Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Few Recent Photos...

Lizzie falls in love with a horse at the horse show, which we hoped would distract her from the very pregnant state she is in.

Some dogs know how to work the system...



My brother Sam with his new daughter, Arden Mercy!!

Offendable or Meek

I may never have another time like this again, though I hope I do. It’s been more than a year and a half since I lived alone, but now I’m housesitting for a month and rediscovering life with only God and I. An ice storm came through yesterday. The sky is gray, the air clear, and the rooftops white. Multiple-paned windows are frosted in the perfect winter ways, little circles open in the middle of each, and the flora beyond is still a mix of browns and greens and yellows and white. My class on Isaiah is probably cancelled for the day, and I will stay holed up here until the ice melts or I can no longer stand the milkless state of the refrigerator (or my sister goes into labor).

I’ve learned to be completely flexible in these months of living with others—or so I thought. God revealed the limits of this to me recently, and the borders of my flexibility have to do with choice. When it has been my choice to place myself in a position where my own plans and activities are necessarily influenced by those I’m living with, I’ve become perfectly content with being tossed to-and-fro by their desires and ways. But when I’ve not made the choice, when I think I’m in a place to make autonomous decisions, my flexibility level severely decreases. I found myself feeling totally taken advantage of twice in the last two weeks, because others have made choices for me that directly impacted my time and space to write and sing and study. I didn’t know such selfishness still existed in me, to the extent that I would desire against hospitality and struggle so with longsuffering. This comes on top of a month in which every day there has been a blatant opportunity to take offense at someone, and I have struggled each time to make the choice not to take it. Most of these opportunities would sound funny…a woman chooses a seat behind me and then mutters to her neighbor how the “big person” in front is blocking her view…a man adds a chair to his row so his wife can sit next to him, effectively blocking the aisle 90 class-members have to use to get to their seats and making my knees the one major obstacle between all of them and the door…friends make and eat a big meal in front of me when I’m so hungry my stomach is growling, then offer me none of it… All of these were points to choose between becoming harder or softer, offendable or meeker. When something difficult happens to me, rather than having been chosen by me, my heart rebels. It’s easier to blame oneself and receive guilt-releasing forgiveness from God; it’s harder to face others’ culpability and walk in guilt-releasing forgiveness toward them!

My father laughed at my trial and said, “this is so good for you”. I agree. Though it would have been a smoother, happier two weeks without the difficulties, it’s nice to know that I’m still important enough to the Lord for Him to custom-arrange a little trial… I opened myself up for it, knowingly. It takes endurance (sometimes translated patience) to finish the race well, to receive the crown of life, to overcome and sit on a throne with Jesus, and so I’ve asked for endurance to be worked in my soul. (James 1:2-4) Now I’m reckoning up as joy what had me in tears so many times this month. Its good to have dross rise to the surface, otherwise it would stay festering inside, ruining the purity of something that is meant to glorify the utterly holy God.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rodeos and Worlds


Rodeos, livestock auctions, and the hottest place on earth. Prairies, sheepdogs, and two-hundred-year-old country graveyards. Alfalfa, protective lamas, and rogue farmers who let their soy take over the section line…

The last week, spent in South Dakota, was actually spent in an alternate world. It’s a land where the greatest concern (by no means trivial) is whether it will rain. Where the rodeo was overtaken by a storm, and the spectators sat in the heavy drops and cheered.

Going from city to city, living four different lives in four different places, has made me comfortable during the last year with alternate worlds—places where life looks wholly separate from how it looked elsewhere. Could I ever be a cowgirl or a farmer? Could I enjoy an intricate understanding of all the factors involved in how sharp a turn I can make in a barrel-race and how fast I can rope a young steer? The closest I got this week was, perhaps, fixing the pasture’s barb-wire fences and accepting with ease the death of the kitten litter’s runt. Things live, and things die, whether they be animals, bugs, vegetables, or people.

