Monday, October 03, 2005

Hope and Strongholds

It’s a rare sunny day in Tacoma. I sit in the dining room bay of my sister’s old Victorian home, munching candy corn from Saturday’s Punkin Pie birthday party, so named after the sweet little Miss Pie with red hair and a miracle birth story. She’s crying upstairs, unwilling to nap when so many new and interesting toys are strewn across the living room floor – Noah’s ark with animals and little people, a stroller and a peachy doll, a bendable story book all about how much bigger I am than a chicken. (I can clap, you see; the chicken flaps its wings. I have an egg at tea; the chicken pecks grain from the ground for hers.) Orange gerbera daisies and yellow day lilies sit in a vase on the table, reminding us of the day a year and a week ago that Suz and OJ travailed for the life of their daughter, and the people of God upheld them. My sister faced what her own mother never had to, and was spared from it when Jesus touched his hand to Ariel’s lungs. A lioness of God is not born without purpose. Beside me is my favorite Psalm, and outside the window I see my brother-in-law squatting inside the flatbed of Josh’s truck, helping move the contents out. The snippet of conversation I heard seems to be about another friend who needs help installing a new transmission. Perhaps Joshua will lend his truck in the meantime. It would be the normal thing for this community of believers to do. Adjust their schedule, shrug at the inconvenience, and be brother to their brothers.

Only ten minutes, and gray-lavender clouds have deepened the sky. My legs aren’t toasty anymore and OJ has flapped his arms into a jacket, still talking. The babe is quiet and my heart is turning again to Psalm sixteen. If I could do what I wished, I would write music to sing these words to, and it would be the glorious and soaring kind, that drops deep in the heart when laments are cried “Preserve me, O God,” and even deeper when He cries back. Thanksgiving, joy, certitude. “My goodness is nothing apart from You.” The Lord is the same today as yesterday, and here as there. Yet I am glad I am here, and glad it is today. Today I’ve learned where my heart was broken, and tomorrow I will find He has healed it. Today I’ve found where my sin was established, and tomorrow I will know that He took my repentance and turned it into forgiveness.

The human soul always fights against adjustments, for implied is that the adjustment was needed, and we hate to admit wrong. Yet we operate in paradigms of thought that exist outside the realm of truth. You think you should put on your clothes before you jump into the swimming pool? No, you shouldn’t, and it is not offensive for me to tell you so. Why then would I take offense when confronted by the scripture saying “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, simply because it reveals that my mind is consumed by lies? Or, “tear down strongholds, cast down every argument and high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and use the weapons God has given you to do this.” I don’t remember tearing down many strongholds in my days. I’ve been here 30 years, and have probably torn down less than 30 of them. The tragic thing is that these strongholds have been the walls between me and the love God is pouring out on me. They’re my blindnesses, and in some places I’m just as badly off as the pitiable dwarves who sat in the new Narnia after being thrown through The Door, but could not see the land about them nor the queens and kings cajoling them. Thrown into paradise they acted like they’d been thrown into hellishness. Blindness. I hate it. The Lord is supplying peace and power to me, and at times all I’ve seen is the big cloud generated by a small spirit of fear raising dust. On the drive through eastern Washington I thought I saw, a long way off, a tornado. Closer up I found it was a whirlwind, a dust devil, a small column of swirling winds that lifted the dusty soil from unsown fields and spiraled it into the sky. Harmless things. I could walk through one and only get a bit of dirt in my eye. Yet how great and dangerous they made themselves look.

I hope that soon this bank of clouds will be out over the sound and we will have sun again. But that is not all that hopes.
“I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.” The strongholds of the enemy cannot stand against the power of my Lord, and the lies of his mouth cannot withhold from me the everlasting love of God. I rest in hope.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

"I Did"

