I confess. My thoughts kept wandering during the sermon that day. I kept thinking about a little preschooler who rode on the van route I drove at the time for our Christian School. Each afternoon when I would come through the door, she’d be set and ready, in a somewhat crouched position. As she would see me coming, her face would light up and she’d spring forward to zoom into my arms for a huge hug. As I sat quietly thinking of her and breathing in the joy that she brings, God had so much more to say and of course, it was both humbling and encouraging. I heard so clearly that as much joy as her exuberance would always bring me, I should clearly look beyond myself and think about what my coming through those doors meant to her. I think God giggled at me as I recognized the reality. I was a means to an end for her. I was the one coming to take her to her grandma’s home, where her mama would soon come to get her. Talk about humbling! Am I crouched and ready, springing forward at every opportunity before me to seize time with Jesus? Every time an opportunity to be with Him is given, He is always there with the light of the universe shining toward me, to welcome me into His presence. He fills my lungs with His breath and greets me with that same unmeasured exuberance and deep joy and HE is the one and only means by which I am ushered in before my Abba Father! Out of the mouths, and hugs, of babes, His truths shine.
My poor husband didn’t realize he was marrying someone with clutter issues way back when. He’s tried to help me reform in various ways and God has taken me far forward but I’m nowhere near fully rescued. He smiles and says that I have a flat surface disease, one that manifests itself in the severe need to pile anything and everything on an open, flat surface. He once told me with all seriousness that if we ever had the chance to build another kitchen, he would insist that all the countertops would be slanted so that I could accomplish work but that anything that shouldn’t stay there, would slide to the floor! Thankfully by the time he shared this idea with me, God had healed lots of insecurities in me and after I recovered from staring at him for a bit, I could laugh along with him. And when we were blessed to have that new kitchen become a reality, the counters are flat! Closets and cabinet doors are probably not real great inventions for me in that they simply give hiding places for more disorganization. I gravitate to magazine articles about getting organized but am easily overwhelmed by feeling like my mess is insurmountable. Many years ago I was in a conversation about this very topic with a saint now gone on to glory. I made the remark that I had at that point gotten a handle on things but if he came over, to make certain not to open any closet or cabinet doors. He said he thought that the very reason for those doors was so you could hide what was behind them! This led us to discussing hypocrisy and how we wear masks and work hard to look so perfect on the outside but are quick to swing our doors closed or slip those masks on to keep others from seeing inside. I know from the amazingly uplifted feeling I have when I peer into a friends ultra-organized cabinets that their intent is not to be jammed full and covered over by a door. The same goes for our interiors. Jesus sacrificed all for us to be clean, pure and presented holy before our God. Oh what joy that we can be so free and unashamed as we breath deep and fling open wide the doors of our hearts!
Her mom excitedly mentioned the possibility of a return trip but it is 8 months in the future. She wasn’t supposed to hear her mom but she did. Her mind immediately went into motion and she begged to know all the details. The reality was that she had completely missed the word possibly. Her parents urged her to grasp that nothing was sure and the trip was simply being discussed but her excitement was nearly uncontainable. Her father said “rewind” in an effort to help her arrest her thoughts a bit but her face beamed. I mentioned a computer term to her dad “System Restore” and we all laughed a bit. Her mom found a way to distract her but I’m sure there was more conversation about it later on during their long ride home. God spent the afternoon in conversation with me too. I kept hearing “system restore” again and again and I knew I must get quiet and listen. Anyone who has had some pesky computer issues may have had to resort to this at one time or another. It wipes out everything and brings your computer back to where it began and it can take more hours than I care to recall rebuilding all the programs that were installed. How amazing is it that JESUS does a complete system restore on us and when He does, the only rebuilding needed is to live each breath for God alone and feast at His table for every nutrient necessary for full and eternal life. He promises us that our sins are removed as far as east is from west… erased and completely irretrievable. There’s a reason for a refreshing deep breath and fuel to make sure no one misses out on his or her own system restore.