Life in the city has separated us (me) from reality. In order to live we must eat. In order to eat, food must be grown, harvested, sold, and prepared. Livestock must be birthed, pastured, watered, and slaughtered. Dirt must be walked in, flies made peace with, and dung gotten between the toes (a phrase I’ve borrowed from Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian). And all these occupations consume the lifetimes of those involved in them. They spread into a half-century’s worth of learning and lore, amassed behind the leathery faces of old farmers and anticipated in the smooth cheeks of the budding 6-year-old rancher’s son who clings to a racing sheep at the rodeo and gives promise of being a great horseman. If all the conveniences of cities and distribution systems fell away, I would have to relearn processes that are essential to all life but completely obscure to me. I am in awe over how many things there are to know. An engineer lives in a world of facts that mean nothing to me, as does a rancher, a farmer, a diplomat, a chef, a fireworks designer, and so on. My fingers have dabbled in all their worlds of knowledge, but just enough to humble me. I need others’ help to live, and perhaps they need mine. And yet each of us must be content to admire and respect the other worlds around us, letting the pride of life fall swiftly away; for we cannot survive on our own and, if the truth be told, we cannot gain the others’ expertise.

I used to want to be a Renaissance woman (the desire is still there, I suppose)…to be able to do all sorts of things well—ride, build, sing, politic, negotiate, think, dress, drive, manage, shoot, etc. I suppose it came from all the old Louis L’Amour westerns I read, and was solidified when William Wallace fought like a barbarian one moment and spoke Latin and French the next. The humbler I have become, and the more at peace I have grown with the knowledge of who the Lord designed me to be, the sillier this desire has seemed. I do still love being able to switch worlds easily and participate in them adeptly, I admit. And I am laughing to remember the slight dissatisfied feeling I had in Pensacola at the thought that my brother was learning to fly planes I would never learn to fly. Hmm. But ideals often have little to do with reality. Just as the Lord puts the solitary in families, He designs our souls for particular actions and our spirits for pre-known good deeds. Fulfilling these will make me happier than being both a sophisticated city woman and a capable ranching wife, or a sharpshooting pilot and a well-versed historian-philosopher, simultaneously. I am happy being what He made me to be.

By the way, these separate worlds intersect at surprising moments. I stepped into my parents’ car in Chicago and found out that new-car-smell is the almost exactly the same as old-barn-smell. Odd and telling.

Peace to you all, and may you be content to fullness with the place God has put you today!

Amy

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Length of Time


<>The length of time I’ve allowed to pass since my last blog is, frankly, atrocious. There are reasons for this, which have nothing to do with lack of internet access. My plight is similar to yours, I’m sure. Haven’t you become so tired that though you longed to be asleep, you were unable to gather the gumption to rise and change into jammies? Haven’t you delayed returning a phone call for a week, or a month, then felt that length of time to be so ridiculous you were kept from ever returning it? But this is not even my only issue. When there is an enormous amount to say, I find myself overwhelmed into silence. When my thoughts are deepest, I speak them in one light sentence, my hearer never suspecting the fullness of what I would say if I could. Ah, what are blogs, that they should reveal the fallibilities stalking human relationships, failings that stem from the deepest uncertainties and passivities of the soul?


Now that I’ve brewed a new pot of coffee (strong enough this time), washed away the sweat from pregnant pilates (my sister, being an expectant mother, doesn’t have a regular pilates DVD in the house), and reconciled myself to write today instead of garden (my ankles will be exposed to the pleasure of the bugs all evening at Shakespeare-In-The-Park, and I figure giving them the same access all afternoon would be foolhardy), my thoughts are pretty simple. They have to do with patience, waiting, and having the heart of a pilgrim on earth. I moved to Kansas City in the beginning of June. Dora drove up with me and behind us we left a community in pain from the sudden death of a friend and colleague. A training helicopter, identical to the one my brother flies every day, had crashed. As Sammy and Dora comforted the young man’s widow, and I stayed at home alone packing my life up for the impending move, I found myself mourning deeply. In the midst of calling out to God for his comfort on our friend and his protection of my brother’s heart (for he had helped the rescue effort and seen far more than a man not at war should ever see), I discovered another layer of deep unrest with the ways the Lord uses time. Comfort them now, now! I seemed to be saying. I could not endure knowing these beloved ones were in pain. I would prefer the pain be mine, if the pain had to be.

<>I thought of another friend, a young widow who has recently remarried, and wanted this new widow to already have the comfort of heart and vision for the future that these few years have brought to my old friend. I thought of my father, who lost his best friend and his brother in the same year he married my mother, and wanted my own brother to already have the quiet peace and perspective on life and death that my dad walks in.