Tacoma! I’ll be there in a few hours, hopefully in time to attend Suzy and OJ’s church tonight. Kim has faithfully driven with me (and/or driven me) across the West. After the first long haul to South Dakota we were welcomed to a dear friend’s family place. Sometimes I only understand what God is saying in the scripture after I’ve experienced it. He talks about visiting the sick. I didn’t know what a refreshing, delightful thing it would be to be visited, until I was in the hospital and Oonagh came into the room. All of sudden I knew the word “succor”, and felt the beauty of the command. Hospitality is the same. My friend’s mother welcomed Kim and me generously, put us in beautiful rooms, tromped all around the barn and pastures with us, found the prettiest barn kittens for us to snuggle, steered us clear of the lama, showed us how the border collies work the sheep, lured the horses close, and feasted us with garden-grown tomatoes and homemade peach pie. Hospitality. My old desire to run a place of respite for tired believers resurfaced. Then it was on to the Black Hills, where we sought out three waterfalls and Kim introduced me to the joys of scrambling to their feet and washing our own there. (A few days later, on the side of Going-To-The-Sun road in Glacier National Park, she indulged in a full immersion. The boys on the other side of the road were impressed. I was too – we were on the continental divide and it might have been the coldest water available in the States in September!) Montana also welcomed us with a homemade dinner, courtesy of a fellow author and friend who calls Kalispell home. Bears played a part in our conversation, but much as she assured me the recent attack fulfilled the local quota of one-per-year, I was not assured and spent the next day hiking around Glacier and laboring against fear. Next time, I’m going to carry pepper spray! But fear… It seems fear can’t be solved by practical countermeasures. I knew this. Have learned this over the last four years. Fighting that demon leaves me tired as if I had been laboring. The Lord has been steadily sharpening my sword, then every once in a while exposing to me just where the still-unsharpened areas lay. Hmm. A few of them have to do with grizzlies and whether or not the Creator still has control of His creation. However, the struggle was worth it. Not only did I find His grace again, I saw a lake rimmed in a circle by jagged-topped peaks and fed by waterfalls from their heights. I discovered thin layers of rock melded together and tipped at a crazy angle, creating a vantage point jutting into Saint Mary’s Lake that gave me a view of a dozen mountains and the windswept blue water they surrounded. Yes, so worth the cost. I learned that the best way to save one’s joints when hiking downhill is not by walking, nor running, but “gazelle-ing” down the mountainside (a very apt Kim-word). I found that one of the most beautiful drives is leaving the park on its east and following the southern border – though I must add, it is fraught with dangers, specifically, cattle that think the road is their cowpath. I must stop being surprised when I find the things the Lord did. Yet, I love discovering Him all over again, just when I’d forgotten the sorts of stuff He thinks about. Rock layers are different colors. Streams slowly brush through the ground, revealing layer after layer, until huge gorges are created that combine short bursts of waterfall, deep swirling pools that look scooped out of the rock walls, and long beds of stones every color of the earth. I stood above one of these amazing things and absently muttered, “It almost looks like You did it on purpose.” To my shock He answered. “I did.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Rest

What is hidden behind the daily stuff of life? Today I see life as a mask, a screen like the wooden carvings that separate the congregation from the holy altar in Orthodox sanctuaries. The beauty is undeniable -- the pleasure of finishing an errand that has been on the mind for several days, the satisfaction of sliding photos into just the right sleeve in just the right order. But what is muted by all this? There is a deeper thing going on within each action. My heart is either moving toward, or straining against, the strings of God. (Can it ever be standing still? Is stasis a state in a true God-walk? If he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus, is he who is not moving forward falling behind?) Every day I ask Him to tie another string to me. Yes, I want it all with strings attached! If He is going to give me life, I want to be tied to Him in gratefulness. If He is going to offer me a place to twirl in freedom, I want my free feet connected to His. Why dance my own dance when I could dance the steps of God? I am indebted to Him, yet I “owe” Him nothing. I am alive by His being, yet I am free to turn away from His face and set my back against His presence. Every moment seems a choice point. This is delightful, but tiring. It is also potentially frightful. Can I not stop and catch my breath? Do I always have to be saying “yes” without a chance to pause? And if I do stop to stare backward, am I Lot’s wife -- disaster immanent? What happens if I rest?

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (Hebrews 4:9; Matt. 11:28)

I have not finished my “earthly toils”, yet I need this rest. Rest is not entirely what one might think. When my body relaxes after an arduous time of working on high-alert, it often gets sick. I always wonder why, just when it should have even more energy to resist with, it succumbs to the sore throat it had been staving off successfully. I can’t explain the phenomenon, but my thoughts turn to my soul and find the same pattern. Is it not the case that when I am in pain, pressed hard by Satan and the world, and too busy to spend days reflecting on where God is in the mess, I find Him as quickly as I begin to look? I become like a swimmer, gasping for Him, encountering Him with each rise to the surface. Filling my soul with life the way air fills the swimmer’s lungs is a particular joy of His. I have never swum up toward Him and found only more water to drown in. But then come moments of peace, rest, and along with them, too much quiet. Is my Lover pulling back and saying “You have time and space, now, sweetheart. Seek me with diligence and ardor”? Then, if I do, will I find Him in a new way, and find different things about Him than I knew before? Or, perhaps when I am not being chased from behind by an enemy, I do not run quite as furiously toward a savior. Whatever the case, it does seem to me that when quiet has come -- my liquid gold has finished swirling and is becoming still -- the dross, the places unstringed to God, come bubbling up and burst, splatter. (Yes, it happens every day on the stove. When the stirring stops, the boiling begins.)

