’s harder to believe without the electric fence but it certainly requires more faith. At least that’s what I tell myself during those long dry seasons.

  5. Yes, there are seasons. I find that the seasons without the ‘electric fence’ can be seasons of silence if I let them. But I have found that if I will spend time in the ‘wilderness’ listening, then He will speak kindly to me (Hosea something or other). I have had some of the deepest revelatory encounters of Christ in the wilderness places. It was different than the electric fence (kind of like Elijah got used to God moving and speaking in a certain way – but it was a profound encounter when He spoke in the still small voice). But I love the electric fence too! I find no matter the season, it really is true that He will never leave me or forsake me. He is always willing to speak, just on a different frequency than I’m used to sometimes (and sometimes it takes a while for me to recognize that change). But that’s mostly about seasons.

    I think there’s another element. I think that for me, sometimes the things of life just distract me. And I find myself not having given God the opportunity for an intimate encounter. And I am running on inspiration from others, inspiration from the calling, inspiration from gifts and talents even. But ultimately, these may provide fuel, but I miss out on the greater reward, the greater purpose for my existence: Him. :) So, I’ve been trying not to get distracted so easily…

  6. I used to search for the “electric fence” and have certainly felt it at times. However, the greatest source of intimacy with the Lord for me comes from receiving revelation. It’s when God talks to me personally (through various creative ways) and I know its him. The light bulb goes on and I say, Ya! That’s so cool! That was you God wasn’t it! It’s just me and Him, relating on the same level.

  7. I believe we cannot truly find God unless he reveals himself. That being said, God tells us to seek him, to draw near near to him and we will find him, he will draw near to us. I guess that means he enjoys being pursued and loves revealing himself.
    I think there are many reasons for “dry” times when his presence isn’t felt so easily. We may be looking in the wrong places. He may be revealing himself in ways we don’t realize (I think this is often what happens to me). Perhaps he is crushing an idol we have made out of the “experience” in which we usually feel his presence (I know he has done this at least once for me).
    In one of the comments above was the phrase “more faith”. Mrs. Inheritor understands faith not as a quantity. Faith is the action of belief and trust. Only a mustard seed, a step from the boat is the quantity needed. Once one has that little quantity of action and belief, the Lord takes it from there with his unlimited power, and love. It is always he that moves the mountains. In this context the faith required is the continuation of listening, seeking, asking, and loving.

  8. I read your post, and had to take some time away to think on it..to reflect perhaps.
    I get what you mean about the ‘electric fence’ feeling…and it’s really exhilerating and exciting. Yet, as wonderful as it is…it reminds me of a honeymoon. Beautiful and passionate..but not yet the deep closeness of intimacy.
    That takes time, and experience, and faithfulness, and so many other things…like in a good marriage.
    But that intimacy doesn’t happen, either, if one just waits for it. There is a need for persuing that relational intimacy…like with your spouse. If you don’t want it…or even want to want it…it won’t happen.
    The amazing thing is…God is always persuing relationship with us. He will meet us when we reach out…though it may look different every time.
    And intimacy does satisfy…and leave us longing for more…..again, like a good marriage.
    And the ‘electric fence’ type experience, when meshed with deep intimacy…..is the stuff of legend.
    I can’t imagine not wanting that….

  9. Sorry, I do not identify with the more emotive types that claim to have ecstatic experiences with God or are left swooning from divine encounters of otherworldy origin.

    Although I ‘know’ of what you speak, that is not normative for me, or I believe, many others like myself. There was that tendency to “seek out new life-changing spiritual manifestations” in the prophetic movement. In fact, there was an unwritten ranking depending upon the claimed experience or resultant manifestation being exhibited. Each person had some idea in mind when desiring a ‘touch from God’ like so-and-so had…

    Nope. My connectedness to God mainly a reflective type. But mostly a one-way conversational musing if you will. Not many divine answers delivered with Holy Spirit goose bumps thrown in for effect. He is not that way with me. I’ve witnessed my fair share of goofy manifestations & claims of invisible sensations that the recipients said had some esoteric prophetic meaning attached to them. No electrical fences or pulses or lights or heat or inexplicable feelings of peace or well-being. The heavens never opened up for me. No appearances of saints, angels or Jesus. No gold fillings replace my old worn-out amalgam ones. No head shaking violently back-and-forth while speaking out prophetically. No animal noises. No such ‘evidence’ of God doing something new and/or unusual to get my attention or prove He is spontaneous & prefers being outside whatever box others claim He has been relegated to…

    My experience is not dry or desert-like or unbearable. It does not mean that my experience the standard all others are to be compared to either. I believe God more than capable of zapping me with any kind of supra-natural manifestations that could literally knock my socks off! Even with shoes firmly affixed to my feet. But they are not something I pursue. Not something I feel I am missing. Nor something that I believe God wants to do in or through me.

