Aug 28, 2013

How To Distract God

My hands were raised, eyes closed, attention focused on the Throne.  Against my leg came a soft bump.  Three-feet tall, a warm little body gently pressed itself there and stayed.  My nephew.  He’d come down the row of chairs to greet me, to receive my affection.  There was nothing incongruous about dropping my hands, slipping to the chair, and cuddling him into me while the congregation’s song continued over our heads.  This was easy; this was right; this was worship.  And I wasn’t in the least offended over being called to switch my attention from God on the Throne to a little one I loved.

His trust had been well-placed.  He knew he would be received…it didn’t matter whether his aunt was visiting with his mother, talking to God, saving the world, or reading a book.  She would welcome him.

Do I realize, I wondered this morning, that the Father feels the same about me?  He is saving the world, and working hard on coordinating billions of daily details and circumstances, while strategically placing whispers into human hearts that will germinate and bear life-long salvations.  When I come up to Him, just wanting to be looked at and touched, His receptive happiness over the experience of being trusted and loved by me is open, quick, and genuine.  (Since He’s God, being distracted by me doesn’t keep Him from doing all those other omnipotence-wielding things—which is a comfort to the rest of you, I’m sure.) 

How does He feel when I do not receive all this love and openness from Him?

I had a houseguest once who was extremely thankful.  But she didn't take anything I offered, except the bed to sleep in.  My home is an open invitation.  It has pleasant living and sitting rooms, with rocking chairs and couches.  During the morning the sun shines across the flowers in the back garden, where there is a patio umbrella, bistro table, cushioned chair…everything to make a sweet restorative place for contemplation and rest.  The refrigerator is stocked with healthy food, organic milk, and the best ice cream in the freezer.  Cool breeze comes through a window just behind the baby grand piano.  While the birds are chirping their species songs behind your back, and the window light is perfect on the music, worship and love can be done.  There are stimulating magazines and cool rooms; bathtubs and showers and hot coffee in the pot.  Icy sun-tea and fresh lemons to squeeze into it.  Mint for water growing by the door; lettuce and cilantro and ripening tomatoes in the vegetable plots.  Chocolate and water in the guest room, and an antique dresser to unpack into. 

But she only slept in the bed then scurried out the front door, thanking me.  Her towel was perfectly re-draped in the bathroom, as if she had never used it, as if she was supposed to be invisible.

How I wanted her to enjoy all this—not for my sake, for hers.  I was sharing something God gave me, and I wanted her to feel the hospitable acceptance that belongs to her just because she belongs to Jesus.  It is a way of honoring Him, this honoring of brethren.

My heart ached.  I wished she had taken my things, and left with a face shiny from the rest, the breeze, the avocados and coconuts and olive oils; left with protein rushing to her cells to sustain them and a scripture-song frolicking inside a watered heart, like a happy child in a cool clear pond.

My bumbling, human heart sometimes does tell me a little about God’s honest, purposeful heart.  Today it is telling me that the word He gave me a few months ago, when I asked Him what He wanted me to do, was very real:  “Receive.”  He wants us to receive.  And what we’re receiving is His love.

“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”  (Jeremiah 31)

One thing I’ve noticed about receiving—it’s a constant, because not only does it take willingness, it takes time.  In the late spring I planted all the pots with seedling flowers and nutritious soil.  They’ve been watered daily, deadheaded, and generally nurtured.  But only now, two months later, have the plants burst out into three or four times their original size, with prolific blooms and cascading greenery.  Though everything was there for them from the beginning, their receptivity needed to be exercised over time before it resulted in the bower their little bodies have now become.

Practicing receptivity is more than important.  A lot of people will never notice what is at their fingertips.  The reasons are varied—feelings of worthlessness, disbelief that something so good could be true, focus on self with no real knowledge of how they’re designed to thrive.  And some get distracted earlier in life than I have been, by the actualization of having received a particular thing.  Intense love—between man and wife, children and mother—has come to them, and its resulting circumstances and the maintenance it requires has sometimes dulled them to the actual IT. 