The previous weekend had been filled with Jesus time, watching Him work as only He can to heal and fill. Precious times had been experienced watching the Holy Spirit move. So how could the following week be so wrought with disappointment? How could I slip so quickly into being paralyzed with sadness? As I unpacked and re-packed, my mama’s heart knew it was going to be hard to leave again for another weekend away but I had committed and knew that the training and time with co-workers would be as rich as the past weekend had been and that Jesus could weave himself right into this time as well. As doors began to close and the reality that I couldn’t go sunk in, my attitude sunk deeper into sadness. The disappointment I felt was at a depth I had not been before. I tried to reason with myself, remind my heart that I’d been disappointed before in much larger ways, losses that meant huge life changes and losses of trust in relationships but for whatever reason, this disappointment coupled with my physically tired body just hit hard. For two days, I went through the motions while exerting the minimum effort and engaging in as few conversations as possible. Sleep overtook me every time I sat down. Finally on the third day I reached out and confessed to a friend the need I had for prayer. As I heard God saying obey with submission and do it with a right heart, I knew I had to give over my bad attitude and know that God had closed the doors for me to go for my own good, even though I could argue my own facts as to why it seemed good to me to be there. As I laid down my own desires and submitted my heart, I could feel God gently blowing the cloud of disappointment up and away from me. My whole being felt released and I began to praise Him for loving me enough not to turn away from me while I had my ill-mannered, silent temper tantrum of disappointment. His love swept over me with overwhelming warmth, powerfully replacing any sadness with His abiding joyful breath.
Detours seemed to be a part of my daily drive one year. I wish I could say I handled them gracefully on a daily basis but I’d be far less than truthful if I did. I grumbled, let frustration overcome me and shared those feelings with others. None of that ever brings my King glory, encourages anyone and it does not serve to lessen my frustration. Rather, it just brought rise to more complaining within me that then spilled over into my whole day. I faced the same situation again one day when the sign noting the detour was visible but set off to the side and it wasn’t clear if getting through was possible until we were at a point where we had to turn around. After I fell into sharing complaints with others again, I heard a message from Jesus to stop and listen… to detour my thoughts! I quieted my mouth and mind and let my breath slow down so my heart could pay attention.
I try and make it a habit when I’m delayed or take a wrong turn to think positively and believe that I’m being rerouted so I get to view something Jesus wants me to see or that He’s protecting me from something along the other path. Why then was it so hard to think the same way with these times of roadwork and detours? What blocked me from seeing beyond my schedule and personal desires? I had to face the ugliness of selfish desire that wants its way over obedience and giving up control. Jesus gently brought thoughts of detour signs to my mind. Most times, the large barriers are set in the road and turning to follow the detour is unavoidable. At those times, obedience to God happens more easily, but I confess are often still riddled with complaining. However they are so rich if I humble myself and open my eyes to see what He has placed along the path to do for someone else or what He has prepared to show His love and bless me or get my attention. Sometimes, however, the barrier showing the detour is set off to the side a bit, allowing me to pass by but at the same time, still directing me to turn at that spot… but my full obedience has to rule and not my flesh. That is how it was that morning. It appeared that nothing stood in my way, nothing would stop me from traveling just one more mile up to my destination. However, as I drove forward, it quickly became clear that I would not be reaching the it by that route. I should have obeyed the sign, even though it wasn’t fully stopping me. How often in life do I pass by God’s clear signs, His messages to go a different way, choose a different attitude, a different tone of voice or more caring and encouraging words and instead choose disobedience and self? Jesus please keep reminding me that detours are for my good, for my growth and for Your glory!