    I don’t want to do carpet time or participate in soaking prayer. Heck, if I want to take a nap while mediating I will select my favorite couch at home & do so. Don’t need such ministry expressions. No theophostic prayer ministry or anything like that. Those methods of doing spiritual ‘stuff’ not at all attractive to me. But that’s me. And I am at a comfortable place right now without it…

  10. Ron said, “something that St John of the Cross addressed in “Dark Night of the Soul.” I believe he said that this visceral sense of God’s presence is withdrawn from us, calling us to an even deeper faith.”

    I think this is a deep truth . God has done this in my life. I went through a time of preparation where it seemed as if I was in the constant physical presence of God. Then on my darkest day, nothing..
    it was like God said ,” sorry I can’t go in there , you’re on your own now kid.
    it was horrible. But out of that came the deepest walk I had ever had before.
    I think if we always felt Him we would fail to appreciate it when we do. I think we also would never learn to find Him in the mundane things of life. God is every where and He can speak in a sunrise , a chicken sandwich , a bumper sticker, the eyes of a homeless guy or even a fortune cookie.
    It’s not just all goose bumps & Holy wind blowing through us. I think we learn so much more in those times when God seems far away, if we are still looking for him.
    At least that’s how it has been for me.

  11. great insights, grace, and great comments here.

    graham cooke does a teaching about the hidden and manifest presence of god. you’re probably familiar with it, but for the sake of those readers who are not here’s a brief explanation:

    God hides himself, his detectable presence from us, in order to deepen our faith and grow us up. Likewise, there are seasons of hypersensitivity, an increased awareness to the reality of God with us.

    Those of us who used to move in prophetic, charismatic circles are very familiar with the language people use to describe feeling God. We’d say things like, “God showed up.”

    But nowadays, in this epidemic move of the Holy Spirit to hide the detectable presence of God, I wonder if this collective wilderness experience is a deliberate ploy of God’s to strip us and mature us collectively?

    To chase after God because his felt presence gives us a feeling of exhilaration, a feeding of our sense of purpose and connection to the Divine, sot something outside of ourselves, is not shameful. I really get why people are on the hunt for encounters with Jesus. We long to know that our lives are not haphazard inventions of science and evolution. We are driven to search out for meaning and purpose. Ecstatic moments with God, whatever that means for each person, is really a feast for the soul: God created me. I matter.

    So many of us are in this wilderness time. We do not have an awareness of God’s presence like we once did. I understand the honeymoon metaphor, and I agree with it to a certain degree, but some of us have enjoyed tremendous encounters with God way down the road on our journey of faith. And then one day, without warning…where did he go?

    Both seasons test us in different ways. But I think the times of hiddenness test us the best. Our deepest and truest beliefs about God and ourselves will surface when we are no longer dependent on the high of electric fence spiritual dates.

    People who are hyper aware of God’s Spirit on a continual basis actually don’t need much faith. They are drenched with the reality of God all over their senses.

    But it is the soul who cannot feel, hear, detect, has zero awareness of the reality of God Near who must exercise faith to even just utter a simple Hello to him who seems to have vanished.

    This, I am convinced, is a kind of faith that slays God and rouses deep affection in him.

    The bible is full of metaphors and stories about the wilderness. Hosea prophesied that the wilderness was God’s purpose to allure Israel to himself; Solomon poetically asked, Who is this, coming up out of the wilderness, leaning on her beloved? And of course, we all know about the wilderness experiences of Moses, Abraham, Ruth, John the Baptist, and Jesus himself.

    The felt presence of God is great. I love it. I miss it. I miss him. Yet this time of wilderness is producing in me a humility and dependence on his grace that the times of felt presence never could.

  12. This discussion is helpful to me. Coming from a non-charismatic background, the presence of God was almost never talked about. Prayer was an aspiration, not a way of life. The arts, the imagination, the necessity of beauty were all down-played.

    So people went to psychologists.

    Right now, I feel the Lord’s presence in a variety of ways, and He provokes a variety of emotions. The most constant dynamic I’ve noticed has come from praying the scriptures back to God. Instead of taking a paragraph as a to-do list for me, I’m taking it as an expression of what God is doing. This keeps me from dead moralism and throws me back to trust.

    My eyes are being opened this way. Though I’ve had different seasons of intimacy or distance from God’s presence, this dynamic has been consistently fruitful.

  13. “What are your thoughts about the felt presence of God?”

