We were sitting in a chair on a Montana ranch at the edge of a forest surrounded by mountains. Kristi and I had just finished leading three days of Soul Shepherding training for a community of pastor couples. Now we were enjoying our own retreat time in a 100-year old cabin.

Have you ever enjoyed pure solitude and silence? It’s not an empty void–God’s presence can be palpable.

I see no people or buildings. I hear no machinery, cars or planes–just the continual chirping of grasshoppers, intermittent songs of birds, and the crack of a stick from an elk walking in the woods. The sun is rising behind cloudy skies and there’s a refreshing breeze blowing on me, still moist from last night’s rainstorm.

Immersed in this beauty and pure silence I sense that heaven is close. I recall Jesus saying, “Get a new thought for the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand” (Matthew 4:17, Dallas Willard’s paraphrase). At hand? Where’s that? Normally heaven feels far away to us. We hope to go there later. But in reality, the heavens touch down to earth right now. Jesus’ hand is here and now present.

To enter the Big Sky Country of God’s kingdom all you need to do is take hold of the risen Christ’s hand as you do whatever you’re doing. Even if you live a busy city life. Even if you’re stuck in relationship conflict or emotional pain. Even if your head is full of noise and worry. It just takes one step to enter into the spiritual world of Jesus and his Abba God. It just takes one thought to touch the presence of Christ right now.

What a blessing to take the hand of the Savior! We long for the touch of the Spirit of Jesus to help us know God as our Papa (Romans 8:15-16).

“My skin screams to be touched with love,” a recently divorced man cried to me many years ago.

“My mother didn’t touch me for the first three months of my life,” a pastor said to me recently. “Now I feel uncomfortable when someone hugs me. I long to feel held, but it’s awkward and my body goes stiff.”

A woman admitted, “My body recoils when my husband touches me. I don’t feel safe. I remember his angry outbursts at me and I don’t want to be close to him. I’m lonely, but I’m afraid to be vulnerable.”

Infants come to life when they are touched affectionately and when their souls are held in empathy. Without this, they die. Some of us were raised on rations and our personalities were formed in emotional detachment or insecurity so now we avoid the very holding and empathy that we long for. “Insecure attachment” is the most common reason why the touch of Jesus and of heaven may feel far away.

The woman with the blood disease pressed through a crowd to get to Jesus, “If I just touch the hem of his robe I will be healed” (Mark 5:24-34). She took a risk to believe a new thought and was healed.

Jesus said, “Everyone who asks receives” (Matthew 7:8). We can ask for Jesus to touch our soul with love as we meditate on a Gospel passage, pray, or share empathy with a friend. As you ask be sure to accept the grace God offers–don’t push it away by denying your need or shaming yourself.

Heaven is near whenever two souls touch with love.

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Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: In this episode, Bill and Kristi share from the heart about what life in Jesus’ easy yoke has looked like for them this week. Listening and sharing with one another are critical pieces of our journey with Christ. May your soul be touched by this conversation!

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