The first part of God’s answer (for He knows when answers really are necessary, and when they aren’t) came in the form of a phone call from my sister, Suzanna. She caught me alone, between weeping fits, and spoke wisdom. “Great callings are accompanied by great trials, great pains. Without these, one with a deep calling from God will never grow to fulfill it. If you look at the lives of every great man of God, you find a corresponding depth of fire, of trial. It forms us.” (Of course, this is not in any way verbatim…just my summary of her thoughts.) Mollified, I moved to a place of peace in watching the Beloved endure pain. God is to be trusted; even as He brings pain into their hearts, it is for their own redemption, their own future beauty in Him. I felt that I could release them, my brother especially, from the big-sister, motherly instinct that urges me to protect and guard others from all pain. I was releasing them into the far more secure position of God’s intricate formation of their hearts.

<>The second part of God’s answer has come over the last month as I’ve contemplated my own state and the aimless feeling I sometimes fall prey to after almost a year of watching my family moving forward in large lifesteps (more exactly, growing babies in their tummies) while I seem to be an observer, not moving ahead but suspended. Watching other lives change, watching the impatience I and dear ones sometimes have toward little things and big things, has brought to the forefront a desire to understand these crazy words God seems to always be using, and using at unexpected times: patience. waiting. Guess what I’ve discovered. The fourth person in the parable of the seeds, whose ground was good and who didn’t let the enemy snatch the Word away from his heart, bore fruit with patience. Could it be that it was through patience he walked away at the end with thirty, sixty, a hundred different sorts of fruits? What of the third man, the one with thorns choking him? Did you know he also started to grow fruit initially? (Luke 8) But his fruit stayed green, withered away. It did not come to maturity. Let me submit that patience was the difference between the two. It wasn’t impossible for thorns to grow in the fourth man’s soil. Weeds will grow anywhere, especially in nutritious ground. But how was it that the fourth man was able to keep the thorns (temptations and trials common to all men—the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of life) from infesting, from killing, from growing up as strong as the seed. How was it that his ground and seed were so well tended that nothing hindered the development of the fruit, even though the growing season was a life-time long? Patience. Patient enduring. Active, fighting, weeding patience (the meaning of the word, hupomone).


I’m eating cherry tomatoes from Peter’s garden as I type. His mom planted them this spring; now that July has come, so have their juicy, pop-in-the-mouth pleasures. I’m supposed to choose bushes and perennial flowers to plant around the yard’s perimeter. But it will be years before they’re full enough to be pleasing to the eye, to make a natural screen between the neighbor’s yard and ours. I already put in some daylilies in the front, but they won’t come into their own until they’ve been in the ground for a year at least. Right now they look awful…spindly, ragged, thin. Frankly? They’re embarrassing. It’s been almost enough to keep me from wanting to go ahead with the other plantings. How discouraging is it to the human soul when the fruit, the end of the matter, the fulfillment of promises, doesn’t come right away? Intensely discouraging. Almost discouraging enough to impede us even starting on the journey, even being willing to endure the process of growth.

<>This is what my soul was struggling with as I contemplated the healing time, the deepening time, the growing time that Sam and our newly widowed friend would have to walk through before they would be completely whole, completely restored, and before any beautiful fruits could be seen growing from the trials they had endured. My soul—oh, so fleshly—was disagreeing with God’s use of time, with God’s call for patience, with God’s economy where working harder doesn’t produce results, but waiting expectantly does. In my impatience for pain to be healed and trials ended, I would have condemned those dear to me to lives of fruitless mediocrity, easy dullness, lazy full-bellied weakness. (I am sure your mind is already filling with parallels. Some of the simplest to see are all around us…imbedded in our fast food, instant gratification, why-wait culture.)


How do I know? How do I know that without patience we will remain surface creatures, rocky and thorny soil people? How do I know that only through patience will I become complete, perfect? “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:4) And what does patience allow us to do? Not simply to endure the trial in a grit-your-teeth-and-get-through-it sort of way. No. Patience allows us to wait on God. To wait in hope—not of our own strength increasing and saving us, but of a rescue from the hand of our beloved, our Savior. To wait actively—living by faith, not drawing back (Heb. 10:36-38). This is so pleasing to God. Humans like to take up their sword and do. We like to save ourselves, prove our independence. But what sort of a life is it where our hope is in ourselves? Oh, that God would wean us entirely from our own strength; oh, that our eyes would see only Him; oh, that our hope would be solely in His rescue, His coming. And guess what…patience doesn’t just allow us to wait on God, as we’re so frequently enjoined to do throughout scripture, it allows us to actually receive what we were waiting for! “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Heb 10:36)

<>We actually have it much easier than millions of our brothers. Check out Abraham, Sarah, all the Old Testament faithful who lived before the mystery of God’s plan was revealed. They were given promises. And they walked in faith, in patient endurance through the most horrible trials (destitute, afflicted, tormented), never receiving the promises. (Heb 11:39-40) “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” Wow. How easy it is, in comparison, for me to be faithful and endure. I know what the end of the story is going to be, because the middle of it has already happened – Jesus rescued us!