This realization encourages me, giving context for my own little life dramas.  What looks like delay and dryness to myself and others—my long wait to receive certain of God’s gifts—in brief moments of clarity shows itself to my soul for what it really is, a chance for undistracted receiving.  I’ve had time to soak Him in and become a full, blooming plant.  But I don’t hold my circumstances up as particularly better or more conducive than anyone else’s.  Acts 17 says He chose the times and boundaries (life circumstances and locations) that would give us the best chance at seeking Him, feeling for Him, and finding Him.  I believe this is played out on an individual basis, and the same strange (often unwanted) gift that singleness has been to me, early marriage might be to another.

In the end, as we learn that there is such a great love, and that we are supposed to receive it freely, we move into the second half of that revelation that banishes loneliness.  We discover the second commandment.  Our job in the world, as alive beings and beloved of the King, is not just to wait for and revel in the final love, and have a little something here on earth to tide us over until then—but to create love…swim in it, rejoice in it, call it forth; to expand love...its experience, its expression, its extent in those around us; to receive love…revel in it, celebrate it, watch for it.  Be love. 

I easily see the struggle side of things, the giving up, the sacrifice, the beautiful laying down of self even when the enemies take that love and despise it.  I see how all this clarifies and purifies the soul until it is like crystal, transparent and pure and brilliant all the way through.  This is because, for some reason, my soul understands sorrow and God has shown me the truth that is found in the Man of Sorrows.  But that is only a fraction of the story—just as the cross was only one day, and the struggle is only seven millennia, but the unending peace will be years reaching beyond the eternal trillions humans can conceive of measuring.  What a small, short birth-pang our world and our hearts are enduring.  And then comes only love.  Right now, in the middle of it, three things are most important:  faith, hope, and love.  The greatest?  Love. 

Receive it today - you just might distract God...and something tells me He loves that kind of distraction!

p.s.  Lest you think my house is a palace—it’s not.  It’s a simple, small, quiet place, whose beauty and rest are only perceived by a heart that is looking for and receptive to those things.  Designers and spa-goers alike would rightly overlook it.  Far-off freeway noise actually wafts through the windows along with the breeze!

Aug 26, 2013

Make Her Willing

He laughed at me, incredulous and kind. "Use your imagination."

"But where do you tell them to go if you don't have a bed for them?"

The answer came again, with a defensive edge this time: "You're gonna have to use your imagination.  Where would YOU go?  Maybe sleep in your car."

Thank him.  Hang up.  Cry.  I should help her, right?  But how?  I've been through all the options, and I just can't figure out how.

Pray, whispers the Father.  Ok.  I start and a thought pops.  I call the place she said she was getting kicked out of.  They shouldn't, but they do…they talk to me.  Perhaps I sound kind and sweet; too kind and sweet, they think, to be scammed. 

Ah, I’m not actually surprised…  I hang up, the angst of confusion gone.  I did need to know the truth, but it’s a more unhappy truth than her lie was, and my avenues to help her have not only shrunk, they’ve entirely disappeared.  Because now it’s apparent, she didn’t want help.

The angst over what to do tonight is gone, but the ache is even deeper.  A human soul, with layer upon layer of delusion and deception, lie and manipulation, wounds and accusations…only real conversion of that soul can peel back the layers deeply enough to find the image of God, to awaken the core girl who was created to know Him and respond to Him.  I can’t force a heart to be willing for God to start His peeling and digging and healing and redeeming.  Oh – sometimes I wish I could!  I tried, standing there talking to her.  I tried.  Only the Holy Spirit can do something so deep and impossible.

What makes my heart sink is this knowledge that many people, perhaps this girl, won't ever be willing. Revelation 9 came across my dinner table tonight:  "third of mankind was killed...The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons...Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts."

I have to lay her down to Him and give up the idea of being the one to make sure she becomes new, and when I do I realize that’s what He intended.  Pray, He whispers, so that when we turn to Him, we find out His thoughts rather than our own ideas.  I have to know what He wants me to do – this is obedience, right?  Obedience isn’t doing what we think He’d like.  It’s doing what He says.  And tonight He said, be at peace.  So I shall.  What I was supposed to do, I did: a cup of water in Jesus' name.  The rest is up to Him.

Jesus, make her willing to come to You.  Make her willing…