She drew upon a strength she wasn’t quite aware she had, yet her time in His Word brought power and truth to the surface. Being accused of something is never easy and especially painful when blindsided by an unsubstantiated accusation. But when we’ve been with Jesus, as we should, HE brings words and courage that may very well not be present when we are walking in our own strength. She didn’t back down but also didn’t strike back in the same manner she was approached. She stood strongly knowing her innocence and responding back with an unwillingness to be accused without merit. Then with wisdom she walked away with as much poise and courage as she could muster. As she rounded the corner however, tears began to flow and thankfully, she was welcomed into waiting arms that loved, comforted and ministered. Isn’t that just like Jesus… to allow a test against us but also to be encamped round about us ready to bring aid? Praise God for her drawing in His breath in private times, in being at that moment filled with His spirit to respond with strength and reserve instead of reacting with the same venom thrown at her. Praise God for those who ministered and those who corrected so that God would be glorified! Oh for such indwelling, that I would have the heart to respond with maturity and strength, with righteousness upheld by love for Jesus. In any situation such as this we are presented with a choice, to respond with courage and love or react with feelings from our flesh. After the initial interaction we also have additional choices presented to us to aid in healing or cause greater hurt. Father God, grant that You will guide our hearts, minds and tongues that in the moments and days after a challenge, our words bring You glory and build up all those involved. Guard us that our pain does not give birth to further injury but instead pours forth praise to You, our amazing God.
Their friendship spans well over 30 years, many states and even more joys and heartaches. Time and distance however, has never interfered with the connection that the Holy Spirit has always given them. Love, laughter, loss, pain and joy are the sinew that forever entwines the tapestry of their lives. Busy lives and multiple responsibilities prevent them from talking very often but whenever they see the other’s name pop up on their phones, their conversation picks up right where it left off, knowing that this new moment would end before they would fully catch up with all the newest events. This weekend promised to give them a precious gift… 30 short, but God-ordained hours to reconnect, remember and renew. Their list of questions for one another was long, but the Holy Spirit winnowed out the necessary conversations and made quiet time for them to happen.
What joy that even though God closes chapters in our lives, He opens new ones but also allows us to revisit the earlier ones to reflect on triumphs, lessons, His love, and moments and truths He has taught. These friends turned pages in those chapters and laughed, cried and reflected together. Details of life’s paths that God had kept for this special time poured out. Quiet, country peace infused with God’s Spirit brought healing laughter that brought breathless moments and tears. All moments combined and brought joy and new memories.
All too quickly these hours were gone and goodbye hugs were forced to occur. As one friend boards her plane, the other sits alone in the quiet, dark morning and watches the pre-flight process from inside the airport. Emotions whirled as the realization that God had suspended her grief for years until these hours would bring on the full reality of the loss and pain her friend had endured. She whispered “Goodbye for now precious friend” as the plane lifted from earth’s surface. She walked to the restroom and suddenly heard painful sobs cry out. Shocked, she realized the sobs she heard were her own. At first, she struggled to overcome but with no success. Suspended grief gave way to a flood of tears like she had never known, healing tears that washed her soul. As she walked the aisles on a quick grocery store stop, Jesus continued to minister to her heart. As her questions of WHY??? poured out before God, Jesus spoke the song “Further along you’ll know all about it” to soothe her heart and bring a smile to her lips. She beamed with the joy that another conversation would soon be picked up where these hugs left off and she praised God for 30 hours of joy!