Well, I may have gotten carried away. (See, that’s what happens when one neglects to blog regularly.) This is pretty long. But I hope it is also edifying. If you want to think further, I’d suggest meditating on how patience is an active, verb-like activity. I could keep going…what implications does the Lord’s use of “wait” have for the course I should expect my life to take…not just my physical life, but my emotional and spiritual life? And how does it play into my moments and my days here in Kansas City, where everything is turned upside down again and I have to find my place, find my rhythm, find my purpose all over again?

Gosh, I love the Lord! He is so good, and I am so safe.

Peace to you all.

Amy

PS...The photo on top was a product of patience--nine months of it. This is Suzanna's new Judah David, his older sister Ariel, and his youngest Aunt, Annie! He was born on June 29th.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Meditations on the Portland Airport

I’ve been open to the idea of sleeping in an airport. Until tonight. The problem seems to be that it doesn’t actually work. Granted, the guy five chairs down from me is breathing evenly, occasionally slipping into a light snore; and the traveler-girl with the army green backpack and windbreaker has only rustled a few times. But still, it doesn’t work. Not only that, I’m starting to get hungry. My computer thinks its 4:30 AM (Pensacola time, where my trip started almost a week ago), my body thinks its 5:30 AM (Palm Beach time), and the clock says its 2:30 AM (Portland time, where I’ve just spent the last hour and a half trying to sleep, and the half-hour before that walking the C, A, and B concourses looking for an alive Alaska Airlines person. (Hint—they’re not alive at night, just the opposite, in fact.) To be true, the B concourse only consisted of three gates, but still… Not only have I taken to sleeping in random airports (my final destination is not any of the three aforementioned towns, of course), I have taken to doing it ugly. Yes, sorry to disappoint, but there it is. Were you one of the cleaning staff who occasionally putters by disturbing the sleeping innocent with wild chatter about the game, or were you the deep Archangel-type voice who periodically pulls me back from the brink of sleep to graciously remind me that due to increased security measures, I am only allowed one carry-on and one personal item per flight, and that only ticketed passengers can take off their sneakers and go through the x-ray torture lines, and that I must not (must not) leave my laptop-phone-wallet-passport-boardingpass-lipgloss-waterbottle-andeverythingmostnecessarytolife luggage conglomeration unattended (as I usually do in dark public places), then you would see a girl wearing—not contacts, not trendy glasses—but 80’s era round cokebottles that are three prescriptions too weak. So weak, in fact, I can’t tell which airline’s counters I’m passing. It makes for a very twilight-zone walk through deserted concourses. (I’m under strict instructions from my ophthalmologist friend—whose house I happened to be at just when my eye started watering mysteriously—to wear my contacts as little as possible for a few days. Hmph. I hope she appreciates the sacrifices involved.)

This trip has been opposed in every travel mode (car, bike, and plane), but I’ve no doubt it’s where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be. (Oh, I forgot to tell you the Starbucks here doesn’t open until 5 AM.) The car’s brakes gave out and the dealerships in the towns I was in said it would be a $1,000 repair; the bike’s thin tires couldn’t handle the sand of Sanibel Island and as a result I have a painful bruise on my ankle; and the wind in New Jersey has stretched my trip from Florida to Seattle into an almost 24 hour saga. On the plus side, I’ve been invited to Finland. And that comes after an invitation to Romania just yesterday. I doubt I’ll ever take advantage of these offers, but one never knows when one will need friends in foreign lands. Just so you know, the blueberries are sweeter and larger in northern Finland, due to the midnight sun. Oop. Snoring-boy has woken up. I hope it’s not due to my typing noises. (The very comforting thing about walking around wearing cokebottles? I’m not afraid of anyone (except for the fact that they all look like dark blobs). One gains a great confidence with these things on. When it’s impossible to be uglier, life seems promising. I can now wander benevolently, gazing with compassion on those more fortunate than myself. Oh dear—like the pale red-head in first class whose blanket I snatched from the overhead bin, then meekly returned with a “would you like this one, sir?” when he popped up and began rustling around for one himself. “Sir”! I was instantly ashamed of myself. He was probably younger than me. “Sir”! Now that I think of it, he looked like a cousin I’ve only met once in adult life. “Sir”! Ah, the formalities due the poor who’ve paid an extra $500 dollars for their flight. They at least deserve their blankets, eh? Must get something tangible out of it besides the fun of watching (while pretending to not) all the economy class people herding past after you’ve already been seated. (Is that what first class is for, by the way? I’ve always been a little confused. They must pay all that money for something other than a glass of bubbly and seat-room extended by three inches all around.)