This may be why I worry there is no neutral place. When I become still, the hidden faults become apparent. It is not that I am falling back. I suppose I am becoming transparent, as God begins to bring up issues I didn’t have the emotional resources to approach with Him before. Rest has not become a time to be stationary in my relationship with God, but a time to be still and watch Him BE God in His sovereign way -- a way that will end up requiring the full involvement of my own heart, soul, mind and strength.

Odd thoughts, I guess, coming in the same breath with a new journey and the excitement of freedom and the unknown. I can’t even pin them to one particular event, or sin, or unstringed place. I’m in Kansas City, living for a month with a great friend and hanging out every evening with my sister and brother-in-law. I’m trying to find my rhythm - which is a hard thing for a girl used to years of a nine-to-five existence. I’m wondering how much time I should spend in the prayer room at the International House Of Prayer and how on earth I’m going to get everything read that is on my reading list. All the while, in the background, behind the carved veil of daily life, the altar is pulsing with God-activity and my spirit is struggling with my soul to stay still, unstirred, and ready to boil. I am in the plain I talked about in my first post, and I think I’m hearing Him speak. He’s saying different things than I expected, but, doesn’t He always?!

Peace to you,
Amy

Thursday, July 14, 2005

"There I shall talk with you..."


Hello dear family & friends!

Though I've been called a writer there are times I sit down to share through that medium and know that only the smallest portion of all my thoughts will make it onto the page. This may be one of those.

I am excited, deeply. And rejoicing, and glad, and aware of all I am leaving behind and some of what I am walking toward. If I've talked with you recently you already know my plans to leave Chicago and embark on a journey with an unknown end. My purpose is not to write, though I will write. Nor is it to travel, though I will certainly be racking up the miles on my faithful white car. As I've talked with many of you I've searched for the right words to describe my reason for leaving behind a home and friends, a job and all the "security" that provides. I'm still looking for those words and you're probably still wondering what exactly Amy is doing, and why! A scripture was given to me during the spring months I spent praying about this new season. It ends "Arise, go out into the plain, and there I shall talk with you." That's the closest I can get, and they aren't even my words. (They're God's: Ezekiel 3:22) In the simplest terms, I want Him to talk with me. Not to me, but with me. Face to face, friend to friend, lover to loved. I don't have to leave Chicago to do that, but He's told me to leave and so I will. I don't have to resign from Moody Publishers to do that, but He's told me to resign and so I will. I don't even have to be an incomeless nomad to do that, but...even Jesus for a time had no place to lay his head, so I am not afraid to have no place to lay mine. (I actually have amazing family who will give me places to lay it, and I'm planning to take my favorite feather pillow along on the journey, so don't let your pity run too quick :)

Over the past few years my heart has reached a state of restlessness and my hands boredom. Both need refreshing; both need to pursue what I have passion toward. I only know that it is God. Somehow, wrapped up in Him are all true things - the very path of life. It is His voice that strips the forests bare. It is His voice that rejoices the heart. I've decided that a person could be "doing" the very thing they love - writing for instance - and yet feel life to be useless and vain if they don't have the fellowship of God. (Oh, how the thought of the "400 years of silence" the Israelites endured shakes my soul. May it never be so among us!) He has always been faithful to me - never silent. I am ready to walk with Him on paths I've previously just stood on, ready to run with Him on paths we have simply been walking together, and ready to dance with Him in the places we have run before.

And so for me, now, talking with God means obeying His call to get up, leave where I've been, and go out into the plain. I'm so thankful for all of you, my friends, who've loved me freely and with open hands, and who know the voice of God. I'll keep you updated on my little journey through these blog posts. And I invite other readers-my acquaintances, co-laborers, and guests-to come along as you will. Join me as I walk (stumble, perhaps) on journeys into the depth of God and the breadth of His people.

With an eager joy, and expecting that there He shall talk with me,
Amy