    Well, ‘it’ shows up in the weirdest places…my husband and I are choir directors of a group called “The Beautiful Minds Choir” which in the beginning was comprised entirely of schizophrenics, now it’s grown into an ‘everyone and anyone welcome’ thing. But most members have a disability of some kind; physical or otherwise.
    We get together and sing…whatever we feel like singing. Only about 5 out of 25 of the members are believers and what amazes me is the presence of God every time we meet and sing together.
    I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s more ‘anointed’ :) than any worship concert I’ve been to.
    It feels like He’s smiling :) No matter what kind of day we’ve had, or what troubles a member might be facing, once we get together in our practice room, there’s just no way it can last. A bad day dies a thousand deaths. The warmth is overwhelming at times.
    God with us.
    After being in church for so many years and attending meetings to discuss worship/praise etc… (For the purpose of learning what we can do to bring Gods presence…….?) I’ve learned that it’s during these seemingly ‘un-spiritual’ times sharing music and each other in simplicity that He’s just….there!

    The formulas are our way of trying to control how He moves and when… it’s no wonder that we find ourselves striving for God to ‘move already!!!’
    He’s God. He’s right here…always. I don’t know about you, but the methods we use to make it happen… really annoy me.

    When ‘it’ does happen, I’m reminded that ‘it’ is a person. Not a thing.
    For some reason that gets lost in our Christian cultures. I truly believe that He can be felt in so many different ways, but because we look to our definitions of ‘presence’ we miss out somehow.
    I’m rambling now

  14. Pam…


    “The felt presence of God is great. I love it. I miss it. I miss him. Yet this time of wilderness is producing in me a humility and dependence on his grace that the times of felt presence never could.”
    I love what you said, its so true and so encouraging.

  15. Option #1 – Could it be that the “lack of God’s presence in our lives” may be a lack of time or effort (on our part) to “come into his presence”?

    Option #2 – Could it be that we don’t know how to “Come into his presence”?

    Four verses that have made a huge impace on me:

    (Jude 1:24-25 NIV) To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy– to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

    First of all – He is the one that “brings me” into His presence.

    Joh 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

    Second – He comes to us right where we are – and takes us to be with Him where He is.

    Lu 10:42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

    Third – everything in this world wants to take that away from us – but sometimes I hold on to this with everything I have – it shall not be taken away – it shall not be taken away – it shall not be taken away.

    (Heb 10:19-22) Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

    Fourth – it’s his Blood that is the great enabler – not our efforts. The brother who prays the scriptures – is washing with pure water.

  16. … one more thought – not meaning to condemn – but to encourage.

    After 20+ years leading worship – if you care to look at the part of my training manual for young worship leaders – I posted the part on Coming into His Presence.

    I think most miss this because they don’t understand it.


  17. I feel I should clarify something:)

    When I said “I don’t know about you, but the methods we use to make it happen… really annoy me. ”

    There are things we do that help us focus on Christ and I wouldn’t venture to say that those ‘methods’ are wrong in any way. What I would say though is, if I then make a particular practise of my own a doctrine and say “this is THE way to feel His presence” then I’ve moved from a place of trusting Him to trusting myself…
    from a place of rest, to a place of striving. He’s so understanding though He doesn’t condemn us even when we strive:)
    We’re all different and He is so gracious and loving He meets with us in ways that reflect His love of diversity.

  18. Just wanted to say thanks, Pam, for your comment! I think you are right about the collective wilderness and collective maturity thing… Thanks for putting it into words.

  19. wow,
    I really do not want to start some argument in this thread, but I have just a bit of difficulty swallowing what Jerry has said. Now, I would say that it is absolutely true that we must enter in only by the blood of Jesus. But, I think it is wrong to say to people that if you are doing it right you will experience the manifest presence of God continually.
    Maybe that is not what was intended by your comments, but that is how it sounds to me.
    It just sounds very much like the old Word Of Faith doctrine . Yes of course there is power in your speech, yes of course the Blood is the only way. Jesus said,”I am the way” But to me it does sound condemning to tell me I “Don’t get it” . I was in a Charismatic church for a while and I have physically “felt” The Holy Spirit moving in me & showing me things even in a group of people , I would never say that these things didn’t take place or were imagined.
    but it was never constant, I believe that taking that from us temporarily is something that God does to make us grow. I believe that is what he did with me.
    Now I realize that I understand so little and for me personally that is a mark of becoming more mature.
    My faith has grown because I lost that “feeling ” and God still made himself known. There have been and still are times when I get those same “feelings” , but they come & go. I believe that God is not nearly so fickle .
    I apologize in advance if I have misinterpreted what was said here.

  20. Three things that repeatedly remind me of God’s constant presence are:

    A kind word received from someone on a fractious day.

    A shared smile between a parent and child while queuing at the supermarket check-out.

    After all these years, sometimes being able to hold my tongue and not having to win an argument.