I intended to write, but in this mood I’m afraid I’d have my character thumbing her nose at all the rich and poor alike, and waltzing off onto tangents that would only make sense to a heroine living at least 1600 years later. In lieu, I’ll close up shop here and wander back over to Alaska Airlines. They have a flight leaving at 5 AM; perhaps someone will be manning the counter now that it is 3.

Too-da-loo, as Wooster would say! Love to you all,

Amy

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Inevitability Continued...


"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church..." Ephesians 3:14-21

Above is another ocean photo for you. Take a look at this scripture in Ephesians (bolding added, of course). You may think it cheesy or typical, but when I am by the ocean my thoughts always end up centering on Love. The vastness and sureness of God's love looks like the ocean to me. It is huge, gargantuant beyond my ability to comprehend. It is strong; I would drown in it if His arm didn't sustain me. It is inevitable; much as I might resist, it will win me and own me in the end.

Ephesians 3 is talking about this love...its ocean like qualities of height, depth, breadth and length...and concluding that Christ's love surpasses knowledge. It, like the ocean, is beyond our ability to know, understand, comprehend. But take another look at this scripture. "...to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think..." HE is able to make us know a love that is impossible for human beings to know. He can do the impossible in us. HOW? By the strength, the power of the Spirit.

I surely would drown if I were to enter the ocean on my own. I haven't the strength to explore it, to face it, and to live through the experience. Likewise, as a human being, I haven't the strength to encounter, to know, God's love without being destroyed--it is beyond my ability. Not only does He pour out such intensity of love on us, He give us another gift (strength/power) to enable us to walk in that love.

I am amazed; and I definitely need that strength. May we all comprehend His love!
Amy

Inevitability


I spent the weekend at the sea. It was the ocean, really (better yet, the Gulf). Light and airy (white and turquoise) compared to my other recent beach stay in Washington State, which was moist, diffused, gray and chilly. Yet both left me with the same sense of a vast and beautiful inevitability.

God is inevitable. Do I resist His love? No matter—the reality of it will not change. Do I doubt His sovereignty? Pointless—that, also, will never change. Do I deny His existence? Also laughable, for it will never change. In fact, TRUTH will eventually overtake me in every belief, thought-pattern, argument, resistance, blindness, or lie I have ever walked in. The truth is inevitable for all of us. When it overtakes us (now or at death) can be influenced by us, now. Where it places us (at the side of the King or in a pit of separation) is also determined by us, now. But the fact that it will overtake us is as inevitable as the sea.

“I will call them My people who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” Romans 9:25-26

I have been comparing righteousness by the law and righteousness by faith. How very different they are. The second makes me feel free, the first, guilty. This Romans/Hosea adoption (see verse above) is impossible through a mechanism like law-righteousness (for, never being able to be fully righteous through the law, one is actually fully condemned). Only through the righteousness of faith (full, complete, since it is a righteousness sourced from He who is perfectly righteous) could such a complete reversal of what was reality take place. What used to be, is no longer.

That righteousness by the law/works is on the hell side of this thick, black line, and righteousness by faith in Jesus is on the heaven side, is as inevitable as the sea. Do you hate the thought? Are you so used to “getting to heaven” or “feeling God’s love” by being good, that the idea of having been wrong about it all is unthinkable—it would throw your whole past life into the red side of the accounting ledger? (Yes, you can be caught in this habit of action and belief while actually knowing the truth.) You will eventually be free from the misapprehension you now labor under, but a choice is still before you—freedom now, or freedom later. Love now, or love later. And, for some even, salvation now, or death later? Why should I shy away from pursuing the truth now? It is pursuing me, and question is not if it will overtake me, but when.






Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Rest Will Follow

Many of you may have already read The Heavenly Man, the story of Brother Yun, a Christian pastor from China. It’s been on my reading list for months. In fact, I borrowed it from friends in Chicago back in July and have been carting it around the States ever since then (thanks, Lakeys! Don’t worry, I’ll get it back to you…). Two of the things the Lord told me my time in Florida was for were rest and intimacy with Him. In pursuit of both of these I’ve spent two days reading Yun’s story. It is worth the time! My spirit is strengthened by this man’s life and testimony. God’s power was evident throughout the book as Yun escaped, or was captured, according to the Lord’s will. This brother doesn’t mince words, however, when talking about the situations that his own sin placed him in. His clear call for believers to OBEY God, rather than figuring things out with our own wisdom and strength, echoes what the Lord has been teaching me over the past few months. My Moody friends have already heard a bit of my thoughts in this area, as I was able to share with them when I was home in December for Christmas. Obedience is better than sacrifice – better than any thing we could conjure up to “give” to the Lord. Obedience is what He requires of us. The question is, where does this obedience find its source? I believe it is in intimacy with Jesus (friendship, love, communication, submission, mutual purpose, etc.) that obedience, at its heart, is birthed. We can all follow the law, do what we’re told, and be “obedient” in the wooden, even resistant, way prisoners obey their guards or employees obey their bosses. But God is not looking for fear-based or reward-based obedience. He asks for love-based obedience. He is – prepare to be shocked – going to develop a heart of obedience in us. One that leaps to hear His words, and rejoices at the chance to carry them out. This heart, once developed, will show itself in action, but the action is the result and not the starting point. There were several times in Yun’s life that he was captured and put in prison as a result of ignoring God’s directions and warnings. Each time he saw that he had lost his first love, his intimacy with Jesus, and had put doing God’s work above being in relationship with the Lord. His months in prison became precious times to rest and restore the intimacy of his relationship with Jesus. I’ve loved this scripture for a long time:

I Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

< style="font-family: georgia; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">These are all things I desire. Can you imagine walking in their fullness? Prophecy, words of knowledge, faith, generosity, even laying down our lives… yet love is the only source that makes these all worthwhile.

I want to obey out of a heart that loves to hear and follow my Lord’s voice. As I read Yun’s story I became jealous in the best sense of the word. I want to hear God’s voice as clearly, and follow him as fully, as that brother has. I want to be used as effectively, if such a thing is possible. But it was good, at the end of the book, to be brought back to the basic foundation. What I really, really, really want is to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus. The rest will follow.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Florida and Free Frappachinos

Here I sit, of all the random places to be, in Pensacola’s only Starbucks. No, let me correct that – I hear rumors of a second one, lodged in the Barnes & Nobles just a few blocks away. In fact, that is where I originally thought we were heading, and while Sam studied aeronautic acrobatics (yes, exactly how to do loop-de-loops without barfing or crashing – correct term: aerobatics) I was going to grab Northanger Abbey off the shelves and go to town (that’d be Bath and/or London). My plans were changed for the better, though.

I hate to start off talking about the weather when there are subjects of eternal import and immediate application that I could be reveling in with you, but I must say…the weather here is great! It’s breezy, sunny, and WARM. I haven’t been truly warm in four months, and my body is delighted. Whiting Field is about 45 minutes outside of Pensacola. My brother, Sam, is training here to fly for the Navy, and I’m staying with him and Dorothy (my sister-in-law) for a while. Their guest room is bright yellow and their cat’s name is Mojo. She looks remarkably like Pangur, who was lost a year ago (or, more likely, who returned to the wild and is now living the high life in the crazy wilderness lining the Chicago River). I think I’m going to really like it here. Sam and Dorth are so welcoming and fun. Do you ever sit down to ponder how different each individual’s world is? The rhythm of life here bears so little resemblance to life in my last home, Tacoma. I find this so freeing. If every life is so different, even while incorporating the same priorities, loves, and goals (Jesus, Jesus, and Jesus), my own life doesn’t have to ever taste of only one flavor, or become monotoned (even if it is a deep red or a hazy lavender). There is so much open to me in Christ. If the world is safe because the Spirit of God goes with me wherever I am, then every activity, tone, or facet of life is available to me as well. No, I don’t have a favorite color, and this may be why. For a while I was almost convinced that I must not know myself. Can’t everyone who is self-aware pop out their preferred color immediately when the question is asked? I’ve never settled on one. I like green and pink on red-heads. I like yellow and taupe on walls. I like periwinkle and lavender on blouses, and I prefer reds in the evening. But perhaps this is not a problem. Perhaps it is a nod to the abounding variety my Lord has swirling around in His thoughts; the delightful interplay of shapes and colors and tones He gives to everyday life.