By God’s design, we breathe without thinking. We go day in, day out without ever giving breathing a thought unless a respiratory bug hits us or our sinuses are visited by allergens that attempt to take over or maybe we encounter a foul odor. Worse yet, there are those who suffer when an asthma attack threatens or some other serious breathing disorder plagues them. Barring these occurrences, breathing goes on unnoticed and uninterrupted, the gentle lifting and falling of our lungs continues. One day while I attended a CPR class, God pricked me as I watched the instructor showing us the proper amount of air to breath in and how gently to do so. I watched that plastic model’s chest rise and fall and thought about how I move through every day and so many of those days I completely fail to thank God for this simple and automatic act. Later that day, as I pondered these thoughts, I knew there was more that I was supposed to be gaining from them. I struggled to sort it all out. I was having trouble accomplishing anything over the last couple of weeks and dealing with feelings of failure that God had healed me of. I knew those feelings were not from Him. What was I doing or not doing that had opened the door to the enemy? Show me please Jesus! What I was really struggling with, but did not want to deal with within myself, was the reality that my morning quiet time and my commitment to maintaining my appointment with my King had faltered. I shot plenty of excuses upward but even as I spoke them to God, conviction overwhelmed me. I had let life into this time, this intimate infusion of breath from God each morning. Yes, schedules in our home had changed and others had to rise earlier than in the past. I had voiced my complaints to God about my time being interrupted and whined that I couldn’t believe He was asking me to get up even earlier. I had given myself a pass, was staying up way too late and still waking early but getting my coffee and talking or slipping back to sleep as I sat on the couch rather than being alone with Jesus. What a poor choice, for as the days went by, I felt myself weakening, starving myself from having my morning meal with Him and accomplishing less and less each day. What came clear as I thought again about that gentle rising and falling of the breathing demonstration was that my time with Jesus should not be taken for granted any more than regular breathing all day. When the asthma attacks of life come, I then have His strength to go on, to breathe with. Do you truly long for your time of feasting with Him, hunger for it and treasure it? The results are His strength and sweet moments with Him. Think about breathing in relation to our walk with Christ. Often we only realize we are breathing when we take a deep breath, but Jesus desires us to know that He is in the midst of our every breath!
I love the beach however I’m not a good swimmer and the waves hold a power that scares me physically. I fear the inability to breathe when under a wave and just pass on going in the water unless it’s fairly calm. Even when it’s calm, I don’t like going under because of my fear of not coming back up! I love to sit in my chair in the sand, close my eyes and listen to the power of those waves and think about God and how He controls the waves and tides. That is simply amazing to me. As my feeling were stinging one morning from what should have just been something to overlook, God brought the beach to my mind. As I listened, desiring to blame another, He made it clear that the ocean held a different lesson for me. He showed the power and depth of the ocean as His Word. He showed me myself there in the sand. Then in the tumbling surf, splashing and being refreshed but still staying in the shallows. Then echoing words He had given through a dear friend, He said GO DEEP! You cannot sit in the sand or play in the surf and expect to weather the storms with any understanding. Big or small, my focus during life’s bumps and body slams will be on me if I stay in the sand, but on HIM, if I’m deeply covered with His Word and the power it holds to engulf me with His protection. Slowly the tears of pain from a small issue were replaced by tears of confession at a dry period of not diving into the Word, and then tears of joy that HE controls the ebb and flow of the waves of life. When I dive deep in the ocean of His Word, I don’t ever have to worry about coming up for air … for He is the air I breathe.
It had been one of those mornings, stayed up WAY too late the night before, overslept so I missed my quiet time and struck out without any armor in place. I should have known better, I DO know better! A quick conversation grew into far more than it should have and the day took a hurtful turn. Even a shower didn’t change the melody of my morning. I flung myself on my bed and looked up… pouring out my hurt to Jesus and licking my wounds and what do I see? Fan blades. Now, understand, around here, the fans are not often still so when they are, and you pause long enough to look up, the ensuing horror is pretty monumental! Great, another reminder of something not completed, a task left not only undone, but truly not even planned out. My eyes welled up with more tears and then I heard so clearly, “Be Still. I NEED you to be still. I can clean off all that gunk and dirt even when you’re spinning if I have to but I need you to be still and look at that gunk and then watch me wash it all away… because I CAN and I DO.” Being still took on a whole new dimension that morning. It isn’t just to delve into scripture, or to listen or even to just be quiet. Sometimes it’s also so I will give Jesus the time and focus to show me my gunk I’ve been collecting again, messages and mess from outside that are stuck on me, but because of His love, not allowed into me. OH how sweet that stillness was as He slid it all away! I left that fan still, with it’s dust attached all day … just to savor the thought of my own dust being gone.