  21. Actually – the original post sounded condemning to me too after I re-read it – I would have taken it back if I could have.

    That’s kind of why – I submitted the thing in its entirety on my own blog site. So my apologies.

    I never have been in the Word of Faith movement – but I was in a Charismatic church for sure. I’ve spent hundreds of hours thinking about God’s presence – and trying to get young worship leaders to “go for Him” – instead of fretting over “good music”. Most of them think the two are synonymous. They really aren’t even related. When they really get it – it’s the most awesome thing – the whole atmosphere changes around them. The focus becomes Jesus instead of themselves. There is no “worship” – until the focus is on Jesus and off of ourselves.

    If there’s any revelation in my whole life that I would want others to know – it would be about the “Blood of Jesus”. It is the most liberating thing that God has ever shown me. Quite the opposite of “performing for God” (as I look at the Word of Faith movement).

    So – again – my apologies – my zeal were ahead of my ability to explain.

  22. Wow, these are fascinating comments!

    I am not sure that I presented my point very well. I was thinking about the role of ecstatic experiences in the life of a post-charismatic believer, where we want to be done with the hype but not lose the good things of the spirit including intimacy.

    You guys hit the discussion out of the ballpark with your comments!

    I think there can be an unhealthy focus on the experience that falls more into the realm of hype. And things can get extremely unhealthy when people began comparing themselves with others and judging based on physical manifestations of the spirit.

    To be honest, most of the time I prefer intimate times of worship alone in the privacy of my home. There is a different spiritual atmosphere of worshiping with other believers that I enjoy and appreciate, but it is usually less intimate.

    Very interesting thoughts about finding God’s presence when we step out in faith to follow Him. It is true that when we began to live dangerously, we are more likely to encounter His help and intervention rather than in the realm of our comfort and security.

    I agree that we must first and foremost be firmly rooted in our relationship and identity in the love of the Father. Everything else flows out from there.

    We do need to mature beyond those initial experiences to a deeper level of faith and relationship that isn’t dependent on feelings and emotions. I am just thinking that perhaps our relationship should never be totally beyond ecstatic experiences. Not that we chase after them, but that we stay open to them.

    I loved what you shared. It really is about our relationship, and part of that is learning different aspects of the nature of God and different ways He might touch us or speak to us.

    Understanding that he is always speaking, always present, and always desirous of connecting with us is important. Yes, I also sometimes get distracted and start running on inspiration from past encounters or other sources.

    I agree that hearing His voice can be equally intimate and is a more ongoing sustainable level of relationship.

    I appreciated your comment that the faith that is required is in the act of continually seeking. Along with that, the understanding that He loves to reveal Himself is important as we draw near.

    Great thoughts. Intimacy does (should) grow and deepen with relationship. While ecstatic experiences should not define the relationship, I think that they can contribute to intimacy. As you said, combined with a deep relationship, it can be an amazing aspect of connecting.

  23. shaun,
    I loved your point about learning to find Him in the mundane things of life. That is such a necessary part of growing in our relationship with God. Learning to know Him aside from feeling Him is important.

    Frank Viola describes His presence like the nose on our face, constantly there but we are usually unaware of it.

    Thank you for sharing that. Graham’s thoughts about the hidden and manifest presence were important to me. When we go through a dry or dark season, it is easy to assume we have somehow failed.

    I didn’t really think about this from the perspective of a collective wilderness, but I think you are right. Maturity, humility, grace – we need to develop individually, but also corporately. I believe the Bride is undergoing great change at the moment.

    I loved your statement about faithfulness rousing deep affection in God. As always, brilliant thoughts. Thanks Pam.

    Connecting is all about communicating and communion. The example you shared is awesome because it takes God’s Word out of the realm of a rulebook or procedural manual and puts it back into the realm of His Word of Life to us. I think that is what He always intended with scripture.

    I understand purple somewhat, but I would love to hear your perspective on the purple nature of this topic.

    Great thoughts. Rather than joining us in our rituals, I think God is calling us out to find Him where He is out in the world, to experience Him in ways that aren’t confined to religious expressions. I loved your reminder that He also doesn’t condemn us when we slip into striving.

    We do have to take the step of drawing near and of guarding our time and relationship with God. However, as you said, there is nothing in us that earns our place in that relationship. We must simply accept the righteousness of Jesus and our adoption. In that, we boldly enter into His presence.

    I think we have a tendency to think that somehow we have to create the right conditions for His presence, but really it’s more about remembering our place in Him.

    As a worship leader, I thought you might appreciate this link I ran across the other day. Just like your post, he was stressing, it’s not about the music. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Great examples! And the third one would be a supernatural experience for many of us. :)

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