These tones change with seasons. On the drive down to Florida from Chicago, where I Christmas-ed with the whole family, I listened again to a Jason Upton CD that God had spoken through during the time I was praying about leaving Moody and Chicago. Immediately, I was driving down Foster again, on my way to work, praying that the Lord would lead me in His perfect ways, would reveal His will for my move. All the emotions of that time were mine again and I remembered things I’d forgotten. The vague depression mixed with comfortable stability that heading toward work always brought. The light excitement and trepidation of those first hints from the Lord that a different pattern of life was approaching. Anticipation of something I could only imagine, even while I knew I imagined with no reality anchors attached to what it would really feel like to live with family and pursue unfamiliar tracks. Every once in a while a crazy thought attacks me (usually sent from my enemy) … “WHAT on earth are you doing? This life is taking you nowhere…” etc. I’ve learned to attack back when the enemy attacks, instead of just assuming a defensive posture, so I am not susceptible in the ways I used to be. But I still found it exceedingly fun, even comforting, to relisten to that CD. It was like reliving my old life, and the voice of the Lord breaking into it in His own way, and my heart leaping up in response.

OK, I have to intersperse…the Starbucks people just gave me a free mocha frappachino sort of thing. It’s been getting hot in this space (Florida, you know, with sun beating in through the windows and people smoking on the patio outside) and this cold drink is perfect! Was it from the Lord; is it just a happy circumstance? I know that Jesus is my friend, and He does the sorts of things friends do, but He brings to it a sovereign knowledge of our needs and desires that even we don’t have. Nope, I wasn’t aware I needed a cold drink. But now that I have it, I know I needed it. In fact, that is how this entire life journey has been so far. Every day, every job, every home I’ve lived in, every surprise friend I’ve made, every random peek of sunshine in Tacoma…you name it…He gave me what I didn’t even know I needed. This excites me. It does so more than I can convey with these words. What will the rest of my life be like with such a friend and God leading it? In this light it becomes a joy to submit, to give details and choices over to Him and decide to only pursue love and obedience. (You see this in marriage to a reflective degree. The greater joy and safety is found in submission to authority, the wife to her husband, the husband to Jesus.) If I had to sum up all that has changed in me while attending NewSong in Tacoma it would be almost impossible. One thing I never prayed about, but which has silently resulted from all the delving I did into my insecurities, injustices, sins and strongholds, is a very deep and abiding assurance that my inheritance in this life is a sure joy and a real effectiveness within the Kingdom of God. I will not be left behind spiritually, and that is eons more important to me than not falling behind the Joneses. My life will not be squandered on fruitless ministry, on fields fraught with difficulty and striving, on joylessness excused away as “sharing in the sufferings of Christ”. No, I’m made for joy, for love, for power in the Kingdom, for effectiveness, for HOPE. And Hope does not disappoint.

You’ve been a trooper to read all this. I’m going to give us both a break from the deep waters we’ve been treading. Signing off … will attempt to convince Sam to relax from his aeronautics and do a round of Speed Scrabble with me (Starbucks has been kind enough to supply the game on the little table here). That will give you some time to do a little dance around the house and thank God for some things…that joy is for you right now…that you have the privilege of submitting to a husband who is under Christ’s authority…that sometimes you forget about blue and choose an orange shirt to wear…that cool drinks can be found on hot days…that there is no way, ever, never, that He will let you out of His sight or allow His sovereign leading to be erased from your life…that you can hear His voice and obey it!!!!! Amen.

Ames

<>p.s. Here are the chorus words to one of the Jason Upton songs that cradled me for a time:

Don’t be afraid when…

(Chorus)

Look beyond the window there, to the sky above, to the open air

Look beyond what you can see, close your eyes and just believe

The lion roars and the lamb lies down, they live together in a whole new town

They’re callin me and they’re callin you

From the cold life facts that we’re on our own

to the age-old truth, we’re not alone

Don’t be afraid little warrior bride, victory’s on the other side

You’re not alone, you’re not alone

p.s.s. OJ, it turns out that Florida has big grasses too. In fact, beside Sam’s house is a Big Grass. I’ll send you a digital.